Chapter 1: Coming to Doriath
It had been a long journey on horseback, two days to be precise. Maedhros had stopped the previous night in Himlad, where the Noldor were kind enough to give him a soft, warm room and a filling meal. Celegorm and Curufin were not there, of course, as they had not been in years. He wondered how they were doing in Nargothrond, as they did not contact him often. At least no news meant they had been up to no catastrophic mischief, at least. He wished Tyelpe would contact him more often. He was far too young to have taken the oath, and thus spared himself. The only Feanorian left uncursed, the boy surely had a bright future, and Maedhros simply wished he was there to see it. He was there for each moment of his brothers’ youth, every scraped knee and every celebration. It pained him to be unable to do the same for his nephew. Finrod was there, however, and he trusted Finrod’s parenting skills far more than those of Curufin. Celebrimbor as, at least, in safe and caring hands.
Perhaps, after this Thingol business was done, he would pay them a visit. He had already voyaged two days west, might as well continue. Orc attacks had been light of late, and Himring could surely do without him for another week.
His horse was tired. The river Celon, which ran from Himring, past Nan Elmoth, and around the southern flank of Doriath, was far too rocky to be a reasonable transportation route. This, he bitterly resented. If the river had been a little wider, or a little less bouldered, the trip could have been made in a fraction of the time. Not even a trade route was feasible along the river, which made importing strong Doriathian liquor far more expensive than he prefered. The damned stuff was the best Beleriand could supply, though, and despite not being able to justify the cost himself, he readily accepted gifted bottles. No other drink could soothe him quite like a sip of that particular, clear, smooth liquid. It came at the cost of dulling his sense the slightest bit, so he avoided it on most occasions. Considering his relative safety and racing nerves of the moment, however, he considering this a fitting time to allow himself a swig. And a second. And a third.
The reason for his particular trip was a letter from Thingol. The king rarely, ever, contacted Maedhros. In fact, the two had only before met personally once, towards the beginning of the first age. He had gone over permissions to dwell on the lands outside of Doriath, agreed to help protect the borders of the forest, and made as many reparations as he could for the previous tensions between the Noldor and Sindar. Thingol was nor a warm man, but nor was he cruel. All was not forgiven, but the two kingdoms were on fair terms. Doriath and the Noldor were not close allies, but they were far from enemies.
Maedhros did not hate Thingol for his lack of total forgiveness of the Noldor. Maedhros did not forgive himself and his people either, and found Thingol’s isolationism and cultural hostility reasonable. The ban on the Quenyan language was an insult, but not a true detriment. He learned Sindarin quickly, although his thick Valinorian accent remained. He did not mind how the remnants of the old land lived on through his tongue. They lived on nowhere else in him.
On that one visit, he had met King Thingol’s daughter. She was like no woman he had ever seen- half maia, and thus as tall as him. She was a princess, and bright of mind, but forbidden from entering courtly discussions. The horrors of the world, her father insisted, had best stay out of her ears. He treated her almost like a child in that respect. But it was not Maedhros’s place to intervene. She sat next to him at the banquet the King hosted back then, and spent a good while staring at him. Her presence felt both soothing and powerful, like staring at the ocean. “I’ve never seen an elf like you before” she told him. He had continued eating the berry-glazed venison, as he was not a stranger to those taking a morbid fascination to his scars. To his surprise, however, his disfigurement turned out not to be the subject of her attention, but rather his hair, which was of a color she had “not known to be natural.” A stern glare from her father cut short the hair-discussion, but she edged in a whisper that she quite liked it. She was not the first to say such a thing, but Maedhros remembered this incident specifically. Her compliment did not disturb him, has it had before coming from others. She seemed so innocent and sincere in her words.
It was this peculiar princess who had sparked the reason for this second visit. According to Thingol’s letter, she had finally seen a man, and in a fit of naive whimsy had run off with him on some suicide-mission across western Beleriand. Maedhros did not fully understand what the situation was there, as Thingol had barely touched upon it, but he did pity the girl and her apparent lovestruck madness. This part of the letter had been interesting enough, but it took a turn he did not expect. The man had found himself imprisoned by Sauron in Tol-in-Gaurhoth, which sent Luthien on a mission to save him. At this point, Maedhros was expecting the letter to be a proclamation of her death and a request to send funeral condolences. Much to his delight, however, Sauron apparently highly misjudged her strength and found himself caught, powerless, in the jaws of Huan. How Celegorm’s Valinorian hound ended up in her company was not elaborated upon.
Luthien refused to kill the maia, but recognized that releasing him to flee back to Melkor would horribly impede her plans. Thingol did not elaborate as to what these plans were. Maedhros was curious but did not care that much. At just the mere mention that Sauron had been subdued and humiliated, he felt happier than he had been in years. The letter went on to explain that, as she could not kill or release him, she had Huan deliver his injured body back to Doriath, where he was promptly imprisoned. Thingol, in concern for his daughter’s unspecified expedition, had attempted to pry information from him but was entirely unsuccessful. Even within the protection of the Girdle of Melian, where Sauron found himself unable to shift forms or hasten his healing, no amount of injury could move his tongue. The only person who knew Sauron well enough to perhaps accomplish his interrogation, Thingol decided, was Maedhros himself. And thus, he was invited to Doriath to lay his hands upon the maia.
This struck Maedhros like nothing else. It had been hundreds of years since the personal threat of Sauron had been anywhere near him. And each one of those years had been spent recovering from him. His nails had regrown. His hair regained its natural texture. His skin had surely all regrown by now, several times over. His often-broken jaw bone had healed almost entirely, leaving only the slightest remnant of tilt to his smile. Some scars would never heal, but the majority of his body had moved on. His mind, however, would never forget. Decades had been spent in those halls. Countless nights warmed by the maia himself. Countless friends slayed by his cruel hands. Melkor had never bothered to get so personal. Melkor merely hated him. But Sauron, Sauron took an interest. Sauron destroyed him. No such person as “Maitimo” ever existed again. Sauron took everything from him. Even without his physical presence, he stayed with Maedhros always, in his mind, in his nightmares. What he wouldn’t give to be able to enjoy the feeling of silk again, to gracefully accept compliments, to feel clean. Melkor had hurt him, yes. But it was Sauron who spent thirty years gleefully planning out systematic, orchestrated annihilation. Sauron killed him in every sense except the beat of his heart. And what he wouldn’t give to return the favor. And finally be free of him.
So, yes, he decided to pay Thingol- and his prisoner- a visit. The letter said to meet at the first large offshoot of Celon, which would be easily distinguished by a white boulder, and the patrol would find him within a day. So, there Maedhros sat, his horse happily gnawing at the lush riverbed greens, himself sitting tightly aside the rock, considering a fourth dose of the bottle. He hated how more than three sips dulled his senses, his reactions, his judgement. Being clouded of mind was not an experience he was fond of. However, considering the thoughts that bounced around it, muddling his mind seemed a fair enough course of action. He placed his lips around the bottle and took his fourth indulgence of it. It burned a little. Not unpleasantly. He took a fifth.
Chapter 2: The King
Thingol’s word was true. Before nightfall, a triad of Sindar had spotted him. Beleg was not among them, has he had secretly been hoping for. Beleg was guaranteed to be friendly, while strangers were always a risk. They did insist on binding his arms. Rather roughly. But this, he conceded, was probably to be expected. How were they to know he was actually intended to aid Thingol, and not going on a Feanorian Murder Rampage? It’s fair. Aside from that, and an average amount of dirty looks, they were pleasant enough. He was allowed to remain mounted on his horse, to expedite the trip.
Thankfully, they did not put a hood over his eyes. Maedhros breathed in the scenery and the calm bliss it brought. Himring had no trees, only lichens and browned grasses. Such vibrant and exquisite botany reminded him of Yavanna’s gardens. Branches graced with fruits, flowers, and palm-sized waxy leaves...they did better for his nerves than the flask at his waist ever could. He couldn’t help but let his mouth form the lopsided grin he hated so much. The warmth of the region, too, had him sweating over his northern-made fur dressings. What a relief it was, to feel the chill leave his bones.
He could hear them whispering about him. "This is him, this is the expert painsmith, the one who will bring Sauron to his knees...yes, he matches the description Thingol gave us….ah, I can only imagine what…." Maedhros stopped listening. He did not deem himself an “expert painsmith.” He was a soldier, a general of war. He dealt death where it was deserved and protection when it was needed. To the best of his ability, at least. Torment was not a game he enjoyed. True, he had extracted words from orcs, but he was no sadist. It was not a surprise to hear them talk this way- did they know he knew Sindarin?- since he already knew most deemed him an orc-like monster. He had heard rumors passed even amongst the infantry at Himring. Still, nevertheless, this talk did not lighten his spirits. He let them talk, though. Any attempt at repairing his image would be both hypocritical and futile.
The group crossed the bridge into the halls of Menegroth, at which point he dismounted his horse and left it to its own care. Nothing about Menegroth had changed since Maedhros’s last visit to the stone-hewn fortress. Unlike the strict, geometric structure of the Noldorian traditional architecture he was so accustomed to, here were openly rounded, flowing walls. No face of stone was left unpainted. He was hurried along too fast to fully admire the details. He did catch glimpses, however- a scene of purple-clad dancers, a fractal pattern erupting in triangles in blues and greens, swirls of red and yellow punctuated by renditions of birds. If the war was over, and the tensions between his people and the Sindar were likewise healed, he would choose in an instant to reside in Menegroth. The elves walking by were clad for leisure, not combat. His leather bracings, chain mail outerwear, and floor length fur seemed hideously, painfully out of place amongst their breeze-thin layers of fruit-hued chiffon drapings, embroidered velvet vests, elaborately pinned braids, and long silver necklaces. Their appalled glares confirmed the obviousness of this contrast.
He wondered, did any of them know what evil was contained beneath their halls? Carefreely, they walk, surely they were not aware that Sauron himself dwelt merely a hundred meters beneath where they stood. He supposed that a young bird, still in its nest, put no mind to a fox looking on hungrily below either. Let them remain unaware. It is better. Why fret over an evil that will be extinguished before it even surfaces? These were fine people. Maedhros wished for them to remain in their pastel bliss as long as possible. No use spreading worry where it had no place.
His nose itched. It had a tendency to do that. If his arms were not bound, he would have repaired this, but this was not the case. The binding was nothing more than some firm rope, but it still drew the attention of passing elves, as it both parked him as a danger and distinguished him from those robed for a night of leisure. The feeling of shame which had been creeping in on him finally surfaced and poked as his pride. Why should he, a king by all means but title, be treated like an orc brought in for questioning, or a pig being taken to market? His walk through the halls began to feel like more of a parade and less of a brief escort. He said nothing. If they clearly thought of him as that much of a volatile menace, surely an outburst would only intensify their mistrust of him. Beleg would not have treated him like this. Beleg knew the Noldor. They were not bloodthirsty. Alqualonde was hundreds of years ago, and no such event would ever happen again.
The expensive dressings of the Sindar, now see in combination with their smirks, lost their charm to him. These were not merely peaceful, happy, citizens. The Sindar had refused to aid in fights against the encroaching forces of Melkor. Defense to the North was left to his men. Elves had died along the borders of Doriath, denied aid. Maedhros spent the years losing soldiers, friends, and blood. These men spent them indulging in wine, hunts, and each other. He could not prevent himself from feeling a drop of resentment. Perhaps jealousy. To wear such gowns and delight in such things again....
Not too much more time passed before he was finally led to the main hall and throne room of Thingol. The ceilings were at least ten yards tall, rounded just as the entry hall was, and likewise painted in its entirety. Pillars extended from the behind his throne to the apex of the arch overhead. They were painted white. He remembered, from his last visit, they they were designed to look like sunbeams. They looked far more like femurs to him. This illusion was only furthered by their thickened bases and tops, meant for attachment to the roof and the platform.
Thingol sat in this throne cloaked in a light, minty-colored robe that, though quite long, left his legs slightly exposed. This exposure revealed pants of a bright gold and thin shoes to match. At the sight of Maedhros’s entrance, the King immediately stood up and walked briskly, silently over to Maedhros.
“Why are his arms bound. His arms do not need to be bound, I know him” the King began with.
One of the guards who escorted began to undo the rope.
“No, stop. I never told you to take it off, did I? You can do that later. It is not necessary right now. What? Did you find him at the rock, as I told him to be? He must have been like this for two days at least. He’ll be fine like this for an hour or so more. This is fine. Yeah, yeah, leave it, I think.”
Maedhros wished he could take approximately five more sips of his bottle. He finally broke his silence. “My Lord, thank you for inviting me into your halls. I do believe that I may be able to aid you in your interrogation of Sauron, and hopefully thus keep your daughter from misfortune. I hope for this to be a venture of mutual respect, and perhaps therefore for us to interact as equals, it would be beneficial if I was allowed movement of my arms.”
Thingol said nothing. He nodded to the three elves who had accompanied Maedhros thus far. They departed.
Maedhros continued, eager to avoid inflicting any displeasure. “I mean not rudeness, my Lord. Merely that-”
Thingol cut him off. “Stop. Stop talking. I know you mean not rudeness. But your pleasantries serve only to delay us. This is a time-sensitive matter, do I need to remind you of that? And what does it matter, that your arms are bound? Your mouth still speaks freely. It does not hinder any discussion. It is only a matter of your pride. Please, think next time. Which do you find more important? Your pride, or the safety of my people? They fear you whether you admit responsibility for that or not. I know we did not bind you last time. But, last time, we did not know fully the extent of what happened in Valinor, did we? You kept that secret from us.”
The King paused, then continued. “Oh, please. Do not look at look at me like that. You know you are a kinslayer, you know you are cursed, and you know you are near orc. Why wo-”
It was the Noldo’s turn to cut him off. “And you know that without me, Sauron’s capture is useless to you.”
“Do you intend to feign as if this is charity work for you? You think this is merely a favor to me? Please, Lord Maedhros, I can see in your eyes that you want to hurt the maia more than anything. I see that unsatisfied pain in you. That hunger for spilled blood and screamed pleads. You wear it quite handsomely, I may add. If you have that countenance each time you unfurl yourself into battle, I find it unsurprising that orcs stop to stare. How I would love to indulge in you again, now that your scars have faded.”
“My Lord, if this task is as time-crucial as you claimed, perhaps it would be best to brief me on the current situation of the maia and the information you desire, rather than fantasizing about the unattainable.”
Thingol frowned. “And perhaps it would be best not to instruct me on how to carry out my own plans, especially when it seems that your arms are still bound.” Thingol paused, and a smile regrew on his face as he observed the effect of his words on the elf. “Truly, I prefered the last time you visited, when you were here to make obedience and apologies rather than arrogance.” He placed his hand on Maedhros’s shoulder, happy to feel his heart rate rising. “Fear suits your face just as well as anger does. It’s exquisite. At least, perhaps, now you will listen to my words without interruptions or impudence.” He slid his hand a little lower, down to the hip.
Maedhros collected himself with a deep breath and removed the hand. “My Lord, as I requested earlier, I wish to maintain an environment of respect. You are correct that my arms are still bound. However, my legs are not. And, I swear to Eru, if you ever touch me or speak to me like that again, I will kick your damn dick in, and if that still leaves you aroused, I’ll leave the room so you can go fuck yourself.”
It was Thingol’s turn to remain silent.
Maedhros continued. “Good. Now you will listen to my words. If you think your daughter’s safety depends on information Sauron knows, she is as good as dead. Sauron will tell you nothing of use. His a maia and would sooner die than ever betray his master. I guarantee you, any information he told you is either a lie, or a truth strategically revealed to lead your men into the traps of orcs. Understood?”
“If you want information concerning the operations of Angband and troop movement, I can provide that. Many of my closest friends and soldiers are escaped thralls, miners, orc-toys. They know the darkness better than your confused spies ever could. They have heard more than your informants have ever told you. This information has not come to me cheap, however, and thus I will not release it for a low price.”
Thingol opened his mouth to speak, but was not allowed the chance.
“I met your daughter. She is a finer person than you have ever been. I would hate to see misfortune befall her and am fully willing to aid in the preservation of safety for her and the man she is with. I will tell you what you desire. In exchange, I merely ask for the death of Sauron to be delivered by my hands. Do you agree to this deal?”
“Then untie my arms.”
He reluctantly but quickly did so.
“Good. I have been told you have a sword forged from sky-iron. Anglachel is its name? Yes? Nod please if this is so?”
Thingol nodded again.
“Yes. Sky-iron, fallen from flaming stars. My brother has a dagger made of the stuff. Angrist, he calls it. Makes a faint humming round when taken out. Cuts through any metal, any at all, even that which has a spell placed on it. Does your sword do the same?”
“Good. Perfect. Here’s what you don’t know, that I do. It does not cut through metal. It cuts through everything. It cuts through the flesh, and through the fea. I met a weapon of the same sort once in Angband. My skin healed. The fea did not. The wound has never truly left. I still feel it. Do you understand? Sky-iron is devastating. If you cut a maia with it, their spirit does not simply leave their body to seek a new form. The spirit itself is cut. There is no other way for me to kill someone like Sauron with full confidence of his death being permanent, to have him be send back to Eru himself for repair. Maedhros added nothing more after this, signalling Thingol to re-insert himself into the conversation.
“I understand. I will happily lend you Anglachel. I will warn you, the blade was formed by Eol, and thus bears darkness within it.”
Maedhros grinned. “We have that in common then, it and I. I will wield it well.”
The King removed a stone slab from the arm of his throne, revealing it to be hollow. From this compartment he withdrew a long black blade. Its hilt was had a dark sheen to it and was encircled by winding threads of silver. He extended his arm, pointing the sword’s tip towards Maedhros and moved forward until it touched his neck, lightly, like a fly settling upon its meal.
“You will do this, then help me.”
Maedhros raised his right hand, likewise crafted out of a dark metal, grabbed the blade, and pulled it from Thingol.
This was a suitable response for the king, who returned to sitting in his throne at the same angle as before.
“You will find the maia on the lowest floor. His cell is the large one, to the north.”
Maedhros departed from the hall.
Chapter 3: The Dungeon
Yeah I'm still procrastinating on trying to write Sauron. Here, have an appetizer of a chapter!
Maedhros was glad to walk the halls freely without escort. He was not, however, glad to be without directions. Finding even the stairs to this “lowest floor” seemed to be a hassle. Asking a passing elf for help, however, was a bit too daunting. Arms finally freed, he took two more mouthfuls of his liquor from the bottle he kept at his hip. It was growing empty. He would need to purchase some more. Rarely had he allowed himself so much in such a short period of time.
The sword, Anglachel, felt good in his hand. He swung it a little bit, side to side, up and down, feeling the weight of it. It slid through air a bit faster than his personal sword, Clearly it did not give much thought to the physical world at all, or else it would obey it as a normal blade would.
He would enjoy using it.
After wandering the halls aimlessly, collecting only foul glares and not directions to a stairwell, Maedhros gave up on his pride and resolved to inquire. He approached an elf wearing the garments of guards, who was sitting down enjoying a pipe.
“Excuse me, mam, would you by chance be one of Lord Thingol’s guards? If so, would you spare a moment to aid me?”
She exhaled smoke and looked up at him. “You’re the one he sent for? Aren’t you?” She stood up to continue her evaluation of him. “You are, aren’t you? Red hair. Scars.” She poked his right hand. “This is fake.”
“Yes, my hand is fake. I apologize if the fact that it is metal was unclear. It’s the glove I am wearing over it, see, I do not like it getting dirty.”
“I honestly couldn't care less about your hands being dirty. You’re Thingol’s summoned maniac, though? Aren’t you?”
“Yes.” It was easier to comply with the Sindar’s general notion of him than dispute it. “And, please mam, I need to find the stairs and reach where the maia is held.”
“The maia? We’re doing that right now?” She shook her pipe a little in an attempt to revive the dying flame. “Oh Eru, I do not have time for this shit right now.”
“I apologize. Are you busy? I merely need help finding the stairs.”
“Am I busy? Yeah I’m busy, aren’t I? I’ve got an hour of pipe weed right here, and I would much rather be doing that right now than visiting that slimy little bitch.”
Maedhros smiled. “Ah. I see you’ve met him.”
“Yeah, I’ve met him. I’m a guard after all, aren’t I? And what needs guarding? Him. I have to watch him all day, every other day. Hence why I am enjoying my one-hour smoking break. Please let me enjoy the break.”
“The stairs, please, mam.”
With one arm she raised the pipe to her mouth again, and with the other she knocked on the maroon-colored wall behind her. It moved inward slightly, exposing a sort of sliding mechanism. Maedhros thanked her with a curt bow, moved the door the rest of the way, and descended.
The stairs were a narrow spiral, lit with small fires in bulbous glass bowls hung from the walls. The walls, unlike all the others he had seen, were unpainted. Also unlike the other corridors, the staircase was devoid of any other elves. Maedhros took advantage of this whistling to himself. Nothing of much significance, just a nursery tune from Valinor that had a particularly memorable melody to it. He was quite fond of it. It soothed his nerves lightly, as it was reminiscent of his days as a schoolchild. The lyrics themselves had long since slipped his mind- it was something about a bird, that much he remembered.
As Thingol said, there was indeed a lowest floor. The descent did come to an end and opened up into another long hallway. Like the stairs, the stone here was not painted. To his left and right where small cells. Each held an elf. Most were asleep. One was not, but rather was standing, leaning against the door of interlaced iron. Maedhros did not allow himself to look at them. He reassured himself that Doriath was a lawful society. Crime was not unheard of, and thus occasionally jail was needed. It was a perfectly reasonable concept. Even Himring had a few cells for holding those who endangered the rest. Still, he could not help but recall seeing the same rows of listless faces in the halls of Angband. He did not break his walking pace, and did not let himself fret over them.
At the end of the hall, likewise as Thingol said, was a slightly larger cell. Its door, though identical to the others, was accompanied by an elven guard. Maedhros approached him.
“This is where the maia is held?” he asked.
“What is his condition?”
“He is chained. Quite well, I may add. He tries daily to escape his cuffs and strangle one of us. You’ll never guess how that turns out for him.”
Maedhros began a guess. “He-”
“He fails daily!” the elf interjected, guffawing as if this was a hilarious concept.
“Thank you for letting me know that the strength of his bonds is adequate. His condition is under my control as of now, according to my recent negotiation with Thingol. Is he hurt?”
“No” the elf responded, in obvious sarcasm, “We kept him in perfect health, even gave him hairspray, caviar, and a fine selection of wines, since he so clearly deserves it!”
Maedhros grew a little tired of the jesting. “Please unlock the door, and allow me company with him.”
The elf, still chuckingly mildly at his self-perceived humor, and opened the door.
Maedhros did not immediately step inside. He did not want to look at Sauron. He did not want to see the face he saw so often in his nightmares. It is true, that the maia could shapeshift, and his appearance was thus never quite constant. But Maedhros could always recognize him. In the same way that aging changes the face but leaves the person behind it recognizable, even after lapses of time, Sauron could always be identified. He favored oddly silky hair with a sheen to it not unlike spilled oil, or glass at the right angle. His eyes, too, he usually kept unnaturally shining and often with a faint glow (Melkor apparently favored things that glitter). The man looked like fine music, the sort you could never manage to dance to, but instead felt obligated to sit in contemplative silence. He always kept his jaw and cheek structure sharp and elegant. Few elves or maia looked anywhere near as fair as he, regardless of his exact form.
This combination is what Maedhros braced himself for. However, to his surprise and relief, the maia had a cloth sack over his head, drawn tight at the neck, presumably in use as a blindfold.
The body wearing the sack-head was, still, definitely Sauron. He was positioned towards the center of the wall opposite the door, kneeling. His ankles were bound together with iron cuffs, connected to the floor with a short loop. His wrists each had their own encirclement, and their respective chains had them pulled taught in opposite directions. His body, in this position, resembled a “Y.” The arm-chains were not connected firmly to the walls but were rather on a pulley of sorts. Maedhros yanked one, raising the maia’s arm and forcing him to assuming a standing position.
His body, now uncrumpled and easier to observe in the light, was naked. Its distinctive beauty had not been extinguished, though it was indeed dulled slightly by the array of wounds splattered across it. Maedhros walked around him, taking in full detail of his hurts. Whip marks seemed the most prominent, lining his back, chest, and thighs. Maedhros leaned in closer to look at one. Each lash was narrow, simple, and shallow. The Sindar were obviously highly uncreative in their whip crafting. Perhaps this was a good thing, that they had not yet engineering the tools to be as grievously damaging as the ones Angband familiarized him with.
The entirety of the torture inflicted on Sauron was rather uncreative, Maedhros deemed. There were knife marks, bloody pockets across the maia’s body, yes, but they were simple cuts. Not daring gashes, chunks ripped out, or deadly fissures. There was not a single branding mark anywhere across his soft flesh. The Sindar were apparently quite fond of blunt blows, as large bruises did cover him, but this was uneventful. The maia was not unaccustomed to such injuries being inflicted on him. The warhammer, Grond, had left the same flavor of marks, only far more intense and memorable. The only broken limb visibly suffered was his leg, which he easily avoided putting weight on.
The maia had no skin peeled off. His fingers and fingernails were still entirely intact. Maedhros quickly surveyed the room for remnants of any tools, and found, much to his dissatisfaction, only a table upon which was set a whip (as simplistic as he expected it to be) and a curved knife. There was no rack-bench, no mouth-gag, no pliers, no vials of caustic chemicals. The room was obviously cleaned regularly. No dried blood or fluids had accumulated on the floor.
Maedhros was appalled at the lightness of Sauron’s torment. The Sindar, or at least the ones tasked with the interrogation, were obscenely amateur. He was disgusted by how well the maia was treated. He remembered his own days in the same position. Elves at the hands of Sauron felt pain unfathomable, felt themselves rendered to the last vestiges of sanity, and felt touches they never forgot. Sauron, at the hands of elves, received in comparison a gentle scolding. Maedhros wanted to scream, the unfairness of it all.
Perhaps, however, he should not be so upset. Did he truly want a world in which the eldar invented cruelties of that sort? What right does he have to be angered that no elf in Doriath had ever experienced, remembered, and reconstructed higher torture. Luckily for Sauron, the Sindar remained relatively unaware of the full scope of physical horrors. Unluckily, however, Maedhros knew it all. Far too well.
Maedhros set Anglachel down on the table. He took up his bottle of clear liquor, and considered its consumption. If he drank now, the mental numbing effects of it would present themselves within an hour. Surely, one hour would be enough time to fell the maia, he decided. With this thought, he tilted it backwards and drank the entire remnant of the bottle. He estimated it was probably fifteen or so sips worth. Never before had he drunk so much. But, then again, never before had he faced a situation like this one. He knew he would surely lose his wits the longer time went by. Better to let the drink’s potency catch him before horrific memories do. He coughed once. The burn on his throat did hurt a little.
Maedhros spoke. “Do you recognize my voice?”
“No, but I recognize that song you were whistling. Little skylark, it is called, yes? A favorite of the Noldor. Which, by the grimy accent in your voice, I can tell you are.”
Maedhros was pleased to know Sauron had not yet identified him. It is true that his voice had changed since Angband. It was a little less scratchy, likely on account of the better food, better air, and far less screaming. He was also pleased to have finally rediscovered the name of the song.
“Little skylark, lovely little skylark, little skylark, pluck your feathers off…” Sauron began singing the first line of the tune, feigning a Quenyan accent in mockery of his unknown new guest. Clearly, he took none of this seriously.
Maedhros jerked the cloth hood off the maia. Sauron immediately stopped singing. Maedhros grinned, as he could see terror so clearly grip the maia. Fear was easily recognizable in Sauron, but not easy to come by. It could be observed by a sharp eye during Sauron’s reports of his failures to Morgoth. How interesting, now, to see it inflicted on him by an elf. Maedhros could not help but grin. He was no sadist, but the delight of seeing his enemy look upon him with such panic was delicious indeed.
“Do you recognize me now?”
Sauron caught himself, and quickly coated his fear in an aura of confidence. “Ah, yes, Maitimo. My favorite little thrall.”
Maitimo. Maedhros had not heard that name in a long time. No one dared call him that anymore. It was taken from him by Angband, by Sauron. Hearring it always brought him back to each time the name was spoken by the maia, every cooing, taunting “oh, come here, Maitimo, what a good little elf you are.” Given to him by his mother, it meant “well formed one.” Indeed, he was well formed, and constantly reminded of it. How he wished he wasn’t.
He refused to let this upset him. More importantly, he refused to let Sauron see this upset him.
“My name is not Maitimo, and I am not a thrall, Sauron.” It was his turn to throw out a name he knew the maia hated. Mairon was his preferred title. Maedhros enjoyed seeing how this annoyed him, especially now that Sauron’s anger was no threat to him.
“Not a thrall? Oh? Please, do let me know when you own yourself, and are not under the bidding of your oath and the memory of your death father. It does not matter which of us you are currently serving. I know you. You have been doing dirty tricks for these masters too, I am certain.” He looked at the discomfort growing on Maedhros’s face. “Oh, I am correct I see. Did I strike a little too close, elf? What regrettable things have you continued doing outside the halls of our Lord Melkor?”
Maedhros did not desire to defend himself. He knew Sauron was grasping for any attack he could, baseless or not. Perhaps, though, he could not defend himself. It is true that he acted unlike he did in Angband. But also true that not every habit he gained there had died. The threat of torture under Sauron and a void everlasting under the Oath had both taken him to evils. He did not wish to think on this any longer, but he had no response.
“Maitimo, I see-”
Now, Maedhros had a response. “I told you not to call me Maitimo. You will listen to me.” Now, he waited, to see if Sauron would take this warning wisely, or bother him further.
“Well, fair enough. You are the one with the sword and the stomach full of what smells like fine Sindarin liquor, so you MUST be in charge here” he said, with an uncomfortably smug smirk. “Shall I talk to you, a little bit, Maedhros? You do prefer that name now, I have heard. Shall I tell you a little of what you do not know? You’re as pretty as ever, and just as dumb, little elf. Have you heard anything from your cousin in the west? The pretty one?”
Maedhros’s heart skipped a beat. Fingon?
“No, no, I recognize that look. No, not your little lover. The other one, the blond one. Ah, what was his name….Finrod! Finrod is dead. I killed him. Did you know that?”
“You are lying.”
“Sweet Maedhros, you know me well enough to know that I do not lie to you.” The words flowing from his mouth were like the pouring of water. Smooth, and so sincere. Maedhros did not want to believe them, but they were so clear. “You will surely love to hear why he is dead! It was the quest of Thingol’s little daughter who brought him to me. Beautiful how it works out, is it not?”
Luthien would never intentionally hurt an elf. Maedhros knew this. She must have not done it in malice. Still, the grin grew on Sauron’s mouth. Finrod, however. The death of Finrod seemed so impossible. Was he not safe, ruling Nargothrond, amongst his brothers? What of his brothers? If Sauron had perhaps taken Nargothrond, were Celegorm, Curufin, and Celebrimbor alright? Maedhros feared for them, and hated the possibility that Sauron had simply neglected to tell him of their fates. Unease rose in his stomach. He did not want to talk to Sauron.
“Did Thingol let you know of exactly what his daughter is up to? She and her toy human are on a Silmaril-quest of their own now. I truly had no clue he had brought you into this. Delightful, though. You aid him, and in return he allows his daughter to tamper with your family and your oath. Are you a prisoner of his here? Pray tell, why have you ventured here? Did you miss me, my little whore? Is it curiosity? I do not blame you. I can tell the image of me has never left your mind. I have heard orcs’ account of your anger. You lash out like an unconsoled child. What is it that you seek here?”
Maedhros picked up Anglachel from the table.
Hey everyone! I'm pleased to let you know that there has been fan art made of this chapter!
Chapter 5: Sauron more like Saur-gone
WARNING FOR GORE AND TORTURE AND STUFF
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“I have been waiting for this moment the entire first age.” Maedhros raised Anglachel until it was level with Sauron’s eyes and pressed its tip right between them, sharp enough to summon a small trickle of blood.
Sauron, maintaining eye contact with the elf, extended his tongue and licked the rivulet of blood as it ran down the curve of his face onto his lips. “My, how irate you are.”
Maedhros stumbled for a response to this. He placed the sword back on the table and took a step closer to Sauron. “And you, Sauron, you are scared” he began, each word emitting from his tongue like sparks from hammered iron. “You deny this. I see it in you. I know I have not left your mind. I know your orcs have run back to you with tales of me. Have you laid awake at night, letting me worry you? You have never participated in a single battle against a single fortress of the east. I know why this is, why you remain in western Beleriand. You knew that if you set foot anywhere near Himring, I would find you, and I would kill you. And you feared that, didn’t you? That one of your thralls slipped through your fingers, out of his chains. That everything you have done to me would finally have consequence. I wondered that this would look like on you.” Sauron, at this, looked downwards, breaking his long-held eye contact. Maedhros did not accept this. He grabbed his chin, tightly, and tilted his face upwards. “Do not look away from me, maia. I am speaking to you.”
Sauron opened his mouth “You-”
With a swift punch to the jaw, Maedhros closed it. “I said, I am speaking to you.”
The blow had split the maia’s lip. Blood dripped down his chin.
Maedhros did not feel fear. He looked at Sauron, and did not see the face that mocked him in his memories. Sauron held no power over him. He could not hurt him. Sauron was merely two wide-open eyes, staring at the elf, silently begging for his life.
He turned back to the table, and again examined the tools. The sword, the knife, the whip, and his now-empty bottle. Though not ideal, he could easily make do with any of these. Under the right hands, they could cause enough damage.
Maedhros did not expect to hear that word. He turned around to look at the maia who said it.
“Maedhros, you are a fool. I see that sword. I presume you will drive it through my heart and attempt to kill me. You know better than this. You know I will simply return to my master and rebuild a new body there. Perhaps this little power fantasy of yours excites you, but ultimately you are doing nothing of value. You tell yourself that I fear you? What do I have to fear from an elf like you? You have not escaped me. You are correct that I have heard about you, from elves and orcs alike. I have heard that you cannot sleep in an unlit room. I have heard that you wake up screaming. That fellow elves dub you a monster, and you accept this as true. You just drank a bottle of cleaning solution. Not liquor. I smell it upon you. We use that liquid to sanitize forceps. You can barely sustain yourself and you feed yourself lies. You will never recover a Silmaril, and you have been told this by some even wiser than I. You fight against Melkor, an enemy you can never defeat, in a battle you can never win. Why is it, Maedhros, that you cannot see this? Your anger blinds you. Kill me, if you want. The orcs will not stop. Melkor will not stop. You will not stop, not until all your Noldor are dead. I will not stop. You will end up in the void if you do not stop. Consider, for a moment, how you can avoid this. You have talent, and I will not deny that. But you cannot live like this or die like this. Return to Angband with me, this time as a willing man and not a thrall. Become a lieutenant of my own, and govern your people just as the same as before. Your oath can be fulfilled at the grace of my master. You know I speak truth, and you only resist me due to naivety and stubbornness. You will fail.”
His words rang in Maedhros’s head like the echo of a dropped stone. His voice was so soft, so welcoming. The words felt sincere, and the Noldo felt ashamed. It was true. Battle showed no sign of ending, and Melkor showed no sign of weakening. Fingolfin’s death, only nine years past, was still fresh in his mind. The deaths showed no sign of stopping. He feared for Fingon, who fought valiantly, constantly. Could he fight forever? He thought of Finrod. Was it true? Had Finrod truly been killed? It was the girl, Luthien, he had been aiming to help. Not Maedhros’s own battles. Did it matter?
Luthien had never wielded a sword or donned armor. She had merely confronted Sauron, overpowered him, conquered him. Elves for hundreds of years had been attempting to do the exact same. Even Maedhros himself considered Sauron a near unconquerable enemy. The Princess, however, subdued him with ease.
Melkor was not everlasting. Angband was not impermeable. The Valar had done it before. And here, upon Beleriand once more, walked a girl with the powers of a Vala. She might be able to do it. With her, perhaps, the Noldor could finish the war.
Sauron was not correct. He was merely scared.
“Sauron, you pathetic wretch. You are merely an evil cradling this room, and nothing beyond that. You speak not of truth but of fear. Perhaps you are correct that this war will wage long. But I am an elf, not a thrall, and I believe I speak for the rest of the Noldor when I say that we would rather become bloodstains on a battlefield than instruments of your sickened will. Melkor will fall. You severely underestimate the fire that burns within us. You underestimate all of us. Luthien, too, I see you you were wrong about.”
Sauron’s face tightened with displeasure.
Not a trace of fear or doubt was left within Maedhros. He picked up Anglachel once more. “May I add one more thing that you are wrong about? Your death. You believe that your fea will remain intact after I kill you, and you can simply return to the dark chambers of Morgoth. This is not so. Observe.”
With a near effortless swish of his hand, Maedhros drove the black sword through Sauron’s arm at the shoulder.
A high pitched screech reverberated through the room like wind against a cold cliff face. It was loud enough to hurt the elf’s ears. Not enough to cause him any true displeasure, however.
“Does that feel like your fea is the same as it was before, Sauron?”
Sauron did not respond, but merely stared at the absense of an arm.
Maedhros rose his voice to a yell. “HOW DO YOU FEEL, SAURON?”
Sauron did not respond. Maedhros cut through the other arm, letting the maia fall to the floor. The same sound rang the room briefly.
Blood began to pool around his upper body. The maia started breathing heavily, the threat of the damage finally setting in.
“This is not a sword of Beleriand. This was forged from sky-iron, sent from the ainur. I see you feel how it is different? You will not be able to go back to Melkor after this. You will not be able to assume a new form. You will have to go back to Eru and plead to him to repair you, as you will be wrecked beyond recognition. I hope you said farewell to your master? No? He won’t miss you anyways.”
Sauron glared at the elf.
“Do you have anything to say, you piece of shit?” Maedhros kicked him in the ribs, hard enough to make him convulse slightly. “Come on, now. This is your last time to say anything in Beleriand.”
Maedhros looked at him, letting his eyes examine his body head to toe. He paused about halfway down. “How about I cut that off too?”
Sauron looked away.
“I would use the knife, but I don’t want to give you the pleasure of me touching it. I think I might have another idea, however.” Maedhros lifted his heel and drove it down, hard, upon the maia. He was not light, and the metal sole of the shoe was not pliable. When Maedhros removed his boot, there was blood. But not enough. He repeated the blow, harder. This time, skin and flesh were smeared across the ground.
Sauron closed his eyes in a wince. He was starting to grow pale from the blood loss through the arms.
“Why aren’t you saying anything? You always said so much in Angband.” Maedhros thought for a moment. “I do want you to say something, actually. How about an apology?
Sauron said nothing and merely pursed his lips into a tight grimace. This was not enough for Maedhros. He fetched the knife and returned. He desired to look into the maia’s eyes, and thus resolves on straddling his chest. “I will repeat that, in case you missed it. I want an apology.”
Sauron said nothing and merely continued staring.
“I swear, I will put out those fucking eyes of yours right now if you don’t scream me an apology for everything. I want to tell me you’re sorry. Say it.”
Sauron did not say it. He continued staring.
Maedhros did not like those eyes. They were too bright. With his metal hand, he held Sauron’s head firmly in place. With the other, he dipped the tip of the small knife blade through the eye and with a flick of his wrist, removed a chunk of this. He repeated this until the eye socket was a bleeding mess. He could feel Sauron writhe beneath him.
“How about the next eye? Do you want a matching set? Do you?”
Sauron said nothing. In fact, he forced his mouth into a smile. Maedhros did not appreciate this. He immediately got up, flung the bloody knife aside, and picked up the sword. Sauron would never change. He would never apologize. Maedhros started to shake. It was time to end this.
He looked down at himself. Sauron’s dark, red-black blood and soaked the bottoms of his pants. The floor was slippery-sticky. The sensation of walking over it was not particularly pleasant to him. None of this was. It was time to end this.
Maedhros did not ask Sauron to say anything more. Nor did he himself say more. There was nothing to be said. Both understood what was to be done.
He drove Anglachel through Sauron’s right knee, testing how alive he was. Sauron squirmed slightly at this. The loud screech rang through the room once more.
He lifted the blade and cut through the air quickly. The remainder of blood on it flew off and splattered against the cell wall.
In a fit of fury, he drove it again and again into the maia’s prone body. Through the chest, through the skull. Pierces, slashes, cuts. The entire while, the room shook with the deafening shrillness of that sound. The blade felt oddly warm in his hands. He ignored the noise. Maedhros did not keep track of how many times the sword penetrated Sauron’s body. The fury of it drowned him, and he did not stop. The sound eventually came to a halt. Maedhros did not stop. He did not stop until the body was an vague, oozing clutter of tendons and splintered white bone.
For once, Sauron had taken a form he could not recognize and at this, he was satisfied.
Maedhros stepped back from the remainders of the corpse, shaking from both the energy exerted and the shock of it. He managed to walk far enough to exit the cell, and there collapsed.
THIS CHAPTER HAS AMAZING ART DONE FOR IT!!
Chapter 6: Awake
Yeah, it's 3am and I can't seem to get Thingol quite right, so I'm breaking this next bit in half. You'll see him after this.
Maedhros awoke, his neck sore, smelling like vomit and sulphur. As he began to look around the room, he quickly realized he was still in the dungeons. Right outside the door to Sauron’s old cell. Still on the floor. He had not moved at all.
He looked up and to his left, sitting on a stool right outside the door, was the guard he had met upstairs. The one with a kindness for her pipe and a intolerance for Sauron. He sat up. She noticed this and turned towards him.
“Mam? How long have I been lying here?” he asked.
She gave it a moment’s thought. “Well, you were here already when I got off break. About an hour later you threw up, crawled forwards a little, then blacked out again.” She rolled her eyes and added “you smell awful.” At the realization that she did not fully satisfy his question, she spoke again. “Oh, and since then, hmm, I would say it’s been around twelve hours? I’m near due for another break if that’s the case, aren’t I?”
“Sauron is dead.”
“Yeah I noticed. You forgot to lock the door behind you, so I figured either you were hurt, he was hurt, or you were just being a careless idiot.
He processed the words to himself, then repeated them, as if he were trying to learn them or perhaps memorize how they sound.
“Sauron is dead.”
“Yeah he sure is, isn’t he? He washed right down the drain.”
He considered this. The words finally made sense in his mind. He was a genius, perfection in the forge, flawless in body, uncomparable in mind. An expert in pain, warfare, and crafting. And, now, he was a puddle of rapidly dissolving meat that a bored elf has washed down into a drain. True, his fea itself was not utterly destroyed. But it was badly in need of repairs, and thus the maia will be dead for as close as forever. This pleased Maedhros greatly. He smirked to himself at this thought.
The guard seemed to ignore him, and continued to talk. “My wife is going to be thrilled. She hated having to see him all the time. Did you see a knife in there? That’s hers!” she declared proudly. “She is the King’s best resident painsmith. She hated that damn maia. Never squeaked a word, apparently. When Thingol hired someone new to take her place- well, that’s you, isn’t it?- she was so mad. Told him that she was the best there was, and if she couldn’t get him to spill, then no one could! Especially no half-crazed mercenary! Were you able to get Thingol’s questions out of him?”
“No” he responded curtly. He considered adding that her wife was no expert torturer at all, and perhaps the lumberyard would be a better use for her blade considering the amount of anatomical nuance and precision she wielded it with. He did not, however, say this outloud, as he wished to retain her good will. Such rudeness had no place, despite his frustration at how lightly the pain inflicted on Sauron had been.
She stood up and clapped her hands together in excitement. “Well! She’ll be right pleased to hear that, won’t she? She still reigns supreme at her job! I’m so proud.”
Maedhros did not have much else to say. His mind entertained itself with its own thoughts, of which there were many. He noticed that a particularly bothersome scar on his shoulder no longer hurt. He pulled at his shirt collar to check it and, to his surprise, it was gone in its entirety. It seemed wounds left by the maia’s sorcery perished along with him. This pleased Maedhros greatly.
The guard continued to talk and pace about the room. Evidently, guarding the cell of a dead man left her quite bored and eager for conversation. Maedhros did not pay any attention to what she was saying. His head hurt, and his body felt sore. After a good while, he interrupted her with a question.
“Why are you here still? Please, if I may inquire, why have you not gone up to Thingol to declare this news to him?”
“Oh, well, you were asleep, weren’t you? My job description is not to guard Sauron. It is to guard what Thingol wants to be kept safe. You count as that, don’t you? So I sat here and, well, guarded you.” She grinned, apparently satisfied with her adeptness at this task. “But, I suppose, it is time to bring you and your news back to the King.”
Maedhros attempted to stand up, stumbled a little, and braced himself against a wall. “Yes, yes I suppose it is.” His head still hurt horribly. For some inexplicable reason, the scent of his bottle still rested upon him. The front of his shirt was coated in dried bile. His pants had the crust of Sauron’s blood still clinging to them. He examined his hands and discovered that both of them, real and fake, were black with blood as well. In fact, most of him was. His peeled what was once an artery or perhaps a tenson off his sleeve. Altogether he smelled like a healing ward. The odd sulfur note to it, he discovered, was attributed to the odd blood.
“I need new clothes. A bath.”
“It might be interesting to present yourself to Thingol like this, though, wouldn’t it? He didn’t get to see the corpse bits, so he might like seeing all…” she paused and gestured to the multitude of stains on his garments “....this.”
“No, I know him. He will like this better, I’m sure. He’ll want to see your hard work. Come!” she grabbed his arm to lead him up the stairwell. He instantly recoiled from her touch. “No? Well, follow me then.”
He attempted to follow her, but stumbled a little in his footing and tripped. He did not understand why his body refused to comply so easily as usual with such a simple command as walking.
“Are you drunk?” she asked, part in worry part in disgust.
Ah. Yes, perhaps that was it, he decided. He remembered drinking the remaining entirety of his strong liquor. Or, what he deemed liquor.
She extended her arm to him again, and this time he happily accepted it. A little support was necessary to steady him and scale the stairs.
Sauron was dead.
Chapter 7: The Halls of the King
ENOUGH OF THIS
After some tedious walking, the pair found themselves back in the throne room of Thingol. It was empty and unilluminated. The sun-beam pillars found themselves looking even more femur-like in the shadows.
The guard mumbled to herself in frustration. “Of course he isn’t here? It was midday when I returned to my post...it’s far into the night now, isn’t it? We’ll have to go to his personal study. Perhaps he will be awake there!”
“Do you not think it is best to wait another day, and simply inform King Thingol of today’s passings come daybreak? Forgive me if I misunderstand, but is venturing to his chambers not improper?” Maedhros asked in sincere concern.
“It’s important though, isn’t it? Come! I know Thingol well. He has been awaiting progress with the maia all week. He’ll want to hear.” She returned her grasp upon his shoulder and led him at a brisk pace towards the halls of the King.
He did not favor the idea, but he did not desire to resist her either. Putting up a fight and creating a scene against a good-willed citizen of Doriath would only earn him harm.
It was not the first time Maedhros had been admitted to the personal halls of the King and his kin. In fact, during the monthlong duration of his previous stay in Menegroth, he had spent the majority of his time there. It was a visit of diplomacy, yes, but also personal matters.
The Noldor were fresh to Beleriand at the time. Landless and starving. He had visited Thingol to negotiate land rights and and a loan with which his people could begin to build good, proper fields and homes, thus allowing them to established kingdoms and prosperity. In exchange, he explained the military capabilities of his people and offered to defend the lands north of Doriath. Thingol did not trust the Noldor enough to accept this bargain initially.
Thingol hated the Noldor, yes, but he was also fascinated with them. What strange people, who brought merely their swords and revenges. They departed from a land of paradise with intent to fight a war. None of them were bettering their life, it seemed to him, rather the entire people subjected themselves to misery out of sheer anger. Their King, Maedhros, was especially a curiosity to him. Finwe’s first grandson, the Noldor’s prized general. His soul was taken in part by an oath-promised darkness, in part by the corridors of Angband. He showed up to Menegroth that day hollow-eyed and scar-marked with a fire in his heart and a duty on his mind. His hair was cropped short like a child. His right arm was in a sling. He was a glory and a horror to behold, with a fea like no other.
It is true, Thingol was never fond of the Noldor, especially the war-mongering kin-slaying Feanorians. Maedhros, however, was something special. This uniqueness did not mitigate Thingol’s hatred for him, rather it amplified his desire to know and possess such rarity. His reputation preceded him. ‘Half-orc’ they said, ‘Bauglir’s whore,’ ‘sadist,’ ‘demon.’ Thingol took these whispers lightly and investigated the man himself. He quickly found all of them true, to a degree. Maedhros was indeed scarred beyond the smooth-skinned beauty of others. He did learn much from his years in Angband. He was notorious for unbridled rage on the battlefield. As for being a demon, Thingol found the man to rather be kind-hearted and relatively gentle. Maedhros did not disclose to him why, exactly, he was considered such a violation of Valinor’s grace. Knowledge of the kinslayings only came to him later. Thingol additionally discovered that, despite his slightly jagged limbs, lanky figure, and disfigured face, Maedhros was exceedingly fair. The name Maitimo, Thingol concluded, was not bestowed upon him erroneously.
Most importantly, however, Maedhros was desperate to set the land and economics exchange into motion. He fawned upon Thingol’s every word, obeyed his every whim, and obliged his every request in an attempt to coax generosity towards the Noldor. It worked.
Now, as Maedhros and the guard made their way towards Thingol’s chambers, Maedhros recalled those days of begging for the King’s favor. He did not enjoy them. Thingol was not kind. They were, however, effective. And for that, Maedhros did not regret them.
He paid no attention to the elaborately beautiful painted hallways that so firmly held his gaze earlier. The guard continued to chat, perhaps to herself, perhaps to him, and he likewise ignored her. His stomach was twisting. He could not tell whether this was best attributed to the nauseating smell of Sauron’s blood, the copious amount of alcohol he consumed, or plain stress. Maedhros was indeed worried. He spoke so aggressively towards Thingol earlier, and thus surely earned his ill-will. Wondering what the consequences of his rudeness would be, he dreaded greeting the King again. He hated feeling fear. He was in no position of subordination now. Thingol had no right to speak in that way. Still, Maedhros regretted his outburst. Even if Thingol was in the wrong, Maedhros was in Doriath. Debating the ethics of a King in his own kingdom was futile. He merely hoped the guard would not leave him alone with Thingol.
They arrived at the locked door to his section of the palace. At a knock, a second guard opened it. “Basreth,” he began, “what are you doing here? Go back downstairs. You have a job.”
“Yeah, Sauron is dead. I’m simply escorting his executioner. Move.” At this, she walked past him, dragging Maedhros with her.
“Basreth” he repeated. “Basreth. That is your name? Bas. It means bread, does it not?” the Noldo asked.
“Yeah. It means bread. My mother was fond of it. Don’t laugh. I consider it honorable. Bread’s quite important, isn’t it?”
“Oh, you find this humorous? You’re going to disrespect my name like that? Look, if I was the sort to have a kid, perhaps I would name him green-leaf after my favorite treat. Now that would be a stupid name. But I don’t blame my mother. Do you blame your mother? What sort of a dumb name is Maedhros, anyways?”
Maedhros continued smiling. The absurdity of her conversation gave him a little solace from his panic.
“I mean, what does that even mean? Mae, pliant. Ross, seafoam. Pliant seafoam? Why on earth would you be called that? I’ve never met hard foam. What does pliant even mean? Willow stems are pliant, aren’t they? Does this mean you bend well? Are you a contortionist? And what of the foam bit? Does it refer to actual seafoam or-”
He finally corrected her. “No, no, not that. Mae as in Mai, as in well formed, from my name Maitimo. Ros is from Russandol, another name of mine. Referring to my red hair.”
She curled her lip at this, clearly disappointed in the sloppy linguistics of combining two Quenyan names into a sub-par Sindarin one. “It’s hideous and does not suit you.”
She opened a smaller, unlocked door. Behind it was the entrance to a living room of sorts. The walls were draped with tapestries rather than paint, giving it a warm feel. A large fireplace crackled in the corner. In front of it lay a few cats piled atop each other, sleeping soundly. Along the back wall of the room were three more doors and three sets of towering bookcases. Maedhros could not tell if they were wooden constructions or carved into the wall, as they were so full of colorful leather-bound books. Three chairs were positioned in a semicircle around the fire. The maia Melian sat in one. On her lap lay a book, which she idly turned through with one hand, and a round white cat, which she idly petted with the other. In the center chair sat the King, asleep.
At the moment Maedhros and Basreth walked through the doorway, Melian slammed her book shut. The cat quickly leaped off her, went over to Thingol, and, hissing all the while, clawed at his pant leg until he awoke.
He came to his senses quickly. “Basreth! Basreth, what are you doing here! It is far too late for this. You dare come into my own chambers, ruin my nap- which I was quite enjoying- and for what ca...” he let his tirade fade as he spotted the Noldo standing behind her “Oh. Maedhros. You’re...bloody.” After a quick look-down, he added a little more. “And unbound. Basreth. What are you thinking? Are you trying to have me killed? Why do I even hire you? Look. Look. This man is crazy. He’s going to strangle me with his unnerving metal hand or something. He’s unhinged. Don’t we have a policy of cuffing prisoners? Yes? You remember that?”
She was quick to refute this insult to her capability. “My Lord, he just drank half a jug of cleaning solution. I had to practically carry him up the stairs. I don’t think cuffing is necessary, is it? Besides, he’s been fine to me.”
Thingol sighed loudly. “You carry ropes for a reason. Use them. A drunk Noldo is still a dangerous Noldo. I want his arms and his legs both bound. Did you know he threatened to kick me with those damn tree-legs of his? I was telling Melian about this! Wasn’t I, dear?”
After a quick acknowledgement of “mmhmm,” Melian got up and left the room. The white cat scampered happily after her.
“Ah, forgive her. She’s not herself since Luth- “ he stopped himself “She’s tired.”
Basreth was not done defending her choices. “My lord, you are correct that I carry a set of rope. However, it is only one set, and I would need two sets if I were to bind both his legs and arms, wouldn’t I?”
“Fine. Just legs then. I’m not in the mood for kicking.” He glared at Maedhros, who avoided his stare.
The guard quickly and tightly tied Maedhros’s legs together at the ankle, using the entirety of her rope coil. She looked at Thingol for validation, and his nod confirmed that her handiwork was satisfactory.
“You can leave now, Basreth. I intend to discuss Sauron with him. Government things. Not you-things. You do not need to hear this. Go.”
Eager to rejoin her wife and her pipe, she quickly fled the room.
“Now, Maedhros. I see you’re quite bloodied up. Considering you bleed red, and this,” he said, as he pinched a flake of dried blood of the Noldo’s sleeve, “is black, I am assuming that it is not yours. You’ve tortured the maia, then. How did it go?”
“Sauron is dead.” Maedhros did not want to speak more.
“Oh, that’s nice. It’s what you wanted, yeah? I wasn’t fond of him. Congratulations on that, and whatever sick little things you did down there. Now, I brought you here at great expense for a reason. What did he say? You interrogated him, yeah? What do you have to report on the movement of his troops and the defenses of Angband?”
“My Lord, he told me nothing of those things. I did not ask. Even if I had, he would not have spoken. I informed you earlier that I already possess knowledge of such details.”
“Fine, then. How far from the gate does Morgoth keep his treasure? How many orcs lie between Nargothrond and those gates? We’ll start with that.” Thingol picked up a glass of wine and sipped from it, as if he were preparing to enjoy spectating a show.
“My Lord,” Maedhros began again, this time more firmly, “I did however learn one thing from him. Luthien’s departure is on a quest for a Silmaril. One that you set her and her man on. But, perhaps, you did not desire for her to go? And thus you think my information will aid your protection of her? This is true. I can see it.”
Thingol set the wine back down, hard and fast enough for a few drops of it to spill onto the rug below.
Maedhros continued, his voice growing more invigorated with frustration. “You think you can meddle lightly in such affairs? The Silmarils are not a game, my Lord. My father and his father both died for them. You know of Alqualonde. You know of our oath. You know very well the gravity that their possession holds. And yet, for some reason, you add two new innocents to this conglomeration of viscera and darkness. Explain! Why would you set those two out to fetch a Silmaril, if you know that my brothers and I would then be obliged to take it from them?” Maedhros paused for a moment to ponder these words. “You intend to kill them. Or, at least the man. If Morgoth does not kill him, if he succeeds at seizing a jewel, you know that my family will be obliged to attack. You want us to execute him for you. Is this it?”
“No, no it is not, Maedhros. Please. Not every path in Arda intersects with yours. The man you speak of- Beren his name is- does not love my daughter. He merely lusts for her. And my Luthien, she does not love him. She is merely infatuated with how novel he is. I did not ask him for a Silmaril lightly. Do you think I am an idiot, Maedhros? I know how serious those damn jewels are. Everyone in Beleriand does. So, I tested him. I knew he did not truly love her. If I requested that he commit himself to a suicide quest, I was certain he would back out and reveal that his “love” does not run that deep. It quickly became apparent that the Edain are more stubborn than I anticipated. I’m sure you’ve seen that in them, Maedhros. Beren ran out on this quest. It got rid of him, either way. The only issue is my Luthien ran off after him.”
Maedhros could tell his voice was uncertain. It wavered and lacked the solid, casual base he was so accustomed to hearing from the King. A lie. It was a lie.
“No. No, this is not the truth. I have met Luthien. She does not love lightly. She is the child of a maia, and is more clever than you give her credit for. I trust her judgement, and if she claimed to love this man, she surely did. And you surely saw this. You knew they could only be broken by death, but their strength worried you, yes? I have met Luthien. I saw her touch the bare, frost-ridden ground and draw from it a flower. If you set her upon a quest of any sort, she will either succeed or die trying. Either you wanted them both to die, or you wanted for yourself a Silmaril. I do not know. But I know this was no test of bluff.”
“Maedhros. Stop that fool-talk. You have been to Angband, haven’t you? Ah yes, that frown. I assume your answer is yes then, you remember it? Do you recall Morgoth? Do you sincerely think my sweet flower of a daughter can overcome him? What do you imagine will become of her? You know this better than I. I never wanted for her to leave and do this. I know she will die. I called you here to help me against that, and you agreed to help. So, stop with this Silmaril-talk, and help me.”
“You wanted a Silmaril. You want a Silmaril more than your own daughter” Maedhros said with firm certainty.
“You sent your daughter to this. You tried to kill her beloved. You did this. And for compensation you want a Silmaril.” This time, he spoke without any doubt.
“Maedhros, you do not understand this matter. Now stop. And tell me-”
“I will not help you. You seek evil with this.”
At this insult, Thingol shoved him. Maedhros fell, as with bound feet he could not find balance, and struck the carpeted floor hard. With his free arm, he pushed himself back up into a sitting position. Thingol quickly kicked him again, reversing this. “Maedhros...Maedhros do not fight me. How dare you speak of evil? You call me evil for wishing the best for my daughter, and mentioning a Silmaril, while at the mention of the same jewel you readily killed elves? Do not think I have forgotten my Telerin kin. How dare you? I let you kill Sauron. I could have sold him for a great price. And now, you refuse to aid me? You are not a maia. You cannot endure as much as him. You can either help me willingly, and we leave this room as allies, or I return you to the dungeons and simply wait for the information I desire to spill from your lips.” Thingol smirked, certain of the fear this would instill.
“You cannot kill me. You need my forces active in the north. You cannot keep me here forever, for the same reason, and I promise you that without your kindness I will give you no aid. I have seen the handiwork of your painsmiths. It is nothing. You are a fool for thinking any such force will persuade me. You should consider being cordial, so we can leave this room as allies, yes?”
Thingol dropped his smirk, disappointed that his words did not have their intended effect. He had no words to add, but instead opted to rest his foot on Maedhros’s fingers, and lean all his weight onto that leg. He felt the satisfying crack of the bones underfoot. Now, he could speak again. “I was not able to bind your arms. But I do not imagine you can be of much danger without hands, can you? No? They will heal in time, trust me. But for now, I’d prefer it if you didn’t go on another power-rant, hmm? Stop that. You will listen to me. I am your king.”
Once he released his foot, Maedhros immediately snatched his arm close to his chest, cradling it there. “Fuck you.”
Thingol observed Maedhros’s blood-soaked clothes and wondered if this is what he looked like on the battlefield, after one of his infamous explosions of fury and steel. The concept intrigued him, and reminded him of his initial fascination with Maedhros, many years ago, at their first and only other meeting. He remembered how polite Maedhros was then, how well-mannered and delightful to have in company.
Thingol knelt besides Maedhros and held his scarred face between his own two long, ring-adorned hands. “Oh, Maitimo. You look far better than the last time we met. The scars have healed nicely, yes? Lets have this be like last time. Be kind, be dignified, and I will be generous.” He leaned closer to bring their faces closer. He smelled strongly of mint.
That lean was enough for Maedhros to notice that, at Thingol’s side, hung a sheathed knife.
Thingol leaned even closer, letting his body drape over the Noldo’s. He moved one hand down from his face and into a firm grasp over his throat. The other went lower still, to them hem of his shirt. With this, Thingol began a kiss.
This final movement was enough to bring the king’s knife within grabbing range. Maedhros’s hand hurt, but he was not unused to such injuries. Cracked fingers can still, with enough effort, form a grip. A weak grip, but strong enough. The King was far too distracted with the act to notice the knife at his hip being removed.
He did, however, notice a sharp stab to the ribs.
He noticed it quite loudly. He immediately rolled off Maedhros, onto the carpet, and began screaming. Melian would hear soon. The guards would hear soon. Maedhros had no time. He quickly cut through the rope at his ankles, which was surprisingly thin and brittle. He stood up and ran.
Thingol did not stop yelling, and Maedhros did not stop running. He ran past the guards, ran down the painted halls.
He had to get out of Menegroth. He had to find Luthien.
Maedhros was barely down the first painted hallway when he encountered Basreth. He had to hurry. He could hear the shouts of guards approaching behind him. As he tries to step around her, she held out her arm, stopping him.
“Basreth, please, I have to hurry, I….”
She noticed the fresh, red blood on his left hand.
“The King,” she inquired, “what happened to the King.”
“Bareth, please, I cannot explain, I must go, please.” The shouting and footsteps of the guards behind him approached faster. Basreth drew her sword. Maedhros’s pleads became more anxious. “Please, please, I have to go, please, I need to pass you, I need to leave, Luthien, it’s Luthien, please, I have to, Basreth understand me, Please, these guards….”
“Perhaps my friendliness confused you, but I am one of the King’s guards do, aren’t I? If you run from his chambers, blood and fear painted clearly on you, pursued by others, is that not reason enough to stop you? I am familiar with the tales of Alqualonde.” With this, she raised her sword to his chest. “You are going to need to surrender here, and cease you running.”
Maedhros instinctively lowered his left hand to grab a sword of his own, but found to his dismay that he had left Anglachel in the dungeons below. As her blade shook in her loose grip, he could tell she was no veteran of combat. He swung his impermeable right hand at the blade in attempt to dislodge it from her, but she executed a successful parry, more than he expected, and quickly reacted with a cut to his right shoulder. The adrenaline mitigated any pain, but he quickly understood that he would be rendered unfit for further defense if this continued. Swiftly, he took a step to her side, taking advantage of the confusion, and delivered a second hit. This time, he aimed for the head. The solid, heavy iron of his hand collided exactly with the side of her skull, between the ear and eye. Basreth immediately crumpled to the floor. A small trickle of blood leaked from the contact point into her loose silver hair.
He did not stop to consider the damage. She was kind, and Maedhros hoped she would not have to meet Mandos that day. He hoped he would not have to, either. Letting the guards catch him was not an option. The punishment for an attempt on the King’s life was not a topic he desired to ponder. The fate Luthien, unaided except for Beren, against the forces of Morgoth was likewise not a thought for fine days.
Maedhros considered pausing to take her sword, in case a need for defense would arise again. He decided against it, as pain ran up the fingers of his left hand and warm blood soaked the shoulder of his right. He could not fight. He had to run.
And he did.
The main gate of Menegroth, at the end of the hall, did not open for him. Or, rather, it opened too slowly. He did not plan for the five, ten, thirty seconds it took for the heavy iron bars to be removed. For the thick wood to be pulled open. These moments were plenty enough for the guards in pursuit of him to reach him.
He had nothing to say in defense of himself. Any further fighting would be futile on his part- he was unarmed, injured, and unable to ever take down ten trained guards at once in such a state. He did not want to die. He did not protest as they bound his arms again, though he did wince as their twisted positions pried his shoulder wound open further. It had clotted slightly, but the flow of red warmth from it began again.
For the second time in that day, he was led down the undecorated spiral of stone stairs to the dungeons. As with before, each cell had an occupant. Except, now, for Sauron’s, which was now being scrubbed clean by some elf. Maedhros was placed in this room and shackled to an opposite corner, as not to disturb the work.
The guards returned to their posts with the exception of one tall, dark-haired elf. He looked not unlike Mablung, and Maedhros wondered if the two were related. He did not, however, bother to ask.
The elf reached out to Maedhros’s shirt, and tugged on it.
The elf glared at him in confusion. “This is standard.”
“It isn’t. Please. It is a light wound. I do not need medical attention for it. I will be fine. Please, I-“
“Please stop babbling. I know you don’t need medical attention. Have you not seen every other prisoners? Did any of them have clothes? I do not know where you come from, but in Doriath it is standard procedure to ensure that no weaponry or contraband is left on one’s person. So they are disrobed. Besides, concerning the wound, Basreth is one of my apprentices, and I would merely like to see how adept she was at that strike.”
“Basreth! Is she dead? You said is. ‘Is’ one of your apprentices. Not ‘was’. So, she is alive? I did not mean to hurt her badly.”
“…..you punched her. That is all. Why would that kill her.”
“I punched her with my right hand. Have you felt my right hand?”
The elf reached behind Maedhros to grab his right hand, and felt how it was metal. His eyes opened wider in concern. Neither said a word at this. In the brief silence, the scrubbing noises of the floor cleaner became irritably loud.
“For your sake,” the elf added, “I hope she is alive. She is dear to me. Just as King Thingol is.”
“Are his wounds alright? Is he still alive?” Maedhros cared less about the personal safety of the King, but the political repercussions of his death would be horrifying.
“Thingol will be fine. The stab was not deep. I do not think he nor Melian will be pleased with you, however. To put it frankly, I do not think any of Doriath will be pleased with you. You should perhaps begin your prayers to Illuvatar, yes? Now, I do need to proceed with my weapons check. I would suggest that you comply, rather than squirm, since I do not want to accidentally cut you.”
“If you hate me so much,” Maedhros added, “why would you have a preference against my injury?”
“Thingol has not specified what he wants done to you. Thus, I will not begin any harm. Besides, I am not a painsmith. Anything I inflict out of anger would be classified as an overstepping of my role. I did not rise to my position through unprofessionalism. I am not sure if this is a concept the Noldor understand, so I forgive you for not knowing. Now, as I said, please hold still. Any small cuts will be of your fault, not mine.”
At this, the elf began to undress Maedhros. His thick fur cloak was easily removed from his shoulders. Underneath this layer was a thin mail vest. The elf paused at this, uncertain to get it off without uncuffing Maedhros and sliding it over his head.
Maedhros noted his confusion. “I have no weaponry stored under there. And, if I did, how would I even be able to retrieve it with my hands so firmly against the wall like this?”
“Why does it not fasten with clasps in the back?” the elf sighed in frustration.
“Do I look like I have enough hands to fasten clasps behind my back?”
“Well, you could always have someone dress you.”
“I prefer not to be seen naked.”
“What? How do you bathe amongst your troops, then?”
“If you are in the north, with wet clothing, out on the field, would that not freeze you?”
“The cold does not bother me that much.”
The elf, unwillingly to uncuff Maedhros even for a moment to remove the vest, patiently cut through an entire column of links in the chain mail, then slid it off. The whole ordeal took a very uncomfortable half an hour.
“That was expensive.” Maedhros added.
“You should have considered that before stabbing a king.”
The elf took a small knife began to cut through Maedhros’s outer shirt. He was not particularly gentle, but he did stay true to his word and avoided any skin. The shirt and its sleeves did not come off easily, as they were so thoroughly soaked and crusted with the blackish blood of a certain maia. They practically had to be peeled off. Underneath, rather than skin, was yet another layer of fabric, this time harder to cut through.
“What is this made of?”
“Why the….” the elf paused, pinched the bridge of his nose, and stopped asking questions.
“There are not any weapons under my shirt. You would be able to see the outline. It is skin tight. Do you see an outline of a knife? Please do not remove my shirt.”
The elf did anyways.
“See? What did I tell you. No knives. Nothing.”
The elf ignored Maedhros, instead examining closely the wound inflicted by Basteth. He pressed his finger against it. It was deep. Deep enough to disable most usual opponents. He grinned, proud of her accomplishment. Upon being touched, the clotting was reopened yet again, and more blood spilled down the front of Maedhros’s chest.
The elf ignored this. He removed Maedhros’s belt.
“My belt has each weapon on it. See, the sheathes? That is all I have. What was in my bag, and what is on my belt. That is all. I promise.”
He ignored this, too, and removed Maedhros’s shoes. He then began his procedure of cutting through each layer of Maedhros’s pants. Leather. Wool. Cotton.
“Why do you wear three sets of pants?”
“So I do not get cold.”
“I thought you said you did not mind the cold?”
“I mind the cold.”
The elf sighed and wondered to himself why he even bothered to ask.
Maedhros was now naked, except for his black gloves, a small pair of shorts, and a necklace. The necklace remained hidden under his shoulder-length hair.
The elf pulled off the gloves. Maedhros’s left hand set of fingers were mangled, each pointing in a different direction. His index finger hung limp. His right hand, the metal one, was merely an intricate set of gears, joints, and knobs.
“Who made this? What a fine craftsman they must be…”
“My nephew.” Maedhros was not sure why he bothered to answer the elf. He was under no obligation to do so.
“Oh?” The elf turned one of the knobs, and watched in amazement as one of the fingers moved into different position, from fist to flat palm.
The elf stopped, mildly ashamed because he was, in fact, having fun. Such detailed prosthetics were not common, and the mechanics of it interested him.
The elf reached for the shorts next.
“Please do not remove those. I am not hiding anything of value underneath them.”
“Amongst the gossip of the guards, I have heard otherwise.”
Maedhros glared at him.
“I apologize. That was unprofessional. I do, however, need to remove them.”
“No you fucking don’t.”
“Yes, I do. That is policy. We have had elves hide things there before. Small razor blades, perhaps.”
“I am not hiding a razor blade there, and I pity anyone who has done that to themselves.”
“You could be hiding a key in there. I do not know. This is not my policy, and I would prefer it if you did not fight me on this.”
The elf grabbed the hem of the shorts, and immediately pulled back his hand.
“WAS THAT A NEEDLE? DID YOU PUT A NEEDLE THERE?”
“Maybe a few.”
“WHY DID YOU DO THAT?” the elf shook his hand, letting a few drops of blood fall to the ground.
“Maybe so people don’t grab my shorts?”
“DOESN’T IT HURT YOU?”
The elf sighed and recollected himself. “I am not trying to hurt you. I promise. This is just my job. I am not going to do anything out of line. I never do. Just trust me, and this will be less awkward.”
Maedhros did not trust him, but he let him remove the shorts. The elf shook the pair, and a few small blades, wrapped in silk, fell out.
“Are these razor blades?!”
“No, as I do not use them for shaving. They are normal blades.”
“I really understand now why you piss everyone off.”
“People who remove my underwear deserve to be annoyed, I think.”
The elf quickly looked at Maedhros to assess that the task was complete. Seeing that it was, he left the room, tired of the banter. Maedhros was glad he made no further comments on what he saw.
The cleaning elf continued to scrub in the corner.
“That blood does not come out with simple bleach, you know” Maedhros said to them.
They looked up in surprise.
“It is like that of orcs, not that of elves. You’ll want to wait until it dries, then scrape it off, or run it through cold water until it flakes off, in the case of fabric. To erase the smell and curse form it afterwards, try wende-ahto.”
“There is a curse on it?” they asked timidly.
“No, no, not a curse exactly. More like a foul feel. It taints what it touches. Have you ever met an orc or dark maia?”
They shook their head.
“Ah. Hopefully, you never will. But if you do, you’ll want to bathe in the stuff.”
“I do not understand.”
“Sorry, perhaps I am not making much sense to you. Do you have any of the stuff?”
“It is not familiar to me, no.”
“Oh. I am sorry. The nickname we have for it is Quenyan, and a vulgar one at that, I do not know what it is called in Sindarin. Purity-leaf, perhaps? It can heal what mere bleach and ointment cannot. It counteracts quite nicely wounds imparted by evil, poisons and the like. Findekano insists that it does not help the fea. I am sure that it does. Makes quite a soothing tea, as well. Perhaps it is more of a healing-supply than a cleaning supply, but I use it. A bit more than I should, I admit. Cleanliness is important.”
“Can you describe it?”
“Oh. Yes. It smells sweet. The leaves are small, and grow in bunches on the plant. They are a dark green and tend to grow at the bases of trees.”
“I have never heard of Athelas. I doubt it could hurt, though.”
The elf continued their scrubbing of the floors, ignoring Maedhros’s words. No more progress as made on the blood stains.
“Can you please help me? Please, see the long fur coat on the ground? Can you put it back on my shoulders?”
“Are you cold?”
“I am naked.”
“Are you cold, though? I do not see how this is hurting you.”
“Nothing good has ever happened to me while naked and chained.”
“Do you deserve good things to happen to you?”
“Then there is no injustice here. Please let me do my work. I am busy, as you can see, the whole floor is a mess. I must complete this. This is important. I cannot fail again.”
“I told you, your method will not clean it.”
The elf ignored him.
He continued. “If you unchain me, I can help you clean it.”
The elf looked up. “I appreciate the offer, but I will get in trouble.
Maedhros stayed silent for an hour or so more, merely watching the elf scrub the same square foot of floorspace the entire time. Each passing moment was dread on his mind, and every footstep could be Melian or some sent painsmith. He had not been in such a situation for a long time. He tried not to think about it, and focus on the rhythmic ‘swish, swush, swish, swush’ of the scrubbing instead. He closed his eyes. The sound was vaguely reminiscent of walking on a beach, each footfall making a gritty sound in pace.
He turned towards the elf again. “You can quit the job, and become rich.”
This caught their attention.
“I have a necklace on me,” Maedhros continued, “made in Valinor by my father, Feanor. Come. Look at it.”
The elf hesitantly walked over to Maedhros, put his hand towards the necklace chain, and felt for the pendant on it. It was about the size of an acorn. Maedhros whispered a few words in Quenyan, and the pendant, a ball of silver wire, lit up with a bright blue. The elf took a step back in shock, and Maedhros laughed.
“It’s a Feanorian light, you may have heard of them. Many lanterns were made of the sort. This one is small, see, and harder to make. It is worth a great value. I have had it since childhood. Luckily for me, it fell off into the mud below before I was captured by the forces of Angband. Celegorm found it in the field afterwards when they were searching for me. I am afraid I will not sell it, but you might. It is worth more riches than many lords own. I will give it to you, and explain the words to you, if you set me free from these bonds. There is a black sword on that table there. It will cut the metal nicely. Yes?”
The elf picked up the sword and immediately cut through Maedhros’s cuffs. To be truthful, he did not fully expect it to work. He was glad it did, however, and that he did not need to offer something else.
The elf extended one hand for the necklace. Maedhros took the sword from their other hand (gently, as his fingers were still far too hurt for a firm grip).
“I lied. The necklace has no value. You can purchase a lamp of the sort anywhere. The mail, however, is mithril- a gift from the dwarves- and does indeed offer you the riches I promised. I am sorry- do not be mad- it’s just that, if I offered you the mail in the first place, you would have no reason to free me as you could simply take the mail. Do not be mad. Are you mad? Are you going to call the guards?”
The elf looked furious.
“Oh no, you will, won’t you? You might betray me. Can’t have that.” Maedhros grabbed the elf and tied a piece of his cut shirt at their mouth. “I am sorry. I just cannot trust you.”
With that, he put his shorts, belt, and boots back on, then his thick fur cloak. His shirts and pants, shredded, could not be worn, but the cloak alone was enough to preserve his modesty and warmth. He fastened Anglachel to his waist the best he could. Maedhros grabbed one of the elf's cleaning bottles, just in case, and likewise put that on his belt. Finally, he set out for the gate.
This time, the near-minute it took to open was not a problem. No guards were chasing him.
The forest held crisp air and freedom. He began to run again, whistling all the while, a signal for his horse to find him.
After half an hour of time and several miles distance behind the gates, he slowed his pace to a comfortable walk. Beleg, the marchwarden, was usually posted to the northeast segment of the forest on the Esgalduin.
There, Maedhros would find him. There, Maedhros had a friend.
What can I say? Damn elves love bling too much.
Chapter 9: Waiting for Beleg
Lol sorry it's so short, I've got a lot of work. This is just an appetizer of a chapter- I'm working on the rest of it right now! Don't worry!
By the time Maedhros found Beleg’s cabin, the sun had already risen and set once more. He had, however, fortunately been able to locate his horse within those hours, quickening his voyage.
Beleg dwelt alone in a small wooden shack of sorts nestled amongst sticky-sweet magnolia trees. From a distance, it was entirely imperceptible. He spend the majority of his time scouting the northwestern borders of Doriath but, at nights or times of weariness, he would retire to this cabin, so safely hidden. His eyes were drawn immediately to the trees’ bright pink-white flowers, making the location itself an easy landmark even if the lodging within was undetectable.
Maedhros dismounted from his horse and approached the cabin. As he suspected, Beleg was not there. He sat himself on the ground next to the door. Smooth moss and short, thin grasses paved the forest floor and tickled his bare legs. He pulled his legs up close against his chest and held them there. In this position, he was able to fit almost fit his entire gangly body in the wrappings of his fur coat. Doriath really was not cold that time of year, but he loved the warmth and protection it provided. He tucked his head down into the bundle and laughed to himself, figuring that he might look like one of the spined rodents he had seen in Beleriand. Bush-bears? No, no. Tumble-mice. Scraple-pigs? He struggled to find the word for them. Hedge-hogs. Yes, that was it. He remembered how Luthien showed one to him during his first to Menegroth. She held it closely, like a child would a kitten, and bragged about its friendliness and name. He did not recall what she named her pet, he was so taken aback by the strange new creature. Hedgehog. He giggled to himself again. What a funny little creature it was.
The blood from his shoulder soaked into the fur, making a warm, wet blotch. He did not concern himself with this; cleaning out blood was no real hassle. The wound was not deep enough to seriously endanger him. He was safe now, at Beleg’s place, and Beleg would treat him well. Beleg had been one of the only Sindar to fight alongside the Noldor. He was an ally to Maedhros but, more importantly, a friend. His allegiance to Thingol was in word alone- his true loyalties lay with the protection of Doriath’s people, and his methods came not from royal orders but from personal decisions. He was an exceedingly kind man, albeit slightly eccentric. It was true that Maedhros direly wanted the company of a friend. However, he also needed the company of a warrior. He could not pursue Luthien through the wilderness alone, especially with his sword-hand shattered and his shoulder cut open. Beleg was also, admittedly, a far better tracker than he was. Tyelko, or Celegorm as he now prefered to be called, was the best tracker of them all, but Maedhros was not certain of his location. Meeting with Beleg, thus, would be a necessity.
His limbs so tightly folded together under the wrappings of the fur cloak, Maedhros found himself drifting into tiredness. He had not slept in days and the recent events had been quite draining on his fea. He desperately needed rest. But not now. He was on the run from Thingol’s guards. He had just stabbed a king. He could not sleep now. They could be seeking him out. They could find him. He could not sleep. He rested his broken hand against the hilt of Anglachel. He knew he could not fight, but he could not be caught off guard either. He hated that unknown sensation of being hunted. At least in Himring, he had an abundance of trusted guards and could find some rest. Solace can never be found on a flight from sin.
Maedhros raked his right hand across the grass below him nervously, letting his metal fingertips drag through the loose surface dirt. A few ants, unfelt to him, adventured up the length of his prosthetic, onto the flesh of his upper right arm. He brushed them off, abandoned his dirt-stroking, and choset to fidget with his hair instead. Shoulder length was too long for him. His general’s young daughter, however, had found a hobby in trying to braid his hair during meetings. Hair cropped above the ear was not satisfactorily braid-able for the child, so he agreed to grow it out slightly. She would laugh as her tiny fingers struggled to manipulate his dense red locks. It reminded him of how Fingon, back in Valinor, kept attempting to implement new hairstyles on Maedhros. The braid was always a struggle for him as well. Her young laughter reminded him of Valinor, too, of his young brothers laughing at their own antics. No, letting his hair grow had not been awful. He had not regretting it until he returned to Doriath. He did not want any of them to look at his hair. It was not for them.
He could not sleep. He just wanted to sleep. He could not sleep. He glanced up from his cloak, and saw his horse chomping happily at the vegetation. He could not sleep. He could not sleep. Perhaps, though, perhaps he could rest? Let his heart rate drop down. Let himself enjoy the embracing warmth of his cloak. Perhaps.
He pulled himself into a tighter ball surrounded by his cloak and rested his head against the wall of Beleg’s cabin. Not sleep. He could not sleep. Not now. Just rest. Maybe , he thought to himself, I can close my eyes for a moment.
He fell asleep almost instantly.
Chapter 10: Help?
“Oh? What’s this…”
Maedhros half-awoke to those words. The day had sunken into complete darkness again, with even the starlight blocked out by the arching magnolia trees. Was someone approaching?
He heard footsteps grow closer to him, and immediately put his hand to Anglachel.
The approaching speaker put their hands on Maedhros, shaking him slightly, in an attempt to wake him. This sudden gesture startled him, and he swung his sword-arm with Anglachel attached at his attacker. Alas, his blow fell short, as the force of the movement was enough to snap his broken fingers back again and Anglachel fell to the ground with a thud. Maedhros persisted. He raised his right arm for a punch, but it too failed, this time due to his sore, stiff, blood-crusted shoulder. In a panic he began to shout and kick. He was somewhat clumsily had difficulty untangling himself from his coat, but managed it, and began to thrash against the stranger.
“Stop! Stop! Stop that!” they yelled.
Maedhros did not stop. He clawed at them with that force he could muster, trying to crawl away, away from their grasp. They were strong and, without his arms, he could not fight his way out. He began to shout, hoping his horse would wear and perhaps kick the stranger off him.
“Nelyo! Nelyo stop it! Stop screaming! It’s me!”
Nelyo? No one in Doriath called him by his familial name. Unless…
“Beleg.” Maedhros stopped kicking. “Beleg. That’s you. You’re Beleg.”
“Why, of course it’s me. This is my house, after all…”
“You bastard! You startled me!” Maedhros declared, still largely shaken up by the ordeal.
“Oh, and how do you think I felt, some bear-looking creature laying motionless by my door? My friend, I was alarmed as well.”
“Why yes! Is that not the pelt of a bear?”
“Elk, I think. Or moose. I do not remember.”
“Ah. Well it looked like a bear to me.”
“Do you have bears regularly in these parts?”
“No, but we do not have Nelyos regularly in these parts either.”
Maedhros’s mouth broke into a smile as he pulled Beleg into a hug. “You are fine company to have.”
Beleg accepted the hug, then helped Maedhros stand up. He looked him over briefly.
“Why, where is your shirt? Or your pants fo that matter?” He extended his arm to the shoulder of Maedhros’s coat, feeling the now-brown bloodstain. “Blood? Yours or anothers?”
“Some of both.”
Beleg looked at him incredulously. “I think,” he said, “we should best head inside.” He unlocked the front door and led Maedhros into the small cabin. The room was dark and unlit. With an “Excuse me” he began to go around lighting candles. Maedhros watched in awe as he paced around the room, illuminating each corner of the space with dozens of the small flames. By the time he finished, the room felt as if it were inhabited by hundreds of stars. The warm glow of the candles cast a golden light across Maedhros, and he realised its contrast to the dark night.
He stumbled to find something to say, to express his fascination with Beleg’s large collection. “The candles...those are...candles. Candles.”
Beleg raised an eyebrow. “Yes, they are candles.”
“No, I apologize. I mean lots of candles. Those are an amount of candles. They are….those candles. They are. Candles. I mean-”
Beleg smiled gently. “Lots of candles. I agree. I know it is a bit excessive, but I am not fond of the dark. I can afford to fix it. Menegroth pays me well. This is my own personal luxury.” He shrugged. “The candles, and the wine. Would you like any wine?”
“Do you have anything stronger?”
“I am afraid not.”
Maedhros pondered the wine and decided against it. “I’m sorry, that’s fine. I brought my own anyways.” He removed the cleaning bottle he stole from the cell’s janitory and placed it on the table with a grin.
Beleg immediately seized the bottle and brought it to his face for closer inspection. “Nelyo! Nelyo what in the good name of Eru is this?” He shook it lightly, confirming that the bottle was filled with liquid. “Nelyo? Do you keep wine in here to prevent theft?” He unscrewed the top of the bottle and took a whiff. “This is not wine.”
“It isn’t. It’s liquor. Strong liquor.”
“Oh, fuck. Wrong bottle then. I’m sorry. I was in a hurry. That was not my intention.”
“Nelyo. What happened. What’s going on. This bottle does not look at all like liquor.”
“I stabbed Thingol.”
“Please tell me that’s either a euphemism or you’re joking.” Beleg awaited his response with wide-eyed concern.
Maedhros stared at him, without an answer.
“You’re serious. You stabbed him. You stabbed the king. With your knife?”
“His knife, actually.”
Beleg’s face scrunched into a grimace of shock and disbelief. “You stabbed him...with his knife.”
“Is he dead?”
Beleg’s response was simply a stare.
“I also struck one of his guards. I might have killed her. I do not know.”
“Nelyo…you...why....well, did they deserve it?”
“The guard? No. But she was in my way. The King? Perhaps. Depends on how highly you think of him and how lowly you think of me.”
“Nelyo, I don’t know what that means .”
“I killed Sauron as well,” Maedhros added.
“Well,” sighed Beleg reluctantly, “that’s quite good. Right awful, wasn’t he?”
Maedhros nodded but added nothing more.
“I think,” Beleg continued, “this story deserves more than the few words you explained it with. Here, let me get some tea.” With that, he fetched a pot of water off the lit fire and tossed a few pinches of fragrant leaves into it. As they seeped through the water, it turned to a light brown-orange color and gave off a floral scent. Maedhros looked at it hungrily.
“Orange?” He asked. “Orange tea?”
Beleg grinned and nodded. “Yes! Do you like it?”
“It’s my favorite. I love oranges.”
“Would you like cream or sugar?”
“Just sugar, thank you.” Maedhros was eager to have the sweetened tea. Himring rarely had sugar, as it was a delicacy imported from the south. Honey was their closest alternative, but did not melt quite the same.
Beleg “Just sugar? Not a fan of the cream, I see.”
Maedhros shook his head. “I do not see how cream would stay fresh, uncooled, left alone in a warm cabin.”
“I’m no scholar. Maybe it doesn’t. I do like it in my tea, though. Helps make it more filling in my opinion. And it tastes fine.”
Maedhros considered his hunger. “In that case, fill my cup with some as well.”
Beleg happily mixed their respective teas together and passed Maedhros a mug, which he accepted readily. He stared at Maedhros, waiting for an explanation.
“Sauron was brought here. Thingol wanted information from him. He brought me in to help. I killed him. I got into a small quarrel with Thingol. I stabbed him and ran. I’m here. Understood?”
“I do think there is more to that story.”
Maedhros took another large sip of his orange tea. “Well, not for now there isn’t. What brings me here is that the princess, Luthien, is gone. I need to find her. She has been sent off with an edain man to fetch as Silmaril. Neither of them have a clue about Angband.”
“You’re going to Angband to help them?”
“I don’t know. Perhaps. Mainly, I need to find her first. Safely. See, my hand…” Maedhros lifted his left hand “...got a little damaged. I can’t wield a sword like this. Or hit. My shoulder is bleeding. So, I need you, for both the tracking and the fighting.”
“You want me to help you, who just stabbed the King, take on the forces of Angband and track down a half-maia? Without you being able to fight?”
“Yes.” Maedhros admitted to himself that it seemed, perhaps, a poor idea in this fresh view. Beleg and him combined were not enough to win any large-scale fights. But Luthien, now she was an addition. “Luthien is a half-maia. She took down Sauron with ease. She is more powerful than any of us. I have a feeling, with the right aid, she could indeed take her Silmarils.”
“My business is not with the Silmarils. It is with Doriath, and guarding it.”
“Beleg. Please. I do not want her to fail.”
“Is this about her? Or is it about your oath?”
Beleg glared at Maedhros. “I am not going to die for you.”
“With Sauron dead, Morgoth will send a huge squadron of Orcs this direction to find what happened. You need to tell your people about this, so they can be prepared for an incoming attack. I know you wish to stay with them. But if we do not attempt to help Luthien, she is going to get hurt.”
“If she is strong enough to hurt Sauron, is she not strong enough to survive Morgoth?” Beleg asked.
“Beleg, please. Thingol does not know what Angband holds. He does not know what he sent her to. None of you do. None of you know what will happen to her if she fails. I don’t think I’ll be able to live with myself if I sit here and drink tea rather than at least find her and tell her.”
“This is about the oath, too, Nelyo. I know it is.”
“Yes. Maybe so. Maybe she’s the only chance I have.” Maedhros admitted. “Maybe together, we can finish this, and there will be no more bloodshed over the damn oath. Alright? Is that alright with you, Beleg, that I have some hope?”
Beleg shook his head and took another slow sip of his tea. “This is not my fight.”
Maedhros, in mimicry, also took a slow sip. Beleg glared at him. “It might be. If I can save Luthien, I can repair relations between my kin and Doriath. An alliance like that may be beneficial. The lack of such an alliance would be destructive.”
Beleg finished his tea and set the mug aside. He stared at Maedhros, and began to speak again. “I love the princess just as you do. I wish for peace just as you do. But we are all doing to die.”
“I’ve known that since the moment I left Valinor.”
“I haven’t. I do not want to die, Nelyo. Ever. We are elves. We aren’t meant to die.”
“We aren’t meant to kinslay either. Or send a daughter to the lap of a dark lord. Mistakes have been made. Would you like to help fix them, or not?”
Beleg looked at his empty cup and the small leaves left in the bottom of it, then returned his gaze to Maedhros.
Chapter 11: Sleepover at Beleg's
Short and fluffy. Let the boys be happy.
Maedhros stood naked in a corner of the cabin, behind a fabric curtain Beleg had hung up. Next to him was a vat of lukewarm water, with which he was cleaning himself. He dipped a rag into it, rubbed some soap on the rag, and proceeded to scrub himself. The travel’s dirt, Sauron’s gore, and his own blood all rinsed off well. He quite enjoyed the soap. It had a smooth, lavender scent to it and lathered quite easily. His whole body began to smell like lavender from it. He quite liked this- it had been months, years perhaps since he smelled so well. Fine soaps were not common in Himring. His money was better spent on other things.
Beleg sat across, by the fire. Upon one chair, his feet were perched, and on the other he lounged. He held a wine bottle with one hand and a glass goblet with the other. He periodically poured the wine into the bottle, but more often took his sips directly from it.
Maedhros continued diligently cleaning himself. It was not enough; there was still grime under his fingernails. It would have to suffice, however, as he did not have time for a full spa. He dunked his head into the water vat, soaking his hair, then began to lather it with the soap. The foam, from contact with the grime, quickly turned from white to a horribly unappealing yellow-brown. He frowned at this and continued washing until water ran clean through his hair. Once finished, he wrapped himself in the blanket Beleg had set aside for the purpose and traversed across the room towards him.
Beleg looked up from his wine and instantly commented on Maedhros’s dirtless appearance. “Well! If you had looked like this earlier, I surely would not have mistaken you for a bear!”
“What does that mean?”
“Nelyo, you were more grime than elf earlier!” Beleg laughed at this concept, then continued. “It’s good to be clean. I bathe as much as I can. Sweat has a tendency to get itchy, and for love of Arda, dirt certainly irritates the scalp.”
“I suppose.” Maedhros did love to be clean. In Himring, he would bathe daily, at the very least. He could never be clean enough.
Beleg stood up and walked over to him. He examined the gash on his shoulder. “We’ll have to dress this before I leave. Sit down.”
Maedhros obliged, and took a seat in chair Beleg’s outstretched legs previously occupied. The blanket was not large enough to cover all of him in this position, but he adjusted it to cover enough.
Beleg palmed through a shelf of vials and jars. “Cinnamon...mint...rosewater...cinnamon again...oh! Athelas! Here we are then!” Pleased with himself, he undid one of the larger jars and removed a spoonsworth of green paste. He returned to Maedhros. “May I touch your shoulder? Is that alright with you? I plan to put a thin layer of this over the wound. It will speed the healing.”
“I am familiar with it.”
“Splendid!” he exclaimed. Beleg busied himself with its application then, once finished, wiped his hands off on his shirt. “Hopefully that didn't hurt much. Blade wounds are a real hassle. I’m no healer, and I’m not even sure I use the stuff right, but it’s better than nothing.”
“Thank you.” It did hurt a little less, Maedhros admitted to himself.
“I see some of your scars are gone.” Beleg pointed to his chest. “There. There used to be a rather large one there, yes? Nasty looking thing. I see you’ve healed well.”
Maedhros looked down at his own torso, as he had not done in days. To his surprise, the large scar was indeed gone. He grinned widely at this. The mark was one inflicted by Sauron, and happily one that left with his passing. “Yes,” Maedhros responded, “Yes. It does appear that I am healing.”
Beleg nodded and handed him a glass of wine.
He took a sip and immediately paused. “What is this?” He had not tasted such perfection in years.
“Simple red wine. Some vineyard in. Southeastern Doriath.”
“What? I...do not remember wine tasting like this.”
“When was the last time you drank wine?”
“Perhaps a hundred or so years back. I stick with more potent drinks these days. I do not have time or patience for flavor indulgence.”
“Well!” Beleg proclaimed, reaching over to fill his glass to the brim. “You’re in for quite a treat! This bottle is from ten or so years back. Was an exceptional period for the grapes. We had many feasts.”
“It coincided with Dagor Bragollach?”
“Well, yes I suppose.”
“You had merriment and feasting then?”
“Nelyo, if we paused our feasts for each year of tragedy, do you think we would ever get to feast?”
Maedhros had not considered this. Perhaps Beleg was correct.
Beleg shrugged. “Enjoy the wine. I have dozens more bottles, if you care for them.”
“No, no, just this is fine. Thank you for your generosity.”
Beleg stared at him. Maedhros drank the rest of his wine in silence, and Beleg finished the rest of the bottle himself.
“Perhaps it’s time to get you some clothes. I don’t think we can venture across western Beleriand with you wearing just your shorts!”
Maedhros looked up at Beleg.
“Where did your clothes go, anyways?” Beleg continued.
“I lost them.”
“Care to add a how to that statement?”
Beleg dropped the subject. “Well, then, wherever they went, they’re not here. You can borrow some of mine! Here! Let me fetch a pair!” Beleg hurried off to a dresser underneath the shelf where he kept the jars of herbs and spices. He removed an armful of trousers and hurried right back. “Here! Do any of these seem large enough?”
Maedhros stood up, picked a pair off of the pile, and held it against himself. That particular set of pants was so short that it stopped at his kneecaps. He smiled. “Beleg, I have not been this small since childhood.”
“Well, I’m sorry I’m not ‘Beleg the Tall’ like you.” He paused to think. “Well, your boots are high enough. The pants need not be too long. You simply need ones wide enough to fit around your waist and legs.” With this, he retrieved an additional set from the dresser. “These are particularly loose on me. I sleep in them, you see, when I want to feel comfortable and luxurious. They’re so soft. Feel them!”
Maedhros extended his hand to feel them. The pants were a light blue and, as Beleg claimed, absurdly soft.
“I know it might be a little odd to wear my nightclothes, but these might be the only pair to fit you. The waist stretches, unlike my other trousers, and I’m afraid your hip bones are wider than mine.”
Maedhros stared at Beleg.
“Oh! Yes! I’m sorry! I’ll turn around. Sorry. I forgot. Not that it’s odd that I have to turn around, or that there is anything wrong with you, it’s simple manners, it is really, I’m just not used to having guests over. I- oh, I better just turn around now.” Beleg rotated himself so his gaze fell on the wall opposite them, rather than on Maedhros.
Maedhros gently folded the blanket on the chair and put his legs into the pants. They were short, but otherwise large enough to fit him. They still felt incredibly soft on his skin. A smile took over his entire face at the prospect. “Fantastic,” he muttered to himself, “fantastic.”
“Are you done?”
Beleg turned around, saw Maedhros, and stifled a small laugh. “I’m sorry, friend, I’ve just never seen you in something so informal.”
Maedhros looked down at himself. The plush blue pants were indeed quite divergent from his usual style of dark, weathered wool and leathers. They were not unpleasant by any stretch of the mind, however. The pastel color alone was a delight to him. They were not pants made for durability, battle, or formalities, and thus he had no pair resembling them. He wished he did. They were too comfortable. “Can I keep these?”
Maedhros’s grin grew a little wider still.
Beleg gave up on suppressing his laugh and allowed himself to giggle. “Would you like the shirt that came with it?” he asked jokingly.
“Absolutely,” he answered, completely serious. Maedhros did not care too much about his appearance. The most important thing to him at the moment was this array of clothing, the likes of which he had not worn since Valinor.
Beleg handed him a long shirt, which perhaps on him would have been a tunic but on Maedhros fit quite well. It was a lighter shade of blue than the pants, more akin to the sky than the ocean. Maedhros rapidly put it on and was overwhelmed by his fondness for it. Rarely had he ever worn a shirt so soft. It was far preferable to his firm horsehair undergarment he left in Menegroth. The sensation of the fleece-like fabric against his bare chest delighted him. He hugged his arms around himself, embracing the shirt.
“You look like a child preparing for bed!” Beleg declared.
“Perhaps so!” Maedhros agreed. “I doubt it will matter underneath my cloak, however. Do you think Luthien and her Edain companion will think poorly of me for this?” he asked, in jest.
“Nelyo, if someone was to think poorly of you, I would probably attribute it to a plethora of reasons beyond your unceremonious attire, don’t you think?”
They both laughed at this.
Maedhros was glad to be in the company of Beleg. Such merriment and hospitality was a welcome contrast to Menegroth. He considered explaining the situation to Beleg. Would it be cruel to inflict unfavorable images of his king upon him? Perhaps. Maedhros was unsure if there would be any benefit from the situation. What did Beleg think was the rationale behind the stabbing? Did it matter? Was he suspicious of him? Maedhros worried. He decided to explain.
“Yes? More wine?”
“Yes! No! No, I mean no. That isn’t it.”
“Well, I for one would love more wine.” He got upon and located a second bottle.
Maedhros continued to speak. “I think, before we depart, it would be worthwhile to clarify why I attacked King Thingol.”
“Fair point.” Beleg had found the wine, but not the corkscrew. He shuffled a drawer around in his search for it.
“He acted unkindly towards me. Or, perhaps, not unkindly. I’m not sure. But in a manner that startled me. And I desired to leave. So I did.”
“....care to continue?”
Beleg waited for Maedhros to continue. He did not. He instead opted to stare at the fireplace silently.
“He is a king. And I understand that I have to be respectful. But that does not mean he is entitled to cruelty at his own whims! I think perhaps he expected me to act the same way I had hundreds of years ago, when I accepted each of his whims. But I am not the same elf. And I rejected him.”
“Nelyo, I have not the faintest idea what you are talking about. Whims?”
Maedhros shook his head. “It doesn’t matter. Evil grows everywhere, Beleg. Evil does not die with Sauron. And I can’t stab it all to death. But maybe some of it can feel consequence.”
“I’m sure you know what the term means.”
“I’m no philosopher.”
Maedhros ran his hand across his new shirt. “I love this shirt. It surpasses the pants.”
Beleg’s confusion was left unassuaged, but he prodded no further.
“Are you hungry? I can prepare a dinner quickly.”
Maedhros’s smile returned at this.
“I see that’s a yes. Is dried meats and cheese alright? I’m afraid it’s all I have.”
“I love cheese.”
“It goes well with wine…”
“I’ll pass on the wine.”
Beleg brought over a handful of cheese and a handful of meat. He removed a knife from his belt and began to cut each into small bits.
Maedhros pointed to one of the cheeses. “What sort is that?”
“Honestly? I do not know. I’ve never been much of a chef. It’s soft, and it tastes quite buttery.”
“Eat it all. You look like you need it.”
Maedhros grabbed the cheese and took a bite directly from the block. His eyes widened.
Beleg noticed this. “You like it?”
Maedhros continued eating his way through it, mouthful by mouthful, and at this Beleg let out another giggle. He himself prefered the meats, and snacked on bites of it.
Several round of brie cheese and charcuterie later, both elves had their fill.
Beleg stared at the empty platter. “You do eat a lot.”
“I’m tall. And I haven’t eaten in a few days. Don’t blame me.” Maedhros stated defensively.
“Not blaming you. I’m certain that I bought the cheeses for the purpose of their consumption. And they fulfilled their purpose, yes? Besides, if we are going off on a voyage anyways, best to eat what’s left of my pantry. Don’t want the mice to get to it.”
“We can leave out some crumbs for the mice.”
“Crumbs for the mice…”
“Mice get hungry too.”
Beleg didn’t bother too ask. “Mice do get hungry. Fine. Crumbs for the mice it is then!”
Maedhros smiled softly and deposited a few crumbs to the floor.
“Shall we rest?”
Maedhros looked up from his arranged crumb pile. “Hmm?”
“If we are to leave here tomorrow, wouldn’t you like to sleep?”
“Oh! Yes.” He got up, fetched Anglachel and his belt, and requipped them to his side.
“You sleep with that on?”
“Why yes! You never know when some lunatic is going to wake me up and ask if I’m a sleeping bear!”
Maedhros curled himself up on the ground, half against the wall, and draped his cloak over himself. “Goodnight, Beleg.”
“I do have a bed you can sleep in if you…” Beleg didn’t bother to finish his sentence, as a light snore made it evident that the elf had already fallen asleep. He smiled to himself. “Goodnight, Nelyo.”
This chapter now has official art done for it!
Chapter 12: Brothers
Note: Tyelko = Celegorm, Curvo = Curufin, Tyelpe = Celebrimbor.
“I could do for a break soon,” Beleg commented to Maedhros. They had been riding west for hours, since before dawn. “My horse has tired, and I would quite appreciate having myself some breakfast. I did bring the last of my cheese.”
Maedhros’s horse was sired from a breed brought over from Valinor, and did not tire as easily. He was, however, fairly interested in the prospect of these cheeses, and agreed to this. They paused next to a stream-offshoot of the Malduin river, and there let the horses drink.
Beleg sat down upon a satisfactorily plush patch of grass and eagerly unwrapped a block of hard, yellow-orange cheese. With the aid of some bread and a knife, he consumed exactly half of it. He held it up, offering it to his traveling companion.
Maedhros did not take the cheese, as his attention was focused elsewhere. The horizon, to be exact.
“Hey, Nelyo. Cheddar. Right here. It’s good!”
“Beleg, do you see that light?”
“You meant the sun?”
“No. There.” He raised his right arm, pointing to a spot further north. “The blue light.”
Beleg squinted a little to focus his vision. “Why, yes, I do see a blue dot there.”
“Those are Noldor. You’ve surely heard of Feanorian Lights. We should go to them. Perhaps they have seen Luthien…”
“We should finish the cheese, Nelyo.”
Beleg’s words fell on unlistening ears, as Maedhros had already mounted his horse. He sighed, repacked his bag, and mounted his horse as well. There was never any hope in trying to change Maedhros’s mind once he had set out to do something.
As they grew close to the blue light, they were able to make out two figures. One was standing, the other sitting. Nearby them were two horses.
Once further towards them, close enough to see their faces, Maedhros stopped his horse.
“That’s Tyelko and Curvo.”
“Celegorm and Curufin, right? Your brothers?”
“Do...we still want to approach them?”
Maedhros shot Beleg a quick glare, and sped onward.
The moment they arrived at the light, Maedhros slid off his horse and ran to them. “Tyelko! Curvo! Eru bless us all, I was so worried…” He pulled the standing brother, Celegorm, into a firm hug. “I had feared the worst. I haven’t heard from you two in so long.”
Celegorm did not return the embrace. “Nelyo…” he began.
“What? What is it? Are you two alright? Where is Tyelpe?”
Curufin stood up. “ Celebrimbor is in Nargothrond. He refused to leave with us.”
Maedhros quickly looked at them, searching for any sign of injury. To his relief, there was no visible blood. Curufin had a thick ring of bruises around his neck. Both elves had their hair cut down close to their head, shorter than even their ears.
“What happened?” Maedhros asked softly.
Celegorm shot Curufin a look. Curufin shrugged back at him. “Well, we met Princess Luthien in the forests outside of Nargothrond,” he began.
“Luthien! You saw Luthien? Is she alright?”
“Unfortunately” Celegorm grumbled. Seeing Maedhros’s look of concern, he continued. “She’s the worst. Her little Edain is the one who did that to Curvo,” he declared, pointing at his brother’s bruises.
Curufin nodded sternly.
“I tried to kill her. Huan stopped me. He can die too, I hope. They’re all heading to Angband. Fucking...” his sentence dwindled off into a string of annoyed mutterings.
“Did she hurt you? Has she done something wrong? Why would you possible want to kill her?” Maedhros did not have enough words for his confusion. He turned to Curufin, hoping he would have a more explanatory answer. He started with a simple question. “Why is your hair short?”
“The cowards of Nargothrond cut it. Thought it would shame us.”
“Why were they trying to shame you?”
“Oh, they thought we killed Finrod.”
Maedhros was glad to know his cousin was alright. “And you left...because of these rumors…”
“No, we chose to leave because Orodreth and his cronies were being so incessantly annoying .”
Celegorm nodded and added a word. “Incessantly.”
“And what is this of Luthien?” Maedhros asked.
“Tyelko and I encountered in the woods while on a hunting voyage. We took her back to Nargothrond, with intent for Tyelko to wed her.”
“Oh? Did she leave her Edain man?”
“And yet she still wanted to wed him?”
“Oh, no, she very much didn't.”
“So he relented his plans to wed her.”
“No? Why would he?”
Maedhros simply stared at his brother is disbelief.
“She was the fairest lady either of us had seen. A Princess, even. Have you heard her voice? Can you blame him? She is the ideal woman and would have made a fitting bride for him.”
“Yet she had no interest in wedding him.”
“Do you not see the problem here, Curvo?”
Maedhros looked over to Beleg in desperation. Beleg had kept himself and his horse at a fair distance away, either out of discomfort for the younger Feanorians or out of a polite attempt to give Maedhros space. He then looked to Celegorm.
“Tyelko, this is true? You were willing to wed her against her will?”
His face dropped to horrified disgust. “...did you?” he asked, dreading the answer.
“No. Huan broke her out first.”
Maedhros was relieved with this answer, but still far from happy. “Broke her out? You held her captive?”
“Captive is a harsh word, don’t you think? We gave her a room and suggested she didn’t leave it.”
“You held her captive and intended to rape her. Is this correct.”
Celegorm recoiled at these words. He hated how they sounded. How quickly his brother’s welcome turned to repulsion.
Maedhros continued, this in a crazed shout. “Is this correct? Is this correct, Tyelko?”
“Last time I checked, you yourself weren’t so opposed to coupling with Doriath’s royalty” Curufin declared, stepping into the conversation with a smirk.
Maedhros wanted to hit him. Strike them to the ground, both of them. He was furious. He wanted to do something . He wanted to yell. But he could do nothing. What good would it do. He stood there, in silent fury and shock, arms down at his sides. The insult did not bother him severely. What bothered him was the decay of his brothers. Was it Morgoth who did this to him? Who had turned them to such ways? How had they strayed so far?
The thought of Morgoth having a hand in a corruption scared him. The idea that they did this of their own will, their own nature, without it being the control of a Dark Lord, terrified him more. It was possible. Elves committed evils without encouragement- he, more than others, was sure of that. He had encountered such evils, both as victim and perpetrator. Yes, evil was not unfamiliar to him. And he knew it did not stem from Morgoth. Not entirely. Just as not every wolf is a servant of Bauglir, not ever deed has its roots in the Vala. He wished this was the case. That he could simply attribute all blame to the hated one.
He stared into his brother’s cold blue eyes and saw no remorse. He saw nothing left of the energetic child he once took care of. He remembered, in his youth, Celegorm sprinting across the hills outside Formenos, chasing birds or squirrels or whatever managed to snag his attention for the minute it could be held. He remembered his failed attempts at courting elleths, and offering condolences at his particularly rough rejections. His brother had always been over-eager, over-energetic. Impulsive, perhaps, and unmannered at times. He was a hunter, and some deemed him cruel, but Maedhros had surely always loved him. He looked at him now and saw both none of this past, and all of it. As if Celegorm had changed beyond recognition, or he had this in him all along.
Curufin, as well. Curufin was not the one who desired to wed Luthien. But he was there, it seemed, for each step, supporting his brother in his choices. The burden of guilt lay just as heavily on him. How could he have done this? Curvo had a wife, a son- a family, one which he loved so well. Where had this lack of empathy, this utter disregard for well-being, come from? Could it have been a lapse in judgment? No. Of all his brothers, he had been the most cunning. The most sharp-witted. Curufin never did anything by accident. Each word, each movement, each cutting look, was planned and pointed. Perhaps that was why he so well complimented his overly impulsive brother.
Maedhros could find no reasoning for their actions. What had changed them?
He was broken out of his thoughts by Curufin’s voice.
“Are you alright, Maitimo ?” he sneered.
Maedhros did not know why his brothers acted like this, that was true. He did know, however, that he was not going to tolerate it.
“Tyelkormo Turcafinwe,” he began smoothly, confidently, “I will ask you one more time as to verify your innocence. Did you hold Luthien in Nargothrond and intend to attempt a marriage.”
“Yes? Why do you keep asking this as if it’s some absurdity? Would you yourself not-”
Maedhros lunged at him, which took him unaware and knocked him to the ground. He held him down with his left elbow, finding no other use for that arm as its hand was far too broken to use. With his right arm, now in less pain due to Beleg’s salve, Maedhros delivered a blow. He repeated this. He did not care. He did not see his brother in Celegorm. He saw something he hated.
His focus was broken by Beleg’s shout. “Stop! Nelyo! Stop!”
Maedhros turned his head around. Beleg was standing next to him, bow drawn in confusion.
“Is he not your brother?”
“He tried to rape Luthien. He is not my brother.”
Beleg lowered his bow. “I see.”
Curufin, however, did not. He had his own bow raised- not nearly as heavy or significant as Beleg’s, but lethal nonetheless. He had it pointed at Maedhros. His hand did not shake in any hesitation. “Let go of Tyelko, or I fucking kill you” he said, placidly, as if he were reading from a grammar textbook.
Beleg renotched his arrow, this time ready to kill Curufin.
“No,” Maedhros declared and stood up, away from Celegorm. “No. Not today.” He looked down at Celegorm. His face was bloodied, his nose clearly broken, but otherwise he was awake and sound. Maedhros felt alarmed by what he had done, but not regretful. He had never struck any of his brothers before. But, then again, none of his brothers ever had the great idea to act like Sauron before. He backed away from Celegorm, slowly, indicating to Curufin that he was no threat. “Both of you. Lower your bows.”
Neither of the elves obliged. Rather, they pointed their weapons at each other.
Maedhros felt like he should apologize for something, but decided against it.
“Turcafinwe. Curufinwe. Neither of you are welcome in Himring, but I am sure Morifinwe will offer you lodgings. I depart from you now, and you depart from me. Is there anything else about Luthien I should know? Has she passed these ways?”
“Yes. About a week ago. Why? Do you wish to wed her as well?”
“Will you ever stop talking, Curvo?”
“It seems” he responded, “that you do want me to talk, or else you would not be asking me questions, hmm?”
“Which way did she go.”
“North. Back past Tol Sirion. On her way to Angband again, I presume. You two will simply have the best wedding there, I am sure. Delightful. Orc ring bearers, perhaps…”
“Curvo, can you fucking stop.”
“I’m afraid not.”
“I don’t want to leave here with a dead brother and a dead friend. Cooperate.”
“Cooperate? Oh, that’s lovely, coming from someone who just assaulted their own brother.”
“Says the brother who helped plan a rape.”
“Stop using that word.”
“I’ll stop using it when it is no longer accurate. Now, please, leave. And don’t you or Tyelko ever come near Himring. I no longer trust you around my people.”
“I don’t think Tyelko would have any interest in your freakish soldiers anyways.”
“Go get on your horse, and leave.”
“What puts you in a position to give us orders? I have a bow up, just as your friend here does.”
“Do you want to die here? You want to die because you refuse to get on your horse and leave? Is your pride that strong? You have two outcomes here. Either you kill an elf, or you die. I know you want neither of these things to happen to you.” Maedhros nudged Celegorm with his foot. “You too. Get up, get on your horse, and leave. Go west, or south for that matter, I care not. Just leave. Get away from me.”
Curufin lowered his bow and replaced the arrow back to its quiver. He helped Celegorm stand, picked up his pack, and made his way over to the horses. Before mounting, he turned back around to Maedhros.
“I hate you, Nelyo.”
Maedhros looked at him, but had no response. Beleg kept his bow raised and aimed in precaution. Celegorm, too, made his way over onto his respective horse.
Maedhros could not bring himself to tell Curufin he hated him, even if, at the moment, he did. He found it odd how only now did his brother use his familial name ‘Nelyo.’ Was he trying to be cruel? Maedhros did not know. He simply watched the two ride off, and wished he had something good to say to them.
For a moment, he considered that he could quite possibly die on this trip. He was, after all, attempting after the Silmarils. He could die. His last words to his brothers might have been those of hatred. He was filled with panic at this prospect, and quickly decided to amend this. He could have shouted ‘I love you, Curvo’ right back, but did not find it in himself to truthful declare those words.
“Goodbye!” he yelled. That, he could say sincerely. They had already ridden so far off- he wondered if they even heard him.
He returned wordlessly to his horse and, alongside Beleg, resumed on their path northwards after Luthien.
Chapter 13: On horseback
Just a quick chapter, nothing much, no plot, just Beleg and Maedhros being bros.
“Beleg, do you know anything of Luthien’s Edain?”
“I know his name is Beren. Nothing more. I haven’t met him.”
“I know she loves him. Everyone can tell that. She faced Sauron for him. Who faces such evil for anything other than love?”
“Well, oaths are a good reason…” Maedhros said with a smirk.
Beleg offered a smile as well. “Damn you, Nelyo, with all this oath business…”
“Damn me? You’re too late! The Valar already have!” Maedhros’s laughter grew greater. Beleg did not find it too humorous, but managed to force out a small chuckle to go along with him.
“And what of you, Beleg? Have you found yourself an elleth while I’ve been gone?”
“It never is that easy, Nelyo.”
“Oh. Do you prefer men, then?”
“Yes! I mean- yes, I do, but that is not the difficulty.” Beleg thought to himself for a moment. “I could have any ellon in Doriath that I desire, perhaps. But should I? Nelyo, I do not live a domestic life. My cabin is not well kept. I spend my time alone, usually, scouting out and hunting orcs along the border. Either I leave some poor thing alone all week, or I take them with me. Either option would whether horribly upon my conscience. I cannot take some elf of the city and have him follow behind me as I enter dangerous situations. I’d need another warrior, someone just as adept as I am, and someone who wouldn’t mind my roaming life.”
“Please tell me this isn’t your attempt at flirting with me.”
Beleg laughed brightly. “Eru, no! You’re not my type at all!” He found himself unable to stop laughing, so amused by the concept.
“Dammit Beleg! What’s that supposed to mean?”
Beleg simply kept laughing. Maedhros, unable to get any answer out of him, likewise found the situation too humorous to contain himself, and briefly joined along before pressing the question again.
“Honestly! What is it?” Maedhros said with a exaggerated pout. “What could possibly be the issue with me? My scars maybe? Oh! Perhaps the curse upon me? Or the fact that my hands smell like blood?”
“Oh shut it Nelyo! It’s nothing of the sort.”
“Well, what is it then? Who’s your type?”
“I might. I still want to know, though.”
“I like men with beards.”
Maedhros began to laugh.
“You said you wouldn’t laugh!” Beleg protested and lightly shoved Maedhros.
“No, I said I might laugh!” He shoved Beleg back in response. “Beards, hmm. Like Cirdain? Or the dwarves? The edain, even?”
“What! Have you not seen the edain? Do you not think those beards would make for the most cozy kiss?”
“It hasn’t crossed my mind, no.”
“Well surely you’re interested in something just as odd!”
“I’m pure. I have never done anything deviant in my entire life.”
“Beards aren’t deviant! Are sure, you’re as pure as Balrogs are cold.”
Maedhros cackled slightly. “Beards…”
“Oh, shut up!”
They rode onwards further in silence for barely a few minutes before Beleg burst out in laughter again.
“Now it’s your turn to shut up, Beleg.”
“Oh, please. As if there is much better to do. Did you see that patch of grass there, Nelyo? It’s the thousandth patch of grass we’ve passed this hour! How interesting!”
“Silence is no crime.”
“You’re never silent!”
“Sometimes I am.” He protested. “Beleg?” he asked, more somberly.
“We’re both going to die aren’t we.”
“Yes. But it’s far better to joke, isn’t it?” Beleg offered.
“If we do get captured, I want you to kill me. Kill me immediately. I don’t care how. I want to help Luthien, and help her I will, but I am not setting foot into Angband again if her voyage takes us there.”
“Do we have to talk about this?”
“I’d prefer we don’t...”
“Beleg I cannot do this again. If it comes to that, I need to die before we enter the fortress.”
“Fine. I’ll kill you. But I will do everything I can to make sure no harm comes your way. Understood?”
“Do you have more cheese with you?”
“No, we ate it all.”
“Shame. I could really do for some cheese right now.”
“Nelyo? You asked earlier about if I had found anyone. Have you? Or are you alone in Himring?”
“With a family as big as mine, I’m never alone. I have many soldiers who I dine with daily and would entrust my life with.”
“Anyone special. Someone you love.”
“If I did not love my people, I would not be fighting for them.”
“You know what I mean!”
“If you’re asking if my bedroom only has one inhabitant, the answer is yes. At Himring, at least. I don’t see why this concerns you, however.”
“At Himr- I mean, no, that isn’t what I asked. I merely wanted to know if you’re happy.”
“I’m not happy.”
“Ah.” Beleg said, slightly embarrassed.
“Any other questions?”
“Well, I have one for you! Why do you wear red boots? I’m horribly sorry if it is some sacred Sindarin tradition, but it seems impractical to me. If you rely on stealth in forests, why stand out with such bright boots?”
Beleg looked briefly done at his feet, as if to refresh himself on their color. “Ah. Yes, they do not aid my hiding. They are, however, the most comfortable boots I own. I’m afraid that’s the entire explanation. I spend my entire day running or walking, and my feet get less sore if I wear nice shoes. These are my nicest shoes.”
“That’s it? That’s the entire reason?”
“You really ought to get yourself a pair of nice shoes. It’s amazing how much comfort does for the mind.”
Maedhros nodded to himself, at first thinking this absurd, but as he contemplated how well the gifted blue nightwear had soothed his nerves, he began to see logic in Beleg’s statement.
Beleg pointed ahead. “Look! Upon the horizon. A wolf!”
“That’s Huan!” Maedhros shouted. “He’s likely been surveying the area in protection of Luthien! She’s nearby!”
“Thank goodness.” Beleg declared. “I wonder if she’s packed any cheese?”
Maedhros grinned. “That would be nice, wouldn’t it.”
They set out towards Huan.
Note: Beleg's red shoes are a reference to a drawing Tolkien did of him where, yes, he (oddly) wears red shoes.
Chapter 14: The Night Sky
Meet Beren and Luthien!
Led by Huan, Maedhros and Beleg approached Luthien and Beren’s small camp. There was a small tent, a healthy fire, and two figured sitting next to it.
“Lady Luthien!” Maedhros shouted, dismounting his horse and running towards here. “We-”
Beren, hearing him, immediately stood up and aimed his sword at the elf. “Who are you?” As he said this, he positioned himself in front of Luthien.
With a she tugged on his sword arm, telling him to lowerer. “Beren dear, this is Maedhros Feanorian.”
“Brother of Celegorm and Curufin Feanorian?” He did not lower the sword.
“Brothers in blood, yes, but not heart. He is not a cruel man. He is a friend of mine.” She tugged as his arm again. “And of Finrod’s.”
Beren finally lowered the sword and dropped to his knee in a bow. “I apologize, my lord.”
Maedhros smiled. “Don’t bother bowing. It is good to be on high alert. Rise, we are equals in this land.” He looked at Beleg, and at this they both gave a quick bow to Luthien. “Your highness, Princess of Doriath,” he continued, “it is good to see you safe. I apologize for my brothers’ treatment of you.”
“What brings you both northward? Was it my father who sent you?” she asked.
Maedhros looked at Beleg, then back at Luthien. “That,” he declared, “is a bit of a tale.” He looked at Luthien and her Edain. “Are you two still on course for Angband, in search for a Silmaril.”
“Have either of you ever been to Angband? Have either of you met Morgoth himself?”
“No,” Luthien replied firmly, “but I have met Gorthaur. He was no difficulty at all.”
“Morgoth is not Sauron. Sauron misjudged you. He was taken off guard by the combined skills of yourself and Huan. In Angband there is more than Sauron. There are balrogs, orcs, and foul maiar. How do you plan to even get past the gates?”
“That may work. But what if it does not? Neither of you know what lies beyond those gates. Do either of you even know the location of his throne room?”
“Do you know what might happen if you fail?”
Luthien held no response, but at this Beren spoke up. “Lord Maedhros, I do. I was there, in Tol-Sirion, where Sauron lay. I was part of the company of Finrod who found themselves ensnared by him. I have seen the cruelties Gorthaur is capable of. I have seen the marks of cruelty he left upon those men. We were kept in some form of dark room for time beyond my count. On occasion a companion would be removed, tormented, then returned. I saw each oozing gash, the soreness in which they walk, the welts upon their skin. There were beasts, wolves of some sort, who devoured them slowly. I held Finrod dying in my arms. I have seen them. I know what awaits us in Angband. Luthien knows as well. I explained this to her.”
“Yes. Did none tell you?”
Maedhros did not cry. He clutched his hand into a firm fist around the edge of his cloak and found sudden interest in the patch of grass at his feet. “Yes. Yes, I was told. I did not believe it then. Perhaps I did. Perhaps I would not let myself believe it.” He looked up. “Finrod is dead?”
“Yes. He died valiantly, defending my life. I am sorry that the news came to you this way.”
Maedhros looked up to the stars and mumbled a quick prayer to Varda in Quenyan. His left hand continued to fumble at his cloak.
Luthien stepped closer to him and placed her hand upon his arm. “Are you alright?”
Her touch broke his gaze away from the sky. He recoiled from her.
“Oh! I’m sorry, I apologize, I didn’t mean to-”
“No, no, it’s quite alright Luthien. And I am fine. I think, perhaps, Finrod might be happier in Valinor. He was a great man, he will not spend to long in the halls. He had a fiance there, did you know this? He loved her greatly. Perhaps now, free from the turmoils of Beleriand, he can be at peace with her. It is no great sorrow that he has passed. I wish that it had been under better circumstances than the dungeons of Sauron, but if he died in bravery and your company, Beren, then it is not as bad as it could have been. His deeds will live in song, I am sure. He was fond of song. He’d like it to be that way.”
“He was a great man indeed. I am blessed to have been in his company,” offered Beren.
Maedhros nodded solemnly. “I am afraid our words can do nothing to aid him now. I will let the matter be buried alongside him. Let the dead be dead. For now, it is our task to preserve the living. Beren, you are a mortal. Are you aware that, when you die in Angband, you will not be as fortunate as Finrod? You will not be rebodied into a placid life in Valinor. You will be gone.”
“I would prefer to die alongside Luthien than live a hollow life. If I only get one opportunity at living, who am I to squander it in loneliness?”
Maedhros looked to Luthien, then back at Beren. “Why die? Why? Why go after a Silmaril?”
“My father-” began Luthien.
“ Thingol is a fool whose words mean nothing. He wanted a Silmaril from you two. Do you know why he wanted this? Because he wanted you to die, Beren. He knows more of Angband than you two. People do not survive Angband.”
“You did,” Beren protested.
“That’s debatable, really. And I did not return with a Silmaril, did I? He wants you to die in Angband. He will have the servants of Morgoth kill you for him. He gave you that command not in honor but in hatred. Why honor it? You are under no obligation to return a Silmaril to him. Live! Live free with Luthien! There is an abundance of Beleriand at your opportunity. I’d even offer a room in Himring to you two.” As his words progressed, Maedhros’s voice rose to a shout. “You do not have to die for him! You do not have to honor him! He is just an elf. He is not Eru. He is not Manwe. He cannot hurt you, if you break your promise to him. Go, please! Live in happiness!” He paused for a moment to collect himself, then returned to a quieter voice. “In truth, I came here to accompany you on your journey and fetch a Silmaril of my own. But I cannot, in good will, let you two go there on an aimless mission of the King’s folly.”
It was Beren’s turn to shout. “You think that I am bringing Luthien under the darkness of Angband out of a hollow obligation to an elf king? No! If it were my own choice, I would run off with her to the east, perhaps, to Ossiriand, and set up a life of our own there, free from Thingol, orcs, and dark lords. I never want to see another orc in my life. I do not want to die, Lord Maedhros. I hate the promise I made to Thingol. But it was an oath, and one that cannot be broken.”
At this, Maedhros stood wide eyed and responseless.
“An oath. You made an oath. Who did you swear it to.”
“Are you alright?”
“You made a fucking oath. To Eru. To get a Silmaril.”
“Thingol told me to do so under his request, yes, and I obliged.”
“We’re all going to fucking die. Eru. Fuck. Shit.”
“Have you not heard of the Oath of Feanor?” Maedhros yelled.
“I have not.”
“Well! It’s an oath, to Eru, to get a Silmaril. And it’s been responsible for the deaths of countless Noldor. And Teleri. Many at my own hand. Beren, that oath has put me where I am today. You- I- Beleg can explain this. He knows more than you on Noldorin history, I believe. Actually, no, it doesn’t matter. Its...its funny actually. We’ve both cursed ourselves to the void and back, haven’t we?”
“Not a curse, an oath.”
“It’s a fucking curse. Have you tried to renounce it?”
“....Yes,” admitted Beren, shamefully.
“And could you?”
“Exactly. None of us can. We’re all going to go down together. Lovely.” He thought for a moment. “No, not all of us. Beleg, you’re woven into no oaths. You can leave now. Return to Doriath in safety. Do you have a family?”
Beleg spoke quietly. “I have a sister.”
“I’m sure she would rather have a brother than orc-mangled corpse.”
“Nelyo, I know exactly where I am. Do you not think I ponder my own death every time I go on guard for Doriath’s borders? I know what death is. I’ve signed myself for it as long as I’ve been a marchwarden. None of you forced me on this mission. I wish to help you. I care deeply about all three of you. And, if I am to die, I will have it be in protection of something so great.”
Maedhros looked dejectedly at him. He knew, perhaps, that there was no use in convincing him.
“Besides,” Beleg added, “this might go best if we have at least one person in the group who has no curse upon them.”
“Huan has no curse.”
“Actually,” Luthien added, “he has resolved to not follow us to the gates. He stays here.”
Maedhros looked back up to Beleg. “Well then. You’ve earned your spot as the token un-cursed un-oathed friend. Would you like your coffin to be wooden or stone?”
“Oh, shut up. We don’t have to die, Nelyo. You’re the best warrior I’ve ever known. I’m no new recruit myself either. And Luthien here, she brought down Sauron. We are not weak. We very well might succeed. It is Morgoth himself who should be scared!”
Maedhros smiled weakly at the prospect. “Beren, you have skill?”
“I’ve fought in a roaming company for the entire duration of my life. I am no elf-lord, but I can wield a sword proficiently.”
“Well then! It seems we have quite a bit of talent between us. Perhaps Beleg here is right. Perhaps we can avoid death, however fast it chases us!”
Luthien grinned. “Of course we’ll avoid death! I’m certain of it!”
“She is half-maia,” Beren added. “I trust her predictions.”
Maedhros thought for a moment. “Oh, Beren. Concerning Finrod and your duration in Sauron’s cellars?”
“Sauron is dead. You may be happy to hear that.”
Beren was, in fact, quite happy to hear that. He immediately embraced Maedhros in a hug. “Yes! Yes!” he shouted. “Thank you!”
Maedhros leaned back slightly in shock and pushed him off. “Don’t.”
“I’m sorry! But this is such great news! He’s the worst! I could quite nearly cry at this news. He’s the one who captured Gorlim.”
“Ah, Gorlim. My closest friend, my first lover. He was in that roaming company I mentioned. Splendid fellow, better tracker than any of us. Sauron captured and tormented him until he confessed the location of our company, at which they were promptly murdered. I was spared. He remained as a wraith. He told me of what had come to pass, and I was spared.”
“I’m sorry for your loss.”
Beren thought to himself. “You know, that’s twice my life has been spared. The entirety of that company died, except myself. Amongst Finrod’s men, I was likewise the only survivor. I like to think Eru has some sort of plan for me, that my life is particularly worth sparing.”
“Of course it is!” Luthien protested. “If you had died, who would be left for me?” At this she leaned over and kissed him softly on the forehead. He blushed. “Eru can’t let you die. You’re too good.”
He looked back over at Beleg and Maedhros. “Excuse her, sorry, I know this is improper behavior around two elf-lords.”
“I’m not an elf-lord,” confessed Beleg, “and Maedhros is of the same rank as Luthien.”
“Beren, we are all in uninhabited grasslands right now, marching towards are likely death. If you want to kiss your fiance, I see now reason to stop you.”
Luthien giggled slightly.
Beren smirked at her. “What’s that laugh for?”
“You’re just taking this so seriously!’ she said.
“I am trying to leave a good impression on an elf-lord!” Beren protested.
“Who, me?” Maedhros asked.
“You’ve left a fine impression. We’re good. Luthien is a friend of Beleg and myself, and if she approves of you, I approve of you.”
“You two are doing an awful good thing, trying to help us. It’s the least I can do to honor you.”
Beleg looked at Maedhros accusingly.
“Oh, mm. Uh. To be fair, I do need to get a Silmaril of my own. You all might be helping me in this too.” Maedhros explained.
Beren shrugged. “I see no harm in that. I do not need all three.”
“I hate to be a bother, but do you have any food?” Beleg asked.
Luthien laughed and gestured to the fire. Above it was a large bird, plucked but otherwise nearly whole. “Huan caught us a turkey. Help yourself. In the meanwhile, take a seat. I would like to hear more of what passes in Menegroth.”
Beleg walked to the fire and tenderly pulled some meat off the still-cooking bird. Beren joined him and they discussed the merits of game meats.
Maedhros sat next to Luthien. He only noticed now how short her hair was. When he had befriended her towards the beginning of the first age, she was known for having exceptionally long, lovely black hair. Now, it was cropped to shoulder-length. Not unlike his own.
“You’re staring at my hair.”
“Well, you did not ask me for the story, but I can see that your eyes do. My father locked me away such that I would not chase after Beren. I wove some simple magic to grow it longer, cut it off, and used it to climb out!”
“What, being locked in an elevated little room, or growing out my hair to escape it?”
“Both, I suppose. Thingol did that? Are you not a grown elf?”
“I suppose I am. But I’m also his only daughter. He can be quite demanding and forceful at times, I don’t know if you could tell that.”
“Oh, I can. It’s what happened to my hand.” Maedhros raised his left hand into visibility, displaying how his fingers were still shattered and twisted.
Luthien gasped. “He did this? Oh! Why!”
“We had a little fight. He desired a few things that I did not grant him. He’s fine, I’m fine, it is of no concern. He did injure my hand quite poorly though. I’m not able to wield my blade very well with it.”
“Ridiculous!” she huffed. “I can fix this easily!” She began to sing a series of harmonics and stroked his hand softly, as if she were holding a day-old kitten. He stared at it, marveling at how the bones vibrated slightly in resonance with her pitches. Under his skin, each fragment crawled back to its position. At last, she let go, his hand healed entirely. She exhaled heavily. “I’m sorry, I’ve learned to do small things like that, but it’s quite tiring. I’m afraid I can’t do bigger things like regrow your right hand, but hopefully your left will be plenty.”
Maedhros turned back and forth in front of his face. He curled and uncurled the fingers, this time managing it without pains. “Thank you. You truly are incredible.”
And smiled and rocked back and forth slightly in her seat. “I try!”
“Have you considered becoming a healer?”
“I cannot stand the sight of blood. Asides, my father would never let me.”
“Have you considered that your father does not own you, and that you are free to live anywhere in Beleriand you please?”
She blinked. “Perhaps that is so. But I have never lived away from him.”
“If he is not kind to you, perhaps you should.”
“Perhaps.” She looked at the ground, at their shoes. “Those pants do not look like standard-issue military garments” she giggled.
“I knew you’d make fun of them! I knew it! Beleg claimed you wouldn't, but I know they look awful! They’re nightclothes. Beleg lent them to me. I lost my own pants and shirts. They are, at least, quite comfortable.” He looked at her, seeking for a trait to retaliate with. “What of your pants? They are quite different than the dresses I’ve seen you wear.”
“That’s because they’re not a dress!”
Maedhros rolled his eyes. “You know what I mean.”
“I stole them from Nargothrond. These don’t fit me the best, but I needed pants. It’s hard to ride a giant dog in a dress! Not sure if you’d know that, but it is. I chose this pair because they’re blue, and I only wear blue.”
“I’ve noticed.” Maedhros also noticed how eerily similar they looked. Both had near-identical hairstyles, although Luthien kept her hair straight and unnaturally silken while Maedhros’ was a mess of untamable waves. They both wore a blue blouse and blue pants. Hers were embroidered and patterned slightly, and his were more sky-blue than navy, but they did correspond quite nicely. He looked at their differences too. Her arms were so strongly muscled from her acrobatic dancing. He was strong as well, but she somehow wore it more elegantly. Her face, stamped with two almond-shaped eyes, was unnaturally pale and slightly translucent in a way only a maia could achieve. It reminded him of the rice-paper he had enjoyed in Valinor. His own skin was so weathered by constant exposure to the cold, even aside from the multitude of thin scars upon it. He wished he could look so smooth.
“What are you staring at?”
“You skin looks like paper.”
“Is that a compliment?”
“Maedhros Feanorian, you better not be trying to flirt with me!”
“I’m not! I just…” he grabbed her hand and tracer one of her fingers down his chin. “Look! See! My cheek is all bumpy! Like a much-trodden mud path! And you look like still water!”
“I could fix some of your scars, if you would like that.”
Maedhros did not expect such an answer. “You could?”
“Eventually, yes. I’m still quite worn out from the hand, though. You’ll have to give me a while.”
“I’ll...consider your offer. Thank you.” Maedhros good not imagine his face looking like it had in Valinor. If she could fix his broken hand, surely she could repair the skew of his jaw or the cut across his lip.
“I have another offer.”
“Would you like to dance?”
“Would Beren mind?”
“What? A dance is not exclusive to those in love. I dance with Daeron plenty.”
“Daeron is in love with you.”
“Bad example then. Here.” She grabbed his left hand and pulled him upwards. He did not flinch at her touch.
“If you’re dancing, who will be singing?”
“Me as well! Do you think I am not capable of doing both?”
“I myself am not capable of doing both.”
“Then I’ll have to sing twice as loud!”
“Now, Luthien, I never said I would dance. Or that I could dance.”
“Absurd. Of course you can dance.
“Not to what you sing! Noldor songs are more punctuated, and we use drums. But sure, I’ll do it. Only as a favor to you healing my hand.”
“Beren!” she shouted. She looked over towards the fire, finding her fiance and Beleg happily lying down, gesturing to the stars with one hand and ripping off bites of turkey with the other. “Nevermind then. He cannot provide a drum beat for you, as he is so clearly occupied. I’m afraid I’ll have to try my best.”
“A clap will work.”
“Deal. Show me what you can do.” Luthien began to sing a melody she knew well, a series of arpeggios punctuated by occasional whistle-tones. She modified it slightly, adding pulsings accents and stresses to her words, enough until she was able to add in a deliberate pace of clapping.
At this, Maedhros began the Noldor loved so well. He moved his legs quickly and sharply, alternating between dropping to a knee and balancing on the tip of his toe. He put in spins and small lunges to his steps. Occasionally, while on a knee, he’d swing one leg around in a half circle ahead of it. His arms moved just as rhymically and angularly as his legs, extending and folding just as rapidly.
Luthien was delighted at this display. Confined to Doriath, she rarely saw any other styles.
Maedhros, too, found a bit of bliss. The Noldor had not hosted any joyous feasts for many years. He had not danced in far more years than that. To his satisfaction, he retained his strength and skills.
Luthien attempted to copied what he was doing, but found herself unable to mimic the geometry or force of it. She instead opted for her typical style; arms moving like ribbons in the wind, leaps and bows and bends showing off her flexibility and strength. Though perhaps in thought incompatible, their two methods worked rather well with the song she had invented for it. Maedhros took over the clapping.
So consumed my the moment, Maedhros found his mind paying not nearly enough attention to his surroundings. He tripped, knocking over Luthien in the process. They both lay on the ground, laughing too loudly to bother getting back up.
“That was quite nice” added Beleg.
Maedhros sat upright immediately. “You watched that? I thought you were watching the stars?”
“You two were singing and clapping. Did you expect us to not notice you?”
Maedhros laughed a little more. “I guess not!”
Beren ran over to Luthien, who was still lying down, and kneeled next to her. “Is that a new song?”
“Yes, maybe. A little bit. Did you like it?” Luthien answered.
“Loved it!” he grinned and kissed her.
Beleg and Maedhros exchanged glances.
“If you’re wondering if I’m going to kiss you too, you’re out of luck, Nelyo” Beleg joked.
“Ah, don’t disgust me with the concept!” he retorted. “Besides, I don’t have a beard!”
“You’re bringing up the beard thing now?”
“How could I not?”
“Nelyo!” he whined.
Maedhros laughed a bit more, and laid back against the cool grass. The night breeze ambled across his skin as the faint chirp of crickets chattered in the background. For a moment, oaths ceased to exist and death held no appeal.
Ahh, I'm horrid at descriptions, but since I've seen a video of traditional Hungarian dance, I've been sure it would be fantastic for Noldor.
Also! This is illustrated!!
Chapter 15: When We Die
Mini-chapter at 3am because I cannot sleep
Aside each other and the fire, Beren and Luthien lay sleeping.
Maedhros sat next to Beleg, mindlessly plucking the remainders of the charring meat off the turkey.
“Hmm?” Maedhros replied, his mouth filled by a turkey bone he was chewing.
“If I do die, I want you to take my best arrow, Dailir, off my body and back to my sister. You know which arrow it is. It’s the large one, with the flecks of black and gold on it. It is my only item of value. I do not know where, truely, it came from. Some have told me it’s from Manwe’s quiver, left behind from the great wars of the past. It always returns to me and does not error. It is the most valuable thing I have, Nelyo, and I want you to bear it back to my sister.”
“Will do. Who is this sister?”
“Her name is Basreth. She has the same hazelnut skin as I do, but she has silver hair rather than my black. She’s shorter than me, but not by much. She’s part of Thingol’s guard commission-”
Maedhros cut him off. “I know Basreth. I can find her.”
“You know her?”
“She’s the one who gave me that shoulder cut.”
“She cut you? Why, I know she’s a bit impulsive but…”
“No, no, it’s quite alright. I was running from the king. I hit her too. We’re even.”
“Oh. Yes. From your fight with Thingol?”
He nodded. “That reminds me. Do you remember how concerned I was for repairing our Noldorin relations with Doriath, after that? I’ve thought it over me. Regardless of my actions, we’ve entirely destroyed our political alliance with them on account of my brothers’ actions against Luthien.”
“That may be so.”
“No matter how well I help Luthien, I will not be able to repair friendship with the Sindar. Even if we do achieve the Silmarils, the rift will still exist.”
Beleg looked at Luthien then back at Maedhros. “Have you considered that she herself may be able to speak to Thingol on your behalf?”
“When has Thingol ever before respected her wishes?”
“You’re quite right.”
The fire before them grew tame as the night drew onward. Bits of dust flew by them in the wind as bone-grey logs began to flake off their ashen skin.
“I have a request, as well, upon my death. I have an item of value just as you do.” He unfastened the clasp around his neck and removed his necklace and its blue-glowing pendant.
Beleg reached towards it slightly. “Feanorian light?”
“Yes. One of the early ones, I’m afraid, and as you can see it barely glows. Nothing more than a faint shimmer, really. It was one of my fathers prototypes, and I have had it as long as I can remember. It’s all I have of Valinor, and the life I once had there. If I die, I would like you to deliver it to Tyelpe, my nephew. He calls himself Celebrimbor and I believe he still dwells in Nargothrond. He is the only uncursed among my family, and the most alike Feanor in his proclivity towards creativity. He will fashion great things, some day, and perhaps a sample of Feanor’s creations will aid him on this path.”
“Moreso, I would like you to give Anglachel to Findekano, or Fingon as he is called, if possible. It is a sword of great power. I know that if I pass my fate in Angband, Fingon will be there in a few days ready to fight Morgoth, as his father once did. I know he’ll try. And, if he does, I want him to be armed well enough to succeed. If Morgoth kills me, Fingon better fucking destroy him. He’d be angry enough to do it, I’m sure. He merely needs the right tool. Oh. And, when I die, tell Fingon I’ll be waiting for him in the halls. Tell him I said that. He needs to think that I’ll be in the halls, not the void of darkness I pledged myself to in the oath. Tell him I’m in the halls, Beleg.”
Maedhros gave a tilted half-smile. “He’d kill me if he knew what I was doing. He always resented my attempts on my own life, back when I was freshly plucked from Thangorodrim. He’d hate to see how recklessly I wield my life now. He’d stop me. He wouldn't want me to die like this. He’d stomp off with me, leading me back to his halls, and tell me in that firm voice of his ‘Maedhros Feanorian, stop that,’ just like he’s always done. Probably put his hands on his hips too, as if he were a mother scolding her child.” He laughed slightly to himself. “He does that! He really does that! Ah, perhaps I do need it sometimes. I do have a tendency to be irrational. Or, at least, I did. But, then again, perhaps he would approve of my march towards death this time. He was the one who so irrationally sought me out at Angband. He made the voyage there, knowing death was likely, for a friend. Who is he to scold me for doing the same thing? Perhaps I will die alongside Luthien. Perhaps I will die and she may live, and bear the Silmarils away from Morgoth. Fingon is a valiant man, perhaps he would find it noble.”
Beleg had nothing to add. He merely listened to Maedhros’ ramblings, too worried to interrupt.
“Ah, but what is nobility? Finrod died in nobility, Beren told us. He died so that Beren may live. I think perhaps Finrod is the luckiest of us all, as he is the one who got to leave this horror so swiftly. The nobility of it does not matter in the least, I think, only the success. If both men died in Sauron’s dungeons, would we be singing of their valiant deeds? Or would we file them away as another instance of crazed recklessness? Are we reckless of valiant, Beleg? Or perhaps we are selfish. Perhaps I am only here for the Silmarils, and not the protection of Luthien. Yes. I’m the reckless and selfish one. You’re here merely to accompany friends. You’re the valiant one here. Fingon would be fond of you. You ought to meet him. He’s fantastic. Oh! And he is an archer as well!”
“After this, we shall visit him.”
“Yes. After this we shall visit him.” Maedhros stared at the decaying fire. The coals no longer gave off enough heat to keep the turkey warm. The night breeze persisted in spite of this fade, only now did its coldness feel harsh in the absence of flame. He shivered slightly under his coat. “Yes. After this. After this.”
Chapter 16: What's this?
The four progressed onward, Maedhros and Beleg each on their own horse, Luthien and Beren sharing one.
“Lord Maedhros, this may be rude of me, but may I ask about your sword?” Beren said passively.
“It’s not rude. Thingol gifted me the blade. It’s sky-iron, you see. Can cut through anything. Even the fea. It’s what I used to get rid of Sauron. Terribly useful for fighting non-physical forces. Or for causing permanent damage.”
“My father gave it to you?” Luthien inquired.
“Do you really think we’re going to die?” She asked.
Maedhros looked at Beleg briefly but gave no response.
“I don’t want to die on such poor terms with my father.”
“I think those poor terms are his fault, not yours,” Maedhros insisted.
“Still. I do love him.” She stared onwards, as coldly as the wind that blew by them all.
“Luthien, there are three people here willing to die such that you do not. Besides, even if we are unable to leave Angband, I doubt you will die there.” He immediately regretted his statements.
“You mean to say Morgoth will keep us alive?” Beren inquired, part both in horror and hope.
Maedhros wished he had said nothing. But Luthien looked at him with such curious eyes, so steeped in fear. He wondered if her imagination had already informed her of what could await. He had to explain. “No. He would not keep us alive. Beren, he would fine little to no use for you. You would meet a swift death. Likewise, Beleg is no one of importance, no purpose outside of thralldom.” He declared in a bitter monotone. “Luthien, however, he would not kill. He keeps elves like her. He keeps them for his own whims. And watches them crumble beneath him. Luthien, Luthien would not crumble quickly. She’s not a mere elf. She would last too long.”
Beren looked at Maedhros with absolutely revulsion upon his face, burning hatred in the twist of his frown. He reached forward to put his arms around Luthien, as if she were falling and his grip alone could save her. She continued to stare onwards, ignoring his words. “How dare you speak like this?” Beren demanded of Maedhros. “You do not know this. Do not put such an omen upon her.”
“I do know this. I was beautiful once too, Beren , just as she was. I was strong too. I did not break like other elves, I had Feanor’s spirit in me. I was special just as she is. And they did not kill me. They kept me. For Morgoth himself, for his lieutenant, for their servants. They did not kill me. I had a use. And so will she. I do know this, Beren. I know what life awaits her. I know it well, and I fear it. I do not speak idly. She must get out. She cannot stay there.”
Luthien broke her silence but kept her gaze fixed to the road ahead. “And what of you, Maedhros. You spoke of our fates. What would be yours?”
“I don’t plan to live long enough to find out!”
“What would Fingon think of that plan, Nelyo?” protested Beleg.
Maedhros shot him a glare. “Do not bring Fingon into this. And, for your information, I’m sure he would be happier to see me dead in the halls rather than lying bloodied on the floors of Angband again, leaking out orc-”
“Enough!” shouted Beleg with desperate aggression. “Enough of that! I know you’re scared! But Nelyo will you please stop with the pessimism for once? Fucking stop, alright? No more. None of us are getting stuck in Angband. We’re going to succeed, alright? Please stop. Stop scaring Luthien and Beren.”
“Scaring them? You think I’m scaring them? Beleg, if we fail, we’re all going to be fucking tortured to death or near-death. Alright? None of you know this like I do. Beren, perhaps he does. But you don’t. And Luthien sure doesn’t. I don’t think anyone's ever told her what happens in Angband. I don't think she knows.”
“She’s right here. You can ask her yourself.”
Maedhros looked at Luthien. “ Do you know?”
“No,” she admitted quietly. “No.”
Beren held her closer. “She doesn’t need to know. If we succeed, she doesn’t need to know what awaits her.”
“Perhaps she would like to know the risks before she ventures there?”
To his surprise, Beren began to cry softly, his head pressed against her shoulder. “I didn’t want to know, Lord Maedhros,” came his muffled voice.
“I thought you knew of torment from your stay in Tol Sirion?”
“I didn’t want to think of this happening to Luthien. Not to Luthien. This is my fault. I made this promise to Thingol, and it’s my fault, I promised, it’s…” He paused to clutch his arms tighter around her. “If this happens it will be because of me. It didn’t have to be this way. I could have done this alone. You’re all going to die because of me.”
Luthien reached her arm around to him silently and began to stroke his hair.
Maedhros did not speak in the accusatory silence. He did not feel it his turn.
“I hate Thingol. I hate him. This was his commandment upon me. I hate him.” Beren muttered.
“Thingol is not the wisest man.” Maedhros offered. He had no other condolences. None that mattered, at least.
They rode onwards. The marshy grasslands gave way to emptiness. The land was still ravaged by the fires of Dagor Bragollach. In Valinor, Maedhros had used ash in fertilizer for his botanical prospects. This was no such fire. The flames summoned by Morgoth himself left its touches baren. Nothing could grow. Not for a long while, at least. Thangorodrim’s peak became visible through the thick haze of darkness that encircled the fortress.
Ten years had not been enough time to clean the lands after the battle. All flesh had been picked away by the various birds and wolves that surveyed the land, but the armor of fallen elves and men still littered the land. Maedhros slowed his horse slightly to examine one. The silver breastplate, crushed, was adorned by the sigil of Fingolfin. It had been one of his soldiers who lay there. Around them were countless others. Maedhros sped his horse back onwards. He did not want to glance upon any more of them. He wondered if, somewhere, the remnants of Aegnor lay among them. A tuft of his gold hair, perhaps, his axe, bones encased in his gauntlet. The remnants of war last far longer than those who waged it. He could not remove his mind from the thought of the fallen soldier from Fingolfin’s company. His name was lost to time and memory. He was nothing anymore, and his stand accomplished nothing against Angband. All that existed of him was crushed armor on a battlefield. He was nothing more to the world. Perhaps he wrote songs as Maglor did. Perhaps he had children. None of these things lived on. Only his armor. Only evidence of his fight, and a futile one at that.
Further on, within a mere few miles from the gates of Angband, they found themselves wandering through more twisted ground. Savage boulders jutted into the air, peaking through the landscape as if it were a crumpled sheet of paper crudely layed flat again. The earth, rumbling slightly, seemed furious under their feet at its own contortion. The thick, black, smokey fog clustered in this maze of turns. Beren began to cough violently before placing a cloth over his mouth. The horses became frightened and refused to continue, even in spite of Luthien’s soft pleads to them. The company dismounted and continued further on foot.
An animal-like horn pierced the fog.
“Orcs.” Maedhros declared. “Orcs. Arm yourself.”
“What of Luthien?” Beren asked.
“Luthien will be fine.”
Luthien began an attempt at singing but found her voice choked slightly at the haze around them. She persisted but was not able to reach such smooth tones. The song she wove lacked all intensity.
An sole orc leaped from one of the stones and found itself pierced mid-air by Beleg’s ready arrow. It fell to the ground at his feet, disturbing a pat of dust with its impact.
Three more rushed in from between a gap in the rock formations. With a long-armed swoop of Anglachel, Maedhros slew them easily. Their bodies provided no resistance against the blade, as if it were merely gliding through air.
More orcs continued their approach, dozens of them, and they each fell under the hands of Beleg, Maedhros, or Beren. Their foul corpses began to pile and their black blood pooled. It mingled with the sandy ground into mud and puddles. It splashed slightly when stepped in, enough to soak their pants with black splattered.
A troll emerged. Likewise, it was no difficult. An arrow to the eye fulfilled its mortality.
Even so, as hours drew on, the three became tired. Luthien’s small songs woven in desperation grew fainter still with exhaustion. There was a pause in the onslaught.
Beren heaved with heavy breaths. He was immensely strong for an Edain, but he was not tireless. His arms shook with fatigue. “You were right. We’re going to die here. We’re going to die out here, in some Eru-forsaken pile of orcs, without even meeting Morgoth or trying for the Silmarils.” His eyes were wide with anxiety.
“No. The orcs have paused. We can progress.” Maedhros insisted.
A warm glow rose over the nearest boulder and a warm crackle could be heard.
“There is another fire?” Luthien whispered.
“No, that is not a fire…” Maedhros responded blankly. He gripped his blade tighter in anticipation. He began to pace his breath.
“What!” Beren yelled. “What is it!”
A Balrog stepped out. It slashed its whip through the air fast enough that even the air itself gave off a scream. The crackle was louder now, more of a roar.
Beleg immediately aimed his bow and shot his arrow, Dailir, at it. It simply outstretched his hand and caught the arrow. In its hand, it crumpled to ash. Beleg stared up at disbelief.
Beren, too, looked at it in frozen terror.
“Beren, do not fret. A Balrog is nothing more than a larger orc. There are three of us. Together we can slay it. Beren? Beren are you alright? Raise your sword, Beren, I cannot do this alone. I can’t do this without you Beren.”
Beren dropped his sword to the ground.
“Beren!” Maedhros shouted. “Pick that up!”
He looked at Maedhros. “I’m not going to die here.” He declared calmly. “Not here. Not yet”
“Beren we can kill it.”
“There will be more. We stand no chance.”
Beren took a pace towards the Balrog. It looked at him in confusion.
“Stop!” he screamed at it. “We are not an enemy! We bring a gift and an offer to Morg- Melkor! We have an offer!”
It stared at him further, listening.
“We have ventured from Doriath to visit his highness. We merely ask for an audience!”
“ The gift… ” the Balrog rumbled. Its voice felt more of a vibration through the earth than a sound in itself.
Beren pointed to Maedhros. “Him! It is him we bring to Melkor! He’s the one who slayed Gorthaur!”
“WHAT” Maedhros screamed.
“We have brought him to exchange for a Silmaril. He is of high value. He killed Gorthaur! He leads the forces of the Noldor! Escort us to Melkor so that we may bestow this gift to him. That is all we ask.”
“Beren I am going to kill you .”
Luthien took a step closer to Beren, looked at Maedhros, and shook her head.
The Balrog lifted Maedhros by his right shoulder and held him at arm’s length in the air.
His screams and curses were lost under the sound of the Balrog’s slow, consistent rumbling. None of his flailing managed to impact the Balrog whatsoever. He threw Anglachel at the Balrog in desperation, but his throw missed and the sword clattered to the ground. Beleg picked it up.
The Balrog walked onwards towards Angband and motioned for the rest of the company to follow.
The obliged, silently. Luthien held Beren’s hand tight in hers.
The company successfully reached the iron gates of Angband. They were tall, nearly a hundred feet so, and thick as a sword’s length. Several trolls pulled them open and the group progressed inside. The hall to Morgoth’s throne room was unlit entirely aside from the Balrog’s glow. Orcs, wolves, and some other form of unknown skittering creature busied themselves quickly rushing along it, in and out of doors, through other hallways, grunting and shouting the whole while. They paused for a moment or two each, long enough to look hungrily at the four being brought in. None dared to reach out and touch the new captives. They knew better than to mess with the business of a Balrog.
Maedhros’s thrashing ceased as the Balrog’s firm hand had begun to char through his shoulder.
Beleg stared at him as they walked, the foul-smelling corridor now flavored with a hint of burning flesh. “He’ll walk, you know,” he said quietly. “You don’t need to hold him like that.”
The Balrog looked at him in confusion.
Beleg shook slightly but spoke up louder. “You can put him down! He’ll walk for you just fine!”
The Balrog stopped and dropped Maedhros to the ground. He immediately folded himself into a tight ball, shaking with the pulse of a heartbeat elevated beyond rationale. Before Beleg could run to him, the Balrog pressed his charcoal foot down upon Maedhros’ leg, applying the full force of his fire.
Beleg could not tell if the shriek that followed was from Maedhros’s voice or simply the boiling sizzle off skin sliding off bone.
The balrog lifted him back up. “No, he cannot walk.”
Beleg, too, found himself unable to walk. He stood in place, unmoving, staring at Maedhros’s form, the fine blue fabric of his pants pressed into the black-and-crimson mess that was once his right leg. Even if they did survive Angband, he would have to explain this to Fingon. How he talked to a Balrog and his friend paid the cost. Beleg glanced briefly at his own leg. It was in perfect shape. His own leg should have been the one ruined, he thought to himself. He saw merit in Beren’s plan- it did allow them entry to Angband undisturbed- but could not bear seeing more of this. Luthien was quiet. Luthien clearly knew not to speak so rudely to such evil. Why couldn’t he have been quiet as well? He stood there still, paralyzed by guilt and fear, at shock with what he saw.
Luthien gently grabbed his arm and lead him onwards. He followed. She was right. He had to move. He had a task to complete. Besides, he did not want to be left alone with whatever crawled that hall. He put his palm on the hilt of Anglachel, readying himself in the case of any other violence. The sword gave off such an odd feel to him. Power, perhaps, but it also seemed to scream against and for every touch, as if it were both starving and rabid. A tap along its blade made it sing. He had never before felt a blade so hungry, and it horrified him. He could not see why Maedhros was so fond of it. He looked to Beren, curious how he was regarding the situation. By far, Beren was the most appealing man he had ever seen. Though surprisingly short, at least by elven standards, he was thickly muscled. His short beard framed his dark face in a way that made it immediately apparent why he caught Luthien’s eye. Even so, Beren too seemed burdened with the heaviness of Angband. The radiant smile that Luthien so dearly loved was absent from his face. He walked slightly hunched over, as if in an effort to minimize his visibility to each orc or troll he passed. He was by no means craven, but even he knew to avoid confrontation with what he could not fight. Did Beren feel guilt? Did he see what had happened? Did he blame himself for this, too? Only Luthien remained steadfast. He wished to take Beren’s hand in his own, just as Luthien had, and together share their grief.
They arrive in Morgoth’s throne room. The ceiling was high, too high, high enough that its extent was blurred from view by a cluster of the thick dark clouding. Twisted iron structures climbed up the walls. Perhaps they were intends to be trees, or in mockery of trees, but to Beleg they look far more like a gnarled hand or the reach of a mold spreading through food. A snake climbed up one. Or perhaps it was a trickle of some thick liquid. Or perhaps merely a shadow. The darkness of the room made it hard to tell. The only illumination, aside from the Balrog, came from the Silmarils themselves.
To the side of the room was a black marble desk. Behind it sat a chair, uninhabited.
Luthien stared at them with an intensity she did not know she possessed. These were the jewels her father determined her worth with. These were the jewels that her friends had died over. Were they worth it? The more she stared, the more she considered that they were. Their light was not anything comparable to that of the stars or fires she knew so well. It seemed alive, physical, almost like a liquid pouring through the air. Her father had told her stories of the Trees of Valinor, and their odd flowing light. She wondered if the Silmarils matched them in that regard. They did not have a clear golden glow to them. The Silmarils emitted an entire range of colors, smoothly progressing from the deepest blues to the hottest reds to colors unnamable. Her mouth hung open in desire as her feet unconsciously walked her towards them. So drowned in the light were they that she did not even notice Morgoth himself, until he spoke.
“What have you brought me, Gothmog?” His voice shook her head. Did she hear it? Did it go through her ears? Or did it simply appear there? She had never met a Vala before. Could they do that? She looked at her two companions, wondering if they heard the same. Their faces confirmed it.
Gothmog tossed Maedhros forward towards his throne.
Maedhros left a skid of crisp dead flesh on the floor where he fell. He quickly pulled himself up to his knees. To his dismay, he was unable to walk. There was not much left of his leg below the right knee. He did manage a crawl, however.
“Crawling back to me, Maitimo?” Morgoth exhaled in the same method of voice. It rang in his mind but left no echo upon the halls themselves. Maedhros stopped his movement. He remembered the voice, how sharply it stung. “What brings you here?” His gaze held him like a rip tide. “Do you cower so easily?”
At this, Luthien stepped in front of Maedhros and spoke to Morgoth herself. She reached her hand to him and placed it on his burnt shoulder, healing the slightly, unseen. It offered little physical help, but the gesture of kindness calmed him slightly. He trusted her. She knew this.
“He did not come here of his own accord.” She declared. “He is a prisoner of Doriath, and we have brought him here for negotiations.”
“Come closer,” Morgoth demanded.
She obliged, stepping away from Maedhros. Closer, now, she could see his throne in greater detail. His face was still obscured entirely by the brightness of the Silmarils. His bare legs looked like granite. Was it bluish? Reddish? She could not tell under the kaleidoscopic glimmer of the Silmarils. At his feet were a cluster of elves chained by their necks to the leg of his throne. All corpses. Some were already picked down to wet red skeletons, but what vermin she knew not. Others had larger bites taken out of them. A large wolf lay asleep to the right of his throne, the fur around its jaw matted with sticky blood. She had never witnessed such a smell, both metallic and earthy, crisp and rotting. She looked to her feet and there, too, found a thick sludge- evidence of deaths she wished to not think of. She looked over her shoulder to verify that Beleg and Beren were still alive. She had a vision of them, too, unliving on the floor before the dark lord. To her relief, they were very much alive, standing next to each other, arms intertwined. Maedhros likewise held breath in his lungs. None of the three had met any such fates.
Morgoth examined her and she, too, now felt the full weight of his stare, even if she could not see his eyes. Despite being fully robed, she felt naked before him.
“What is your name, child. Who are you. Who accompanies you.”
“I am Luthien, Princess of Doriath. Those two are guards of Doriath.” She spoke each word with complete certainty, as if she were reciting her alphabet. “We bring you Maedhros, son of Feanor, Prince of the Noldor, slayer of Sauron, as an offering for your good will and alliance.”
“Slayer of Sauron.”
At this, Morgoth rose from his throne and walked over to Maedhros.
Maedhros pulled himself upright as best he could, his broken muscles trembling under his weight. He looked at Melkor and smiled. If here were to meet death, he would not give Melkor the satisfaction of breaking him this time. “Didn’t think I’d come back to bother you, Morgoth? I told you I’d kill that fucking monster.”
“You admit to it. It was you. You captured Mairon, and you slayed him?”
Maedhros made brief eye contact with Luthien at these words. He saw fear flash across her face and understood. “Yes. It was me who seized him from Tol Sirion and me who delivered him to the abyss. He won’t be coming back anytime soon. He was a bitch right till the end. Neat, isn’t it? That your dirty little slave survived and killed him for you? Did you expect that, in your great wisdom ? Did you fear me? You should have. And you should still. I’m going to kill you one day too, Morgoth. You’re going to die at my hand. Eru knows neither of us will rest until I do! You’re going to die! You’re going to die!” he shouted. He flicked his blood-slicked hand at Morgoth, splattering some of it at his face. He knew such boldness would have consequences. But how he loved to feel Morgoth’s mind hesitate in terror. He refused to cower outwardly, even if his heart felt like the shattering of a million glasses.
Morgoth restrained himself and did not yell a response. He merely focused, and send a sharp pulse of pain through Maedhros’s body. Nothing especially showy. Simply a reminder of his own capabilities.
Maedhros screamed and curled inwards on himself reflexively.
Beleg wished to rush forward but did not. He remembered how that went with Gothmog. He would not repeat such impulsiveness.
Luthien, however, did. She slid herself into the narrow gap between Maedhros and Morgoth. “You shall not kill him!” she yelled. “He is not to die here! He is part of our barter, he is not yours yet! No more!”
He took a step back, impressed by her spirit. It reminded him of his late lieutenant. It reminded him of the unbroken elves he encountered at the beginning of the first age. And he loved it.
“My dear,” he said, solely to her this time, “he will not die here. He will not die now. He will die farther away, and in due time.” He looked upwards. “Gothmog. Take the wretch away from here. Cell 6-E-west shall do nicely. Strip him of his weapons.”
Maedhros attempted to crawl away, but a swift kick from Melkor was enough to stop his movement entirely. Gothmog quite easily picked him up and carried him out from the hall. The door slammed loudly behind him.
“Ensure his safety! He is not yours!” Luthien demanded.
“Little Luthien, I own everything in this fortress. Including you!” he cooed.
She gritted her teeth in disgust. She wanted to yell at him, as Maedhros had, scream forebodings of his death and her resistance. But she could not bear the thought over another limp body on the ground, another friend turned to burnt meat, because of an outburst. She had to find another way.
“Luthien.” He said. “ Luthien. ” He tasted the words upon his tongue and delighted in how they felt. “It means daughter of flowers , does it not, in your little language? And are flowers not meant to be plucked?”
Maedhros’s words were fresh in Beren’s mind. He saw Morgoth and saw what might come to pass. He tried to move towards her, but Beleg held him back. Luthien shot him a quick smile, and at this he calmed.
“Perhaps they are not to be trampled immediately underfoot.” Morgoth continued. “The softness of their petals might find better use, how rare and lovely they are. Little flower, you are honey-sweet, and I will not dispose of you so quickly, though you will eventually lose your delicacy.”
Luthien screamed internally but retained her calm demeanor. “My lord Melkor, may I offer something more?”
“I grant you permission.”
“I sing, my lord.”
“Plenty of elves sing.”
“I am not like plenty of elves. I am part maia. I can sing as the maiar do.”
Morgoth’s mind immediately remembered his lieutenant’s penchant for song. He missed it. “Please demonstrate.” He traversed back to his throne and sat down, anticipating Luthien’s performance.
With a grin, she threw her cloak to the floor and began to sing.
My design for Angband's interior is based off Tolkien's drawing of it. The weird tree-things and little Sauron-desk are canon.
Morgoth's weird words on flower and honey are, likewise, taken from the canon conversation he had with Luthien.
Chapter 18: The Cell
Gothmog dragged Maedhros down the hallway to the east. He knew it too well. With each step further, more came back to him. A certain unremarkable curve of the rock reignited a memory. A small chip in the smooth floor, another. Passing orcs looked at him too knowingly. Hundreds of years in time, hundreds of hours of Fingon talking to him, it had all pushed away such thoughts far beyond where he had to confront them, like a ship sunken and lost to the bottom of an ocean. Now, however, it all started coming back like a rush of water through a broken dam. Sauron was dead. He killed Sauron. Sauron was dead. Sauron was gone. None of this was gone. None of this was dead. The halls still stank in their wretched humidity. Morgoth still sat upon his throne.
Ahead, he saw an orc leading a group of three changed elves. Their black-dirtied arms made it clear they were being retrieved from mine work. Each had eyes that looked like river rocks, rib bones far too prominent, and legs that could hardly support their weight. Thier hair was short and thin, their faces gaunt, their gait nothing more than a death-rattle. One of them wheezed and paused their walk. It succumbed to a fit of coughing, each outburst splattering a mist of blood out its mouth. Maedhros had seen this before. So had the orcs. One raised their brown-rusted machete and immediately cut down the elf. There was no room in Angband for such a thing as it. Deprived of all beauty, willpower, and strength, they had no better role than to lay dead in the corridor, waiting for some other creature to come devour it. The poor thing didn’t so much as scream. A moment was all it took. A few hacks of a rough orc-blade, and it was extinguished.
Maedhros pressed his eyes shut. The image burned into them like a fingernail pressing against his pupil. He knew it was nothing special. Nothing irregular. Perhaps that’s why it hurt. It was too common. He forgot how that happened here. How elves were swatted away like flies. He did not want to remember it. He wanted to ignore it.
As the other two elves in the mining group were led past him, one shouted his name. “Maedhros? Lord Maedhros?” The hall grew quiet at the mention of his name.
He wanted to yell “No!” and curl away from it. He did not want foul things to know of his presence. But, then again, did it matter? He opened his eyes. The elf in front of him had its stone-eyes open so widely in wonder. Everyone was so curious . Did it truly matter what he said? Morgoth had death in store for him either way. There would be no difference in the wrath dealt. Why not bask in the fear his name could inflict so well in orcs?
“Yes,” he declared, in the most kingly voice he could muster, “Yes, it’s me.”
“Tell me of the Noldor!” the elf spat out quickly, excitedly. “Tell me!”
The orc pulled at its chain. It stayed there. Maedhros knew this would earn it lashing, but so important was tidings of the noldor to it, that such a threat mattered little.
Maedhros looked up at it and gave an answer. “No stars have faded, my friend, and the Noldor live in glory.”
With a stronger yank, the elf was dragged away, its sunken, greyed face now adorned with a grin. Perhaps it would die, too, like its companion. But it would die knowing not all had fallen to darkness. Maedhros clung to the same belief. He was going to die. He knew this. He had expected it since landing at Losgar, his first day in Beleriand, that fate would carry him away soon enough. But perhaps he could die in peace, knowing Luthien had strength over Morgoth, that good souls like Beleg and Beren held their dear lands under vigilant protection. Sauron was dead. Nothing was different. This was true. But, perhaps, evil could never be fully murdered. It would merely be held quiet, painted over, by the kindness people like Luthien could provide. Evil would live on forever. But it did not have to dominate.
Behind him, Maedhros heard a stumble and the metallic swish of the orc drawing its machete again. This time, there was a scream. He did not look behind him to see which of the two elves had fallen. He did not need to.
He closed his eyes again and tried to picture anywhere else. Valinor. He tried to remember Valinor. Grass soft like silk strands. Air sweet like honeysuckle. But he could not form a memory in any entirety. The trees. His father’s forge. The light. The light on his necklace. The necklace he still wore. Quickly, with the hand he had left, he undid its clasp and tucked it safely into his mouth. He knew they would undress him, but he would not let them take it this time. It would stay with his corpse, hopefully long enough for Beleg to find it.
Death would not be horrid. His shoulder and leg were ruined. He already only had one hand. His hroa was horribly over-worn. It was about time to get a new one. Eventually. Would he truly be confined to the void, to everlasting darkness, as he had proclaimed in his oath? Would Manwe do that? Would Eru? He was not sure. He hoped not. He would, however, prefer the void in its nothingness over Angband’s unwanted pervasiveness. He’d miss Beleg. He’d miss Fingon. And Maglor. Even Celegorm and Curufin. Music, too, he’d miss. Food. He did enjoy honey, biscuits, cheeses, fish. There wouldn’t be any of that in the void. He decided not to think of such things. The void was a welcoming hug. A final release. Where else could he find solace from the torments of the path he was cursed to? The void was not a punishment. It was his most fitting partner.
Partner. He recalled how, in the beginning of the first age, Thingol had toyed with the idea of marrying Luthien to Maedhros. A union of the two houses, a beloved rejoining of Elu and Finwe’s lines. No such union came to pass. Thingol made other requests which Maedhros did follow. He wondered, however, how different things could have been if he and Luthien did wed. She was the finest lady he had ever met. Her renowned beauty paled in comparison to her fea. So strong, we was, and yet almost childlike in her naivety and optimism. The darkness of Beleriand had not yet singed her. With a song, she could sooth his aching scars and set peace upon his turmoiled dreams. She did not look at him as if he were ruined. Yes, he could have very easily loved her. She made flowers grow on barren lands. Perhaps he would have found joy with her. Perhaps the Valar would have dealt to the Noldor more kindness. Perhaps Doriath would have aided them in their battles. He could have married her. He should have married her. It would not have been ideal, but they would have been happy. They would have been safe. Perhaps he would not have made the best husband for her. She did have Beren now, and Beren could be everything she needed, and she was happy. Perhaps this was best. Morgoth better not hurt her.
Gothmog finished dragging him to his cell. There, an orc quickly stripped off the remainder of his clothes. There was not much. A remainder of his fur coat. Some scraps of his blue shirt and pants. His boots. A knife he kept on him. It was methodical. Routine. It was nothing new, but it was no longer a remnant of the past either. To his relief, the orcs’ hands were not indulgent. Additionally, his mouth was not checked. The necklace remained safe.
He was flung into the cell and the door was locked behind him with a simple click. Both the orc and Gothmog promptly departed. Alone, he surveyed the familiar room. It was entirely unlit. He removed the necklace from his mouth and refastened it around his neck. Its faint blue glow was not enough to conquer the inky-thick darkness. A simple crawl around the room, however, was enough to survey it.
He knew the room. He had been there before. In the corner was a rough wooden bench. He crawled over to it. Its edge was still sticky with a fresh splotch of thick blood. It smelled horrendous. Above it hung a measure of clasps and chains. Caught in the wall behind it was a curl of blond hair. Maedhros grasped the hair between his fingers and examined it. It was too pale to be of Finarfin’s house, he determined. But did it matter? Some elf had been here not too long before. He wondered what had become of it. Was it relocated? Killed? Did it matter? Did it matter? Did it matter?
He curled himself on the ground underneath the bench. The space was tight, but large enough to give him some semblance of cover. He knew no one was present. The rest of the room was entirely empty. There was no immediate concern. Still, he prefered the small bit of shielding. It made him feel less naked. He hated being naked.
He lay there, waiting, refusing to let his mind process any thoughts. He tapped the leg of the bench and drowned himself entirely in that action. He invested each sense into the texture of the wood, the firm sound of the tap, the dark brown of the wood. Nothing else mattered. Nothing else was allowed to matter.
Could he blame Beren for being here? No, no, Beren made a sound choice, one that carried the other three to safety. Maedhros considered how steadily Luthien furthered the decision. She made no hesitance in giving him to Morgoth. He could not hate her for it. She was safe.
Make it worth it, Luthien. He thought to himself. You better get those fucking Silmarils .
Tapping the same inch of wood did not occupy his attention well enough. His burnt leg and shoulder felt abraised by the air itself. The room smelled salty, metallic. with the sweet tinge of sweat and rotting fruit. He knew what was coming. Orcs. Orcs would come into the room, into him. Perhaps they would bring knives or whips. Nothing unusual. Nothing that mattered.
He decided he would be unable to handle it, both in fea and hroa. He did not want this. He would not endure it. Maedhros raised his left hand and examined the nails on it. They were short, but thick and strong enough. He began to claw at his throat, desperate to break the skin open, to sever the blood flow there, and to let his life bleed out of him. He would deny Morgoth the pleasure of killing him. Maedhros scratched frantically to no avail and paused. He remembered his previous stay in Angband, and in that particular cell. He could not die. No elf could die by their own hand in those halls. He had tried before and failed, his fea locked still by cruel enchantments. Certainly he would fail again.
He would die in Angband, but perhaps on his own terms. When the next guard came, he resolved, he would fight to his entire capability until one of the two lay dead. If he was the victor, he would simply wait for the next tormentor to visit him and repeat the struggle. Eventually he would find swift death in one of them. Now he merely had to wait.
Death had hunted him for hundreds of years. He had prayed for it to take him swiftly for just as long. He craved it, dreamed of it, longed to wed it. Now, however, that it had come to seize him, he feared its grasp.
Death was not what he wanted, he realized. He wanted peace. He wanted to wear soft blue nightclothes, to continue his greenhouse botanical archives, to hold Fingon in his arms, to enjoy the taste of wine. He wanted to live. He wanted a life, just not the one he was doomed to.
He began to weep.
Beren was not to blame for putting him either. Neither was Luthien. Or Thingol. It was himself, his own oath, his own curse. Or perhaps it was his father’s oath. Was it Morgoth? Eru? Where could the blame be pinned. Who destined him to this. Did it matter? Did it matter? Did it matter? Did it matter?
Nothing mattered. Nothing existed. Just the slow drip of heavy tears onto the thick stone floor. His eyes grew red and swollen. Maybe Morgoth would kill him. Maybe an orc would. He did not care. He just wanted everything to be over. He was tired. He clutched his left hand around his necklace and said a quick prayer to Varda, the same one he spoke at knowledge of Finrod’s death. Bear this soul lightly, or let it join you in the stars .
The door to his cell creaked open slowly. He was ready.
If he was going to die, he was going to take out as many of Morgoth’s foul servants as he could.
The creature took a few shuffling steps towards him. Maedhros, with the remainder of his strength, lunged at its side, hoping to find a weapon there. His hand found the blade of a sword and, with a firm grasp, yanked it from him. With adrenaline smoothed speed, he pulled himself up to his knee and swung it with his good arm. With a horrid wetness and a crunch, sword went through the creature’s head. Maedhros fell backwards, satisfied with but strained by the effort.
He was surprised how sharp the sword was. Rusty orc blades had so much resistance in their cuts, but this blade was not slowed at all. In fact, there was no resistance in the stroke at all. It was clean. Too clean. Just like Anglachel- Anglachel! He felt the sword further in his hands, checking for the familiar shape of the hilt. It was indeed Anglachel.
In disgusted reflex, he dropped it to the floor in front of him. He looked down at it. The blue feanorian light dangling from his necklace in front of him provided just enough light for him to see that the blade was indeed black, and that it had fallen onto a set of red boots.
He carried his gaze upwards. This creature was no creature of Morgoth. It was a Sindarin elf, black hair, black tunic, blue trousers, red boots, Beleg.
Maedhros screamed. He shouted his name, again and again.
He tried to stand up to see him but his leg was too damaged. He pulled Beleg’s body, knocking it over to the ground. Anglachel had struck true, severing his head at the neck, and upon impact it rolled off like a fruit fallen from a tree. Maedhros shook his body and screamed his name. He was both alive and dead. Blood ran in rivers from his body, writing his life across the floor in red ink. The body itself twitched and jerked slightly like a flag in the wind. Maedhros simply stared and screamed. Orcs could hear him. Orc would come soon. It did not matter. It did not matter.
He frantically scrambled for his head and grabbed it in his hand. He looked at Beleg’s eyes, still wide open. They blinked. He dropped it.
He remembered how, in the spun webs of Angband’s sorcery, the fea sometimes lingered before departing. He saw this now in Beleg. He could not survive like this. Not naturally. But this was no naturally place, and his fea lay caged in his terminated hroa, smashing at the edges like a caged bird, crazed.
Maedhros knew what he had to do. He acted quickly. He took Anglachel and drove it through Beleg, again and again, as he did with Sauron only days ago, until the body ceased to move and he was certain that Beleg had been released. The shrieking of the sword mingled with Maedhros’s own shouts just as Beleg’s blood merged with Maedhros’s own leaking injuries.
Finished, he sat shaking next to the corpse. It was unrecognizable. He did not care. It did not matter. He draped himself over Beleg’s body in a tight embrace and wept onto his chest. The wet blood stained his bare chest. He refused to move. Beleg was not there. Why hug what was left of him? He did not know. Did it matter? It was not fair. This was not the life that Angband was supposed to take. It was not fair.
The sobs contorted his body.
Beleg did not have his arrow. What would he bring to Basreth? What would he bear out of Angband? He found Beleg’s head again and stared at it. The eyes did not blink this time. They remained open. His mouth hung limp as if in a permanent slack-jawed gasp. Maedhros could not stare at it longer. He kissed Beleg’s forehead, then clutched the head tight to his chest like he would an infant.
They didn’t forget him. They didn’t sacrifice him. They had sent Beleg to fetch him.
He closed his own eyes and pretended to not exist.
The door swang open again. He did not care if it was orcs. Orcs would be a welcome change.
Beren walked in through the door. In his arms was a large black bundle, glowing ever so slightly. He knew that glow. The Silmarils. Morgoth’s crown. Their shine dimmed under a wrapping of Luthien’s cloak. Right after him walked in Luthien.
“What is this,” Beren demanded. “Where is Beleg. Who’s that.” He pointed to the oozing body.
Maedhros looked up at him but had no answer.
Beren spoke louder. “Maedhros. What is this. What happened.”
Maedhros looked at Anglachel. Beren quickly picked it up and saw that it dripped red onto his hand. He looked at the body, closer, and the head in Maedhros’s lap. He understood.
“Beleg is dead.” Maedhros answered in a whisper. “I killed him.”
Beren looked at Luthien in desperation. He drew his own sword, prepared to kill Maedhros.
Luthien shook her head and stepped in front of him. He rested her hand on Maedhros’s shoulder and hummed a series of soft notes. Maedhros dropped immediately into a sleep. She bent low, put one hand under the bend of his knees and the other behind his back. She lifted him this way and carried him back out the door. Beren followed and together they walked back out of Angband’s halls.
Maedhros awoke in a narrow bed in some sort of small stone room. His right hand was cuffed to the metal frame of the cot.
Angband. He was still in Angband?
He curled himself upwards slightly to look around the room. From each of the four walls hung a large, ornate oil lamp, glowing with warm gold. Most importantly, however, was the wall across from him. Slumped asleep in a rocking chair sat Luthien. No, this was not Angband. He was somewhere else. He yanked his arm slightly against the cuff.
He shouted her name. “Luthien! Luthien!”
She woke immediately and walked over to his bed. “Lord Maedhros?”
“Luthien where the fuck are we.”
“Not sure. Some sort of elf-fortress. Beren said his father had spoken of one in this region and we went to it. I’m sorry we’re not back in Doriath yet. Your leg was bleeding horribly and I thought you would surely die. I tried to help you, I did, but I was so horribly tired out, I couldn’t do it all myself, I couldn’t, I’m sorry, I-.”
“Yes. The one Gothmog ruined.”
Maedhros remembered now. He looked down at his own legs and found one to be quite shorter than the other. It was cut off at the knee and surrounded by bandages. He looked back up at her in horror.
“Yes, I’m sorry. He did burn nearly the whole thing off. All the muscle, a lot of the bone. I did try to fix it! I did, I promise you! But it was dead and it had to go, according to the healer here. I cannot undo death, Maedhros.”
Maedhros stared at it.
“Surely your nephew can make a replacement for it? Tilep? The one you speak of so fondly, the one who made your hand.”
“Yes! Surely Tyelpe can make a new one.”
“Luthien, why am I cuffed to this bed?” Once again, he pulled his arm weakly at the restraint.
“Beren thought you were going to kill us.”
Maedhros sighed. “Why…”
“You don’t remember? What happened to Beleg? He thought you’d gone mad.”
Maedhros paled. “Beleg? What happened to Beleg?”
“Oh.” Luthien said quietly. She grasped her hands together in front of her.
“Luthien tell me what happened. What’s going on.”
“He died in Angband. You-”
Maedhros remembered. He remembered the warmth of his blood and the emptiness of his wide eyes. He remembered the too-smooth swing of his sword. And he froze.
She looked at him and saw this. Her mind summoned up no condolences, instead choosing to babble in guilt. “I’m sorry. It was my fault, really. I shouldn’t have let you go alone. I should have remembered how Angband is different for you. It was cruel for me to send you down there like that. I shouldn’t have let Beleg run ahead of us. We should have been more careful around you…”
More careful around him. He remembered that. How volatile he was. How uncontrollable. She spoke so timidly, as if she were negotiating with an attacker. He did not blame her. He did kill Beleg, didn’t he? It was no cruel nightmare. Be more careful around him. Yes. Keep him cuffed to a bed and treat him like a rabid animal. He wouldn’t protest it.
“Maedhros I’m sorry.”
He looked up at her. “I thought he was an orc. I didn’t mean...I, well….I loved him, you know.” He tried to sink himself further into the mattress, as if that was sufficient to make him disappear.
“I did too.” She sat on the edge of his bed and touched his hand gently with hers.
“ Don’t touch me ,” he snapped. She recoiled as if she had been bitten. “Undo this cuff. I feel like an animal in it.”
She stroked a finger along it and whispered a few notes. It unlocked with a click.
He pulled his hand onto his chest and held it there, happily assured that it was still perfectly intact. At least one piece of him was , he joked to himself.
Maedhros looked at Luthien. She was kneeling next to the cot, discouraged from sitting on it due to his outburst. Her short black hair was knotted and frizzy. Were there strong winds here? She wore the same blue garments she had one when he encountered her in the previous days. They were slightly dirtied. For once in her life, she smelled unpleasant. Had she not bathed? Had she not been offered other clothes?
“Luthien, how long have you been sleeping there?”
“We’ve been here for a week.”
“How long have you been here.”
“A week. Like I said.”
“No, I mean, in this room. In that chair.”
“You’ve been sitting there all week? Watching me sleep?”
“No! Well- yes, a little bit. I thought you were going to die.”
“So you sat here watching me sleep?”
“No, I sat here singing and keeping you asleep. When you woke up, you’d scream a lot. I think your leg hurt.”
“Of course it hurt! But all week?”
“If you were going to die, wouldn’t it have been my fault? I’m the one whose father needed the Silmaril. I’m the one who told Melkor to seize you.”
“And I’m the one who volunteered to come,” he offered. “I hold you at no fault.”
She smiled weakly.
He looked at the cuff lock again. “You can undo locks?”
He tapped it with his index finger. “You can collapse buildings. You can cause your hair to grow immensely. You can put people to sleep. You can heal wounds. You can undo locks. You can make flowers grow at your feet...I’ve seen all this. Or heard tales of it. Have you considered doing more?” He pried eagerly. “Do you know how much you can do?”
“Can you erase memories?”
“I’ve never wanted to.”
“Maedhros Feanorian, I remind you that I was born before Feanor himself. Just because I have not joined battles of your sort does not mean I have not seen tragedy. But no, I do answer to you, no. I have never wanted to erase memories. Why forget?”
“To forget is to restart. I want to forget Beleg.”
“You want to forget all of him? He was a kind man. You want to forget how he would-”
“Luthien will you shut up? Yes. All of him. I know he was kind. A lot of people are kind. Erase all of him. Ideally erase everything I have, but I understand that would be too much effort for one day.”
She stood up and glared at him. “None of us enjoy pain. None of us want to have to grieve. But you know what, Lord Maedhros? You need endure, maybe.”
“I’m done enduring. I just want to be done.”
She walked back to her chair across the room and stood by it. “You’re ungrateful. You have no idea how much people care for you. I know you want to die. But have you considered that people love you? I didn’t carry you sixty miles from Angband just for you to lie here and tell me how much you wish you didn’t exist. Do you think Beleg would want that?”
“Don’t you fucking bring him into this.”
“I will! Because maybe you’ll listen to him- or the memory of him! I’m not doing to erase your mind. I don’t even know if I can. You’re important.”
“I killed Beleg.”
“You made a mistake under dire circumstances.”
“He’s dead, Luthien.”
“I know! I know he’s dead!” she yelled. “Do you think I don’t know this? I’ve known him longer than you have! I know him better than you do! Or, I, well, I knew him better than you did ! I loved him too!” She caught herself in her anger. “My father told me when elves die, they simply go to Valinor. He’s in Valinor, and I’m sure he’ll be fine there. I’ll miss him, but he’s fine. You have to accept that.”
Maedhros thought of Anglachel and the damage it did to Beleg’s fea. He chose not to mention this.
Luthien continued. “Maedhros, you know we have the Silmarils. And I need to make sure your brothers don’t kill us over them. We need you alive and composed for that.”
“Maybe I’ll kill you over them. Maybe you should recuff my hand.”
“Oh, shut up! Really! Do shut up!” as she grew frustrated, her face scrunched slightly. Her hands, likewise, found themselves forming rudimentary fists.
He looked at her and saw fear. She knew fear, yes, and grief too. But this was a girl who had never been allowed leave from her forest, confined to a life a dance and forced naivety. She was incredibly strong, yes, but she had been thrust into a position that could not be expected of her. Years ago, she had not yet met death. Now, her and her fiance had Finrod and Beleg’s blood on their minds. She had to carry the burden of these fates, three war-sparking jewels, Maedhros’s own curse, Beren’s oath, and fear of her own failure. Her goal was merely to marry Beren and live happily, but Thingol had set all these horrors in their path. She was strong, yes, but the strong can be scared too. That he knew well.
He remembered only a week ago, when they had danced under the starlit skies in the audience of crickets and the calm night wind.
He remembered several hundred years ago, when he visited Doriath to pay homage to Thingol and negotiate land rights. She was there, then, too. It had only been a year since Fingon had freed him from Angband, and he was by no means yet healed in mind or body. He remembered screaming in his chambers, waking from his light sleep in fits of nightmares, fearful of what the darkness held. She would hear him on those nights and arrive, bearing with her gifts of song and companionship, ensuring that he was granted peaceful sleep, promising that none would cause him harm in the night. To her, he was not a scar-ridden orc as the other Sindar saw him. He was not a slavish toy, fit for shame and selfish consumption, as Thingol deemed him. He was not a traitor as some of the Noldor called him. To her, he was simply a guest, one deservant of as must respect as any other, and one who needed help. Few were ever as kind as her.
He would gladly do whatever he could to help her in return. He knew that when he decided to join her Silmaril-quest. Here she was again, trying desperately to make things right, and he was proving to be nothing but a bother and a hinderance. He owed her better. She deserved a star-covered world free of Melkor, oaths, curses, and Silmarils.
“Upstairs. He’s collecting food and horses for our journey back to Menegroth. I would like to move quickly and not get waylaid by any orcs or passing robbers who know of the wealth we carry.”
“Whose stronghold are we at?”
“I do not know. This is simply the closest location Beren knew of.”
“Surely you caught a name.”
“Barad Eithel,” she admitted. “The healer said it was called Barad Eithel.”
Maedhros smiled in bewildered glee. “Barad Eithel? Barad Eithel! Luthien! This is Fingon ’s stronghold!” He pulled himself into a sitting position immediately, albeit with a bit of difficulty given the poor condition of his shoulder. “I didn’t even think! You’re correct- his is the closest to the gates, well, not his, it used to be Fingolfin’s, but Fingolfin you see is no longer with us, so Fingon….ah! I don’t care! Luthien! Fingon lives here! Fingon! Does he know I’m here? Has he visited me? Does he know about the Silmarils?”
Luthien interrupted his curious barrage. “No, Beren and I resolved to tell no one of who and what we have with us. We did not know if the elves here were trustworthy. I know you said you have many enemies, and I did not want to risk your well-being if the lord of this fortress saw you in ill will. None can know about the Silmarils. You and them are here in absolute secret. Only the one healer knows.”
“You can trust Fingon with the Silmarils.”
“Can you be sure?”
“Luthien, I have loved Fingon his entire life. I trust him more than myself.”
“That’s not very much.”
He couldn't help but smile at the reemergence of her humor. “Still, he is a valiant man, and the King of the Noldor. There is none you can confide in better than him, and there is nothing I can promise you more soundly. He will be of great aid to us. We must go to him immediately!” He moved himself off the bed in an attempt to stand, but found himself falling flat onto the stone floor. He had forgotten his lack of leg.
“Lord Maedhros, my I aid you? I’m afraid we do not have crutches here yet.”
“You can walk like that?”
She bent down and picked him up. With his good arm slung over her shoulders, he was able to move along, almost as if she herself were the crutch. Closer to her now, he was able note more thoroughly the dishelvement of her hair and clothes. Had she been caring for herself at all?
“Maedhros? Do you know the way around here? I’m afraid I have not explored it myself.”
“Yes. I’ve been here before.”
They moved along out of the room and down hall. She took a brief stop by the office of the healer before leaving the medical wards.
“Ortano?” she asked with a knock on the door. “Ortano?”
Ortano. He remembered that name. Could it possibly be Ortano, the same healer who tended to him immediately after Fingon delivered him from Angband? He considered the prospect. He was, after all, Fingon’s friend and favored healer. It would not be unlike that he came to Barad Eithel along with him.
With an opening of the door and a view of pale gold hair, it became apparent that it was indeed the same man. Maedhros offered him a grin, part in greetings part in thanks.
“Lord Maedhros! I see you’ve recovered quite well!”
He was not sure if this was correct or not, and merely continued to offer his grin. Ortano looked at him in confusion and departed back into his office. Crutches in hand, he returned.
“Here. Use these. Give the poor lady a rest.”
Maedhros gratefully took the crutches and supported himself on them.
“Ortano,” Luthien began, “he is leaving these halls to resume his political business. Is there any salve or treatment he should continue for his leg?”
She spoke on his behalf, as if she were his mother. Though initially offended at this, he quickly realized she had a far better idea of his medical condition than he himself did. He retained his silence.
The healer, again, retreated into the room. This time, he returned with a basket of jars. “Here. Fresh bandages. Tell him to change these regularly. The white jar is a numbing agent, the green one is a healing accelerator. He’s used them before, I’m sure. He’ll know what to do.”
Maedhros had, in fact, seen them before. They were staples in each soldier’s kit, always on hand for treating the marks of battle.
“With proper rest and treatment, he should be fine within a month.” He looked at Maedhros directly this time. “However, this is no ordinary elf. I was the one who patched up his chopped-off wrist, you know, and he’s my worst patient. He never lets it rest! Always fiddling with it. ‘Oh, don’t move from your bed, your ribs are misaligned’ I told him. And he leaves his bed for a jog! A jog! Can you believe this? I sent him to Doriath back then all bandaged up properly, with promises that he’d keep himself resting and not exercising, and he came back with more fractures and muscle strains than he began with!” He huffed loudly in disapproval. “Lady, make sure he follows instructions. He never does!”
“I’ll follow them,” Maedhros grumbled.
“Yeah, sure you will! Sure as Arien will forget to shine!”
Maedhros shifted from his grin to a glare.
Luthien interjected. “Thank you, sir. I’ll make sure he lets himself heal.”
“You better! I don’t want to see him again in a week with a burned hand or something like that!”
“I’ll keep him away from stoves and all, yes, thank you.”
“I’m no child!” Maedhros complained. “I can keep myself away from stoves. No, I don’t need to be kept from stoves at all! I’m mindful enough to avoid harm. I’m not going to idiotically hurt myself. I’m sound in mind. Don’t worry.”
Luthien looked at Ortano in desperation.
The healer rolled his eyes. “Have fun with your politics! And do let that leg heal. I did fine work on it! With patience, it will turn out flawlessly!”
“Thank you, Ortano. You’re very generous.”
“I’m not generous. I’m being paid for this. Taxes don’t just disappear, you know.”
Maedhros smiled again. “Well, then, I offer my thanks to the citizens of Hitlum and their attendance to taxes.”
“Oh, no, I quite deserve the thanks still! Don’t give them that !”
“I’ll give you both thanks! Ha!”
Luthien tugged on Maedhros’s sleeve slightly. “We ought to go. Whatever you have to tell Fingon, we must hurry. We cannot afford to spend many more weeks here.”
“Naturally.” Outfitted with his new crutches, Maedhros paced himself behind her walk.
The advanced down corridors, up stairs, and at every turn towards Fingon’s halls that Maedhros instructed.
“Are you sure that he would be in his personal chambers?” Luthien asked. “It’s daytime. Shouldn’t he be in a throne room?”
“He sleeps through day and works at night. The enemy always strikes at night, have you noticed? It’s best to be more on guard then.”
At last, Maedhros brought them to where Fingon dwelt. His personal guards immediately recognized him and let him through.
“Is it quite alright to be in his chambers at such an hour? This seems highly unprofessional.”
“Luthien, I’ve been in his chambers all the time.”
She raised an eyebrow.
“No! Not like that! I mean, yes, well, yes, but, no. I mean, we’re close friends. We’re cousins. We were raised together. It’s not peculiar at all for me to someone like me to visit his room.”
“He’ll be asleep, won’t he?”
“I can wake him up.”
“That seems rude.”
“Luthien, we just got back from an encounter with Morgoth. You somehow managed to steal all three Silmarils. Someone aside from him did an amputation on me. I think, under the circumstances, he wouldn’t mind being woken.”
Maedhros pushed open the door to where Fingon slept.
"Ortano" was invented by my dear friend FossilizedGrablin. He's mentioned briefly in her Maedhros-back-from-Angband fic "The Return" and I was given permission to use him again here as a nod to it.
Chapter 20: Fingon
Maedhros walked over to Fingon’s sleeping figure and prepared to wake him. He looked around the room first, hesitant to disturb his sleep. Stone walls painted over blue. Soft leather chairs. A dresser set of some marbled wood. He looked back at Fingon, illuminated by the fragments of sunlight that made their way through the thick curtains. His black braids, still gold-woven, were sprawled across his pillow. He slept face down, covered up to the neck in a down blanket. What right did he have to wake him? Here, he slept, half a smile on his unconscious face, utterly unaware of the world. What better state would there be? And how cruel, thus, would it be to remove him from it?
He reminded himself that no matter how tranquil sleep is, the matters at hand commanded worthy attention. Sleep cannot be enjoyed forever. He gave Fingon a shove.
“Findekano. Findekano. ” He shoved him again.
Fingon moaned and curled himself further under the blanket.
“Findekano, you idiot, it’s me. Wake up.”
He moaned louder in complaint.
Luthien looked over at them in confusion.
Maedhros, getting tired of the wait, shook Fingon with deliberate force.
Fingon let one of his arms creep out from under the blankets and grab Maedhros. He yanked him down onto the bed. Maedhros, still on his crutches, fell without much resistance.
“Finno what are you-”
Fingon pulled him into a tight hug placed a kiss on his cheek. He mumbled some sort of half-asleep joys and kept him held tight. Maedhros flinched in pain, his burnt shoulder inflamed by Fingon’s grip. Feeling this reaction, Fingon released him. He sat up in bed and the blankets fell off him, revealing his nakedness.
“Sorry about that, Nelyo. Kind of you to pay be a visit, really! I was rather excited, excuse me.” He shed off his sleep with a yawn and a stretch of his arms. “Must I really be woken up at such an hour, though?” he asked with a grin. “Surely you could have let me at least sleep until night!”
“I’m afraid I can’t.”
Fingon’s face dropped the grin. “This is serious, isn’t it? Dammit Nelyo. Here I was, thinking you were paying me a friendly visit, I should have known better, it’s war again isn’t it?”
“It’s, ah, Silmarils actually.”
“Fuck. I hate those. What’s the issue now? Are you going off to reclaim them? Maedhros, I swear, if you think you’re going to go to Angband to fetch them, if you think you’re going to ask me to do that, I’m going to tie you down here until you’re in your right mind again. That better not be what’s going on. Nelyo? Hmm? What is it now?”
“You won’t like this much. We already went to Angband.”
Fingon, at this, stood rapidly and moved over to Maedhros. “Are you hurt? Did they hurt you?” He moved his hands over his body, searching for cuts. He paused at his shoulder. “They hurt you.”
“Check farther down.”
“How much farther? Is it something under your clothes? Why are you wearing a hospital gown, anyways? What is this? Who did this to you?”
“My leg, Finno. I’m missing a leg.”
“Your…” He glanced down and saw. “Eru. Oh, Eru. Eru. Fuck.” His hands began to shake. His knees, trembling, forced him to sit back down on the bed. “Eru. Your leg. Who did this? Who did this?”
“Gothmog. Please, Finno, don’t get upset. It’s bad for my nerves as well. Don’t worry about my leg. Tyelpe can make a prosthetic. Ortano said it would heal soon. I’m not in much pain. Please.”
Fingon stared at Maedhros with dreadful eyes.
“Finno, please, don’t you dare cry. I’ll cry if you cry. Don’t worry about my leg. Please. That’s not what I’m here to talk about. It’s fine. Really. It’s fine. It doesn't matter. I don’t even need my leg! It was ruined in the first place, anyways. Was smashed at the kneecap quite badly a good fifty years ago, hasn’t been the same since, a prosthetic will be fine, you know how well Tyelpe makes them, with the gears and the wires and the tubes, it’ll be fine, maybe even stronger. No orc will be able to shoot my leg if it’s made of metal, now, will they? Finno? Please don’t be upset. Please.” He reached over to cup Fingon’s head with his hand. “I need you not to worry about that right now. There are more pressing matters. Please.”
“Nelyo, you come into my bedchambers while I was asleep. I haven’t seen you in ten years. The first thing I learn is that you’ve been back to Angband and somehow you’ve lost a leg, and this isn’t supposed to upset me? There’s a lot I don’t know right now, and I worry about you. Don’t do such things like-”
“We’ve got the Silmarils.”
Maedhros flinched at the sound.
“Nelyo please tell me you’re joking.”
“It’s true. Ask Luthien.”
“Luthien? The Princess of Doriath?”
Luthien emerged from her still silence with a wave.
Fingon clumsily wrapped his hands around blankets, covering himself in desperation. “I’m sorry for my lack of modesty. I do have good reason, however. It’s faster to stay undressed when unneeded. If there is an orc raid that demands immediate response, I can go from nude to battle-arrayed faster than bedclothes to battle-arrayed.”
“Lord Fingon, I assure you that I am not bothered by what you look like when you sleep. This is your personal chambers, not a formal war room, and I did not expect grand attire. More importantly, Lord Maedhros is quite correct about the Silmarils.”
Fingon lied down across his bed face-first and screamed into the softness of the blankets.
“I’m having a nightmare!” proclaimed his muffled voice. “A nightmare! None of this should be real. The Princess of Doriath should not be in my bedchambers. Maedhros needs his leg. How are there Silmarils?”
“I can tell you the story, my Lord.”
Fingon responded with more bewildered grunting at the bed.
Maedhros sat himself down in one of the large leather chairs Fingon’s room held, giving his arms a break from the crutches. “Please, Luthien, I think it would best to explain. I haven’t heard the story myself. Best be brief, though.”
Fingon sat up, attentive.
“My father did not approve of my choice in husband,Beren. He sent him on an impossible journey to fetch a Silmaril. Maedhros is of the belief that this was an attempt to outsource Beren’s death. I don't know what I believe.” She paused and looked at Maedhros. “Should I include Nargothrond, or move directly to your involvement?”
“Perhaps Nargothrond is a tale for another time.”
She nodded. “Maedhros and Beleg met me at our encampment in the fens of Sirion, offering aid. We all arrived at Angband together.”
“Who is Beleg?” Fingon inquired.
“He’s a warden of Doriath. Good friend of both of ours.” Luthien looked to Maedhros, hoping to see now sadness across his face. “We were escorted past the gates by Gothmog.”
“He’s the one that burned my leg,” Maedhros interjected. “You’ve met him.”
“Nasty fellow.” Fingon agreed.
“Inside, Morgoth gave orders for Maedhros to be sent to a cell for torment. I do not know if he was tormented or not.”
Fingon wished to comment on this but refrained, his mouth held in confused silence.
“With him gone, Morgoth turned his attention towards me. He was a fool, however, and clearly did not know my strength. I assume he saw the elf-half of me, not the maia-half. He succumbed easily to a spell of sleeping. I will, admit, however, that it took more than a few notes to weave. I had to sing a while song, plus dance to keep his attention. Beren took the crown off his head and Beleg slew the wolf by his side.”
Maedhros laughed. “Sleeping spell! Really? That’s it! That’s what you used?”
“Luthien, you’re genius. I had no clue he was susceptible to such a thing. In fact, I would have guessed that he wouldn’t be. Or, if he was, that you could wield something that potent. I haven’t heard of sleep that powerful since Irmo.”
Luthien blushed slightly.
Fingon continued to stare in shock.
“The crown was too heavy to carry, so Beren set to cutting the stones themselves out. Beleg was horribly anxious to retrieve Maedhros, so we let him run ahead to the cell. When we had followed behind, only slightly delayed, we found that Beleg had been slain by the confusion of the halls.”
At this, finally, Maedhros showed dismay. His gaze became fixed on the ground and his left hand curled itself around a fold in his gown. He was pleased, at least, that Luthien did not divulge the details of his death to Fingon.
“Maedhros himself was injured by Gothmog and in shock from the death. I carried him out of the fortress. We did not manage to escape without detection, however, and found ourselves followed by awoken orcs and an medley or other things. An eagle bore us up at the gates, and we directed it to drop us off here, the closest place for him to receive medical attention. We planned to discuss the fate of the Silmarils with him after he awoke from his treatment.”
“An eagle ?” Fingon inquired.
“Hear that, Nelyo? That’s twice now that Manwe wouldn’t let you die in Angband! Or, perhaps, he was simply saving me the first time and Luthien this second time!”
“I find it far more likely that Manwe sent it to aid Luthien.” Maedhros insisted. “Luthien, where are the Silmarils? And my sword?”
“Is it safe to tell Fingon there whereabouts?”
“Beren has them.”
“I am still for the most part sure that this is a dream,” Fingon admitted, “and few things that you have said so far make sense to me. I have gathered, however, that you have successfully retrieved the Silmarils. And have brought them to my house?”
“I would never bring their curse to your fortress, Finno. I did not choose to be brought here. We will deal with them later tonight and Luthien will be sent on her way, and I promise you no evil shall befall here.” Maedhros proclaimed. “I would never willingly bring this evil to you. However, it is here, and you deserved to know about it.” He turned to Luthien. “Luthien, please go find Beren. Get some rest. We’ll have a lot to do later. I’ll talk to Fingon.”
She left promptly, almost eagerly.
“Well,” Fingon exhaled, “I’m assuming this isn’t a dream.”
“It’s just us now, isn’t it?”
“Unless you hide guards in your room, yes.”
“Oh, come on Nelyo. You know I don’t hide guards in here. Besides, even if I did, wouldn’t you be able to see them or detect them somehow with your orc-boy senses?”
Maedhros shot him a glare.
“It’s true! You have better vision than the rest of us when it comes to unlit rooms!”
“Are you cold, Nelyo? You can’t possibly be warm enough in that flimsy little medical tunic. Where’s that great fur coat I got you so many years ago?”
“It’s lost to Angband.”
Fingon, wordlessly, made his way across the room to the Maedhros’s chair, his feet light on the floor. The chair was big enough for two elves, in theory, but Maedhros, both due to his height and his tendency to sit with his knees pulled up against his chest, managed to take up its entirety. Fingon selected to sit on the chair’s arm instead.
“Are you alright, Nelyo?”
“I love you, you know.”
Fingon leaned his head against Maedhros’s uninjured shoulder.
“You’re an idiot, I must add, for going with that whole plan.”
“You’ve actually gotten the Silmarils. Your oath is going to be completed. I can’t believe this.”
“Dammit, Nelyo, are you going to say anything besides yes?”
With a smirk, Maedhros began his “Y” but was stopped by Fingon’s hand over his mouth.
Fingon laughed. “Are you just going to sit here saying ‘yes’ at me all day, or are we going to do anything?”
“I would love to talk about the political impact on Doriath and the military strikeback of Angband that we will inevitably have to deal with.”
“Fine. But, if we’re going to talk politics, let’s at least do it outside. The air is lovely this time of year, and if I’m going to hear about how you’ve ruined Arda again, I’d rather do it under beautiful scenery. Do you think I should get dressed for this?”
Chapter 21: A nice little chat
Fingon parsed through his closet and pulled out a fine gold-sheer robe. “Do you think this would work well?”
“Finno, it’s rather cold outside. Perhaps wool?”
“Nelyo, I do not dress for weather, I dress for mood .”
“The mood of today is party robes?”
“Yes! Do you not have a Silmaril within grasp? It is absolutely a day for party robes! Here- you’re still wearing that dreary hospital gown- take that off right now, let me get you something else!” With a bit more rummaging, he pulled out a second flashy robe of sparkling blue. “This is floor-length on me and quite wide, so it will surely fit you! Ha, I haven’t worn it since- well, I don’t remember when! It will look fantastic on you! Put it on!’
“Finno, this gown is not an outfit in its own. I can see right through it. I’ll require a second tunic to put below it.”
“Well, you don’t need a second tunic below it.”
“Fine, fine! Just, oh, I don’t know! Are you cold? You’re always cold! Where’s that big coat I got you? The fur one? Does your friend have it?”
“It was lost.”
“Shame! Here!” Fingon returned again to his closet, returning this time with a thick pile in his arms. “I’ve got my own still! You can wear it! Here!” He tossed it at Maedhros and watched as it dropped onto the floor beside him.
“Was I supposed to catch that with both my arms on crutches?”
“Sorry. I guess not.” He picked it up and draped it over Maedhros’s shoulders. “There. Are you warm now?”
“I’ve been warm this whole time. It’s you that insisted I was cold.” Seeing the grin slink off Fingon’s face, Maedhros quickly corrected himself. “Come to think of it, though, I suppose it could be rather cold outside! I am glad for this coat, and even if I don’t need the warmth, it’s comfortable, really, I love it.”
Satisfied, Fingon ceased his frantic outfit-searching and sat himself back down across his bed. “So, should I wear the gold or the blue then?”
“I don’t care. I merely want to talk to you.”
“You’ve never been one for fashion, Nelyo, but you must understand that if we are to celebrate both your visit and the acquisition of the Silmarils, I must look presentable.” Fingon removed a jar of thick oil from his bedside table. “I am the high king of the Noldor, last time I checked.” He scooped some of it out and began to rub it across his skin. “What sort of a king would I be if I didn’t step out with glowing, soft skin and the finest robes?”
“You don’t need to go through your skincare routine right now, Finno, please. This is absurd. Just put clothes on and we’ll talk.”
“I can’t put clothes on until I moisturize! Have you been outside lately? It’s been two weeks since the last rainstorm! The ground is parched! I’m parched! You wouldn’t understand, you always look good somehow. Look at you! You just came out of some battle or something, then a week or so in the healing wards, and you look as fine as you did in Valinor! Do you even bother to moisturize your skin? No! You probably don’t even need to! You wouldn’t get it, Maitimo, it’s a house of Fingolfin thing, I’d say. Being part Vanyar and all. Looking this good? Takes work!” With an exasperated flourish, he finished rubbing on the last of his oil. “ Now we can talk!”
“No, we can’t. You’re still not clothed.”
“Do I really need clothes to talk?”
“If we’re going outside, which I would like to do, then yes.”
Fingon grumbled loudly and rolled over face-down across his bed.
“ Fine. ” He slipped the sheer blue garment over his head and hopped of the bed.
The two elves made their way to a glass door at the end of his chambers and departed out onto a balcony. Fingon sat himself down upon a stone bench there and, patting the seat next to him, beckoned Maedhros to sit as well. Eager to give his arms a rest, he complied.
“You’re good with those.” Fingon said.
“The crutches. You walked with them fine.”
“I’ve used them before. I’ve broken legs in battle, Fingon, so have you.”
“Yes, but I was never that good with them. That’s just you, isn’t it, being so good at things so fast. ‘Oh, I lost a hand! Findekano come spar with me immediately I must relearn to duel right now!’ or “Oh, one leg down? Nevermind that! I’ll hobble along just fine!’ Nelyo, you’ll be no different at all once you get that prosthetic made. Well, no, that’s a lie. It’ll be different. For example- your leg won’t get tired when dancing! Or, it won’t get broken in battle! Plenty of upsides to upgrading from flesh to wood and metal. Will cut down on shower times immensely, one less thing to wash, especially considering that your legs are so damn long. Well, uh, your leg is so damn long. Leg is. Legs were?”
“You can stop.”
“You can stop telling me my leg is alright. I know it both is and isn’t. I won’t ever be able to return to battle, both with my shoulder ruined and my leg missing. Perhaps I could try to fight, and surely I would fare quite well, but perhaps it would be best if I stopped. I’d be more prone to sliding in the mud. My shoulder can’t swing anymore, or move more than a few degrees really. I’m alright with that, I am, it’s fine that I should best stay away from the battlefield. Plenty of my role was in the bureaucracy of it all anyways. I could retrain myself to the mounted unit without trouble. I just, well, I just know. I’m still myself, but it’s different. And perhaps this is fate telling me it’s time to stop. I can’t decide. Should I exert myself in battle still? Would that put me and my soldiers in unnecessary danger, or will I still be as capable as I was before? I’m not sure. I’d prefer we simply talk about the Silmarils.”
“Would you like to talk about Angband? What happened there?”
“Feeling morbid today, are we Finno?”
“My friend went to Angband and emerged with a whole new collection of wounds so yes I am a good bit curious! I was there for you last time. This is no different.”
“Luckily for us both, then, this time was different. My time was limited to a few hours. Most of which was spent in waiting. I sustained the injuries to my leg and shoulder, but nothing else was done to me, really.”
“Nothing else happened? Are you lying to me, Nelyo?”
“Nothing else happened.”
“I don’t believe you.”
“I’m telling the truth this time!”
“I can see it in your eyes. You’re lying.”
“You’re being rude.”
“I am telling the truth, though. They did not hurt me further.”
“Always good to hear.”
“Look, Finno, someday I’ll tell you I’ll I’ve been up to these past few days. How Maedhros went to Doriath, and beyond, and found himself in a good bit of trouble along the entire way. But as for now? There’s Silmarils shining in your halls somewhere, and the end to my oath is within sight. I would much rather address that as soon as possible. I’ll spill my sorrows and cry at you later. I don’t want to talk about Thingol. Or Beleg. Or Morgoth. Not right now.”
“There’s more pressing matters at hand?”
“Ye- Finno. Hand jokes? Really?”
“You never said this wasn’t a good time for them.”
Maedhros found himself smiling in defeat. “Sure. You’re right. It’s always a good time for hand jokes.”
“I haven’t thought up leg jokes quite yet, but just you wait.”
“Ah, I just can’t stand your puns…”
Fingon shoved Maedhros in feigned frustration. “You can’t make the jokes! That’s my job! No! No! You can’t do that! I should have done that one!”
“Ortano would be quite displeased if you shove his fancy stitching and bandages back open.”
“Fine. You win this time. No shoving.”
“It did hurt.” Maedhros admitted.
“I’m sorry. I keep forgetting.” Fingon looked across the horizon, trying to occupy himself, but inevitably found his gaze returning to Maedhros. “I missed you.” Lost in thought, Maedhros gave no response, and thus Fingon again returned his stare to the monotone plains of Anfauglith. “I think I see rain clouds forming. Maybe this storm will fix the dry spell these lands have been having.”
“In that case, you wouldn’t have to spend half an hour moisturizing, now would you?”
“I think I’d moisturize anyways. Stay in the habit, you know. The rains will leave soon, and I’ll be stuck dry again.”
“You must go through quite a lot of oil doing this.”
Maedhros added no further comments, and Fingon held no further response, so together they sat in a paused silence, mutually enjoying their disinterest in their surroundings. A passing bird showed no casual respect for their moment, deciding to land on the balcony and scream.
Fingon stood up to shoo it away, but with a small motion of his hand Maedhros gestured him to stay. “Don’t bother it. That’s a skylark.”
“I happen to be rather fond of skylarks. Do you remember that song, the silly one we used to learn as children? ‘Lovely Little Skylark’?” Maedhros asked.
Fingon began to hum it in affirmation.
“Yes! That’s the one! There’s no reason to bother an animal that inspired such a fine song.”
“It’s not a fine song.”
“Yes, but it’s a catchy one.”
“I won’t refute that, Nelyo, because thanks to you it’s wormed its way into my head.”
“You’re the one who whistled it!”
“It’s not my fault I’m musically inclined!” Fingon protested.
“It’s your fault for bringing up the song!”
“It’s a fun song to whistle! No one can be blamed for whistling it!”
“I shouldn’t be complaining at all. I like it when you sing, to be honest…” Maedhros leaned his head against Fingon. “You whistle better than that bird does.”
“Ha! Competition then! Begone, feathered thing, no one shall compete with me for the ear of Fine Maedhros!”
“It’s not a competition, Fingon, you’ve already got me here listening to you, and I’m not going to leave or chose the bird’s companionship over yours.”
“Hear that, foolish bird? I’ve won! You can go now! Shoo!”
The bird followed Fingon’s instruction, but had dirtied the fine marble balcony in a show of avian insolence.
“Shall we argue with birds some more, Finno, or will we discuss the Silmarils?”
“Well, we’re all out of railing-birds, so I’d say there’s an obvious choice.”
“We could yell at imaginary birds.”
“Begone, wraith-birds!” Fingon shouted in a mock-deep voice, flailing his arms slightly. “Begone!” The long sleeves of his gown flapped in the wind slightly like a banner.
“Findekano. I need to tell you something about the Silmarils.”
“Oh! Yes!” He pulled his arms back down onto his lap, quieting the waving of his sleeves.
“When I was young, and my father first made them, they were the first things ever made of their sort. A melding of elven fea and the material world. He said he’d kill me if I told anyone.”
“Well, I’m telling you now. But yes. I did explain the process to one other. Sauron, actually. But I don’t mind him much. He’s dead now, and he’ll never have the opportunity to put part of his soul into an object to increase its power. So, Feanor’s technique remains confidential. Mostly. I’m telling you. But that doesn’t matter, because everyone who cares is dead. I’m sorry, I’m not making much sense. You don’t know any of this. No one does. Except Sauron. He’s dead. Does he count as no one now? I’m counting him as no one and nothing, as he would hate that. People say the Silmarils are living creatures, and to a degree they are…well, I should start from the beginning shouldn’t I?”
“Nelyo I don’t have the faintest idea what you mean by the beginning. I don’t know this story. You do.”
“I’m so sorry Finno I’ve never explained the Silmarils before.”
“Alright. Fingon, are you familiar with how marriage works among elves? I don’t mean the mechanics of it. I mean the fea. How, through union, two bonded fea compliment each other in strength and endurance. Benefits of this include the ability to create children or, as most married elves I’ve met say, be happier. That’s the trick. You add someone else’s fea to your own, and suddenly you’re twice the person. Or, if not twice, then at least a bit more. They’re combined. And they fill in each other’s gaps.”
“Of course I’m familiar. I’ve wanted to wed someone for a while now.”
“Likewise. But this pertains to the Silmarils, rather than your love life. Feanor, as you know, was insanely strong in spirit. He was able to sew some of his fea into the Silmarils without losing a noticeable percentage of himself. And so, having a soul of its own to a degree, anyone in the possession of a Silmaril feels as if they are wed to it. I do not mean this in terms of romance or carnal lust, but rather that they shine into the fea itself and grant is deep satisfaction and fulfillment. Just as one feels more content and less alone once they can hold their spouse’s fea alongside their own, one who has a Silmaril will be more in soul than they used to be. They do not enhance strength. Merely satisfaction. They will any gaping voids in the fea. I believe my father used them to handle his grieving over his lost mother, as he began their drafts soon after her death. Perhaps their absence, and his withdrawal from their effects, was a large contributor to his madness. I don’t know, and that doesn’t matter. Either way, they were and are a lot more than simply beautiful lights. No one can willingly give them up. Or, well, they can, but it would be difficult. Once someone feels the soothing bliss that they grant, how they reach into the fea and fill the holes, numb the stinging agonies, their owner never wants to let go. They become the most important thing in someone’s life, the longer they rely on them. Perhaps someone could resist them; if they had no constant, horrid distress shredding their fea, then the Silmarils wouldn’t have as much to fill, and they’d be easier to shrug. ”
“I don’t know that to do with this information.”
“Luthien agreed that I could hold the Silmarils and satisfy my oath, as long as I give her one back such that she may fulfill her and her fiance’s promise to her father. It seems entirely fair to me. But, Fingon, I am full of agonies. I will enjoy the Silmarils too much. They’re going to grant me bliss unlike that I’ve never known. And what if I act like the others? What if, upon this sensation, I cannot find it in my self to return a Silmaril to her?”
“I’ve always known you to be an incredibly strong man, Nelyo. In every way. You’ve held your morals. You’ve held your sanity. You are a fine elf. I think you could find the strength in you.”
Maedhros rejected his words immediately. “I am not a strong man. Perhaps you see me as one, but I am not. I crumble on myself daily. I’m vulnerable. I broke down and cried in Angband this time. I cried. I didn’t rage and scream and smash at walls, I curled up and cried.”
“I don’t think anyone would have done differently.”
“My fea is shattered well. It’s a vase, dropped onto the ground, pieced back together haphazardly and held together with spit and tape. I’m going to touch a Silmaril, and it’s going to fill in every single crack, every break, and Eru knows I’ve got a lot of fractures in me. That’s my concern. That I’ll be particularly vulnerable to it. And I won’t let it go. Or, once I do get rid of the Silmarils, I’ll break into madness like my father. I’m scared what it will do to me. I need to possess the Silmarils, of course, to end my oath. Once I end the oath, I won’t be so cursed, and our plans will succeed and battles will be won and peace can be a goal rather than a fantasy. But, yet, I do not want to touch a Silmaril. I don’t want to know what it will do to me.”
“Maybe you worry too much, and they won’t work like that at all on you.”
“I do hope so, Fingon. I do hope so.”
“Besides, I don’t think you need to despair over never finding someone to embrace your fea. As you said earlier, there are other ways for elven kind to have a soul bonded. Surely, someday, you’ll find someone you want to spend the rest of your life with, and you’ll join your spirits, and you’ll find that second strength you desire. Even if not, you are not broken by any means. You were put under stress, and you bent and strained, but you never broke. Next to me sits Nelyafinwe, Russandol, Maedhros….high prince of the Noldor! Dearest friend to Fingon! Slayer of orcs and ruler of kingdoms! And I love you! And there’s nothing wrong with you! I promise you that. You may have agonies. But there is nothing fundamentally flawed or unfixable about you. Nothing that was done to you is you, and none of it will remain forever. In the meanwhile, I accept that you’re hurt. There’s nothing wrong with that. There’s challenges, maybe, but again- you are still Nelyo! The Nelyo that I love! So do not speak of yourself so horridly, as if you are a spent object, ruined forever. You’re not.”
“I brought you out here to ask you to kill me.” Maedhros stated. “That’s what this is about. I need you to kill me, if I refuse to give up the Silmarils. If I reach that madness, please, kill me. I don’t want to become so mad that I would rather fight and hurt my friends rather than give up the Silmaril. The Silmaril isn’t worth that. And, if I fail to accept this, just kill me. Send me to the halls and spare us all a second kinslaying.”
“Nelyo that’s the dumbest thing I’ve heard all day.”
“I’d rather die than become that. It’s not dumb. Do you accept this or not.”
“Of course not! I’m not going to kill you because you’re not going to go mad over the Silmarils! And, if you do, perhaps there will be other steps we can take! Do you want to die?”
“Good! Then we are absolutely not using that plan, Nelyo!”
“I hope you are able to form a better plan, then.”
“I’m high king of the Noldor! Trust me, I’m not that dense. I’ll find something, if we need something. So you better not worry.”
“Nelyo. What does that smile mean. That’s a tricky smile, right there. Can you tell me verbally that we’ve re-established the plan?”
“We’ve re-established the plan.”
“Good.” Fingon exhaled loudly and pointedly. “Now, I was planning on hosting a large feast to welcome your arrival, but perhaps it would be better if I asked you first. Would you like a feast?”
“I’d like my venture here to be kept secret. I would enjoy a dinner, perhaps. You can meet Beren and Luthien. And we can have food that isn’t lembas and cheese, for once.”
“In that case, I still have to redo my braids.” Fingon ran his fingers through his curly, frizzy abundance of black hair, in both self-admiration of its volume and disgust at its unseemingly order. He stood up from his seat on the bench and helped Maedhros back onto his crutches. The two elves walked back into Fingon’s chambers. Though the air was not nearly as fresh as it had been on the balcony, its warmth and slightly smoky aroma, both offered by the fireplace crackling persistently in the corner, made for just as fine of an atmosphere.
Maedhros let himself fall onto the bed, as the pillows and down blankets caught his weight with gentleness. As Fingon fretted over his braids, Maedhros let himself fall into an unintentional but well-warranted nap.
At the discovery that his friend had fallen asleep, Fingon tucked a blanket around him and adjusted his head over a pillow. He smiled. Maedhros’s face, in sleep, was not pulled taut by stress. It reminded Fingon of their youth, and how he would catch naps in between managing his six younger brothers. Maedhros would lie down over mossy patches and let himself slip into half an hour of deep rest, worry dripping off him like rain upon an oilskin. Here, again, Fingon could obverse that sort of sleep. Half of him wanted Maedhros to sleep forever, half wanted him to wake so they could laugh over birdsongs and clothes still. He wished they were indeed in Valinor again, and that such a life as this had never been bestowed upon them.
Wishes, however, could fix nothing.
Chapter 22: Beautiful Idiot
My sweet boys
Blood dripped off his hands in thick tendrils, like stalactites forming from a cave roof, impossibly red, impossibly firm. He shook his hands wildly, causing the liquid to cloud up around him in a haze, blocking his view, confusing the room. He clawed at it violently. Swinging arms, cupped hands, finally managing to swipe away the curtain of viscera, revealing a cold darkness, pure black, without the stars of night. He kept clawing with the desperation of an animal caught in a hunter’s snare. A warm body stopped his hands and a blue light began to grow. In it, he caught sight of the body’s face. Beleg. Beleg? He grabbed for it, in a lonesome embrace, and under his grasp the body- a corpse- crumbled, head onto the ground, skin sliding off the torso, veins crawling, not veins, now worms, now rot, worms creeping along the floor, up onto his body, as the blue light vanished again. The worms, and a thick metallic-smelling sludge, crept across his own body, submerging it, strangling it, smothering it. His rabid clawing then turned onto himself, scraping, trying to remove the insects and sludge. He scratched hard enough, hard enough to draw his own thick red blood, and yet somehow not enough to remove the dirt. He stopped fighting it, letting it creep, with a pressing weight, across his skin, into his tunic, into his ears, into the gaps between his fingertips and fingernails. Before it could infiltrate his mouth, he decided to scream.
“Nelyo?” A voice shouted back. “Nelyo? Are you alright?”
Finno? That was Finno, that voice. Maedhros opened his eyes. That was indeed Fingon. And that, he decided, was a nightmare.
“Nelyo? You were moving a great deal. You started to yell, and…I’m sorry to wake you, but I was concerned…”
Maedhros looked around the room. It was darker than before- dusk had already begun to fall. Fingon, covered in some silky fabric, had curled himself up next to Maedhros, clutching his left arm like a child with a stuffed toy. Fingon’s touch was a welcome one to him. He was glad for the warmth it provided. It was soft.
“I’m better” he replied. “I’m better. Thank you for waking me.” He pulled himself closer to Fingon. The room was cold. Did Fingon forget to close the porch door? Had the fire gone out? He didn’t know, or care. Maedhros was simply happy to wake up to something like Fingon, and to be free of what plagued his dreams.
“You were talking about that Sinda.”
“Beleg. You kept saying his name. Listen, Nelyo, I never really knew him. It seems you did, though, and I’m sorry for your loss. Were you two close? I’m sorry, I don’t know much about the Sindar.”
“We weren’t too close, no. He was a friend though. Great man.”
“Remember, in the far beginnings of the first age, right after you rescued me, how I went to Doriath?”
“How could I forget? You were still so wea- frag- I mean, you weren’t fully healed yet, and I didn’t think you were in such good shape to travel. I’m glad they didn’t hurt you, though.”
“Some of them did hurt me. They weren’t too fond of the Noldor, especially ones pretending to be Kings, and preferred to see me obsequious. Even if you think I was weak or fragile then, Thingol saw a threat. And, perhaps to the Sindar, the best way to handle a threat is to control it. An elf claiming to be king? That’s alarming. An elf begging at your feet? That’s fine. I was given the respect of a thrall, not of a king. Listen, I made it work, I was able to convince him to grant our people land rights, but not as a diplomat or an equal. I did not enjoy my time there. Of the nobles there, perhaps Thingol was…unkind and greedy…but Luthien and Beleg were lovely. You’ve heard stories of Luthien, her beauty and kindness, and I tell you that all these reports are true and more. Beleg, though not a prince by name, was Thingol’s marchwarden and one of his best warriors, second to perhaps only Mablung. He was nearly royalty. And, so, I did meet him there. I don’t know why he was different than the others. I think, perhaps, it was because he had seen orcs and seen battle, and knew what struggle and hurt was, rather than simply cheese plates and ballgowns. He spent his days fighting to protect the people he loved, and I think he saw the same in me. And, so, I think, he understood me better than they did. I was a foreigner, yes, but not some vicious dog to tame or some Angband-trained toy to enjoy. I was indeed a King, and I was just trying to provide for a people I loved more than myself.”
“I…did not know this.”
“Because I did not tell you! I know you. If you had heard they had given me anything less than stellar accommodations and the utmost respect, you would have personally gone to file a complaint!”
“I still want to file a complaint!”
“Fingon, that was hundreds of years ago. Besides, Elu Thingol doesn’t take advice from anyone, not even his wife. There is no chance he’d give a damn about what you have to say about the treatment of a kinslayer.”
“Perhaps! But…oh…I don’t like that, Nelyo.”
“There’s plenty of things I don’t like about the world, Finno, but there’s very few things I can fight. My point is, here, that Beleg showed me kindness and understanding where the others could not. Here was a man I could talk to amongst the Sindar. So, I did. I kept him in close correspondence. I maintained a steady trail of letters in pace between Himring and northwest Doriath, where he kept residence. He was not the most involved in policy, but I could communicate through him better than through the snobbish lords in Menegroth. He was a friend and an ally.”
“I like hearing that.”
“You’ve never been to Doriath, but you should know that it is impossible to breach those forests without consent. A hypocritical policy, really, but that’s simply how it is. Someone must escort you in. Each time I desired to visit, I was met at the border by a set of guards. It’s Melian’s enchantments, you know. Someone independently trying to navigate themselves through will find themselves bewildered and lost. Many elves have fled from elsewhere- whether Angband or orc captivity- and deemed Doriath a suitable place of refuge. Do you know what happens to these Elves, Finno?”
“They die. They starve, and die, right there in the wilderness, along the borders of the wealthiest nation in Beleriand. Thingol refuses to take any refugees. But, this does not stop them coming. And it does not stop them dying. The borders of Doriath were corpse-stained and wraith-haunted. Beleg, the marchwarden, the man whose job was to pace the border, had to see these things. He’s a kind man. He’d give them what wine had had on him, dress their wounds, those half-corpses, and have nowhere to send them. I heard this, and we joined together for a solution. These refugees of Beleriand were to be send to Himring.”
“That’s where you get all those elves?”
“Some of them, yes. Some of them are those that Doriath refuses. I send Beleg occasional funds, found elves are given some health and directions or, for some, an escorting, to Himring, I offer them employment or at least a safe residence. This program, this partnership between Beleg and I, has been going on for a good while. We’ve not been able to save all of them, nor have all been willing to spend time in the fortress of a Noldo, but I do think it’s worked well. I’m sorry. I don’t know why I’m telling you this. I don’t know who’s going to lead the Doriath half of the program now that Beleg is gone. I know he had assistants, but I don’t know them all personally. He was a rather introverted man.”
“Maybe the program won’t be necessary?” Fingon offered. “I mean, the Silmarils are taken, yes? Melkor is weakened, is he not? My father injured him. Luthien, your companion on your mission, was able to subdue him. Surely he can be defeated soon.”
Maedhros smiled gently.
“Nelyo? Did I say something wrong?”
“Ending Morgoth will not end War. Elves, humans, and dwarves fight amongst themselves as is. Remember Alqualonde?”
“Of course I remember Alqualonde! But that was of no scale at all near how Morgoth acts. His wars are far larger than a skirmish among kinsmen.”
“I assure you, Fingon, elves do evil just as orcs do. I’ve seen them torture, rape, murder each other. These traits are not exclusive to servants of Morgoth. I’ve seen war between the tribes of men just as vicious as war between orcs and men.”
“Hardly. If I was a pessimist, I wouldn’t be fighting so hard to protect these people. I simply know that evil is within everyone I’ve met, and it does not die with Morgoth. Or Sauron. Or the Orcs. Hurt never ends. And that’s fine with me, really. I used to think I could eradicate it. That, perhaps, with every orc I killed, the net some of pain would go down. It didn’t. I’m a Feanorian, Fingon. My family has done horrid things. I’ve done horrid things. I don’t think I can ever purge evil from the world. I merely hope I can lead a life where I resist it as much as I can. I cannot end pain, ever, but I can offer as much aid as I can. Children are going to scrape their knees no matter what. What matters is whether there’s someone there to give them a bandage and a hug. Yes?”
“Couldn’t the floor also be made less rough? Or the children not be permitted to trip?”
“There’s going to be roughness somewhere, no?”
“Listen, Fingon, I thought the same as you. I went to Menegroth with pain and vengeance in my heart. Sauron was held there, and I told myself that once he’s dead, I’d be free. I wouldn’t dream of him anymore. I wouldn’t fear him anymore. He would have no hold over me. And, this is correct. It really is. Sauron is Nothing to me now. But, within the very day, I had to deal with Thingol acting very…Sauron-like. Within the week, I met my brothers- Celegorm and Curufin- and heard that they had behaved the same. Sauron was dead, sure, but that changed absolutely nothing at all. Well, Angband now has a “lieutenant” opening in the job market, and perhaps Melkor is a little grumpier and his nights a little lonelier, but otherwise the world has not changed. People still hurt me. People still hurt each other. Nothing is different! Don’t you see, Fingon? I cannot stop it from raining! I can only equip myself with an umbrella and a towel! I can protect and comfort. I cannot ensure that evil never happens!”
“I don’t want to agree with you, Nelyo. I really don’t.”
“I don’t want to think it either. I’d much rather live in a world where laws are just, and laws are followed.”
Fingon rolled over onto his back and turned his attention to the ceiling. “You’re not evil. You’re a good man.”
“I’m a kinslayer.”
Fingon sighed. “Please. We’ve been over this. That happened hundreds of years ago, and it wasn’t even hateful. There was a fight- not even one you started- and we merely wanted to escape Valinor. It was…poorly handled? Poorly handled. Yes. Very much so! Horridly handled! But, well, is it the same degree of evil, as, say, flat-out murder? Unprovoked, unexplained, killing of innocents?”
“They were innocents. Don’t downplay the horror that it was.”
“Valinor was in chaos. Besides, you’ve been remorsing over it for hundreds of years! You’re an excellent man, Nelyo, truly. I rarely see such selfless kindness as I have always been able to find in you. You’re not evil. You work so hard, perhaps you tell yourself that you’re evil, but it’s not true, I can tell you that. You’re no orc.”
“I’ve done a lot of things in Angband that were orc-like. You know that.”
“I don’t care! You’re not orc-like! You’re a kind, noble, honorable man! You’re the King of the Noldor in all but name! I’d love to share the crown with you, ruling together…”
“You know that would cause strife in our houses. Besides, you make a great king as well. I don’t even want it. As you said, it’s merely a title.”
“You’re impossible, you know that, Nelyo?”
“I love you. Did you know that?”
“It’s the one thing I’m certain of, given how often you remind me of it!”
“Good.” Fingon rolled back over closer to Maedhros and rested his head on his chest. “Perhaps you’re right that ending Morgoth won’t end war. But, maybe, there can finally be some periods of peace. Localized wars between tribes of men are not as time consuming as an all-Beleriand combat. We’d finally have some rest. Maybe you could visit more often. No! As king, I demand you visit more often!” he laughed. “I get lonely, you know!”
“You should find yourself a wife and an heir. A king’s ought to have an heir! You always told me that the reason or delaying your marriage was the wartime. Well! Once wartime ends, you’ve got no excuse! Really. There’s a lady in Himring, my finest warrior, one of Angband’s escaped thralls, actually, who’s expressed the same sentiments. A classic romantic she is, always fawning over the poem volumes in my library…”
“The ones I sent you?”
“Yes! Those! She loves them. Wonderful girl, she is. Extraordinarily bright. She’d make a perfect Queen of the Noldor. Really! You two should meet. You’d be a great fit.”
“I have no interest.”
“Now you’re being the impossible one, Finno. Hmm. Warriors not your type? I-“
“No, no, warriors are most certainly my type.”
“Well, perhaps she doesn’t sound appealing to you, but I know a great deal of girls- oh! No, I see. You prefer men these days, perhaps? I know in our youth, you readily enjoyed both, but preferences do change!”
“Nelyo, it’s not-“
“I know plenty of suitable men! If you want a biological heir, I even know plenty of men born with wombs. If not, there’s adoption, but you’ve always been such an affectionate man, talking in your poems about your hopes for marriage, so I figure you’d want a spouse either way.”
“Nelyo, you’re a brilliant man, but sometimes you’re a damn idiot.”
“I’m sorry. Did I misread the situation? Did you not wish to marry someone eventually?”
“I don’t want to marry just anyone.”
“Well, of course not! I wouldn’t expect you to. You’d date first, see which one you deem suitable for engagement…”
“Just stop talking, will you? You still don’t get it, do you?”
Fingon rolled over again, this time face-down, and exhaled his breath into his pillow.
“I love you, Finno.” Maedhros offered. “I’m sorry for upsetting you.
“Wwwhhhhshhhbbbbffddt,” Fingon mumbled into the pillow.
“Why are you such a beautiful idiot?”
Chapter 23: Love and Worry
Fingon waited until Maedhros had fallen asleep, then donned a simple robe and slipped out of his chambers. There were still hours before the feast was in order. Surely, in sleep, Nelyo would not notice his brief absence? He had matters to attend to: the famous Princess Luthien dwelt in his halls, and he had not yet given her a proper visit.
Her assigned guest chambers were tucked away by the kitchens on the lower floor. Not the usual housing for a guest of high stature, but convenient for hiding herself, her fiancé, and the Silmarils from detection and suspicion. He felt partially ashamed that a lady of such high stature should be assigned such poor lodgings, but, she desired them to be so.
He knocked on the door.
“Hello? Mam? It’s Lord Fingon. I-“
Apparently recognizing his voice and deeming it safe, she unlocked the door and let him in. Inside were two cots, each covered in a wool blanket as was military standard. A few large travel sacks took residence in the small room’s corner. Fingon wondered if one contained a Silmaril. He resolved not to ask.
“Is there something you want, my King?” she asked.
King. Yes. Fingon forgot he was King now. King now. Fingolfin had passed. He’s reigning King. Her King? Well, perhaps? Sure. Her King as well. She was in his fortress. It made sense to him. But, still, it felt like a foreign title.
Was there something he wanted? He had completely forgotten his reason for coming. Did he have to give her something? What did he want? What was he here to say? He could not recall. In his moments of confused contemplation, he stared at her. This was Luthien. He had heard stories, messenger gossip, about her and this human man. Beren, he remembered it was. Son of Barahir. Seemed like a man of suitable qualifications to him. Fingon was not sure why Thingol held objection to this union. Thingol requested a Silmaril from him. A death mission to Angband. And, he did.
Fingon, recalling this, laughed slightly.
“Does something amuse you?” Luthien responded.
“Yes, yes something does. You went to Angband the man you love. Thinking you would die, I imagine?”
“I did the same, hundreds of years ago. Morgoth had Maedhros. I did not approve of this arrangement and decided to take up my complaint with the big man himself.”
“Well, no. Eru listens to nothing. Morgoth. I decided to confront Morgoth.”
“You confronted Morgoth?”
“No. I found Nelyo before I had to. And I delivered him from Angband. I’m sorry. You’ve probably already been told the story. I just- well, I find it, a bit, amusing, really. That we have such similar stories. Great stories, they are. I rather like them. Nothing says resilience to Morgoth like a desperate fool defying him for love! Are we idiots, Luthien? Or are we the smartest around? My father did the same. He so mourned the losses of the war that he went to Morgoth and challenged him. He was a fool just like us! A fool, driven by too much love and too much pain. He lost. But, I’ve heard he injured Morgoth. Forgive me for rambling so much. You’re a very beautiful lady. That’s….not what I meant, I’m sorry, that’s not why I’m rambling. I know why I’m rambling. Luthien, I’m in love.”
“No! No! Not now! Forever! Luthien, listen. It’s Maedhros. I’m in love with Lord Maedhros. Nelyo. You know. Goofy red haired fellow. Well, of course you know him! You just had that entire trip with him! Just. What I mean to say. You’re the pinnacle of love, did you know that? Do you know people talk about you? About Beren, going to Nargothrond? You two, going to Angband? And I was thinking, to myself, I did that too. In a way.”
“He’s a fine man to be in love with. I still see no reason for your distress, my K-“
“Please. Just Fingon works.”
“Alright, just Fingon.” Luthien delivered a light grin with her remark, one Fingon returned in brief before he continued.
“I wanted to marry him, at one point. But, Luthien, at one point. He was an entirely different man. You should have seen him in Valinor, before Angband. Well, I don’t know, even in Valinor he had some problems. He was the heir of Finwe. He got quite a lot of attention. Did you know he would regularly get proposed to, by high maiar no less? He received nothing but proposals and courtship. He was, well, in my opinion he still is, the most beautiful man to ever come from the songs of Eru. Oh! Oh Luthien you really should have seen him before he was bent by torment. He was even lovelier than he is now! Can you imagine that?”
Luthien nodded. She could, indeed, imagine that.
Fingon continued. “Everyone desired him. Even Manwe’s own herald, Eonwe, fancied him. How was I supposed to compete with that? I was a young Prince, this is true, but far down in the line of royalty. I was high enough to be allowed his company often, and to go to such events as he did, but never high enough to be his. We would happily go to feasts, balls, and soirees together. I would walk in, grinning, holding his hand. And, within hours, some maia would drag him off. Hours later he would find me again, missing half his suit, his braids all mussed, and we would hurry on home. I don’t know. I supposed I liked being with him as much as possible.”
Fingon sat down on the small cot and there continued. “After these parties, sometimes, if I didn’t have to get him home quickly, we would stop on a roadside along the way. There was this one path, a dirt road through the forest, a shortcut, that we would take. His father always forbid him to take it, as it was so often muddy and so often ruined his nice clothes. But, when his nice clothes were ruined anyways, he allowed us the childlike indulgence of taking the forbidden route. He would always have this gleeful smile, as if he was committing the worlds worst prank simply by taking a muddy path. I would hold his hand, sometimes, as he used to get quite drunk at some of these parties and was rather inclined to slipping in the mud. Horrid lanky thing, he is, falls over quite easily! I got just as drunk, but, short as I am, I always had the better drunken balance. Once, we paused at a large rock halfway through the forest. He was tired and wished to sit. I sat next to him. Well, next to is generous. I sat on him. On his lap. He puts his arms around me and kissed me. Or, perhaps, I put my arms around him and kissed him. Oh, Luthien, I simply don’t know! A night’s worth of wine can blur those sorts of things! I do remember, it was lovely. He was my best friend. And, out of all the men and women I’ve had, my best kiss. Perhaps it would have continued further that night, but he slipped off the rock and we both fell into the mud. He started fretting horribly and we hurried on home. Occasionally, over the years, we got a little too drunk and did a little too much. Never, though, were we a couple. He was to remain single for his many suitors. And he knew this. I think, perhaps, he felt guilty at every time we touched. Maybe he did fall in love a little. Maybe he didn’t want to. I know he wanted to marry one of those maiar. Luthien, see, that’s the thing about Valinor, really. If a maia wants you, you don’t say no. You don’t leave them for a young elf. You remain eligible for them. You receive their gifts and their bodies. You entertain their courting. Any violation of this earns their scorn, and the scorn of maiar can ruin a family. Maedhros would never such a thing to happen to his. So, he complied. He was always on the arm of some higher up. One of Orome’s chief hunters, she fancied him actually. They were a pairing at parties to come for, oh, fifty years? That was a long one.”
“Fingon, I respect you, but I do not understand why you are informing me of Lord Maedhros’s romantic histories.” Luthien admitted. She sat down upon the opposite cot and had begun to fiddle with the fringe of one of the wool blankets.
“I think, perhaps, you’ll understand it better if I give you an explanation. The years went by. I had other lovers than him, but I never married either. I suppose, I always hoped someday the maiar would drop their pursuits and I would be free to court him. You know of what Morgoth did to Valinor. How we all ended up leaving. How I retrieved Maedhros from that mountain. I was, though I admit this is a horribly selfish thing to say, almost happy to a degree. We were out of Valinor. There were no ainur, really, to bother him anymore. I wanted to sit on his lap and kiss him again like we did in our youth. But, I could not. I could not. Angband changed him, a bit. They did horrid things to him there, Luthien, I don’t know how much of that you’ve heard. He wanted no one. To hold no one. To kiss no one. So, I didn’t. He would flinch at a hug. I can’t ask a man like that to follow me to bed. I cared for him, of course, and I love him just the same. I just simply couldn’t touch him. He might have let me. But not in my right mind could I ask him to do to me what my body craved. He did not speak of romance to me. He spoke of war and politics. He remained the same charming, sweet man I’ve loved all my life. But he dated none more. He did explain it to me, once, that he was sick of seeing all he loved die. I suppose that is rational. Most of our people do die. Most of my family has died. Perhaps he knew he couldn’t take more heartbreak. My brother, his wife perished. He couldn’t take it. Maybe Maedhros didn’t want that. Maybe he didn’t want to loop another person into his oath and his curse. I’m not sure. But, even as he healed over the ages, and I could certainly kiss him in good conscience, he never dated. He was, just as he had been in Valinor, ineligible. I know he loves me. And I know I love him. Even if he never wants to be touched, I wouldn’t do so. I would never hurt him. He knows this. He trusts me. When he visits here, he sleeps in the same room as me. I don’t know if he does that as a lover, a friend, or simply someone who finds sleeping alone a little terrifying. I don’t care. I love him, Luthien, and the circumstances of that love do not matter to me.”
She looked at him but spoke nothing, expecting a continuation of his ramble. She was correct in her prediction.
“Now, you see, you’re here. He has the Silmarils. The oath is over. The fight is over. Sauron is dead, too. He’s free by all ways. He doesn’t have to fight for the jewels anymore. And, so what if we die? I’ll simply be waiting for him in Mandos’s halls. I did a lot of thinking, Luthien, and I think it’s finally time that I propose to him. I’ve had a ring fashioned for him for years. I got his grandfather, Mahtan, to help me with it. Copper, with a white stone set in it. Those are his favorite things. Copper metal and the color white. Since Valinor, I’ve had it! I’m going to give it to him after the feast. That’s today, yes, isn’t it? Oh, Luthien, this is a splendid idea, thank you.”
He got up and shook her hand.
“I offered no aid.”
“Are you sure?”
“I’m sure. I’ve simply sat here. It was you who came into my quarters and laid this whole thing upon my ears.”
He retracted his arms to his side in embarrassment. “I’m sorry, my lady.”
Luthien grinned. “No! No, no! Do not apologize! You came in here and told me about love. I got to sit and listen to that. Trust me, after seeing what horrors and hatred this journey has presented me, I’m glad to see it brought another person happiness. Thingol had me and Beren fetch a Silmaril as a prerequisite to our marriage, and, though a hefty price, its weight is divided in two, since the one deed has allowed you and your love to unite at last as well. It is, perhaps, Eru’s design, then, that Maedhros had a part in their retrieval. Lucky thing! He gets twofold benefit from it, as well! An end to an oath and a start of an engagement, yes?”
“If he accepts my proposal.”
“Doubtless he will! He spoke of you often to me. You are dear to his heart.”
“Dear to his heart, yes, but a heart is a complex thing.”
“Fingon. You already own the ring. Simply ask him. The poor thing needs a spouse. Beleg told me he drank cleaning solutions.”
“Concentrated alcohol. But yes. He does that.”
“Well, make him stop! He’s a good man. Take care of him. He lost a limb, and I still don’t trust him to take care of himself properly. I don’t care if you marry him or simply keep him around as a best friend who shares a bed and occasionally kisses you on the way home from parties. You two love each other and need each other. Stick together, alright?”
“Awful assertive of you.”
“Fingon, I’m half-maia. I can tell these sort of things.”
He paused. “Want to see the ring?”
“What? You carry it on you?”
“Yes. Just in case.”
“Would you laugh at me if I said yes?”
“I’ll laugh at you anyways. Take that ring out of your pocket and put it on his finger, you fool. You carry it around daily, and still cannot find the resolve to use it?”
“It reminds me of him. It’s nice to carry around. I just, Luthien, I don’t want to rush him. What if asking him is pressuring him?”
“I’ve watched him this whole trip. Fingon, he is a warlord and a former king. He’ll give you a no.”
“I don’t want to ask him for a yes until I know he can say no.”
Luthien stared at him.
“Fine!” he replied. “Fine! You’re right! I think he’s in good enough shape as well. I, I don’t know. Luthien? Can I ask you a personal question?”
“You’re in my chambers telling me about your love life. We’ve already passed the personal level.”
“Great! Do you ever feel as if, perhaps, you’re at a power imbalance with Beren? You’re nearly a maia. He’s a human. I’ve heard you can cast great spells. Do you ever worry that these spells had a role in your relationship with Beren?”
“There’s rumors that my mother did this. That she enchanted my father. I grew up with that. I learned how to sing, I learned how to resonate with the songs of creation and cast changes upon the world. Fingon, I can crumble castles. It’s no hyperbole when you say I could kill you with a few seconds of whistling. I don’t know. I simply, don’t. I didn’t learn all I could. I’m not as strong as I could be. Maybe I’ve always lived in a little bit of fear of myself. I think, maybe, people feared me a little too. Is that too personal? Should I stop?”
“Continue. We’re sitting on cots pouring out our hearts. No need to cease the pour! Let it flow like wine, for all I say.”
She nodded. “I was very isolated growing up. I think, perhaps, most children were scared of me. If they beat me in a race, perhaps I would blow their head apart or make the trees devour them!”
“Maybe? I don’t know! I don’t know. My mother did try to teach me these things. She said, a lady like you, should be powerful. You should know how to defend yourself! I didn’t understand that, at the time. What was there to defend myself from? I was a princess in a protected kingdom. The biggest worries of my life were stale croissants and Saeros being occasionally rude! Nothing evil enough to warrant destruction! So, I refused to learn it all. Holding spells. Truth spells. Spells of illusion. Of torment. Why would I want that? Why would I want to torment someone? I was young. I had not yet met people who deserved it. I learned the ones I found fun. I learned ways to make flowers blossom at my feet, or make sunrays sparkle a little louder, make my feet a little lighter and faster when I dance. Some called them useless. I don’t know. It made people happy. I liked that plenty. I learned how to make croissants never go stale! That’s what I used magic for, Fingon. I could have brought down armies. And I used the power of Eru and the Valar and the songs of creation for keeping bread fresh!”
“In an ideal world, that would be all we would have to use it for, yes? Luthien, I’d love to live in a world where the only problems that need assuaging are stale bread and the only desire left to the mind is to make the world more beautiful and to dance a little more. Do not fault yourself for having such a lovely vision of the world.”
“I didn’t keep it forever. I met Lord Maedhros in the beginning of the first age, when he came to treat with my father on the subject of land rights or something. I don’t know. We talked a little. I could tell, just by looking at him, even without his words, that there was something out there. Something strong enough that perhaps spells of holding and destruction were needed after all. So, I taught myself them. In secret. Destroying small stacks of rocks I assembled myself. Little huts of branches I tossed together. I kept this in secret. I did not want anyone to think of me as a dangerous witch. People loved Luthien the Flower Maiden, and so I remained her. I simply armed myself a little better. It did become useful! I used them. I used them to bring down Sauron and to hold Morgoth still, asleep, unaware while we stole his crown. I did it. These spells, had use. But you know what, Fingon?”
“I never found use for a love spell. Nothing to charms others onto me. There was no identifiable need in the world for that, and so I never learned it. Never. Love, Fingon, is the greatest thing I know. To make a falsehood, a mockery, of it, would be the biggest disgrace. And why! Why do so, when it is so abundant? Why concoct counterfeits of it? What joy would that ever bring to me? I would never be able to enjoy a false love. And, what of my target for such magic? I cannot imagine they would be too happy. And what worse thing could I be, than one who takes the origin of life’s joy and twists it for harm? I can live with stealing jewels from those who never deserved them. I don’t think I could live with corrupting love. So, to answer your question, I am entirely certain that I did not enchant Beren into loving me.”
“Do you think, perhaps, he ever felt below you? Or scared of you?”
“I don’t see why he would ever feel weaker than me, when he is not. Perhaps my tools of defense include some songweaving. He has a sword. He’s not nearly as good at song as I am, but he can brighten any room with his words. He is an incredible man. He is brave beyond measure, he is strong, and he loves me more genuinely than most I’ve ever met. I am lucky to be by his side. Why do you ask such things?”
“I worry, a little, about Maedhros, and our own power balance. I know he loves me. And I worry how much he’d let that get in the way of his own desires. What if he doesn’t want to marry me, when I ask, and he simply complies because he wants me to be happy? He might do that. He values himself so poorly.”
“I don’t know him as well as you do, Fingon, but I’m sure he would never do that.”
“I think it’s alike in how I would never use a love charm. He knows that the marriage which would make you happy is a genuine one. And he would give you nothing less than genuine happiness. If he loves you as much as you and I both know, then there is no way he would take the thing you want most and give you a shallow falsity of it. He would not marry you halfheartedly. He would do so sincerely or not at all. You underestimate him, I think.”
“I worry about him.”
“You care for him. I know he feels comfortable around you. He would tell you the truth, I’m sure.”
“I’ll ask him.”
Luthien grinned again.
“Where’s Beren, by the way?”
“He left to speak to Lord Maedhros.”
“What?” Fingon’s faces twisted into immediate alarm. “No, no. I don’t know him well enough. Nelyo is sleeping. He can’t go in there while Nelyo is sleeping. He might wake him up wrong and alarm him. I have to go.” He stood up from the cot and brisky walked the short distance to the door. “I’m sorry for the sudden exit.” He opened the door and began to head out, but stopped. “Oh. The feast. The feast is in two hours. I’m holding it in the space room near the kitchen. That’s two doors down. It should be a safe distance to transport the Silmarils, yes?”
“Yes. But Fingon?”
“Beren is a good man. I trust him. Don’t worry too much about Nelyo.”
Fingon smiled in politeness and departed from the room.
Chapter 24: When Death is Necessary
No warnings for this chapter, it's pretty mild.
Beren turned the knob to Fingon’s chambers. Unlocked. Sword in hand, he gently opened the door, cautious of causing the wood to groan or creak. The room was dim, but the light seeping in through the partly-covered window was enough to illuminate a figure upon the bed; Maedhros, asleep. He was curled tightly into himself, head on a pillow and another clutched tightly in his arms, under the partial cover of a thin satin blanket. His breathing was steady but short, enough to supply oxygen to his body but perhaps not peace to his dreams.
Beren approached the bed, watching his steps to avoid rousing the sleeping prince, but this was a difficult task in the unfamiliar room. The edge of his boot knocked a bottle of wine that was sitting on the floor, sending it sideways, shattering it, and spilling its blood-red contents across the room. This disturbance made its way to Maedhros’s ears.
“Fingon?” he muttered, half asleep.
Beren gave no response.
Maedhros groaned lightly, unhappy to be snatched from his rest, but glad at the prospect of Fingon’s return. His eyes were still kept shut by his drowsiness, but he began to stretch.
Beren, seeing this, made haste in his efforts. Not bothering to mind his tread, he hurried to the bedside and raised his sword over Maedhros, hands on its hilt, pointing down, ready to thrust. Was it a crime to kill a sleeping man, or, in this case, a half-sleeping man? A man off his guard? Perhaps. By all formal measures of chivalry, it would be dishonorable. But this was Maedhros, and surely the only way to effectively kill him would be to do so when he was in an unarmed, unaware state.
He removed one hand from the sword and gently snagged the satin blanket off Maedhros, exposing his nightclothed body. Maedhros grumbled slightly at this, but did not wake. Beren examined the body of the elf below him, and reconsidered the chivalry. Missing a hand. Missing a leg. Shoulder burned and bandaged. Horribly thin. Pitiful, really, Beren decided. Even if he was awake, he would be rather unarmed. He saw Maedhros in battle, and saw his fire, but even now, even if Maedhros was awake and properly dressed and given a weapon, he would not be a fair match to Beren. Thus, could chivalry really apply? Did it make a different whether he killed Maedhros in his sleep, or killed him in an unfair fight? Beren couldn’t decide if this soothed his conscious or simply tricked it into quieting down.
He wasn’t a bad man , for this, was he? No, he assured himself, no, this was needed. There was a dream. That night a dream came to him, a prophecy. Maedhros will do unto you what was done to him upon Angband . He had heard stories of what was done at Angband. Mutilation. Torture. Imprisonment. Surely, if Maedhros was to do these things to him, then surely Maedhros must go mad at some point, and turn entirely evil. Killing him would be sinless, as he is not killing a kind and unarmed elf, but rather killing a future mindless enemy. Surely, perhaps, even Maedhros himself would see this as a favor. Personally, Beren decided, he would rather be killed in his sleep early rather than see himself transform into a Morgothian evil. And the prophecies were never wrong. Beren knew little, but he knew well enough that the valar sent the children of arda messages and commands. Perhaps this was less of a message and even more of a command, that they wanted him to kill Maedhros. This would not be a sin, this would be a favor to everyone.
He didn’t tell Luthien about this. He didn’t want her to worry.
What of Fingon? What would Fingon think? Would Fingon understand? If the stories were true, then Fingon was once prepared to kill Maedhros as well. Fingon would understand, he hoped. Surely, Fingon would rather see Maedhros as a corpse than a monster.
Beren looked down at Maedhros again, the blade hovering inches over his chest. Maedhros’s eyes were wide open, staring at Beren. How long he had been awake, while Beren was lost in his thoughts, Beren did not know.
“You’re here to kill me?” he spoke, without any hint of accusatory tone. So calm a question, as if he were inquiring as to the day’s weather or something such as trivial.
Beren stared at him in shock.
“I’m not going to stop you,” he continued, “go ahead.”
Beren looked down again at Maedhros and stared into his eyes. Blue. An odd color for an elf, supposedly a trait shared by the House of Finwe. He couldn’t tell exactly what was going on beneath them. Was there hidden fear? Anger? Or did Maedhros truly welcome death? Beren looked down at Maedhros’s bandages. Perhaps it was the pain. Perhaps he has simply given up, and death was a well-met friend.
Beren’s hands began to shake.
“Well, are you going to do it or not?”
Maedhros sat up slightly in bed, bringing his chest up against the blade, pushing into it slightly, enough to dent his flesh but not yet draw blood.
Beren made no action.
Maedhros shifted himself slightly, moving his leg over the edge of the bed and reaching to the floor with his foot. “Perhaps we can move this to the floor, instead? I bleed a lot, and Fingon’s bed is very expensive. It would be kind of us to not ruin it for him.”
Slightly scared by Maedhros’s efforts to move away, Beren pressed him back onto the bed with one hand. Maedhros struggled slightly under his push, still intent on getting to the floor. Finding it hard to both hold down the elf and hold steady the sword, Beren climbed onto the bed himself, and opted to keep Maedhros pinned down with the weight of his body. Now, both hands free again for the hilt of the sword, he repositioned it over his victim’s chest. Maedhros stopped moving and simply stared at him.
His body was warmer than Beren expected.
“Are, uh, are you in pain?” he spoke, aware his weight might be putting pressure on Maedhros’s wounds, “Am I hurting you?” Death was one thing, but he did not intend to make the elf suffer.
“Of course I’m in pain. Are you going to kill me or not?”
He rested the tip of the blade against Maedhros, his arm tired of holding is suspended in the air. He noticed his own breathing had quickened. Could Maedhros sense his nervousness?
“You’ve never assassinated someone before, have you? You’re not very good at it.”
“No, I..” Beren began to answer, taken aback by Maedhros’s insult thrown at him. “I’m more used to fighting. Orcs and, uh, orcs and those other things, uh, what’s the, trolls and wolves and such. In the woods. I, was, uh…”
“You were in a band of outlaws hunting creatures of Morgoth. I’m aware. Would you like some advice, next time you intend to execute someone?”
“Tip one: make up your mind before you do it. You aren’t going to kill me, are you? That’s the trick. You didn’t make up your mind.”
“No, I, I do need to kill you.”
“Really now? Then why haven’t you?”
“Shut up.” Beren pressed his sword harder against Maedhros, enough to elicit a slight gasp from him. Why was he so warm? Could elves get sick and feverish? He wasn’t quite sure. Were elves always this warm? It disturbed him. He could feel every breath Maedhros took, every horrid reminder that the elf below him was so undeniably alive, intensifying the brutalness of having to end that life. “Are elves always this hot?” Beren demanded from him.
A look of horror flashed across Maedhros’s face. “Well, most of them are very fair, but some claim I’m lovelier than others. Beren, don’t you have a fiance? Is- are you actually here to kill me? What is this?”
“No! No! Yes, I’m here to kill you, I just, you’re very warm. That’s what I meant. You’re warm. Are you sick?”
“Oh.” The shock left Maedhros’s face. “Well, that doesn’t matter if I’m going to die right now, does it?”
The regular calmness of Maedhros’s responses annoyed Beren in a way he couldn’t quite place. Why was this the behavior of a man facing his death? To make toneless, careless banter? No pleading, no cursing, no praying. It disturbed him.
“You’re too calm,” Beren declared.
“Oh, did you want to see me cry a bit? I’m not going to beg for my life. You can have it if you want.”
“I just, uh, want to know why you’re so calm. Why aren’t you praying? Finrod prayed before he...well, I’ve seen a lot of deaths. They never act like you.”
“It’s because I’m not going to die. You’re not going to kill me. You think you’re the first man who’s seen it fit too remove me from this world? You think this is my first encounter with an assassin? I’ve lived hundreds of years of people trying to kill me every day. They never do. Not in battle, not in my room, not in anyone’s room. They never kill me.”
“You fight them?”
“Sometimes. Or, sometimes they just can’t do it. Like you. You can’t do it. I have to say, I’m disappointed. I know you’re something special, and truly I hoped you’d finally be the one who’d be able to kill me. I wasn’t even going to fight you.” Maedhros looked pointedly at the ceiling and huffed. “I’m certain it’s some sort of curse Manwe or Mandos has on me, that even when I’d love to die, I never manage to find a way to succeed in it. Don’t blame yourself for failing, then, blame them.”
Beren tossed his sword to the side and it clattered against the ground, settling itself in the puddle of wine he caused earlier.
“Are you going to kill me, then? Since I tried to kill you?”
“No, surely not. That would upset Luthien. But I do want to know why you came here tonight. General frustration with me?”
Beren contemplated sharing the specifics his prophetic dream and decided against it, but deemed it only fair to allow Maedhros some of an explanation. “I had some sort of dream. You were dangerous. I, uh, need to protect myself before you, you, you were dangerous. I, the dream…”
“Collect your thoughts.”
He moved a little away from Maedhros, opting to sit on the bed next to him rather than on him. “I had a vision, of the future, of something. And I have to stop you before you hurt me.”
Maedhros was quiet.
“Is that good enough of an explanation? I was scared. I am scared.”
“I’m scared too, Beren.”
“The Silmarils. I saw how they warped my father’s mind. I saw how Melkor warped my father’s mind. I worry they’ll do the same to me. I worry I’ll go mad. But you don’t need to worry yourself, Beren, Fingon will kill me if I go mad.”
“You said no one has managed to kill you.”
“That’s why I still worry.”
“Have you tried it yourself?”
“I don’t think I can. Or want to.”
“I don’t understand.”
“I’ll.” Maedhros pulled the blanket back around him. “Try to explain. Elves can die anytime they wish. Their fea departs from their body. They can will that, in times of extreme agony. In Angband, for everyone, it’s nothing but Agony. So, naturally, most elves would choose to will their way out of there. You’ve heard the stories. Of how I begged for Fingon to kill me. I wouldn’t have begged for him to kill me, there on the mountain, if I could simply will my fea away, would I?”
“Exactly. There’s a reason they call Sauron the necromancer. He works with the fea, or soul, in ways I’ve never seen. I don’t know how he learned it. He’s obsessed with them, and their tie to the elven hroa, and that’s why he’s so good at creating pain. But he’s also good at stopping death. No elf dies on his watch if he doesn’t want them to. He binds their souls to their bodies, so they cannot ever leave them simply by will. If they attempt death, the soul still gets stuck in the body, and the corpse just keeps wriggling. It’s terrible magic. If the body is destroyed successfully, he still has a grasp on their souls. So many elves become his wraiths. They lose their minds, they lose their selves, they become nothing but servants.”
“And this is why you can’t die?”
“I can die. He killed his elves all the time. He had elves killed all the time. But I can’t kill myself. Or, maybe I can. He’s gone now, isn’t he?” Maedhros grinned. “Yes. He’s gone now. I wouldn’t be on his leash, I wouldn’t become a wraith of his, there’s no chance of it.” He looked back at Beren. “Now do you understand?”
“I should explain further. Not all elves are destined to become his wraiths. That takes extra magic workings of his. Most just die and return to the halls once their body ceases to work.”
“But they can’t will their soul away?”
“Correct. They have to commit suicide in the conventional way. We’ve got an herb that does that, we would give to our soldiers in case they got captured. Naegradaur, it’s called, have you heard of it?”
Beren shook his head.
“The literal translation would be pain-pause, or pain-halt. I find that a little funny, very self aware, isn’t it? Death doesn’t end pain, it simply puts it on pause. Perhaps you don’t find that funny. It’s a short, white flower native to Ered Engrim. It’s the petals, surprisingly, that do the damage. They’re dried and preserved in little jars. They’re far more potent when fresh. One fresh, undried petal is enough to kill one of us in an hour or so. Dried, it’ll take five or six. The little packets we give to soldiers have ten in them, to be certain. I’ve heard they taste positively awful. Did you know they have a medicinal use?”
“They do! Suppose we bring an elf in with their head all smashed, body smashed, beyond all hope of saving. Our healers can let them suffer in mindless pain for the rest of the day, or, they can give them the option of a faster, calmer death. It’s not entirely calm. They often vomit. But, they die, and find their relief, their pain-pause. Next time you try to assassinate an elf, maybe just use some of those.”
“I don’t assassinate elves.”
“Good. You’re terrible at it.”
Beren looked at the space between them, then directly at Maedhros. “Did Finrod have any with him?”
“When we were captured. By Sauron. All, uh, all the elves died. There were wolves. Some just bled out on the dungeon floor and we listened to them scream and rot for days. Maybe it would have been a good idea to have brought that.”
“It only would have worked if you took it before capture. Sauron stripped you of all your belongings and gear, did he not?”
“For the record, I doubt Finrod had any with him. He’s strongly against the policy of carrying some. Some call me a pessimist, but I think I should allow my soldiers the ability to die and go to Valinor rather than be taken captive and killed there. But, Finrod, he’s too much of an optimist. He’s a strong believer of fighting until the last minute. Fingon is the same. He never gave up on rescuing me. While it’s true that sometimes, people can be rescued, just as you were and I was, I think that for the thousands that aren’t, it’s alright to be a pessimist.”
“I don’t know.”
“He also hates them because we have no known remedy for the effects. All the other poisons we use, well, most of them can be fixed. Even those used upon us by Morgoth’s forces. No such cure is known for Naegradaur. It’s irreversibly terminal. Finrod considers this far too dangerous to have on hand, because in the case of any accident or regrets, there is no fixing.”
“In that, I suppose, I’d agree with him.”
“If you’d like some for your further adventuring, I think Fingon’s hospital department has some on hand. I’m not sure,” Maedhros asked.
“No, I don’t think that’s for me. I’m human. We die pretty easily.”
“Oh, I forgot. I don’t know how potent they would be upon humans. I don’t think I’ve ever talked to a human who’s taken them.” He smiled.
“They’d be dead, Beren. I can’t talk to a dead man.”
“You should be on your way, now, before Fingon comes back and sees you.”
“You’d have to explain why you came with a two handed sword to the bedroom. At least get rid of the sword.”
“I’ll leave, then.”
“And I’ll return to sleep. Don’t try to kill me this time, alright Beren?”
“Fine. Well, then, sure, you have permission to try to kill me again, just do it better next time.”
“Yes, yes of course my lord,” Beren responded in mock formality.
Maedhros curled himself back up into his sleeping position. Beren picked up his sword, wiped the wine off it, and left the room, making sure to close the door as quietly as when he entered.
Chapter 25: Love and Urgency
Fingon departed from Luthien’s room and made his way through the halls back to his own chambers, where Maedhros lie waiting. He gave the door a quick knock.
“Nelyo? Are you awake? Dressed?”
Hearing no response, and assuming the prince to be asleep, he entered anyways. As expected, Maedhros was on the bed, asleep. Fingon smiled to himself. Dinner was soon, but he could afford enough time to slip back into bed besides him for a brief nap. He wasn’t tired in the least, but he sorely missed having Maedhros in his arms, and wished to indulge in as much of it as possible. He slipped off his outer robe and placed it on a chair. He unlaced his boots and walked over to the bed.
His foot made contact with something wet, soaking his sock uncomfortably. He looked down. The shattered remains of a wine bottle, in a pool of its own juices. How unfortunate. He had been quite looking forward to that particular bottle. He stared at it a bit longer, contemplating cleaning the mess slightly, or at least removing the glass shards from the path of foot traffic. What happened here? He recalled Beren had visited. Likely, he had knocked it over. Oh well, FIngon decided, his own fault really for leaving a bottle lying on the ground there. If he had wanted to guarantee the bottle’s safety, he wouldn’t have let it sit unattended on the floor. He should have placed it carefully on a table. He really should think better, he chastised himself, think about the consequences of your carelessness.
He peeled off the damp socks, eager to be rid of their odd sensation, and climbed into bed next to Maedhros.
“Nelyo?” he asked once more.
“Mmmph?” came the response.
Fingon cuddled up against Maedhros’s back and curled his arms around him, pulling their bodies together into a semblance of a hug.
“I love you.”
Fingon couldn’t see Maedhros’s face to detect the lack or presence of a smile, but he imagined it was there. He hoped it was there. Maedhros didn’t resist his embrace, but Fingon could still feel the tension in his body. Worried he disturbed him, Fingon withdrew his contact and separated himself by a few inches apologetically.
Maedhros rolled himself over, using his good arm, to face Fingon. “Why did you do that?”
“I didn’t think you wanted to be touched.”
Maedhros paused. “You really do love me, don’t you?”
“Well now what could have possibly made you think that, Nelyo? Hmm? Not hundreds of years of me telling you that?”
“No, I’ve heard you say it. It’s just…you’d miss me if I died, wouldn’t you?”
“Naturally. I miss you ever moment I’m not with you. But death would only separate us for a few hundred years more. I’d go find you in the halls. But why do you say such things? You’re safe. You’ve got the Silmarils. It’s over. We can be happy now.”
“There’s still a war, Fingon.”
“Nevermind the war for now. You’re safe, right now. No one can hurt you.”
“That’s always been the case, hasn’t it? Even you’re too much of a coward to kill me.”
“Don’t say things like that.”
“What if the Silmarils ruin me?”
“They won’t. They’re just jewels, Nelyo.”
“What if I lose myself? And this is the last day we have with things being as normal as they’ve been? Even if I don’t go mad. This will be the end of the oath. This will still change everything. This is the last moment before the rest of our lives. Things will be different, one way or another.”
“You’re worrying me. What are you trying to say?”
“That this is the last chance I have to do this, most likely.”
Fingon was given no opportunity to respond. Maedhros cupped the back of FIngon’s head with his left hand, interweaving his fingers with Fingon’s soft black braids, and pulled him in closer to place a kiss upon his mouth. He then gently released Fingon and tilted his head back to where it was before.
Fingon sat silent, open mouthed, staring at Maedhros in awe, unable to formulate an answer to his friend’s chosen action.
“That’s what you’ve been wanting, isn’t it, Finno?”
Fingon nodded slowly, still unable to speak.
“I figured I might as well give it to you, before things change in whatever way they will.”
Maedhros rolled over onto his back and redirected his gaze from Fingon to the ceiling. A small delighted smile crept onto his face. “You know, I think I kind of missed it. Loving you, that is, not just generic kisses. I’ve had plenty of that. It’s different with you. Because you don’t want to fuck me, do you? You want to love me. You’ve been content all these years, making sure to never touch me too much, making sure to keep your distance, loving me, loving me so dearly. You love me, not my body. You’re one of the only people that does that. You love me selflessly. You care about my own wellbeing, not your own indulgences. But that’s no fair to you, is it. You deserve to be indulged.”
“You don’t owe me anything, Nelyo.”
“Neither do you. Yet you love me so kindly.”
“You shouldn’t feel obligated to give me anything. I don’t want you to give me yourself as some kind of guilt-payment. Are you feeling unwell? This isn’t like you.”
“You’re right. It isn’t like me. We haven’t done anything of this sort in, oh, how many years? I’ve lost count. Since our youth in Valinor. You remember? The few times after parties that we drunkenly snuck off together? Or, sometimes, not so drunkenly? I could never be your lover, but you could whisk me away from the maiar who owned my company to long enough for us to pretend for a night.”
“How could I forget?”
“And you’ve loved me this whole while. We’ve both spent our days and nights in the company of others, but it’s always me your mind turns back to, and it’s always you I find myself seeking comfort in the thought of. Fingon, why is it really that you’ve never married? You tell me that you still haven’t found the one. But I don’t think that’s true. I think you found your heart’s desire ages ago. Is this true?”
“Yes. I have to admit it is.”
“It’s been me this whole time, wasn’t it. And I was too blind to it.”
“And we never did anything about it. Hundreds of years of war and hundreds of miles of land between us, you never did anything about it. Neither did I. Countless poems you sent me. Countless gifts I sent you. We’ve always been in each other’s hearts, but rarely in each other’s arms. If thinks truly will be different, now that we have the Silmarils, I say its time for a change. Perhaps, maybe, our hearts should finally have want they want, let the councils and the stars be damned. As long as our lives may be, it’s becoming more and more clear to me how short they actually are. So easily, Fingon, someone could come into this room of yours and slay me. Or you.”
“That wouldn’t happen.”
“It absolutely could. And how unjust would that be, to spend your entire life devoted to the objects of your greatest love, then have your heart wither away as that love is snapped like a taught cord. Beleriand is full of injustices, and this is one I can right.”
“I don’t know what you’re saying, Nelyo.”
“I’m saying I love you and I don’t want you to ever pull away from me again. I’m saying that I’ve ignored your love all these years. I’ve considered myself so unworthy of it that I let it glide over my head, uncaught and unperceived so many times. I’ve wronged you.”
“You’ve done me no such crime.”
“I love you.”
“I love you too, Nelyo, but you’re still worrying me. There’s something tainting your voice, some impulse, some apocalyptic stress, driving this urgency. Of course I love you. But you worry me, with how you speak. What is on your mind? What has summoned forth this display of heart? This desire for change? I welcome your love, but I want it to come from a place of peace and assurance, not of worry.”
“It’s the Silmarils.”
“Yes. I’ve explained to you before. I don’t know what the future holds for me. For us, really. So, let this be considered the last day of our lives as we know them, and for all purposes, pretend we are dying tomorrow, whether or lives or lost or simply altered beyond recognition. Now, do you understand?”
“We risk dying ever day. The cloud of death has always been upon us. This is nothing new.”
“Dying in battle is an entirely different death than what the oath can have in store for me.”
“You still worry me.”
“Why do you deny yourself what we both want? Why do you argue this?”
“Nelyo I love you, but you don’t have the best record for things you want. You asked me to kill you once. Just because you want something, doesn’t mean it’s coming from a sane mind.”
“I’m not asking you to kill me.”
“I don’t care. This isn’t coming from a sound mind.”
“But you love me?”
“Yes, of course, and that’s why I refuse to accept what you’re saying.”
“You don’t understand.”
“And you’re not thinking clearly.”
Maedhros rolled over, turning his back against Fingon.
Fingon couldn’t see Maedhros’s face to detect the lack or presence of a glare, but he imagined it was there. He curled himself up against Maedhros again, savoring the soft warmth of simply cuddling against him, gently resting his head against him. It was there that his imagination was so sorely interrupted by the light yet distinct pattern of Maedhros’s breathing. He was crying, quietly.
“I love you, Nelyo. I really do.”
The tears didn’t stop.
Chapter 26: You Must Eat
The dinner before the Silmarils
The four directors of the Silmarils’ fate- Luthien, Beren, Fingon, and Maedhros- gathered together in a large banquet hall for one reason: dinner. Well, dinner was their primary reason for gathering. The Silmarils, though perhaps more important in magnitude, were set to become of relevance after the meal, and were thus set aside.
Fingon had arranged for a grand variety of entrees to be delivered to the table. A plate of different cheeses. A plate of paper-thin seasoned meat slices. White bread with a hint of orange. Rosemary lamb. Buttery potatoes topped with chives and cream. Lavender tea. Red wine, white wine, pink wine. Squash soup. A bowl of eggs on ice. Truly, the array was fit for a holiday, or at least a celebration of some sort. The food, sitting in its bold colors and scents, didn’t seem to understand the sick somberness of the evening, and rather existed in optimistic denial of it.
Beren filled his plate eagerly with the lamb and potatoes, filled his cup with wine, then glanced at Maedhros. He made eye contact with the elven prince and suddenly felt too sick to his stomach to enjoy the plate in front of him. He slowly picked at and rearranged his food, in fear of coming off as rude for not enjoying it.
Luthien, high in spirits, had no trouble indulging herself in the bountiful presentation before her. Fingon, likewise, had a merry time with the food, but kept his eyes ever on Maedhros, who took for himself absolutely nothing.
“Nelyo, please, won’t you eat?” he asked.
Maedhros looked up at him. He denied Fingon an answer.
“Nelyo, look. I ordered the eggs to be brought here. Just for you. I know you love them. They’re fresh- laid this morning. The good hens, the ones that made those big brown eggs. The fancy ones.”
Luthien, eager to make conversation, added her part. “Oh! I was curious about those. Are they boiled? Hard or soft?”
“Neither,” Fingon declared with as much of a smile as he could, “they’re raw.”
Maedhros reached out one slender hand, snatched an egg from the bowl of ice, and brought it to his mouth. He placed the whole thing within the confines of his cheek, bit down in a crunch, and swallowed the mixture of eggshell, whites, and yolk all at once.
Luthien looked on in horror. “Is this a Noldor thing?”
“No, Maedhros simply fancies them. It’s an odd habit he picked up.” Fingon looked at him, lovingly. “I can’t stand them myself, but he enjoys them. He used to eat them as a quick snack when he knew he needed food but couldn’t bother to cook. And I suppose he got used to them. He’ll eat them even when he’s not feeling well enough for anything else.”
“Oh, is Lord Maedhros ill?”
“I don’t know, but something certainly troubles him.”
“You can talk to me directly, you know,” Maedhros added. “I can speak. I’m in this room as well.”
“You weren’t responding,” Fingon explained. “You had every right to join the conversation.”
“Well, I’m joining it now. Thanks for announcing your witty assessment that you think I’m troubled by something.”
“It’s not my assessment, Nelyo. It’s quite obvious.”
Maedhros glared at Fingon.
“Have another egg, Nelyo.”
“I’m not a child. You don’t have to instruct me to eat.”
“Well, sometimes you act like one, when it comes to caring for yourself. And you need to eat.”
Luthien, despising the tension of the conversation, sought to divert from it. “Try the soup, Maedhros. I think there’s honey in it. And saffron, maybe. It’s delicious.”
“I’ve had the soup before. It’s no new recipe,” Maedhros snapped.
Luthien returned her focus solely to her meal and retreated from any further attempts at conversation.
“Please,” Fingon whispered to Maedhros, “I really am worried about you. Please eat something. You’ll need the energy. You said it yourself, the Silmarils are going to change things. I want you to be in good health for that.”
“It won’t matter.”
“Yes, it will. You haven’t eaten or drunken anything in a long while. You need a full stomach.”
“For what? So I can throw it up later?”
“No, so you can have energy later. Need I lecture you no how food works? Nelyo, you worry me.”
“I’m about to handle the Silmarils, do you honestly expect me to be calm and cheerful right now?”
“Have some wine, then? To soothe your nerves?’
“I’m not going to get myself drunk, Finno.”
“No! Not drunk. Just a few glasses. To help with the anxiety. It helps me. I know you drink, sometimes.”
“I need to approach them with a clear mind. No drinking.”
“Alright. It was merely a suggestion, Nelyo.”
Fingon looked away.
“What.” Maedhros demanded. “What is it now.”
“I love you. You know that, right?”
“Are you sure? Because I feel like, sometimes, you say you know it, but you don’t really.”
“I told you I love you. I confessed so earlier. Why are you not satisfied?”
“Perhaps,” Fingon sighed, “it is not simply the fact that I love you, but the fact that I want you to be loved. I pour out volumes of my soul to you, reverberations of my deepest admirations, and none of it seems to perforate you, sometimes. Nelyo, I love you so dearly, and yet I cannot bring comfort to your still beating heart. I am never certain if you’re aware the depths to which I feel for you. Fondness, perhaps, you recognize, but it seems that my love bounces off you without comprehension. To see you go through your days, drowning in self-hatred, living as if none of this world harbors any love for your wretched soul when nothing could be farther from the truth, that’s what keeps me from reaching my own satisfaction. I don’t think I can ever truly be happy until I see you feeling loved, see you understanding exactly how loved you are. Nelyo, you are more dear to me than the songs upon my tongue and the moon’s silver light upon these waters. You are the most precious thing Eru has ever had the mind to make. And yet you see yourself as naught but a twisted waste of a being. Do you not understand why this ails my mind?”
“Love makes you blind, Fingon.”
“No! No it does not! I love you and I know you and see you clearer than anyone, more clear than even yourself.”
“Have you considered that, perhaps, love is not destined for the two of us? That when Eru sat down at his drafting table to come up with two elves, he made two souls like two puzzle pieces. Two pieces that look as if they belong side by side, but cannot connect, they simply do not match up. It doesn’t work. That maybe, Fingon, love isn’t meant for us? Or, maybe, it’s meant for you and someone else.”
“That’s nonsense. I-“
“No, let me continue. Even if our hearts yearn for each other, it doesn’t mean they’re right.”
“Nelyo stop talking nonsense. We will be happy and we will be able to fall asleep together and we will live the life we’ve been waiting for.”
“Will we? I don’t think we will. I don’t think Eru made me to be a good contribution to this world. Everywhere I go, everywhere I step, I spread death and cursedness and pain. Even if you think I have a kind heart. It seems I am but an instrument for him to bring darkness into his world.”
“Don’t talk like that. You’re not in your right mind. Here, have enough egg.” Fingon reached for the egg bowl and grabbed a pleasant-looking brown egg, and held it out to Maedhros. Maedhros smacked his hand away, and Fingon pulled it back instinctively, crushing the egg in his fist. A gorey, sticky ooze leaked out of the gaps of his fingers and down his forearm.
“I’m sorry.” Maedhros declared, briskly but sincerely.
Fingon wiped the mess off his hand. “I love you.”
“I love you,” echoed Maedhros quietly.
Chapter 27: Silmarils
“Let’s get this over with. I say we bring out the Silmarils now. Is everyone done eating?” Maedhros asked.
Luthien put down her fork and swallowed her current bite of lamb. “I am now.”
Maedhros looked around the room. Beren and Fingon alike seemed to have completed their meals. “Alright. Where are they?”
Luthien pulled a small bag out from under her chair.
“They’re in the bag?”
Beren reached his hand for Anglachel, which he brought with him. He picked it up off the ground, likewise from beneath his chair, and placed it on his lap, unseen by Maedhros and Fingon. He had not yet wielded the sword, but deemed this situation serious enough that he wished to have it at the ready.
Luthien placed the bag on the table, and there was a slight clink as the hard jewels hit the wooden surface.
“This is it,” Maedhros declared, thinking outloud, “isn’t it. I’m going to hold them. And it’s going to lift the oath off my family. We’ll finally be free of it.” He wondered what that would be like. Would he physically feel a weight lifted off him? Would anything change? His breathing quickened.
Luthien opened the bag and removed the Silmarils, one by one, as each was almost as large as her hand. Sitting on the table, they emitted a full spectrum of light, not as a solid combined white but as a symphony of every hue imaginable, from the darkest crimson to the brightest blue, being thrown across the room like handfuls of confetti. It seemed almost as if they were alive, pulsing with their holy brightness.
All four stared at the jewels, in both awe and fear of them, as if they were seeing an angel.
“They’re even more lovely than I recalled,” Fingon added to the silence. He hadn’t seen them since the days of feast in Valinor when Feanor used to still wear them as adornments.
Maedhros could barely breathe in his nervousness. He tried to pace himself, inhale, exhale, but it was no use, and he found himself nearly choking on the air. He reached across the table to touch one, eager to feel the release of the oath and the surge of beautiful joy he knew the Silmarils brought their possessors.
With one finger, he made contact with a jewel.
Like a bolt of lightning, he recalled his hand, and clutched it to his chest in pain. He looked down at it, expecting it to be burnt down to bone in accordance to the pain he felt, but it showed no physical alterations.
“What is it?” Luthien asked.
“It burns me.”
He reached his hand and arm forward again, this time clutching his entire hand around a jewel, and again felt the shockwave of pain flush through his body. The exact opposite of the joy he had been anticipating. He stared at his hand and watched light, now almost liquid, pour over his hand like molten iron, searing it in a pain he couldn’t bear. He didn’t let go of it. He couldn’t let go of it. He tried to scream, and couldn’t. He merely sat there, still, and stared at his hand, and began to shake.
“Nelyo, let go of it.” Fingon urged.
Why does it burn me? Maedhros asked himself. What is this? He knew only that the Silmarils also burned Melkor, Sauron, and the other beings of filth that Angband held. They didn’t burn Luthien, clearly, and didn’t burn his father. What made him so different? What was it, that light itself burned him? The holy light the Varda herself consecrated.
“I’m unholy.” Maedhros muttered.
“Nelyo please. Let go of the Silmaril. It’s hurting you.”
Maedhros didn’t let go. Perhaps, it was merely because of the curse on him. He held the Silmaril to his chest using the remnant of his right arm, and grabbed the remaining two with his left hand, bringing all three onto his person.
Their light drenched his body in agony.
“I’m unholy. I’m unholy.” He declared again, now with more certainty.
Had the Valar cursed him, or had he done this himself? The closest conclusion he was able to reach was that, like Melkor, perhaps Eru made him knowing full well he would become that conduit of evil. That he truly does serve a role in the world to bring chaos and pain, regardless of his own personal virtue. That he was like Melkor. Like Melkor. Unholy. Unholy. Unholy. Unworthy of the joy that the Silmarils contain. Unworthy of the peace they could bring to his Fea. Unworthy of happiness. Unholy. Unholy. It didn’t matter to him why. Unholy. Unworthy.
He was supposed to let them go. To give them back to Luthien and Beren, so they could complete their own quest. He had no use for them now. He supposed the oath was over- he had regained the Silmarils, as the oath demanded, and was now free to give them away. But, as hard as he wished to, he could not release them. It was as if his body had melted into them.
Fingon reached for a Silmaril. “Nelyo you have to put them down now.”
Maedhros stood up, balancing on his remaining leg, and jerked away from Fingon. “No. No.” He didn’t know where those words were coming from. He couldn’t think. He couldn’t hear. He couldn’t move properly.
Beren, fearing the situation, stood and held Anglachel properly, displaying its readiness to Maedhros. “Lord Maedhros. Put down the Silmarils. I command it.”
“No.” Maedhros repeated, “No, no, I…no…” as he moved farther away. He shifted all three Silmarils to being held against his body by his right arm, and used his left arm to hold his crutch and limp further across the room, away from Beren, away from Fingon.
Beren lunged at Maedhros.
Maedhros, as much as he failed to concentrate, felt himself perfectly agile at his reflexes, and dodged Beren’s attack. In the process, he dropped the three Silmarils. They fell to the floor, made their clink noise, and then rolled together like kittens huddling against the cold.
Maedhros now made his counter attack, throwing himself against Beren with the only force he had left, primarily the weight of his body. He twisted the sword from Beren’s grasp and held it with his left hand as he fell. The sword fell over Beren’s sword-arm, his right one. Pressed down with the entire weight of Maedhros’s body, the sword pressed through Beren’s forearm, severing his right hand from his body with a sickening crunch.
Blood poured from Beren’s body like a wine bottle broken upon the ground. He screamed and threw Maedhros off of himself, then curled around his bleeding arm.
Maedhros lay there, next to Beren, not bothering to move further, trying to take in the chaos he just accidentally caused. He didn’t mean to hurt Beren like that. He meant only to disarm him. Truely, he thought to himself, I am but a channel for pain to come into this world.
Luthien rushed to Beren’s side and beheld the damage.
“The dream!” Beren screamed. “The dream! The prophesy!” he shouted.
“Hush dear, you’re not making any sense.” Luthien whispered to him.
“No, no, the dream. He-“ Beren struggled to get words out, under the weight of the pain. “Maedhros will do unto you what was done to him upon Angband. The dream! It….I…the hand. He cut my hand.”
“I don’t understand.” Luthien said.
Maedhros looked over to him. “I do.”
“He cut my hand! My right hand! Like his own! Like was done to him!” Beren screamed.
“It was an accident!” Maedhros countered.
“Shut up!” Luthien demanded. “I need silence. I can heal him.”
“You can fix his hand?” Fingon asked.
“No,” she admitted, “but I can heal him.” She began to weave her songs through the air and apply mending to his gorey stump of a limb. Fingon watched as the bleeding began to stop and skin reached over the exposed muscle.
“Get him out of here.” She pointed to Maedhros. “He’s done enough.”
Maedhros stared at Beren, at the fallen Silmarils, at the pool of blood on the floor besides him.
Fingon lifted up Maedhros like a child and hurried him out of the room and back up to his chambers. “It was an accident.” Maedhros repeated in his agony. “I didn’t mean for that to happen. I’m sorry.”
Chapter 28: Get Some Rest
A quick mini-chapter
Fingon placed Maedhros gently down on his bed. Maedhros was in hysterics.
“I didn’t mean to hurt him like that. I didn’t mean to,” he shouted again and again.
“I know, I know,” urged Fingon, “just get some rest. Go to sleep. You were hurt.”
“I’m not hurt.”
“Does your hand burn still? I could tell the Silmarils were harming you.”
“Yes,” Maedhros admitted.
“Then you’re still hurt and as your king I order you to get some rest. I don’t know how else to heal you.”
“I don’t think I’ll ever be healed.”
“Nonsense. Sleep. Now.”
“Fingon, the Silmarils were right. That I’m a monster.”
“You’re not a monster, you’re just hungry and sleep deprived and not thinking straight.”
“Can’t you take me seriously? Please, Fingon, try to understand. I only harm this world.”
“That’s not true. I love you.”
“I don’t care that you love me. How much has that love helped anything, huh? Did that love prevent any of this? When has it ever helped anyone?”
“It helped me.”
“You’ve survived countless years without my presence.”
“No, I survived countless years with you in my heart. I’ve been thinking of you and dreaming of you all the while. You’re dear to me. You know that.”
“I hate you, Fingon.”
“No you don’t.”
“You’re selfish. You think having me around is worth all the damage I do to the rest of the world.”
“That’s nonsense, Nelyo, and I don’t want to hear it. Now, stay here, and get some rest. I’m going to go check on Beren and Luthien. I’ll be right back.”
Fingon tucked the sheets around Maedhros as if he was leaving a child to sleep. Maedhros glared at him with coldness in his heart.
“I love you, Nelyo.”
Fingon left, closing the door behind him.
Chapter 29: A Quick Apology
Fingon stumbled his way down the halls, briskly but mindlessly, to where he hoped Luthien and Beren would be. Fortunately, he was correct in his assumption, as they were together in their temporary room. Beren was resting his head upon Luthien’s lap, and she stroked the edge of his injured arm, eyes closed, humming songs of mending.
She changed her focus from her fiancé to Fingon, as he opened the door. “What is it you want?” she asked, with an unusual coldness in her voice.
“I want to apologize for Maedhros.”
“You two have done enough.”
“I don’t think he intended for it to go that way.”
“Does it matter?” she countered.
At this, Beren sat up. “I knew he would do something. I was told so. In a dream. I-“ he sat up slightly, moving his arm, and then quickly laid himself back down, moaning in pain. “That he would do to me what was done to him at Angband. I was certain that meant he would do something horrible to me. You know…those things...”
“I know” Fingon interrupted.
“Well, then, yeah. That’s what I was thinking. It seems it referred instead to him cutting off my hand. Which I suppose was done to him at Angband. That’s all I know. That it was foretold.”
Fingon pondered this for a second. “Why would the valar bother giving you such a prediction?”
“I don’t know,” Beren admitted.
Fingon had a suspicion. Perhaps, perhaps Maedhros was right. That he was just a conduit for ill fortune to be inflicted upon the world, and that this- a grievance done in accident- was simply further well-timed proof of that hypothesis. But why now? Why impose this now, of all times? He didn’t know. He hated how much Maedhros’s theory made sense. And, at the same time, hated how little sense he could make of the whole affair.
Fingon pointed to the black sword that lay on the floor by Beren’s feet. “This sword, it is cursed, yes?”
Fingon picked it up by the hilt, gently. “I’ll have it put safely away where it cannot be used further, if you deem that to be good.”
“I don’t care what happens to it. It’s done enough,” declared Beren.
“Fingon,” Luthien asked, “why did the Silmarils burn Lord Maedhros? He went on about how unholy he was. But, light itself does not burn him. He wears that blue-glow necklace- that one from his homeland that he never takes off- and it does not seem to harm him in the least. He had no troubles with the songs I’ve woven around him, which are by all standards just as holy as the jewels. I do not understand.”
“Neither do I, Luthien. It is the Valar who consecrated the Silmarils, and perhaps the Valar alone who can answer your question.”
“Are the Valar not responsible for this, then?” she furthered.
“Luthien,” Fingon sighed, “I do not know. I came here to apologize for Maedhros, and to check on Beren’s condition. Should I send for a healer? Is there anything at all I can offer you two as an apology?”
“No. I’ve been healer enough to him, and I think we’ll be on our way come morning. I think I’ve had enough of the House of Finwe for now. As charming as you are, your curses and chaos are catastrophic. Bless you, for having such patience with Maedhros and the disasters that seem to seek him out like moths to a lantern. And bless you further, for your kindness and hospitality. It is time we return to my own homeland. I’m sorry if our departure seems rushed, but, considering the circumstances…”
“Thank you,” she answered.
Fingon left the room and closed the door behind him. He traveled a handful of paces down the hallway, then, rather than continuing back to his room, stopped for a minute. He sat down, back pressed against the wall, thighs to the floor, and let his mind race. Oh, dearest Maedhros, what do the Valar have in store for you! For what reason do they use your hand to do such evils, for what reason do the plague your world with tragedy. He was surprised that Luthien and Beren responded with peace, albeit cold, rather than anger and retaliation. So many others would have responded with a deathwish upon Maedhros. It’s almost as if the Valar wanted someone to kill him, or for him to kill himself, as they piled upon him heaps of misfortune beyond what one ought to have. He was right, verily, that he does not seem to fit in the world. But why should that matter! If he was not made to live happily in the world given to him, then by all means, Fingon decided, he would reshape the world for the one he loved. He would tear down mountains tenfold, if that would mean Maedhros could find the peace he so dearly desired. Whatever there was to do, Fingon resolved, he would find it and do it. Somehow, someway, he would make this world worth living in for his Nelyo.
He didn’t want to cry. But he didn’t want to go upstairs and face Maedhros like this, in this state of sorrowful weakness, either. He wanted to let Maedhros sleep a little longer before interrupting him. So, Fingon stayed there, sitting against that corridor wall of rough stone, and let himself weep openly, mourning the circumstances, and the loss of the world as it was.
Fingon awoke. Had he fallen asleep? How long was he asleep? He didn’t know. He looked around and saw no signs of change. Had it been a few minutes? A few hours? He didn’t know.
He stood back up, dusted off his pants and blue velvet robe, fastened the black sword to his hip, and headed back through the hallways and staircases up to his room to greet Maedhros. Quietly, carefully, he opened the door, trying not to wake him.
The bed was empty.
Fingon rushed over to it. Resting upon the blanket was Maedhros’s beloved necklace and a small piece of paper. Upon it, in his lovely curled handwriting, read
I’ve gone to take a long rest. Thank you for your kindness. Find someone who can love you as well as you deserve. I am not fit for the job. Nor any job, it seems. I am no longer an able soldier. I do nothing but hurt, both myself and others. I am nothing but broken. I’m sure you can understand. I think it would be best for you, for Beren and Luthien, and for our people, if I left.
I’m so sorry, I’m not making much sense, I cannot get my thoughts in order. My hand still burns, from the Silmaril. I think it did something permanent. I think it’s almost funny. The Valar thought it would hurt me forever, but I intend to rob them of that, and forever will only last a few hours more. If Eru put me here to harm the world, then the kindest thing I can do for the world that I so love is to destroy his plans, and, thus, myself.
See you at the end of the world, I’ll cherish the memory of you until then.
I love you. Please don’t be mad at me. It’ll be painless for me, I can only hope it’ll be painless for you.
PS, I promise I won’t make a mess, don’t worry.
Fingon held the in his hand and looked the necklace on his bed. The necklace placed so carefully and neatly over the blanket. The note, written with lovely, careful, steady penmanship, despite the pain Maedhros described in his hand. Fingon marveled at that. Such a small detail, but surely, writing must have caused him agony, and to write each letter so clearly, agony moreso.
How long had he been asleep? Perhaps, he had not yet awaken. Yes. Surely, he was still asleep. The Maedhros he knew would never do such a thing. They had talked about it. That he feared his soul, his fea, was tied to Sauron. That he feared death would only turn him into a wraith, since Sauron had a grip on it.
Sauron. Sauron’s dead, he killed Sauron. Maedhros killed Sauron. Sauron no longer had a grip on him. He was free.
Oh. Fingon thought to himself. Oh no.
He dropped the letter and ran out the door.
The parchment fell slowly to the ground, onto the remaining mess of spilled wine, and there soaked itself in red.
Fingon sprinted down the stairs, down the corridor, up another set of stairs, and up another corridor. How long had he been asleep? Maedhros couldn’t have gotten far on just his crutches. What would he do? How would he do it? Fingon searched his brain for answers, but all his thoughts seemed a mess and his heart seemed to pound at his chest and at his skull.
The flowers. The white flowers. Maedhros had his people carry a vial with a few petals off a deadly white flower with them, in case of capture or terminal injury. He carried none himself, but there was a stash of them in the healer’s room. Maedhros knew this.
Fingon ran to the healer’s room, ran as if there was a fire behind him, ran as if the very ground beneath him was collapsing, and it almost truly was.
He rounded a corner and at last came to the healer’s room. No lights were lit. Reasonably so, as it was usually empty late at night. Fingon pulled a torch off the hallway wall and entered with it, dimly illuminating the room before him. The stench of vomit filled his nose, that acrid, bitter scent, welling up in his throat and forcing him to gag slightly.
He turned the corner into the back room of the chamber where medicine and the like was stored. The light of his torch, flickering slightly, reached out to the figure in front of him. Maedhros, sitting in one of the chairs, his face white as bone. Down the front of his tunic was the offending vomit. On the table by his side was a jar of white petals, knocked over, with several more petals scattered across the way.
Fingon screamed. He knew it was late. He couldn’t help it. He screamed. A low shout, one of shock and dismay, the scream of a dying animal, one of someone’s heart being wrenched from their chest. He fell to his knees in front of Maedhros, dropping the torch.
“Please don’t yell,” came a soft voice, following by a wet cough.
Fingon looked up. “Nelyo?” he asked.
“Yes,” came the voice.
Fingon stood up and grabbed his hand. Cold. Deathly cold. He could not feel a pulse, but knew there had to be one there. He picked up the torch, and held it up again, closer to Maedhros’s face. His eyes looked utterly soulless, like the watery glass eyes of the dead fish on ice at market. There was nothing behind those eyes.
Fingon eased him off the chair and lowered him down into his arms. Maedhros was entirely limp like a doll. He couldn’t help himself from crying again, and his tears fell like rain upon Maedhros’s chest.
“I’m dying, Finno.”
“I had hoped you wouldn’t find me like this.”
“What, and let you have the last words?” Fingon grabbed Maedhros’s hand, then released it. “I’m sorry. I know you said it still hurts from the Silmaril.”
“It’s quite alright. I can’t feel it. I can’t feel anything. I think my body’s finally quit trying to tell me it’s hurting.”
“I’m so sorry,” Fingon sobbed, “I fell asleep, in the hall, outside Luthien’s room, I could have gotten to you sooner.”
“I would have simply waited for you to leave again. I’m quite set on this.”
“No,” Fingon insisted, “No, you don’t get it. You’re not unholy. You’re not broken. You’ve got it all backwards. You’re right that you weren’t made for this world. But that’s all. Let me forge you a new world, let me hold you in my arms for as long as it takes, let me storm Valinor itself and shout every profanity I have at the Valar. I swear, Nelyo, if the world won’t have us, then I’ll make a world of our own. It’s not too late for that. And you don’t cause nothing but harm. You don’t. You’re just, oh Nelyo, you’re so blind. You’re such a good ruler. You care so much for the people and you’ve kept our family at peace so well. You’ve saved countless lives, far more than you’ve hurt. It’s not you that’s wrong. No. No. You’re good. You’ve got the kindest heart I know of. I love you. You know that, right? Please? Tell me that you understand that? Nelyo? Nelyo?”
Maedhros did not respond.
Fingon shook him and shouted further. “Nelyo! Nelyo! Please! Answer me! Move! Do something!”
Maedhros did not respond. He lay there, eyes open but so empty they might as well have been shut, skin cold and pale.
Fingon buried his face in Maedhros’s chest and sobbed until the front of his tunic was soaked, then sobbed further, clutching Maedhros’s body as tight as he could, but never getting a response. He felt himself shaking. Maedhros was gone. Maedhros was gone. He knew this. He knew this. Maedhros was gone. But he refused to believe it.
“Don’t leave me, Nelyo. Please. You can’t. You can’t leave me.”
Maedhros did not respond.
Fingon throught to pray, but to who? To the valar who let this happen? Surely, they would not spare his life in the same manner that they had upon Thangorodrim. What divinity could save him now?
Luthien. Half maia. Holy, weaver of magic. He could go to her.
Fingon stood up, carrying Maedhros gently in his arms, and ran to her chambers. It was locked.
“Luthien!” he screamed. “Luthien, please, open the door!’
She opened the door in her nightclothes and stared in disbelief at the two elves before her.
Fingon entered and laid Maedhros down upon the ground. “He’s dead,” he declared. “He ate those flowers, the white ones, oh, I forget what they were called…”
Beren sat up in bed. “Naegradaur. He told me about them.”
“Yes! That’s it! Naegradaur. He left me a note and-“
Luthien interrupted him. “He’s not dead.”
“Yet. He’s dying.”
“Fix it!” Fingon screamed. “Please! I’ll do anything! I’ll give you anything! Everything! You can have my kingdom if you want it! Any of it! I don’t care! Please, fix it! Heal him!”
Luthien looked up at Fingon. “I cannot.”
“What do you mean you cannot?”
She looked up and met Fingon’s eyes with her own. “I have spent myself, for today. I used all the energy I have, all the songs of healing I could conjure, I focused it on Beren’s arm. I’m sorry.”
“Surely, there must be something you can do.”
Luthien thought for a moment, then placed her hands upon Maedhros and began to sing in a low, quiet voice.
Fingon watched her in anticipation, waiting for the life to return to Maedhros’s eyes, waiting for him to wait with a sputtering breath. Nonesuch happened.
“He’s stable,” Luthien declared. “He’s in a coma, of sorts, I suppose you could call it that. He will progress no further towards death. I know not how to heal him, as I am not familiar with that herb. I will ask my mother, Melian. She is far more advanced than I am in these matters. My father, perhaps, will also help. In the meanwhile, he is still, and will not die in my absence. I will try my best, later.”
Fingon rushed forward and hugged her tightly. “Thank you,” he shouted, “thank you, oh Luthien, I owe you all you could ask for.”
“I ask for nothing, and I bear you two no grievances. You love him, just as I love Beren, and in my eyes both of us deserve happiness. He tried his hardest to enable help Beren and me reach that happiness, and I owe the same to him.”
Fingon carried Maedhros’s body upstairs, back to his chambers, and placed it in bed. He fastened Maedhros’s beloved necklace back upon his neck, then climbed into bed alongside him. He was cold, but if Fingon put some thought to it, he could imagine Maedhros was simply sleeping.
“I’m going to fix this,” he whispered into Maedhros’s ear. “I promise.”
Maedhros did not respond.
“I love you, Nelyo.”
Yeah, maybe Luthien shouldn't trust her parents of all people with Maedhros's fate...
Chapter 31: A Father's Love
Luthien placed Beren’s severed hand in a small silken box, and placed that box with their other belongings. Though she could not reattach it herself, she had hopes that her mother, a maia far more powerful than herself, had the capability. At least, Beren jokes, if they couldn’t heal him, they could give it a proper burial.
Without a word to Fingon, the two departed at the break of dawn with three Silmarils and two sorrowful hearts, onwards towards Doriath.
They walked in somber silence, until Beren cracked the air with a question.
“Luthien,” he asked, “are you looking forwards to seeing your father again?”
She looked at him with a stare filled with both love but backed by shards of ice, and gave the simple response, “No.”
“He locked me in room in a tree, Beren. And set guards upon it. He did not approve of us and I doubt the Silmarils will change that. Maedhros and I talked about it. He sent you to get the Silmarils hoping it would kill you, not hoping to see you prove yourself a viable and noble mate. He doesn’t want you in the family, and doesn’t want me leaving it.”
“You’re several thousand years old. Why can’t he let you marry?”
“I’m not entirely sure. He never had high intent to marry me off to anyone, really. There were a few elves he pondered pairing me with. Maedhros, Daeron, Eol. Maedhros, I suppose, didn’t meet his standards. The idea of forming a union with the Noldor was a very well-considered one, but in the end his hatred for them overrode his desire for diplomacy. Daeron, perhaps, was simply never noble enough. Daeron still loves me. But he can never have me. There’s something in the way he stares at me that I can’t stand. I don’t think I could ever be his bride. Eol was dear to us in his youth, well, it was my youth back then as well. Did you know Eol was a captive of Melkor, at one point?”
“I did not. I don’t even know the man.”
“Well, he was. He was captured when he was, oh, it’s been such a long while, I want to say around, ah, fifteen decades? He was such a sweet boy. A smile always upon his mouth. A heartbreaker, really, he would dance with all the girls at the ball and kiss half of them. He came back from Angband so entirely changed. So bitter, so cold became his heart. I held pity for him, but he let himself become cruel, and the love I once could have had for him turned bitter as well. He filled his mind with the smithery of harsh weapons, deadly blades and poisons. I know not what he sought from life. He married that Noldo, Aredhel. My father, naturally, didn’t approve of this in the least, at first. You know him, and his Noldor hatred.”
“Well, Eol didn’t treat this lady very well. When word got to my father of the condition, he kept the Lady Aredhel in, my father was pleased, actually. Can you imagine that? He was pleased. He received word that Eol would rape this lady, and my father was pleased. Eol would threaten to put her and their son in chains. He treated them with the same cruelty he had witnessed at the hands of Morgoth. His bitterness and hate finally had an avenue of expression, and he inflicted all the evil in his heart upon them. They escaped and ran away, to Gondolin I hear. Eol chased after them. He never came back. This was, oh, fifty years ago or so? No, sixty. I don’t know what happened to them. We don’t get much news from Gondolin. I so dearly hope she escaped him, and is living the life she deserved. I never met her. Father would never allow me to leave, to visit her. I met their son, once, when Eol visited here. Small, dark haired, still a child. I could already see so much pain in him, and, much to my distress, so much of the bitterness his father carried. He had bruises upon him, and burn marks up his arms. I pulled him aside and inquired as to their origins. He told me, with an unnerving lack of emotion, simply that he made mistakes in the forge. He would tell me nothing further. I cried for that child. I told my father of my tears and of my concerns, and you know what? He was glad. He told me he was proud of Eol, for training the wayward Noldorin out of him. As if he were some wild horse in need or domesticating, or a chunk of raw steel needing to be beaten down to shape, rather than just a child. I think, seeing this, I should have paid attention to my father more. My father condoned the abuse in that family simply due to his hatred of the Noldor. I knew very little of the Noldor at that time, only the little that Galadriel would tell me in secret, and it seemed to me they were just another sort of people. We spent all that time with Maedhros, and for the most part he seemed a good and noble man. I don’t know, Beren, I don’t know how to explain it. But there’s such cruelty in my father.”
“No,” assured Beren, “I understand you completely.”
“I feel almost guilty, for hating him. He never hit me, he never bruised me, he never placed hot metal upon my arms. I lived in luxury, as a princess, naturally. I spent my days drinking the sweetest wines and dancing through the loveliest forests. I recall the Lady Aredhel and her son, and I can’t help but decide my life must be splendid compared to theirs. I’ve seen corpses. My father never wanted me to, but I’ve seen them. The corpses of poor elves who came to Doriath for refuge and got caught in my mother’s enchantments, and died there in the forest. I’ve seen families there, huddled together, starved to death, in their stages of decay. It’s the eyes that go first, did you know that? Oh, of course you do, you’ve lived a harsher life than I. I’m sorry. I have no right to complain. I see those dead elves and see my own gold-plated life and find no sympathy for myself. But I also can’t help but feel discontent. My father never hit me. I never was left to starve. I was given every luxury, I suppose, except a life. I’ve been his pet my entire life. Never allowed to wed. Barely allowed to socialize, or make friends, or find the world for myself. He had me either supervised by Daeron or locked safely in my chambers. I was never given an education, Beren. I never learned mathematics, or history. I was kept so isolated from the world, its people and its knowledge and its vastness. I really, truly, was just a pet, just the most beautiful trophy for a king to own, to keep around like a well-groomed dog. I was paraded around at dinners and events. I was asked to sing, but never asked to speak. I was never supposed to have a mind. I can tear down castles with my voice, Beren, I have maiar blood coursing through my veins, and I was never taught what potential I could do with that. I brought down Sauron and Morgoth. I’m so exceedingly strong, stronger than I was ever allowed to know. He kept me weak, and he kept me as nothing. I’m so sick of being nothing, Beren. I’m so sick of being his pretty little plaything. Maybe he never hit me, but, I think, when I looked into Maeglin’s eyes, I saw a bit of myself. That we’re kin, to a degree, in that we are both trapped in a life of dehumanization and unlove. I don’t think Thingol loves me. I saw how Fingon loved Maedhros, and you’ve told me how your father loved you, and I know how you love me, and Thingol- I’ll call him by his name, I won’t even call him father anymore- doesn’t love me. He doesn’t have that. He controls me. That is it. I’m a living accessory and a living toy and I’m not a human and I’m not someone who can make choices or live or be strong. And, now that I’ve spent so much time away from him, I never want to go back to him. We have to, of course, since you swore to find the Silmarils for him, but after that, oh, I don’t know, I want to leave. Please, Beren, I’ll live anywhere. I’ll live a life with no sweet wines and no silken gowns and no balls, I’ll live in a tend in the forest, if it means I get to live.”
Beren stopped his walking and embraced her in a hug. “I promise you, you won’t have to go back to that life. If it’s a tent we’ll have to live in, then, I’ll make it the nicest tent I can. You don’t have to go back to living in Doriath. We can go anywhere. You can be anything you want. And I’ll make sure that happens, even if we have to go all the way to Angband and back again.”
Luthien accepted the embrace and rested in it. “I love you.”
“I love you too.”
Luthien wiped a tear from her eye and smiled. “Eru, I don’t even know how to cook. I’ve never lived on my own. I’ve never done anything. You’re going to have to teach me so much.”
“Well, lucky for you, I grew up in a forest,” Beren beamed. “Maybe I don’t know how to live in one of your fancy elven courts, but I can catch and cook rabbits and show you what berries are edible and how to turn a deer hide into a tunic.”
“I’d like that very much.”
“The world ahead of you is bright, my dearest Luthien, I promise.”
“With you, I can’t imagine it being any other way.”
Beren planted a kiss upon her forehead and she smiled.
Chapter 32: Lifeless
Immediately after the incicdent, Fingon had changed Maedhros’s vomit-soiled clothes, dressing him in a fine silk sleeping gown, and placed him in bed.
He lay down in that bed besides Maedhros, and did not move from it, not even to get himself food, not even to tend to kingly duties. The world outside his room held no interest. Everything he loved was right besides him.
Maedhros’s body was utterly lifeless. No pulse ran through his veins, no heat came from his body. Fingon cuddled up next to his icey corpse and ran his hands through his deep red hair, tenderly, slowly.
“I love you, Nelyo.”
He rested his head upon Maedhros’s chest out of habit, longing for a heartbeat that wasn’t there. Tears began to stream down his face, soaking into the cloth of Maedhros’s tunic.
“I love you, Nelyo. I don’t know if you can hear me. You can’t, can you? I’m so sorry, Nelyo. I’m so sorry. I wish I could have done more. I love you, I love you, I love you.”
He broke into a sob.
“Don’t leave me, Nelyo. Please don’t be gone. Please. You can’t. You can’t. I love you.”
Maedhros did not move.
Fingon wanted to scream. He wanted to grab Eru and force him to undo their fates. He wanted his heart back, his beloved, his Nelyo. Nothing else mattered at all. Nothing.
As the days dragged by, Fingon became sickly, refusing to leave Maedhros’s side at all. His face became gaunt and pale, his body became thin. He let himself start to die, and didn’t care to stop it.
Chapter 33: Back in Doriath
Luthien and Beren return to Doriath. Luthien expresses some concerns.
Luthien and Beren had completed their trek to Doriath, and were met at the border by a pair of unfamiliar guards. No words were exchanged, as there were none needed. Usually, Beleg was assigned to escort detail, but, in this case, he was absent.
Luthien clutched the bag of Silmarils tight to her chest. She was guarding her future with Beren, as well as the blood of the Noldor, and perhaps the fate of Arda itself. The light in the bag felt warm somewhat, not like a hot iron pan, but like sitting in the gentle sunlight. It felt like a hug, like the warmth of a cat curled up next to you, like a blanket on a cold day, and she loved it. She said nothing to Beren, of this small joy the Silmarils gave her, but silently dreaded giving them up to her father.
Ah, yes, her father.
“How is Lord Thingol doing?” she asked to one of the guards, ruining the silence they had up until they so well preserved. “I know he was…. injured earlier. Stabbed, if I remember correctly.”
“He’s in good health,” one replied, “the wound hit no vital organs. Melian repaired him entirely within the span of a week. Bless her.”
“Yes.” Luthien agreed passively.
Finally, they came upon the city, and were led through the gates. Luthien, with Beren following closely behind, was led to her old bedroom and deposited there for a short while.
“So, this is it.” Beren exhaled, lying down on her bed to catch a moments rest. “We hand over the Silmarils, my oath is fulfilled, we get married, and it’s all over. The rest of our lives and spread in front of us like an unmapped ocean, broad and empty. How dreamlike the past now seems.”
“Dreamlike, yes, but perhaps more a nightmare. I cannot forget the troubles. Perhaps our lives will move smoothly forward, but not so for poor Beleg, and not so for poor Maedhros. The fate of that red-haired Noldo rests heavily upon my soul, and I doubt I will know peace until he is given a fair conclusion to his efforts.”
“What exactly did you do to him? You speak of him as if he isn’t dead.”
“He’s not. His body perhaps is dead, or, more fittingly, it is in some form of frozen hibernation. I simply trapped his fea in his body, binding it, so it cannot escape and he cannot die. I must return to him, at some point, and repair his body. I think perhaps my mother could help me in this endeavor, for I am not nearly as skilled as she. He is dead, and yet, undead. I feel guilt, however, in this. He spoke of how he could never commit suicide in Angband, as Sauron placed a lock upon his soul, trapping it so his body. And yet, here I am, placing the same curse upon him, snatching suicide out of his hands and taking control of his lifeblood. Am I cruel, Beren, for doing so? I considered only Fingon’s grief in my choice to preserve Maedhros, and I considered not his own pain. What do you think would have happened to him, had I let him die in peace? Would his soul be cursed to remain a wraith upon this earth? Would he be sent to the Halls of Mandos to serve out a sentence of suffering? Or would he simply rest, and find the peace he has been deprived of for all the years of his existence. Who am I to play judge, jury, and executioner, who am I to decide who lives and dies, who is worthy of a smooth death and who I must subject to the extended torment of life itself.”
“I don’t think you should worry yourself too much over depriving him of death. He had lost his sanity and was not thinking clearly, when he made that choice. You didn’t rob him of anything. You simply gave him a second chance, to reconsider his path with a clearer mind.”
“Perhaps. But, alas, I do not know how to undo the curse I placed upon him, how to unbind his fea from his hroa. I worry that he’ll never be able to die, now, rather, he will be permanently locked in a still body someday.”
“Nonsense. We’ll get Melian to help us sort that out.”
“Melian has very little sympathy for Noldor. What if she declines my plea? What if she doesn’t help us?”
“There’s no use in wasting ourselves upon what-ifs. If Melian won’t help us, surely, there are others who can. We’ll find someone. We’ll call upon the Valar themselves if we need to.”
“The Valar show no pity towards Maedhros. They are even less inclined to help us than my mother is.”
Beren had no reassurances to give Luthien. He opted to embrace her in a hug. A tear dripped down her face.
“What have I done,” she whispered.
“Don’t apologize for acting out of instinctive kindness.”
“Luthien, your kindness is what separates you from so many others. Your lovely heart and its decisions, though sometimes impulsively strong, have not yet ever proved wrong. You wish harm upon no one. More people should think like you, Luthien, more people should love like you. I have no doubt in my mind about this
Chapter 34: Dance
Maedhros was light. Despite his height, he was thin, and his lack of an arm and leg only contributed to this. He was thin enough, by any measure, for Fingon to hold him. And hold him he did. With one arn wrapped around his torso, Fingon pressed Maedhros to himself, bearing his weight. He slowly swayed around the room, all the while humming the soft songs he once knew in Valinor. Maedhros was limp in his arms, not quite making an effective dance partner, but Fingon didn't care. With his other hand, he ran his fingers through Maedhros's fine red hair.
Maedhros was also quite cold the the touch, having lost the fire of life.
"I love you, Nelyo" he declared to the silent corpse. "I love you" he repeated, then sealed the statement with a kiss to the forehead.
There was knocking upon his door. "Please, my lord," came a muffled voice from outside, "you must eat."
The door remained locked. It was true that Fingon had not eaten in days, but hunger seemed not to touch him. His body felt empty and yet heavy at the same time, filled with void almost. His fea had simply fallen flat, and his health along with it. His usually impeccable braids were now worn and frizzed. He hadn't changed his robes in days either. No earthly matters seemed to be of any weight to him.
"My lord, open the door" came the voice again.
Fingon continued humming and swaying, swaying and humming, dancing with the man he loved most.
"I'm sorry we didn't get to do this earlier" he whispered to Maedhros. "I remember how much you loved dance, back in Valinor. It's alright. We can dance again now. It's alright."
He felt faint, exhausted in both fea and hroa, but he couldn't find it in himself to sleep either. At night, he lay next to Maedhros, head on his chest, waiting eagerly for the return of his heartbeat.
"I love you, Nelyo," he said again, and again, and again, as a constant echo, like the sound of waves crashing upon the shore so ceaselessly.
After dancing had tired him, he set Maedhros down upon the bed and curled up tightly against him, embracing him. He began to cry, his tears blemishing the fine silks he had dressed Maedhros in. He listened for a heartbeat that wasn't there, and silently screamed for an answer that he could never get.
Chapter 35: Father
A knock upon the door. Luthien and Beren stood up, Luthien fetched the bag of Silmarils, and they were ready to depart. Beren opened the door.
“I’m here to escort you to dinner,” came the voice of a cheery Sindarin guard.
“Basreth?” Luthien asked.
“Yes?” came the guard’s reply. She looked around. “Beleg went with you. Has my brother returned yet? I’ve yet to receive news of him.”
Luthien flashed a look at Beren. “He’s not with us at the moment.”
“Will he return soon?”
“I’m not certain of his whereabouts,” she lied. Well, it was a half lie. He was dead, this she knew, but he was unsure whether he remained in Arda as a wraith or had settled his soul in the halls of Mandos. This was neither the time nor place to inform Basreth of her brother’s death.
“Ah. I see. Well, Lord Thingol has ordered a feast to be prepared, and whishes to receive the Silmarils. Will you follow me?”
Luthien nodded. Beren picked up the bag of Silmarils and held it to his chest. The two followed Basreth through the hallway and down a corridor to the main hall.
A long table had been set with an assortment of foods. A bowl of pineapple- an imported delicacy. A plate of rare-cooked lamb. Cold cheeses. A bottle of fine wine at every place setting.
The most prominent aspect of the room, however, was Thingol himself. He sat at the head of the table in a throne-like chair, Melian seated beside him. No other guests were present. Despite the sheer abundance of food available, it seemed the feast was intended simply for the four of them. There were, however, several guards, one in every corner of the room. Basreth took her position behind Thingol and Melian, as she too was a royal guard tasked with protecting this meeting.
Thingol rose. “Ah, my wayward daughter, returned at last,” he declared, his voice brimming with contempt held back by an empty smile. “Have you fulfilled my request?”
Luthien said nothing. Beren tossed the bag of Silmarils unceremoniously across the table towards Thingol. It knocked over a wine glass, cracking it, pouring blood-red across the table. Beren’s thoughts, seeing this, immediately transferred his mind back to the night he had intended to kill Maedhros, and knocked over a wine bottle in such a similar way. He froze in this memory for a moment.
Thingol reached forward and snatched the bag to himself. One by one, he pulled out the Silmarils, and placed them in front of him. A small moan of satisfaction escaped his lips.
“Clever, clever little boy, aren’t you?” he directed at Beren. “However did you manage to retrieve these, through the gauntlet of Angband’s danger?”
“Beleg and Maedhros helped us,” came his quick response.
At the mention of her brother’s name, Basreth became alert and turned her full attention to the conversation.
“They’re…” Beren looked to Luthien for approval, “…both dead.”
“Ah. Pity. Beleg was a valued employee of mine. I suppose, however, that his fate is fitting, given that he abandoned his post to follow in the whims of a Feanorian. I shall not mourn him.”
At the news of his death, Basreth tightened her grib around the knife on her belt and clenched her face, holding back tears of grief, maintaining composure.
“Don’t you speak of him that way. If it were not for Beleg, surely, one of use could have died in his place.”
Thingol glared at her.
“Maedhros is only partially dead dead, actually,” added Luthien. “Sort of. He…took some poison, and life abandoned his body. I didn’t know how to cure him, but I locked his fea to his hroa. I think we may be able to bring him back. Mother, with your help, he-“
Thingol raised his hand. “Enough. We are not helping a kinslayer.”
“He helped us. He’s a good man, father.”
“Is he? Is he really a good man? I know him better than you. I know the Noldor-“
“No.” Luthien cut him off. “No, you don’t know him. You were wrong about the Noldor.”
“Don’t you dare speak over me, young lady.”
“I’m not a child.”
“You act like one.”
“I’m more powerful than you think I am, father. I captured Sauron. I destroyed a fortress. I entered and escaped Angband unharmed. The blood of the ainur flows through my veins, and you should fear me. Perhaps you thought you could subdue me, separating me from society, keeping me in the dark about the extend of my abilities. Did you think you could run this scheme forever? Keep me like a little prize, a little harmless decoration you could flaunt at parties? I am more than just a beautiful pet to you. I demand your respect. With these Silmarils I give you, Beren and I have fulfilled your demands, and this is the last day I will consider myself your daughter.”
Hatred burned in Thingol’s eyes. “Dear Luthien,” he spoke in a voice like coarse sugar, “come closer.”
Luthien walked over to his side, cautiously.
He lifted his hand to her face and grabbed her firmly by the chin. He pulled her close to him. “No, little Luthien, you listen to me. You are mine. And you will be mine forever. Do you understand this?”
“No.” Luthien countered. “I will never be yours again.”
Thingol withdrew his hand from her chin and dealt a hard smack across the side of her face, knocking her back slightly. One of his rings had caught the flesh of her cheek, leaving a small cut there, dripping blood.
Beren rushed over to her, but was stopped by several of the guards pointing their readied bows at him.
“If you approach me, I’ll have you killed” announced Thingol. “So, don’t try it.”
Luthien looked to her mother, a silence scream in her eyes. Melian looked away. “Mother” she pleaded.
“Obey your father” came her only reply.
Thingol nodded. “Yes. You heard your mother. Now, little Luthien, return to your seat. Have your man return to his as well, and keep him on a close leash, for he seems feral to me.”
Luthien, unsure of what to do, returned to her chair at the other end of the long table, Beren following her.
The room was dense with silence.
“Beleg is dead?” came a small voice. Basreth’s.
“Yes. These things happen. Did I ask you to speak? No. Be silent,” commanded Thingol.
“You killed him” continued Basreth.
“No, I didn’t. And again. Do not speak unless you are spoken too.”
“You set up this voyage for them. Beleg went because of his loyalty to Luthien, didn’t he. And he died because of his loyalty to Luthien. Because of the quest you commanded of her.”
“He chose out of his own free will to follow her, and in the process, as I stated before, abandoned his post. He deserved his fate, and I do not mourn him, and, if you wish to remain a guard in good standing, neither should you.”
“Unfortunately” she spoke quietly, “I am more alike to my brother than you think, and I believe my loyalties lie with Lady Luthien, rather than to you. Don’t you dare hurt her. And don’t you dare insult my brother’s memory.”
“If you don’t silence yourself, I’ll have you killed. I’m not afraid to see blood spill in my court.”
“You’ve spilled it before,” she continued. “Beleg told me about all the elves who he found dead along the borders of Doriath, seeking desperate sanctuary and receiving none.”
“It is not my fault that elves flung themselves at a guarded nation, knowing full well that their entry would be denied.”
“You are an evil man. You have no compassion for anyone, do you?” As Basreth spoke, her voice grew louder, with confidence she didn’t know she had.
Luthien and Beren looked on from their end of the table.
“And of Lord Maedhros, too. I knew him. I met him. He was a good man. Even Lady Luthien agrees to this. And you mistreated him horribly.”
“He’s a Noldo, and, furthermore, a Feanorian. He deserves worse than death, and is worth less than a dog.”
“You are unfit to be a King.”
“Luckily for me, the opinions of an uneducated guard hold no sway over the court. I dismiss you from your service.” Thingol nodded at one of the guards, who then drew their bow. “Doriath had no need for you.”
“No!” Luthien stood and shouted. “Don’t you dare hurt her!”
“Her death will be swift and she will not suffer.”
Luthien ran over, placing herself between the arrow and Basreth. “Don’t hurt her.”
“She has spoken out of place. So have you.”
“You wouldn’t dare kill me.”
Basreth slowly removed the knife from her waist belt.
“She’s right,” Luthien added, “you are an unfit king and an unfit father. If anyone here should be shot, it ought to be you.”
“You long for your own father’s death?”
“You are not my father. You are simply a cruel man who has for centuries kept me docile and silent. You’ve hurt me. You’ve hurt thousands of others. You’re a monster, not my father, and I feel no love in my heart for you.”
“Clearly, your time with Beren and the Noldor has ruined your mind. Some time alone should revert you to your senses. I’m sorry, little Luthien, but I can’t let him influence you any longer if this is what he turns you into.” Thingol nodded to a second guard, who rushed forward and grabbed Beren.
“Yes. Trust me, in a decade’s time, you’ll thank me, and you’ll be happier without him.”
“We gave you the Silmarils! You promised you would let me wed him after that!”
“You have my permission to wed him. However, I don’t think he’ll be alive long enough for you two to complete that marriage. I have broken no promise.”
“I hate you,” Luthien spat.
Thingol nodded at a third guard, who drew his bow and positioned it to Beren’s head. "Remember, you're mine. Not his."
Luthien whistled a quick note, and the arrow immediately turned to dust, and drifted slowly to the ground.
“You little bitch,” Thingol hissed. He shot up out of his chair and grabbed Luthien, tackling her to the floor, a hand around her throat, silencing her. “I’ll have your tongue cut out. I’ll have you muzzled.”
Basreth raised her knife and drove it down the back of Thingol’s torso. He inhaled sharply, in an unnatural, broken way.
Basreth pulled the knife out and stabbed him again. And again. And again. She stabbed him until he stopped squirming and stopped breathing. No more sharp inhalations. No more words. No more Thingol.
Luthien pushed his body off her and sat up, her dress soaked in his blood. The other guards looked onward, unsure of how to proceed. In the confusion, Beren broke free from his guard’s grip. He quickly rebagged the Silmarils and slung the bag over his shoulder. With his remaining hand he helped Luthien stand up, then gestured for Basreth to follow.
Melian looked at Luthien, then at Thingol’s body, then again at her daughter. The guards raised their bows at the three perpetrators, and Melian lifted her hand, giving them the order to stop. “Let them pass.” She said, in a voice calmer than the situation required.
The three ran from the room, bloodstained and endangered.
They ran through the halls of Doriath, the beautiful stone corridors, the painted archways, and out into the forest.
Chapter 36: Outside the City
Luthien, Basreth, and Beren huddled beneath a tree a good mile or two past the gates of Menegroth.
“Fuck,” declared Beren.
Tears streamed down Luthien’s face and drying blood dripped off the hems of her dress. “My father…”
“The king…” Basreth exhaled. Suddenly she stood up. “My wife! My wife is still in there. Eru, I just killed the king, they’re going to kill her aren’t they? I have to get her out of there.”
“That’s not safe,” Beren added, “have one of us go in and fetch her. Where does she live? What’s her name?”
“Gaelndis. We live together on the east side of the city, are you aware of fifth district?”
“I’m realizing now that I have no knowledge concerning the city. Perhaps Luthien should go.”
“What, and leave you two behind? No. If I’m going, we’re all going. What are they going to do, kill the princess? Besides, I can protect you.” Luthien smiled weakly. “I can do that now.”
Basreth looked down at the bloody knife, still in her hand. “I killed the king. I killed the king. Eru, they’re going to kill me.” She ran to Luthien and grabbed her into a hug. “Lady Luthien, what do I do? What can I do?”
Luthien returned the embrace. “Don’t worry. You’ll be fine. No one will hurt you. I’m sure of it.”
Basreth let her tears slide onto Luthien’s dress. “I’m scared.”
“So am I.”
“What do we do with the Silmarils?” asked Beren. “If we carry them in with us, we risk having them seized.”
Luthien pondered the matter for a moment. “Beren, you stay out here in the forest with the Silmarils. Basreth and I will go in, retrieve her wife, then meet you out here. I know you are adept at hiding in forests.”
“I am. But how am I to sit here calmly, knowing full well the danger you’re putting yourself in?”
“We survived Angband, we’ll survive my home.”
“I was uneasy during Angband, too.”
Luthien walked over to Beren, held his head in her hands, and deposited a kiss upon his forehead. “I’ll be alright. I promise.”
“I hate this. I hate all of this.”
“I do too. But, as time changes, as it is apt to do, we too must bend with it. My father is gone. These are merely the circumstances we have to deal with now.”
“Luthien?” he asked.
“Do…you mourn him?”
“The tears I would have shed for him, the love I held for him in my youth, have vanished with his civility. Basreth did right. He was not fit to be king.”
“At the least, I’m glad that your heart is not troubled.”
“No,” she countered softly, “it is troubled yet. Not out of sadness for the dead, but fear for the living. You, Basreth…even Maedhros. I do not believe I will be able to plead for my mother’s aid in the matter after this incident.”
“Probably not, no.”
“Things are going to be alright.”
“How can you say so with such certainty?”
“I can’t. But, would you rather having me say that we are doomed?”
“I’m sorry to interrupt, but, do I dispose of the knife, or keep it?” Basreth asked. When met with their inquisitive faces, she continued. “The knife I stabbed him with. I’m still carrying it.”
Luthien reached out her hand, and Basreth placed the knife in it. Luthien whistled a few sharp notes, and the knife crumbled to ash, slipping through her fingers and drifting off with the wind. “It is taken care of.”
“Beren,” Luthien said assertively, “We will meet you again at this location in, ideally, two or so hours. If we have not returned by nightfall, assume we have been detained, and search for us.”
Beren had no objections.
“Keep yourself hidden.”
“I love you.”
“I love you, too. More than anything.”
Luthien kissed him one last time, then grabbed Basreth by the hand and began their run back into the city.
Chapter 37: Royalty
As soon as Luthien and Basreth approached the city gates, they were interrupted by the presence of Mablung.
“I would stop here if I were you.” He advised. “You, that is, not Luthien,” he said, pointing to Basreth. “Luthien, I was instructed to find you and bring you to Melian.”
“I’m going in anyways,” Basreth protested, “I’ve got to find my wife so she can leave with me.”
Mablung pondered this for a moment. “I still don’t think you should enter the city. I’m obliged to kill you, and so are the other guards. If you tell me where your wife is, I can fetch her for you.”
“No. I want to go to her myself.”
“Do you have a death wish? Do you honestly think you can outpace the news that you murdered the king?”
“Why are you trying to help me, anyways?”
“I fucking hate Thingol.”
“Weren’t you one of his head guards?”
“I still am one of the head guards, thank you. And my service to the country doesn’t correlate to love for its leader. Thingol’s policies were reckless and heartless. Do you know how many elves I’ve been ordered to execute? Every wayward Noldo that managed to navigate their way through the forests earned themselves a death sentence. I was ordered to take them back deep in the forest and slay them, and never speak of this, under threat of my own execution. Well, he’s dead! So I’ll speak of it now! Don’t look at me like that, don’t worry, I never killed any of them. I would give them a packet of rations and directions to the nearest safe city, then bid them farewell. Thingol never found out, that old fool. Luthien, I’m sorry if my negative manner of speaking about your father offends you-“
“No,” Luthien interrupted, “you’re right in your words against him. His death was well merited and I shed no tears in his honor.”
“Anyways,” Mablung continued, “you…err…what’s your name?”
“Basreth. You cannot enter the cities. I may refuse to slay you, but the others do not have the same weak heart as I do. You will be killed. Please, trust me to reach your wife and bring her to you.”
Mablung shrugged and looked at Luthien, exasperated.
Luthien looked sternly at Basreth. “I trust Mablung, and I urge you to do the same.”
“Fine,” Basreth spat. “She lives on the east side, 5th district, residence unit number 34. She’s likely sleeping. Here’s the key,” she said, reaching out her hand to deposit the key with Mablung. “Tell her to bring some of my pipe weed. My nerves need it.”
Mablung bowed slightly. “I will oblige your request, and return shortly.” He turned to Luthien. “Queen Melian wishes for your presence. She is in her chambers.” With this stated, Mablung ran back towards the gates and into the city.
“I suppose I better hide.” Basreth sighed. “Should I go find Beren?”
“No, stay near here. Mablung won’t be too long, I imagine. 5th district is close by.”
“Will you be safe, Lady Luthien?”
“Of course I will be. I doubt any guard would dare lay hands on me. And if they do, they’ll lose their hands perhaps!”
“I like to hear that. Now, go see Queen Melian. Let’s get this over with, shall we?”
Luthien nodded. “May you stay safe in the meanwhile. I will return.”
With this, Luthien too entered the city through the gates, and made her way to Melian’s chambers. The corridors of Menegroth were oddly empty, devoid of their usual stationed guards. Disregarded this change, she paced onward, across familiar paths, up a set of stairs, and to the entrance of the royal quarters. A guard was stationed here at least and, seeing Luthien, opened the door and let her pass.
It had been months since Luthien dwelt in the place she always called home. Those few months were enough to make the once intimate rooms feel foreign and revolting. She entered her parents’ section of the house, pausing at the living room. The usually ablaze fireplace was silent. Finally, their bedroom. She knocked on the door.
“Come in, it’s unlocked” came the sweet voice of her mother.
She entered. On the floor lay her father, woundless, appearing merely to be sleeping, laying in her mother’s lap.
“What happened to the-“
“The stab wounds? I mended them.”
“You healed him? He’s alive?”
“No, child, he is dead. I merely mended the knife holes. They were unsightly.”
“Why did I mend them, if he’s dead? I plan to take him to Valinor, and reunite his body with his fea.”
“So you’re leaving?”
“But who will rule Doriath? Father never let me learned politics. I don’t have the faintest idea how to run a government.”
Melian laughed. “Do you think your father knew how to run a government? No, child, Doriath has an abundance of officials and bureaucrats below you to take care of the technicalities you are clueless with. You are to be queen, and, dear little Luthien, I know you will be a good and fair queen. You care for your people. You will guide them well.”
“Thank you. I-“
“My only request is you find a more suitable husband to be king. You may love Beren now, but he will die in a fistful of decades. Please understand, that as queen, you have a duty to your people before your duty to your heart. I expect you to make a proper choice. Your father would hate this, but marrying a Noldo would even be acceptable. Their King, Fingon, he is still a bachelor, is he not? Or, perhaps you can marry someone from the courts here. Saeros and Mablung are both suitable men. They will guide you well in being royalty.”
“No, mother. I will wed Beren.”
“You are a fool.”
“Am I a fool? You abandoned Valinor to marry an errant elf you passed in the forest, yet you shame me for pledging my heart to a human? You are as hypocritical as my father was. Galadriel and Celeborn are nobles, with Celeborn being kin to my father, is he not? Surely, they can inherit the throne in my place. They know far more than I do, and would make better rulers anyhow. I refuse to accept your terms or your crown.”
“Knowing this, perhaps you are not worthy of it.”
“Mother, before I depart from here, I have one last question to beg from you.”
“And I may answer it.”
“During my stay with Lord Maedhros, he killed his body with poisons. I knew not how to cure him, but I sealed his fea to his hroa, keeping him in a state of sleeplike death. How do I undo this? How do I wake him?”
“You shouldn’t wake him. He is better off dead.”
“Please, I love him.”
“If you love him so much, then marry him.”
“Not like that, mother. He’s a dear friend of mine. It’s not true what you say, he’s a kind man.”
“He hurt your father.”
“My father hurt him.”
“I don’t care what he told you. Arda is better off without him.”
“I see. In that case, I bid you farewell, and I will find the answer myself.”
Luthien spotted the bag of Silmarils lying by Melian and Thingol. She grabbed it. “I’ll be taking these. Perhaps you say I am not worthy of the throne, and Lord Maedhros is not worth of life, well, I say that you are not worthy of these jewels. I would tell you I love you, as a parting sentiment, but I worry you would not return the statement.”
“You are incorrect. I do love you, my daughter.”
“Then act like it next time.” Luthien, Silmarils in hand, turned and left the room.
Chapter 38: Gael
Mablung made his way to 5th district, a largely undecorated housing complex, full of small individual units assigned out to expendable guards. The walls, stone as always, felt colder there, more imposing, their blankness seeming to silently transmit a threat; you mean nothing, your presence gives no flourish, and your death will leave no blemish.
He made his way up flights of stairs to the third layer, then to the fourth room. He knocked on the door. No response. He knocked again, louder. No response. She must be asleep, Mablung thought to himself. He drew the key Basreth had given him and opened the door himself. The unit was small- one room only- with a kitchenette to one side and a bed to the other. Sure enough, there was a silver-haired elf lying in that bed. He walked over to them, put his hand on their shoulder, and shook them slightly as to rouse her. They turned over and groaned, “why are you back so early?”
“I’m looking for a wife of Basreth.” Mablung announced.
Hearing an unfamiliar voice, the elf sat up in bed.
Now seeing their face in better detail, Mablung was able to recognize them. Shoulder-length silver hair. Thin, sharp eyes. “You’re Gaelndir, aren’t you?” He inquired. Surely, he knew this elf. “You’re the boy I hired you a few years ago for the interrogation department, aren’t you? I’m searching for Basreth’s wife, do you know where I may find her? This is the room number she gave me. Are you a friend of the couple?” He looked around the room, scanning for any sight of another elf.
“I am Basreth’s wife,” she complained, “and it’s Gaelndis, not Gaelndir. I’m much prettier than he was.”
“I don’t understand. Are you his sister?”
“No, I used to be him. I’m not anymore. There’s been some changes.”
“Well for one, look at this,” she declared proudly, pulling up her shirt to expose two large breasts. “Did Gaelndir have these?”
“Well, no, he certainly didn’t.”
“That’s right. It’s grand what our medical department can do. Look at me now! I’ve got the body I needed, I’ve got a wife, and I’ve got a job doing what I love. Life is grand. Anyways, why are you looking for me?”
“I’m afraid my news may be a little less grand.”
“Well shit, did Basreth get drunk and start cursing the king again?”
“Close. She stabbed the king.”
“You’re kidding, right?”
“Unfortunately, no. I am told she did so in an effort to protect Lady Luthien, but I was not there at the scene. Basreth will be fleeing the city, and she told me to come fetch you so you can flee with her.”
“My wife killed the king?”
“Well, good for her. He was a bastard anyways.” Gaelndis laughed slightly. “That’s Basreth for you, acting first and thinking later.” She looked around the small room. “I guess fleeing won’t be too bad. We don’t have much anyways. We don’t even have formal ball robes! I’ve been begging to get some now for years, but we simply haven’t been able to afford it.” She tugged at her own shirt. “Look at this! Government-uniform linens! They have less flavor than a wineglass full of water!” She looked around the room, then down again. “I suppose this means I’ll be losing my job. I love my job, you know.”
“Yes,” Mablung replied, “you’re one of the few that was willing to go into it.”
“I failed out of healing apprenticeship three times! I had to use my medical knowledge for something!”
“Yes, yes, you don’t need to explain this to me. I’m the one that hired you, remember?”
“Whatever. Let me pack.”
“Basreth said to remember your pipe weed.”
She laughed. “That’s the first thing I was going for anyways.” Quickly, she darted around the room, grabbing various items. A large bag of green herbs. A few ornate knives. A short leather whip. A few garments. A few notebooks. Enough to fill two large bags, one slung over each shoulder. “Well, let’s get going, shall we?”
“Let me carry one of those bags,” Mablung said, reaching out his hand.
“Absolutely not. This is weight training. I’m going to get so strong from this.”
Mablung shrugged, and opened the door for her. They went out into the hallway.
“Do you think I’ll be able to find a job as a visceral interrogator somewhere else?” She asked. “I’ve never been outside Doriath. I can’t work for the Noldor, I don’t know Quenyarn. Quenyiel? I don’t even know what their language is called! But I can’t speak it!”
“Don’t worry about that. Most Noldor these days speak Sindarin.”
“Perfect. What are some good cities to go to?”
“I have no idea. Keep in mind, your wife killed the King. That news is going to get out very quickly, so it may be best for you two to lie low for a little while.”
“Us? Lie low? No way. We’ll be bragging about this. Everyone hates Thingol, they’ll probably buy us a round of drinks at the bar if they learn my wife’s the one who finally offed him.”
“No, “everyone” does not hate Thingol. Plenty of people love him and are intensely loyal to him.”
“He called me a pervert and an affront to Eru, just for being myself. That’s not a man I can love.”
“He’s done a lot of things. But he’s also kept this country largely at peace.”
“I heard that the peace is actually because the Noldor to the north of us hold off the forces of Angband, so they never even reach us. Basreth’s brother told me this. You know him, right?”
“Yes, I know Beleg.”
“Well, then you probably believe him.”
“Trust me, I believe him.” Mablung sighed. “Look, I don’t care who loves or hates Thingol. The focus of the matter is that the assassination of a king is still a weighty matter and there could be repercussions. For your safety, I ask for you and your wife to hide the matter from other cities. Start your lives anew.”
“Absolutely not. Basreth will do whatever she pleases, and I will support her in that.”
Mablung rubbed his forehead and closed his eyes momentarily. “Fine. Do as you wish.”
They made their way to the gates of the city, and exited. Mablung looked around for Basreth, and di not see her. They paced further into the forest, looking for where she might be.
“Gael!” came a shout, and with it came Basreth, leaping out of a patch of bushes into Gaelndis’s arms. “You’re here!”
“I heard you killed Thingol!”
“Fuck yeah I did!”
“I love you!”
“I love you!”
Basreth looked at the two bags. “Did you bring the pipe weed?”
“All of it.”
“My dad’s sketchbook?”
“It’s in the bag.”
Basreth hugged Gaelndis again.
“What do we do now?” Gaelndis asked, both to Mablung and Basreth.
“Wait for Luthien.” Basreth replied. “She shouldn’t be long.”
“I’ll wait here with you two until she arrives, to ensure your safety.”
“Fine,” Basreth replied.
Gaelndis leaned over and kissed her. “I missed you.”
“It’s barely been two days since I saw you.”
“Yes, and that has been two days too long.”
Basreth blushed, and kissed Gaelndis in return.
“I love you.”
“I love you too.”
Mablung busied himself with tracing patterns in the dirt with his foot, trying to ignore the couple’s volley of “I love you”s.
Chapter 39: Out of Doriath
Luthien ran out of the gates, into the forest, and quickly found the group of Basreth, Gaelndis, and Mablung.
Luthien looked at Gaelndis. “This is your wife, Basreth?”
“Yes!” Basreth grinned proudly.
“You’re a lucky girl, Basreth, she’s lovely.” Luthien bowed slightly to her. “Pleasure to meet you.”
“I sure am!” Gaelndis responded. Basreth nodded at her. “Oh, and pleasure to meet you as well.”
“Shall I fetch horses?” Mablung asked.
“Horses?” Gaelndis questioned.
“Yes, horses,” he continued, “unless you plan on traveling to the next city on foot?”
“Have you decided where you’re running to?”
“Beren and I,” Luthien added, “will be returning to Fingon’s residence up north. You two may accompany us if you wish.”
“Fingon…” Gaelndis mused. “I know that name….where have I heard that…”
“King of the Noldor,” said Mablung.
“Maedhros will also be there,” added Luthien. “He’s ill, and I owe it to him to seek out a cure.”
“Oh!” Galendis perked up. “I went to medical school. I know the art of healing, somewhat!”
“Gael, I love you, but you failed your healing apprenticeship three times.” Basreth corrected.
“Yeah? And? I still know more about anatomy than you do. Remember when you dislocated your shoulder after slipping down a stairwell? Do you remember who reset it? Yeah, me.” Galendis turned to Luthien. “So, what’s wrong with this Maedhros? I can do stitches. I passed my stitching exams.”
“He killed himself with some sort of herb.”
“He’s dead? I’m a healer, not a necromancer!”
“You’re not a healer, either” Basreth corrected for the second time.
“Well,” explained Luthien, “he’s only partways dead. I locked his fea to his hroa. He’s in a coma of sorts, he has not left us yet. I’m not sure how to heal his body.”
“I’m going to fetch the horses,” Mablung interjected. He then left, running back to the gates.
“What herb?” Gaelndis asked.
“Naegradaur” Luthein answered.
“That’s a poison. Prisoners would take it to off themselves before we could interrogate them. It has no antidote. Not even the professional healers, yes, the ones who did pass their medical exams, could reverse its effects. Its onset can be slowed, however, with holiness, similar to how fruits last longer without mold if placed in a cool room.”
“It works, if I remember correctly, by assaulting not only the hroa but the fea, burning and blackening it like wood turning to charcoal. This consumption can be slowed and held off by holy spells or blessed herbs. I suppose, if he’s dead, it’s too late for that, though.”
“Do you think,” Luthien asked, “holy light would have an effect?”
“What do you mean by holy light?”
Luthien took a Silmaril out of the bag, letting it shine.
“Oh,” commented Gaelndis, “that…is indeed holy. It’s worth a try, at the least. But don’t blame me if he stays dead. As I said, I’m not a necromancer, and I’m not even technically a healer. I just work alongside them.”
Luthien grinned. “It’s given me a hope, at least.”
Galendis looked to Basreth. “Do you mind if we follow them? I want to see if this Maedhros fellow comes back from the dead.”
“I’d like to see Maedhros, too” Basreth said. “I want to ask him about my brother’s death.”
“It’s settled, then. You two can come with us.” Luthien decided.
The group sat there for an hour or so, waiting for Mablung’s return. He came, and with him followed four white horses, gorgeous and tall.
“Here,” he announced, “horses fit for a queen.”
“I’m not queen, actually,” Luthien corrected him. “I have shrugged the nobility, and it falls on Galadriel and Celeborn.”
“Horses fit for a princess or lady, at least.” He smiled, and bowed to her.
“Basreth,” he continued, “I bid you a final goodbye, and I hope not to see you again in this country, lest the law catches up to you and your wife.”
“We won’t be returning, don’t worry.” She assured him.
“Lady Luthien, I bid you a goodbye as well, but I hope this shall not be the last I see of you. You are always welcome in these halls, but, if you resent them, I do not hold your absence against you.”
“Don’t worry Mablung, I’ll visit sometime.”
With this, the three women mounted their horses and departed from him, riding further into the forest. A few miles down the path, Luthien began to whistle a sweet tune, over and over, waiting for a response.
Eventually, she heard one, a slightly lower whistle in reply, echoing her melody. She leaped off her horses and ran into the forest and into Beren’s arms.
“I missed you!” She shouted.
He laughed. “It’s only been a few hours.”
“I still missed you.”
“So,” he asked, “what’s the situation with your mother?”
“She’s leaving Doriath. The crown has been left to Galadriel and Celeborn.”
Beren gestured to Gaelndis. “And who is this?”
“That’s Basreth’s wife, the one we left to fetch.”
Beren extended his hand. “Glad to meet you.”
Gaelndis shook his hand hesitantly. “And you, sir. You must be the infamous Beren, wooer of the princess.”
He blushed. “I suppose that would be me.”
Luthien tilted her head towards the horses. “Get on one. We ride to return to Maedhros.”
“Ah, yes, the bastard that cut off my hand.”
“You know he didn’t mean it. And you kept the hand, didn’t you?”
Beren nodded. “It’s in my pouched, wrapped in a cloth.”
Luthien reached into his pouch and removed the hand. It was not fresh, and the blood on it had dried, but it had not yet started to decmopose. “It has been long enough, I think I have the strength in me to repair it. Give me your knife.” Beren removed a knife from his waist and handed it to her. “This might hurt a bit,” she warned. She sliced the end off the dead hand, removing the dried caked blood, then grabbed his arm and proceeded likewise, making a new bleeding open wound. He grimaced slightly. She pushed the hand and the stump of his arm together, then closed her eyes and stared singing, tracing her finger along the seam of his hand and his arm, mending them together. She finished, and released his hand. Finishing, she sighed, exhausted.
Beren lifted his arm, his hand attached, but flopping limply towards the ground. “I can’t move it.”
“But it’s attached, yes? I can work on movement later. The important bit is that it’s attached.”
“I suppose. You sure you can restore movement?”
“No. But I can try.”
Beren groaned. “I still think I have a right to hold a grudge against that Maedhros.”
“Perhaps he has a right to hold a grudge against you, too, seeing as you handed him over in Angband.”
“That was strategic! I didn’t mean for him to get hurt!”
“He didn’t mean to hurt you either!”
“Well, he hasn’t apologized.”
“That’s because he’s dead, you fool.”
“He’s a very kind man. I’m sure when we rouse him, he’ll apologize to you.”
“Now, let’s go, shall we?”
Beren mounted one of the horses, and Luthien followed. She, being most familiar with the forest, led the way out of Doriath.
Chapter 40: Nelyo
Fingon rubbed his eyes, sitting up in bed next to Maedhros’s cold body. Though he had been pulseless for what seemed like weeks, flies had not yet descended upon his corpse.
He looked across the room. The world seemed to spin, to zoom in and out, to shift out of focus and back to clarity again. He stumbled out of bed and meandered his way across the room, stumbling in his steps, finding the distance of merely a few feet to be an insurmountable task. At last, he found himself in front of the mirror on his wall, and stared into his own eyes.
His skin had a grey hue to it, and his cheeks were gaunt.
How long has it been since I ate? How long have I been laying here?
He ran his hand through his hair, and found it to be both oily and thin. His braids and their ribbons had fallen out.
How long ago had that happened?
He hated the face he saw in the mirror. Sallow and bloodless.
His mouth felt dry, but he was not thirsty. He felt no hunger, either.
“Nelyo?” he asked the silence of the room, expecting no response but holding in his heart the hope for one. It was more of a question shouted to the void than a plea to the gods.
“Nelyo!” he shouted again, as if the mere utterance of his name held power.
He turned around, facing the center of his room, struggling to keep his feet held to the ground.
He walked a few paces forward and collapsed onto the ground.
Chapter 41: Starlight
“How long is it to our destination? And where are we going?” Gaelndis asked.
“Well,” Luthien said, “we’re going to the halls of King Fingon. We will follow the Esgalduin west until it meets Sirion, then follow Sirion up to the Fens of Serech, then travel west through Mithrim into Hithlum-”
“I didn’t ask for a geography lesson, I asked for a time estimate.”
Luthien, somewhat taken back at being interrupted, “It’s approximately a three-hundred mile trip, but, due to the difficulty of the terrain, which I was trying to explain, counteracted by the exceptional quality and stamina of these horses, it should take us around six days.”
“Thanks.” Gaelndis replied curtly. “Now, will someone tell me what exactly happened? Because I just got kicked out of my home, my home that I’ve been living in for the past fifty years of my life, and I feel I deserve an explanation.” She darted her gaze over to Basreth. “Why exactly did you kill Thingol? We had a good life together. We were both on government salary. We were considering adopting a cat. And now all of that is lost! I understand Thingol can be rude, but why kill him?”
“I was protecting Lady Luthien. He threatened her. He hit her. See? There’s a wound on her cheek. He threatened to kill Beren, as well. He mocked my brother’s death and had the gall to say it was fit. He was the one responsible for Beleg’s death, was he not? Setting up such a quest, one that led to his death? Thingol is more than rude. He’s insane. He’s cruel. He was unfit to be a king, and Luthien agreed with me on that point. As a guard, I am a servant to Thingol, but I am also a servant to the people of Doriath. It became very clear in that moment that a change of leadership is what this nation needed most. So, I eliminated Thingol. Doriath is better off now. Perhaps I was too late to save Beleg, but I was able to save Beren and Luthien.”
“I’m not a cold-hearted murderer. I’ve never killed anyone before, not even orcs. I was a court guard, not a border guard like my brother. It’s still settling in, the fact that my hand delivered death upon another elf, and the consequences that will bring. Mablung seemed sympathetic to my cause, but I’m afraid I’m a felon in Doriath for now. Please don’t be upset, Gael. Perhaps we lost our home, but it was a necessary sacrifice.” Basreth pleaded.
“I hold no grudge against you. I’ve just…never been outside Doriath before. I don’t know that Noldor-language, whatever it’s called. I have difficulty understanding their accents. How are we supposed to make a new life out here? We don’t even have any money.”
“Luthien’s a princess. Perhaps she has money?” Basreth asked hopefully.
Luthien shook her head. “I left Doriath just as quickly as you did. I have very little money on me.”
“Well, shit.” Gaelndis added. “This Ferngin fellow better have some gold on him. If you think about it, he owes us. My wife bettered Doriath. And he never has to deal with Thingol again. So, he should pay us for our troubles.”
“His name is Fingon,” Luthien corrected, “and it would be rude to ask for gold as soon as we get there. He is currently mourning the death of the man he loved. Fortunately, we should be able to bring him back to life.”
“Oh.” Gaelndis tilted her head. “Were they married?”
“No. They stayed separate for politics and personal reasons.”
“Well, they really should get married. When I married Basreth, we got to live in a slightly larger, duel-occupancy government assigned housing unit. We also got a better deal on our taxes. It’s truly beneficial. Plus, if I die, she becomes the legal guardian of my little brother.”
“Excuse me, but you have a brother? I’m sorry you didn’t get to say your goodbyes to him.”
“Yeah, I’ve got a brother. He’s just a baby, ten years old. I rarely ever see him. He lives in a government-provided day care, you see. It’s a measure we have in Doriath to ensure that children are all brought up in the correct educational environment.”
“And, sorry, did you say Basreth would become his legal guardian in the case of your death? What happened to your parents, are they no longer with us?”
“You’re correct in your assumption. My mother died in childbirth and my father hung himself the day afterwards.”
Luthien’s face fell. “Oh…my…I’m sorry. It must be a very painful memory for you. Forgive me for bringing it up to conversation.”
“Don’t fret over it. I never liked my parents much anyways. They cut contact with me, ah, what was it, fifty years ago? I used to be their son before I was their daughter, and they couldn’t handle losing their child, or at least, what they thought they had as a child. But it’s not matter. I’ve found new family in Basreth here.” Gaelndis smiled, then leaned over and kissed Basreth on the cheek.
Basreth’s eyes widened. “Oh Eru.”
“What?” Gaelndis asked. “What’s wrong?’
“Gael, I killed the king, and there are people who doubtlessly want me dead. They know I’m your wife. Do you think there’s a chance they’d take the revenge out on your brother?”
Gaelndis paled. “We need to go get him.”
“We’re only a few miles from the gates.” Luthien offered. “You can fetch him. But hurry. We’ll wait here.”
Gaelndis turned her horse around and sped towards the gates of Doriath. Shit, she thought to herself, how the fuck do I take care of a child. The wind blew through her silver hair, but it was cut short enough to not get in her eyes. An unconventional length for elves, but practical and easy to take care of. I barely even know him, what in Eru’s name do I do with a fucking child. She reached the gates and dismounted her horse.
The guard at the gates let her in with a nod.
She slunk through the halls, careful to avoid any encounter, partially out of paranoia, partially out of rational self-preservation as the wife of a wanted woman.
It took her the better part of half an hour to finally make her way to the day care facility. Night had crept over the day, and the as such, most of the staff had gone home. The room was locked, and the only window into it ink-dark.
Shit, she said to herself as she rattled the doorknob. She examined the lock and found no way to pick it. The bolts on the side of the door proved firm. Her attention shifted to the sole window. She lifted her knife and began scratching it, but made no progress in that pursuit. Seeing no other choice, she covered her fist with her cloak, and delivered a swift punch to the window, shattering it with more noise than she anticipated. After clearing off some glass shards across the bottom of the window, she crawled through it and into the room. She proceeded down a hallway, and at last located the sleeping quarters.
She opened the door slightly and spotted an employee within the room. Shit, of course someone’s on guard. Already spotted, she decided to simply walk up to the guard, and resolve the encounter.
“What are you doing here?” the guard whispered. “There’s no access after-hours unless in case of an emergency.”
“Well, this is an emergency. I’m leaving town and am taking my brother with me.”
“Did you file a leave form three weeks in advance?”
“Did you stick a broom up your ass? Just let me get my brother and I’ll leave. I told you, it’s an emergency, and I need to flee. Now.”
“First of all, you are being quite rude. Second, I don’t appreciate your use of such language around the children. Third-”
“Ass. Ass, ass, ass.”
“Stop it! As I was saying, third, leaving suddenly in the night seems horribly criminal to me. I’m afraid I’ll have to report you.”
“No! No, don’t do that. Here, can I bribe you? Uh, I have, uh-“
“Attempting to bribe a government employee is a crime in itself. You’re also obstructing justice right now.”
“Don’t make me kill you.”
“You won’t kill me.”
“You’re right, I won’t, but I can give you a concussion and knock you out. I don’t think you know who I am. I’m the head interrogator for this damned judicial system. It’s my job to spill people’s guts.” She whisked out her knife, brandishing it. “See this knife? I cut Sauron himself with it. I can cut you. Okay? Do I need to threaten you further? Scream for backup if you want, that won’t un-cut you. Just let me take my brother and I’ll be on your way.”
“How am I supposed to explain to my supervisor that a child just went missing, without any leave documentation?”
“Forge some leave documentation then. Forge my signature. Make it happen. I don’t care, I’m never coming back to Doriath, blame it all on me, tell them what happened if you want, I’m a criminal, big deal, I don’t care. I just care about my brother’s safety and need to get him out of here.”
“Fine. What’s his name?”
The guard walked over to a bed, and gestured for Gaelndis to come closer. “He’s sleeping here.”
Gaelndis leaned down and gently picked him up and cradled him. “I’ll be on my way now.”
The guard nodded.
Gaelndis paced her way back to the door, unlocking it now from the inside, then made her way through the halls, down flights of stairs, and eventually back out through the gates of Doriath. She placed Gurion on her horse, then mounted it, and made rode quickly back to the group.
“Here.” Gaelndis announced. “Here he is. He’s sleeping still, I don’t know how in Eru’s name he hasn’t woken up yet, but he’s sleeping.”
“What’s his name?” Luthien whispered.
“His….his name is son of death?”
“That’s an awful cruel name for a child.”
“Yes, but that’s the name his parents gave him.”
“Well…” pondered Luthien, “they’re no longer with us, are they? Perhaps we can give him a new name.” She looked at the young boy, then looked up at the stars above her. “His silver hair reminds me of starlight. How about Gil-Galad, star-light? It still starts with a G, so I doubt it will confuse him much.”
“Gil-Galad? Quite a noble name, I’d say. I like it, though. It suits him.” Gaelndis looked at him and smiled. “Little Gil-Galad, whatever are we going to do with you?”
Chapter 42: Health
Fingon awoke in a brightly lit, white-walled room, lying on a firm bed, covered by a thin white blanket. He sat up, and in that motion discovered that his were cuffed to the side of the bed. He jerked his legs and discovered the same was true for his feet. Usually, such a predicament was a delicious part of amusement for him, but, under the circumstances, it was nothing but alarming.
Confused, unsure of his location, and angered at his restraints, he followed the most logical path.
He screamed. He remained sitting up in bed, and screamed, screamed until his lungs were void of breath, inhaled, and screamed again.
A woman came running towards him, clothed likewise in bright white. “Hush! Hush! You’ll disturb the others!” She scolded him. “Don’t do that.”
“Well! Don’t chain me to a bed, why don’t you! And what is this place?” He insisted.
“This is the hospital. I suppose you don’t come here often, so it reasons that you might not recognize it. And you’re not chained to the bed, you’re fastened with leather restraints. We don’t chain people here.”
“Well then will you please tell me why I’m “fastened with leather restraints,” and why I’m in a hospital anyways?”
“You’re in a hospital because you were found unconscious in your chambers. You had locked yourself in there and hadn’t leaved to eat for eleven days. They had to break down the door to get to you. You’re fastened to your bed because you kept trying to get up and leave,” she explained.
“Well, let me leave then!”
“Let me repeat myself. You didn’t eat for eleven days. You passed out. You’re in a hospital because we are trying to get your health back and reintroduce your body to nutrients. You cannot leave until you are in good enough health to be released. We can’t have our King die simply because he refuses to eat.”
“Where’s Nelyo?” Fingon demanded.
“Nelyo?” the nurse asked.
“Lord Maedhros. Where is he.”
“He’s been placed in the morgue. We were waiting for you to-“
“Why is he in the morgue!” Fingon shouted.
“I know this is difficult for you, but he’s d-“
“He’s not dead! He’s not dead!” Fingon struggled against his restraints. “If he was dead he would have started rotting! He’s not dead! He merely sleeps!”
“He has no pulse, and he is cold. We determined that he is indeed dead.”
“He’s not dead!”
“Enough of that shouting, you’ll alarm the other patients.”
“I don’t care if they hear me! He’s not dead, I’m telling you. Get him out of the morgue! Don’t you dare let anyone there touch him! Please, bring him back out here. I want him by my side.”
“You highness, you must understand that having a corpse in the same room as the patients is very unsanitary and hazardous to the health of everyone here.”
Fingon started screaming again.
“Stop that! You stop that! You are acting like a child. I told you not to scream.”
“I’ll scream until you give me Nelyo back.”
“Throwing a tantrum won’t convince me to bring a corpse here.”
“Then let me go to him. Please.”
“No. You are unwell and must be treated still.”
Fingon squirmed, pulling against his leather cuffs again.
“See?” the nurse responded. “This is why we had to use the restraints.”
Fingon laid back down in his bed and began to cry. “Please…please he needs me.”
“He’s dead. I’m sorry, I know you were his friend, but he is dead. You have to come to terms with your grief.”
“He’s not dead,” Fingon argued passively, in a voice too soft to pose real resistance.
The nurse sighed and walked away.