Those were the names he had once identified with.
‘Nelyafinwë’ was a title the same way as ‘prince’; it was a declaration, a sign of pride, belonging, ownership. He had been proud to carry that title, but he was the third Finwë; Third-Finwë was not him. Instead, he had loved the names from his mother best.
And they had made him vain.
That he could admit, though it was more bitter to acknowledge the fault in his character now. Once, he would chuckle, careful to run his fingers through his hair as he said, “I might spend longer in front of the mirror each morning that my brothers would like!” The sycophants and the friends would laugh, and their eyes would follow the movement of his hand, tracing his fingers moving through his thick and soft hair. It was just a subtle reminder- a move he didn’t even make consciously- that he had reason to be vain. One of many reasons; one of the million small examples he made of himself.
Findekano would call him vain too, and so would Macalaurë. Their complaints were exasperated, and they caught onto his games and how he would show off on occasion. But it was teasing. They mocked and scolded him the same way he whined at Tyelkormo for carrying his hunting knives everywhere- including the bath- or snorted at the gestures Carnistir made at people’s backs. Those small bad habits and little sins were part of what made them their own people. One didn’t have to approve to be endeared to it.
He was vain. But his family was also vain for him. Mother would claim that, “I never thought I would find someone I enjoyed sculpting more than your father, but you are the perfect subject, baby.” Father was very good at many things, and bragging was one of them. Even when stunning Artanis grew well, Father would not let go of his assertion that the eldest was the most beautiful of Finwë’s grandchildren. Fair Tyelkormo would falsely complain that no girl would look his way if he stood next to his brother, and Curufin would bully him into posing for sketches. Ambarussa were almost absurdly proud to have the same hair as their brother.
Not Mother. Their brother.
It was no wonder he was rather vain, and that was something the many who loved him could forgive. He was well-made. His hair was like copper, a mineral more precious than gold or silver in Elven coloring. He was very beautiful.
But after Thanogorodrim, he did not feel beautiful at all.
Looking into the scraps of broken mirror in their war camp, he saw a face that was gaunt and splotched. He had bumps where the oils had clustered, and his nose was too prominent from healing wrongly after a break. His hair had all been shaved off, as it had been so diseased and damaged from years of exposure it was better to just start over. What was growing back was a darker, duller color, and stringy. Then there were the scars.
‘Scar’ was a word he had not known a few weeks ago. He hadn’t even known there was such a concept for his people to name. Every time he had been cut before, his skin healed back perfectly; the same shade, the same height, the same texture. There had never been any of these impurities on his knees or hands or arms before.
Until they went across the sea, there were none on his face.
It was one of the old amongst their people who explained the affliction to him. Scars were marks of destruction left on them by dark harm. Morgul weapons and evil magics did this. Scars… were proof that an elf had been marred.
He certainly felt marred, both outside and within.
No, he was not well-made, or a copper-top anymore. He could never wear those names without looking like a farce, just like he couldn’t be the third Finwë when the first and second were dead. He was something else entirely now, something marred and ugly. Like a gemstone that had been misused and neglected and thrown away, until what little shine remained was paled in comparison to what it once was.
Maedhros wasn’t sure he cared anymore though.