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For We Walk by Faith, Not by Sight

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It was a truly terrible time to find out that he was afraid of heights, Fingon thought as he clutched tightly against Thorondor. The rapid descent, lurching slightly with every single one of colossal wingbeats send his stomach into twisting knots.

 

But there could be no delay and so Fingon stuffed whatever fear he felt deep inside, somewhere just above the resentment he felt for the Ice and those that had left him behind to brave it, and pressed on.

 

He could feel his belongings jostle around at his side. He dared not let go of the feathers beneath him to adjust the strap digging into his shoulder. His lyre and the crowbar he had brought pushed around and poked him in the ribs and once more Fingon cursed himself. Why, oh why had he not packed lighter?

 

But just how did one prepare for something like this? Fingon had no idea and so he had taken what had not been nailed down and chased after the distant promise that he would find Maedhros somewhere in enemy land. He would have done it for even less.

 

Maedhros who had left him behind. Maedhros who had thrown all their years of friendship away for a senseless oath. But who was Fingon if he did not try to outdo Maedhros in his harebrained schemes?

 

He had not counselled with anyone, not his father, his siblings, no one. There was no time for it. Instead he threw together what he thought useful and fled into the night before anyone could talk sense into him. Least of all himself.

 

His sword hung on the other side and it felt just as distractingly wrong as it had all along.

 

Thorondor tore him out of his musings and Fingon's gasp was stolen away when he saw the tiny copper spot hanging limply from the side of the mountain.

 

The scale was quite askew for poor Fingon who battled with his newfound dissaproval of heights and the swirling elation and trepidation of just what and who hung upon the cruel, cold wall of the mountain. It was Maedhros, of that there was very little doubt. But what was left of him?

 

Well, he would find out in a moment and whatever happened next, he would not leave anything of Maedhros behind. They did not deserve him.

 

Thorondor angled sharply, the last few flaps turned him nearly vertically and Fingon held onto the eagle with all his might as the impact of claws smashing into rock shook him to his bones.

 

It was an awkward position for a bird, even one so accustomed to mountains. Like a fly on a wall, Thorondor pressed himself, wings and all, to the wall to allow Fingon the closed possible contact to the elf who hung like a carelessly strung up carcass. Had the situation not been so downright terrible and dire, Fingon would have perhaps thought about a strung ham. But he had no cheer left.

 

And yet he was not hopeless.

 

It was Maedhros in front of him and Fingon could hardly form any thought beyond the rapturous joy at that.

 

All too soon, the realness of it all returned and Fingon saw his friend unclouded by hopes and memories.

 

His hair was so grimy, it did not even move in the harsh wind. Nothing was left of the bright copper flame from before, instead plastered to his face in rigid bristles. In his wounds and over his face, everywhere.

 

Fingon could barely comprehend the sight and so he turned swiftly and searched for the crowbar. What good fortune that he had brought it with him! As if he had known.

 

Perhaps once this was all over he could look back and pat himself on the back for having packed so thoughtfully. But that would wait. Right now Maedhros came first and he barely felt his heart leap into his throat when he braced himself against the thin ledge, one foot still against Thorondor to get a firm grip on the crowbar.

 

Already the metal was freezing cold, nearly as bad as the shackle holding Maedhros to this infernal rock. If he had a pickaxe instead, Fingon honestly contemplated reducing this foul thing to rubble, eagles living there or not. A good thing that he had not.

 

There was a sound over the clicking and scraping of metal and at first Fingon thought the sound to be another frigid current howling through the endless cracks and chasms of this blasted rock. But when he turned from his work, to reassure himself that he was indeed neither dreaming nor hallucinating, Maedhros had turned his face up towards him.

 

Another keening wheeze escaped him, the ruins of his face, bloodied remnants of his mouth parted slightly as he whimpered.

 

“Maedhros?” asked Fingon and his voice sounded like that of a child searching for his parents during a thunderstorm. Not at all like a hero coming to save those in distress.

 

Maedhros reacted sluggish, his head did not snap towards the voice, as he forced himself to tip towards Fingon. “Please--” he said. “--have mercy; Kill me, please. I cannot bear it any longer. Please.” And just like that he was out again.

 

Fingon wished to weep. From sorrow, from gratitude, it was at this point not a great difference. But he could not just yet. The eagle shifted beneath him, the sound of claws clicking, cracking stone as he adjusted himself anew.

 

Wiping cold sweat from his brow, Fingon braced himself and again he leaned into the crowbar which was just harrowing, so far above the unforgivable ground. One wrong step, one careless move and he could only hope that Thorondor could catch him fast enough.

 

There was the screeching groan of metal, the rusted shackle buckled, resisted for another moment to hold onto Maedhros, unwilling to give him free. But it was Fingon who persisted and suddenly Maedhros' form slumped before Fingon lurched forward and pinned him against the wall before he could plummet. There was the awful sound of skin scraping against rough stone and Fingon was already apologizing again.

 

Thorondor squawked and pressed his wings against the wall tighter to allow Fingon to pull back easier and settle Maedhros against his chest. As he held him tight, clung to him like a child, Fingon felt nothing of substance. Maedhros was only bone now, bone and open sores. Nothing remained of the prince that had left Fingon behind on the shores.

 

Thorondor carried them home, leaving behind the mountain where now only a stain of blood and the remains of a broken shackle reminded that Maedhros and Fingon had ever been there.

 

The only visible reminder. Perhaps what was left of Maedhros' broken spirit would also linger behind.

 

Fingon wept.

 


 

All had blended together, sights, sounds, everything was like grey slush and Fingon felt terribly exhausted, numb really. The joy at having found his friend was overshadowed by worry and exhaustion so great, it felt as if the Ice was still clinging to him and what had remained had been dragged down into the yawning, smoke-choked chasms of Thangorodrim. His wrist hurt, tightly gripped into the feathers beneath him. His other arm was tight around Maedhros' limp form, wrapped in Fingon's blanket.

 

The encampment approached in the distance, came closer, just below them. Fingon's head drooped.

 

The arrow that whizzed past him was a fantastic way to get him wide awake, though Thorondor remained unfaced as he began his circling descend. So torn out of his stupor, Fingon pulled Maedhros closer again and blinked wearily.

 

His back hurt, Fingon noticed and rolled his stiff shoulders.

 

Below them was the encampment of late Fëanor, his sons had gathered already in what served as a plaza of sorts. Archers at attention, safe for one who had loosened his arrow and was now laid flat by Amras who did not stop berating the poor boy even as Thornondor landed between the tents and houses.

 

Most scattered to make way, though the sons of Fëanor remained where they stood. Maglor, uneasy and looking weighed down by the crown he wore, in the front. “Hail cousin,” said Maglor when it became apparent that the eagle would not eat them. No one commented on the choke in his voice, for they had only eyes for the two elves on the eagle.

 

Fingon blinked again and felt light-headed, this time it was not because of the height. But he returned the greeting and before he could tack on some manner of clever reply or some witty remark, the commotion was already upon him.

 

They pulled him off, him and Maedhros before he could even truly gather his thoughts. He was all out of ideas in any case, so perhaps that was not so bad. His plan had been very simple from the start. Survive the Ice, kick Maedhros, save Maedhros, come back home. Wherever home was now.

 

So far, this had turned out outstandingly well; All points on his list had been accomplished and now he could rest. Rest sounded fantastic right about now and his legs seemed to fervently agree, for he stumbled the last steps until he was ushered into the healers longhouse by one of Maedhros' brothers, which one he did not care to find out at the moment.

 

It seemed that one had taken precedence over most other buildings, for it was already fully furnished and well stocked. Healers in sheer robes scurried around between rows of beds filled with injured elves. Never before had a healer taken such absolute priority over everything else. What need would there have been when one needed only to worry about childbirths and scraped knees from time to time.

 

No matter, there was a bed, that was enough. He would have taken a corner in a room, should the need have arisen. Maglor said something next to him, a question perhaps, but Fingon did not hear. He barely heard anything above the drum in his chest and the blood rushing in his ears like a feral snowstorm.

 

He thought very little of eagles and cousins and his family at the other side of the lake. He thought mostly about how his knees rattled when he came upon solid ground. How hungry he should have been when he was only tired. But most of all he wondered if they had made it back in time. It would be quite terrible to save Maedhros only to lose him again on the way back.

 

When Fingon did not move fast enough for his liking, Caranthir gruffly bullied him into bed with shoves and harsh words until Fingon sat on a thin cot. It was better than furs over metres of ice by far and so Fingon hardly minded that they where nothing like the feather beds he had once been so used to.

 

He turned his head to where the commotion in the room had centred around. He would only need a little glimpse, just a peek to confirm that indeed he had saved Maedhros and was not simply having a feverdream on the Ice. It would not have been the first time, and even if such was the case, he wanted to at least pretend a happy conclusion.

 

A gap formed as two healers moved aside, giving Fingon a perfect, horrible moment to take all of it in.

 

They had already begun to cut away the rags that had fused into the wounds, open skin, pale and bloodless where it was not inflamed made up most of Maedhros's body. He lay utterly limp, unconcerned by anything around him. Never before had Fingon seen him so small and helpless. Not even as he had broken him loose from the mountain where he begged Fingon for an end to his misery.

 

They peeled back the mess of hair, tangled and stuck into a single, nearly solid mass.

 

The motion tilted Maedhros' head to the side and for a moment time came to a dead halt. For though he was fully unconscious, his eyes where open and fully turned to Fingon.

 

But, no, that was not quite right.

 

Where once there had been eyes not unlike Fingon's own grey ones, there where now only two endless, gaping holes. Inflamed pits, weeping puss and clear liquid, nothing else. Not even eyelids.

 

Maedhros had no eyes.

 

It turned out that he had left something else behind.

 

Fingon fainted.