Things we lost to the flames
Things we'll never see again
All that we've amassed
Sits before us, shattered into ash
It's been three years since he came to Beleriand and only now Finarfin slowly dealt with what he learned. When he first stepped on the land, he still had hope despite all what Elwing and Eärendil told him. He had known it was bad, or course. However seeing the source of their despair was something entirely different. Meeting Gil-galad had confirmed his suspicions. Most elves lived by the coast now, because the sea was the only reliable food source they had left. Crops had started to fail long time ago now they didn't ever bother to plant seeds during spring.
Finarfin doesn't like the situation. It reminds him too much of the years of the Darkening, when all Noldor were evil and food was scarce. Finarfin came to fight. To finally bring down Morgoth, not worry about hunger again. And yet, it keeps him from thinking about what else he learned from Gil-galad. The history of Beleriand with its fallen kingdoms and dead heroes.
Beleriand is cold, rough and every morning is a bit more unpleasant than the last. He lets out a shaky breath.
His children are dead. Just as Orodreth, his grandson and his great-granddaughter Finduilas. Only Artanis is left and he has yet to meet her. Just a few months before the Host of Valinor arrived, she and her husband visited Balar and took many refugees to a safer places far beyond the western mountains. Gil-galad send word, but he doesn't expect them to be back soon.
Finarfin is partly grateful since he needs a little bit more time to deal with this desolate place. No one is to grant him any, because the worst is yet to come and it's scheduled for today.
The meeting with the Fëanorians.
The thought alone makes Finarfin's stomach queasy. The worst is Finarfin can't even tell why. It could be so easy. Back in Valinor, when he turned around he felt only anger and disappointment. Now it's fear, anxiety and restlessness. Finarfin wants to run and hide, but he can't. He is the Highking, the relative who gathered his forces and enough courage to help his forsaken kin beyond the sea. Besides he is standing on a hill top, next to Gil-galad and is surrounded by important Lords and dutiful Soldiers.
There's no way to take cover. In fact he is one of the tallest persons around, being born in Valinor. Even Gil-galad doesn't reach his height and Finarfin suspects it's due to his upbringing. Not enough food perhaps. Or care. If he heard correctly Fingon died when Gil-galad was just a small child.
Finarfin bites back the regret. At first it was just a seed of doubt, the endless question of Did I do the right thing? Now it's a full grown tree and every leaf is a person who died.
The sound of hooves on the ground makes Finarfin look around. He is not the only one, many are searching for source and soon the Fëanorians come into view. For a moment Finarfin was ready to draw his sword, but he controlled the movement and kept his face neutral. Gil-galad showed less restraint with his right hand on the hilt of his sword and a scowl on his face.
Finarfin couldn't really fault him. It was not a small force heading towards them, but an entire army. Trained and dressed for war. His sharp eyes showed Finarfin the differences between the Fëanorian force and their own. No bright colors, no jewels as decoration and no hair fluttering in the wind. Already he imagined Ingil's reaction, full of criticism. It would start with lack of house colors and end with the blood on the Fëanorian hands.
There was a reason why Finarfin left Ingwe's son at the camp, together with the Lords hailing from Doriath. The Teleri refused to set a foot on Beleriand anyway, but Finarfin had no doubt that Eärendil was watching from the sky.
„We have reached the point of no return,“ Gil-galad mumbled next to him, so quietly only Finarfin had been able to hear it.
He followed Gil-galad's gaze and saw how a small group splitting from the army. While the riders quickly approached, the rest of the army stayed away. A wise choice Finarfin thought. It put the Lords around them at ease, but he noticed as well that the riders in the first line stayed on their horses. If something happened, they would storm up the hill, this was for sure.
„They would certainly be useful,“ Finarfin voiced his first impression.
The frown on Gil-galads forehead deepened. Yes, there was no one better trained in the Art of War than the Sons of Fëanor, but they had proven just as easily how quick they were to slaughter innocents. It spoke for itself that there times were so desperate they even considered an alliance.
Both Kings stopped nursing their doubts, when a figure reached the summit. Shadows withdrew, when the leader of the small company stopped his horse.
No, Finarfin corrected. This was not a horse. It was beast. Taller than Orome's steed Nahar it matched the elf sitting upon it. Silence stretched on between them until Finarfin realized who exactly examined them like little boys before their first drill.
Finarfin could not help but stare when Maedhros dismounted. Tall and grim he was, but Finarfin figured Nerdanel's name still applied despite all the changes. Well shaped yes - but for war, fighting and survival. The clothing was nothing but black leather, safe for the white star engraved in the armor. Strapped to back was a long sword and Finarfin doubted anyone but Maedhros could wield the weapon.
Hell, most of his warriors would have trouble even lifting it.
„So the rumors are true indeed. The Valar finally decided to correct their mistakes,“ a voice cut through the silence.
A second elf had dismounted and chose a place right next to Maedhros. With his black hair and the power that just resounded through him, he guessed it was Makalaurë. Maglor, in the tongue of this land and Finarfin found himself discarding the old names since he had trouble to see two energetic boys of his brothers in the hardened warriors before him. Both looked as dangerous as the Orcs Finarfin had encountered, if not more. Their eyes shone with dislike at least, maybe even with hostility and the setting sun colored them in a deep shade of red.
Well, Gil-galad had warned him. But as much as he respected the other King, Finarfin found it difficult to trust his assessment in the regards of the Fëanorians. All reports had been sightings from the distance or tales from survivors.
I thought they had been exaggerations, Finarfin thought. Now he was not so sure anymore.
The Sons of Fëanor stood relaxed and unafraid in front of the small gathering of Lords and Warriors, who all remembered the Kinslayings. Pride probably kept them from slouching and making it look like boredom, insulting Gil-galad just with the way they portrayed themselves.
Finarfin already felt a familiar (and long missed) ache in the back of his head.
„Yes,“ Finarfin answered since Gil-galad made no move to get involved, „The Valar responded to Eärendil's plea for help.“
„Generous,“ Maglor sneered with open distaste. „A little late, because there's nothing left to salvage. One hundred years earlier and your sons would be still alive. I guess you would have taken greater pleasure to be greeted by them instead of us.“
It took a lot of self-control not to leash out, but what hurt the most was the truth in Maglor's words. Back than most of the Noldor Kingdoms stood proud against Morgoth forces. It grieved Finarfin how quickly it went downhill from there, he had seen the descriptions.
„Brother, please control your temper,“ Maedhros spoke up for the first time. His deep voice drew all attention to him. „We are grateful for the Host of Valinor and here to discuss an alliance. Our anguish brings us together and we cannot effort that Morgoth will use our ideologies to divide us.“
Before Finarfin could stop himself, he nodded obediently. Despite the fact Maedhros stood in front of two Highkings, he commanded more authority than them. If ordered, most elves on the hill would kneel in front of the Fëanorian before they could question their action.
Out of reflex, Finarfin hoped. Maedhros was a General, the one person who had seen and survived all battles against Morgoth's armies aside from Maglor.
Curious how no Orc got ever close enough to take down a Fëanorian, one of his advisors had said after review the history of Beleriand. Great Kings and might heroes had stood against Balrog's and rarely survived to tell the tale. Only the Sons of Fëanor remained intact, when they returned from their battles. Finarfin's eyes wandered towards Maedhros and Maglor. How it was possible that they lost the majority of their brothers to elvish blades if the same people could not stand up the unnamed evil the Fëanorians so easily vanquished?
He sighed and wished for answers.
„Wise words,“ Finarfin admitted and decided it was best for all if he and Maedhros continued since Maglor and Gil-galad eyeing each other with open anger. „We see the need as well. The Host of Valinor already provides protection for those who cannot fight. We are also ready to share our food as well.“
Maedhros narrowed his eyes a bit and Finarfin noticed how short he kept his hair. Like everything else practical experience overruled tradition and fashion sense. Even Maglor's braid barely reached the broad shoulders.
“What do you wish for in return,” Maedhros asked, knowing that nothing was given freely.
“Information,” Finarfin answered quickly and took his nephew by surprise, if he judged the reaction correctly. “We do not have enough maps and those few we do possess, we cannot rely on.”
Nodding in understanding, Maedhros said, “Since none of you rode north in the last few years. Morgoth controls a lot of land and his power as changed the landscape in the last decades. One cannot identify landmarks if they no longer exist.”
“Exactly. Our Host and even the Valar will need someone as guide,” Finarfin explained. “Beside our lack of familiarity with the terrain, we do not know Morgoth creatures as well as you do.”
“In short you need our battle experience,” Maedhros concluded.
While Gil-galad gritted his teeth, Maglor smirked in response. Finarfin wondered were the even-tempered singer had vanished to and how he had been replaced with a snarling version of his father, but he guessed he had no right to judge. Even if they were Kinslayers, the Fëanorians fought in this war far longer than he did and had lost their home more than once.
“Is that all?” Maedhros wished to know. “I'm all for a sound strategy, it will keep us from stumbling upon each other. But this can be discussed another time.”
“There is one more demand, you have answer to,” Gil-galad interfered, when he saw Maedhros reaching for his horse.
Finarfin looked at his fellow King questioning. He was not aware of another subject they needed to discuss. Why risk of blowing a successful meeting at this point? But when Gil-galad spoke up, he understood.
“Where are the children?” Gil-galad demanded to know. “Eärendil wishes to meet his sons. If they are even still alive, since we have seen no proof ever since you took them from the Havens.”
A sharp hiss escaped Finarfin and the soldiers around them moved with unease. They all heard the legends how Eärendil's children had disappeared. Some thought them dead, others said the Sons of Fëanor held them hostage.
Finarfin didn't know which version he preferred. It had been over two decades since Eärendil reached Valinor and if he remembered correctly he and his wife had spend an extended amount of time on sea, because even with a Silmaril the journey was long and confusing.
Children grow fast in that age, Finarfin remembered. Not to mention that elflings were impressionable during childhood and largely depended on their parents to survive. Their bodies grew quickly, but their spirits were vulnerable and needed to be protected.
How young were Eärendil's children, when Elwing left these lands, Finarfin wondered. I have not much hope for them.
Shame that Finarfin would not be the only one to lose his children. No wonder Eärendil had been so eager to return.
Finally Maedhros answered.
“Eärendil has no sons he can claim as his own,” came the response, tight like a wire.
“Have you sunk this low to kill even innocent children? Is nothing some from your cursed oath?” Gil-galad shouted. “I know for fact that they were still alive when Celebrimbor visited you, after you left the Havens.”
In his rage Gil-galad nearly attacked the Fëanorians. Thankfully two soldiers held him back. Their king was no match for the Sons of Fëanor, especially in single combat.
“Do not accuse me of sins I did not commit,” Maedhros snapped and hauled himself in his horse. His ease with the task made everyone forget he actually lacked one hand. “I said Eärendil had no sons anymore, not that the twins are dead.”
“What...?” Gil-galad blinked in surprise. His eyes darted from Maedhros to Maglor.
It was Maglor, who answered and Finarfin sensed the dark satisfaction in his voice.
“Elrond and Elros have always been aware that it was us, who destroyed their home. In time they warmed up to us, since we sheltered them, feed them and loved them,” Maglor said with a smile before he turned serious. “But they never forgot that Elwing and Eärendil chose the Silmaril over them. Elwing made a choice when she refused our bargain, again when she took flight and Eärendil the final one when he refused to turn around.”
Finarfin had trouble to make out the words. It was the first time he heard the tale like this. According to Elwing the Fëanorians had come without warning and slaughtered all who stood in their way. Now he wondered how much as a true account of events and how much was her own perception.
He would have to find out what happened, if he found the time for it. At least the reports were clearer when it came to the Sack of Doriath, because there were enough people criticizing Dior for going into battle with the Sons of Fëanor. Sirion resembled Alqualondë, only pain and confusion with so many conflicting accounts of what happened exactly.
But that's not our problem, Finarfin realized.
“Can we at least see them?” he asked carefully. “We will not pressure them into picking a side or force them to spend time with us. But there are obviously people concerned about their well fare. Will you grant them this simply request, Nephew?”
Maedhros refused to reply. Instead his eyes flickered to the right, to the small group of elves that accompanied their Lords to the meeting.
Finarfin's eyes widened in surprise, when he spotted to identical faces. He had not noticed before, because seeing the sons of his brother again demanded all his attention. Gil-galad gasped as well, but he had no excuse. But Finarfin reasoned that it was dark and the Fëanorian riders dressed mostly in black.
“Elrond? Elros?” Gil-galad asked and Finarfin watched how carefully the other King moved forward to get a better look.
“We are fine,” one of them responded and commanded his horse to step further into the light. Finarfin made out black hair and grey eyes reflecting the firelight. Fingolfin's features as far as he could tell.
“My brother and I will be present at the next meeting,” the other elf said, when he joined his brother and Finarfin concluded that they were truly twins. Too identical to be just brothers. “With one condition.”
“Of course,” Gil-galad agreed, far too eager for Finarfin's taste. “Anything you name.”
“No one will question our choice,” one twin said and glared at them, much like Maglor had done earlier. “We will introduce ourselves as Makalaurion and shall take offense at anyone accusing us of lying.”
The other twin took over, so neatly it was difficult to tell who was speaking.
“We were not held against our will. Father argues since ages that your court would be a safer place, Cousin,” Gil-galad was told. “However we refused. Your lands are not free from orcs and Lord Maedhros is certainly the better fighter.”
Even Finarfin flinched, but he said nothing when the twins finally turned their horses to rejoin the army waiting at the foot of the hill. Gil-galad just swallowed and looked at Maedhros for help.
“Like I said it is not my decision to make.” The Fëanorian shrugged. “As long as they wish to stay by our side, I treat them like my own flesh and blood.”
With these words Maedhros rode down the hill. It was Maglor who stayed behind for a moment, carefully inspecting the two Kings.
“Until we meet again,” he said, refraining from commenting the declaration the twins had made.
For Gil-galad it was difficult enough to watch how easily the twins made space for their father so that he could ride between them. Soon the Fëanorian Host had vanished back into the shadows and the night denied even Finarfin from following them with his eyes.
Instead they found Gil-galad, who had buried his face in his hands.
“I do not understand. How can they... with the Kinslayers?” he asked in confusion and looked at Finarfin for answers.
With a deep sigh the last son of Finwë put a hand an Gil-galad's shoulder.
“Ereinion, I can only tell you what my father told me when I asked him how Elwë could refuse Valinor's light,” Finarfin spoke quietly, offering his comfort. “Harder lives do not always make unhappier people.”