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Overcoming the Dark

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The River Lune, the Hills of Evendim, Lake Evendim, Fornost – Maedhros would know the road in his sleep. No human would have dared make rest and actually spend the night in the ruins of Fornost; they called it cursed and haunted, and avoided even coming within sight of the old city of kings. Maedhros did not believe in fairy tales. Even better, he knew that there was no danger there except for some wolves and, from time to time, bandits until the Rangers of the north drove them away.

From Fornost the road went south to Bree, then east past Weathertop to Imladris. Bree he had no great liking for, but he always stopped in the town for one or two nights to speak to the men there whom he knew and who gathered information for him. He liked Weathertop on the other hand, which was an ideal place to rest, for it had a good view of the surrounding lands, thus making it nearly impossible to attack unseen.

He preferred travelling alone, but it was always a challenge. He had enough provisions to get him to Imladris, but should he run out due to an unforeseen incident, he would be unable to hunt. He had never been a particularly good archer, but ever since he had lost his hand, it had become entirely impossible. While tradition dictated that only elven Queens were allowed to have and use the recipe for lembas, Maedhros had stolen it long ago in Doriath, and making lembas despite not being an elleth was definitely the least of his crimes. Life in the North had become harder over the last years. Orcs raiding the area had become a common problem, and even the Rangers, skilled men but few in numbers, had lost too many good warriors to Sauron’s servants.

Maglor and Maedhros’ home lay on the eastern bank of the River Lune, far enough from the Dwarven city and Mithlond to remain undisturbed. It was also a lonely place, but this suited the brothers well. Over the years they had acquired a handful of followers, some elves who had survived past the First Age, and humans whose forefathers Maglor and Maedhros had aided against a group of orcs. It had been a coincidence more than actual intent, but the men had promptly sworn allegiance to the brothers and followed them to their fortress.

They had never had a particularly easy stand, and most of the time every man was needed. Thus Maedhros had gone against his brother’s advice – as he had so often in the past – and started his journey to Imladris alone. Maglor might have accompanied him at another time, but now more than ever one of them needed to remain at home, and on top of that, Maglor had visited Elrond only a couple of months before.

Maedhros’ visit was not about having tea with a friend. The eldest son of Fëanor had more serious matters to discuss with the elven Lord who was, in effect, his only true ally in Middle-earth.

From Weathertop the way to Imladris was relatively easy. Or it should have been. He had left Weathertop behind four days ago when trouble arrived.

He woke at night to howls. They were not common howls either, although an untrained ear might have thought so. Maedhros, however, recognized them as wargs. Quickly, he went to his horse. He could tell that they came from the east and were approaching his camp; they would inevitably catch his scent and follow it in hopes of prey.

Wargs were not stupid. They were no ordinary animals: Morgoth had bred them himself, supposedly thrust demons into wolves’ bodies, and given them speech. Even in the First Age they had caused great trouble for the free races. Few understood the tongue, the wizards for one, Maedhros himself being another. He wouldn’t claim that having been a captive of Morgoth had had its advantages, but the months of captivity had taught him many things for which he had later found a use. Understanding the tongue of wargs was only one of his acquired skills.

He urged his horse to a gallop and turned it southwest into the forest. He hoped that if he could ride fast enough to evade them, he would be able to circle back to the road at a later time. Engaging them was only a last resort.

His sword rested reassuringly against his right thigh, and if the situation required it, he could steer his horse with his legs and his voice only, just as archers did. The sword he could wield in dire need with his left, and in the First Age he had done so with the same skill he had had with his right hand before Fingon cut it off on Thangorodrim.

He strained his ears, and for a while he thought that he would escape without the wargs ever being the wiser. Then he heard them howling loudly in triumph, and he realized that the wargs had picked up his scent. And they were hungry.

Maedhros urged his horse to the utmost speed. Could he still lose them? Or would he need to resort to other means? The only place safe from them was something they could not climb, and in this area that only left trees. But even those might not save him: if hungry or angry enough, the wargs could very well wait him out on the ground.

Behind him, the howls were getting louder and more frenzied. At least fifteen seemed to be pursuing him.

Suddenly, Maedhros’ horse stumbled and the ground started giving way beneath him. He pulled the horse up sharply, making the animal rear. The uneven ground unbalanced it so badly that it fell sideways and Maedhros was forced to throw himself out of the saddle, lest he be buried under his horse. Wood crashed and leaves fluttered as he was thrown into the chasm that had opened beneath them. He could hear his horse fall to the ground above but quickly pull itself to its feet again. Maedhros lay stunned for a moment. The wargs howling pulled him out of his daze. They were much closer than before.

The sinkhole was astonishingly deep, and he could not reach the edge with his hands. When he tried scaling the sides, soil and small stones loosened and rained down on him.

He shouted for his horse to run, and it seemed to obey him – Maedhros could not see it after all, only hear the hooves on the ground. But then he heard terrible growling, a frightened neigh from his steed and jaws clamping around flesh. The horse squealed in pain as the wargs ripped into it, but the animal soon ceased its noise. Maedhros cursed soundly. It was no doubt a painful death, and the same might yet await him. He unsheathed his sword, ignoring a twinge in his hand; just in time, too, as a warg appeared at the rim of the hole. It fixed its glowing eyes on him and opened its mouth to show off pointed and jagged teeth.

It made to jump down, but Maedhros swiped his sword at it, slicing into its snout with the tip and making the beast jerk back with a pained and angry yowl. Soon, more wargs joined the first and stared down at him. The pack leader pushed his way through.

“If you come down,” Maedhros growled, “I will slit your throat.”

Warg laughter still sounded as terrible as it had the last time. A second wolf snapped its jaws at him and again Maedhros struck out, this time aiming directly for the throat. Blood splattered down on his face and Maedhros grinned humourlessly. A third warg actually dared the jump, and Maedhros had just enough space to avoid the claws aimed for his face. He stabbed the sword with all his might upwards into the open mouth and through the palate into the brain.

“You see?” Maedhros shouted, pulling out his blade. “I will slaughter each and every one of you who dares to come too close.”

The pack leader evidently saw that jumping down into the sinkhole was not an option. There was not enough space for more than one wolf at a time, and against those Maedhros could defend himself. Thus the leading warg held a speech advising his fellows to wait until the elf tired while they sated their hunger and bloodlust on the horse. Three wolves stayed and kept watch on Maedhros as the rest sank their teeth into the horse.

It was a bad trap in which the elf found himself. While he had announced his coming via carrier pigeon to Elrond, it would take a while until they realized that he was late. He would become another meal for the wargs before help from Imladris could arrive.

In a way, it was ironic. This hole was only a sinkhole, but it reminded him of the fiery chasm ages ago in which he had wanted to jump. Maglor had barely managed to pull him back from the edge and forced him to throw the Silmaril into the fire. Maglor had then lain on top of his brother until Maedhros had ceased to move, and then waited even longer until the horn of Oromë announcing his coming had driven them away.

And thus the remaining sons of Fëanor had continued to haunt Middle-earth. The first century they had spent wandering. Maedhros had been bitter, Maglor had grieved, and both had been in barely bearable pain until the burns healed. Elrond later claimed that if they had sought out healers straight away, they might have avoided the permanent damage they suffered to this day. Maedhros believed that it was hard to tell, and whether Elrond himself would have been willing to help at the time was another issue altogether. The brothers and Elrond had only established contact again when it was clear that Sauron was about to resurface.

Maedhros flexed his hand and rubbed it against his thigh in a near hopeless attempt to relax the tense muscles. Dawn had come and gone and the wargs had withdrawn to the shadow of the trees, except for his guards of course. Those only cursed the sun and its brightness. For some reason, none of Morgoth’s creatures liked it.

Maedhros was starting to feel hungry, but he pushed the feeling down. It wouldn’t be the first time he did without a meal or two. Was there really no way to escape? Perhaps he could lure the wargs down one by one and slay them. The mounting bodies would eventually enable him to climb out of the hole. It was a foolish plan, he knew, with too many weaknesses. Unless a party of hunters was already looking for the pack, there was little chance of anyone finding him.

He crouched in the hole with his hand cramping around the hilt of his sword for hours. He rested his eyes at half-mast for lack of anything to do, not letting the wargs out of sight and listening for any movements.

He waited so long that when something finally did happen, it didn’t register at first. Then the wargs started howling again. The next arrow’s impact he heard clearly, as well as the singing of a single bowstring. The archer was alone, and Maedhros could only applaud the man’s courage – or reprimand him for his foolishness.

But perhaps the first was more accurate. Maedhros counted only a few more arrows than wargs, so he was evidently an excellent marksman. The wolves sounded enraged; they howled and yelled but apparently they could not reach the archer – he must have hidden in the trees. Maedhros laughed.

The wargs guarding him joined the noise. One apparently surmised that their end was coming and wanted a last bite of its prey. It jumped into the hole and this time, after hours of crouching in the dirt, Maedhros had difficulties fighting the beast off. The space was too small to do much and his hand was clumsy as he pushed his sword into the nearest part of the warg he could reach – the chest area.

But he missed the heart and had no strength to pull the sword out, although he tried. Perhaps it would have been his end if two green-fletched arrows had not buried themselves in the warg’s nape just in time. Maedhros abandoned the sword, pulled out his dagger and slit the wolf’s throat, thus finally killing it.

The arrows were of elven making. He looked up. There, at the edge of the hole stood a blond woodelf with his bow drawn and arrows ready to fly. With the warg dead, he lowered his bow and sank to his knees to take a closer look down. His blue eyes were huge, battle lust still strong in his blood. He was dressed in green and brown garb, thus evidently one of Thranduil’s elves from the forest realm of Mirkwood.

Tense, Maedhros waited to see what his rescuer would do. The woodelf studied him, from the red hair to the missing hand, from the sword in the warg’s chest and the second beast lying dead in the sinkhole to the dagger in Maedhros’ gloved fist. The Noldor had no doubt that he also recognized Maedhros’ eyes, which had the characteristic shine of those elves who had seen the light of the trees in Valinor. Really, unless this elf had never left his own home and never learnt anything about history, there was no way he wouldn’t recognize Maedhros, eldest son of Fëanor.

“We need rope,” the elf finally said in Sindarin.

“On my saddle,” Maedhros replied instinctively. “If the wargs did not eat that as well.”

The elf disappeared from view and a moment later he called in a loud voice:

“I’ve got a short end and a long end.” He sounded amused of all things.

“Then I guess you’d better take the long end,” Maedhros called back. Let it not be said that a son of Fëanor lacked a good reply.

The woodelf poked his head back over the hole. “I guess I’d better.”

He deliberately showed Maedhros one end of the rope, which he then kept himself, and threw the other end down to the Noldor.

“Knot it around your waist,” he instructed.

Maedhros did just that. His hand was still in enough pain that it would not have been much use climbing.

He sheathed his dagger, retrieved his sword and sheathed that as well. Then he gave the waiting elf a nod. The woodelf started pulling Maedhros up, and the Noldor helped by stemming his feet against the walls of the sinkhole. It wasn’t very deep, but alone he would not have been able to escape. The woodelf hooked his arm through Maedhros’ right one and pulled him the rest of the way up, never letting go of the rope.

“Thank you,” the Fëanorion gasped.

The woodelf seemed nearly surprised so Maedhros added:

“I owe you my life.”

“That you do,” the elf agreed.

“Who are you?”

“Taurphen,” he replied.

“That’s not your real name.”

“It’s the name I’m giving you, former high king Maedhros, son of Fëanor.”

“You can drop the titles, Maedhros will do. It would be Prince anyway.”

“Very well. We must clean up.”

Maedhros agreed. His horse had been left as little more than carcass, bloody strips of meat hanging off gleaming white ribs. The saddle was hopelessly destroyed, as was his luggage. He made an effort to find the lembas, but the package had been ripped apart and the bread trampled, spit on and generally fouled with horse blood. With an angry noise he threw it away. Nothing but what he was wearing was still good. He was glad now that he carried the case with his brother’s message to Elrond on his person. That, at least, would not be sullied by anyone.

‘Taurphen’, in the meantime, had gathered deadwood.

“We must burn the carcasses,” he said.

Together, they moved the wargs onto a pile with his horse, away from the nearest trees, shifted dry wood and leaves in between and set fire to it all. They then threw another firebrand into the sinkhole on top of the two other wargs.

Taurphen spoke to some of the trees, and Maedhros let him, planning a new route in his head. Unfortunately, there was no short-cut to Imladris, even for those on foot.

“Come,” Taurphen said when he was done. “This fire won’t spread to the trees, so we needn’t wait. I left my horse some distance from here.”

He turned to go into the direction Maedhros had come from. Clearly he had followed the wargs’ tracks.

“Why did you follow the wargs?” Maedhros enquired. The woodelf must have known how dangerous it was to engage a whole pack while alone.

“I came across the camp where you spent the night and saw the tracks of the wargs. I thought that whoever had rested there might be in danger. I followed as far as I dared on horse, then left my steed and continued through the trees.”

“You’re far from home.”

The elf gave him a measuring look.

“So are you, and without a guard.”

Maedhros expression darkened. “I am not helpless.”

“Not completely, no. Had you been helpless, you would not have been able to slay those two wargs. And your mind is said to be the keenest in Ennor. But if I hadn’t come, you would have died.”

“I don’t fear death.”

“And why would you when you have craved it before?”

Maedhros shot him a sharp look. “Watch your tongue, young woodelf.”

“Can you not admit the weakness in you?”

The elder Fëanorion flinched back as if physically hit, his expression one of utter shock and disgust. He needed a moment until he was capable of a reply, and it was not due to what Taurphen had said but rather how he had said it.

“By Elbereth, your Quenya is terrible! Who in the Valar’s name taught you?! Please don’t tell me it was King Thranduil. I would have expected better of him.”

The elf’s cheekbones coloured with a slight blush, and he looked away in embarrassment.

“Don’t be ridiculous, our king would never have taught me or had me taught that tongue by anyone. I learnt it in Lord Elrond’s household during my few and brief stays there.”

Maedhros heaved a sigh of mixed disappointment and relief. “I’ll need to have a word with Elrond then.”

The woodelf’s head abruptly swung around to face him again. “And what did you mean by saying that you would have expected better from the king? You don’t even know him!”

Maedhros huffed a laugh. “I admit, I’ve only seen him a couple of times, but it’s a bit of an exaggeration to claim that I don’t know him. I know that he has a tough stand in the Mirkwood and that he and his people are tenacious, stubborn, and valiant.”

“Now you’re trying to flatter us.”

“I don’t flatter. I know what I need to. Just as your king does. I suspect your task is to do reconnaissance.” Maedhros gave him a sharp look.

“Of course not. I am simply on a leisurely trip to see Middle-earth,” Taurphen replied, and his tone might have been joking, or it might not have been. At least he didn’t think he could fool Maedhros. “I wasn’t planning to travel to Imladris,” he continued. “Lord Elrond is a great host, but I do not have the time. All the same, I will accompany you to Imladris’ boarders safely.”

They had arrived at the woodelf’s horse. It was a grey, and he rode without a saddle. Maedhros had gotten used to a saddle over the years and found it easier, particularly in battle; this woodelf obviously didn’t see the need for one.

“Would you like to ride?”

Maedhros gave him an affronted look. “I can walk well enough,” he said more scathingly than he had intended. Taurphen seemed taken aback and then promptly embarrassed. He glanced to his feet.

“I apologize,” he said. “I did not mean to imply that you were weak.”

Maedhros forced himself to calm down. “If you had, I would not have replied with words.”

A flash of anxiousness crossed the woodelf’s face, but he quickly schooled his expression into a neutral one.

“We shall walk both then.”

Evidently the woodelf was not as fearless as he wanted to appear. He was young, although nearly everyone was young compared to Maedhros; the Noldor estimated him to be somewhere between five hundred and eight hundred years.

But in the Mirkwood danger was afoot often, and the Silvan elves did not have the luxury of coddling their children. This young one had obviously accomplished much already – otherwise Thranduil would not have sent him on such an errand - and he was an excellent marksman. Maedhros vowed to ask Elrond about him, for that was the clue the woodelf apparently did not even realize he had given: that he had spent time in Imladris, though not long, and he was dear enough to Elrond to receive lessons in Quenya – futile though they had been. The language did not matter in Ennor anyway. Not even Maedhros would have insisted that anyone learn it.

They marched back to the road and then eastward to Imladris. They made camp for lunch, and Taurphen went hunting, quickly coming back with a rabbit, which he expertly skinned and roasted on an improvised spit. He kept some of the meat for later.

After their meal, they continued walking until nightfall. They made good headway and would most likely arrive in the valley in less than three days.

The woodelf was a good companion. He did not rouse Maedhros’ temper again, but did not treat him with any particular reverence either. As far as Maedhros knew, that did not lie in a woodelf’s nature anyway. He was reserved about himself and his identity, a trait which served him well in his role, but he was also cheerful, and he enjoyed singing. He did not have the passion Maglor had had, nor the skill, but he had a pleasant voice, and it suited him.

On the third day they arrived at the Bruinen, and Taurphen halted.

“This is where Lord Elrond’s realm and power begins. I will leave you now, for I know that Elrond’s guards will not be far from here. They will give you save passage to the Homely House,” he said.

Maedhros nodded. “Thank you for your aid.”

He offered his left arm and Taurphen grasped it.

“If you ever find yourself in need of help,” Maedhros added, “Call on me.”

“I will,” Taurphen vowed as if most woodelves would not rather cut off their own arm than accept help from a kinslayer.

He swung up onto his mare, gave Maedhros a last nod, and rode back down the road towards whatever destination he had in mind.

Elrond was surprised to say the least to see Maedhros show up on foot. The half-elf was immediately concerned that Maedhros had sustained injuries during his bout with the wargs, but aside from some colourful bruises, he was fine. His hand had loosened up some as well.

After a soothing bath, he lay stretched out on a divan in Elrond’s family quarters. They had eaten dinner with Arwen and the twins and were now enjoying some wine – or in Maedhros’ case Miruvor – in private without the half-elf’s children present. Only now did Maedhros think it advisable to ask a question that had been on his mind for three days now: Taurphen.

“The name the elf gave me was a false one.”

Elrond nodded wisely. “I assumed so. It’s a name which says nothing at all besides the obvious, like one you would take on a secret mission. Tell me what you know of him.”

“He is blonde, slender and fair with no unusual features. I assume that he’s somewhere between five hundred to eight hundred years old. He’s an excellent archer, and of either Silvan or Sindarin descent, I cannot decide which. He is courageous and of high standing. He mentioned that he had stayed here in Imladris for short periods of time and received some lessons in Quenya, although you must let me have a word with whoever taught him, for his skills were...” He made a dismissive gesture.

Elrond practically burst out laughing. He shook so hard he had to put his goblet on the table. Maedhros gazed at him in surprise. Elrond was not always the serious elven lord humans in particular expected. He had a sense of humour, and before his wife Celebrían had sailed West, he had smiled and laughed a lot more than he did these days. But for him to lose constraints like this, even in private, was a rare occasion.

“Why didn’t you just say so?” Elrond guffawed. “Of course it would be the Quenya that reveals him! Good thing, too, that he doesn’t actually need it in Middle-earth!” He wiped at his eyes. “Legolas, Legolas himself, the world couldn’t be more ironic.”

“Legolas?” The name reminded Maedhros of something, but it would not come to him immediately.

“Legolas Thranduilion, Maedhros, son of the King of Mirkwood.” Elrond gave him a meaningful look.

Maedhros’ eyebrows rose nearly all the way to his hair. “Irony indeed.” He heaved a breath. Oh, the implications! The grandson of an elf he and his brothers had driven out of Doriath! Now more than ever the young elf had earned his respect.

“Remarkable,” he commented. “Admirable even.” He did not give either compliment lightly. He held out his cup. “Do you have some of that dwarven poison they call a drink?”

Elrond grinned, retrieved the bottle, and poured a shot into Maedhros’ Miruvor.

“I have a new horse for you,” Glorfindel announced.

Maedhros looked up at him from beneath his eyelashes. “You do?”

The golden-haired warrior stood expectantly in the door. Maedhros shut the book he had been perusing with great interest, stretched, and rose to join him.

Glorfindel led him outside and some way away from the main house. On a meadow away from the main streets of the elven home stood Elrohir holding the halter of a horse with a red-beige coat, evidently a red dun.

“I realize the red doesn’t quite match the colour of your hair...,” Glorfindel began.

“Because I always choose my horse based on whether its colour matches my hair,” Maedhros interrupted him.

“...and we didn’t have any black ones which were suitable either...,” he continued smoothly.

“Black as my soul and the Ringwraiths’ steeds, you mean?” Maedhros put in. “That’s all right.”

Glorfindel continued as if Maedhros hadn’t said anything: “But this one has characteristics which I think you will find very useful.”

Elrohir was glancing between them, slightly apprehensively, not quite certain whether both were joking and whether the other knew it or would take offense. But Glorfindel and Maedhros had had millennia to get used to each other’s presence. Scathing wit was their mode of communication.

Out of habit, Maedhros checked the mouth and teeth.

“Come now, do you really think I’m going to give you a horse fit to retire?” Glorfindel complained.

Maedhros gave him an amused look but didn’t apologize.

“Go on, try him out,” the golden warrior said.

Elrohir held the horse while Maedhros swung up effortlessly. He wouldn’t have needed the help, but he didn’t correct Elrond’s son. He took the reins into his left and shifted in the saddle to get a feeling for it, thus missing Glorfindel’s actions until the elf tied the end of a lunge line to his horse’s bridle.

“You’re mocking me,” he accused the elf in a stern voice.

Glorfindel smiled a bit. “Aren’t I always? This is the best way to see whether you’re a good match. This is a limited area, there are no distractions, which means no addition to your colourful bruises.”

“I didn’t realize you were concerned for my physical health.”

Glorfindel smirked. “If it keeps my lord happy.”

Glorfindel and Maedhros’ relationship was a strange one, if it was one at all. Glorfindel didn’t trust Maedhros. He guarded Elrond and the valley faithfully, and if he had thought Maedhros posed a threat to either, he would not have hesitated to challenge the Fëanorion. They exchanged barbed comments like it was a game, as if to see how far they could go before the other got angry.

Yet they also grudgingly admitted respect for each other, and they had something in common which was not so easily dismissed even in this day and age: they had fought in the Nírnaeth Arnoediad together, although far from side by side. The battlefield had been so large that they had not even caught a glimpse of each other, and Maedhros had not met Glorfindel until after the golden warrior’s return from the Halls of Mandos.

Still, they were two of the very few people who had seen the First Age and Valinor, and they were the only ones in Ennor to have fought in the most devastating battle of the First Age. Moreover, they were, or in Maedhros’ case had been, counted among Middle-earth’s best swordsmen, and they had both suffered through traumatic events and come out stronger, whether on Thangorodrim or in Gondolin. They were both considered to be highly intelligent, although the oath had evidently made Maedhros wilfully blind to what was wise or foolish, right or wrong; in addition, the Battle of Unnumbered Tears, which he had planned, had gone dramatically wrong and scholars could argue for hours and days about what should have been done differently and if the terrible defeat could have been predicted and thus prevented.

Maedhros always enjoyed his stays in Imladris, but he restricted himself to making them short and few. He knew that Elrond could suffer great damage to his reputation for welcoming him in the Last Homely House, had suffered even for maintaining contact with him. Although Elrond himself had never told him, Maedhros knew that Galadriel, but especially Celeborn, had been hesitant in giving their blessing to Elrond’s and Celebrían’s union for reasons which largely amounted to the half-elf’s relationship with Maedhros.

Everyone probably agreed that things would be better if Maedhros had not been thwarted in his suicide attempt and if he and Maglor had disappeared entirely from Ennor’s history. But it was not to be.

After settling in the North, building a fortress able to withstand any orc army, and gathering people to rule, Maedhros had itched to play a hand in events in Middle-earth again. But without allies and with no one even willing to allow him into their city, his possibilities were extremely limited. In time, when Sauron had risen to power and elves and men had been forced to come together, even he had been allowed into their alliance. Until then, he had needed to spin his web of power in a different way.

He had made contact with anyone he could, be they elf, man, or dwarf, and retrieved whatever riches of his and his brothers’ he could still find after the changing of the world through the Battle of Wrath to pay those who preferred coins to loyalty. Over the years, he had accumulated an extensive network of informants, or “spies” as some called them, who kept him abreast of ongoing or developing events and allowed him to influence them. He himself knew better than anyone what a disaster the Battle of Unnumbered Tears had been. He had lost his greatest friend, his cousin Fingon, because of his failures, and he had sworn to himself that something like this would never happen again. He would know whose loyalties lay where before the people in question even knew themselves.

Glorfindel and others openly accused him or insinuated that he had spies in every realm, including even the elven realms of Imladris, Mirkwood, Lothlórien and Mithlond. He did not. His respect and debt to Elrond alone would have prevented him of installing any in Imladris. He didn’t need any either. He knew what was going on because Elrond told him, asked his counsel on some rare occasions, although the state secrets the half-elf kept to himself as any good leader would.

But, yes, Maedhros knew people in Rivendell other than Lord Elrond. For instance Lindir. The singer was lauded for his voice and songs; perhaps, if Maglor had not been around, he would have been considered to be the best singer in Middle-earth. Imladris was his home of choice, and until Elrond himself left for Valinor, Lindir would not leave it either.

The elf was the son of a couple which had followed Maedhros during the First Age. Maglor and Maedhros had dismissed their people before attacking the camp of the Valar, and some had returned when the brothers had established the fortress on the edge of the Blue Mountains. Lindir’s talent had naturally been discovered by Maglor. His brother had taught the elf in song and instruments and when he had finished his training, Maglor had suggested that Lindir go to Imladris.

At the time, the Last Homely House had only begun to blossom and evolve. The Fëanorions had instinctively known that the future was brighter in Imladris than in any other elven territory, and thus they had agreed that sending Lindir to Imladris was the best option for the young elf. Lindir had accepted enthusiastically and a couple of months later he had travelled to Imladris with a letter of recommendation in his pocket. The knowledge that Lindir was the son of kinslayers and had lived in Maedhros’ fortress for years did not leave Elrond’s study, and thus no one but the Lord himself knew of the bard’s origins.

When Maedhros visited, he and Lindir rarely spoke. Unlike Maglor, the eldest son of Fëanor had no grasp of music. He listened to it if he was in the mood, but he knew little about it.

But Maedhros was not entirely surprised that Lindir sought him out the next time Maedhros read alone in the library. His book was lying on a small, round table and Maedhros rested his scarred hand and his arm in his lap, only using his hand from time to time to turn the pages. The petite singer slid into a chair at Maedhros’ bidding.

“I heard what happened,” the singer said. “I’m glad to see you are well.”

Maedhros hummed. “What exactly did you hear?”

Lindir seemed surprised at his question, but he shook it off.

“That you were attacked by a band of wargs and lost your horse.” He smiled a bit. “The details of how you escaped death differ depending on the storyteller.”

“Tell me,” Maedhros ordered softly.

“Some believe that you climbed a tree and escaped thus.” Even Lindir looked doubtful at that. “Others say you fought the wargs and killed them all.” Apparently he considered that slightly more credible. “Personally I find the third version the most amusing. According to that, you simply commanded the wargs to leave you be, since you speak their language and all, and they obeyed.”

Maedhros snorted. “Understanding and speaking are two very different things. There are no other versions?”

Lindir shook his head. “None.” And he had listened well.

The Eldar was pleased. “Do you like it here in the valley?”

The singer nodded enthusiastically. “Oh yes. Lord Elrond is a good lord, and Imladris is prospering like no other elven city.” A frown crossed his face. “I worry sometimes about what is coming: whether Sauron will ever be vanquished and whether we are safe.” In a lower voice he went on. “It’s not like in the First Age. We are weak and insignificant compared to then.”

Lindir himself had only been born at the beginning of the Second Age, so his assumptions were based on hearsay rather than experience. He was not the only one to long for the illusion of elven power as it had reputably been during the First Age. Of two tendencies common among elves, one belief especially prevalent among older elves was that they only had Valinor worth looking forward to; according to them, Ennor did not concern them anymore. The second school of thought believed that the elves needed to take a much more active role in Middle-earth and not allow humans to dominate in all things. Evidently Lindir leant towards the latter.

“You needn’t worry, Lindir,” Maedhros assured him. “Imladris is safer than any other realm and has many protectors. Nothing will happen here.”

“According to the tales, in Gondolin all elves had to train as warriors.”

“That won’t happen here,” Maedhros denied. It seemed to calm the singer.

“Am I interrupting?” A new voice cut in.

It was Glorfindel who had appeared soundlessly between the book shelves. His eyes had a hard glint in them, and Maedhros would have said that the elf looked nearly hopeful that he had interrupted some secret conversation.

Maedhros blinked calmly at him. “Not at all.”

Lindir rose, surprise and discomfort practically written all over his face, and bowed to the golden warrior.

“Lord Glorfindel.”

He had to bite his tongue not to apologize as if he had been caught doing something forbidden.

The older elf regarded him coolly. Maedhros took pity on the bard and said:

“I’m sure Lindir has better things to do than entertain an old elf.”

Lindir gladly accepted the dismissal, bowed again and quickly retreated from the room.

Glorfindel took his chair, leant back, and crossed his legs comfortably. His gaze never left the Fëanorion.

“I don’t like you questioning elves in this valley. I know you have spies everywhere.”

“In my former foster son’s home? Don’t insult me. I respect Elrond.”

“Respect doesn’t prevent all of hurting others. I’m surprised you of all people would believe that to be a viable argument.”

Maedhros shrugged. “People change. The oath has become void. Don’t be too hard on Lindir. He wasn’t telling me anything confidential. Surely you realize that there are very few elves who would speak to me. I take any offer I can get. And if I wanted to know the secrets of the valley, I wouldn’t ask a bard.”

Glorfindel had to concede that that was true. Nevertheless, he didn’t look happy. Deciding to speak plainly, Maedhros said:

“Elrond and I have a good relationship. I value it greatly and would not risk it.”

Glorfindel stood. “Very well. As you chose to speak plainly, allow me to do the same. Should you ever change your mind...” He stepped behind Maedhros right shoulder and laid his hand there, squeezing it. “I’ll know it.”

Maedhros merely smiled a bit.

The door to the library opened, and Elrond entered, followed by his chief advisor. Maedhros noted that while Elrond looked surprised to see them together, Erestor did not. The half-elf glanced between them, a small frown marring his face.

“Is everything well?” He enquired, voice stern.

“Of course, my Lord,” Glorfindel replied, backing away from where he had been crowding Maedhros.

The valley’s Lord gave the Fëanorion a questioning look. Maedhros nodded.

“All is well.”

Elrond seemed suspicious, but he didn’t insist on a further explanation. The two elves were of age, after all, and Maedhros, despite his physical handicap, was more than capable of defending himself in time of need. Yet Elrond was always aware that there were very few who would be bothered if some ill fate were to befall Maedhros.

“Mithrandir has just arrived,” the half-elf announced. “He asked that we speak about another meeting of the White Council, and that this time we convince the other realms of an attack on Dol Guldur. He requested that you come as well, Maedhros.”

The Fëanorion nodded and rose slowly. Glorfindel, naturally, would be part of the meeting, too; after all, he and Erestor were Elrond’s closest and most trusted advisors. Perhaps this time they would be able to come up with the arguments necessary to convince the other realms and be more successful at the next White Council. It was time to overcome the dark; if only more elves had the courage to reach out as Legolas Thranduilion had done.