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Legends: 1. Chapter One
Arminas, standing on his right, shifted from foot to foot with a metallic clink. "Well, who is it?" he asked.
"Feanorions." The runner inhaled deeply. "Maedhros Feanorion, at least, with a small company. We have exchanged greetings with him, and now await your arrival."
Ereinion imagined a tense, watchful standoff: two lines of warriors, both bristling with spears. The vanguard was made up of Teleri, to whom the phrase 'you son of Feanor' was far more offensive than any creative nautical slur. Not the embassy he would himself have chosen.
"Lead me to them, then," he said.
As they followed the runner through the tall trees of the Taur-en-Faroth, Ereinion scoured his mind for useful information.
The Feanorions. Seven names, which he had encountered in two places: on the battle diagrams drawn during his tactics lessons, and in whispered conversations overheard since the last Battle. They were his kin, of course, which explained the discretion: the whisperers did not want him to know that they blamed his kinsmen for the defeat, saw it as punishment for their dark deeds, and even took some comfort in the way they had been brought to ruin. Ereinion had not tried to discuss the matter more openly. The Feanorions, generals who had lost their whole armies, reminded him of captains who had lost their ships; nothing could be sadder. He had never savoured sad stories.
Maedhros, though. That name came with a different sort of tale, one more to Ereinion's taste. Maedhros was the one his father had saved, back in the old, heroic days.
"Maedhros was my father's friend," he said to Arminas.
"Your father was honouring a bond of friendship forged in Valinor," Arminas corrected him gently. "Maedhros is the leader of the Feanorions, the one who assembled the Union that bears his name and spoke in favour of battle."
Ereinion resented the simplistic history lecture, with its implication: Maedhros led your big-hearted father to his death. But showing resentment was childish, so he listened as his ex-tutor concluded his assessment.
"He is ruthless, of course, and some say that he is quite mad. Well, he used to be a captive of Morgoth's—and you know how it is with them."
Ereinion nodded; he knew enough to decide to judge the matter for himself. He looked ahead to where thinning trees revealed a clearing and picked up the pace, overtaking the guide as he stepped out of the woods.
It felt like surfacing after a long dive: everything grew brighter and sharper. Light played over the silver embroidery on the cloaks of the vanguard as they stood in a semicircle, blocking the rest of the glade from view. When Ereinion stepped forward, the two men immediately up ahead glanced his way and shifted to let him pass, their cloaks drawing apart like a pair of curtains. He looked through the gap.
He had been expecting to meet a defeated company: a band of soldiers bowed as aged Men, gathered in disarray around their grime-trodden pennants. What he saw was men tall and proud, so alike in face to his own Noldorin followers that it was hard to believe they were strangers. Their armour was different from his own, but not unfamiliar. They were dressed as warriors had once dressed. Ereinion was reminded of the paintings that had hung in his father's study in Hithlum.
Their leader was the tallest and proudest of all, and his red hair was brighter than any banner. Ereinion remembered one particular painting, a portrait. "Your uncle Maedhros," his father had said. "Maedhros the Tall. I think you will outgrow him one day." Ereinion had not thought about the picture, the study, or his father's laughing, living voice for years.
He looked to his men, and saw that they were tense as if facing an enemy. It all seemed faintly ridiculous. Ereinion made up his mind.
"At ease," he ordered. "Step aside, for I wish to speak to my kinsman."
Arminas cleared his throat. "My lord—"
"My father trusted him," Ereinion said quietly, "and I trust in my father's judgment."
The two closest men stepped aside further, and paused. All the warriors—both the strangers, and Ereinion's own company—stood so still that walking into the clearing felt like entering a painting, until the wind picked up, tugging at the soldiers' cloaks and the tall leader's red hair.
The boy seemed young to be leading a group of soldiers. And yet, though the men were clearly surprised by his order, they obeyed him, and without seeking confirmation from some older captain. He headed straight for Maedhros, ignoring the armed warriors on either side; his bow was the greeting of one prince to another.
"I am Ereinion. Son of Fingon," he said.
"Yes, of course." The black hair was braided very differently, the eyes predictably darker, and the expression far more guarded than Fingon's had ever been. Still, there was something about his stance, about the upward tilt of his head, that Maedhros had not expected to see again. He returned the bow.
"I am Maedhros. Son of Feanor."
Several of Ereinion's men frowned at these words, no doubt suspecting mockery. Maedhros heard his own escort fidget in response. He sent them a brief hand-signal—'be calm'—before taking a few steps forward, meeting the boy halfway.
"I will speak with you gladly, Ereinion. Son of Fingon." It felt good to say the name again to one who might hear it with love. Maedhros smiled. "Long have I wished to meet you, for your father's sake."
Ereinion smiled back. "Yes. My father promised me that I would meet you some day."
"He promised me the same thing."
A careless promise, in this uncertain world. Fingon had often made such promises, as if refusing to learn how much they could cost. "We will drink together, after," he had said, both in long-ago Valinor and in Hithlum, while discussing battle plans. Now his ghost hovered at the edges of the boy's smile.
Maedhros reminded himself that, ghosts aside, this boy was a stranger, and one important enough to cause problems. What was he doing in these Dark-infested woods? It should be easy enough to discover.
"Glad as I am to see your father's promise fulfilled, Ereinion," said Maedhros, "I must admit that I had not expected to encounter you here. Your father wrote me that he had lodged you with Cirdan's people."
"Yes, I still dwell with Cirdan, on the Isle of Balar. And you, do you make your home hereabouts?"
In other words: where do you live now that you have gambled and lost your home? But there was no mockery in the boy's voice, only politeness.
"No, we do not," said Maedhros. "We have arrived here only recently from the east. I daresay you traveled up the river?"
"Yes, we followed its course until two days ago." Ereinion tilted his head back again. "From the east, you say. Did your journey take you past Nargothrond?"
The boy was fishing for information! Maedhros felt resentful. Fingon would have told him his purpose at once, without these tedious games. But that was unfair: with Fingon, Maedhros himself would have been more open. He decided to speak as if it was father and not son standing there before him.
"Yes, we passed by it. Indeed, we did so on purpose: we have come here to offer aid to any lost survivors." To any who would agree to bear swords in our name.
"That is also our errand." Ereinion smiled, as if he'd discovered a happy coincidence, not a contest. "Tell me, how was the city? Did you find anyone to offer your aid to, or does it stand empty?"
"We did not enter Nargothrond, for it is far from empty. A dragon makes its home there now." Maedhros heard his men fidget behind him, no doubt surprised by his ongoing lack of discretion, and raised his hand to calm them again. He had a plan now; he had noticed a youthful excitement in Ereinion's eyes. "Yes, a dragon. Much like the one your father defeated, once. Perhaps even the same beast. I would be..." Maedhros smiled. "I would be honoured to show it to you. We could go together, just the two of us, as your father and I used to do, and exchange stories of happier times."
"I should like that very much," said Ereinion.
When Ereinion rejoined his men, he found Arminas awaiting him stiffly, hands folded across his chest. He opened his mouth to sidetrack him with talk of supplies, but Arminas forestalled him, wasting no time.
"Is this wise?"
"What would you have me do? Believe the story of the dragon without question?"
"I would have you think a moment before walking towards danger like... a humble scout. Yes, a scout: that is who you should be sending."
"I doubt Maedhros will consent to show the way to a humble scout."
"The way was not so hard to find when I traveled here last. But even if much has changed -- one of the Feanorion's men could help with that just as well."
"Certainly. However..." Voicing the idea felt strange. Disloyal to his father and to the child he had been in his father's study. "His men do not have his charm or authority. He is the one we need to keep away from any refugees you may encounter when you search the woods in my absence. I should like to see them all at the Isle, not in his company."
Arminas looked at him quizzically. "I thought you trusted him."
"I do: I trust that he means us no harm. But he is a leader who has lost most of his followers. I am quite certain that he wishes to replace them. To build up a new army."
"No doubt. But do keep this in mind: one can build up an army by gathering men, or by swaying their generals to one's cause. And Maedhros is a master of the latter."
Ereinion could think of no response to a comment that verged so closely on insult. He started at Arminas until the man shifted and spoke again.
"Perhaps you are right. My Lord. I will see to your supplies myself."
Ereinion watched him leave, and considered the rumours Arminas' words had again recalled: that Father had followed his cousin's lead, even as High King. Could it be true? It felt painful to admit that it could. He had felt the force of Maedhros' will as he had never felt his father's. But then, he was convinced that his father would not have followed anyone but a truly great man.
Well, this trip should give him a chance to learn the truth of the rumours.
1. This meeting is, of course, never mentioned in canon. However, I do not find it completely unreasonable. We know that the Feanorions were wondering far and wide at the time: trying to recruit the survivors of Nargothrond to his cause seems just like the sort of thing Maedhros, whom I see as rather practical, would do.
2. Arminas is a canonical character. Arminas and Gelmir were a pair of Valinor-born Noldor, Angrod's people until the Dagor Bragollach. Afterwards, they settled with Cirdan's people. It seems very reasonable that they would feel loyal to Ereinion, their dead lord's young kinsman, who was sent to Cirdan around the same time. They were also the two elves who were sent to Nargothrond with a warning from Ulmo. Based on my reading of the relevant passages, Arminas seems to have been the less diplomatic one.
3. 'Your uncle Maedhros' -- not accurate, but 'Your half-cousin once removed Maedhros' doesn't really roll off the tongue. And my Fingon has no trouble viewing Maedhros as a brother.
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