1. The Echo of Your Lamentation
This story takes place a few months after "Necessary Sacrifices", and several hundred years before "The Cold Hill of Himring", and will make more sense if you read "The Cold Hill of Himring" first.
"A hit! That's the second time today I've slipped past your guard. I thought you were getting better at this; last week I wasn't getting through your defenses at all. I refuse to believe your previous performance was mere luck, not with you. Something is really putting you off your form; what is it?" I stopped and straightened up, casually tossing the blunted practice sword I'd been holding onto the ground. For such an early spring day, it was unusually warm, and I'd worked up a bit of a sweat. So had my cousin Maedhros; his face was slightly flushed and he was breathing hard. It had taken him months to recover physically from his captivity, and he'd only recently begun to practice with me again, determined to learn how to wield a sword with his left hand with all the skill he'd shown previously with his right. He's changed since Thangorodrim, I thought, he's quieter, more determined somehow, and the look that comes to his eyes when he's intent on his swordplay is almost frightening to me - I would not want to be a creature of the Enemy facing him in battle once he has regained his skill. But that fell light had been absent for the past several days; and his rhythm while we sparred was slow and uneven, as if his mind was focused on something else and he had to remind himself to keep his attention on my sword. Not good; if I had been a real foe, he'd be dead now, several times over.
"It's... nothing important." He too straightened up, and let the sword he held in his hand hang down casually, turning away from me to face the lake. I noticed a faint shiver pass through his tall frame, and wondered whether he was remembering his long torment at the hands of Morgoth. Just because his physical wounds have healed, I reminded myself, is no reason to assume the mental ones have also. Still, he hadn't seemed distressed until now, and it was odd that those evil memories should trouble him now when to my knowledge nothing had occurred over the course of the week to reawaken them. I walked over and placed my arm around him, giving his shoulder a reassuring squeeze, and felt him stiffen slightly; unsure of how I had offended him, I let my arm drop away. He quickly walked away for a few paces, then, before I could ask again what was wrong, he spoke, still gazing out over the lake as if to avoid meeting my gaze. "Fingon, do you think the Valar still listen to our prayers?"
"Of course," I said, startled. "Manwë heard mine when I found you, after all. He sent the eagle to us. Why would you think otherwise?"
"I keep remembering the words of Mandos. 'On the House of Fëanor the wrath of the Valar lieth from the West unto the uttermost East.' The Valar are justifiably angry with the Noldor for the Kinslaying, Fingon, but the worst of their fury is directed at my family, at my brothers and me for following our father and swearing his oath, even though as his sons we owed him our allegiance. Could their rage at my House be so great that they would completely abandon me and refuse to hear a sincere petition - even one that has nothing to do with the oath, or our war? Might they be wrathful enough to answer my prayers with the opposite of what I plead for? Angry enough to deliberately harm me?" For a brief instant, I saw an expression of terrible pain cloud my cousin's handsome face; then it vanished, to be replaced by a carefully guarded look, as though he'd closed a door behind his eyes to keep me from seeing his hurt.
"How can you speak such things, Russandol! The Valar are angry, yes, but I can't believe they would deliberately harm any of us. Ilúvatar intended for them to watch over us and guide us, after all. They might withhold their direct aid insofar as our war with Morgoth goes, but nothing further, of that I'm sure. What have you been praying for? I assume that's why you are asking these questions - you've requested something, or wish to."
"Yes." His gaze dropped down to the ground. "I can't tell you what it is - it's... personal, but I've never prayed harder for anything in my life, Fingon, and thus far I've received no response to my entreaties. It's not a prayer about the war to come, or related in any way to the silmarils or my oath, it's a prayer for... for healing, for fixing something within me that's wrong, and I don't know what I'll do if they won't answer it." As he spoke those last few words, the carefully constructed facade of normalcy he'd assumed broke, and I could hear the despair in his voice. He seemed in such pain! I walked up to him and placed my right hand over his, then my left onto his shoulder, preventing him from turning away again. "In that case, " I said reassuringly, "I'm certain the Valar will help you if they can. My grandmother Indis always told me they are pleased when we turn to them for aid; we only cause them sorrow when we refuse to do so and insist on suffering unnecessarily. You've already endured so much," I continued gently, reaching up to brush a lone tear off his cheek - I'd never seen Maedhros cry, except on that terrible day at Thangorodrim when he'd begged me for death - whatever's upsetting him, I realized, must be truly terrible, probably related to the unspeakable things he'd experienced at Morgoth's hand while in Angband. "The Valar surely don't wish for you to suffer more than you already have, or Manwë would not have sent the eagle to me. I'm sure they will listen to your prayers, cousin, and aid you as best they can."
He drew in a deep, ragged breath, as if he were trying to suppress a sob, but when he lifted his head and met my concerned eyes, he seemed a bit calmer, and the pain in his eyes, although still there, seemed lessened. "Your grandmother Indis is a Vanyar, the closest of all our kind to Manwë and Varda - I suppose she would know their nature best. I will continue to pray, then, and hope. But I need their aid so desperately; I hope that they will send an answer soon!"
"So do I, Russandol," I replied, and strolled back to our practice field to pick up the sword I'd casually flung on the ground earlier. "I think we should call it a day. Let's put our swords away and go for a stroll in the woods."
"No," he replied firmly. "I need the practice - you're the best swordsman I know, and you will be returning to you father's encampment in only a few days. I'm determined to best you before you leave." And when I turned to face him, the terrible flame which had been missing these past several days was beginning to burn in his eyes again, and this time when we fought his movements were smoother and more focused than before.
He did best me, just once, on the last day of my stay. I rode home happy for him, and confident that things would be back to normal between us soon, once he received an answer to his prayers.
It was nearly three months before I journeyed once more to my cousin's settlement on the south shore of the lake. I had intended to return much sooner, but I had unexpectedly found myself fully, and pleasantly, occupied at home. Maedhros would be put out initially, I knew, but he was certain to have been practicing his martial skills with his brothers, so my overlong absence had deprived him primarily of my companionship, nothing more. I was looking forward to spending this time with him - I'd missed our sparring sessions, and our conversations, and I was so eager to tell him my news.
But when I met him, I found there was a tension in him that I had not seen previously, and his manner was distant and strangely diffident. The easy way we'd always had between us, reaching almost as far back as I could remember, was gone - he almost acted as though he wanted to avoid me, subtly turning aside from my gaze and evading my touch. At first I though he was simply annoyed with me for delaying my return, but there was no hint of anger in his tone or posture, and my cousin was not one to hide his true feelings - if he were upset he would tell me to my face, not play such petty games. For most of the day we were in public, with his brothers or other members of his household, and I had no opportunity to ask him what was wrong. It was late evening before we were finally able to converse privately.
"What is the matter, Russandol?" I asked as soon as we were alone. "You have been acting strangely with me all day. Have I done something to upset you? I know I'd promised to come back earlier, but something came up at home; I'll tell you about it later, you won't believe the news... Please tell me what's troubling you; I want to make things right between us again."
"It's nothing you've done, Fingon, please believe me! I've been looking forward to seeing you - more than you can possibly realize. I'm not upset with you, not at all. It's me - I've been... distracted. I certainly didn't mean to hurt you," Maedhros replied, a note of uncertainty creeping into his voice at the last.
"You haven't," I said reassuringly. "I'm worried about you, that's all. You don't seem like yourself."
At that he laughed, a harsh, ugly laugh that I'd never heard from him before. "Oh, I'm myself, all right. My new self, that is, not the old one you knew in Aman - that person is gone forever."
"I don't understand what you mean."
"I know, and I can't explain it to you, cousin. Believe me, I would if I could, but I... cannot. My prayer was never answered," he told me bitterly. At first I didn't know what he was referring to. Then I remembered our conversation by the lake, three months earlier.
"You mean... the Valar didn't help you?" I was stunned. I remembered his pain that day so clearly now - why would the Valar not take pity on his suffering? Why did Manwë permit me to rescue him, if they had wished him to remain in misery?
"No. If they acted at all, it was to make things worse. I should have known that that would be their response," he said, the pain clear in his voice now, "they cursed my House, and me, after all. I will never ask their aid again, or listen to their counsel."
"Maedhros!" I said, shocked, "You shouldn't say such a thing!"
"Why not? I am simply stating the truth. I humbled myself, Fingon, I begged for their aid, and now I am worse off than before I made my petition. Why should I ever ask them for help again? They no longer care about me, or my House, they've made that plain - I will manage on my own from now on, as best I can."
"But that cannot be true - Manwë sent the eagle..." I began to protest, but he cut me off with a quick gesture of negation.
"Manwë sent the eagle for your sake, cousin," Maedhros said simply, "so you would not be forced to do violence to yourself by slaying me, your kin and closest friend. It was your well-being that he was concerned about on that day, not mine."
I turned away for a moment, deeply upset. Could it be possible that what my cousin was saying was true? I still couldn't believe that the Valar, even angered, would deliberately hurt him, but then I didn't know what had happened to him to cause him to say such a thing - he had never told me the nature of his affliction, only that he sought healing, which he obviously hadn't received. "Perhaps what you asked of them was beyond their ability to accomplish?" I suggested.
"Perhaps, but I doubt it. If it were, would they not simply tell me so, rather than remaining silent and leaving me to conclude that my plea went unheard? 'Tears unnumbered ye shall shed; and the Valar will fence Valinor against you, and shut you out, so that not even the echo of your lamentation shall pass over the mountains.' They meant what they said on that day, Fingon."
"I am so sorry, Maedhros." I turned again to face him, and for just an instant I saw the strangest expression on his face. He was staring at me, I realized, with a terrible look of longing, as if he desperately desired something from me but was afraid to ask for it. It was there for only a heartbeat and then gone, replaced by the same guarded expression he had assumed all day. "Please, if there is anything I can do to help you..." I told him; for a brief moment I almost thought he was going to confide in me, but then he quickly looked away, seeming almost ashamed, and the moment passed.
"You told me earlier that you had some news," he quickly spoke, obviously eager to change the subject. "What is it? I'd like to know." I realized sadly that whatever secret he had been on the verge of divulging, he had chosen not to disclose it tonight. I hoped he'd gather up enough courage to tell me later; surely he knew there was no reason to keep anything hidden from me. I loved him almost as a brother, he should know that; there was nothing he need be afraid to reveal. Perhaps in time he'd come to realize this. For now, though, I prayed my good news would lighten his mood; surely my obvious happiness would be infectious.
"You are the first person I've told this to, Russandol, I want you to know that. I haven't even spoken to Father yet. Cousin, I have met the most wonderful girl, she's everything I've ever dreamed about, I never thought I could be so much in love, and would you believe that she has actually agreed to marry me..."
Russandol – "Copper-top"; an affectionate nickname given to Maedhros by his family in acknowledgement of his reddish-brown hair. See The Peoples of Middle Earth (History of Middle Earth, vol. 12), p. 353
The title and the quotations Maedhros cites are from the Doom of the Noldor, and can be found in chapter 9 of The Silmarillion.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.