3. Chapter 2: Memory of a Flame
It was many years before Maedhros came to him.
They had been happy years for Fingolfin, in his home in Tirion. One son had joined his family, then another. Fingolfin and Anaire still wanted more children, and took much delight in their frequent attempts to conceive them. He had rarely seen Feanor since that night, a year before his eldest son was born nearly sixteen years ago. So it was a great surprise when he opened his front door to find Maedhros waiting.
Maedhros was solemn-faced, and tired-looking. Although almost at his maturity, it seemed to Fingolfin that he had not changed very much since they had met seventeen years ago. Does he yet burn? thought Fingolfin. Does the fire yet remain? He cast the thought from his mind and brought his nephew inside.
They spoke pleasantries at first, about Finwe and life in Tirion. Maedhros answered every question seriously, as if unused to company. Of course, Fingolfin thought, Feanor guards his sons like treasure. He realized that Maedhros must have scarcely any friends outside his immediate family. Finally, he asked, "And how is it with your parents?"
Maedhros shifted, looking younger than his age. "Mother has moved out," he said. "Again."
The state of Feanor's marriage was a known secret among his family, but Fingolfin wanted to hear more from his nephew. "Again? Do they quarrel?"
"Not exactly. Father…Father makes things, and Mother doesn't like them. She knows his work better than anyone, you see, and there are things she doesn't think anyone should be making. She doesn't want to work on them with him, and she says they shouldn't be in the house with the children. So she took little Celegorm and walked out."
"Celegorm? Not Maglor?"
"Maglor is old enough not to be taken anywhere against his will, and he wanted to stay with Father. He is learning now…have you heard him sing?" Maedhros flashed a smile, the first smile Fingolfin had ever seen from him.
"I have not," Fingolfin answered, "but from your face I do not doubt that he would be worth hearing." Maedhros smiled again. "But what about you?" Fingolfin asked.
Maedhros did not answer, and looked at the floor.
"Let me guess," said Fingolfin after a time. "Your father thinks you are with your mother, and your mother thinks you are with your father, and you came here. Am I right?"
Maedhros nodded slowly.
The gaze Maedhros gave his uncle had an intensity that shocked him, a sudden flash of burning need. "Because I thought you would understand," he said.
Understand? Perhaps he did. He remembered walking too close to the fire, passing though it not entirely consumed. Such a fire could scorch a child, burn him until nothing was left but the memory of a flame. Or the fire itself. What fire was there in this quiet youth? Fingolfin had a sudden urge to touch him, and to see if his hands would burn.
"You may stay, then," Fingolfin said, "for a few days. My sons will be glad to meet their cousin."
Maedhros smiled gratefully. "Thank you," he said.
Turgon was asleep in his cradle, clutching a cloth book. "My father's runes," Maedhros said, peering at it.
"Yes, Turgon likes them, although he can't read them yet. His mother thinks he will be a scholar like her one day."
Fingon came running in from the backyard, covered in dirt. "This is Fingon, my eldest," Fingolfin said.
"Hello," Maedhros said. "I'm your cousin Maedhros."
"Hello," Fingon said. "Do you like to climb trees?"
"Where did you find all that dirt in a tree?" Fingolfin asked his son.
"No, Father," Fingon explained patiently, "the dirt is from under the tree. Where the worms are."
Fingolfin laughed. "Ah well. That explains it."
"Well?" Fingon asked Maedhros again. "Do you?"
"I don't know," Maedhros answered. "I've never tried."
Well, come on, then," Fingon said, grabbing his cousin's hand. "There's a mallorn tree in the backyard." Fingolfin laughed again, nodded his approval, and went outside to watch his son and nephew play.
Fingon was half his cousin's height but he scampered right up the tree as Maedhros was hauling himself up to the first branch. Maedhros moved slowly at first, as if afraid his weight would break the tree, but as he became more confident he began to swing from branch to branch along with his cousin. The tree stretched out in all directions, a leaf-covered playground. After a time Fingon discovered that he could climb on his cousin's broad shoulders and reach above the highest leaves. He picked the finest leaf from the very top and gave it to Maedhros as a present, causing him to laugh so hard he almost fell down.
Watching the boys play in the tree Fingolfin thought he saw the age difference between them evaporate. Maedhros began to move more freely, more openly, and in his bold movements Fingolfin thought he could see the beginnings of fire. Fingon had always been an energetic child, but rarely had taken to someone so swiftly. Could the fire in this boy's soul, carefully tended, bring tamed warmth into Fingolfin's home? Surely it was no less than Maedhros deserved.
They were interrupted by a sudden shout from the front door. Fingolfin did not need Maedhros's suddenly frozen face to tell him who it was. "Wait here," he said, and went to the door to meet his brother.
Feanor burst into the house. "What have you done with my son?" he asked without preamble. The burning in his eyes was hard, and Fingolfin felt a familiar fear.
"I am no thief of children," Fingolfin answered, as calmly as he could. "Your son is almost of age, and is here as my guest."
"Your guest?" Feanor asked quietly, his voice blazing. "He comes without my leave, nor that of his mother. Would you take my son's loyalty?"
Would I take… Fingolfin tasted a sudden hope of power like blood. Was there something he could take from his brother? And if it began with loyalty, could it not end with love? "Would you stay?" he asked. "Maedhros is welcome here, but so are you."
"Am I?" Feanor asked. "Perhaps. But bring me my son."
Maedhros walked in then, solemn-faced again. "I apologize, Father," he said.
"You don't have to go, Maedhros," Fingolfin said.
"Yes I do," Maedhros said. "I'm sorry."
"I hope you come back," Fingon said, appearing at his father's elbow.
"I hope so too," Maedhros answered him.
"Will I see you again?" Fingolfin asked Feanor, trying to keep the longing from his voice. He expected that Feanor would rage, or even strike him, but instead Feanor raised his hand to Fingolfin's cheek with a delicate burning touch. "So," he said, "my son yearns for the son of Indis. Perhaps he is wise, then. Perhaps he is wise." And with that he turned and led Maedhros away.
"Well," Fingolfin asked Fingon, after Feanor had left and he had a chance to catch his breath, "what do you think of him?"
"I think he is very lonely," Fingon said, and left the room, presumably to look for more worms.
Fingolfin began to wander again that night by Telperion's rays, while Anaire lay sleeping. He walked along the cliffs overlooking the shores, and knelt to touch a carved foothold, after all this time still there. He came back night after night, walking alone, not asking himself what he hoped to find. One night he saw Feanor at the shore, in the arms of his wife. They held each other as the waved crashed over them, wetting Nerdanel's white dress. Feanor kissed her, deeply, and ran his hands over her rounded belly. She responded to his kiss with moans that carried into the distance.
And so she returns again, Fingolfin thought. She is drawn to the fire, and unable to turn away.
As am I, Brother. As am I.
A note on ages:
Elves mature at age 50, so Maedhros here is in his late 40's, around 17 in human terms. Fingon is the equivalent of around 7.
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.