Of course elves did not celebrate Mayday, but the elves of Gondolin certainly celebrated something called “The Gates of Spring” where they gathered on the city walls to watch the sun rise. This fic attempts to explain that festival’s origins. If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, it is quite seasonal. If you live in the southern hemisphere, I suggest you read it in six months time!
“Mayday, from the French, M’aidez. Help me.”
It is a struggle, here on the Northern Shore. We do not have enough horses to hunt, so we go hungry. We do not have enough blankets for the chill nights. Everyone feels the cold here and dreads it. Each of us has a sliver of ice in our hearts after the Helcaraxe and none seems to have the will to truly fight it. And we are tired, all of us. When we lie down at night we ache in our bones with exhaustion. Sadness, the only sickness that elvenkind knows, haunts our camp. At least, with the coming of this new spring the fumes of Angband have abated. I have endured more of that black poison than most, and I think it affected me somehow. Even back in Mithrim, I hurt every time I tried to breathe.
We are burned too with betrayal. I feel it as much as anyone. These past months, I have ridden several times to the camp of the Feanorians. I do not tell anyone where I go. If I were found out, I would return to find my home barred against me. I go to see my cousin who is sick, who may well die, who sometimes barely recognises me. His brother’s faces are pale with the constant worry. Bitterness still catches me. At least you have a warm bed and soft blankets in which to scream out your nightmares Maitimo, my own brother cries with his pain on a mattress on the floor.
What we still have is this new marvellous springtime. I think there must be some virtue in the last fruit of Laurelin, not as great as in the golden tree itself, but a power no less. It has driven out the smoke of Morgoth. It shines and it heals. Now we are no longer hurrying stooped in the bitter winds from tent to tent, we stop and we speak to one another. I have seen smiles in this sunshine on faces that I despaired of seeing joy touch ever again. This is not the first time we have watched the sun wax high on course for summer, but I think this time, we are truly ready for it. We are ready, by the grace of the Valar, to be healed.
My father knows this too. So tomorrow we shall hold a festival.
In the hour before dawn, we gather at the eastern gates to watch the sun rise. There are no city walls as yet, just low rough markers of unhewn stone, and the beginnings of building works. It is upon these, and around the crude wooden towers of the eastern gate that we stand. We have done our best. There is precious little thread in our encampment to weave decorations, and almost no metal that is not needed for swords. But for the last two nights, the children of our people have gathered the delicate heathland flowers that grow around our camp, and they now hang in wreaths on the watchtowers. Children of the ice, with their hard faces and their dead playmates, allowed to be elflings again. Last night the adult elves went out too, alone, in pairs, in groups amid the laughing children and cut down boughs of the fresh green leaves and blossoms that hang over the mountain streams. They laughed too.
I think love may have returned to our camp. For those who still have the strength to bear it.
We join hands. We sing. We stand close. We are warm from each other’s bright spirits, Fea of Valinor, to whom Eru Iluvatar gave hope stronger than the walls of Angband. We sing because we still can, in hope, in defiance, in love. Our spirits whisper one to another in the song. - When the death of your husband nearly breaks you, I will stand beside you. When hunger is unbearable I will give you what I have. – We whisper our secrets and our weaknesses from our souls and in the others find comfort. It is a bright, bright gathering. Over the eastern mountains, a line of red, thick as forge flames, appears. Someone lights the beacon fire we have gathered before the gates, and a light on Arda reaches up to greet the light in heaven.
It is the light of the Valar. But today I could believe it was not those distant Gods that willed the great lamp into the sky, but our songs, our suffering, our courage. That is heresy, of course. Thinking like that was what got us into this state. Still I am a rebel Noldor, and even after Alqualonde, the ice and the betrayal, a part of me will always think that way.
Suddenly, the singing stops. There is discord, shouting, the union breaks apart. I drift from my thoughts back to the crowd before me, joined now in anger, as before they were in peace.
Then I see before me just who took it upon themselves to light our morning fire. Before the gates, framed by the red, red flame stands Maedhros, Heir of Feanor.
He is alone, and he carries no sword, but he could not have ridden out unaccompanied, could he? Our eyes search the shadowy scrub land to the east looking for the glint of metal in the dark bushes. We tense for riders on the horizon. The elves in the towers have their bows to hand, trained on the tall figure. He smiles.
The moor is empty, save for one lone horse left tethered behind the blaze, now grazing, unconcerned.
Maedhros walks forward. No one dares to touch him, but in the eyes of my people I see many that would wish to. The crowd twitches, if they were wildcats of the forest they would spit now, and pounce. He is an elf that has survived Angband, he is the mightiest warrior of our people. Yet against this crowd, holding back, shaking with rage, against the grief of bereaved mothers and children made cruel by cold and hunger, he would not stand. It is not the way of elves to rip a hapless victim apart with bare hands, although I know that is what these elves desire.
They say Morgoth made Orcs by twisting elves with suffering. Now our own suffering has made my people think like orcs.
The crowd closes behind my cousin, so he is surrounded. One lone elf in a circle of vicious angry eyes. He looks forward and meets my gaze for a moment, before turning to my father.
“It is said that on the first day of spring time, the King of the Noldor should address his people.”
That is too much. The crowd moves forward. I lower my eyes. I cannot watch what is now certain. I want to scream – not him, he tried to stop Feanor, not him!- but I do not dare. Who would believe me anyway? My people have suffered, they need someone to hate, someone to pay, before they will heal.
“I have come to hear him speak.”
There is confusion. The advancing elves pause. The air is thick with elven minds whirring. They are struggling to comprehend what Maedhros has just said. Surely he could not mean….he acknowledges Fingolfin’s claim to leadership of the Noldor? Not this proud Feanorian who has so arrogantly marched to the centre of our festival, our celebration of what we have survived.
The crowd does not wish to believe it. They still want the monster, the hate figure. It was not only our Eru given hope that has kept us alive these past years. It was anger too. To let go of the hatred would be to let go of what is keeping many of these elves standing upright.
“Do not harm him!” I hear my father say.
“He killed my son,” a woman’s voice shouts, her hurt so raw it would defy her own king.
“He left my wife to starve and fade on the Grinding Ice,” calls another.
“He is a traitor and a murderer!”
“Yes.” Said Maedhros. “That is true, I am the Heir of Feanor and I am all those things.”
“Why are you here?” Cries another grief stricken voice. This one I recognise. It is my brother, Turgon’s.
“To give you what you need,” replies Maedhros. “My fealty, my repentance, my help, my horses, and if necessary my life.”
“Why?” Asks my father.
“Because none of us can carry on like this.”
“So you would submit yourself to the judgement of the High King?” Said father.
At that point the first rays of light came over the mountain wall. But we had forgotten the sun.
“No.” said Maedhros. “I would submit myself to the judgement of the High King’s people.”
“They would kill you,” replied Turgon.
“So be it,” said Maedhros. And with that he turned from Fingolfin to face his attackers.
The first woman to call out, the one with the dead child advanced towards him at the head of the crowd. Maedhros has looked Morgoth in the face, and his eyes burn with a suffering worse than death. But she held that terrible stare as she walked towards him, and her pace slowed. Pain read pain in each other’s faces and suddenly she laughed.
“You lie,” she said. “You lie. I am a mother and I can tell when one child lies to cover another’s crime. It was not you who burned the ships at Losgar. You stood aside. Did you not? “
Maedhros made no reply. For the first time this morning, my proud cousin looked genuinely ashamed.
“You have come here to bear the crimes of your father, as a dutiful son. I would kill your father if he stood before me now. But killing his son will not make my own child live.”
And with that, she reached out to Maedhros and took his hand in her own.
“We were singing,” she said, and her voice has tears behind it now, “before you came, songs for the new spring that is before us. We were singing songs of forgiveness and of healing. Can the Heir of Feanor sing? Because I do believe he has need of our healing too.”
Finally, I find the courage to speak.
“Yes, he can sing.” I say.
We stand, arm in arm before the un-built walls of this city and sing our songs of hope towards the new day. Even in this early hour, the sun is already warm, and that is good. My people will need that. There is a hole within them now, a hole where the hate was, and today at least, the sunlight will be enough to fill it. Tomorrow, we shall grieve again, and this time there will be no anger to hide the pain behind. We are strong enough to bear that grief now.
Maedhros has shifted his way through the crowds and now stands beside me. The sunlight catches something in his hair, something metal. Instinctively I touch it and he whispers, “Hair pins. My whole head is full of them. Curufin did it last night. I asked him to braid my hair. I did not tell him why. I think it is his greatest work of craftsmanship to date.”
Hair pins, of course. There are still great chunks of my cousin’s hair missing, where it was pulled out, or broke off my in hands. His braids are a very clever illusion indeed. They are a Feanorian illusion, for all Feanor’s sons have in part inherited his ability for spectacle. They know how to conduct themselves when the world is watching. That I suppose is natural when you are raised to be sons of the king.
I am now a son of the king. I strongly doubt I will ever be graced with such showmanship. Which is not necessarily a bad thing.
“You did not tell your brothers of your plans for today?”
“No I did not.”
I wait for he second act in this drama. The six riders, the denouncement before the gates, but it does not come. Instead Maedhros tugs my sleeve.
“I need to sit down, Findekano.”
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.