3. The Houses of Fire, Earth, and Water
Maedhros dismounted and clasped Amrod's right arm with his left and Amras's left arm with his right. "Ambarussa." He squeezed their forearms.
"Russandol," they said as one voice. They held Maedhros's arms for a moment. Then one of them trembled slightly. The other felt it as well, and they both drew Maedhros close and hugged him tightly.
"Russandol, I'm glad you're back." Amrod's voice was unsteady. He buried his head into Maedhros's chest as he spoke, as did his brother.
"It's Father," Amras said. "He broke Cano's harp."
"Where's Mother?" Maedhros asked.
"She's at the House of Golden Flowers," said Amras.
"We heard you'd been sighted, so we came to you instead," said Amrod.
Maedhros nodded. "That's best. It wouldn't do to disturb the House of Golden Flowers with our problems." He gently moved away from the twins and put a hand to each of their cheeks. They were not crying, but their eyes were full of fear. He glanced back at Fingon, who nodded to him. The three sons of Finwe still lived in houses adjacent to their father's, thus Fingon would be traveling the same direction to return to the House of Fingolfin. "Come, before Feanaro breaks more than just a harp." Maedhros remounted and led the party of four toward the House of Finwe. "Was Cano there?"
Amrod nodded. "He was playing his harp when it happened." That was not a good sign.
"What about our brothers?" Maedhros asked.
"Turko and Moryo went out hunting this morning," said Amrod.
"And Curvo has been at the House of Mahtan for the last two days," finished Amras.
Maedhros urged his horse into a quick trot. The others followed. When he arrived home, servants were already outside waiting for them. Maedhros didn't even stop long enough to see who took his horse. He did not run into the house, but he walked briskly. Of the seven sons, Maglor was most unlike Feanor in personality. Maglor was gentle and slow to anger, but that only made him an easier target for Feanor. Maglor did not stand up to Feanor well. He often withdrew into himself and became despondent. At those times, Feanor would say that Maglor's songs were more akin to that of the Falmari than the Vanyar, for the Vanyar's songs lacked the sorrow of the Sea. Maedhros, on the other hand, never flinched from his father's anger. He had seen Feanor's love for Finwe and knew that Feanor treasured the bond between father and son. For this reason, Feanor was rarely able to stay angry when confronting Maedhros. Celegorm, Caranthir, and Curufin were hot-tempered and sometimes fought back with sharp words. Amrod and Amras were still young, usually protected from Feanor's wrath by either Nerdanel or Maedhros.
Maglor was sitting in the guest area. He gazed down at the harp cradled in his arms. The very frame of the silver harp was warped, as if it had been struck by a hammer. The strings were broken. Nearby, a great dent in the wall revealed part of the story of the harp's demise.
"Cano, are you okay?" Maedhros asked. He went to his brother and sat on the arm of the couch. He put his arm around his brother's shoulders. Fingon stayed with the twins, who were nervous and scared, as if they expected Feanor to show up any moment and wreck something else.
Maglor nodded. "Father says that he'll make me another one. It was my fault. My playing was disturbing him."
"That's not true. Your harping is excellent." Maedhros kissed his brother on the head. "I'm sure Father was upset at something else. He's been very stressed of late preparing for the Yen Celebration."
"Indis gave me this harp," Maglor said softly.
Maedhros squeezed his brother's shoulder. "I remember. Even if Father crafts for you another harp, it will not be the same." And yet Maedhros knew that Feanor's creation would be better than any harp that had ever been made. Whenever Feanor set his mind on creating something, he did so with his utmost skill. Before now, Feanor had never taken and interest in crafting musical instruments. Maedhros did not doubt that the harp would be a work of art and sound more beautiful than the greatest songbirds. In this way, Feanor's apologies were almost always effective. This was Maglor's favorite harp though. "I will speak to Father. What he breaks, he can remake."
Maedhros hugged his brother lightly once more before going to his father's workshop. Fingon came with him. Though Fingon was often in the company of Maedhros's brothers, he was close only with Maedhros. The others tolerated him for Maedhros's sake but did not think of him as a brother. Still, it was enough to please the Noldor and their king.
"I'll wait outside," Fingon said unnecessarily. He always knew when to leave the family of Feanor to their own devices.
Maedhros nodded. "Thank you, Elen-Nalta. Your support gives me strength."
Maedhros braced himself mentally and entered the workshop. Feanor's moods were unpredictable and volatile at times like these. Maedhros heard the single ring of a bell when he touched the handle of the door that led to the inner workshop. The two rubies on either side of the door flashed once and then dimmed. It meant that Feanor was not to be disturbed and alerted Feanor that he had visitors. He would be out soon if his project permitted interruptions. Maedhros made himself comfortable on the couch nearby and waited.
For the Celebration, Feanor had decided to craft something for each of the fourteen Valar, and he insisted that his gifts be the very picture of perfection. In fact, Maedhros had gone to the House of Aule with such crafts. One was a tree wrought of gold with leaves of emerald, the other was a silver tree with leaves of jade. The two were to be presented together to Yavanna. Maedhros had gone forth to seek Aule's opinion on the gift since Feanor was undecided as to whether he should give the gold and silver trees to Yavanna or if he should give her a necklace of bright jewels and precious metals crafted in the likeness of flowers and plants. Feanor had somehow captured the fragrance of the flowers within the jewels as well. Maedhros did not mind running such an errand. Fingon had never been to the House of a Vala and this had provided them with the perfect opportunity to visit one of the Great Rulers of Arda.
Aule had been impressed with the craftsmanship of the two trees and had commented that the Noldor's skill now exceeded that of their teachers. That high praise was sure to lift Feanor's spirits, so Maedhros was not too worried about his father's temper. Aule said that the trees would be a very fitting gift for the Lady who had brought life to the Two Trees. He suggested that the necklace be given to Vana the Ever-young. Personally, Maedhros wondered if perhaps Aule had suggested this to lessen Feanor's work, for as great as Feanor's skill had become, such works of beauty required much time and energy to bring into being.
The two rubies lighted again and then the door to the inner workshop opened. Feanor seemed preoccupied, but his face brightened as he greeted his oldest son, "Nelyafinwe!" Maedhros was taken aback. His father had not called him by that name for years. "I have created my gift for Manwe Sulimo. Come and see."
Maedhros wanted to talk about Maglor's harp, but he knew better than to disrupt his father's glee. They threaded their way through the workshop, which was filled with new wonders that Feanor had created since Maedhros had departed to visit the House of Aule. There were bright gems cut and unmounted, thin braids of gold, silver, and copper, and unfinished statues of white marble or bronze.
Feanor led the way to one of his many work surfaces and showed Maedhros a scepter wrought of sapphire. The sapphires were as blue as the eyes of Manwe. At the top of the scepter, stars were captured within the sapphires, and they shone with a light of their own. Maedhros gingerly held it and turned it around in his hands. It was light but strong. Maedhros thought he heard the beating of the wings of eagles when he held it, and it seemed as though all the sky was open to him. Is this how it feels to be a bird? Maedhros wondered as he saw in his mind visions of the earth from above.
"I will give this to Finwe, and he will present it to Manwe on behalf of all the Noldor," Feanor said. His voice seemed distant but sharp. Still holding the scepter, Maedhros discovered that he could see beyond Feanor's words. There was a vision of Finwe dressed for ceremony and holding the Scepter out to Manwe. Beside him was a silver-haired woman of surpassing beauty. Her features were distinct and noble, and her eyes were clear and gentle. One long, slender hand rested on Finwe's arm. Maedhros knew them to be husband and wife, and, as if his mind were unwilling to accept this truth, Maedhros slowly realized that the woman beside Finwe was Firiel, she who had died.
Maedhros shuddered and put the Scepter gently on the pillow upon which it had been resting before they had disturbed it. Feanor would undoubtedly craft a cushioned box for it later. The words of Aule came back to Maedhros, that the Noldor now surpassed the skills of their teachers, and Maedhros no longer doubted the sincerity and truth in Aule's words.
After a moment, Maedhros found voice for his thoughts and said, "Father, whom my Grandfather rightly named Curufinwe, when I visited the House of Aule recently, Aule said that the skills of the Noldor now surpassed that of their teachers. At the time, I thought that he was simply being generous in his praise, but now I no longer doubt that he meant what he said." Feanor's already bright eyes sparkled with joy like the twinkling of stars. "Even without asking the Lord of the Smith, I know in my heart that this Scepter is worthy of Manwe Sulimo, the High King of Arda, and so great is its power that the Scepter should indeed be given to the Lord of the Great Ones, for its existence is beyond that of the Eldalie."
"Thank you, Nelyo." Feanor's face was earnest, and he seemed more like a child than a father. Maedhros remembered again that vision of the milky-skinned woman and wondered how Feanor could have known his mother's face when Miriel had died soon after his birth. Feanor looked at wonder at his own creation and ran his fingertips along the Scepter. "Even I do not know how I was able to shape such power for the glory of Arda, but the fire that Iluvatar placed in me is great indeed, and I will labor with joy to discover my potential and to enrich our world."
The moment was such that Maedhros forgot utterly to mention Maglor's harp. Later though, after the awe of holding the Scepter of Manwe dimmed, Maedhros asked Feanor to repair Maglor's small silver harp, gifted to him from Indis when he was still young. This Feanor was quite willing to later do, but he also showed Maedhros a great golden harp which he had crafted for Maglor, one more befitting to his name "Forging gold." Maedhros ran his fingers along the strings, and the sweet notes that filled the air were sharper and more beautiful than any sound that he had ever heard, save the voices of the Valar. Maedhros understood then that Maglor's harping had, indeed, been lacking. With an inferior harp, Maglor would never be able to match the skills of Elemmire and Rumil. For this Celebration, everything had to be perfect.
Maedhros also returned the necklace of flowers and the two trees to Feanor and relayed Aule's advice. He then returned to Fingon, who had been patiently waiting outside the entire time. Feanor had not asked Maedhros to keep the Scepter secret until the appointed time to present it to Manwe, so Maedhros told Fingon about the Scepter and, after some hesitation, also spoke of the vision of Miriel that he had seen in Feanor's mind. Fingon was in awe of all that Maedhros described and agreed not to retell the story to any others.
Before the Celebration, Feanor created many other wonders. He also crafted jewelry for his wife and sons, as was his custom for feasts. He placed a bright star on a golden circlet and gave it to Maedhros to gift to Fingon, for although Fingon was not his son, he was Maedhros' brother. Feanor's great works did not daunt Curufin. Feanor gave Curufin the important task of forging jewelry and gifts for the other royal families of the Eldalie and helped him when necessary. Curufin's crafts did not disappoint anyone, and many wore their new gift to the Celebration. Word was abroad that Feanor did not personally undertake this task because he was creating something grander, and this proved true when the fourteen gifts for the Valar were presented at the Celebration. Many of the Maiar also received items crafted by Feanor and gifted on behalf of the Noldor. Although many other gifts were exchanged between friends and presented to the Rulers of Valinor, none matched the greatness of the gifts wrought by Feanor.
The Celebration of the Arrival of the Eldalie to Aman was greater than any feast that had ever been held before. There was song and dance, contests of strength and skill and words, and plenty of good food and wine. Maglor's new golden harp was so beautiful to the ear that even Elemmire and Rumil bowed to his skill and praised his song above their own. Feanor was pleased by the praise that Maglor won and showed it by softly singing along with Maglor's encore. All who heard Feanor's accompaniment marveled at his lovely voice, for Feanor rarely sang in public. His voice was perfectly pitched and subtly woven into Maglor's music such that the song was enhanced but not disrupted or outshone. Maglor noticed, of course, and his singing became stronger and more beautiful as he played off his father's singing and love.
The sons of Feanor won great repute. Maedhros was credited with the arrangements of the Celebration. Maglor's song was graven in the memory of the Eldar. Celegorm won the great chase for Orome's quick-footed rabbit, and was given a pup from Orome's brood of hunting hounds. Caranthir proved to be the second best wrestler and lost to Fingolfin in the end, but nevertheless, all the Eldar, especially the women, noticed Caranthir's strength. Curufin had already won great renown for his jewelry and crafts wrought for the other houses of the Eldar. And Amrod and Amras, though young, proved to be more skilled than other children their age at riding. Feanor and Nerdanel took pride in all that their sons accomplished on that day. And although Feanor's gifts to the Valar were the subject of much conversation, Feanor claimed that the gifts were from all the Noldor and spoke very little about how they'd been crafted. He preferred instead to talk about his sons, who were proving mighty among the Noldor despite their relatively young ages. This did not go unnoticed by his sons, and they always remembered that, at the most important high feast ever held, their father held them above his own works of skill.
One time, almost two decades after the Celebration, Maedhros shown up at Fingolfin's house early and was waiting for Fingon to prepare his things before they went on their journey when Fingolfin came to join him in the guest area.
"It heartens me to see the great friendship between you and Findekano," Fingolfin said. His mannerism was formal but friendly.
"I am indebt to you for allowing me to take your son from you time and time again." As was his nature, Maedhros matched Fingolfin's friendly but distant tone.
"May I speak candidly with you, Maitimo?"
"Of course." Maedhros was not the one who was establishing the lack of openness in their conversation, but he didn't say that. Maedhros's greatest gift was to know when to keep his mouth shut.
"Seeing your close friendship with your cousin Findekano has made me realize that the descendants of Finwe can, indeed, be brought together. My wife and I are thinking about bringing another child into the bliss of Aman. Arafinwe and his wife are also thinking about adding to their family. The close age should make it easier for them to befriend one another." Fingolfin's face was grave, and he made every word seem important. Maedhros had heard such talk of the unity of the Noldor before. Maedhros had long lived under the oratory powers of his father, and Fingolfin's deep conversation lacked the draw of Feanor's in this particular matter. Nevertheless, Maedhros listened to Fingolfin's words with all due seriousness. "Nerdanel has not given birth to any children for several years now, and judging by the years between your siblings, I suspect that another child will be added unto your family soon. Do you think Feanaro will let his child forge a bond similar to the one between you and Findekano?"
Maedhros looked into Fingolfin's gray eyes for several moments to try to decide if he was honestly so out of touch with reality. Fingolfin had his son's straightforward mannerism though, and Maedhros found that he couldn't fault Fingolfin for not understanding the complexities of Feanor's family. Although Fingolfin was fully matured, he still had much to learn about being the head of his own family and about being a father.
"I don't know why you think that my father would prevent us from befriending whomever we chose," Maedhros said at last. "Since our family's return to the House of Finwe, he has never tried to separate the families, and it was by ill chance that Findekano and I never truly interacted before the year of the Celebration of the Arrival of the Eldalie to Aman. My family travels a lot, and perhaps that is the cause of our infrequent interactions with your family and Arafinwe's family. But as to the friendship and birth of three children in the three Houses of Finwe, that will not be possible. My father has told me that my mother's bounty has been emptied. She has brought seven sons into the world, and adding another child into our family would greatly strain her."
"I see." Fingolfin's mind seemed to slowly process this information. Had he really thought that Feanor would continue bringing children into the world? "What about you then, Maitimo? You've long reached the age of marriage, and you are popular among the Noldorin women. Why don't you choose a wife and start your own family?" Maedhros forgave Fingolfin for his awkwardness in such a delicate subject. Nerdanel had often told Maedhros that the rest of the Noldor thought differently from Feanor and his family. Maedhros hadn't expected it to be so true of his own uncle.
"My Lord Nolofinwe, I would not presume to marry unless I found a woman whom I truly loved."
"I was not suggesting otherwise."
Maedhros waved his hand. "I was not saying that you were, but marriage is not such a simple matter. Although many women are attracted to me, they lack the heart that I am seeking. Iluvatar will bring my wife to me when the time is ready, but if it is not yet time, then there is nothing to be done about it."
"My brothers and I will befriend your children and the children of Arafinwe if fortune allows, but with seven of us, it is often difficult for us to spend time with others. Do not take offense to that."
"No, of course I wouldn't be offended if you and your brothers were busy amongst yourselves," Fingolfin said hastily.
"Our Houses are united, Nolofinwe. They always have been," Maedhros said. He knew that he had the offensive, and he felt the need to defend his family. "Feanaro's is the House of Fire; yours is the House of Earth; and Arafinwe's is the House of Water. Finwe's House of Air joins the three Houses of his children. Like Manwe, Finwe is the highest and most powerful, and he rules all to peace. This is the way Iluvatar intended it to be. My father is not close to you like Arafinwe, but that is because Earth and Water may meet in peace, but Fire burns all else that it touches, save only Air. Feanaro loves you, but he must do so from afar. If he does not, you would be burned."
"What about you then, Maitimo? Would Feanaro inadvertently burn you too? And Nerdanel the Wise?"
"My brothers and I are of his own flesh and blood. He would not hurt us. As for my mother, she has been wedded into the House of Fire."
"Are these the teachings of the Valar? I have never heard our family described in such a way," Fingolfin said.
"No, this is what my father has discovered in his research of the will of Iluvatar." Maedhros could hear Fingon's footsteps on the stairs. Maedhros was grateful for interruption. Fingon was still young, and Maedhros usually attributed most of his lacking to his youth. Fingolfin, however, was the same age as Maedhros and did not have the same excuse. Maedhros understood at last why Feanor said that Fingolfin was not the most wise. Fingolfin's wisdom was derived from the teachings of the Valar, but above the Valar, there was Iluvatar, and without understanding the One, the world could not be fully understood. Was Feanor the only one who sought such knowledge?
"I thank you for your converse," Fingolfin said as Fingon entered the room.
"It was my honor," Maedhros replied. The barriers were up again, and the polite distance was maintained in speech and manner. Fingon came to Maedhros and, after exchanging short greetings, they went to the stables. Maedhros watched the child of the House of Earth and thought that Fingon suited the role well. Fingon was a strong foundation and a steady friend, and his heart was like the jewels hidden in the depths of the earth. And Maedhros was very glad that he wasn't the head of the House of Fire.
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.