1. Part 1
This is the 8th story in my Maedhros series - I recommend reading them in proper order for maximum enjoyment, but this will probably make sense even if you haven't read any of the others.
Falling to a Low Place - Part 1
...from high places it is easy to fall low. (Sador Labadal, Narn i Hîn Húrin)
I am in blood stepped in so far that, should I wade no more, returning were as tedious as go o'er.
Almost I wanted to weep when I read the letter. Not that the contents were in any way a surprise, for did the Valar not prophesy this when they issued their Doom against my House? "Their Oath shall drive them... To evil end shall all things turn that they begin well..." They had cursed my House, and me, and it had been foolish to believe even for a moment that the answer I would receive would be anything other than what I now held in my hand. But the heart is often foolish, and in the small part of mine that was not yet wholly numb I had clung to a faint hope that her response to my offer of aid and friendship in exchange for possession of the Silmaril would be favorable. Elwing! Do you so value the gem my father made that you would cast away your people's lives in order to retain it? Surely the daughter of Dior, murdered at my brothers' hands, understands the lengths to which I am required to go to fulfill the terrible oath by which my family is now bound? But I suspect that is problem - she remembers all too well the fall of her childhood home, the slaughter of her parents and brothers. Why would Elwing even consider accepting the friendship of the surviving sons of Fëanor, the murderers of her kin? And even if she were willing to do so, how could she believe the offer genuine, coming as it does from traitors? We who burned the ships at Losgar should not be surprised when our honest proposal is met with suspicion and disbelief. No, there was never any hope that the answer I would receive from her would be other than it is; but that does not lessen my sorrow.
I wish that I could turn away from this path, but there is no release from the oath that my brothers and I swore so long ago in a moment of grief and rage. In our pain and anger, we spoke without thought, invoking the name of Ilúvatar in our madness, and now we are trapped. Vows sworn in His name are binding; our marriage laws clearly show that truth. The bond between husband and wife, bound together in His name, is eternal, save only in cases of permanent separation of one spouse from the other in the Halls of Mandos. And we did not simply call upon Him as witness - no, we called upon Him to cast us into Darkness everlasting should we fail in our task to reclaim the Silmarils, and in our folly we placed no limits on how our vow should be achieved. So now we are caught between two terrible fates - break the oath and be cast into Darkness, or keep the oath and spill innocent blood. Had I more courage, or clean hands, I would slay myself now and be done with it, and let the Darkness take me. But I am afraid. I have experienced a small taste of the Darkness, when I was in Angband under the hands of Morgoth; an eternity of such Darkness is beyond my strength to bear. And my hands are not clean, not after Alqualondë, and certainly not after the Nirnaeth Arnoediad, when my counsel and leadership destroyed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people; the slaughter at Doriath only further reddened them. They are already so soaked in gore that more will scarcely be noticeable. I will now be forever known as Maedhros Kinslayer, no matter what course I choose. I will not now add the additional epithet of Oathbreaker to my name; one disgraceful epessë is enough.
Footsteps behind me, and a voice - "What does she say?" It is my brother Maglor. Once we were close in love, we two oldest of the sons of Fëanor; now, I do not know how to describe what holds us together - some strange mixture of mutual need, contempt, and pity. Despite my insults and abuse, he stays, perhaps driven by guilt, perhaps out of a need for companionship, however vile. Possibly he finds even my company preferable to a life of loneliness. I do not understand why he does not go to join our youngest surviving brothers, Amrod and Amras, in their wanderings, but he remains by my side for reasons known only to himself. At least his presence, if no comfort, is of some use; he is the hand I lack.
I do not reply to his query; instead, I merely turn to face him and hand him the letter, allowing him to read Elwing's foolish response himself. His face is pale when he looks up, and his eyes appear haunted. Clearly, he knows what is to come, and dreads it; I see the images of Doriath reflected in his gaze. "Perhaps, brother, she can be persuaded to change her mind? Surely she will not throw away everything they have built in their settlement at the mouth of Sirion for a mere jewel, however radiant?" His beautiful voice, though sorrowful, still contains the thinnest thread of hope. My foolish brother, you should know better by now. Have the previous 600 years taught you nothing?
"Everyone who has possessed the Silmaril has persisted in clinging to it, despite the ruination it brings. Why should Dior's daughter be any different than her father?" I reply. "We gave her a chance to end this standoff without bloodshed, indeed to our mutual benefit, and she has flatly rejected the offer. I do not believe that there is any persuasion but the sword that will change her mind. I will send for Amrod and Amras, and begin the necessary preparations." My brother's face fills with pain, but he says nothing. "You do not protest my decision?" I ask him, surprised by his acquiescence.
"No. Would it do any good?" he replies softly.
"No," I say slowly, "no, it would not. We are bound by our oath, and I will see it fulfilled. There are no other options, if we are to keep our sworn word to Ilúvatar, and reclaim what we seek. Maglor, you did not wish to aid us at Doriath; must I compel you to do so now?"
He hesitates for a long moment before reluctantly answering, "No, I will not leave you to do this alone. I will come. And I will hate myself for doing so."
I pause briefly before responding, "Good."
(To Be Continued)
The second italicized line at the beginning of the story is a quotation from Macbeth, act 3, scene 4.
The Doom of the Noldor, which Maedhros quotes from, is found in chapter 9 of The Silmarillion.
Epessë - "aftername", a nickname
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.