3. Part 3
The woods are a dense thicket of scrubby trees and stunted shrubs, in places nearly impassable. Although my woodcraft is not the equal of my dead brother Celegorm's, I was always regarded by my tutors as an adequate tracker; even so, I repeatedly lose my brother's trail in this confusing maze of undergrowth, and am forced to backtrack and begin again. As the time passes, I find myself remembering the last time I went searching through a forest, the pitiful scraps of bloody cloth all I found after my weeks of hunting. These children, I realize, will almost certainly meet the same fate as their unfortunate uncles, for it will surely be a matter of luck if either Maglor or I manage to find them in this tangled mass of vegetation. And the House of Fëanor no longer possesses any luck. It is nearly sunset when I hear, faint in the distance, my brother Maglor's voice, singing. I turn towards the sound, and begin again to force my way through the thickets.
I finally arrive at a clearing containing a small stream running towards the river Sirion, originating from a spring seeping out of a shallow cave. My brother is standing not far from the cave's entrance, speaking gently to two small boys. Eluréd and Elurín, I say to myself at first, shocked at the sight, my brother has found Eluréd and Elurín! But after that first instant, I remember where and when I am. No. Eluréd and Elurín are long dead. These are not Elwing's brothers, but her sons. My brother has succeeded where I once failed. I do not know how to estimate the ages of these strange, half-mortal children, but they are both still quite young. The smallest boy is a toddler, perhaps three years old; the older of the two brothers appears to be five or six. He is keeping his distance, I notice, still wary, but the younger boy seems entranced by my brother's voice, and wanders over to him, giggling; my brother quickly reaches down and scoops the child up into his arms, lifting him up, and laughs. I am suddenly reminded of how he used to carry Amrod and Amras when they were little, and I ask myself, how long has it been since you last heard Maglor laugh? And suddenly I find myself regretting that I must intrude on this fragile moment and shatter it. But I know it cannot last, and so I push my way through the weeds and into the open.
At the sight of me, the older boy steps back and tenses, ready to run; the younger one begins to cry and turns away, pressing his face against Maglor's shoulder. Maglor soothes him, then looks at me, his face pale, and I suddenly realize how I must appear to them, disheveled, filthy, and covered in Amras's blood.
"I was told that you went looking for Eärendil's children," I say to him. "I see you've found them. I'm glad." Then I switch to Quenya, so that I may speak privately with my brother, and continue, "Pityafinwë and Telufinwë are both dead, brother. We two are the only sons of Fëanor left alive now."
"Not both of them?" my brother whispers, and I see the tears rise in his eyes. He drops his head, and I see his arms tighten around the child he's holding, as if to prevent him from slipping from his grasp, and I realize that, for that brief moment, it is not Eärendil's son he is hugging. I hate to drag him away from his memories so quickly, but night will soon be falling, and I am anxious for us to return to our camp. "We must leave now," I continue urgently, "and return to our men before it becomes too dark to travel. We will depart for Ossiriand at sunrise - I will risk no encounters with any forces that may arrive from Balar." I then turn and look at the older of Elwing's sons, still standing silent and tense, and switching back to Sindarin, I ask him, "What is you name?"
He does not reply; after a moment Maglor says to me, "His name is Elrond, and his little brother's name is Elros." The boy looks at my brother with a wounded look in his eyes, as though he's been betrayed, but remains silent. "Well, Elrond," I continue, "My name is Maedhros; you've already met my brother Maglor. You and your brother will be coming with us now."
"No," Elrond replies, "I won't go with you. You killed my mother."
"No, I did not," I tell him, "but she, and your father, are gone now, and you and your brother no longer have a home. You are still too young to be alone in this world; if we leave you here, both you and your brother will die. So you will be returning with us. I am not offering you a choice in this matter, Elrond. Come - it's time to head back." I turn away and begin to head back to the Havens, but Elrond remains stubbornly rooted in place; only when my brother Maglor gently asks him, "Would you abandon your little brother, then?" does he finally begin, reluctantly, to walk with us. My brother's comment was effective; clearly, as long as Elros remains with us, Elrond will also - he will not leave his brother. I make a note of it, for I have no intention of allowing either of them to slip away from us; even if I were not determined to salvage something from the horrors of this day by sparing their lives, there remains the simple fact that the sons of Eärendil may prove useful as hostages should a confrontation with Gil-galad's forces occur despite my precautions.
We light the Havens on fire at dawn. As the town begins to burn, I see tears forming in Elrond's eyes, but he holds them back - he will not let us see him cry. Good, I think to myself, for tears will not serve you well, little one. This world is a harsh place, and you are going to need to be strong to survive in it. During our long journey north, I notice that Maglor seems drawn to these unfortunate children, and they to him; Elros in particular clings to him for comfort, but a fragile bond of trust has also begun to form between my gentle brother and the sullen and suspicious Elrond. My brother's wife remained in Aman rather than follow him into our exile here in Beleriand; for the first time I see how much he must have longed for a family of his own. Perhaps fostering these boys will lessen his loneliness. In his concern for the fate of these children, Maglor has forgotten our oath, and the Darkness, I realize, but I cannot. As Father's Heir, I am the one most bound by it, for I represent the House of Fëanor in a way that my younger brothers do not; the mere fact that it can no longer be achieved in no way releases me from it. I will continue to fight on; and perhaps that will be enough for the Valar to leave Maglor alone in peace. For a time, at least. For a time.
And so I make my decision, and when we reach the river Gelion, which marks the boundary of Ossiriand, I turn to Maglor and say, "Lead our men back home safely, brother. I am heading north." Maglor stares at me for a moment in shock. "You can't be serious, Russandol!" he finally says.
"Of course I am serious," I reply. "Long ago, I swore revenge against Morgoth, who still holds two Silmarils, and I keep my word. I no longer possess an army, and have no hope of overthrowing him, but I intend to deal him what harm I can. I leave the sons of Earendil and Elwing to your care, brother - teach them well. I will return home from time to time to check on you."
"But Russandol," he protests, "how will you manage alone? And I was counting on your help with Elrond and Elros; you could instruct them in so many things -"
"Instruct them in what?" I mock him bitterly. "Kinslaying? Perversion? Failure? All worthy lessons, I'm sure." Then seeing the pain on my brother's face, I stop and say more gently, "I will be fine, brother. Take your new foster-sons home now. Raise them well." I look at Elrond, sitting morosely on a horse lead by one of my brother's men, and at Elros, riding in front of my brother, held securely by his strong arm, and finally back at Maglor, who now has tears in his eyes. "Teach them how to sing," I say to him softly, and then I turn away and begin to ride north, to face whatever uncertain fate awaits me there.
The Doom of the Noldor, which Maedhros quotes from, is found in chapter 9 of The Silmarillion.
Pityafinwë and Telufinwë - "Little Finwë" and "Last Finwë"; the father-names of Amrod and Amras, respectively. See "The Shibboleth of Fëanor", The Peoples of Middle Earth (History of Middle Earth, vol. 12), p. 353.
Russandol – "Copper-top"; an affectionate nickname given to Maedhros by his family in acknowledgement of his reddish-brown hair. See "The Shibboleth of Fëanor", The Peoples of Middle Earth (History of Middle Earth, vol. 12), p. 353.
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