1. Runaway Star
I hope I don’t offend anyone by my ignorance of astronomy. This is an idea that was inspired when I was flipping through a dictionary (by Eru, I must be a nerd!) and came across this definition. If it’s completely irrelevant to the actual story, I apologise! :-)
Runaway star, Astron. A star with an unusually high proper motion, believed to result from its ejection from a nearby binary system when its companion star underwent a supernova explosion.
There is no rest. There is never rest.
Even this train of thought is perilous during battle, for it draws my attention away from the present. Far too easy would it be for my mind to stray into dreams, weary as I am, and find a sudden blade in my back.
And it would be an Elven blade.
How is this, that I wield a sword against distant kin? Who am I to send my own brethren to Mandos’ halls?
I spare half a moment to wipe my brow and allow myself an extraneous thought:
Curse you, Father.
Curse you for bringing this upon us, this loathsome, abominable quest that sets us against other Elves. And of all Elves to be pitted against, these, who have already suffered so much in the ruin of their city and subsequent exile. But my pity is less tenacious than the detested Oath that compels me, binds me.
We are all slaves to your arrogance, Father. We thought it was our free will that drove us to leap to your side, take your accursed Oath as our own. But it was not so – it was some madness, caused by his fiery speech, that inspired our reckless words, and now we rue those words with every breath that sustains these wretched lives. And yet there is no hope in death, either, which would bring no release. Celegorm, Caranthir, Curufin – brothers already fallen; I shudder to think of how they must chafe under the weight of the Oath, wherever they wander now.
Where are you, Amras? Your absence strikes me into something near a panic. Brother, little brother – younger by twenty minutes – let us end this, let us go home and forget this folly and dwell in peace. But even the idea arouses the dread Oathbreaker penalty that we swore by, and a creeping cold seems to steal through my mind. I catch my breath, shake my head sharply, pause an instant to search the battle for you.
There you are, your – our – cinnamon hair flying in the wind of your speed, your sword flashing, arms flailing as you fight like a mad thing. I smile with a savage pride. Then the smile, even as it appears, twists in utter, indescribable horror, and my heart jolts to a stop within my breast.
I see the lance as it pierces you. Just below the sternum it enters – I know the exact spot, because I can feel the point as if it were embedded in my own flesh. There is no pain, at first, only the sensation that something is terribly wrong – then the steel seems to ignite, searing its way through my body before it explodes through my ribs and from my back. "Amras!" A futile shriek that, for all it tears my throat, seems to eddy away and wither unheard in the pale livid air. Your gaze jerks toward me, across the swarming, writhing mass of battle, and – of all things – you smile, briefly, pallid, frightened. Your lips move, forming a single silent word – "Amrod?" – confused, wellnigh surprised. Then your eyes lose focus, glaze over, and slowly, slowly, you sink to your knees. The butt of the pike that projects from your chest digs into the ground under your weight, pauses your fall, and you rotate around this fulcrum and sprawl on your side.
How I am suddenly beside you is a mystery that matters not. A voice from the past whispers unwelcome in my mind, "For blood ye shall render blood…" as I stand over you, unable to kneel and confirm what I already know. A soft choked sound reaches my ears, and I look up at your murderer.
I have been in battle before, and I know the hardness of heart that it requires to willingly extinguish the life of another. But this is no Orc, nor soul-corrupted Man – he is a fellow Elf: the same blood flows through his veins as is frozen in mine. He is young, as well, scarcely into adulthood; he does not belong here with blood on his hands, still half-raised in the position where the spear tore from them. He looks up from you, brother, to me, and his unspeakable shock deepens as he gapes at the shade of his victim. "Eru help me," he stammers brokenly. "I had no choice—"
I hear little more than the wrenching scream that echoes in my head. Gently I lay a hand on the young one’s shoulder. "I know," I reply softly.
His eyes fly open at the stinging bite of my sword, but to his credit he makes no sound – only a faint catch of breath in his throat. I pull the blade forth swiftly, offering what mercy I can give. With an inaudible gasp, his hands come up to clamp over his stomach. His eyes, full of a remorse that is more terrible than accusation, turn up to meet mine even as the light in them fades, and he crumples, gradually, to lie next to you, his back against yours, both casualties of a struggle wrought by cruel arrogance, forged in the fires of madness.
And now have I become a slaughterer of innocence. At least, perhaps, if there is any good come of my evil, it is that this innocence will remain forever untainted.
Unlike yours and mine, brother.
The battle has shifted, now that I am motionless – Gondolin’s exiles mistake me for a friend – and though I hear Maglor’s and Maedhros’s grim shouts at a distance, I stand in a calm, unmolested, free to stare down on you as long as I will. Your eyes are yet open, and somehow in them haunts a lingering grief and agony.
Is it a remnant of your pain in this existence, or a sign of what you endure beyond here, beyond now?
I cannot bear to think of you abiding the punishment that we invoked with our Oath. Finding at last an outlet for the wail that rends my mind, I raise my voice and bloodied hands to the pitiless sky.
"Hear me, Manwë, Varda!" The cry sounds flat and impotent, but I press on. "Hearken to me from where ye sit in Valinor, and have mercy – not for myself, but for my brother, more precious to me than all of Arda. If ye love compassion, then grant this: that the torment he suffers as Oathbreaker be inflicted instead on me. Spare him the Everlasting Darkness, I beg of ye!"
I harbour little hope that my plea will be answered, but of a sudden a merciless shadow seems to fall across my eyes. The mood that takes me might be called fey, I suppose, but with it comes no cheerful fearlessness – only a miserable desolation, and I recognise it for the granting of my appeal. "We are lost," I whisper. "All is death. For the sake of light we murder light. Such is the doom of the sons of Fëanor." Then I lift my head, and a bitter smile twists my lips. "So be it, then." I look down at my sword, turning it so that it snaps scarlet in the grey light. "Let me not be called Oathbreaker!" I say savagely, and turn to rejoin the battle.
Little of my surroundings penetrates the despair that envelops me. I know only the warmth of blood, the cries of the dying, the screams and tears of those who yet live. But no tear is shed for you, Amras, though you too are a victim of our father’s accursed folly. My cursing and weeping are your only requiem, no other sound but the clash and slither of my sword as I throw myself recklessly into the struggle.
I know not who strikes the deathblow. It comes from behind as a blaze of pain, forcefully emptying my lungs of air, and I stumble to my knees. An attempt at inhalation is reduced to short torturous gasps, each unto itself a knife of agony. In an excruciating last display of defiance, I wrench myself upright, throwing away my notched blade. "I care not!" I manage in a hoarse cry. The world reels dizzily around me, and I repeat obstinately, "I care not! If you would have me, Morgoth, then come and take me, and curse you for it!" With my final, falsely brave words ringing in my ears, I slump forward into darkness and oblivion.
Amras, I am coming…
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.