1. Cold and Broken
Such a novelty it is, to see the surface of the lake rippling in the gentle breeze; such a novelty to turn towards the wind for refreshment instead of hiding my face against the bitter chill of a biting gale. This is indeed a far cry from the fevered dreams of the Helcaraxë. Oh, it is no paradox to speak of fever and ice together; after all, I had seen Turukáno drop to his knees. I had seen my brother’s hot tears melting the ice before the tiny rivulets re-froze in a delicate pattern of grief.
I roll onto my side, my cheek pressed against the coarse sand of the lake shore as I gaze across the misty waters. It is like a dream, or an enchantment, watching the mists slide and shift in ever-changing shapes. Each breath I take is carefully measured, in harmony with the world around me; this strange world of Beleriand, already marred with blood and hatred. Yet, deep down, far below the pain and suffering, I must believe that this land is filled with life and hope.
Your faith was strong but you needed proof.*
I know that at least I am not alone in this torment, this anguish over the Doom of our people. I start slightly as an arm slips around my waist, drawing me back against the body of another. I look down to see that the arm is incomplete and heavily bandaged. A sigh escapes my lips as I feel hot breath in my ear and I relax completely into this embrace.
My love is not selfless. The rescue of Maitimo was not a purely noble act even though I have heard nothing but praise for my valour in seeking him out. One cannot live without a heart and my heart is always shackled to his. If I had not died rescuing him, I would certainly have died in leaving him to perish.
When I set foot in Beleriand, my thoughts were bitter and vengeful, let the blood of my people be on your head also, Fëanáro; ay, and on the heads of your sons; even you, Maitimo!
I knew him to be alive but I yet believed that he had forsaken me. As I listen now to his slow steady breathing, I wonder how I ever doubted him. Were we not bound during the mingling of Telperion and Laurelin, in a realm hallowed by the Valar? I daresay that there are some who believe our love to be tainted, unnatural, but I could no sooner live without him than I could live without air. He is my life and we can never be torn asunder.
I reach back to touch his face; no words need pass between us because we understand one another perfectly. I shiver as he sweeps my hair away to kiss the back of my neck. He knows that I crave the touch of his lips; that I need his presence to heal my hurts, even as my presence has aided his recovery.
I wonder if he knows how I heard about his plight? It was soon after we reached Lake Mithrim that we learned the truth of the matter from Macalaurë; that Maitimo had taken no part in the burning of the ships, though that was no comfort to the bereaved and the lost. We also learned that Fëanáro had perished and that Maitimo had been taken captive in Thangorodrim. The High King was in the custody of the Black Foe of the Elves and had been for some years.
“Thus begins the sixth year of his reign,” said my father harshly and unsympathetically.
I begged my father to give me leave to venture to Thangorodrim but he would not relent. Bitterly, I shouted at him. “Your heart has not yet thawed out after our passage across the Ice, atarinya! Or perhaps it has been replaced by a heart of stone and steel. If you understood anything of love or loyalty, you would let me go!”
I regret the words now; I regretted them even then when I saw the expression on his face. It was love and loyalty that had set his foot upon the path to Beleriand, he told me quietly. He said that we all had to make sacrifices and my selfish attempt at heroics would cheapen the sacrifices made by those who had not made it this far. He would not permit me to leave because he could not allow his eldest son to throw his life away.
And love is not a victory march
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah.*
Of course, that night, I stole away from the camp. I took with me my sword, my harp and my bow. As a shadow, I moved through the land; no more substantial than the figures of mist I can see haunting the surface of the lake. I cannot speak of my passage through the land of Morgoth, even though I can see little else when I lay myself down to sleep at night. All I will say is that, whenever Maitimo and I, in our long nights of star-gazing, tried to envisage the Void outside Arda, not even our most fervent imaginings could have conjured a place so devoid of light and hope.
I clutch at him now, turning my back to the lake so that I may hide my face against his chest, which is thin and knotted with fading white scars. I run my fingers over the toughened tissue, wondering if he can feel me; if he can ever feel me again. I kiss the side of his throat and watch, transfixed, the slow steady pulse of his jugular; proof that his life blood still flows, even if he has spoken little since his return. His arms tighten around me, the fingers of his left hand idly moving over my spine. I shiver and press tighter against him and remember how close I was to losing him.
I do not know how long I searched for him. Time ceases to be counted in hours or days in the reckoning of love under threat. It is instead counted in heartbeats, breaths and tears; three hundred million beats of my heart since last we kissed, my love; sixty million labouring breaths across the ice since last your hand touched mine; forgive me for I do not know how many tears I have shed for you and because of you. When, at last, my hope began to flag, I took out my harp and sang ancient songs of Valinor, such songs that Maitimo and I might have sung together after days of hunting and laughter. Somehow, every song I played took on an air of melancholy, though ‘twas not my intention.
Now, I must wonder if Blessed Realm truly filled with laughter as I remember or whether it is a flight of fancy on my part. I cannot truly remember being… happy. Even now, as I lie here with him, I feel too tired to be truly glad. He can feel it; he kisses the top of my head and runs his fingers through my hair, a little clumsily still, because his left hand is still adjusting to the demands placed on it; demands of eating, drinking, writing sword-fighting… and love.
Eventually, I came to the foot of a great mountain or cliff, so high that I could not see its summit. Weary I was, and disheartened, and, once again, I reached for my harp and began to sing.
The minor fall and the major lift,
The baffled king composing Hallelujah.*
I do not think I can articulate the incredulous joy that rose up within me when I heard his voice, hoarse and gravelly though it was. I climbed up as far as I could and when I saw his plight, I could not hinder the tears that rolled down my face. More tears to add to the vast sea of grief already shed for your sake.
He was pale, my Maitimo; nay, his skin was near translucent in its pallor. His clothes were scarcely recognisable, being ragged and loose on his emaciated frame. Worst of all was the sight of his right wrist, encased in a metal band. Oh, what cruelty! I thought amidst my sorrow, and I can climb no further!
He begged me to kill him and I could not refuse, although my hands were shaking as I strung an arrow to my bow.
I would have killed him; his blood would have been on my hands save that Thorondor arrived in such timely fashion. When the great eagle bore me higher, my fingers slipped uselessly on the steel band as I endeavoured to end my cousin’s torment. Again, Maitimo begged me to kill him and again, I came close. My tears flowed unchecked and mingled with his own as I leaned forward to kiss him; a last kiss to affirm our friendship and to ease his passing. As I drew my sword, a new solution occurred to me. Ai, my cousin, well-formed no longer, but alive!
Ai, I am crying again; I, Findekáno the Valiant who braved such anguish to save my own heart! Still, he strokes my hair. He does not say a word and I do not wish him to break his silence.
Why did I save him when, mere days before, I had been condemning him and all his family? The answer is simple: I love him. Had I loved him any more, I might have granted his request for an honourable death, taking his sins unto myself by taking his life as ruthlessly as he had taken the lives of others. Had I loved him any less, I should never have attempted to travel to Thangorodrim.
Now, as I lie here, I cannot help but consider all that has since passed. He is High King no more, having passed the honour, or the burden, on to my father. My house is now the House of Kings. Here, in Hisilómë, is the seat of the King of the Noldor. We who are not born to die may still perish and in this age of war and conflict, even an Immortal king requires an heir.
He kisses my eyelids and my cheeks, stopping my tears in their tracks.
There was a time I moved in you
And the Holy Dove was moving too
And every breath we drew was Hallelujah.*
When he presses his lips to mine, I can taste my own sorrow, salty and bitter on my tongue. When he rolls on top of me, I run my hands down his back, over his spine, caressing his scars which are too many to count. I did try to count them when I dressed and bathed his back as he lay unmoving on his bed after our return. For every tear that I have shed, you have received another wound. Soon, our bodies move together in an unforgotten rhythm, punctuated with quiet moans. So narrow is the line between pain and release that it feels like we will perish together in agonising pleasure. Take my life-- end it! -- or make it so indistinguishable from yours that I do not know where I cease to be and you begin.
We cry out together, our voices surely reaching the stars, petitioning them, beseeching them to release us from our torment even though we know that we are too entangled in each other’s dooms; we are beyond saving. He kisses me again, on the cheek. His touch is almost chaste; a fine deceit, given that, only moments ago, he was moving within my very being. Without words, he leaves and I feel empty, even though I know he will always return to share my anguish.
I should return to my father’s court now but I have no desire to leave this secret place, known to none but myself and my lover. I let the rolling mists shroud me, cleansing me of a transgression I do not regret. My hands drop to my side and I dig my fingers into the sand which is still slightly warm from the day’s sunshine. Again, I gaze at the black sky above me as though yearning for some message of hope between the shifting mists. Here, in Beleriand, I cannot hear their song and, without Maitimo here beside me, I have not the heart to interpret their steadfast light.
I close my eyes and the stars disappear entirely from view.
As I lie here, I can hear the call of the nightingale, perfectly mimicked by the guards on duty. No doubt they are on the lookout for any stray followers of the Fëanorians who have come to see whether the tales are true; whether Maitimo has truly escaped the torment of Thangorodrim with the aid of his valiant cousin and whether he has presented the crown to Nolofinwë, second son of Finwë. Angrily, I dash a tear from my eye and gaze again at the stars above, their light further blurred by this unwelcome outpouring of grief. Why do I feel as though my tears will never cease, save with my own death? Unnumbered tears; ay, that is certainly my lot.
I recall the many nights I had lain thus with Maitimo as we named the stars together. We would laugh jovially as we shared our wildest dreams and ambitions, teasing one another mercilessly before lying silently, side by side, wondering what lay beyond the bounds of Arda as we strained to see every star in the sky as the light of the Trees waxed and waned. In the Blessed Realm, the stars were distant because there were greater lights in the land, Telperion and Laurelin, but now, they seem more distant than ever before, veiled perhaps by the sighs of Manwë or the tears of Nienna.
The Valar have surely forsaken us and if loving Maitimo is my share in the Doom uttered upon us, I will continue to love him.
The agony of his love is my only comfort in this land.
And it’s not a cry that you hear at night
And it’s not somebody who’s seen the light
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah.*
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.