Maedhros has seen so much death, ugly and sharp and sudden, that he forgot it could be like this, still and silent, as if the empty vessel rejoiced to give up its burden. He kneels and kisses his brother's brow. Then he takes up a shovel and begins a burial mound. It's clumsy work, but it's something he must do alone—company would be unbearable right now.
As he piles up earth, grief puts memories in his head. He remembers the twins as they were in Aman—his littlest brothers, they always seemed so young, ever slow to speech but quick to laughter. Ambarussa and Ambarussa—who could have imagined them apart? Yet Amrod whom he buries now has spent more years without his twin than with him. Perhaps this is the source of his face's serenity—that he is free of the cares of Middle-earth, and in losing two brothers, gains four, and one of these dearest of all.
Now Maedhros and Maglor are the only ones left. Maedhros does not understand why fate has spared them. Why shouldn't the sons of Fëanor be wiped off the earth? At least in death his poor brother is free of their Oath. His long-dead twin, happier still, guilty of but one Kinslaying.
When Maedhros is finished, he sits down by the mound, exhausted. He ought to cry, but what he feels is so faint—only a spiderweb of emotion across his numb brain. Soon he stands and wanders to the edge of the clearing where his people have raised their tents for the night. They have halted in a sparse wood by the banks of Sirion—beautiful country, safe as anywhere. There is no hurry to return to Ossiriand. One Silmaril is lost, the other two unassailable. Such a sickly peace as might be had is theirs, by necessity if not by right.
A man of their company approaches him, limping from a wound. "My lord."
Maedhros wishes he wouldn't call him that. "What is it?"
"Lord Maglor has been looking for you. He desires to speak to you. I can bring you to him."
The man leads him to his brother's tent. It's a fine old thing dating back to before the Nirnaeth, a gift from Amrod, who had it from the Laiquendi. The canvas is lightweight and sturdy, once dyed green and yellow, now faded to an even gray. A partition, much patched, separates it into two rooms, and the trappings of council lies in the foremost of these—low cushions filled with fragrant herbs and a large map of the region. The simple comfort of the place fills Maedhros with a momentary nausea. He can hardly recall a time when he was capable of taking real pleasure in material things.
Maglor appears in the far opening. He is gray as granite and looks tired as Maedhros feels, though his only injury is a bandaged gash on his left arm. His face is carefully composed, but like all of Maglor's masks, it's a patchwork construction that threatens to fall to pieces at any moment.
"Hello, brother," he says, his voice strained and for a moment extraordinarily unbeautiful.
"I've buried him," Maedhros says. "A mound among the leaves. Someone with two hands can make a marker for him tonight."
"Thank you," Maglor says. "But—well—come and see for yourself."
Maglor leads him into the back room of the tent. On a rolled-up blanket in the center sit two very young boys. They are dark-haired and gray-eyed, and their faces are marked by grief as only children can wear it, utterly unconcealed. When they see Maedhros, they both start and stare at him. One whispers something, and the other nods.
They are identical twins.
Maedhros turns and walks out of the tent. Maglor follows him.
"They are Elwing's sons," he says, hurrying to match Maedhros's strides. "Our people captured them."
"What, are we mortal Men, that we must murder the heirs of our enemies?"
"There was panic. I don't know what they thought. Perhaps they hoped we could ransom them for the jewel. At any rate, here they are."
"Well, let them go, then! I do not see what I have to do with it."
"There is nowhere for them to go."
"Their mother is likely dead," Maglor says. "Their people are scattered. There is no place for them now."
Maedhros studies his brother. "Then what do you suggest?"
"I am going to look after them."
Maedhros smiles despite himself. "I wish you the best of luck, then. I'm sure they will be very happy living among their mother's murderers."
He begins to walk away, but Maglor seizes his arm.
"Are you so hardened," he cries, "that you cannot take pity even on children?"
Maedhros pulls out of his grasp. "The house of Fëanor has no great history of doing well by children."
"You think of Dior's sons. That was ill-done. But it was not our deed. I do not do this to redeem our house's name, but because they need me."
"I was not speaking of the sons of Dior."
At this, Maglor's face clouds, and composure leaves him. But he soon recovers.
"Well, you have seen them," he says. "Their names are Elrond and Elros. Let everyone know they are to be treated with kindness. They are innocent in this conflict."
"I will ask our men to restrain their barbarity," Maedhros says, and leaves.
The world has changed.
Elrond doesn't know this yet. He is six years old, and introspection is for him an imperfect art. He knows only that he is afraid, so afraid that it feels as if he has never before known fear. All the stories he has ever been told now seem dim and impossible—how can anyone ever have been brave, feeling like this? All the great heroes, like Beren and Lúthien, or Denethor of the Laiquendi, must not have felt fear at all. That must be what courage is.
Fear paralyzes, he now knows. If only he and Elros had run faster, they would not have been separated from their mother. But everything was such a confusion, and they were so scared. That was how the men took them prisoner. He did not like the men—cold-faced soldiers with swords and bows who spoke softly among themselves, then yelled at them to walk faster. Yet they were Elves. Elrond had not known that Elves could be cruel.
For hours they walked, growing wearier and more frightened. "Are you going to kill us?" Elros asked, and one of them said, "Of course not," but in a voice that wasn't sure.
Finally they reached the clearing of tents, and the Elves brought them to the man in whose tent they wait now. They are trying to be brave—and above all not to cry—but it is only growing more difficult. For now they know who the Elves are. The ones who captured them would not talk to them, but this one, Maglor, has told them himself—he is of the House of Fëanor. They know this name. The sons of Fëanor killed their mother's parents.
"Maybe we should try to escape," Elros says, as they wait for Maglor to return.
"There are people all around," Elrond says. "They'd see us."
"Maybe if we run fast," Elros says, but there's a pleading in his voice that says he know it's no good.
Elrond is about to reply when Maglor returns, alone. He stands in the doorway for a few moments, just looking at them.
"May I?" he says at last, and sits cross-legged in front of them.
They sit in silence. Maglor doesn't seem to know what to say any more than they do. He looks very upset. Elrond can't imagine him killing anyone, but he supposes you can't tell something like that from the outside.
"Who was that man?" Elros asks. "With the red hair."
"That was my brother," Maglor says. "Maedhros."
Maedhros looks like he could kill someone—like he has. Elrond doesn't like his face; it's like someone has set a fire behind his eyes. Yet Maedhros looked upset, too.
"Is our mother dead?" he asks.
Maglor looks away. "I don't know. My people saw her—they saw her leap into the sea. We don't know if she lives. It is unlikely. I'm very sorry."
"If you're sorry, why did you attack us?" Elros says. He looks surprised at his own daring even as he says it.
"Do you know about the Silmarils?"
"Yes," Elrond says. "You want to steal them, because they were your father's once."
"My father made them. When Morgoth stole them from us, we swore to retrieve them at any cost. It was a very evil oath. But now we are bound by it."
He pauses for a moment. Then he says softly, "I know you are both very frightened—and that I am the cause of it as much as anyone—but you must know that you are safe now. No one will harm you. Do you understand?"
Elrond nods. Elros doesn't. Elrond sees that his brother is crying silently, his jaw set with anger. He wonders if he should be angry too. But he's so scared and sad that there isn't room for it.
Maglor looks like he's about to say something, only to change his mind. "Are you hungry?" he asks instead.
Neither twin answers.
Maglor lets out a long sigh. He stands. "I will bring food, and you may eat when you like. When you are tired, we'll make a bed. I'll be right outside if you need anything."
"Are you going to make us stay here?" Elrond asks, the realization of their predicament overcoming his fear.
"I wish there was somewhere else for you to go," Maglor says, and leaves.
A few minutes later, another Elf comes with a platter of food—bread, dried meat, and a waterskin. Through the door flap, they glimpse Maglor talking with his red-haired brother again. He sees them, and smiles a little, but says no word.
Then they are left alone with the food. It looks delicious. For a while they only stare at it, but then, in silent consensus, they eat.
"I don't think she's dead," Elros says, after a long silence.
"I don't think so either," Elrond says.
That's all there is to say.
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.