5. Chapter 5
Elros asked impatiently, “Lord Maedhros, when will the messengers arrive?”
“I have no idea”, Maedhros sighed, “It is the first time I have abstained from a battle and my brother has ridden.”
“Why didn’t you go?” Elrond asked softly, “You fight much better than he does.”
Maedhros smiled grimly, “Macalaurë fears that I will do something dramatic like swooning on the battlefield. You know how he is. And I do not want to add to his worries.”
“After this, he said that we must live with you no more”, Elros said sadly, coming closer to Maedhros hesitantly. Though they had always been on good terms, the twins maintained a distance from their foster-father’s brother.
“You will not allow that”, Elrond said hopefully, “Will you, Russandol?”
“What did you call me?” Maedhros swallowed his tea in surprise as he stared at Elrond. Elros was winking at his twin appreciatively.
“That is what Ada calls you”, Elros said smiling, “May we not call you the same?”
“If you wish so”, Maedhros shrugged uncomfortably, “Though I would much prefer if you call me something less ridiculous.”
“But Russandol suits you!” Elrond protested, “You look so handsome in the winter. Only Ada is more handsome than you.”
“How many elves have you seen to pass so firm a judgement?” Maedhros fought down a sudden urge to blush at the compliment.
“Plenty enough”, Elros shrugged, “We saw Gil-Galad, Cirdan, your cousin Artanis, her husband, her daughter and so many elves. You look the most handsome of them all.”
“How were you in the beginning?” Elrond asked softly, “I mean before the time in Angband?”
Elros shot a warning glance at his twin. Maedhros said quietly, his grey eyes taking a distant look, “I do not remember. I assume I was more or less like this, though,” he smiled softly, “I had two arms. You will have to ask Macalaurë if he remembers.”
“Ada showed us drawings that Princess Aredhel had made, you look very wild there”, Elros commented, “Especially in the picture where you dance with a Vanyarin lad.”
“I hope he has not shown everything”, Maedhros shuddered inspite of himself, “Then I would compelled to retaliate.”
“You will forget all plans of revenge once you see him”, Elrond laughed, “You have always given in to him.”
“As your brother gives in to you”, Maedhros remarked wryly, watching Elros and Elrond share a heated look, “Maybe I should retire, it is late.”
“No, stay, Russandol”, Elros said easily as he tugged his twin to his feet, “We will retire. You are obviously not going to find rest. Then it is more comfortable here than in your bed.”
Maedhros hugged his brother gratefully as Maglor entered the tent.
As he held back Maglor to scrutinize him for any hurt, he said softly, “Never leave me behind again, Kano, I nearly went insane but for the twins.”
Maglor laughed musically, “It is all right now. Morgoth has fallen into the void. They have destroyed Thangorodrim. We are free now.”
“The jewels? What of the jewels?” Maedhros asked hesitantly, “Are we to kill again for them?”
“Eonwe wants to speak with us regarding the jewels, he has them under guard”, Maglor sighed, “And he wishes to speak with Elrond and Elros too. Gil-Galad has claimed his right to take his cousins to his palace.”
“They are of age enough to choose”, Maedhros said softly, “Though I must say that Gil-Galad can provide them more than we dispossessed folk can.”
“You have been brooding again”, Maglor narrowed his eyes.
Maedhros rode into the camp of the hosts of the West with his brother and their warriors, his mahogany hair was plaited away from his face, a slender circlet of the house of Feanor graced his high forehead. As he dismounted, the royal black robes that he wore, floated about him gently. Maglor joined him, dressed in purple velvet robes. They were followed by the twins, clad in identical tunic and leggings.
Gil-Galad, Cirdan, Celeborn and the rest of the leaders of the armies watched in awe as they saw the eldest son of Feanor for the first time after the battle of the unnumbered tears. He had become so much a recluse, letting his brother deal with the outside world, that they had forgotten his fell beauty and regal demeanour. He nodded to Galadriel, sister of his beloved friend and cousin who had perished in the dungeons of Morgoth. She bowed to him as he walked past her.
“Why do you respect a kinslayer?” Cirdan asked her incredulously.
“He is the noblest of my house”, Galadriel said steadily, “And deserves all our respect and allegiance.”
Eonwe said quietly, “Your Oath is rendered null, Feanorians, what will you do?”
Maedhros looked at Maglor for a moment before saying determinedly, “We will take the judgement of the Valar.”
“There will be no mercy once you sail the sea”, Eonwe warned.
“Not even the harshest of the judgements will cause us suffering than that which we have already done with our self-loathing”, Maedhros said quietly.
Elrond clung to Maglor sobbing inconsolably as they stood at the grey harbour of Mithlond. Elros was saying his farewell to Maedhros. Gil-Galad, Cirdan and many other nobles stood to watch them leave.
“You will see us again, Elrond”, Maedhros said quietly as he joined his brother, “The Valar will not punish us for ever.”
“They cannot punish you”, Elrond said whimpering, “I refuse to call them the Valar if they judge you harshly.”
Maglor kissed the crown of his head whispering, “Elrond, be brave and noble. Remember that we erred because we had no choice. Show those who err the same mercy that we pray the Valar will grant us.”
“I cannot be parted from you so soon after losing him to mortality”, Elrond said angrily, “Why did he choose it?”
“Sometimes, Elrond, we do not choose. The choices are made for us”, Maedhros said softly as he stooped down to press a quick kiss on Elrond’s cheek, “I will always think of you both.”
“Russandol has finally succumbed to our charms”, Elros teased as he joined them and embraced Maglor tightly, “I will miss you, Ada.”
“You will be there in my heart always, Elros, you and your twin”, Maglor said fervently.
“Ada”, Elrond whispered in a conspiratorial voice, “What will you do about him?”
“He is blind, Elrond”, Maglor shook his head, “I shall have to pelt his head with stones to get my meaning clear.”
“He is simply afraid, Ada”, Elrond said softly, “All you need to do is to take the first step.”
As Elros turned to bid farewell to Maedhros, Maglor sought Galadriel. She was standing with Gil-Galad, her austere features gloomy.
“Cousin Artanis”, Maglor sighed, “I wish to ask a favour of you.”
“I will keep an eye on them, Macalaurë ”, she said softly, “You need not ask it of me. What else are kin for?”
Maglor bowed lightly and they stood silently till Gil-Galad asked, “Are you not afraid?”
“Of the judgement?” Maglor asked, “No, we had vowed long ago to submit to this should this day ever come. We are not afraid, though I do not wish to be parted from my brother. As long as we suffer the same judgement, I do not truly care.”
Maedhros joined them with the twins in tow and asked Galadriel, “You will not return for judgement with the host of the west, Artanis?”
“No, Maitimo”, she smiled, “I have better things to keep me here. But convey my regards to my father and your mother.”
“If we step on the blessed realm, I will”, Maedhros said wryly before submitting himself patiently to a kiss from her.
‘I love you, cousin, I loved all of you”, she said clinging to him with tears in her eyes, “Now I am alone here with memories of the fifteen others who have left me.”
“If things had been different, I would have begged you to board the ship with us, Artanis. Yet, I cannot take you not knowing what awaits us there”, he embraced her gently before handing her to her husband’s care.
Maedhros stood by his brother quietly as Maglor waved to the twins until the harbour had faded out of sight. He embraced Maglor as they lost sight of the tall ships still towed in at the ports.
“Russandol”, Maglor whispered, “We will do this together.”
“I do not know where I would be without you, Macalaurë”, Maedhros whispered back as he pressed a chaste kiss to his brother’s forehead.
The judgement circle was stark and forbidding. Maedhros shivered once as he was led into the centre. The Valar sat in places of honour. There were two elves, Maedhros felt a pain of recognition as he saw one of them was Finarfin, his father’s half-brother.
“Nelyafinwe Maitimo”, Manwe said loudly, “What do you have to say?”
Maedhros took a deep breath and began his defence, “Lords of judgement, I am the eldest son of Feanor, son of Finwe. I was raised in Valinor by my parents and my grandfather. I had six brothers and seven cousins all of whom I loved dearly. My father crafted the Silmarils with the light of the Trees. He bound the fate of his house to them. When Morgoth slew his beloved father and stole the jewels, he swore an oath of revenge. Being his eldest son, I had a duty to him, I swore the same oath. As did my brothers. We stole the ships of the Teleri after the kinslaying. We left our kin to perish on the Ice. We burnt the ships. We chased Morgoth to Angband, but my father fell. I assumed kingship of the Noldor. I was captured by Morgoth and held prisoner until my valiant cousin Fingon, son of Fingolfin, rescued me. I gave the crown to my uncle, for I could see no other way to repair the wrongs we did by him. We fought for our people, but the oath demanded the blood of Dior. We hunted his daughter to death and orphaned her sons. I plead guilty to all of this.”
“You have nothing to add?” Manwe asked.
“Spare my brother, My Lord. He swore the oath for loyalty to the family. He did not mean it, he has regretted every drop of blood claimed by his sword. He was ever loyal to our family, he took in and fostered Dior’s grandsons. Of all of us, he does not deserve punishment. Add to my sentence if you would, but let him have peace”, Maedhros bowed to Manwe.
Maglor was brought in, he was reassured by his uncle’s presence in the court. He bowed to the Lords and said in his musical tone, “I plead guilty to all that you accuse me of.”
“We accuse you of nothing”, Manwe said quietly, “What do you accuse yourself of?”
“I did everything I did because I loved my family, my father, my brothers, especially Maitimo. He was broken in spirit and body so badly”, Maglor said softly, his voice carrying lingering pain, “I want him to suffer no more, my lords. I will take on his punishment. He should not suffer more. Morgoth broke him, tortured him for years until he had nearly lost his sanity. His own cousin used him. His brothers rebelled against him. The only fault he had was that he loved his kin too much.”
“What say the lords?” Elbereth asked in her melodious voice, “We have heard them defend each other.”
Finarfin stood and spoke quietly, “I plead the lords to be lenient on my nephews. They have paid the price in full for their father’s deeds.”
Aule spoke softly, “The spirit of fire lives on in them, yet it is tempered by their mother’s grace.”
Yavanna added, “They have both suffered enough.”
Manwe said angrily, “Yet they have slain their kin!”
“As you have imprisoned your brother in the void!” Elbereth said harshly, “Judge not by different standards!”
Mandos, who had remained quiet till then spoke, “Let them return to the realm of white sands. They are the most loved of their fallen house.”
Maedhros smiled at his uncle as he waited on the courtyard for his brother. Finarfin had brought him to his home in Tirion. They had fallen into the easy conversations that they had shared millennia ago.
“Artanis sends you her regards”, Maedhros offered quietly.
“It is strange that she alone of the five who left me should be alive”, Finarfin remarked, “Findarato was so mild.”
“Oaths and promises have wrecked us all”, Maedhros sighed as he wondered about Maglor’s judgement trial.
“I wish to hand over my kingship to you, Nelyo, you are the rightful heir to the throne of my father”, Finarfin said softly.
“I gave up my right long ago, uncle”, Maedhros said shrugging, “You will make a better king than me anyday.”
“I insist”, Finarfin said firmly, “talk to your brother and decide.”
Maedhros felt his brother’s arm reassuringly linked with his own as they entered the large feasting hall for the banquet that his uncle had arranged to welcome them.
He smiled at old acquaintances uncertainly, pulling at his robes in nervousness as he approached the high throne where his grandfather had once sat. Finarfin arose from the throne and descended quietly. The hall fell into total silence as the uncle bowed before the nephew, a slender circlet in his outstretched hands. Maedhros looked into his brother’s calm eyes once more before taking a deep breath and accepting the kingship. Maglor watched proudly as his brother requested their uncle to crown him. Then Maedhros embraced his uncle and climbed the stairs to the throne, his heart beating wildly within him.
As the elves knelt down to acknowledge their high-king, Maedhros said in a clear voice, “Together we shall rise again, Noldor of Valinor. Never shall the Nolodante be repeated in these halls again.”
He saw himself reflected in the clear mirrored walls facing the throne. He looked in astonishment at the stranger before him. The last time he had looked in a mirror was in the same hall, before a dance, millennia ago. He had been tall, well-built and handsome with auburn hair, soft grey eyes and long, graceful limbs. Now, the reflection before him showed an elf he did not recognize. His hair was a brilliant coppery red, his eyes a stormy metallic grey, with the depth of wisdom and grief. His features were slender, his cheeks hollowed. His grandfather’s crown sat proudly on his head. His deep purple robes fluttered about him regally, encasing his slender figure. His left arm rose slowly to hold aloft the sceptre of the Noldor king as he held his brother’s steady gaze.
Maglor felt peace pervade him as his brother raised his left hand which held the sceptre of office. Standing beside his uncle, he raised his goblet of wine with the rest of the Noldor assembled to salute their new king. Maedhros smiled, his features lighting up, as he sat down gracefully on his grandfather’s throne.
“I am proud of both of you”, Nerdanel whispered as she embraced her sons after the crowning. Her eyes defiantly avoided the stump of the right hand of her eldest son.
Maedhros sighed as he kissed her cheeks saying, “We missed you. I missed you too much. You will stay with us, Mother?”
“I cannot”, Nerdanel whispered, “I stay with my father’s kin now. I cannot return to the house where I witnessed so much grief. I don’t have your courage, my sons.”
Maglor hummed softly to calm himself as he watched the stars from his position near the window. It was terrifying to be back in their grandfather’s home, in the same room where Maglor had grown up. Even his personal things lay littered about as they were left on that hasty flight to Middle-Earth. Yet there was peace, he felt happy and sheltered. All that he wished for was for his elder brother to understand him.
The door opened softly and Maedhros entered requesting shyly, “Will you hold me tonight, Macalaurë ?” he was still in the robes he had worn for his coronation ceremony though he had removed the crown. Maglor thought he had never seen his brother look so vulnerable and handsome.
“I wish for that pleasure every night”, Maglor moved to his brother’s side and gently helped him out of his robes and tunic. He fiddled with the ties of his brother’s leggings absently.
“Maybe I should complete my description”, he remarked wickedly, watching his brother flush in embarrassment, “We left it incomplete the last time.”
“Did you mean what you said in that tent all those years ago?” Maedhros asked hesitantly as he threaded his fingers through his brother’s dark tresses.
“When have I lied to you, Russandol?” Maglor raised his brows.
“I”, Maedhros took a deep breath to steady himself, “I am afraid of this, Kano. You will have to lead me as you do in everything else.”
“For someone untouched you are very bold”, Maedhros complained as he watched Maglor tug at the laces holding up his leggings.
“I suppose I have waited long enough”, Maglor whispered, “I am glad that mother refused to stay here. I am used to having you to myself completely, I cannot stand her fussing over you”, he pressed a fleeting kiss to Maedhros’s lips.
As the soft moonlight cast shadows on the sharp planes of Maedhros’s body, Maglor cleared his voice and began, “Your stomach, Russandol, is so taut and flat like that of a hunting hound”, he slid his palms along the thin thighs slowly causing Maedhros to shiver, “I envy the horses which were caressed by these magnificent legs”
He bit his lips to stifle a smile as he deliberately brushed against the juncture of the legs, causing Maedhros to stammer, “I think, Macalaurë, that you have recited sufficient poetry for tonight. I truly cannot stand more of this!”
“Stop me, Russandol”, Maglor whispered.
Maedhros bent down to press a warm kiss on his lips whispering, “I know of no other way, Kano.”
“May I?” Maglor stepped back and watched his brother’s expressive face, “I am tired of waiting.”
Maedhros shrugged uncaringly before whispering, “I am tired of waiting myself. What would I do without you, Macalaurë?”
“We shall never have to find out, Russandol”, Maglor pulled him closer.
From the garden, Finarfin smiled sadly at the scene played in the room before him and turned away. His nephews had found their love after so much grief.
“That is what makes their love so precious and true”, Elbereth told him as she accosted him in the woods.
Finarfin bowed to her, “You are right, fair Lady. What has seen fire and ice will never burn out or melt away. Such is their love.”