1. Pity Us Not
“My brother has a request to ask of you,” a low, musical voice spoke quietly.
I turned to face the Bard of the Noldor, once more marvelling over the quiet austerity cloaking his proud demeanour. Had he been the reckless warrior who had surged forth as I tried to wound his elder brother? His eyes had been fey then, and the icy fury within them had truly frightened me.
A flicker of unease must have surfaced on my features for the other occupant of the chamber spoke hastily, “Oropher, please hear him out.”
I glared at her, though it seemed futile. Her proud blue eyes met my gaze determinedly. I suppressed a sigh. She should have gone with my cousin and their child to Sirion. Celeborn was in charge of Elwing’s escape caravans. But Galadriel had refused to leave with him, instead opting to stay with me to defend the caves. She was a brilliant counsellor and administrator and had taken much off my shoulders in these forsaken days. But I wish she had gone with him, that she had not stayed to see her cousins slay her husband’s people ruthlessly as they sought their father’s jewel.
“Winter has come,” Maglor said quietly, his black eyes boring into mine, “And it with has come snow in the passes. It would be folly for us to start our journey now. We would request shelter for our people until the snow melts. My brother gives his word that we shall not inconvenience you in any manner.”
I stared at him in pure shock. Galadriel had risen from her seat on a couch adjacent to the cave wall and now stood watching me carefully.
I was grateful that it was not Celeborn in my stead. He hates his wife’s kin almost as much as he hates Morgoth. He would not have given a moment’s consideration before falling upon the arrogant kinslayer’s throat with his bare hands. I have averted another kinslaying by sending him on with Elwing.
“Where is your brother? Dare he not come himself with this absurd request of his?” I asked coldly.
“He is ill,” Galadriel spoke up, her tone sincere and hopeful, Maglor’s eyes betrayed the first traces of anger, “The hunt for Dior’s twins was exacting, and he was unfortunate enough to earn the wrath of wolves in the forest. He is confined to his bed, for now.”
“You have been treating him?” I asked her sternly.
She replied coolly, “I see no reason why you would ask me such a question when you know very well that I withhold my healing skills from none. And Maedhros is my cousin, it is my duty to tend to his wounds.”
“I need not tell you what Celeborn’s view on this shall be,” I hissed angrily; this would warp into a serious disagreement between them, I knew.
Their union was scary, honestly. Their fights were matched in passion only by their desperate lovemaking. His desire to have a wife entirely devoted to his cause and comfort was equally matched by her all-consuming pride.
“I have not forsworn my kin merely since I married your cousin,” she said ironically.
She was about to continue in the same vein when Maglor interrupted, “Lord Oropher, my brother would ask you directly, if you would deign to meet him. Our warriors are restless, and would kill to obtain shelter for the winter if you should refuse.”
“My people would rather die than sleep under the same roof as the kinslayers who shed Sindar blood,” I said angrily, my wrath stoked by the matter-of-fact fashion of his speech.
“Oropher,” Galadriel came to stand between us.
Not for the first time, I wondered at her height. She was as tall as I, and only an inch or so shorter than her cousin. Their features seemed strikingly similar in the low torch light. The sharp-jawed chin, the pale complexion, the slender frames, the fire that shone in their eyes; it was writ on them that they belonged to the blood of Finwe.
I capitulated to the weight of their combined gaze and said crisply, “Tell him that I shall think over his request and have my answer by sunset.”
“I thank you,” Maglor said politely before inclining his head and moving towards the door.
Galadriel smiled at me gratefully and hastily moved to join her cousin. I could hear their voices rising and falling in their musical tongue, the tongue of the Calaquendi. I sighed; my dear cousin Celeborn would have a hard time if he knew of the true extent of his wife’s blood ties. She might have chosen to be with him in body, but anyone who saw her with her kin could recognize where her true loyalty lay.
Once again thanking the Valar that my cousin was not present, I made my way to the healing wards where many of my people lay on the brink of death.
It was ghastly, the scene in the halls of healing. Many of the warriors had lost their limbs, and many others were bleeding from their internal organs. Eyes glazed in pain and fear, they clung to my hand as if imploring me to save them from the cold embrace of death. And I was reduced to sitting beside the mattresses, in a hall that reeked of filth and blood, merely whispering words of solace that would not have comforted me had I been on the receiving side. The pungent stench of the rotting bodies that were yet to be cremated pervaded the damp air of the caves. Doriath, I knew, was dying.
“My Lord!” one of the young boys, who had been orphaned by the kinslaying, rushed to my side, “There is a brawl in the courtyard, you should go there now!”
I nodded briskly and slunk out of the healing halls. To say the truth, I have never been more bitter and defeated in life than the moment when I laid my eyes on the grisly scene in the halls, the cost of my King’s foolhardiness to cling to an accursed jewel that had never been his. Galadriel had often counselled Dior, to relinquish the jewel. But Celeborn and Dior would always accuse her of siding with her kin and she would let the matter rest. Had she known this would come to pass?
I paused stunned as I stood on the fringes of the courtyard; and wished immediately that I had not answered the summons.
For in the middle of the snow-covered courtyard, where once the hunting parties of Elu Thingol and Dior had ridden back with spoils, there now stood a group of extremely inebriated Noldorin warriors. They jeered and shouted bawdy encouragement as one of their lot straddled a young Sindarin girl in a classic show of dominance. The girl was screaming even as he fondled her sides and rubbed against her prone body lustfully.
For a moment, I stood appalled as my senses registered his bulging arousal as it sought friction against her squirming body, the tear tracks on her face, the mushy puddle in which she lay as the snow melted under the vigorous efforts she made to free herself from her tormentors. Her struggle was no match for a warrior hardened by years of defending the March of Maedhros. He languidly cupped his fingers over her mouth to still her screams even as his fellows jeered on.
“STOP THIS!” the fire in my voice stunned me, I remember striding forward and pulling the elf up by his hair.
He had not expected interference, he stared at me dazedly for one long moment. His companions stilled their vociferous jeering. I unsheathed my sword and bent to help the girl up. She shivered and leant against me, her fingers clasping my tunic imploringly. I passed my left arm around her shaking form and pulled her to me.
My fury seemed to have caused my memory to malfunction; I forgot that there were only a score of us fit to fight and the Noldor outnumbered us nearly twelve to one.
“Cease,” Maglor’s calm voice broke the silence, “Let the girl go. Lord Nelyafinwe has asked us not to claim spoils; not until we reclaim what is ours.”
The elves muttered token protests before retreating to their campfire. Apparently, living in Himring has made them nonchalant about standing in the snow. For the moment though, I was more grateful that they were not drunk enough to overrule their commander.
A whimper broke my musings and I hushed the girl saying quietly, “All is well now. They are merely drunk, my child.”
“Is she harmed?” Maglor asked with mild concern, “Or merely frightened?”
“I am fine, My Lord,” she replied timidly as she glanced at her saviour, “Would they have hurt me if Lord Oropher and you had not come? Or were they merely trying to frighten me?”
Maglor’s eyes met mine for a moment before he bent so that he was eye-level with the girl. She blushed and leant against me instinctively. I could not blame her; he had a most unnerving stare, as if he could see through you. He brushed her forehead with his right hand briefly and quirked his lips in what might have been a smile. Then he straightened and stood back, his eyes once more on me.
“I have no answer, child,” he said briskly as he turned to return to whatever he had been occupied with before coming to the courtyard, “I cannot answer for those are drunk. It is cruel that I have to answer for those who were mad and reckless.”
Those few words would always resound in my ears whenever I thought of him; those words were, I believe, his frankest admission of regret for all that had passed.
Having deposited the young girl with the women who kept to the inner chambers, I made my way slowly to the quarters taken over by the Noldor. I could not erase the memories of our defeat, of my king and friend Dior lying in his own blood, of the women slaughtered, of the warriors who had lost their limbs, of the children orphaned, of the young girl whom I had rescued from the victorious revellers….
I pushed the door open and entered, my mind still swirling with anger, humiliation and helplessness.
“-Should have thought of this when you pushed him into the arms of his wife!” Galadriel’s voice was harsh and adamant.
“I merely meant to do right by him!” a voice I could not place, but singular in its sad melody.
“You hold that shunning him and forcing him to sire an heir is doing right by him?” she was appalled.
“I shall have no tongue speak that I corrupted him with my baser desires. That not only did I fail to give us an heir, but also that I prevent the rest of my kin from doing so! Have you not heard the rumours? Ereinion shrinks from my gaze, he holds me guilty for the estrangement that existed between his dead father and unhappy mother,” he replied with equal fury, his voice ringing in the chamber.
“Rumours and betrayals seem to be the bane of the house almost as much as vows and oaths are,” Galadriel said exhaustedly, “But tell me, Maitimo, what good will it do if you continue to push him into his wife’s embrace?”
“It kills me,” Maedhros said wearily, “And he hates me for what I have done. He shall hate me more when I give Cirdan’s letter to him, for it bears news of fatherhood.”
“Well within your rights shall he be to hate you,” she said coldly, “I should have thought that you, amongst us all, would know the worth of love since you are the most bound by it.”
“Artanis,” he began contritely.
She said crisply, “I shall come later, there is much to be done for your wounded soldiers.”
She glanced at me as she crossed me to leave the chamber. I cleared my throat and stood rather foolishly, wondering how I would explain away my eavesdropping.
“Come in,” he called out.
The door closed behind Galadriel even as I entered the small bedchamber, my eyes on the lithe, tall, robe-clad figure that reclined in the armchair. The blood crimson hair that had flown fiery in the battle was now restrained by a simple warrior’s braid, contrasting sharply with the aristocratic, handsome features of the scion of the Noldor royal house. Grey eyes, deep in wisdom and grief, measured me as I strode into the chamber. He smiled politely, curiosity warring with hopelessness in his remarkable eyes. I averted my eyes to the tightly wound dressings about his chest where he had been wounded. It must have been painful, for his movements were slow and careful.
A long-fingered slender hand waved me to the bed, “I apologize that I cannot offer you the chair,” he said in honest warmth, “But I have grown tired of the bed, and am reluctant to forego the comfort of the chair.”
“Kinslayers need offer no apology for mere trifles as this,” I said sharply as I seated myself in a prim fashion on the edge of the bed.
His eyes flashed with an unnameable emotion before he smoothed his features back into diplomatic coolness as he spoke, “I seek no moral forgiveness now, Lord Oropher. I seek merely a roof over our heads till the brunt of winter passes.”
“Our people would rather die than allow your request,” I said simply, “There are no amends that you could make to buy peace now.”
“You and I are sensible and pragmatic,” he said persuasively, his eyes imploring and commanding at the same time, “Will you not accept reason? Would it take another kinslaying to achieve my ends? My warriors are reckless and cannot be forced to make amends.”
A flash of memory crossed my mind, of the young girl screaming beneath the arrogant Noldo who had straddled her.
“If you would elaborate on what exactly you are willing to say or do,” I asked cruelly, “I might be tempted to make a truce. Your warriors had free sport with many of my young charges. Some are on the brink of death.”
“You want me to punish them?” Maedhros sighed, “It will not help, they are too hardened in their ways.”
“Have you any idea how it was to be the brunt of their lusts?” I asked angrily, visions of torn, bleeding bodies rising in his thoughts.
Maedhros’s steel grey eyes met my gaze coldly. I shuddered at the folly of his words. Of course, I berated myself furiously, Maedhros would know exactly what it would be like having suffered that and worse in the pits of Angband. I curiously looked down at the right limb covered by the deep blue robes. For a moment, I wondered how the Noldor could be so fastidious in the midst of so much of suffering.
“Very noble of you,” Maedhros murmured after a long moment, his features paler than they had been, “To remind me of the fond days gone by. Tell me what you wish me to do. If I can, I will. Otherwise I will have to forcibly take over the caves until winter. Some more blood does not make any change to us.”
“Maybe you could humble yourself enough to taste the same medicine from the victims’ hands,” I said coolly.
Maedhros’s nostrils flared slightly as he warned, “It is my hand that stays your destruction. You will do better to show me the least of courtesy,” he hesitated and averted his eyes to the portrait of Luthien Thingol that graced the walls, “Is that what you wish of me to avoid bloodshed?”
“Would you do it?” I laughed incredulously, “The High Prince of the Noldor, Maedhros Feanorion, on his palms and knees bowing to the pleasure of the uncivilized elves of the Sindar?”
I wondered a moment later how I could have spoke so callously. I am, by nature, brash and outspoken. But I never stray outside the bounds of common civility unlike Celeborn whose words could spew bitter venom when he was truly enraged.
Maedhros met my eyes with slight apprehension. But I realized the determination in those eyes as Maedhros spoke clearly, “I have never called the Sindar uncivilized, though many amongst our people hold to the opinion. But if what you propose shall avoid deaths, then so be it. Lord Oropher, I must make a request of you however.”
“And that would be?” I asked recklessly.
I wanted to know how long Maedhros could keep his temper under rein. I had no intentions of that kind anyway. But it was worth this seeing the vulnerable fear shaded by his pride and courage.
“I,” Maedhros cleared his throat apprehensively, “I would wish that my brother is present throughout the proceedings to ensure my relative well-being. I have no wish to die, for there is much I am burdened with.”
I laughed, this time sympathetically, “My Lord Maedhros, I am no fool. Revenge for my slain kin is not mine to seek. I will ask no such thing of you. I will consult those advisors of the fallen King who are yet alive, and then inform you.”
Maedhros looked at me for one long moment before nodding gracefully and starting to look away. I stared at his noble profile, his sculpture would not have looked amiss in a garden of Aman.
“Why do you do this? So handsome, so broken,” I whispered as his grey eyes met mine, regret and desperation naked in their stormy depths.
“Because none of us chose to walk the easier paths,” he murmured wryly, offering a wan smile.
I breathed in, wondering why I was seated here, pitying a soul who had wrought the destruction of the only home I had known. Then I made the mistake of looking into those wise, grief-filled eyes.
“Your eyes are remarkable, even for one of your house,” I said quietly.
“Have you seen many of my house then?” he asked amusedly, his eyes shifting into a lighter shade as the shadows lifted momentarily.
“Yes,” I sighed, “Aredhel Ar-Feiniel, when she sought to pass through the Girdle. Finrod and his brothers. Galadriel. Then,” I cleared my throat vainly searching for words.
“My brothers were cremated at dawn,” he said quietly, “I saw to it after I returned from the search for the twins of your fallen ruler. Three siblings and I still have no jewel,” his voice had turned harsher.
“Galadriel and I told Dior to relinquish it, he refused,” I sighed, “He was possessive of it, I think.”
“It is no mere bauble after all,” Maedhros offered another of his ephemerally heart-warming smiles.
“My people will not accept your judgment, defeat is a bitter potion,” I said angrily.
“It is, indeed,” he said quietly, “I have tasted of the brew more than I care to. I have lost almost everything I valued in life. And now, you say that you are defeated. My Lord, do you think that this victory yields us any joy? I claim that we were defeated, by the lives sacrificed on the altar of a cause they had no knowledge of.”
We lapsed into silence. He was lost to his own thoughts, his eyes on his fingers. I was thinking of taking my leave in a civil manner. I nursed no grudge against him. It was his fate to seek justice for his father. It was our fate that we lay between him and his cause. But before I left, I had to broach another matter.
“I overheard a conversation,” I coughed politely, the days at court have embedded solid manners in me.
“Yes,” he smiled again, “My uncle had this trait, I found it endearing. He used to eavesdrop on his family; insatiable curiosity and poor timing ensured that he knew all of our secrets.”
I laughed as I pictured the sober King Fingolfin listening at closed doors. But there was a fond wistfulness to my companion’s eyes that I knew he was speaking the truth.
“It is of no consequence,” he said after a moment, “I know that my conversation with my cousin is of no concern to you, My Lord. I do not mind being overheard.”
I nodded, but I could not help saying, “Your brother will not hate you, unless you continue to pretend as if you are not affected by his anger.”
His grey eyes narrowed and his voice was cold as he spoke, “It is no concern of yours.”
“I have no reason to wish you well,” I said quietly, “But it is clear that you are not much without him. And that you grieve for your actions. If you would repair your relationship with him, then it might bring you some measure of solace.”
“Would you not grudge me that solace?” he asked bitterly, “Do you not wish that I rot alone, isolated from love and affection?”
“I--,” I said hesitantly, fearing the pride that rushed through his blood, “I see that you cannot afford loss again. Please do think upon this; for he is all that you have. None of us handle loneliness well, and I would not wish it upon you. You have suffered much, and perhaps that is enough.”
“It shall never be enough, My Lord,” his eyes were haunted, “It shall never be enough.”
I made a hasty murmuring of leavetaking and fled the room, frightened by what I had seen in his grey eyes. I knew then that his end would not be swift, that he would not fall in battle honourably, that he would be consumed by the fire that burned him from within.
“Oropher,” Galadriel’s voice was concerned, “Did you quarrel with him?”
“No,” I said frankly, “I find myself thinking that his request has merits. We shall share the caves for the winter. He will hold his warriors under a tight rein. And we can keep our people safe.”
“I will tell him then,” she smiled warmly, “I told him that you would choose wisely.”
“There was not much of a choice,” I sighed, then remembered the shivering frame of a fallen prince in a cramped room, “Provide your cousins better quarters, Galadriel.”
“Our house may be fallen,” she answered in a brittle tone, “But we seek neither pity nor charity.”
“Those of your house have never found what they seek,” I said simply, “Pity and charity may be all that remains.”
“I wish it were not true,” she whispered before leaving me.
They stayed under the caves that winter. And then they ventured to Cirdan’s after the snow melted. I moved to Sirion. Galadriel accompanied me. Neither of us spoke of these happenings to Celeborn.
I never saw Maedhros or Maglor again. But I heard of their choices.
They had spurned pity. Then why was it that they inspired pity the most in the heart of elvendom?
A part of me wistfully clings to the hope that I might see the remarkable grey eyes again at the breaking of the worlds. Perhaps then, they might shine in peace and happiness.
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.