1. Last Gasp
At once as far as angels' ken he views
The dismal situation waste and wild,
A dungeon horrible, on all sides round
As one great furnace flamed, yet from those flames
No light, but rather darkness visible
- John Milton, Paradise Lost
Hot blasts of air buffet the hollow face that throws its desolate gaze in unfocused circles. Dewy tears gather at the corner of eyes. It isn't just the agonising pain; it is the final realisation. Standing upon the fiery brink, he sees it all rolling back across the years.
Not with the brightest light, burning against his chest, is there a path through the darkness for him. The jewel is heavy, weighed down with his guilt. Its' white-hot weight fills his empty body, a leaden block drags him downwards. Its' chain around his neck tightens and twists, uncomfortably close, constricting.
Thoughts filter rapidly, delirious in sudden fits and starts of contradiction. He grins crookedly at the sound of harp strings which swirl around him. Each blast of air becomes the touch of an eagle's wing. His laughter, ironic, is savage in its anguish
"No saving me this time Fingon! Too late for you… too late for me…"
The laughter breaks into rasping gasps and sobs all too suddenly. Maidens tall and insubstantial as smoke hover about him, flickering wisps in the hot air. They stroke him with icy blackened hands, whispering and kissing with bloody mouths. Voices hiss like steam, whispering his name in all its forms.
With a shriek terrible to hear he rips the sword from its sheath. The voices die, quelling to embers in the wreck of a mind. Leaning upon the blade, its point buried in the ground his body shakes. Racked with guilt and pain the sweat beads on his furrowed brow.
In a sudden flourish of decision he wields the sword aloft, the red light catches familiar on its surface. It was a blade any smith could be proud of, straight and true, slaked in the blood of hundreds. The best Noldorin steel, the best for killing your kin. Just as deadly in left as in right hands. Guilty and innocent, the faces crowd his mind like silent judges, a crushing pressure tightening like a band of iron round his skull.
He manages to heft the sword level: he tests the balance, the weight. It's a weight he is glad to be rid of. Without pause or thought the masterpiece, the weapon, rolls from an open palm into the depths. It gathers speed as it falls, a dull gleam in the chasm. Eagerly his eyes follow it. Fire takes the blade, scouring it eternally clean, melting the deadly edge into the ether. The perfect way to utterly destroy, to undo the misery; a thorough and all consuming process. A total reversal of its creation. Forged then forged anew so they say, all that is made can be unmade. He watches until the metal passes from sight and mind. Will it melt him down too he wonders? Will bone and flesh hold then merge to nothing in a hot rush of anguish?
After some time he moves, blinking away the heat. Fire would serve best. There had been flame from the start after all.
Ghosts of fingers long lost reach out toward the glowing coals in the forge. His lips form the echoing words of warning
"Careful little one, the fires are hot."
How he had repeated it to every brother, with care or impatience. Had any of them learnt? Had their father ever heeded his own warning?
It was a lesson he had not taught the Peredhil. There were no gems or jewels, nor forges and flame for them. Those days of peace are bittersweet in his mind. He smiles as simple laughter fills his ears yet feels the cold solid loss, the lack of a small body slumbering peacefully in his arms. They had been a selfish comfort, a final chance at redemption that kept the ghost children at bay. He had clung to them as he had clung to his mother, weeping in the red dawn of his days.
All soldiers cry for their mothers. He had on the first night. As the cleaved body of the mariner rises spectral in front of him, he freezes as he did then. The expression is slightly shocked, yet twisted, contorted in a pain stopped in time. It points an accusing finger.
"Oh, mother…" he whispers, shielding his eyes from the haunting vision as his heart tightens in his chest.
Would she forgive? Could they all forgive?
There was only one way to find out.
Maedhros Fëanorian closes his hand about his accursed heirloom. It is both cradled and clenched, needed yet hated. Flesh burns and sears, crackling, blistering. He savours the pain; it is all the certainty he has left. All he fought and lived for.
There is a gasp, only one gasp, and then silence as his body plummets smiling downwards.
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.