Dark wet maddening coldness.
Is this death? Does death sting like a million thorns in the skin? Does death smell of blood? So much blood. Metallic and red. Blending with the cold.
Do demons have voices like angels or are dark and light the same? Comparable, united. How can victory feel so cold? How can success hurt? How? How? How…
"Maitimo, you must not fall asleep. Do you understand?"
And do demons sound like angels to their dead?
I can't. Let me sleep. Let me drift. The dark calls; let me give in. Kiss of death. Let me die. Let me die with those who are already dead in my name.
Voices. You're already dead. Dead. Dead…
"No! Stay awake. Do you hear me?"
Snow. Snow white. Snow bright. First snow I feel this dark and endless night… Does death always feel cold? Weightless am I. Weightless in an ocean of blurry movement and ragged jolts. I'm flying…dying… Can legs that dare not walk run? Am I running, or is that my angel of death again?
I have death in my blood. Tingling. Burning. Burning! Molten fire chasing dragons in the river that is my bloodstream. There are vengeance demons coursing through my veins!
"I will, Maitimo. I will."
My body struggles in the tight grasp of his cradling arms and I know there is nothing to be done. Death is ancient; it feels ancient as it burns through my veins. My blood boils beneath the surface of my skin like little ripples of innocent pockets of air. My blood boils. My skin burns and I know that it can only get worse. I feel the pain inside me opening to the spell that commands it. It can only get worse.
"Help me!" I am encased in pain.
With my eyes shut and fists hurtling through the air, the descent onto the ground is hardly noticeable. Then the pain spreads. Head. Arms. Back. Legs. A fire is burning through my body. A fire that will not end. What do I look like to him now? Wide open dilated eyes stream silent tears that burn a path down my raw cheeks as they slide. My mouth gapes, emitting an ear-shattering scream that gurgles as the blood beneath my skin bubbles and boils.
And he: a silent figure of determination. How could I have ever doubted him?
"Here, drink this."
Anything. I will drink anything. I will try anything. I will do anything to stop the pain. Anything…anything… Make the pain go away. Make the pain go away.
It's funny how normal can feel extraordinary after a taste of death. It's funny how tingles of pain become tingles of pleasure. The dreariness of the place we are obviously hiding in looks splendid to my eyes. The black of his cloak is blacker. The pale of his skin is more agreeable. And the sound of his long sigh sends shivers down my spine; it caresses me from ten paces away.
"Water. It was just water."
That was not my question but I pretend it was.
The moldering remains of my clothing against my skin suddenly feel like too much. Oh, help me…help me. My fingers press into the dirt beneath me, fumbling, groping. Fingers close over mine, and I gasp beneath his icy hand. Touch me again. Touch me everywhere and don't stop.
I wonder if I should purr.
His fingers spread icicles across my skin. Can I transcend my own physical state just from fingers trailing pathways across my neck? If I don't shout aloud will I go crazy? I need…I need more…I need cold…I need him…
"Please, please, please…"
"Tell me." Even his breath on my naked flesh sends me reeling.
"Ice, cold. I'm on fire. Burning…"
How can he look so vulnerable in the face of my need? How can he hold back? I strain against the strength of his palms.
And he concedes slowly. How can he question me when he reeks of pride and power? When I am dying, burning? Dead.
He pulls me against him as I tremble. I clutch his shoulders with the hand that isn't there as the flame courses through me. But it isn't enough and I scream, blinded by pain. He is motionless, stiff.
"Please…please…so hot…so empty…"
Behind the storm in his eyes I see the hesitation. I know my pleas are raw threads streaming from my lips without much thought. He knows too. Would I ask these things of him in a normal state? After the things I said when last we met? Is this real? It doesn't matter to me. It shouldn't matter to him. It shouldn't.
He stops as if time freezes and I quake in his arms, sobbing and howling again. Head thrown back, I'm going mad. I went mad before this, hanging on the mountain. Now I'm going mad again, and he can't stop me. Need him… Need him to stop the feeling of going mad. Need him as his dark eyes search for a sign of light in mine.
"Stop burning me. Please!"
Please from boy I used to be. Please from the cousin who betrayed our reality. Please from the dying man who hung from the mountain. Please from Maitimo to Findekáno.
Please…and he pulls away almost violently.
His fingers hold a flask before my lips. My eyes burn with hot tears as I drink. I don't want this. It won't help. I wonder if he understands my sobs. I wonder if he sees the tears that refuse to fall. I wonder until I cannot wonder anymore. Lost to the building inferno that gathers in my shaking body.
And the world breaks as the fire consumes.
"Sleep now. You will need the rest."
I want to laugh. As if I could. Water does nothing; his ice-cold fingers do nothing. I am lost.
Iron. Steam. Mockery. Death. The words echo in my mind and I hear them as they are shouted through the Enemy's lips. War and violence go hand in hand—I have only one hand now. War and hatred. War and pain. Pain…fire…death… Did I die? Did he strike me down and laugh as he crushed my broken body? Was it all a lie? Did I dream it all? Where is Findekáno?
That flash of steel, coming toward me, heading for my neck—will it take my life? What do screams sound like from the hollowness of the grave? What do they sound like from an empty shell without a spirit? There are demons of death, shrouded in black, coming towards me. Coming. They are coming.
The Enemy is coming!
"No, no! I am dead—let me alone!"
"Maitimo , stop fighting me. You are delirious."
Maitimo son of Fëanáro. Your time has come. This is the end… Stop! Stop the voice. Stop the laughter. Stop the sound of him and the look of him. Stop the fire. Stop the heat. I'm burning up. Clawing at my skin with my one hand, afraid to close my eyes. He will kill me where I sleep. He and the others who dance above my head. They will burn me alive.
Who is a hero if he cannot save himself?
The Dark Lord. Evil incarnate. Bastard of the void. He who gives death… Death, eating me alive. Demon with the touch of flame. Demon with eyes of night.
"Yes, Maitimo. I know them all."
And do demons sound like angels to their dead?
"I am! The best I know how."
How can he help me? How do you bottle sanity and brew strength? Healer, heal me. Burning. Burning up. Heat from inside. Heat from outside. Not enough air to fill my lungs. Not enough wind to cool my skin. Will my skin catch fire? I read it somewhere. Book. Findekáno lent it to me. Findekáno? Makalaurë? Where are you? Are you alive? Did the Enemy kill you too or was that just me? Close your eyes...touch me...and die.
Anything. I will drink anything. I will try anything. I will do anything to stop the pain of my skin melting where I lay. Anything...anything... Make the heat go away. Make the heat go away...
There are those icicle fingers pressing against the fire but they don't help. Fingers that glide across my neck and shoulders, trail down my arm, touch the hand that is no longer there. I stare at him with round eyes, begging for him to cool me with the ice he holds in his fingertips.
He pours something over me. Molten frost.
I sob in pleasure as the liquid covers me. I gasp at the sheer joy of feeling cold, if only for these brief moments. Water dances across my scorched flesh and I laugh.
Madness, insanity. It is too late for me.
I feel as if I'm glowing. First hot then cold then hot now cold again. The ice is my grasp on reality. And then it's gone.
His only reply is to speak words I do not understand. A language I cannot know. But his breath is cold as it washes my face. Cool air cocoons me and I know I am glowing this time.
"Rest now, Maitimo. Mayhap your fever will break in the night."
I awake to the scent of morning dew.
I awake to feel the slow stroke of ice across my skin. Yes. I feel light-headed. I'm floating. I am suspended between pleasure and pain. Balance. I wonder what would happen if the scale were tipped. I wonder how long the cold will last this time. I don't want it to stop.
I wonder if I should purr.
"Don't stop. Please."
I want to tip the scale in my favor. I need him. Do I deserve him? Am I good enough for him? Will he take up the weighted mantle of friendship again? Or will he scorn me as I scorned him?
Serious thoughts are funny things. They weave webs within the mind. They block out all impulse. They leave doubts... I shift in agony as his touch grows warm. If I cannot have him then I cannot bear the torture. Why does healing have to hurt?
"Maitimo, you must drink this water."
Agony, agony. Are all heroes meant to suffer in silence?
"The sooner you are well the sooner I will be able to…"
Leave me. Not see me. Not touch my broken body. I am not so far gone that I misunderstand you, cousin.
The water slides down my throat. I groan. It is too much and not enough. What does he read in my eyes now? I sob as the fiery dance in my chest resumes. Stop…stop…please…
"This is all I can do."
I do not understand. I howl aloud. Don't leave me this way. Don't leave me. Do you want me to beg. I'm burning up again. The fever is back—it never left me.
"I'm sorry…" I wheeze through the flames.
"No, Maitimo. The water. It's gone."
Anything... Do anything. Do anything to stop the pain. Do anything to stop the ache...
His chilly fingers descend and this time I howl as the icicles stab me. The fingers move and I howl. He sighs my name and I howl. The fire burns hotter than ever. And I am too far gone to howl again.
He stops. "Are you all right?"
"Stay with me…don't leave. Please."
He doesn't answer. He turns away. I hear him talk to himself. I want to sob. I am not good enough. He hates me. I fight the sting of tears again. I fight the shame of being who I am and what I represent to him.
I fall asleep to the familiar nattering of insanity.
"Maitimo, we cannot stay here. The water is gone."
"You could try to live, you know."
"I'm taking you to your brothers."
Fire rages in my throat and I don't answer.
Consciousness fades and I hear Moringotto laughing at me in the dark.
"Here, drink this."
"What is it?"
"Wine. It may dull the pain. The journey will not be…pleasant."
Does he think I am without agony now? I scowl through the burning.
"Just drink it, Maitimo."
I drain the wineskin in one swallow and glare at him from where I lay on the ground. Even with a background of morning sunlight he looks ominous. His black cloak billows behind him as he turns and walks away. His curtain of ebony hair is radiant compared to the matted clump of red on my own head.
Hates me, does he? Well I hate him just as much.
I drift asleep with his glare and his scowl and the anger that makes his eyes crackle like little globes of lightning. I want to make his eyes dance for me again. I want him to sing to me and make me better again. I want to be his again.
I awake to a candlelit room and tingling all over.
The fever is back—it never left me. The pain is back. This time it comes as sharp spears of agony that rip through my body before diminishing into the ever-present tingles. I am dying. Only death can feel so damning.
I shake with the tingles. I scream with the pain. I claw at my bare skin, wanting to rip into it and remove the source of my discomfort. I wonder if my blood will be red. I wonder if my skin is thick enough to hold the boiling beneath the surface. I wonder if my skin will catch fire.
There is the crawling beneath my flesh again. Tingling. Tingling to a crescendo and the boiling begins. I scream. I scream. I scream until I feel the tang of blood in my throat. I scream until my lungs fill and gurgle and I am spewing crimson onto the pillow beneath my head. It soaks and so does the bed. I am covered in blood.
Then there is the tingling again.
The itsy, bitsy spider is crawling in my flesh... The itsy, bitsy spider has invited all his friends... Now if one little fly should accidentally fall... would the itsy, bitsy spiders try to lure a few more?
There are insects hatching beneath my skin.
I scream, clawing at my arms and legs, watching as the bubbles of pain beneath my skin rupture to become hives of little insects that scurry out in droves. Beneath the short, ragged nails of my fingers I feel my flesh tear and lodge. My skin is paper thin and dry from the heat. I can feel the heat beneath my hand. Of course I can feel the heat. My blood is boiling.
I'm drowning in blood and tears. I'm choking. I'm being suffocated. I shiver. I tremble. I scream. I'm cold! I'm so cold. I can't feel my arms or my legs. Violent tremors rack my body, but amidst my screams there is no time to ponder the growing cold.
I can hear them by now. I can feel them. It is their icy breath that I feel. My skin is warm but I freeze and I know now that they are trying to get inside of me. They want to kill me from the inside out. This is no normal fever. Or is it that this is normal and the one before wasn't?
What is normal, anyway?
Floating above the bed of blood, watching as the insects fight their way out of my body, hearing myself scream in a disjointed manner, I wonder: what is normal, anyway? Is this normal or does normal mean more pain and less screaming? Does normal bleed red blood, too? Does it have arms and legs and slits for nostrils? Am I normal or am I an abomination?
Why isn't he helping me?
Who? Who would help you?
My healer? My helper? Why isn't he here to make me sane? Why?
He killed you, remember. The Enemy smote you with his wrath. Don't you remember? You tried to run. You couldn't. Your legs hurt. You fell to the ground and he killed you. He killed you. You died when the burning steel touched your skin.
Dead at last.
At last. At last. I should be happy. What is happiness again? Is it evil? Does it use you? Does it leave you angry and hollow? How can I be happy when I'm bleeding to death? Look there is blood everywhere. There is blood on the bed, blood on the pillows, blood already covering the ground.
"He is getting worse."
"He was well enough when Findekáno brought him to us."
"But look at him now. Makalaurë, hear him scream."
"Perhaps we should find Findekáno."
"No, do not do that. He does not desire to see us again. It is better that the end comes without him."
He is gone. They sent him away. They will not let him touch me again. I am being punished for the crimes I committed. I am being punished because I killed a child who deserved to die. Maitimo was just a child. He was evil. He stored darkness in his eyes. He wreaked havoc with his laugh. He deserved to die. He deserved to burn. I deserve to burn. Burn us both with the fire that consumes us. Let the maggots torment us as we tormented those before us.
Let us burn on the outside and freeze on the inside.
Cold. Hollow. Darkness. Moments of death wrapped in colored paper and devious trappings. Wade through the lies and the anger. Lose me in the empty sheets of skin that rip from my body. Save me from the ever-present, ever-building pain that will not give me rest from the voices. Let me scream in agony.
Let me die. I cannot take this anymore.
"Maitimo, brother! Carnistir, what is wrong with him? Can't you do anything to make him stop screaming?"
"You should leave, Makalaurë. There is nothing we can do."
They are here. The demons are haunting me. They will hurt you as they hurt me. Makalaurë. Carnistir. Brothers. Don't let them possess you, too.
Leave me, brother. Can you not see that I am dead?
"Makalaurë, let's go. Now."
"But he's in pain! Listen to him scream! What did they do to him?"
Makalaurë. Makalaurë, they hurt me. Makalaurë, they wrenched my flesh apart. They caused my blood to boil and my skin to flake. They are inside of me. I'm so cold. Brother, make them go away. They are here and they won't let me die. They took my dark light away.
"Maitimo…you'll be all right. I'll find him. I will! I won't let you die like this."
I'm already dead. I'm already dead. I've already died!
And he hates me. He will not come.
Save yourself, brother.
Makalaurë? Carnistir? Carnistir, don't leave me! Don't let them take me! They'll kill me, Carnistir. Listen. I can hear them whispering out their revenge. I can hear them, Makalaurë. Don't leave me alone with them!
"Maitimo, be silent. Your brothers are here. I am here."
Where did you come from? They said you left. They said you wouldn't come back to haunt me again. I won't let you kill me! I'll kill you first! I won't let you take me. I won't let you take me. I won't let you kill me again.
"Maitimo, stop fighting me. At least try to save your strength. I'm here now and I'm staying no matter how much you scream and shout."
"Yes, Maitimo. Now be still."
"They're coming to take me. They want me to die again. Can't die anymore. He killed me. Isn't that enough? Didn't I do enough? Hurts. Everything hurts. Do you see them? They eat me alive. Make them go away. I can't fight them anymore."
"I know, Maitimo. I'll do my best."
I scream again at the burning pain inside me. I struggle in his arms as he balances my wraith-like body on his knees. I twist and sob and hear my own voice echoing soundlessly in the silent room. The demons whisper so loudly that their voices are like flies buzzing in my ear. And suddenly I see the insects crawling from my flesh again. They make the incessant buzzing noise as they ooze from my open wounds. I bleed and bleed again as they fall.
Water. Always water. I clutch the cup and bring it to my lips. A difficult task since he lays me down on the bed at the same time. I manage to drink it all anyway. The glass slips from my numb fingers and breaks on the floor. The only sound I here is the sough of his breathing, above me someplace.
"Help me, Findekáno. Don't leave me. Please. Please!"
If I could cry I would. If I could scream I would, but I cannot. I have nothing left.
He exits the room and I scream. The world grows dark.
I needed him. The ice in his hands. The frost in his voice. I need him. How is this better than death? This is just another means of torment. Isn't it just as bad if I need what I cannot have?
"Shhhh…" I hear his voice echoing in my head. I feel the chill of his breath across my face.
"Please, please, please…" I chant. "Please don't let me do this alone."
I can taste blood. I am biting my lip so hard that my teeth cause lacerations, but even that cannot distract me long enough. I feel tears. They slide from my tightly closed eyes and along my cheeks silently as testimonies of my losing battle.
Please...please... Don't let me do this alone.
My eyes fly open and I bite my lip harder. He is standing beside me again. So close. I almost feel the icy cold of his body. I beg him with what little shame I do not have left.
Put out the fire…please…stop the fire…
No. No, Maitimo. Not this time. This time you win or lose your battle alone. This time you die as you deserve.
True silence can only be achieved through the breakdown of important faculties. Catatonic. Dead. Where time means nothing but long stretches of continuous actions. Where breathing is just the movement in and out of important gases. From one state of existence to the next, sanity is what one makes of it.
"Stop it, Maitimo. Stop."
Stop the silence. Stop the sound of not screaming. Stop the lack of movement and the blank stare into emptiness. Stop the look of surrender glistening in dead eyes. Stop the non-existent state of nothingness without the agony of pain or need. Stop the disassociation of mind and body.
I feel my heartbeat slowing in my chest.
And he lifts me. I am placed in a tub of water that contains floating ice-blocks.
"You are too much, cousin. If you cannot have something then you think you don't deserve it, and you endure the punishment no matter how bad it may be. In the end you punish me while I deny you."
Soft, soothing words. When was the last time Findekáno used soft words while speaking with Maitimo? Do I really have the power to frighten him? Does he really care enough that my silence can hurt him into action?
Lifted out of the tub, wrapped in a huge gauzy cloth, cradled against him as I drink another cup of water. All I needed the entire time was this. To be so near him I can borrow his ice. To breathe in so much of his scent that I only forget when he is far away from me again. To be with him.
I feel so exhausted that I can barely manage to keep my eyes open. I feel him walk into my room again and lay me on the bed.
"Go to sleep if you can. The fever will return with a vengeance."
I'm already halfway asleep, and his voice soothes me the more.
When will they let me die?
I awake to the scent of morning dew.
He thrusts a cup of water into my hands. I drink. He bathes my burning skin with cool cloths. I sob. He sings to me of ice and snow and cold rain. I scream.
I want to push away from his bitter comfort. But I am too afraid. I would rather suffer his care than be left to fight the fire without him.
Are all heroes meant to die alone?
"Maitimo, do you want me to stop? Am I hurting you?"
Yes. Yes, I hurt. I hurt everywhere and you can't help me. No. No, Findekáno. Don't stop. Please don't.
"Do not lie to me." His voice holds a warning I dare not ignore.
"I suppose pain means I am not dead?"
He laughs out loud and I am so shocked that I twist in the bed to see his laughter for myself. He is so beautiful when he laughs. When was the last time he laughed at me? With me?
"Maitimo, you dear little fool." And he's back to scowling again.
He resumes his song and I quake as the inferno rages.
"I can't!" I match his scowl with my own.
"Would you rather I stop, then?"
"Yes! Stop… No, no please don't."
His reply is to give me more water and sing all the louder. I know he's being spiteful because he can. I bite my lower lip and clench the blanket between my hand—I have only one now. I try not to breathe too much because that only stokes the fire.
"Your skin is so warm," he whispers. His fingers run the length of my cheek.
"Of course it's warm," I gasp through clenched teeth. "I feel like death. This fever will not break but you will not let me die."
"Why should I? After the pain you caused me it seems only fair to repay you in kind." There is a glint in his eye that I do not like.
He leans close. Frosty breath touches my ear. "Finish that thought and you will suffer the loss of both your hands."
I don't finish the sentence but he does not pull away. I growl. He ignores me. We both move on to the task of driving me insane.
"Stop, oh stop," I sob brokenly as he sings into my ear.
He falls silent. I turn in the bed so I am lying on my side facing the wall.
"Please don't do this to me, Findekáno."
I cannot bear it. I cannot face the recrimination in your eyes. I cannot look at you without dying. I cannot go on if you do this.
I need his forgiveness so badly I ache. I need his friendship. I need him.
He shifts in his chair. Clears his throat. I feel the coldness of his fingers seep through my clothes as he touches my back.
And he begins.
It starts with ice and it ends with ice. Endless ice that he walks on with feet that protest and burn. The march without end across the ice. He wants to fall down and die on the ice but he will not let himself. He wants to see me again. He wants me to know. He wants to be with me, hate me. But the ice is always there. Ice is in him, with him, part of him. He cannot escape from the ice. Frozen, cold, chilled. Ice is he. Ice forever, walking endlessly across the ice that grinds and kills. Ice. Ice. Ice. My fault. He could have died in peace if not for me.
He is forever cold now because of me.
And yet he is my salvation.
The ice that wanted him dead brings me life.
The irony is not lost on either of us.
When his lips stop speaking I am sobbing. Moisture glimmers in his eyes, too, but he has better self-control than I ever will.
He sighs my name. I sigh his. We are suspended in the room, shivering in the cold. My fever has broken.
And I am not dead.
A Note On The Text:
The author finds it plausible that Maedhros would have used Quenya while thinking and speaking with his family, so to reflect that, the Quenya equivalents for names are used. Substitutions are as follows: Maitimo for Maedhros, Findekáno for Fingon, Moringotto for Morgoth, Fëanáro for Fëanor, Makalaurë for Maglor, and Carnistir for Caranthir.
It should also be noted that the concept of "angels" and "demons", however broad, would not have existed in Arda and is therefore not completely accurate. As I had no equivalent to offer, I hope the reader will pardon this lapse in accuracy.
Lastly, the nursery rhymes, The Itsy Bitsy Spider and Star Light, Star Bright would not have been found among the Noldor, but the references were not obvious and I hope their presence does not offend.