1. Chapter One
Rated T for profanity and adult themes.
Disclaimer: I own nothing you recognise.
The Hammer Does Not Fall
His brother moved between the worlds, or so Maedhros heard. Like a miser clinging to his last piece of dull copper, he was little more than a body clinging desperately but vainly to a spirit. So Námo apprised him, and so the keen-eyed Telerin elves aboard this grey ship muttered during their dinners, their breath rancid against each other's cheeks, when they thought Maedhros was not watching them. "For surely he still sings," they said with sneers, as if Maglor's was a lamentable attempt at penitence. Perhaps it was. Maedhros still wanted to grasp them by the scruffs of their necks and cast them into the cold, choppy waves below. They would squeal like pigs, their flared nostrils sucking in stinging salt-water. He could do it; he was solid as a twisted oak and as strong. But he was only recently resurrected, and even toying with a paper-knife could earn him curses and dour stares. An attempt at murder would ensure he remained in Námo's Halls till the end of Arda, and he could not risk that. Not now.
The deck slanted abruptly with an imperious wave, made him look up from his position against the railing, and despite himself his breath caught. How long had he been standing here, senseless to everything but his reverie? The shoreline was perilously close, and he could discern from a distance copses of trees, disquietingly still; bone-white sand, moulded into undulations by the water; what might have been the remains of jellyfish, or other washed-up rubbish.
Gulls screamed shrilly overhead; they pined narcissistically for attention; they sounded like wailing children (oh, Sirion, Sirion). He felt his heartbeat quicken, his breathing grow laboured. His blood beat rhythmically in his ears, and he could hear Ennor, Ennor, Ennor in its steady pounding. And once again he had come to retrieve something that was his, something he still considered his, and something he may not have gotten back. For Maglor was here, or so Ossë informed him in Valinor.
He had only just begun to work as a scribe for a freelance poet, Lindaiwë, to learn a living in Tirion. Much to Maedhros' dudgeon, the Valar decreed he not stay with his remaining family but earn his own living, in order to display to the citizens of the Blessed Realm his repentance and his integrity. Business was rather slow, since the poet was largely unknown (and hence in desperate need of a scribe) and because Maedhros had to hastily master the vernacular Quenya, which differed slightly from the versions he used in his youth and in Beleriand. Lindaiwë's general ineptitude and Maedhros' own status as a kin-slayer did nothing to ease matters. They made an odd, awkward team, and Maedhros was usually only too content to traipse back to his small wooden cottage in the evening and collapse onto his threadbare, creaking bed. He hardly had enough money to scrape together two decent meals a day, but it was enough for him, and anyway he was welcome to eat, if not live, in his mother's house outside the city.
To make matters worse, there had been something of a population explosion...
The Telerin elves cupped their hands around their mouths and hollered for the anchor to be dropped, and Maedhros started out of his thoughts and, in anticipation, clenched his right fist, which was granted with his new body, identical to the one he had in his youth. Tall and strong was he, with the grace of a stallion, and wavy, wine-red hair framed his fine, patrician face. His sharp, subtly slanted eyes glowed like embers beneath a wide clear brow. Yet a scowl remained fixed on his lips, for his features were no longer a source of pride. In his careless youth in Valinor he was vain, and knew his form to be memorable for its great beauty. He would brush off his brothers' admiring gazes, which were not entirely without envy, with a wave of his hand, and then ruffle their hair in pompous comfort.
His mind utterly ceased to be occupied with such things the moment he entered Angband and knew true fear. Useless was the name 'well-shaped one' in the treacherous face of the Black Foe. And he noted with disdain, after his re-embodiment, the way he would often draw women's grudgingly appreciative looks when he walked in the streets, but he said nothing of it. If folk wished to stare, they could stare, for he was withdrawn and cared not for attention.
I swear I will bring you back, little brother.
He was the first to step off the ship, and tapped his foot on the sand as his legs got used to movement on land. The air smelled of salt and wet earth (no, not carmine), and he drew a deep breath before surveying his surroundings. It was the break of dawn, and the beach was lit with a sickly orange glow. In this light the trees ahead appeared black like oil rather than green. He started as he heard flapping wings near his feet. A large gull had landed on the sand and was picking at some limp seaweed. It lifted its head and cawed indignantly at Maedhros, as if demanding he remove his presence.
Maedhros refused to be humoured, his pride soundly vanquishing any hope for drollery, and considered abandoning the elves, along with his breakfast. "You will not find him so soon!" one of them called flippantly, leaning precariously against the banister of the ship. Disgusting, Maedhros thought, and when he began to walk away, the other elf insistently shouted, "You will be more alert if you have food in your belly!"
In half an hour they were breaking their fast on steamed mussels, rice and small, sour oranges. Maedhros ate quickly, almost nauseous at the now-alien feel of food in his mouth, of the chewy, soft flesh of the mussels, the pulpy fruit that made his tongue roll. But the salty stench of the fish was the worst, pervading his nostrils, seemingly thick as frozen grease, and he had to fight not to gag at it. During the first few days after his awakening in Lórien, he had eaten naught but rye bread with weak gruel. His senses were completely overwhelmed after those yéni spent without a body.
After the long ordeal of eating was blessedly over, as he left with his small, leather satchel slung across his torso, the same insolent fellow from before told him, "You will not find him," and the words made him shudder with suppressed fear and grow angry. He abruptly pushed his hands into his trouser-pockets, muttered, "We shall see," not quite loud enough for the other to hear, and walked away. The wind stirred his hair, which he had scraped back into a high, severe ponytail. Some strands got in his eyes anyway, and he cursed under his breath.
For hours, Maedhros trudged along the coast, his face twisted into a deep frown. It was silent, save the soft rush of the steel-grey waves and the occasional bird-call. There was no-one, no company except the gulls and the pale crabs that crept unobtrusively along the sand, leaving indentations that were swiftly wiped away by the gentle tide. Cool water licked at his feet, sometimes swirled around his ankles, wetting his light sandals.
I – no, we – have spent years waiting for you, he thought. What is to me a few more hours, or days, or weeks? He had been so sure Maglor would follow him in death. His brother was like a reverent shadow, always by his side, ready to offer a good-natured smile or a disquietingly pitiless sword. Many a time he was the iron pillar that Maedhros leaned against when he felt weak or that he was without hope. Maglor had the uncanny ability to swallow his pride and maintain a level head in the face of maelstrom. To Maedhros, it was his crowning quality. Is he still the same?
Maedhros could only hope so, as a fool did. Ossë had remained tight-lipped and cold about the matter, saying only, "He is not himself." Maedhros wanted to throttle him in frustration, and it seemed Námo had too, from his irked expression. Yet Maedhros hated them both, hated the Valar for their pitiless hypocrisy, for their small, insignificant acts that they haughtily labelled 'divine forgiveness', and his head was so filled with hatred, hatred, hatred he thought it will burst open like the exploding fruit in the forests of Oromë.
His mother wanted Maglor to come back, as did Elrond. Both of them wished to see him, to drink in his appearance as thirsty folk drank cool water. They wanted to embrace him, to touch his hair, his face, to trace with eager fingers the fine lines around his expressive, thick-lashed eyes; they wanted to kiss his cheeks – once on each side, following the old, pointless custom – and breathe in his warm scent of musky sandalwood. Maedhros did not think his brother would smell of sandalwood now.
The sun had dipped low in the sky and the shadows grown long when Maedhros wearily came to a halt and cast his head back in resignation. He sighed deeply and ran his hands over his skull, pressing down his damp hair, and decided he should head back. He had no problem seeing in the dark, but neither did he have a desire for the elves to send a search party for him when they should have been sending one for his brother.
Suddenly he shivered, and realised it had grown cool. He was about to turn his heel when he noticed, from the corner of his eye, a hunched figure perched on a flat rock by the trees, apparently in deep thought. Maedhros squinted at the spidery limbs and the lank, dark hair, long enough to brush the backs of the person's sharp, bent knees. The overall effect was egregious. Appalling. Nobody should have looked like that. It was unnatural, fit for Orcs or their foul masters. As if sensing his presence, the person lifted his head, and Maedhros gave a shout – for it was Maglor!
"Maglor!" he cried, charging towards him, arms outstretched, all dignity and dourness forgotten. Maglor – is it really Maglor? – seemed startled, and nearly fell sideways off the rock. He jumped to his feet and began to scramble away.
"No, no, Maglor!" Maedhros said in despair, forcing himself to stop a couple of fathoms away from his brother. "It is I! Maedhros!"
Maglor stopped and eyed him warily, pursing his lips. His brow was puckered anxiously, and Maedhros wanted to weep, to embrace him and not let go, to assure him of his safety. "Little brother," he said gently, extending a hand in what he considered exquisite self-control. "I have been given a new body and granted a new life in Aman. But my heart was sick with worry for you, and the Valar granted me permission to bring you to Valinor. You do not have to stay here!" he added when he noted his brother's discomfort. "Say something, Maglor!"
But the elf before him remained silent. Maedhros felt he was about to tear his hair and sob in frustration when his brother took a tentative step forward, then another. Finally, when he was within three feet of Maedhros, he lifted a small hand – smaller than it ever was in his manhood – frail as a robin's wing, and with mild curiosity touched the elder's cheek. Maedhros remained still, staring with pursed lips. For he was slowly realising, with an expanding sense of horror, that his little brother did not recognise him.
The thin elf with vacuous, half-lidded eyes lifted his chin and said stupidly, "Aah?" and Maedhros thrust his hand away and stumbled back with a dismayed cry. Raising an arm over his chest as if to protect himself, he stared as Maglor – or this thing pretending to be Maglor – plumped to his knees like a child and began to hum to himself, idly drawing patterns on the sand with his fingers, as if his encounter with Maedhros had not occurred.
Maedhros was shocked. No, he was repulsed. Disgusted. He felt more disgusted than he did when he for the first time saw Maglor in the birthing chamber, wet and streaked with blood and spotted with what looked like lumpy wax, the twisted purple umbilical cord still stuck to his soft belly. Maedhros had been cowering behind a table in a corner, so revolted he could not rip his eyes away from the squirming, pink infant. There were some things that were too horrible to look away from.
His brother was a seasoned scholar! A hardened warrior! This could not be Maglor Fëanorion! In his blind distress Maedhros screamed, "Madness does not become you!" as if his brother could understand him and laugh at the desperate joke. Maedhros wanted him to laugh. He wanted him to laugh in his face and get up and dust his knees and say with the disdain of a prodigious artist, Oh Nelyo, do not be a fool, you philistine. Maglor had told him that before.
And he was, he was a fool, because oh fuck, oh fuck, I left him I left him Ilefthimlikethis fuckfuckfuck and Maglor was gaping at him vacantly, as if Maedhros was some kind of curiosity and he was not quite sure what to make of him yet. Maedhros briefly scanned the lines on the sand for any sign of a real pattern or intelligence and found neither. They were just squiggles, such as those a toddler might have made in his boredom.
"Can I bring him back to the ship like this?" he thought vaguely, and reached out and curled his fingers around his brother's upper arm.
That was a mistake.
Maglor's eyes darted, alarmed, from Maedhros' face to his hand – and then he tossed his head back, baring his convulsing neck, and uttered a keening wail, not unlike a wraith's, and Maedhros quickly let go and stuffed his fingers in his ears because, in the name of all the stars, his brother's voice was loud. As a baby Maglor was not fussy and cried little, but when he did, the vibrations would at times crack their father's precious stained-glass windows. It was very peculiar and not a little shocking. As Maglor matured into manhood his voice deepened and acquired a pleasant hint of huskiness, but it also attained a fantastic range which he controlled with exquisite accuracy. And if his little brother had lost that control, he had not lost his range.
Unable to bear the hideous noise, worse than the screech of nails on a chalkboard, Maedhros grudgingly used one hand to try to cover Maglor's mouth. Maglor scrambled away and ran towards the sea. Maedhros followed him. "For heaven's sake, shut up!" he cried, grabbing at his elusive brother. Maglor evaded him, surprisingly quick on his feet for someone so frail, and it was only with brute strength and the help of the forceful sea that Maedhros managed to tackle his brother to the soft sand beneath the waves. Maglor thrashed and struggled, his wails subsiding to pitiful grunts, and at length he choked on some salt-water and let out shuddering coughs. He smelled awful, rancid. Maedhros was reminded of rotting flesh. He wondered vaguely what his brother's insides looked like now, slippery crimson and black.
When a hand struck his jaw, unexpectedly hard, Maedhros made a hasty, rather thoughtless decision. He curled his right hand into a tight fist and rammed it forcefully into his brother's stomach. The body beneath him stiffened, shuddered, and finally went limp, and Maedhros dropped his head and breathed hard, chest heaving up and down, up and down. Sweat crawled down his cheeks in slow rivulets, and he shuddered. He had knocked Maglor unconscious once before, years ago. It was not an accident.
They were in the settlement in Hithlum his brothers had painstakingly set up after his capture. It was still in its early stages: an incomplete fortress made of grey stone, several tents dotting the area like olive-green turtle shells, the grass withering due to many stamping, hurrying feet. Soot, thick and soft and suffocating, first shooting up from furnaces and then drifting down again to dirty people's hands and faces. Stonemasons, tacticians, builders about, some of them singing as they worked to heighten their spirits, others swigging golden-brown ale while sitting on stools or coils of rope, gazing at the still, metallic sheen of Lake Mithrim's surface. It was a cacophony of hammering and chattering and music straying from georgic instruments.
Maedhros was almost healed in body, but he still wore a thick bandage over his stump. His mind was festering, going black around the edges, with the memories of Thangorodrim (there was too much pain to think while he was there), which he desperately, desperately wanted to forget but which treacherously crept into his thoughts whether he willed it or not. He and Maglor were strolling along the lake, as they sometimes did, to increase Maedhros' previously lost stamina. The long, pregnant silence between them was unbearable. Awful. Maglor kept throwing him furtive glances, lips pursed, looking like a kicked puppy, and Maedhros kept his head rigidly straight, pointedly ignoring the other. He didn't know why his brother insisted on these useless walks when neither spoke and in any case his legs now had strength aplenty.
When they neared a twisted old willow tree, its branches dipping lightly into the water, Maglor had turned to him, meek as a dormouse, and said quietly, with that infuriating, martyred look, "I will not ask you to forgive me." For leaving you in Morgoth's clutches. Maedhros had gone deathly still, peering hard into his brother's eyes, not to search for any emotion but to intimidate him. Then he growled, "Good, because I won't," and, with all his might, had smashed in Maglor's ribs with his metal-toed boot. There was a thud and spreading carmine and someone was screaming, and Maedhros had walked away without even glancing back.
They forgave each other anyway, because of the circumstances. Because that's what brothers did. Maedhros wondered if what he had done now was forgivable. It probably wasn't. But he couldn't think about that.
What would the Telerin elves do when they saw Maedhros carrying his brother inside the ship, so emaciated one could see his jutting skeleton? They would be appalled. They would try to throw him out, say it was not worth taking this excess, useless baggage back to the Blessed Realm. Or...or should Maedhros have considered bringing him back at all? What was there for Maglor in Valinor save mocking faces and barbed tongues? Was he unhappy here? No, likely not. But then he probably didn't know what the term unhappiness meant. It was a civilised word used by civilised people in a civilised language.
Almost as an afterthought, he abruptly turned his brother's hands upwards. They were vomitous, the skin like old, rumpled, brown paper, pus-yellow blisters that had refused to heal dotting the flesh like the spots on a fly agaric. His stomach churned, and he quickly placed his own hand over his mouth in order to stop the nausea.
Punching the wet sand, Maedhros gave a frustrated, angry cry. "Damn it all!" he yelled to the grey, cloud-strewn sky, serenely overlooking everything below, as it always did. "Do you not have mercy, Eru Ilúvatar?" His voice reached naught but the pale rays of the setting sun.
His eyes dropped to his brother's sallow face. Maglor's hair stuck to his cheeks like starved leeches, curled and thin and repellant.
They were shocked when he settled Maglor down gently in a large, comfortable chair by a window in the dining room. He sank in despite his negligible weight, and his head lolled unceremoniously to the side. It had not been too difficult for Maedhros to haul his form into his arms and carry him back to the ship. He was still in a faint, and some elves gathered 'round in a semi-circle with detached, thinly veiled interest, maintaining a safe distance from Maedhros, who at length turned around and said, "Tell someone to draw a bath in my chamber." No one moved. Maedhros was growing annoyed with their scepticism. "For heaven's sake, go!" he snapped. They were afraid of him. They scampered off.
Before Maedhros did anything else, though, he asked for a sharp kitchen-knife, which was handed to him with hesitation by another elf, and swiftly cut off Maglor's long, matted hair at the neck, creating a coarse, rather unappealing effect. He grimaced. He decided he could fix the crude style later. Wrapping the chopped locks into a ball, he contemplated throwing it away, then, after a moment, discreetly tucked it into his satchel.
The chamber he was given was rather small, boasting but a low bed, a tiny bedside table, a window, and a stool, and the wooden tub scarcely fit in the remaining space. Maedhros peeled off his brother's clothes, which stuck to him like a second skin, and cast them onto the floor in disgust, noting briefly his own need for a bath but brushing it off. Gingerly, he picked his brother up and placed him in the tub, which was filled with beautifully hot water, suffused with the sweet scent of helichrysum. In a short moment of liberty, Maedhros breathed deep and sighed blissfully, the quirk of a smile on his lips.
Making sure Maglor's head stayed above the water, he began the arduous process of cleaning him. He took a hair cleanser and scrubbed the dirt from his brother's rough locks, grimacing at the rivulets of filth that trickled down his back. Then, he gently massaged a wet, soapy cloth over Maglor's face, neck, toes, and the rest of him, watching the skin turn from brown-grey to its original cream-white (Bless the kind soul who invented soap, he thought vaguely), with a growing, odd sense of familiarity. He had, of course, seen all his brothers naked before – more times than he could care to count. He was surprised to feel an affectionate sort of possessiveness, an idea that he alone had the right to invade Maglor's privacy in such an intimate manner, and realised he had not felt this in a long time.
Nearly an hour later, when he was done and Maglor, now dry and looking more worthy of cultured society, lay on the bed, wrapped in a soft, beige bathrobe, Maedhros stretched and arched his back in satisfaction and tiredness. He had rubbed salve, given to him in Valinor by his mother, over his brother's hands, and hopefully that would help the pain.
He looked at him again. Maglor's poor, shorn head gave him the look of a Man, and Maedhros wrinkled his nose at the thought. It was a reminder of mortality, of the fact that life could, in fact, end. It was a concept he was only too familiar with, but Men died like flies whether they were slain or not...
It will grow back.
He had to wait for Maglor to wake up before he could feed him. His own appetite rather gone, Maedhros did not eat his supper, but sat by his brother's side on the bed, idly turning the pages of a slim volume of verse to pass the time, which seemed to have slowed with the late evening. Presently his mind drifted, and he wondered how his brother had for so long survived on this harrowingly lonely, forsaken shore. He must have acted on a primal instinct to eat and to wash, foraging the beach and the nearby forest for berries, fruits and dead animals. Maedhros' stomach clenched in guilt and pity, and he grimaced and forced his attention on his reading.
Eventually, dark eyes slowly opened and there was a low groan of discomfort. Maglor squirmed unfamiliar environment before turning his gaze to Maedhros. "Has he grown tame?" Maedhros thought, not moving for fear of startling his brother and causing another distressing wrestle. Apparently, he had. Maglor sat up with some difficulty, his arms trembling with the effort of supporting his weight, placed his hands in his lap, and lowered his eyes.
Maedhros regarded him, and after putting his book down anxiously wrung his hands for a while. Then he picked up a spoon and began to feed his brother warm milk and honey, which he had earlier filched from the kitchen. Maglor had grown surprisingly placid, and drank without complaint, though he was clumsy and uncoordinated, like an infant. Occasionally Maedhros had to wipe away with his finger a spatter of milk from his younger brother's chin.
When the cup was empty Maedhros placed it on the bedside table and tentatively stroked the other elf's damp locks. The light from the candles around the room lazily flicked across their faces. "You are such a child," he muttered softly. "Are you always going to need me to take care of you? To stop you from drowning in your gloomy, artist's thoughts? Mother always said you were too morose." As if in reply, Maglor reached out and grasped a strand of Maedhros' loose hair, tugged downwards. He thrust upon him a look so blank and yet so pleading that Maedhros pulled him into an embrace, fiercely desiring to give him warmth, and wanted – wanted to cry. His chest grew tight. What do I do? How is he going to live this way? Oh, Námo, tell me...
He stiffened, then slowly pulled away from Maglor, looked closely at the impassive, thin face with pursed lips. No. No, no, no. He could not, he could not.
Suddenly filled with loathing, Maedhros gave a great shout and pushed in the chest his brother – who merely blinked in mild surprise – and began to pace restlessly back and forth, back and forth, in the ludicrously small space. He turned to Maglor and cried with hot anger, "You stupid, pathetic idiot! I wish I had never come here! How could I ever love this senseless sack of bones with no memories to speak of?" Then he sat heavily on his stool, put his face in his hands, and wept like he had not passed his tenth summer. He imagined Maglor's fëa in Námo's Halls, then his new form in Lórien, then...
Vehemently shaking his head, he muttered lowly to himself, his words like some kind of dark chant, "I loathe you, I loathe you, I loathe, loathe, loathe you." And then fresh, hot tears spurted down his cheeks, and he buried his face further in his palms in shame, because he could not love anyone more.
He tried to steel himself, drag the weakness from his flesh through sheer will, foundered. But he had to succeed, for there was no other way. His fingers twitched. He had not killed in a long time.
Maedhros raised his head, closed his eyes, and made a desolate, silent prayer to the Valar for aid.
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.