Actions

Work Header

Your Face In The Clouds

Chapter Text

It was going to be a rainy day. The sun was hidden behind a billow of ugly, grey clouds. They weren’t of the dark and threatening kind, but more the sort of clouds that would immediately incite profound annoyance if one were to look at them, simply because they meant it was going to be a rainy day. It was in annoyance then that the man with the sword looked up at the sky.

‘It’s horribly unfair, you know’, said another man. The Man with the Sword turned at the sound and raised one of his eyebrows sceptically.

‘I know, I know life is unfair. All the more reason to be fair to those around you, don’t you think?’ asked the Other Man.

‘What do you want?’

‘Those clouds have never willfully hurt you in your life and yet you look at them as if you want to stab them. Which isn’t much use, by the way. Stabbing clouds.’

‘What do you want?’ The Man with the Sword was now contemplating stabbing his companion. The Other Man smiled as if he knew that and looked up at the unfairly treated clouds. The Man with the Sword followed his gaze and they stayed like that for a while, before the Other Man spoke again in severe tones.

‘I need a new sword.’ The Man with the Sword closed his eyes.

‘I know.’

‘Will you...my people...’

‘Yes.’

They fell silent again. After a while the Man with the Sword went inside, the Other following closely. Outside, it started raining.

Chapter Text

Maglor arrived at his brother’s fortress two days late. Later they would say he had been just in time, but he wasn’t. For in those two days his Gap was turned into fields of ash and his horsemen into grilled meat, and him and the rest of his people were now no more than fugitives on top of all the other hundreds Himring couldn’t really handle. Maedhros would try his best though. They all would.

His people had run all the way to Himring. He’d made them run. The children en wounded were placed on the few horses they still had and he bade them run, run or die in flames. They were almost there when the orcs came and running became fighting. Heavily outnumbered, Maglor and what was left of his troups had tried to defend their people, but left and right they fell. He was crying by the time Maedhros reached them and then cried some more, for his brother had come for him, a twisted echo of all times Maedhros would come for his hurt brothers in Valinor.

Maglor shook his head. They were here and they were safe, for now. It was no use dwelling on the past. He looked around the hall his wandering had brought him to. It was small, one of the passages between two of the towers of Himring’s inner circle. On his left, large rosary windows looked out over a small courtyard. There were few of them in the castle, as his brother would never sacrifice safety and practicality for beauty. He knew his bother loved them, though. In their home in Tirion, Maedhros would sometimes stand in front of the rosary windows for hours, watching as Laurelin's light filtered in through the coloured glass. Maglor smiled at the thought. This hall was empty now, and formed a stark contrast to all the others in the castle, cramped as they were with people from all places seeking refuge behind the supposedly impenetrable walls of Himring. They weren’t impenetrable, but Maglor would not be the one to tell them that. Let them regain some hope. He blinked twice and continued the search for his brother.

 

Himring was a maze of stone walls and after hundreds of years he still hated its "strategic construction." After an hour he gave up on his search only to find his brother standing on a balcony when he was actually looking for his own quarters. The balcony formed a lookout over the hills, which were crowded with orcs laying siege on the fortress. Yet Maedhros was looking at the sky and muttering to himself, his longsword at his belt. Maglor followed his gaze, and realized his brother was in need of comfort just as much as he was. He contemplated his words for a minute, then stepped out onto the balcony.

'It’s horribly unfair, you know', he said. His brother turned around, with both relief and scepticism showing on his face. He opened his mouth, but Maglor spoke again.

'I know, I know. Life is unfair.' For a moment the past hung between them. Maedhros turned to look at the sky again, decidedly ignoring the armies on the hills. Maglor attempted a smile.

'All the more reason to be fair to those around you, don’t you think?' Maedhros looked puzzled and tired.

'What do you want?', he said rather brusquely.

'Those clouds have never willfully hurt you in your life and yet you look at them as if you want to stab them. Which isn’t much use, by the way. Stabbing clouds.'

'What do you want?' his brother asked again, this time with fond annoyance. Maglor feigned innocence, mischief twinkling in his eyes. Maedhros looked at him then, and a small smile worked its way across his face. Maglor smiled back and looked up at the grey clouds above them finding comfort in his brother’s presence. For a moment, things were alright.

A sound from the hills drew them back to the present. Maglor’s face fell. He opened his mouth to speak and closed it again.

'I need a new sword', he said at last. Maedhros closed his eyes in sorrow, knowing the meaning behind those words.

'I know', he said, his eyes still closed.

'Will you…my people.' Maglor couldn’t find his words. Maedhros turned around then and grabbed him by the shoulder. He looked his younger brother in the eye and smiled.

'Yes.' Or I will die trying. Maglor could hear the unspoken promise in his voice and leaned into his brother’s embrace. Maglor looked up at the clouds.

'Let’s get inside. It will rain soon.'

 

Maedhros looked out over the hills, the beautiful sunrise clashing with the black smoke rising from Morgoth’s armies. They weren’t attacking yet, which was good for now, but he knew Morgoth was trying to starve them out. For centuries, he had prepared Himring and its surroundings forexactly this situation. Yet he was worried now. The fortress contained thrice as many people as usual, most of them had nothing left and were wounded. Morgoth’s armies had free passage into Beleriand through the Pass of Aglon and the Gap and he knew Morgoth would attack the moment he realised Himring would not fall without brute force. He dreaded the day that would happen. He had seen how little was left of his brother’s forces, how none of Lothlann’s riders had made it out without severe injuries. He was glad he was here now. No word had reached him form the rest of his family. A knock on his door shook him from his thoughts.

'My lord?'

'Yes.'

'Lord Maglor awaits your presence in the main hall.'

The main hall was, as expected, full of people. There were his own, the remnants of Maglor’s people, Avari from surrounding hills and Sindar from the north of Himlad, and Secondborn who used to live between Maglor’s and Maedhros fortresses. All of them stood up at his entrance, looking at him with hope in their eyes. He would hate to crush that hope. On the dais, Maglor rose from his seat as well and bowed in greeting. Maedhros smiled at him and turned to face the crowd.

'Welcome, all those who are new to these halls. I wish it would be a warmer welcome, but a welcome it is. Me and my people will do our best to accommodate you, yet I have to ask you to abide to the houserules. We are facing dark times. The castle is under Siege, and thus we are under constant threat of attack. Himring was built to withstand such a siege, but so are its organisations and I will not tolerate any disruptions. Therefore, you do not fight, however justified the cause. You do not question the healers. You do not question the cooks and you do not question Erestor, chief of Himring’s household. In that way there will be medical aid, food and accommodation for everyone.'

'But do not despair! Himring’s defences are strong and so are you. You already got this far, were so many others did not. Yes, we will face dark times, but that only means we will have to create our own light, our own warmth. In the end, this shadow is only a passing thing. Nothing lasts forever, even darkness must pass. A new day will come, and when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. ‘Aure entuluva!'

Grateful cheers erupted from the crowd. And all Feänorians answered their lord:

'I lómë autuva!'

Maglor then went to stand beside his brother and raised his hand, and all went quiet. He laid a hand on his brother’s shoulder and Maedhros’ gave him a grateful smile. Then, in a soft, low voice he began to sing. It was a song of hope and grief. It honoured those who had fallen, but also was a promise of comfort and better days to come. Maedhros closed his eyes and let him lose himself in his brother’s voice. Aure entuluva, he thought. Day will come again.

Chapter Text

It was at sunset that the white towers of Barad Eithel appeared into view. The last rays of Arien's light coloured the clouds a warm mix of purple, red and orange, which reminded Maedhros of the sunsets in Formenos. But the thought didn’t last long. Unlike in Valinor, the marks of war were visible throughout the place. In the north you could see the now scorched plain of Ardgalen, and surrounding Barad Eithel were several burial mounds, which were created when there were too many dead people to bury within the walls. Each of the barrows was covered in small, white flowers and on the hilltops were cairns of stones to mark the graves. Maedhros ripped his gaze away. Barad Eithel still stood and right now, that was all that mattered.

Once within the walls, him and his company dismounted and they were immediately greeted by countless stable boys and girls who were to take care of their horses. Maedhros handed the reigns of his own horse to a particularly young girl and began his walk up the stairs to the halls of the king. While soldiers lined the walls, the marketplace was crowded with people. Street vendors where shouting to sell their wares and all around people where chatting and gossiping. Smells of food mixed with the scent of blooming flowers and they reminded Maedhros of life in a way he had almost forgotten.

‘My lord?’ Maedhros looked up the stairs to see one of Fingon’s counsellors coming towards him.

‘The king is not in the main hall. He is at the training grounds.’ Maedhros nodded.

‘Thank you’, he said and he went through the halls to courtyard where Fingon usually trained.

He found him at the arching grounds, surrounded by several high ranking soldiers training alongside their king. He bowed deeply, as a loyal vassal should, and curtsied. He hated the formalities, but he knew they were necessary. Many people here still bore a grudge towards him for the Helcaraxë, he didn’t think they would like him more if he greeted their well-respected king by something along the lines of: ‘Hey Finno, long time no see. How are you doing? You know, I saw a fox the other day. He stole my food just like you always steal Káno’s dumplings when he’s not looking.’ He smiled to himself and rose to his feet. Fingon smiled back.

‘Lord Maedhros’, he said, ‘care to aid me in my training?’

‘With archery?’ he answered sceptically, before he could help himself. He saw the other soldiers wince slightly. Fingon just laughed.

‘No, with sword fighting. That is, if you are not too tired. How was the journey?’

‘It was quite all right, all things considered. We encountered some orcs in the north of Neldoreth, but none of us were harmed.’

‘Good to hear.’

They fell silent and walked to the training yard. Maedhros took off his heavy cloak and moved to the centre of the area. Fingon scrutinized him.

‘Are you sure? You look tired. Perhaps we should go and have dinner instead.’ Maedhros unsheathed his sword and smiled.

‘It’s just training. I’ll take you up on the offer after. Hopefully all your kingly duties have not had a bad impact on your fighting skills.’ Fingon raised his eyebrows and unsheathed his own sword. A challenge like that could not be left unanswered. He lunged forward and Maedhros immediately parried the blow, only to attack his left side. Fingon blocked it with ease and he smiled as they fell into a familiar rhythm, the sounds of their swords clanging together ringing through the courtyard. Their movements were fast and elegant and what was to them a friendly match, seemed to the other soldiers a beautiful, violent dance. Many paused their own training to watch the Lord of Himring and the High King fight, until the sun had set completely and at last they retired.

 

Fingon’s private quarters where high up in the largest tower and as he was climbing the stairs, Maedhros realised that training right after several days of horse riding might not have been the best of his ideas. With sore legs, he arrived at the door of Fingon’s room. He knocked twice.

‘Fingon? It’s me.’

‘Come in.’

Fingon was standing with his back to the door, staring out of a large window that looked out over Ardgalen. Maedhros couldn’t see his face, but he saw worry in the set of his shoulders. He softly closed the door behind him and moved to stand beside Fingon. Maedhros looked at the desolate plain.

‘Anfauglith’, Fingon whispered. ‘A fitting name. I wish it weren’t.’ Maedhros laid his hand on his shoulder.

‘Staring at it will not make it greener’, he said with a crooked smile. Fingon huffed and turned around, leaning against the windowsill.

‘I have to keep watch.’

‘You have soldiers. It’s no good spending your days staring out the window.’

‘No. Perhaps I should use a balcony instead, while wearing my most majestic winter cloak.’ Maedhros rolled his eyes.

‘Did Maglor write to you?’ He asked. Fingon smiled.

‘He did, which means I know that you have no right to lecture me about staring solemnly into the distance.’

‘Finno!’

Fingon laughed, his worry momentarily forgotten. He walked to the fireplace and motioned for Maedhros to sit, before taking place on a large chair himself.

‘How are the others?’

‘Makalaurë is doing alright, although the loss of his people still weighs heavily on him. But he has stopped singing laments to the dead, so that is a good sign. Those songs were enough to get anyone sad.’

‘I suppose sad songs are better than none at all, when it comes to Maglor.’

‘I don’t think he’ll ever stop singing. Have you heard anything from Nargothrond by the way? I know Celegorm and Curufin are there, and supposedly safe, but I have not heard from them in a while. Celebrimbor send me a message a few months ago, but it was mostly about new methods for forging weapons and the like. I have a feeling something is brewing, but I don’t know what.’

‘Other than necessary correspondence, I have not heard much. Finrod mentioned they would be staying there for quite some time, but I have no details. And if they are not writing you, they certainly aren’t writing me. But I can send out an inquiry to Finrod about them. They are your brothers though, you know them. Most likely Curufin is too wrapped in one of his projects to send a message.’

Maedhros nodded, but he wasn’t convinced.

‘Caranthir regularly reports to me. The Ambarussa too. They are recovering from the war better than most. Amon Ereb is a proper stronghold now, and Caranthir is doing his best to ensure safe trade routes to the Dwarven Kingdoms. Ambarto says they have their hands full with it, Ossiriand is filled with orcs. But I think it’s for a good cause. The more allies the better, now that we lost Tol Sirion. And I doubt Doriath will ever come to our aid’, he spoke, with a hint of regret in his voice.

‘I know.’

‘Anything from Turgon?’

‘No. Nothing.’

Fingon fell silent then, and moved to take the crown off his head. Maedhros followed his movements as he placed it carefully on the mantel of the hearth. They both stared at it for a while.

‘I never wanted this.’

‘Finno…’

‘It should have been yours, I was never meant to be king. You always know what to do anyway.’

‘You know why I gave it away. We’ve talked about this before. I was in no shape to rule, and your people would not have listened anyway. This way we could heal at least some of the rift between our people.’

‘I know, I know.’

‘And I don’t always know what to do.’

‘Yes you do.’

‘No I don’t.’

‘Yes you do.’

Maedhros let out an exasperated sigh, characteristic for an elder brother fed up with his siblings. Fingon laughed, and Maedhros smiled at him. They spoke no more of war that night, and found comfort in each other’s silent company,  as the warm sound of the crackling fire filled the room.

Chapter Text

The cold was ruthless. The wind was howling through the cracks in the walls and outside, the storm raged on and on, as if the heavens themselves had decided they would make war on the earth. Maglor closed his eyes. Each clap of thunder resonated through his entire body, yet no storm could compare to his brother’s ire. Maedhros’ voice roared through the castle as he flung curse word after curse word at his brothers’ heads. There was fire in his eyes and Maglor reminded himself not the first time this evening why orcs ran from his brother on sight. In vain, Celegorm tried to reason with him and Curufin just stood there with his hands clenched into fists, his face white with anger and regret. Maglor looked over at Caranthir, who pressed his fingers to his temples. The Ambarussa were standing next to the dais, intently watching the proceedings.

‘What in the bleeding hell where you thinking?’ Maedhros yelled again. ‘You war-mongering idiots! You will be the dead of us all one day and once again I am left with the mess you made. How am I ever going to convince Nargothrond to come to our aid, let alone Doriath?’

‘Nelyo, the Oath…’

‘The Oath? Was the Oath an excuse to send our cousin to his death? Or assault Luthíen? Has there not been enough death at our hands? You could have waited, you could have talked to them!’

‘They were going after the Silmarils!’

Maedhros punched Celegorm full in the face. The sound resonated through the room, and for a moment all was silent except for the storm outside. Celegorm carefully touched his lips. Blood trickled down his face and he looked up at his brother in astonishment and regret.

‘Maitimo, I…’

‘No.’

‘Please.’

‘No. Don’t say another word, you…’ Maglor quickly stepped between his brothers to prevent any more violence.

‘There’s enough of that.’ Maglor placed his hands on his brother’s shoulders to hold him back. ‘Turkafinwë, Curufinwë, I think it is best if you left the room for now’, he said, ‘Carnistir, go with them and get a healer to look at Turko’s face.’

Celegorm and Curufin quickly left the room, Caranthir following closely behind. With a nod from Maglor, the Ambarussa disappeared into the shadows. He needed to talk to Nelyo alone right now. He wrapped his arms round his brother in comfort.

‘Alright Nelyo, breathe.’ Maedhros took a deep, ragged breath and shook his head in despair.

‘Why does everything always fall apart? No matter how hard I’m trying.’

‘This isn’t your fault and you know it.’

‘But it is. If I had never sworn that oath I…’ Maglor looked him sternly in the eye.

‘If you had never sworn that oath, they might still have done so regardless. None of us knew what we were doing then. Besides, you said it yourself, the Oath is no excuse for what they did.’

Maedhros sat down at the wooden table in the centre of the room and put his head in his hands.

‘No it isn’t, not for everything. But you saw them. They regretted at least part of the whole episode. I don’t want to think the Oath can have that much effect on us after it has been sleeping for so long, but I don’t want to believe they did everything with a conscious mind either. And father did go insane.’

‘Nelyo!’ Maglor hissed.

‘It’s true though. We were blind to it, or we wanted to be blind, but he went insane, the Oath was insane and I am not sure will we stay sane either.’

Maglor sighed and threw his hands up in exasperation.

‘And then what do you want us to do? Lock ourselves up in our rooms so we won’t do any harm?’

Maedhros almost looked as if he was contemplating exactly that.

‘I don’t know, Káno. I don’t know. If the Oath really is that strong…’

‘If the Oath really is that strong we won’t be able to do anything about it anyway. Nelyo, we have a war to fight, a war to win.’

‘A war to win with a lot less soldiers.’

‘So what? Are you going to call off the entire alliance just because Nargothrond won’t join us anymore? You know Morgoth is going to attack eventually. It’s why you came up with the plan in the first place. After so much planning we can’t just…’

‘I know, I know’, Maedhros interrupted. He took a deep breath.  ‘I’m just worried. It has to work. It so desperately has to work. Beleriand depends on it.’

‘It will. I have faith in you.’

A small smile formed on Maedhros’ lips.

‘Who made you the eldest?’ He said.

‘Well I do have five younger brothers. Speaking of which, we should go check up on them. While your rage was not unfounded, we need to hear their story too.’

Maedhros furrowed his brows.

‘I suppose you’re right.’

 

Caranthir leaned in the doorway of the infirmary and watched as the healer tended to Celegorm’s head wound. He looked over at Curufin to try and discern his thoughts, but his face revealed nothing. Curufin had been eerily silent since they arrived here, letting Celegorm do the talking. He supposed it had something to do with Celebrimbor, who was notably absent from their party. Caranthir decided he wouldn’t ask about that particular detail. When the healer had left the room, Caranthir rose up and closed the door behind him. He looked at his brothers. They looked like beaten dogs. Dogs. Suddenly he noticed another figure was remarkably absent.

‘Where’s Huan?’ he asked. Celegorm snorted and looked the other way.

‘Didn’t those letters say anything about that?’ Curufin sneered. Caranthir gave him an annoyed look.

‘No they didn’t, which is why I am asking, seeing as you weren’t inclined to tell me.’

‘Oh like you want to know what we have to say about it. You probably think we are traitors and maniacs now too, just like Nelyo.’

‘Curufinwë…’

‘He didn’t even give us the chance to explain!’

‘He had a right to be angry! You practically tried to usurp Nargothrond! Nelyo’s lost a good part of his military support because of it!’

‘But we didn’t mean to!’ Curufin yelled through the room. He closed his eyes in frustration. His next words came out in a whisper.

‘We really didn’t. Well at the moment we did but…’ He took a ragged breath and shook his head.

‘I don’t now how to explain it, Moryo, the Oath…it was like poison. The moment Beren started talking about taking a Silmaril, it was as if a dark fog settled over our minds, whispering in our ears. We didn’t know what we were doing until it was done.’

‘We really didn’t, Moryo, please believe us.’ Celegorm looked at him pleadingly. Caranthir sighed.

‘I don’t know what to believe, Turko. I don’t want to know the oath is that strong.’

‘So you’ll condemn your brothers instead?’ Curufin spoke, with an accusing tone in his voice.

‘Surely you could have send someone with Ingoldo…’

‘What were we to do? He was going on a suicide mission. Even if the Oath hadn’t held us back, it would have been foolish to send people after him. They would have died. All of them. Nothing we said could deter him from his decision.’

‘But still…’

‘What’s done is done. ’ Amrod appeared in the doorway, his twin at his side.

‘He’s right. What’s done is done. We can’t change anything about it, so move on and try not to make the same mistake again.’ Amras provided. ‘We need to stay together.’ His words were an unspoken reminder of Alqualondë.

‘We need to stay together. It’s how we survive.’

Chapter Text

It was early in the afternoon. Here in this small clearing, the sun shone through the canopy of trees with a brightness as if she wanted to tell the forest she had not been beaten yet. Elsewhere in the forest there was no more light than during twilight. Combined with the fear of being ambushed any second, and the cries of the wounded and panicked people, it made for a depressing setting. Maglor was glad then that he had found this spot. The air was clean here, free from the rank smells of blood and gore and war and death. He breathed in deeply and looked up. With the sun on his face, the roof of leaves above him almost made him feel safe, even though he knew that was a dangerous thought. Orcs would attack regardless. Suddenly the silence was disturbed by the rustling of leaves. Maglor quickly turned around, his sword drawn.

‘Relax, it’s me.’

Curufin emerged from the trees into the clearing. He looked pointedly at Maglor’s still drawn sword. Maglor quickly sheathed it.

‘What is it? Am I needed?’ he asked.

‘Not necessarily. I was just wondering where you were.’ And so where your people, he thought, but he did not say it out loud. It must have shown on his face, however, for Maglor sighed.

‘I know I should be there, but…’ He shook his head. ‘I needed to get out of the camp. Too many people, too many dead, too many sounds… I just needed fresh air.’

‘We all do. But it’s dangerous to wander off alone. You would think your younger brother would not be the one to have to tell you that.’ Curufin gave him a lopsided smile.

Maglor turned to look at Curufin. His bother looked strangely healthy for someone who had recently fought battle after battle and then spent several weeks in the wilderness. There was still energy left in him, that Maglor could no longer find within himself. He had a strange glint in his eyes however. He scrutinized him some more, before asking:

‘Curufin, are you all right?’

Curufin started.

‘As well as I could be. Why? It’s not me you have to worry about. I’m not the one stalking off into the forest like you or holding bitter monologues about doom’, he said brusquely. Maglor looked at him sideways.

‘Nelyo is not doing better then? He seemed like it.’

Curufin snorted. ‘When there’s other people around perhaps. He is quite a good actor. But no, he’s not doing better. He keeps muttering to himself, blaming himself.’

Maglor felt a pang of guilt at those words. He should have known that. But the past weeks had been hectic. He had spent so much time going from tent to tent to help the healers and to sing, anything to make his people, their people feel better, that he had barely spoken with his brothers since the battle.

‘He shouldn’t blame himself. He has done nothing wrong.’ Maglor looked up at the sudden anger in Curufin’s voice. ‘Doriath only send two people. Two! Against thousands. What were we supposed to do with that?’

‘Curufin…’

‘Surely Thingol knew how important it was that we succeeded, and not just for our own sake but for the entirety of Beleriand! Or maybe Melian knew. Thingol was probably too much of a peacock and too busy parading the Silmaril around that is rightfully ours.’

Maglor sighed. ‘What’s done is done, Curvo. We can hardly go back in time. Not to mention that you and Celegorm were the main reason Thingol would not fight with us.’

‘Is that a reason to let thousands of other people die?’

Maglor opened his mouth and closed it again. Curufin was right there.

‘One day he will fall all the way down from his high throne, and if he doesn’t, I’ll make him fall.’ Curufin breathed heavily. The strange glint in his eyes had turned to fire and Maglor was strongly reminded of their father when he took the Oath. He shuddered. He suddenly wanted to get away from his brother very badly.

‘I’m going back to camp’, he said and before Curufin could answer, he turned around and walked out of the clearing back into the darkness.

 

Maedhros looked at his scarred hand. He chuckled bitterly at the sight. Of his nails, only three were left and his entire hand was covered in grime and crusted blood. He raised his other arm next to his left, and looked at the stump of his right arm, tracing the scars. Fingon’s song quietly wormed its way into his head. He closed his eyes.

The cold was menacing. He could feel how the dry air was making his skin crack and his lungs ache. He had hoped he would get used to the pain, but it was only interrupted when he blacked out, and each time he woke up again he felt much, much worse than before. With effort, he managed to open his eyes. He might as well have kept them shut. The foul mists of Thangorodrim prevented him to see further than a few meters away from him. A crow sat on a ridge beside him, no doubt wondering what an elf was doing up there. Maedhros suddenly burst into laughter at the thought, until his body spasmed in pain and tears were rolling down his face. Startled, the crow had flown away.

Maedhros opened his eyes and fervently shook his head as if to shake away his memories. He was no longer there. Fingon had saved him. He only had one hand. Maedhros snorted at the bitter irony. Sometimes the only way to remind himself where he was, was to check whether he had one or two hands. The relief he felt when he realised it was only one, was always followed by deep regret. If only he had been more careful, Fingon never would have had to cut off his hand. If only he had been more careful and a little more patient, Fingon wouldn’t have ridden to his death, Barad Eithel might still stand and Himring might still be safe. Maedhros felt the tears run down his face.

‘I’m sorry Finno, I’m sorry’, he whispered. ‘I’m sorry’, he repeated, over and over again.

It was in that state that Caranthir found him in his tent an hour later, his lips still moving.

‘Nelyo?’ He called, but Maedhros gave no sign that he had heard him. Caranthir slowly moved to stand in front of him.

‘Nelyo’, he called again. Maedhros was startled from his daze and looked up at his brother.

‘Moryo,  I…’ he tried, but he could not find any words. With his head he gestured at his left hand and the right that wasn’t there. Caranthir didn’t need any words. He crouched down in front of him and took Maedhros’ hand in his.

‘Let’s get you cleaned up, shall we?’ Without taking his eyes of his brother, he walked towards the corner of the tent and grabbed a washcloth and  a small basin with water from the ground and placed them between him and his brother.

‘Give me your hand.’ Maedhros obeyed, and Caranthir started washing it thoroughly, making sure all the dirt was gone from under his nails. He heard Maedhros take a deep, shaky breath.

‘It’s all right, Nelyo, I’m here’, he said. Maedhros gave him a brittle smile. Caranthir resumed his washing and for a while there was only the sound of splashing water between them. Once finished, Caranthir let go of his hand and sat back on his knees.

‘Better?’ Maedhros turned his hand around a few times, before answering without taking his eyes of his hand.

‘Much better. Thank you.’ He clenched and unclenched his fist a few times, then looked at Caranthir with a genuine smile.

‘So, Moryo, and how has your day been so far?’ It wasn’t a good joke, all things considered, but if there was one person who appreciated his dark humour, it was Caranthir. His laugher rang through the tent, and Maedhros smiled at the sound. In the back of his mind, he could still hear Fingon singing.

Chapter Text

Not for the first time in his life, he realised they had made a very big mistake. By now they were supposed to be in the main hall, with Dior realising he was overpowered and giving them the Silmaril. Instead they were scattered about the many tunnels and hallways of Menegroth, fighting for their lives. Caranthir barely managed to hold his ground, let alone gain some. All around him there were the screams of the wounded and the sounds of battle. Left and right soldiers fell. His brothers were nowhere to be seen, and there were more and more Doriathrim coming towards him. He did not spare them a glance, did not wánt to spare them a glance as he cut his kinsmen down, not until there where only three guards left against him and four of his people.

‘You will never get out of here alive, you filthy kinslayer!’ one of them said. Blood was running down his face, and he favoured his right leg. Caranthir looked at him. He was young, he realised, very young. Too young.

‘Step aside boy’, he said, ‘we do not want to cause unnecessary harm.’ He grimaced as he said it. It was a bit too late for that now.

The young guard didn’t move, and raised his sword in a challenge.

‘Step aside boy’, he tried again, when suddenly there came someone from his left. Too late he raised his own sword, but right before his opponents sword came down on his neck, he fell with an arrow protruding from his neck. Soon the three guards lay dead on the ground, with arrows sticking from their bodies. Caranthir quickly turned around, only to find Celegorm and his archers in the hallway.

‘Do you want to die, brother? Now is not the time to be nice.’ Celegorm stomped towards him. Caranthir looked at the face of the young guard, now dead with an arrow through his eye.

‘They were young.’

‘Yes.’ Celegorms voice was impassive, and betrayed no emotion. ‘Take some of my men. We heard rumours the Silmaril is with Nimloth. They are fleeing towards the southern gate. I will go to the main hall, you search the lower parts.’

The Silmaril. Suddenly it was the only thing he heard. They were so close. He nodded at his brother and he barked orders at his soldiers. He did not spare the young guard another  glance.

 

They were all doomed, Maglor realised, as he cut down another soldier like he would cut down an orc. He probably should have known when Mandos proclaimed it, but after this? Doomed to the void and back. He looked up at his older brother beside him, his sword moving in perfect sync with Maglor’s own dual wielding swords, his face set in a grim line. Maedhros’ eyes shone dangerously bright. Like the Silmaril, Maglor thought bitterly as he looked at his blood stained clothes.

A horn sounded from somewhere, and suddenly the soldiers they were facing retreated and fled through the labyrinth that was Menegroth. Maedhros let out a frustrated grunt as they now found themselves alone in a tunnel with no idea where they were and where to go.

‘Shall we split up?’ Maglor suggested.

‘No. We would be outnumbered during a sneak attack.’ Maedhros whiped his sword off on his clothes. ‘Think. What would you do with a Silmaril if you were attacked? You either hide it, or send it away.’

‘If he has hidden it, we will starve in this damned place before we find it.’ The bitterness of his thoughts resounded in his words. Maedhros opened his mouth to reply, when someone blew another horn. The sound rang through the halls. Maglor looked at his brother with wide eyes.

‘Curufin! He is in trouble.’

The horn was blown again.

‘This way!’ Maedhros pointed at the hall to their left and together they sprinted through the halls, hoping to find their brother in time.

 

The nursery was empty now, save for Nimloth, her daughter, the cook and a few maids, who were frantically trying to open the door in the back of the room.

‘Mama!’ Elwing cried. ‘It won’t open!’

‘Calm down, sweetie, we will get you out of here.’ It sounded weak to her own ears, but she had to try. In the distance she could hear people scream and the sounds of swords clinging together. The others were frantically discussing how to get out.

‘Try to kick it or something?’

‘An iron door? How do you think that will work?’

‘Does nobody have the key?’

‘Dior has it, and Silwë. She was supposed to be here by now’, Nimloth answered her people. They all fell silent. She did not need to say what they were all thinking.

‘The kitchens. I have the key of the back door there’, one of the maids said.

‘We will have to go through the fighting then.’

‘Yes’, Nimloth said. ‘We will.’ She drew her sword and walked towards the entrance of the nursery.

‘Siread, keep Elwing close to you. When I say run, we run. Everyone with weapons: we will guard the others. Now go!’ Together they bolted out of the nursery, running towards the kitchens.

They were barely out of the nursery and into the fray, when they heard a shout behind them.

‘There! Follow them!’ A group of soldiers with the Feänorian star blazing on their chests came after them like starving wolves, with the dark prince at the front.

‘Hurry up!’ Nimloth shouted. They had almost reached the kitchen doors when the first soldiers came upon them. The cook managed to kill two before falling dead to the ground herself. Nimloth looked over her shoulder and saw Siraed and her daughter looking at her in fear.

‘Mama!’ She yelled. ‘Mama, don’t go!’

‘Siread, get her to safety!’ She yelled, and with immense effort she ripped her gaze away towards the grim scene in front of her. The dark prince came to her with fire in his eyes, sword raised. Her blood was singing with protective rage for her children, for her people. With a roar she lunged at the prince, like a lioness defending her cubs. Caranthir barely had time to block her blow, but quickly regained his footing and attacked her sides. Their fight was a dance of death, both of them knowing that even if they won this fight they would probably soon die in another one.  At last, Caranthir found an opening and with as much strength as he could muster, he brought his sword down on the queen’s head. It hit the ground with a thump and Caranthir sank to his knees. Blood was running down his face and down his hands. He looked up, just in time to see Elwing slip through the back door with the Silmaril in her hands. He laughed as he felt the Oath take the last of his sanity and without hesitation, he threw himself on his sword.

In another room, Celegorm died with Dior’s sword in his chest, reaching for Curufin’s cold dead hands.