10. Chapter 9: Forging Swords
"What did my father do to you, to get you to teach him about forging swords?" Fingon asked softly.
"Nothing," Maedhros answered. "I was willing."
"Liar," said Fingon. He ran a gentle finger over the soft tears on his friend's cheek. "That's not nothing."
"No," said Maedhros, falling further into the warmth of Fingon's embrace. "It was not nothing. But it may have been worthwhile."
Fingolfin had begun reasonably, sensibly. It had come to his attention that Feanor and his house had been forging swords. Now, were they in fear of some new enemy? If so, surely the house of Fingolfin need weapons to fight at their side. Or is it for some other reason?
Maedhros did not answer, wrapping himself in the silence Fingolfin had never learned how to read. Feanor forges swords because he likes anything that gives him power. Maedhros himself forged swords in dreams of fighting a dark enemy in Beleriand, away from his father, alongside his friend.
"Where is Fingon?" Maedhros asked.
"He kept a secret about swords that the head of his house needed to know. So he is confined to his rooms until I understand what is going on."
You use your son as a hostage. "Is this what you think you need to do to me?" Maedhros whispered.
Fingolfin did not back down. "Your father has been allowed to grow in strength unopposed. Once, you ran to me from him. You wanted to be understood. I did not understand, and for that I am more sorry than I can say. Now I understand more, I think, I have seen your father in his…madness," Fingolfin hesitated over the word, "the way he must have been with you and your brothers. And I fear for my son."
And for yourself. Something in Fingolfin's eyes reminded Maedhros of Curufin after the joining. The difference was, none of the brothers had ever tried to rebel against Feanor. Was it possible?
"I will never be as strong as your father," Fingolfin said, as if answering Maedhros's unspoken question. "But I may be strong enough to resist him. With your help. I can go to King Finwe. I can go to the Valar, and ask them to intervene to heal your father, if he is willing to be healed. But only if we have swords. If my house takes a stand against your father, we need to have some means by which to protect ourselves."
And you believe swords will suffice? "If not, what will you do?"
"We will leave," Fingolfin said flatly. "I, and my house, and anyone who will follow me. We will found a city elsewhere in Valinor, where Feanor will not be welcome."
So this was the threat. It hit Maedhros harder than he had expected. The thought of having Fingon taken from him into distant exile was unbearable to him. As unbearable as the thought of betraying his father. What was most terrible was that Maedhros could not deny that under the present circumstances it might be a good idea. Feanor's mind-hold over his sons had become more and more intense in recent years, since Nerdanel had left. The few times Fingon had gone to see Feanor had frightened Maedhros enough. What right had he to expose his friend to the madness that was the house of Feanor?
The emotions piled up one on another, confusing Maedhros into paralysis. His loyalty was to his house. But was this really a betrayal? Fingon already had a sword, and Feanor did not seem to mind. Perhaps on some level Feanor wanted to be opposed, to not be the only one with strength. Maedhros wished he could be stronger himself, but his father's fire was just too strong. It was not until Fingolfin's face softened that Maedhros realized that he had been crying.
"Let me speak to Fingon," Maedhros said, "and then I will decide."
Fingolfin hesitated, and then nodded, looking ashamed. He sent messengers, and in a moment Fingon was there. Fingon looked from the guilt and anger on his father's face to Maedhros's tears, and then exploded.
"How dare you, Father! Fight your own mad battles with your brother!"
Fingolfin tensed. "You dare rebuke me…"
All three were shocked to hear Maedhros laugh. "I never rebuked my father," he said, bemused. "I never thought I could."
Working in the house-forge there was a strange giddiness in Maedhros's motions. He worked without thinking, sounding almost young when he spoke to give instructions. And when Fingolfin finally held a sword in his hand he looked transformed. He lifted his sword experimentally over his head, and then with confidence, becoming taller in his stance.
It seemed right. It seemed right. But it felt wrong. The lightness faded from Maedhros's motions. Although this was nothing his father had forbidden, still Maedhros could not escape the certainty that what he was doing was something Feanor would not like. He willed himself to continue working, giving instructions to the smiths of Fingolfin's house in a toneless voice. All the while memories of the morning flooded his mind. Fire. Light and fire. Silmarils. Feanor. The hand that had touched the jewels hurt in memory. What if Feanor was angry at him? Could he stand it? Could he live? His hand at the forge began to imperceptibly shake.
Finally, it was done. Fingolfin took over, then, giving orders and directions to his house. Maedhros left the forge and wandered slowly off until Fingon found him. Fingon was clearly still angry, and grew angrier as he took in the fatigue in Maedhros's eyes and the tremble in his hand. With a visible effort, he put the anger aside for the moment.
"What do you think your father is going to do when you get home?" he asked.
"I don't know," Maedhros answered vacantly. "Do you think I should go home?"
"No," Fingon said. "I don't think you should go home. I think you should stay." Then he took Maedhros by the hand and led him upstairs to his darkened room, where he held him and touched his tears.
There is a comfort in darkness that there is not in light. A quietness, and a peace. At least in darkness a light can be seen that a bright burning would dim. So was the soft white flame of friendship.
Maedhros had not embraced anyone, not even his littlest brothers, since Nerdanel had moved out for the last time. It was not something he would have thought to want, let alone to ask for. He could not open his mind, for fear of the stormy confusion inside. So he pulled closer into Fingon's embrace, and let that be his solace. Though the shaking did not completely stop, nor the ache in his heart to return to his father's union, he had bought with this ache the precious and fragile knowledge that he could turn against Feanor, and still he could live.
He could live.
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