7. Swords and Silence
Fingon was humming to himself as he waited in the guest area of Maedhros's quarters. His face brightened when he saw Maedhros. "You're late. It's 6:37." He stood, and they clasped forearms in greeting.
"Sorry, Finno. I've been stuck on a riddle, and unless I figure it out, my plans for us today will have to be postponed."
"That was very subtle, Russandol," Fingon teased. "What is this riddle? Two heads are better than one."
Maedhros recited the inscription that he'd seen on the plaque of the third door:
"More precious than silver, more brilliant than gold
Shines the light of this tree for me to behold."
"The riddle is of my father's making," Maedhros said. "I suspect that it is not decipherable without that piece of information. It must be a play on words, for there are but Two Trees in Valinor."
"I'd wager that it's a love poem of some sort for your mother," Fingon said.
"It sounds like it, but that alone doesn't solve the riddle."
"Copper is valued above gold and silver by your mother's family."
"It is indeed. So then, what would be a Tree of Copper?" Maedhros said. He'd tried many combinations of words to try to win entrance into the forge, but nothing had worked.
"Urundaldar? Or perhaps some variation of that? Uraldar?" Fingon suggested.
"No good." Maedhros began leading Fingon to the forge. Even if they figured out the right answer, Maedhros wouldn't know it unless it unlocked the third door. They'd try this for a little while, at least, and if they couldn't figure out the answer to the riddle, perhaps they'd go riding or take a walk in the gardens. "I even tried variations of my mother's name, for I know that he holds her dear."
"Urundel," Fingon said. "Copper-lady. Not a tree, a person, his wife, as you suggested."
Maedhros had not yet unlocked the first and second doors. The ground trembled at Fingon's words, and a second corridor appeared to the right of the first door. Maedhros didn't remember any such security the first time he'd entered his father's forge, but he had no doubt it was the right way to go. The doors themselves had been safeguards, Maedhros realized. The entrance had never been at the end of the third door.
"You're brilliant," Maedhros said.
"The riddle wasn't that difficult in light of the riddler," Fingon said. "Surely you'd tried 'Urundel.'"
"I did, but I was at the wrong place. Besides, the riddle is meant to keep out someone more sinister than us, and he would not so readily know so much about my father's mind, especially in matters of love." Maedhros led the way down the corridor to the secret forge deep in the earth.
"I don't think I've been to this part of the Feacoa before." Maedhros knew that Fingon was speaking only to fill the silence in the air, which seemed to be a tangible, smothering thing. The line of opals along either wall sparkled oddly as Fingon spoke. His words did not echo as they should have. Fingon's eyes flickered to the opals then to Maedhros's face. Maedhros shrugged, for he too did not know what to make of these devices, which he'd not noticed before. He wondered if perhaps Feanor had hidden the security gems from their sights last time. They continued in silence until they arrived at the forge.
Earlier, Maedhros had wrapped Alcarinque with silken cloth so that none would know that it was a sword. Now, Maedhros unwrapped the cloth to reveal the sword and drew the blade from its scabbard.
Fingon's voice caught. "A sword!"
"My sword. Its name is Alcarinque, the Glorious." Maedhros placed the sword on the table for Fingon to examine. "We've long heard that the Noldor that follow our two Houses are forging such weapons in secret. My father has decided to do the same in this secret forge. He says that the well intentions of the Princes will do little good if their people do not believe their desire for peace. He bade us to prepare in the event that darker times befall us."
"This is madness." Fingon's voice rang coldly in the forge. He looked around, as if the forge somehow had powers of its own to corrupt, and spoke more softly. "Russandol, your father should not be crafting such weapons. Neither should you be wielding such a deadly blade. We cannot fight this evil by ourselves taking up arms, as his wicked whisperings would have us do. Surely your father sees the folly in following the advise of the lies about Tirion."
"No, you are right." Maedhros sheathed the cold red blade. In its scabbard, Alcarinque seemed deceptively harmless, another jeweled ornament to be worn for decorative purposes. "We cannot win in this way, but we cannot win at all if we are slain. You know precisely how many of the Noldor believe the rumors of the tension between the Houses of our fathers. We have tried to calm such rumors, as have our fathers, but if battle erupts on the streets between our followers, we will have no way of stopping it unless we are armed. We need not use our weapons for evil, only as signs of authority, like a scepter or a circlet." Fingon's eyes searched Maedhros's, and Maedhros found that he could not endure his cousin's gaze.
"No, I didn't think you believed what you'd just said to me," Fingon said.
Maedhros met Fingon's eyes, this time without flinching. "My father said to us, 'Manwe is free from evil and cannot comprehend it, and so the Eldar must defend themselves against their Black Foe.' I do not wholly agree with his decision to forge swords, but he has already done this deed, and what's more, he has told my brothers that this will be the means by which we protect Arda. He has invented the art of swordplay, and he has taught it to my brothers and me. I have no doubt that we wield the swords more masterfully than others." He drew the Elennar out from underneath his shirt. "You have always been by my side, Elen-Nalta. I will not have you left out of this. My father has chosen not to forge a sword for you. I will forge one then, but my hands are not as dexterous as his, and so I need your assistance if I am to capture the light of Helluin in its steel blade."
"Perhaps Turukano. He is more skilled at such metalcraft." Fingon backed away with a look of fear in his eyes.
For a moment, Maedhros wondered what it was that scared Fingon so, for they had known each other for many years and never seen his cousin look at him in such a way. Maedhros remembered how he had feared his father's rage when he was younger, before he understood the love that Feanor felt for him, before he knew that Feanor would never hurt him. Likewise, he would never hurt Fingon.
"Listen to yourself, Findekano," Maedhros said in his most seductive voice. "You know that I am not seeking to create this craft as a labor of joy. I do it because I deem it necessary. It is for you, not for any others, that I turn to works of my hand, though I am less skilled than my father or fifth brother." Maedhros placed a reassuring hand on Fingon's shoulder and drew the Elessar forth from where it lay hidden. In Maedhros's hand, the Elessar flared to life and bathed their faces in green light.
"I will let you persuade me, Russandol, but it is against my better judgment." Fingon placed his hand over the Elessar, hiding the brilliant green fire. His bright eyes fixed on Maedhros's face, and they stood thus for many moments. "If Manwe is free from evil, then I do not doubt that you are also free from evil, Maitimo. But Manwe has done nothing to aid us, and so perhaps he is already poisoned by the cunning designs of the Black Foe. Regardless, I will follow you down this path to its bitter end, if bitter it must be. But I will not speak of the protection of Arda and the lofty and high goals that your father speaks of. Instead, understand that I do this for love of you and for our ancient friendship."
"I hear you, and I will not forget your words."
Together, Maedhros and Fingon forged Helluin. Fingon was an excellent assistant metalsmith, though he was not too experienced in the task. He had always instead preferred the contests and of strength and displays of physical prowess that Fingolfin held. Many times, Fingon was surprised by the technique of working with metals that Maedhros possessed despite his infrequent crafting. Maedhros only laughed when Fingon complimented his skill, for Maedhros was equally awed by Fingon's talents, especially by his great strength and dexterity. They captured the light of the star Helluin in a crystal and broke it carefully over the smoldering hot steel blade before cooling it in a bath of water mixed with the phosphorous of pearls. After the deadly sword was forged, they relaxed and crafted an elaborate scabbard for it. Once sheathed, the fruit of their works of labor did not seem so sinister. They were even able to laugh as they cleaned the forge and left it as it had been before they'd entered.
Maedhros could not train Fingon in swordplay in the open courtyards, so he had one of the rooms in his quarters partially emptied to be a sparring area. Once Fingon overcame his anxieties, he threw himself into their lessons. The swordplay became just another activity, like horseback riding or archery. Both of them remained cautious and vigilant. They always covered their swords with cloth, and they did not speak about their sword practice openly. Rumors were about. They did not wish to add fuel to the fire.
One day, when they were returning to the Feacoa after riding about Tuna, Helluin began to glow a bright blue and white through its cloth cover. Fingon had brought it because they were planning to practice afterwards. Fingon had not dared to bring attention to the sword, but Maedhros had felt Fingon's panic as a jumpstart through the Elennar. He guided his horse to Fingon's left, to shield the sight of the glowing sword and to get a better look at what had so surprised his cousin. Fingon looked to Maedhros for answers, but Maedhros shook his head. He'd never seen any of the swords forged by Feanor flare to life after its fire had been sealed within the metal blade. Helluin was wrapped close and bound in many thongs and was sheathed in its scabbard, but light still seeped through the silken cloth. They looked around, but nothing seemed to be amiss in Tirion.
Maedhros stopped his horse when he saw an old friend on the streets. "Glorfindel!" He dismounted to greet the Head of the House of Golden Flowers properly. "It has been ages since I last saw you." Fingon dismounted and greeted Glorfindel as well. Maedhros continued to exchange words with Glorfindel while Fingon rearranged the light burdens strapped to his horse to further conceal the sword. Once the sword was better concealed, Maedhros and Fingon finished their pleasantries and disentangled themselves with Glorfindel, an easy task since he had been on his way to meet Ecthelion.
After they were in the privacy of Maedhros's quarters, Fingon said, "While you were speaking with Glorfindel, I listened to some of the conversations about the streets of Tirion. It seems the newest rumor is that your father is speaking of leaving Valinor and journeying to the Outer Lands."
"Talk of the East is not new, but to blame my father for such thoughts is ridiculous. He couldn't care less where he is as long as he has his workshops." As Maedhros spoke, he began to doubt himself. Feanor had been spending less time in his workshops after creating the Silmarils. Now that he had turned his attentions to Tirion, would he wish to expand the city to encompass more lands? He would not wish to extend the rule of Finwe to the Outer Lands, but perhaps he would design new cities to fill the empty lands in Eldamar just as he'd designed the palace of Feacoa. Designing new cities, building tall towers of stone, adding statues and fountains and prisms, that Maedhros could see his father doing. Feanor had occasionally complained about the ill planning of Tirion. The main roads were not aligned to the incoming Light of the Two Trees, and so some of the buildings near the center of the city or under the Mindon were not as well illuminated as they could've otherwise been. He'd also commented on the inefficient use of space, which resulted in larger structures like the Feacoa being built at the edge of Tirion rather than at its center.
"The more serious evil that I heard while you spoke to Lord of the Golden Flowers was that my father seeks to displace yours in Finwe's heart. Everyone knows that the King loves his eldest son. To compete for more affection seems a sinister thing," Fingon said.
"It is indeed, and even my brothers and I never sought to compete for our father's love. Curvo is loved best by my father, but we have never grudged him that."
"What do we do of the persistent rumors of the Outer Lands?" Fingon asked.
"King Finwe had called all the Noldorin lords together for council in three days time. He will dissolve these rumors so that the higher lords will unquestionably know his stance on this matter. Then, hopefully, word will trickle down to the rest of the Noldor that the dreams of the lands beyond Aman are false." Maedhros remembered the meeting of Ingwe, Finwe, and Olwe and wondered if anything would truly come of the council. The Three Kings had brought the problem to Taniquetil itself and yet the Noldor received no aid against the evil whisperings of the Black Foe.
"What is it, Russandol?"
"The Black Foe. We know that he is the source of these evil rumors. Helluin must have felt the Foe's presence." Maedhros remembered the words that they'd spoken when breaking the crystal that contained the light of Helluin upon Fingon's steel sword during its forging. They'd followed Feanor's notes with great care, but Maedhros had almost forgotten the purpose of the swords in the casual practice sessions with his cousin.
Fingon spoke the words that echoed in both their thoughts. "May starlight protect the Eldar from he who sang of Arda Marred."
Maedhros waited on King Finwe on the day of the council. All of Finwe's lords had been summoned to discuss the obvious and growing unrest in Tirion in the Great Hall in the Mindon Eldalieva. Maedhros led each elf-lord to his appointed seat as they arrived and then returned to stand behind Finwe. Other servants poured the wine and played soft music in the background before the start of the council. A slow dread crept over Maedhros's mind despite the calming music. Fingolfin usually arrived early to such councils, but this time, he arrived just before the appointed time, when everyone was assembled save Feanor and Finarfin. Maedhros's eyes flickered to Fingon, who had been arguing with his father mid-sentence before they'd arrived at Finwe's hall. Fingon quickly shut his mouth and looked to Maedhros for consolation but found none. He did not move to follow his father to the center of the hall.
Fingolfin stood before Finwe and said, "King and Father, will you not restrain the pride of our brother, Curufinwe, who is called the Spirit of Fire, all too truly? By what right does he speak for all our people, as if he were King? It was you who long ago spoke before the Quendi, bidding them accept the summons of the Valar to Aman. It was you who led the Noldor upon the long road through the perils of Middle Earth to the light of Eldamar. If you do not now repent of it, two sons at least you have to honor your words."
Finwe stood then, and as he rose, he seemed to grow greater in stature than all the assembled Noldor. Before he could chastise his son for speaking out of turn, Feanor burst into the halls, and he was fully armed with high helm atop his head and mighty sword by his side.
"So it is, even as I guessed." Maedhros knew that light in Feanor's eyes, had seen it many times since that first time when Feanor had visited Finwe and presented him with the Jewel of Finwe. It was the unbridled love that Feanor felt for his father, but now it was tainted by possessiveness and jealousy. "My half-brother would be before me with my father, in this as in all other matters." He turned to Fingolfin and drew his sword. Helcar's bright red flame illuminated Feanor's eyes. "Get thee gone, and take thy due place!"
Fingolfin bowed before Finwe and went from the hall without a word or glace to Feanor. Fingon glanced at Maedhros then followed after his father. The elf-lords of Tirion sat stunned. The very rumors that they had come to dispel now seemed true. The sons of Finwe were proud and jealous of each other's rights and possessions.
Finwe had stood to chastise Fingolfin, but now his fury turned to Feanor, and Maedhros and all the Noldor witnessed the great fire and powerful will that had moved their people to leave their familiar homes by Cuivienen and ruled them peacefully for Three Ages of the Trees. "Curufinwe Fayanaro, if your brother is not to be here for the council, then neither are you welcomed here. Go now! For my heart is hot within me."
Father and Son looked to each other, and the very air seemed to fill with lightning and thunder. Never had Maedhros seen such a strong resemblance between Finwe and Feanor. But Feanor's anger was not directed at his father. He bowed low before Finwe and left the halls.
Maedhros had learned not to fear his father's anger. Now, he did not shy from his grandfather's temper. Once Finwe was seated again, Maedhros moved to the center of the Great Hall and bowed low. He knelt and said, "Noldoran, I am unworthy of waiting on you. I beg that you relieve me of my duties."
Finwe nodded curtly. "You are excused."
Maedhros rose and bowed low once more before the King of the Noldor. He walked with careful posture to the egress of the hall, for he knew that every elf-lord in Tirion was watching his departure. Once he had left Finwe's halls, Maedhros began to run with all his strength in search of his father. Feanor wasn't difficult to find. He had followed Fingolfin and stayed him before the door of the House of the King. Maedhros arrived in time to see but not to stop Feanor from setting the point of his bright sword to Fingolfin's breast. Indeed, Maedhros did not know if he could have stopped his father.
"See, half-brother!" Feanor said. "This is sharper than thy tongue. Try but once more to usurp my place and the love of my father, and maybe it will rid the Noldor of one who seeks to be the master of thralls."
Fingolfin made no answer and left in search of his brother Finarfin. He passed where Maedhros was standing, and Fingon exchanged looks with Maedhros but followed after Fingolfin in silence. Feanor sheathed his sword and beckoned to Maedhros. Together, Father and Son returned to the House of Fire.
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.