Easy is the Descent: 2. Part 2

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2. Part 2

This is the 7th story in my Maedhros series - I recommend reading them in proper order for maximum enjoyment, but the only one that is essential reading (in order to understand the relationship between Maedhros and Maglor in this story) is "My Brother's Keeper."

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The assault on Menegroth began shortly before dawn, during the darkest and stillest hour of the night, when most of the inhabitants of the great city were sleeping. Celegorm, who had provided most of the soldiers, lead the way; Curufin and Caranthir followed close behind with their own smaller forces. Amrod and Amras entered after them, almost reluctantly. Maedhros and Maglor were last. Maglor stopped just inside the gates of the underground realm, his face pale, seemingly sickened by the screams echoing through the halls and the strong smell of death; when Maedhros noticed his brother falter, he turned to him and scornfully mocked, "What is the matter, little brother? Surely the sight of a little innocent blood spilled does not faze a son of the mighty Fëanor? Or perhaps you are composing a song to celebrate this great triumph?" But then, seeing the pain on his brother's face, Maedhros relented slightly. "You may stay here, if you wish," he said softly. "I told you I would not force you to fight, only watch, and I keep my word." And with that, Maedhros turned and raced forward into the fray; Maglor followed close beside him, weeping. Maedhros, this is wrong, he thought as he drew his sword and prepared to slay his fellow Quendi for the second time in his life. You should have stopped this. I should stand aside from this deed. But I love you, brother. I could not bear to lose you after Unnumbered Tears, and even though your former love for me has curdled in your heart to contempt, I cannot bear to see you fall now. May the Valar forgive me for what I am about to do.

What followed was slaughter, not a battle. Later in memories Maglor recalled only confused images - bodies falling, the feel of treading on flesh as he stepped on corpses, the metallic clang of blade against blade, shrieks of agony uttered by the mortally wounded. A vision of his sword striking a woman, who crumpled and fell almost on top of him, dropping the walking stick she had swung at his head. Dior, standing firm against the onslaught, running Caranthir through, and the sound of his little brother's moans as he slowly bled to death. Eventually, he realized that he was no longer swinging his sword, for no more foes stood before him to block his path. Dimly, Maglor heard Maedhros shout, "Find the Silmaril!" He leaned over and vomited, and the world began to go black. Before he could fall, he felt a pair of strong hands grab his arms and steady him. Maglor looked up into the face of his youngest brother, Amras, and when he saw the tears shining in his little brother's eyes he reached up and clung to him tightly, and they held each other close for a long, long time while they cried.

When they at last let go of each other the hall was quiet. Maglor looked over Amras's shoulder to see Maedhros kneeling in the gore, unmindful of it, his remaining hand stroking the hair of one of the dead. As Maglor and Amras walked over to his side, Maglor saw that it was Celegorm; the body of Curufin lay next to him. Three of my brothers are dead, he thought, numb with shock. Or is it four? Where is Amrod? At that moment, Amrod came running back into the hall and stopped in front of Maedhros, chest heaving; when he looked down and saw the bodies of his brothers he whispered, "No!" At the sound, Maedhros looked up at him and, still gently stroking Celegorm's hair, asked, "Where is the Silmaril?"

Amrod did not answer; Maedhros again demanded, "Where is the Silmaril?," more firmly this time. Amrod roused himself, and replied, "We cannot find it anywhere, brother. It is gone."

"Then all of this was for nothing," Maedhros said softly. Looking down at the dead faces of his brothers, he whispered, " 'To the everlasting Darkness doom us if our deed faileth.' I am sorry, my brothers. I have failed you again." And silently he began to weep.

*******

They stayed at Menegroth for three days, at Maedhros's insistence, to bury the bodies. On the afternoon of the third day, Maedhros overheard one of Celgorm's soldiers, speaking to a friend, say, "I wonder how those two brats of Dior's are faring in the woods? Do you think the wolves have found them yet?"

"What did you say?" he said sharply. The man looked up, startled, but remained silent. "What did you say?" Maedhros repeated again. "Something about 'Dior's brats' and wolves, was it? What did you do?"

"Nothing," the other man replied, "we just disposed of some rubbish, before it became old enough to stink."

"Children are not rubbish, not even the children of enemies - that is a designation reserved for their murderers," Maedhros said softly as he turned away. He took two steps, then turned suddenly and drew his sword; before the man had a chance to react, Maedhros struck his head off. The remaining soldier suddenly found a sword pressed against the side of his neck; his friend's body lay bleeding across his feet. Maedhros's eyes were deadly, but his voice remained casual as he calmly told Celegorm's servant, "You will tell me exactly what you have done, if you do not want to join your friend in Mandos."

"After the battle, we found Dior's sons, Elurín and Eluréd, hiding in a storeroom. We...," He stopped for a moment, then continued as Maedhros slowly slid the blade across the side of his neck, drawing blood. "We took them out into the forest, and left them there. It would have been dangerous to allow them to live, we thought - they would one day grow up to take revenge - and yet we could not bring ourselves to kill them outright. We gave them a chance, this way."

"No, you chose to let the wolves and the elements finish them off slowly - do not lie. Come with me."

Maedhros kept his sword drawn as he led the man to where Maglor was standing, supervising the digging of another burial trench. "Brother, I need to speak with you."

"What do you want to speak about?" Maglor asked; he sounded weary.

"I will need you to lead the others back to Ossiriand. I shall remain behind to do some hunting."

"What?" Maglor looked at his brother in astonishment. Has my brother finally lost his mind?, he wondered. We've destroyed a city, and buried three of our brothers, and before the blood is dried on our hands he's thinking about hunting, as if nothing significant happened here!

"This piece of filth left Dior's two young sons in the woods to starve. I am going to find them." Maedhros poked the tip of his sword into the soldier's side, and smiled when he winced in pain. "You will come with me, and lead me to the place where you abandoned those children, and perhaps I will let you live," he said, and the man shivered slightly.

"Maedhros, you can't stay here alone. It's too dangerous. And you have no hope of finding those poor children, not after three days..." Maglor began to say, but Maedhros whirled around in fury, shouting "DON'T SAY THAT!" When his brother drew back in dismay, Maedhros paused a moment, then continued; he seemed more in control of himself when he again spoke, but his voice was bleak. "Our oath compelled us to come here, and because of it we now stand Kinslayers twice over. We have destroyed what little honor remained to the house of Fëanor, and we will be remembered in songs as murderers and butchers long after all our other deeds in Beleriand have been forgotten. But nothing in our oath compelled this deed, the cruel abandonment of children, and I will not have my name, or the name of our family, blackened by it. You will see that our people return safely to Ossiriand, Maglor. That is an order. I will remain to search for Dior's sons, and I will not return to Ossiriand until I find them."

"Maedhros, let me stay and help - " Maglor implored, but Maedhros shook his head.

"No, I need you to lead the others home, brother. I will meet you at your usual campsite, once I have rescued those children. I will salvage some honor for our House, Maglor, I promise you that. Your task is to see that there is still a House left to reach Ossiriand - soon orcs may not be the only things pursuing our forces." And with that, Maedhros turned and placed his sword against the soldier's back, saying, "Now lead me there, before I confuse you with one of Morgoth's foul brood and slay you where you stand," and the two men headed into the woods of Doriath, leaving Maglor behind to wonder, and worry.

*******

It was nearly four months later when Maedhros finally entered Maglor's camp in southern Ossiriand, alone. "Disappointed to see me alive, little brother?" he sneered. "No doubt, after so much time, you thought me safely dead, and yourself the Head of our House - or what little remains of it. So sorry to disappoint you, brother, but you'll have to step down now, for I intend to take up my rightful role as chief Kinslayer again."

"Maedhros, stop it!" Maglor said, furious, but quickly fell silent when Maedhros sat down, back against a tree, and placed his head against his knees, curling up as if to block the world out from his consciousness. "You were not able to find them, were you, Russandol?" he said gently, but Maedhros gave no answer. "I'm sorry, brother. I know you tried." Still no reply. Maglor set about preparing the evening meal. He was certain his brother would be hungry; perhaps the scent of the food cooking would draw him out of his shell. It did not; Maedhros remained silent and unmoving as Maglor ate. After he finished his meal, Maglor went over to his still-silent elder brother and sat down next to him; he was careful not to touch him, as Maedhros had in the past made it plain that his brother's touch was no longer welcome. They sat there, side by side, for hours. It was nearly dawn before Maglor heard his brother whisper, "Eluréd and Elurín."

"What did you say, Russandol?"

"Eluréd and Elurín," Maedhros repeated, slightly louder this time. "Their names were Eluréd and Elurín. They were only eight years old."

"There was nothing more you could have done, Russandol. They had been lost for too long before you even began your search."

"All I found were a few scraps of clothing, covered in blood." Maedhros finally looked up, and Maglor could see the grief in his eyes as he said, " 'Ye have spilled the blood of your kindred unrighteously'. Our House will never live down the shame of those children's deaths. Long ago, the Valar cursed our House; well, we have earned their curses now. And I am afraid that there will be worse to come. Who knows what our dreadful oath will require of us next? I fear all we will ever see is blood, no matter where we turn."

"Perhaps we could refuse to pursue it, brother," Maglor suggested. "Put the oath aside, and -"

"Condemn ourselves. 'Our word hear thou, Eru Allfather! To the everlasting Darkness doom us if our deed faileth.' Perhaps we should be condemned, brother. But I have never broken my sworn word, and I never intend to. The blood of the Noldor is on my hands for I lead our people into disaster, through recklessness and overconfidence I killed Fingon, and by my failure to regain the Silmaril at Doriath I doomed our brothers to the Darkness. I am a traitor and a kinslayer and perverted, but I will not break a sworn oath. That's all the honor I have left, Maglor. All I have left, and I will not lose it, no matter the cost. No matter the horrors to come, I will hold to my word."

And the first rays of dawn filled the sky as the eldest son of Fëanor quietly wept in despair.

Notes:

The exact wording of the Oath of Fëanor can be found in "The Annals of Aman" in Morgoth's Ring (History of Middle Earth, volume 10) on p. 112.

Russandol – "Copper-top"; an affectionate nickname given to Maedhros by his family in acknowledgement of his reddish-brown hair. See The Peoples of Middle Earth (History of Middle Earth, vol. 12), p. 353


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.

Story Information

Author: Ithilwen

Status: Reviewed

Completion: Complete

Era: 1st Age

Genre: Action

Rating: General

Last Updated: 04/14/03

Original Post: 07/18/02

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