2. Part 2
This is the 10th and last story in my Maedhros series (although I'm probably going to write two prequels, set before "Captive of Fate"). I recommend reading them in proper order for maximum enjoyment, but the only one that is essential reading in order to understand this tale is "The Hear of Fëanor."
The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning...
Love justice, you who judge the earth...
Fingon did leave the Halls eventually, as I had known he would, and once more I find myself alone, save for the time I must spend with the Valar. I have slowly come to face some unpleasant truths about myself - the way I have always run from emotional pain instead of facing it, the way I have wallowed in guilt, blaming myself for everything terrible that happened to me and to my family, whether I was actually responsible for it or not, the way I closed myself off from those who loved me, refusing to listen to them when they tried to help me. When I look at myself, I do not like what I see. But I must know myself, Mandos says, if I am to change myself. He also says I am still missing things, that there are several important aspects of myself I do not yet perceive. Given what I have discovered so far, I am not sure I want to learn them.
Before Nienna forced me to join Fingon, I was content to be solitary, with only the Valar for occasional company. Now that he is gone, I feel vaguely discontented when they leave me alone to dream. Could it be that I am lonely?
Mandos asks me why I swore my father's oath in the first place - did I value the Silmarils so highly? I tell him that I did not value them at all, but that is only half a truth, and I know it; when I looked upon them I saw not merely beautiful jewels, but my father's heart's desire, the things he loved above all else, and I valued them for his sake. Mandos must sense that I am withholding something from him, for he repeats the question, and this time his voice is stern and cold. I am almost too frightened to reply; finally, I force myself to answer - I swore the oath to please my father, I say, who was in such pain, and because he expected it of me. How did I know what he expected, Mandos replies, did Fëanor tell me this? No, I reply, but I was his eldest child, his heir, duty-bound to follow my father in all things.
But in fact I had not followed my father's example in all things, Mandos states. I did not become a craftsman, or a scholar; did Fëanor not expect his heir to achieve excellence in these endeavors, as he himself had? Did I care so little about my father's happiness that I would refuse to take up his beloved pursuits? Was I such an ungrateful son?
"No!" I reply desperately, "that's not true! I was never ungrateful, I loved him, I tried so hard to make him happy, and to be what he wanted me to be!" "And yet you failed him, Maedhros" Mandos replies, "you produced no crafts or scholarship of note - why not, if you love him as you claim?" "Because I couldn't," I respond in anguish, "try as I might, I have no talent for such things. I wanted to be a great craftsman or artist, I know I disappointed him, I wasn't what he wanted for a son, but I tried my best, I tried to follow his example and keep his word, to bring honor to our House, and get his beloved jewels back, as he would have wanted me to do..."
We who are confined to the Halls have no bodies, and therefore shed no tears, but that does not mean that we cannot weep. I cry for a long, long, time, while Mandos comforts me. Finally, when I am calmer, he says to me, "All your life, Maedhros, you have tried to live up to the expectations of Fëanor, without regard to whether those expectations were reasonable. Not accomplishing something you were never created to do is no failure; if your father was unable to love you for the person you are, the fault lay in him, not in you. Little one, in your desperate attempts to please him, and become what you thought he wished you to be, you only succeeded in harming yourself. The oath was your father's; it never should have been yours."
What new things have I learned about myself, Mandos has asked me. I remember that he had previously stated that there were several aspects of my character I did not yet perceive; at the time, I did not realize what little sense of self-worth I have, or how desperately I desire the good opinions of others, or how proud I am. But when I mention these things, Mandos remains silent for a time before speaking.
"Little one, I told you that you still had things to learn about yourself. I did not say those things were necessarily negative, yet that is all you have noticed. When you think about yourself, do you truly see nothing positive?"
I am suddenly ashamed, for he is right; when I consider my nature, it is generally only the undesirable traits I notice. Mandos says such self-denigration is a habit I need to break. I tell him I will try.
My dreams are changing. More and more often I find that I am dreaming of my family, during the years we spent in peace in Valinor. My younger brothers, when they were still happy, Celegorm returning after a successful hunt, Curufin covered in soot after a day spent working on some project at our father's forge, the twins first learning to ride. Grandfather, the crown of our people on his raven hair, standing tall and proud before the Valar at a festival. Father rushing into the house at day's end like a windstorm, eager to show Nerdanel and us what wonders he'd wrought that day; or patiently teaching me my letters, his large hand wrapping around my smaller one, showing me how to hold the pen, helping me make the brushstrokes.
I still dream of Alqualondë, and Doriath, and especially Sirion, but less frequently, and the dreams themselves are less distressing than they once were; mostly, they just make me sad. I think I will never stop dreaming about those terrible events, but as I have come to understand (at least in part) why I acted as I did then, I feel less despair and self-loathing, and more honest remorse. I cannot undo what I did, and I can never atone for it, for what is sufficient atonement for murder? But I can accept that Mandos' judgement of me is correct; I am merely an imperfect man who once did monstrous deeds. I do not have to continue to see myself as a monster merely because I once acted like one - I am no longer that person. It will be hard, but I can choose to be other than what I was.
I think perhaps it is time for me to rejoin my kin.
My reunion with my family is bittersweet; I did not know how I would feel when I actually met them (especially my father), but I find I am actually happy to be with them again. Their reactions are more mixed - a mixture of happiness and distress, for until now they did not know that I had died. My grandfather is much as he always was. My brothers, especially Celegorm and Curufin, are more subdued then they were in life; I suppose that should be no surprise, for surely the same can be said about me. We share a common bond now, of folly and regret, which ironically serves to knit us together in death even more strongly than our shared blood did in life.
Father seems much changed. Fëanáro, the Spirit of Fire, burns now with a softer flame. Perhaps it is the result of seeing his sons join him here, one after another, forcing the realization that for all his unquenchable drive and strength of will, he has limits, and the Valar were ultimately right - his people never could prevail against Morgoth. Perhaps it comes from the knowledge that the once-mighty Noldor have been so diminished - we will never again be what we once were, in the long years when the Trees lit Aman, and our people's skills were unsurpassed. Or perhaps it is merely the product of the protracted anguish of a craftsman no longer able to shape and build, a scholar no longer free to observe and experiment and record. I was afraid I would be angry with him, remembering how he drove me during his life to achieve his goals and live up to his expectations, and how he shaped my view of myself. But to my surprise, I find what I feel is not anger, but pity. The father who stands before me is not the awesome presence of my childhood - indeed, that person almost certainly never existed, save inside my mind - but merely a man, fallible and flawed, who has seen his greatest triumphs turned to ash.
I tell him that one of his Silmarils now shines in the sky, brighter and more beautiful than even the mightiest of Varda's stars. He seems pleased.
For a long time now, I have been content here with my family. We have shared the same dreams, and talked among ourselves of the old days while the ages lengthen. But increasingly I find myself thinking about the one brother who is not with us - Maglor, whom I last saw weeping on the shore of a coastline that no longer exists. I keep remembering how cruel I was to him in the end, how I compelled him to commit atrocities he alone of all of us would have been wise enough to forego, if I had only left him in peace. He had regretted swearing our vain oath almost immediately, and it was only my pain and my fear and my foolish, misplaced pride that held him to it. He loved me, and I used his love to lead him into ruin. I deeply regret my cruelty now, and it breaks my heart to think of him alone, the last of our family left alive, believing that in the end I, his beloved elder brother, had hated him.
I know it is wrong for me to ask about him, for the living and the dead exist in separate spheres. The world of the living, and the happenings there, are not my concern so long as I dwell here in these Halls. But eventually I seek out Mandos anyway, knowing that my act is folly, and not caring.
"You are troubled, Maedhros?" he asks me when I finally find him.
"Yes," I reply. "I keep thinking about my brother Maglor. I need to know that he is all right."
"He is still living; you are dead. He is no longer your concern."
"Of course he's still my concern!" I say. "He always will be; he's my brother, after all. I am worried about him. Please, my lord, I need to know that he is well. Just tell me that much, and I will be content."
Mandos does not answer, but I refuse to leave. After a long while, he finally speaks again, but what he says next takes me completely by surprise. "Maedhros, would you join your brother if you could?"
"Of course... What do you mean, 'if I could'? I am to be confined here, with the others of my family, until the ending of Arda, am I not?" I say in surprise.
"Did I declare to you that that was to be your fate, little one?" Mandos answers. "No," I replied, embarrassed; once again I have made an assumption based on the worst possible interpretation of my nature, that I am too flawed to ever be released. Or rather, I initially made that assumption when I was first brought here, and never reconsidered it; I just continued to assume that I would remain confined until the end of Time, and never thought to ask Mandos what his final judgement was likely to be.
"I have long considered your fate, Maedhros, and am now ready to render my final judgement. You may be released from my Halls now, provided that you are willing to seek out your brother, who now dwells in Aman. Will you go to him?"
"Yes. Please, my lord Mandos, release me - I wish to be with Maglor again," I reply, hardly able to believe what I have heard.
"Very well, little one. Go now, and do not delay - go straight to Maglor, once you are free." Mandos instructs me. "I will," I promise him. "Thank you."
And then the world suddenly tilts, and after that I remember nothing.
(To Be Continued)
The first italicized line at the beginning of the chapter is from Ecclesiastes 7:4 (The Bible).
The second italicized line at the beginning of the chapter is from Wisdom 1:1 (The Bible).
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.