1. Return of the Shadow
Once secreted away in her movie-poster-bedecked room, she carefully slid her purchase from its plastic sack and held it up to the light. It was The Silmarillion, by J.R.R.Tolkien. “The Epic History of the Elves,” she read the subtitle aloud. It was too delicious. She’d only recently found out that the guy who wrote Lord of the Rings had written another book about Elves, and so of course she’d anxiously awaited the weekend when she could go buy a copy. The bookstore was a large one and had about five different editions to choose from, so she’d naturally gotten an illustrated one. There was nothing like pictures of sexy elfies, was there?
Of course, none of them would be as cute as Orli, she reminded herself, but she was running out of material for her fanfics. Maybe The Silmarillion would give her some inspiration! “Well, no time like the present!” she said aloud to no one in particular. Cracking the book for the first time, she flipped to chapter one and began to read.
Meanwhile, in another reality…
In the light and airy halls of the city of Tirion, there was a brief smattering of laughter and good-natured ribbing. On one of the many balconies, two figures were seated at a small table on opposite sides of the field of battle. The smaller figure, raven-headed, lithe, and lean, was smiling triumphantly at his bested opponent. The other, slightly taller with a long red braid trailing over one shoulder, gave his nemesis a doom-laden frown, a look which in days gone by had meant death to all who gazed upon it, but that was in the past. He was able to hold his frown for approximately three seconds before he, too, broke out into a smile and laughed lightly with the other.
“You improve all the time, coz,” the redhead said generously, pushing his chair back from the table.
“I certainly get enough practice,” his opponent replied. “Thanks to you, Maedhros.”
The Fëanorian snorted lightly. There was little enough else to do in safe and boring Valinor, but he didn’t dare say so aloud. Better to be content with what one had. The truth was, Maedhros and Fingon were almost evenly matched, and chess with his cousin was always exciting to him. One never knew what tricks Fingon had up his sleeve. The constantly underestimated son of Fingolfin was forever surprising everyone.
By unspoken agreement, the two began setting up the board for another game. This last one had gone on for three days, but it had been one of the more exciting ones, and the question of ultimate victory had been very much in doubt up until the very end.
“Shall we break for a repast, or are you in a hurry to be humiliated again?” Fingon asked with a wink.
Maedhros tried another intimidating look that would have sent lesser Elves running for cover, but his cousin was one hundred percent unaffected, except by amusement. “Hmph. I would only be humiliated to be bested by an inferior opponent,” he mock-growled to his foolishly grinning friend, whose grin spread impossibly wider at the subtle compliment, the only kind Maedhros was like to give. “But I could be persuaded to dine.”
“Then let us be off! The sooner we sup, the sooner I can beat you again!” Fingon clapped his cousin’s shoulder good-naturedly. Rather than pass through the airy halls, the pair leapt lightly from the balcony to a walkway below, from thence to make their way to the kitchens of the palatial House of Finarfin.
They had only gotten a quarter of the way down the walk when Maedhros froze, and began looking about him uneasily. Fingon noticed his companion was no longer beside him and turned back. “Coz?”
Maedhros held a finger to his lips, urging quiet. He closed his eyes and reached out with his senses, trying to discover the source of the sudden unease which had come upon him. The very wind whispered of danger, and the voices of the trees were moaning in dismay. Suddenly, Maedhros’ eyes popped open, and he grasped at his cousin.
“It’s happening again!” he whispered, his voice as close to terror-stricken as Fingon had ever heard it.
“No! Are you sure?” the raven-headed Elf asked, dismayed.
“We must tell the High King!” Maedhros muttered as he took off running down the pathway, with Fingon closely dogging his heels.
They re-entered the palace and dashed down the covered walkway, heading for Finarfin’s study where they hoped to find the king. Suddenly Fingon stopped. “Look,” he murmured, gesturing at the sky. “We’re too late.”
Overhead, the flawlessly blue vault of the heavens over Valinor was beginning to turn an ominous black.
Grey eyes met grey as Fingon and Maedhros exchanged an anguished glance. They were so caught up in the moment that neither heard the soft slap of leather-clad feet approaching at a sprint from the adjoining hallway, and therefore were equally surprised when a golden-haired Elf dashed madly around the blind corner and ran full-tilt into the other two.
Maedhros and Fingon both recovered from the collision much quicker than the new-comer, and grasped the surprised Elf’s arms to keep him from crashing to the ground. “Fingon! Maedhros!” he panted. “You saw it?”
The other two nodded grimly. “I was on my way to tell Father,” the golden-haired Elf explained as he turned towards the study doors.
“As were we,” replied Fingon, falling into step behind him as Finrod threw open the double-doors of the High King’s private study without bothering to knock. Maedhros was barely two steps behind his cousins as the three Elves swept hurriedly into the chamber.
If they were hoping to warn the King, they were too late. The tall and elegant figure of Finarfin could clearly be seen standing in one of the large windows that graced the room, the sweep of his pale hair reflecting the dying light. Beside him, another figure, remarkably alike save for his ebony locks where his companion was golden, stood in similar pose.
Neither turned around at the sound of the three younger Elves entering the chamber, but watched the steadily darkening sky. “Father? Uncle?” said Finrod uncertainly. “Is there aught we can do?”
Finally the High King turned around to grace his son and his nephews with a sorrowful look. “I’m afraid not,” he said mournfully. “It is too late to hide, and we cannot fight. All we can do now is hope for the best, and pray that Valinor’s natural defenses will protect us.” Fingolfin was nodding his head in agreement.
Outside, the wind was picking up, and thunder clouds were beginning to form.
Fingolfin regarded his son and nephews sadly. “Go on about your business, boys, and try to stay calm. There’s no point in fretting over the worst until it is upon us.”
“I believe that is my line,” a voice said sourly from the open doorway. Fingon had to grin slightly as his brother Turgon entered with a wry look upon his face. “I take it I arrive much too late?”
Finarfin sighed heavily. Ordinarily, being High King was no great burden in this land of bliss and plenty. But when dangers like these arose, he wondered if it was worth it at all. Being High King was singularly useless when he couldn’t protect his people from the only threat they faced.
“Your Majesty,” Turgon said uneasily, hesitant to intrude on the king’s reverie. “Sire, they are beginning to panic in the streets. Everyone can read the signs, and after what happened last time...” The Lord of Gondolin trailed off as he shuddered at the memory.
The King looked up. “Very well. There is nothing we can do to avert what is coming, but we shall not have a riot on our hands. I want you four,” he nodded at the younger Elves, “to try to keep some order in the streets. Get everyone inside, and keep them calm. Brother, you and I are going to Taniquetil.”
The Elves bowed in acquiescence to the king, and hurried off to their tasks.
Outside, chaos reigned. The sky overhead was nearly back, and the wind was roaring. Elves ran to and fro in the streets, going nowhere and doing nothing but making a great deal of noise and confusion. A few of the more experienced Elves were attempting to bring order to the crowd, but their shouting was drowned out by the rising hysteria gripping the populace.
As the four cousins left the palace, they saw immediately that the panicking crowd could pose an even greater threat to its own safety than the threat looming in the darkened sky. The four princes immediately moved off to restore some order to the melee.
“Everyone stay calm! There’s no need to panic!”
Turgon spied two of his former captains perched on a wall, trying to shout down the wailing crowd. Glorfindel and Ecthelion were attempting with little success to get the crowds out of the streets. He jumped up on the wall to join them, smiling at their relieved faces. “My lord!” said Glorfindel. “My lord, it is pandemonium! Everyone remembers what happened the last time…” The golden Elf shuddered at the memory.
Cupping his hands around his mouth, Turgon tried for himself to get the Elves to calm and disperse. Fingon, Finrod, and Maedhros began moving through the crowd in a similar effort, forcefully shoving Elves who didn’t give way and herding them towards their homes. A few others had the presence of mind to help, but it was a painfully slow process to get the streets cleared. Maedhros found himself wishing, not for the first time, that his brother were present. No one ignored the voice of Maglor the mighty.
Finally, the streets were clear of all but a few stragglers and some purposefully dashing about messengers. Turgon had taken his two former captains to try to quell the panic in other parts of the city and the remaining three cousins took off in the opposite direction to do the same.
Maedhros’ mood was very dark indeed when they finally decided they had done all they could. They hurried back to the palace to hunker down and weather the storm, stopping to speak briefly with messengers they encountered along the way.
“I don’t know why they all make such a fuss,” Maedhros muttered mostly to himself. “It’s not as though anything were going to happen to them.”
Fingon patted his cousin’s shoulder sympathetically. “Everyone goes a little crazy when these things happen,” he said vaguely by way of explanation. He missed whatever the Fëanorian muttered in reply.
Finrod lead the way through the palace to his private rooms where the three Elves would try to hold out as long as they could. He could only pray that his father and the Valar might somehow work a miracle and prevent the impending disaster. Fingon sank gratefully into a large chair, but Maedhros continued to mutter darkly to himself. Finrod felt a great deal of pity for his poor cousin, but he was worried for himself as well.
Finally, Finrod broke the silence. “Be easy,” he said softly to Maedhros, “Surely it will not be as bad as last time.”
“That’s right, it can always be worse!” he snapped in reply to the golden-haired elf.
Finrod was not offended; he knew the terrible pressure that Maedhros must be feeling at the moment. Somehow, when these situations arose, the red-haired elf always seemed to get the worst of it. The Valar knew he’d seen enough torment in his former life, but it was nothing compared to the black menace that descended from the skies. Maedhros had paid for the crimes of his past; he deserved a little peace.
The black-haired Elf slung a brotherly arm around Maedhros’ shoulder. “Try to relax. Whatever happens, happens. And chances are I’ll be right there with you.”
“That’s what I’m afraid of!” Maedhros said, his expression sneering but with the tiniest hint of humor in his voice. His cousins knew how hard these situations were for him and were kindly trying to cheer him up, but there was little to be done.
“Oh!” said Fingon in mock-disdain. “I’m really all that bad, am I!?”
“No,” Maedhros muttered, all trace of humor gone from his voice. “I don’t know how I’d get through it without you.”
The mood was getting dark again in a hurry, so Fingon rushed into the breach. “No, neither do I. But I’d sure like to find out!” He grinned at his cousin, hoping for a smile.
“Yes, it’s fine for you to talk, Fingon,” said Finrod. “You always get to do something heroic.”
“You’ve got no room to talk, yourself, Finrod,” Maedhros pointed out. “You’re the heroic one. Why to I always have to be the bad guy?”
“You’re not always the bad guy!” Fingon protested.
“No,” Maedhros agreed. “I’m not always the Evil Maedhros. Sometimes I’m the Tormented Maedhros, or the Sex Slave Maedhros, Gutterslut Maedhros or Bondage Maedhros…”
Both Finrod and Fingon suppressed a shudder.
“Personally,” said the golden-haired Elf, “I was always fond of Baby Maedhros.”
It was Maedhros’ turn to shudder.
“Brother…I hope…you’ll shoot me…if I ever…get so pretentious…I have to have…so many stairs!” Finarfin panted as he surmounted the tenth-to-last flight of steps.
Fingolfin was too out of breath to answer but nodded his head. He, too, had noticed that the higher folks rose in life, the more stairs they felt they needed. The main stronghold at Formenos had over seven thousand steps.
The two Elf-lords had come at a run as far as they were able, but now at they neared the summit of Taniquetil, the air was growing thin and their strength was giving out. “I just hope…it’s worth it!” Finarfin mumbled. If even Manwë was unable to help them…
The long climb continued.
Back in Tirion…
“Come on, you don’t have it all that bad,” Finrod chided Maedhros. “It could always be worse.”
“I become rather weary of hearing that.” Maedhros’ voice held a warning note which his cousin blithely ignored.
“Really, it only happens to you so much because you’re so popular! People remember you, they admire you,” the golden-haired Elf informed him.
“Then I would rather have remained forgotten and despised, as once I was!” Maedhros’ mood was growing more sour by the moment.
Fingon knew better than to intervene at this point as Finrod began to grow angry in his turn.
“I don’t know what you are complaining about! Everyone speaks well of you now, Maedhros. At least you are remembered for the way you lived. For most of the rest of us, the most remarkable thing most people remember about us is the way we died!” Finrod pointed out. “You are remembered for your deeds!”
“Deeds that I have paid for many times over!” Maedhros retorted. It was times like these he could almost repent of his hard-won redemption.
“Well, at least you…you…you have never been made to have sex with a werewolf!” Finrod shouted at last.
Maedhros and Fingon were silent. Finrod had broken their unspoken agreement never to speak of the horrible things that happened when the dark clouds formed over Valinor. But now that the silence had been broken, Maedhros was ready to have it out once and for all.
“No,” said Maedhros slowly. “No, I have never had sex with a werewolf. I have had sex with Morgoth, with Sauron, with their innumerable lackeys, with orcs, trolls, balrogs, with my own brothers, my cousin, with my f-f-f-father…”
“Stop!” Fingon cried. “Please, stop.” He passed a trembling hand over his brow. “I think we can all agree, these situations are not pleasant for anyone. There is no point in arguing whose lot among us is worst. Besides, it could be much worse.”
Both of Fingon’s cousins stared at him with black expressions, as if to ask him how that might be.
“It could be worse,” he repeated, lowing his voice and whispering to them softly, “You could be Legolas.”
Neither could argue the point. Maedhros had only faced fangirls a handful of times, but from those few experiences, he knew he would rather face a horde of sex-starved orcs than one of sex-starved fangirls that were always chasing, capturing, and ravishing the unfortunate Legolas.
That immediately cleared the air of any arguments and the three cousins were friends once more. Finrod and Maedhros both apologized, if somewhat stiffly, and the Fëanorian was persuaded to have a seat. There was little they could do, except wait and pray for the best. But it was difficult not to think about all the horrible possibilities now that they had been mentioned aloud. Maedhros still felt he got picked on an inordinate amount, but there was no point in discussing it.
As they watched over the next half-hour, the sky grew more and more threatening.
“She is getting closer,” Finrod whispered. The three cousins were now seated side-by-side on the golden Elf’s bed, with Maedhros tucked protectively between them. Despite their earlier words, they all knew that the Fëanorian was most likely to be attacked, and his cousins meant to prevent it if they were able. Meanwhile Maedhros was busy tormenting himself with all the horrible possibilities. Fangirl…fangirl…what if it’s a fangirl…?
At the summit of Taniquetil…finally…
Fingolfin and Finarfin bowed low in reverence before Manwë, trying not to be too obvious about catching their labored breaths. The winds at the summit of Taniquetil had blown their impractically long hair into most un-lordly disarray, and they were trying fruitlessly to smooth it. The Lord of the Valar smiled in greeting and bade them approach. Beside him, Varda also welcomed the two brothers.
“Welcome, lords. It is well that you have come.” She smiled slightly in greeting.
Finarfin and Fingolfin began to grin foolishly, shuffling their feet and muttering. Manwë had to conceal an entirely inappropriate grin. Though both Elves had been married for thousands and thousands of years, even the smallest smile from the Star-Kindler was enough to make even High Kings blush and stammer like Elflings.
“Lord Manwë,” Finarfin finally began. “I presume you know why we have come. Valinor is under assault!”
“Yes, we are aware,” Manwë replied gravely.
After a few minutes of waiting politely for him to continue, Fingolfin finally said, “And?”
“And, what will you do about it?” Fingolfin said, flinching a little at his own presumption.
“Do? I shall do nothing.”
Finarfin and Fingolfin exchanged a glance. That was an awful lot of stairs to have climbed for nothing. The High King felt perilously close to some very un-lordly tears.
Fingolfin figured that if Manwë was going to smite him, he would have done it already, so he hazarded to ask, “But my Lord, why not? Our people are under attack!”
“Intervention, in this case, is unnecessary. I have foreseen it,” Manwë said calmly, generously overlooking Fingolfin’s impertinence.
The two brothers exchanged another glance, wondering if they dared to question further.
“Perhaps you should explain, my love,” said Varda, coming to the Elf-lords’ timely rescue. They smiled at her gratefully.
“Very well. You see, my friends, while this kind of attack is occurring more and more often these days, I happen to know that this one will be quite unsuccessful. I am aware of the strengths and weaknesses of our opponent, and I know that she will not be able to break through Valinor’s natural defenses.” Manwë smiled regally at the two Elf-lords who stood with somewhat bewildered expressions at the foot of his throne. “Just watch, and you will see what I mean.”
Overhead, the sky grew impossibly darker, and the wind howled with fury.
“It will be any minute now,” Finrod said softly. The city looked as though a hurricane were howling through. Even the messengers had disappeared, seeking cover. Maedhros insisted on watching from the balcony, and his cousins stood at his side, gripping his arms as though to prevent him from vanishing.
The Fëanorian sighed. It was all too unfair. If the Valar did not intervene, chances were that he was about to be swept away and hurled into some obscene world where he would either be forced to have sex with yet another demon or be relentlessly pursued by some hopelessly boring self-insert. And he had the feeling it was going to be the self-insert. The black sky was usually associated with that type, heralding the ‘miraculous arrival’ of ‘the mysterious girl’ whom he would eventually be forced to bed. And he could do nothing but stand there and watch it!
“Enough!” Maedhros yelled, startling his cousins. “I’ve had enough. I’m not going to wait around to be dragged off into another nightmare! I won’t do it!”
“Maedhros, calm down,” Fingon urged him.
“I won’t calm down! I have had it with these demented females dragging me through six kinds of hell, and I am tired of doing nothing about it!” Shrugging free of his cousins, Maedhros ran out onto the balcony, ripping open his tunic and baring his chest to the storm. He leapt up onto the railing, raising his voice to be heard over the howling of the wind.
“Here I am, you crazy bitch! Take me now! COME AND GET ME!!”
Fingon and Finrod stared in awe at their cousin. He had finally snapped, again. Maedhros was horrifyingly beautiful in his wrath, his impotent fury transforming him into a great and terrible specter of dread, too captivating to turn away from despite the very real danger he posed. Without thought for self-preservation, Fingon and Finrod leapt forward and grasped Maedhros’ outstretched arms mere seconds before he hurled himself from the balcony. Despite being two-against-one, a desperate if brief scuffle ensued.
Suddenly, just as it appeared that all three Elves might take the plunge, the wind died out completely in a matter of seconds. As quickly, the sky was blue and calm once more.
Too startled to keep a mind on their balance, the three Elves tumbled rather ungracefully from the railing. Fortunately, the Valar were smiling on them that day, and they fell towards the room, rather than the streets eight stories below. Unfortunately, for Finrod, anyway, being the lightest he naturally ended up on the bottom of the pile, with the combined weight of his cousins nearly driving him into the floorboards.
Finarfin and Fingolfin watched in amazement as normal weather patterns reemerged in a matter of seconds. They gaped in awe as the sky once more turned a peaceful and serene blue.
“She gave up…” Finarfin said in amazement. “She gave up!” He looked at Manwë. “Why did she give up?”
Manwë favored the High King with a smile as though he were a small and rather pitiful child. He graced them with an explanation. “To all things, there is a reason. The Creator must have foreseen this danger when He made our world, long ago. This is why The Silmarillion is so difficult to read. It ensures that those who seek Valinor with ill-purpose in their hearts will stray and become lost.”
“So that’s why the first few chapters are so boring!” Fingolfin cried.
Varda smiled and nodded. “Yes. It prevents the zealous teenaged fangirls of Lord of the Rings from overrunning Valinor as they have Middle-Earth. Very few succeed in passing the leaguer of The Silmarillion, and that is why so few of them have come here.”
Finarfin, suppressing the urge to do a rather un-lordly Happy Dance, grinned at his brother. “See, what have I always told you? Trust in the Creator, and all things will come right in the end!”
Fingolfin, already thinking about the three-hundred and thirty-one flights of stairs they would have to pass to get back home, punched the High King solidly in the arm. “It was your idea to come here!” he grumpily reminded his brother.
Meanwhile, in the Real World…
“Oh, hell with this!” she cried, slamming the book angrily shut.
For the past three hours, she had struggled to get into The Silmarillion. It was hopeless…something was holding her back almost like a barrier. The book was pointless, boring, and dull. She couldn’t even tell what the stupid story was supposed to be about. It was like reading the frickin’ Bible, for crying out loud! It was even more boring than The Lord of the Rings, which she had faithfully skimmed (at least, all the Legolas parts) after the seventeenth flame on her first fic.
Now she had blown a week’s allowance and wasted half her Saturday on that stupid thing. Oh, well. Maybe her squirrelly older sister could use it. She loved dull stuff like that. The more boring, the better.
Barging through the closed door of her sister’s room without bothering to knock, she hurled The Silmarillion to the floor at her sister’s feet where she was seated at her computer.
“Here,” she said generously. “You can have that.” Turning on her heel, she flounced out of the room. She needed to get to her own computer – despite that godawful book, she’d just had a great idea for a brand new Legomance. In it, she would travel to Middle-Earth in the form of a beautiful silver-haired half-elf, reclaim her lost royal heritage, win the Ring War and the love of a certain Mirkwood elf…
The End…or is it?
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.