2. Chapter 2
Embarrassed guards appeared on the hill around them as they realised that two armed men had just walked undetected through their lines. Swords were drawn and arrows set to string as the ring of soldiers tightened round the newcomers. Neither made any movement towards their own weapons, and Finrod lifted a forestalling hand.Fëanor's last living sons bowed to his youngest brother. Gaunt and ragged, lean and fell as winter wolves, neither in any way resembled the shining princes of the Noldor whom Finarfin remembered from the blessed Day of the Trees. The Treelight lingered in their eyes, but it was mixed with a colder flame now, and darkness was behind it. Maedhros' distinctive hair was hacked off at his shoulders and held back with a leather band at his forehead, the fading echo of a prince's diadem. Like his brother he was dressed in a drab mixture of leather, mail and grey Sindar weaving, much patched and mended. On the breast of Maglor's tunic there could still be seen the remains of Fëanor's flaming badge2. But Maedhros wore a darker device; it was too stained and dirty to be seen clearly, but it appeared to be a black, wide-winged bird. Finarfin unwound his scarf. When he spoke, it was the slow weight and assurance of his office.
"Kinslayers, accursed and outlawed. Will you yield yourselves up to my authority as the King of our people, and to the judgment of the Powers?"
Maglor remained silent. Maedhros said without visible emotion,
"We will not. Gil-Galad rules the Noldor of Middle-Earth, among whom we are perforce counted, and our Oath would outweigh our duty to you, even had we any. But we are come nonetheless to aid you as we can, if you will allow it."
There was a low rumble of anger among the guards, unheeded by either of the Kinslayers."Do not, Sire," Vanamirë said urgently. "The Doom of ruin is yet upon them. Let them be taken to the Lord Eönwe that he may deal with them as he judges fit." "Little cousin who has never known defeat."
There was no change in Maedhros' tone, but Vanamirë flushed and his hand tightened on his swordhilt. "I will not be taken captive living, ever again."
"You dare compare..!"
Finarfin regarded his renegade nephews with a level stare.
"My herald is not wrong in his concern. How come you here, and what aid do you bring that outweighs the Doom that follows you?"
It was Maglor who answered, the once-golden voice darkened to iron and rust.
"We had word. But we were far in the South, and it is a long road.""Word from whom?" Edrahil of the Companions had come up at Finrod's shoulder. He was Finrod's shield-man and foremost counsellor, first of Nargothrond to follow him to death, and his disdain for Fëanor's sons was unhidden.
"Beleriand is empty, except for ourselves and the Servants of the Enemy. Even the Laiquendi fled long ago."
Maedhros lifted his right arm, the dusty-grey sleeve flapping over the stump of his hand. He whistled softly, an odd pattern of notes, rising and falling. There was a clatter of wings in the trees above, and a dark shape fluttered down onto his forearm. A great raven, far larger than any that Finarfin had ever seen, with a brutal beak and black, wicked eyes. It preened on Maedhros' arm, unafraid."This is Cärc, Lord of Ravens3. I learned his tongue, and befriended him, some while ago."
He smiled remotely down at the bird, which croaked in apparent acknowledgement.
"After the Nirnaeth. He and his people are my eyes, and in return...I feed him."
He lifted his hand and scratched the raven's nape, stirring the dark feathers and then smoothing them down with gentle fingers. It gave another, softer croak, and twisted its neck into the caress, shifting its feet for greater purchase. Maedhros raised his arm, and the raven walked up to his shoulder, where it perched, watching them all with its bright, impartial eyes.
"Orc or Elf, Adan or Easterling, they all taste the same to him."Those around him shuddered. Vanamirë said with cold distaste, "He has fed well enough in your train, Kinslayer."
The grey, distant gaze considered him without interest.
"And in yours, little cousin. As I said, it's all the same to him. He came to me in Ossiriand, with news that the Host of the Noldor was at Himring at last. And so here we are."
"And what aid do you have to offer us? Your swords, in a better cause than you have wielded them for in recent years? Your followers, if you have any?"
"Swords and followers we have," Maglor said. He seemed to take no offence at the King's scathing words, or perhaps he simply no longer heard scorn.
"Even now. But that is not the aid we offer, though you are welcome to it if you desire it. We offer you Himring."