Amrod pulled the carcass from his horse. "We are fortunate to have meat at all. Some would call it poor sport to shoot so easy a target." He looked into the frozen eyes of the dead creature. "I am truly sorry for it, old friend."
He sat now in resentful silence, sharpening his knife a distance from the fire. If their eyes met, Maedhros saw the hatred within, burning with more intensity than the flames between them. (1)
"He despises me."
"Naturally. Eat your supper."
He glared at Maglor but took the roasted meat and sat down. "Yet, he is here."
"And for that, he despises you."
He tore into the leathery food with a vigour that made his jaws ache - the deer must have known her legs were too old to journey east with her herd. As the elves had left Ossiriand and come into Taur-im-Duinath, game had grown scarce; above the blighted forest, carrion birds circled lazily, sharp eyes fixed upon their unlucky prey.
Fog rolled over the camp in great ghostly billows, seeming to rise from the marsh rather than lower from the sky. Only the one fire had been lit. Elves came forward to claim their share of the venison and retreat, unwilling in spite of the damp cold to sit near the brothers. They stood in small groups or alone, their backs squared with resignation - a fog of its own, wherein one fixed upon the task at hand, shutting out useless questions. Maedhros remembered when love engendered their fealty, and honour, their will; later, hatred for the common foe had sufficed. This day, he could see nothing for the fog.
"It will be a dark night," Maglor observed.
"We will need it."
Maglor gained his feet in a single, fluid motion. "Bury the carcass," he said to the cook, and began to douse the fire. "It is growing too dark to risk it - we will be detected. Their eyes are keen."
Maedhros could not make out the mood of this most gentle of his brothers. He should have the blame for it, tonight, whether it went well or no, for he had moved them to this, yet Maglor would not leave him to it. We do this together, he seemed to say.
A low whistle signalled the return of the messenger. Moments later, the elf stood before him.
"You were not followed."
"She will not yield the jewel."
He threw his meat into the remains of the fire and summoned his lieutenant. "Pass the word among the others. We shall leave at nightfall."
The elf dipped his head in acknowledgement and went about his orders with swift purpose. The waiting, the slow pace at which they had crept upon Lisgardh and the sombre mood of the host had stretched even the patience of elves.
Maedhros had expected that his last warning would fail; he had planned the coming night with all the careful detail and none of the uncertainties he had put into the last assault on Morgoth. One's own kind was the easiest of foes and most dependable of allies. They would come upon Lond Sirion in confusion, lay flat all chance of pursuit and escape with what they sought: a simple strategy inspired by the wreckage of Orkish raiding parties. An advance party awaited them by the waterfront, oil and torches at the ready. No hope would come from the sea tonight, nor would the Silmaril take flight by that route.
"I know your thoughts, Maedhros. I would not like to carry so cold a burden."
"We do not go looking for defeat," he said, eyes fixed on the horizon. In the agonies of the night, he and Maglor had spoken of the Oath and its implications before Eru. What hope had they of taking the other two from Morgoth? The Oath would continue to hound or the Void would stretch eternal.
Night gathered upon the grey twilight as Anor fell into the West. Maedhros turned away from the last of her sickly light to look upon his brother. "But we may hope for defeat."
(1) I've gone with the late story in which Amras died in the burning at Losgar. (The Peoples of Middle-earth, 'The Shibboleth of Fëanor' pp 354-355 pub Houghton Mifflin)
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