4. Chapter 4
Word came to them of their cousin’s departure from Nargothond, to aid Beren, son of Barahir to claim Thingol’s brideprice. Maglor rode out to meet Finrod Felagund at the far eastern borders of Himring.
“This is folly, Findarato”, he hissed angrily at his cousin’s stubbornness, “You know well that a dozen men and a single elf can do nothing to escape Angband with a Silmaril! And the Silmaril itself is another matter, our Oaths shall make us kinslayers again! Turn back, let us have the peace we had all these years.”
“I am bound by a promise, cousin”, Finrod sighed, “A promise of honour, which I must pay in full.”
“Will you atleast see Russandol once before leaving? Or Findekano? They know Angband as few others do”, Maglor whispered, a sense of dread rising in him.
“I cannot tarry, cousin. Fingon, I spoke to. But he was angry that I had given my lands to Orodeth instead of him. Maitmo, I cannot meet now. He will not let me leave, Macalaurë, you know that”, Finrod said simply, “He has sworn not to let any of his kin enter the keep of Morgoth.”
Finrod Felagund fell, but Beren won a Silmaril and claimed his bride. Maedhros called his brothers to him and counselled them not to attack Doriath. Celegorm and Caranthir, already estranged from their eldest brother, refused to heed his words. Maedhros had a long, bitter, vicious argument with them until they finally gave in. But they left Himring never to return.
“You are an unworthy son of our father!” Carnistir said angrily as he burst into his eldest brother’s study.
“Doriath is well protected by Melian and Thingol!” Maedhros said incredulously, “I will not watch my brothers die before my eyes! Enough pyres have I lit!”
“You are a coward, Nelyafinwe, you do realize that!” Carnistir sneered, “No wonder why cousin Fingon used you like that.”
Maedhros narrowed his eyes, “What do you mean, brother?”
“The walls of the tent are not thick enough, Nelyafinwe, your screams and your ravings, I am sure the entire encampment of Mithrim heard perfectly that night of feasting”, Carnistir said viciously, as he paused pacing to stand directly before his taller brother.
Maedhros tried to hide his mortification as he said calmly, “My personal business is my own concern, brother. And I stick to my judgement in the matter of Doriath. My warriors shall not accompany you if you persist. I have a duty to my people.”
“You gave away your kingship long ago, Nelyafinwe”, Carnistir said bluntly, “All that you have is the Oath of our father. It shall call you to Doriath, whether you wish it or not.”
“Our father would never have the seven of us die to reclaim his accursed jewels!” Maedhros retorted.
Carnistir snarled and slapped his elder brother before striding out cursing Maedhros bitterly. Maedhros slumped down on the window seat, his fingers disbelievingly tracing the mark of his brother’s palm on his stinging cheek. Closing his eyes in pain and humiliation, he leant back against the window and wrapped his single hand around himself. Maglor was with his counsellors in Fingon’s palace. If only his younger brother had been here, then he would not have had to bear this alone. But, Maedhros had sent him away deliberately. He did not want Maglor to witness these arguments.
Maedhros rode for Fingon’s palace hastily, only a small escort accompanying him. Both Fingon and Maglor were surprised to see him, for Maedhros rarely left his fortress on Hithrim.
“Cousin”, Maedhros said without any preface, as he was finally alone with Fingon, “My brothers may attack Doriath to reclaim the jewel. I have stopped them, for now. But I cannot hold them back any longer, I fear.”
Fingon sighed, “Maitimo, if you think that I have any influence on them, you are sadly mistaken. They have never heeded my words.”
“There is a way to keep them away from Doriath”, Maedhros said calmly, “We can attack Angband. Morgoth still has two of the jewels, has he not? We can still fight for the oath and do some good instead of kinslaying.”
“You need me to call for war?” Fingon asked softly, “It is a risk far greater than the one I took all those years ago to free you from the rocks of Thangorodrim.”
“You know that Orodeth will join to avenge Finrod. The Moriquendi will also come. The men of the houses of Edain were ever Finrod’s allies. My brothers lead strong armies. You and I command the largest forces. Even a few houses of men from the south have pledged to fight alongside us. The Naugrim can be persuaded. Caranthir is ever their hero”, Maedhros said hopefully, “Even your brother may come.”
“It is a good plan”, Fingon sighed, “We need Dorthonion first.”
“I will manage it”, Maedhros said confidently.
“You have not fought even in a skirmish since Angband!” Fingon protested, “Whatever you may think of me, I still care for you. You are not fighting!”
“All right, Macalaurë will lead my host”, Maedhros shrugged, “I am not too keen to fight ever again.”
“Good”, Fingon said thoughtfully, “Once you claim the three jewels, what will you do? Reclaim the kingship of the Noldor?”
“No, cousin”, Maedhros sighed, “If ever we claim them, I shall give myself to the Valar’s judgement. Macalaurë and I have decided on it. You are a good king”, he smiled wistfully, “A better king than I would ever be.”
“You taught me to rule”, Fingon whispered, “You taught me and all your brothers everything you knew. Always you were selfless. I have always loved and admired you in my own way, Maitimo.”
“It breaks my heart to see all those I loved and taught fall”, Maedhros sighed, “I have no wish to light yet another pyre.”
“I pray that you don’t have to light a pyre again, Maitimo”, Fingom said fervently, “Of all of us doomed, you deserve the light of Valinor again.”
Yet Maedhros had to light many more pyres. For the armies were betrayed. Turgon came, yet Fingon fell. Maedhros covered Turgon’s retreat as well as he could, taking the brunt of the offensive. Then he gathered his warriors and retreated defeated to the wilds of Ered Lindon. But Caranthir and his brothers forced him to attack Doriath, there they slew the King Dior and his wife.
Maedhros lit pyres for two of his brothers before searching for Dior’s twin sons in vain. He retreated with his brother to Lindon again. Though Gil-Galad, Fingon’s son and high-king, asked Maedhros and Maglor to come to his palace, they stayed away. The oath drove them to the havens of Sirion and they saw Dior’s daughter drown in the sea with the jewel on her breast.
“They are twins”, Maglor said pensively as he looked at the sleeping boys in the wagon.
“Kano”, Maedhros sighed, “We should just send them to Gil-Galad, we are in no fit condition to foster elflings.”
“Russandol, you listen to me”, Maglor said firmly, “We will foster them.”
“As you wish, Macalaurë”, Maedhros succumbed to his brother’s determination.
The twins took to Maglor quickly and soon became his companions on most of his hunting and patrol trips. They learnt to wield a harp and a pen, they learnt lore and songs, medicine and diplomacy from their foster-father. Sometimes Maedhros found it ironic that Maglor, who had always left Maedhros to raise their younger brothers, was sparing no pains to raise a twin pair of foster sons whose mother they had chased to her death.
“Lord Nelyafinwe”, Elrond asked him softly, “Would you teach us to duel? Ada told us that you fight very well.”
“So does he”, Maedhros smiled at the young elf, “But call him hither, I haven’t duelled with him for a long time.”
“You want me to fight you?” Maglor was sceptical as he strode to the cleared courtyard where his brother waited patiently, Elros and Elrond were seated on the ground, their expressions eager.
“We haven’t duelled for a long time, Macalaurë”, Maedhros replied as he set away the scrolls he had been perusing, “Indulge me.”
Maglor shrugged as he removed his formal robes and tossed them to Elrond. His body seemed deceptively slender underneath his tunic and leggings, but Maedhros knew the strength under the softness. He had seen it many a time in battle.
“Russandol?” Maglor asked irritably, “Are you going to gawk at me all day?”
Elrond and Elros laughed merrily before Elrond remarked, “You are handsome enough, Ada. Do stop scowling.”
“The scowl makes him more handsome”, Maedhros said as he stepped forward, his sword gripped in his left hand.
“Remove your robes, Russandol”, Maglor commanded, “They might get torn.”
“I am afraid that I have an arm missing, Macalaurë , the young ones might be uncomfortable”, Maedhros shrugged.
Maglor narrowed his eyes in a manner so reminiscent of Feanor that his elder brother removed his robes immediately. He advanced to stand before Maglor, casting an uneasy glance at the twins, who were looking curiously at the stump which was once his right hand. They did not look revolted or disgusted, Maedhros observed more calmly. He had never appeared before them thus until now, afraid to scare them.
Maglor struck the flat of his sword against his brother’s sword to call him back from his thoughts. Maedhros smiled apologetically and bowed according to the ritual. Maglor responded and they moved backwards from each other, their eyes automatically performing the customary inspection of the opponent’s defences.
Maedhros charged first, knowing well that surprise was the only way to overcome his brother. Maglor parried well before starting his own counterattack. They fought gracefully, the fluid movements of Maglor’s sword contrasting with the trickier moves of his brother’s weapon. The onlooking twins clapped and cheered whenever Maglor gained the upper hand, their love for their foster father evident from their lusty support for him. Maedhros spun around his brother swiftly and crooked his leg through his brother’s legs causing Maglor to fall suddenly, the sword clattering from his hands. Maglor raised his hands in acknowledgement of his defeat, a gentle smile playing on his soft lips. Elros and Elrond hastened to him worriedly, but he assured them that he was fine and then turned to face his brother.
“You fight as well as you always do”, Maedhros pressed a kiss to his brother’s forehead.
“I cannot say the same of you”, Maglor teased, “You fight much better than you used to.”
Maglor watched contentedly as Maedhros walked away, his robes thrown on above his tunic again.
“He loves you so much”, Elrond observed as he leant his head on his foster-father’s shoulder, “he is always so gentle with you.”
“He is a gentle soul, Elrond”, Maglor remarked, “If we had remained in Tirion, he would have become the most loved of the princes of our house.”
“He will find peace”, Elrond said firmly, “And you also. The Valar cannot be so cruel, can they, Ada?”
“I hope not, Elrond”, Maglor sighed, “But I only wish never to be parted from him, whatever happens in the future.”
“Ada”, Elrond looked up into his foster-father’s eyes, “You love him more than you love a brother. It is like I love my twin.”
Maglor smiled sadly, “I fear you are right, Elrond. I have always prayed that nobody would confront me with the truth. He has suffered much that no elf should suffer. Yet he lives. I will not break his trust in me. I, I am his last hold on sanity.”
“You are not good company”, Maedhros complained as he watched his brother silently stare at the sky.
“Have you ever loved, Russandol? Like the love our parents had for each other?” Maglor asked quietly as he turned to face his elder brother.
They could hear the tell-tale sounds of a night well spent from the tent that the twins shared. Maedhros looked in that direction distractedly before facing his brother again and replying, “Love of a bonded-mate? Ah, Macalaurë, you know that I would never keep it a secret from you if I had loved anyone that way. I am not like you, of course, I spent all my life in Formenos after my majority trysting with young elves from Tirion.”
Maglor did not reply as he looked at his brother searchingly. Maedhros was flustered by the steady gaze and asked nervously, “Why are you asking that tonight of all nights?”
“I have fallen in love, Russandol”, Maglor replied as he strode past his brother into their tent, his face inscrutable.
Maedhros stood solitarily until a warrior on sentry duty enquired about his health. Sighing, he followed his brother into the tent, the languorous moans from his brother’s foster-sons’ tent driving him to distraction.
Maglor was on his side, occupying the far side of their large bed. He did not turn to face his brother when Maedhros crept into the bed. They lay in silence until Maedhros whispered, “Is it anyone I know?”
“You know everyone I know”, Maglor sighed, “How can it be anyone you do not know, Russandol?”
“Was it, sudden?” Maedhros asked quietly, “Is that why you told me now?”
“It was growing steadily for centuries. I have always refused to see it for what it was. But today, it has finally broken my restraint”, Maglor said softly.
“I want you happy”, Maedhros whispered, “And always at peace. And safe. I love you more than I love myself. I wish the doom did not rest on you. I would gladly take your curse upon myself if it would give you a treasured life with your love and with your foster-sons.”
“You did not ask me who it was”, Maglor reminded him emotionlessly.
“Macalaurë, Kano, I cannot hear the name from your lips, please”, Maedhros shuddered, “I had always assumed that you would be with me till the end. Now I am loath to hear named the person who will take you from me.”
“Yet I wish to speak that name”, Maglor said determinedly.
“So be it”, Maedhros said in a vanquished tone.
“Russandol”, Maglor said softly.
“Yes?” Maedhros asked wearily, “I am listening, Kano.”
Maglor cursed as he bent over his brother’s face, tears shimmered in his brother’s eyes, “Fool”, Maglor whispered, and bent to press a soft kiss on his brother’s quivering lips, “I spoke the name of the person I love.”