1. Part I
Maglor reached down and gently shook his sleeping brother’s shoulder. “Russandol, I’m sorry to wake you, but the message you’ve been waiting for has arrived.”
Maedhros, roused from his dream, looked up at his brother and smiled. “So our courier has finally returned. What reply does our uncle send to me?”
“He has agreed to your request for a formal meeting between the House of Fëanor and the Houses of Fingolfin and Finarfin, to take place in their camp in five days.” Maglor glared at the letter in his hand as if it offended him. “Of course, he would insist the meeting take place in his encampment.”
“Certainly,” Maedhros laughed. “He’s trying to prove a point – after all, he always has been ambitious.”
“You should insist that it be held here.”
“What, and risk offending our dear uncle? No, send a reply in the morning – tell him that I agree with his plans, and our delegation will be arriving at his settlement on the evening before the meeting.”
“No! If you won’t insist on holding the meeting here, then it should be postponed. Listen to me, Russandol, you’re not yet well - ”
“Well enough to ride a horse around the lakeshore.”
“You’re pushing yourself too hard, too soon. You need more time to rest and heal. Please, don’t do this! The meeting can wait.”
Maedhros reached out with his left hand and gently grabbed Maglor’s arm. “No, little brother, it can’t, and you know that as well as I do. It’s been five years since Fingolfin’s host crossed the ice, so you told me, and until Fingon brought me home their mood was so hostile that you were lucky to avoid open warfare between our two peoples. All those years wasted, during which Morgoth has been able to plot unhindered! Fingon’s rescue of me may have softened our people’s mood towards Uncle’s followers, but I doubt that it has done much to improve their view of us – Father betrayed them, after all. No, we Noldor can’t afford to be divided. We need the help of Fingolfin’s people if we are going to succeed in fulfilling our oath, and they want vengeance against Morgoth almost as much as we do. It’s time to end this rift – for all our sakes. We will be at Fingolfin’s encampment five days from now even if I have to be tied onto the horse like a sack of grain. Send the message in the morning.”
“Sometimes you can be just as stubborn as Father was.”
“Good. I’m glad I managed to inherit at least one of his traits, even if only one of his more annoying ones.”
Maglor stared intently at his brother, startled by the touch of bitterness in his tone. “What do you mean by that comment?”
“Oh, Maglor, do you think I don’t realize what a disappointment I was to our parents?”
“That’s not true! Maedhros, Father and Mother loved you.”
“I know that. I didn’t say they didn’t love me, I said that I was a disappointment to them. And it’s true. Look at me – the eldest son of the great Fëanor, and yet I have none of his gifts. I’m no scholar or craftsman, unlike Curufin, and unlike you, I haven’t managed to inherit any of Mother’s artistic talents either. The eldest grandchild of Finwë couldn’t even manage the proper hair color2. No, Father may have loved me, but I’m not the son he would have chosen as his heir. Curufin, or Caranthir perhaps – but not me. Not me.”
“Maedhros,” Maglor said, very gently, “you do have gifts, even if you can’t see them yourself. You’ve spent your entire life under Father’s shadow, trying to live up to his expectations of you as his heir. The rest of us were more fortunate; we didn’t have that pressure to deal with. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve inherited his skills or measured up to his expectations. Neither he nor Mother had any right to expect those things of you. You need to discover what your own talents are, now that you’re free to exercise them. I’m certain you will do well as the leader of our House.”
“For all our sakes, I hope so. But how am I going to function as the head of our House when I can’t manage even the simplest tasks on my own? Why should our people follow a commander who can’t even dress himself?”
“It’s going to take time and practice for you to learn how to do things one-handed, that’s all. Right now, it’s your wits we need – and I’ll be here, and so will your other brothers, to help you with the physical things until you can manage them on you own. Stop being so hard on yourself, Russandol.”
“I hate feeling so helpless.” Maedhros turned away from his brother’s gaze, staring intently into the fire.
“I know.” Maglor softly stroked the side of his brother’s face. “Give yourself time, brother. Have you eaten this evening?”
“Yes. Celegorm came by earlier to help me.”
“Good. I know it’s early, but I think you should try to sleep now – you look exhausted. Let me help you get ready for bed.” Maedhros swayed as he stood up from the chair, and Maglor moved close to his side, ready to catch him if he should stumble. As they walked towards the bed, Maedhros asked, “Will you be the one staying with me tonight?”
“Yes.” Maglor eased his brother onto the bed, reached down to tug his boots off, then helped Maedhros remove the rest of his clothing. “Would you like me to get my harp? The music might help you fall asleep more easily,” he said as Maedhros curled up under the soft blankets.
“No, that’s not necessary, but thank you for offering. Please remember to send the courier to Fingolfin’s camp first thing in the morning.”
“Maglor, I’m also going to need a complete inventory of all the material goods in our people’s possession – especially the number of horses – before we leave for the meeting. Have someone begin preparing it tomorrow; I’ll want to see the final list as soon as possible.”
“Why do you need an inventory?”
“That’s my secret for now. Just see that one is made quickly, please.”
“Of course, brother. I don’t know for certain what you’re planning to do, but I think I can guess. Softening our uncle’s mood by offering some aid to his people just might work; he’ll be reluctant to press his claim to the high kingship too strenuously if he knows he has something important to lose by doing so, like your gift of supplies. I told you that if you follow your instincts, you’ll do well. Father would be proud of you.”
“No, he wouldn’t be,” Maedhros said softly, and he shivered slightly. “He wouldn’t be proud at all. But from now on the decisions are mine to make, not his.”
“Hush. Go to sleep now,” Maglor said, gently stroking his brother’s russet hair. He watched as Maedhros’s eyes slowly became unfocused. Once he was certain that his brother had slipped back into dreams, Maglor walked over to the hearth and, after finding a fresh piece of paper, sat down and began composing a formal acceptance to Fingolfin’s proposal to be sent with the courier at dawn.
Russandol – “Copper-top”; an affectionate nickname given to Maedhros by his family in acknowledgement of his reddish-brown hair. See The Peoples of Middle Earth (History of Middle Earth, vol. 12), p. 353
Both Finwë and Fëanor had black hair; Maedhros’s reddish hair was inherited from his mother. See The Peoples of Middle Earth (History of Middle Earth, vol. 12), pp.353 (Maedhros) and 357 (footnote 19 – Finwë’s hair).
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