2. Part II
“I was beginning to think you had given up on your hair entirely. This is the first time you’ve let any of us help you with it since you were brought back to us,” Maglor said.
“This is the first time it’s mattered. I’m also planning to wear my copper circlet. Since I stand on behalf of our House today, I need to look the part – it wouldn’t do to have our people represented by someone unkempt. I want them all to remember it is Fëanor’s son who is speaking.”
“I’m looking forward to seeing you with our arrogant uncle – it should be a memorable confrontation,” Amras said as he continued to plait Maedhros’s thick russet hair.
“I think I can safely promise that none of you will ever forget the sight,” Maedhros replied.
* * * * * * *
“Is it time?” Maedhros looked up from the papers he was reviewing and folded them neatly as Maglor pulled the tent flap open. “Nearly,” Maglor said. “It’s a bit of a walk to the site – Fingon says Fingolfin’s hall is at the opposite end of the camp, so we should leave now if we don’t want to be late.” Maedhros quickly sealed the folded papers with wax, and after exiting the tent, gave them to Fingon. “Let’s go,” he told his cousin. “Your father is no doubt already waiting for us.”
As the delegation, escorted by Fingon, passed through the camp, Maglor was struck by the contrast in their appearance compared to that of his cousin. The Fëanorans were all dressed in fine garments while Fingon’s clothing, though serviceable, was relatively plain and had clearly seen much wear. The buildings in the settlement were well-constructed, but the large hall they were ushered into contained little other than furniture which had clearly been built from local wood; obviously Fingolfin’s host, being limited to what they could carry on their backs or pull on simple sledges, had been unable to bring many possessions with them during the brutal crossing over the ice from Araman. Jewelry, however, was light and small enough to carry easily, and the brows of his cousins were decorated by silver and gold circlets set with gems that glittered almost as brightly as the cold gleam in their eyes. Turgon, whose wife had been lost on the ice, seemed the most hostile, but nearly all of his cousins appeared remote if not openly angry. Their uncle Fingolfin sat in a large chair raised up on a low platform at the end of the hall, his expression unreadable.
Maedhros stepped forward to greet the assembly, his elegant appearance and proud bearing somewhat undercut by the way his clothing hung on his too-thin frame. “Greetings to the Houses of Fingolfin and Finarfin from the House of Fëanor. I thank you for agreeing to this meeting, for the followers of Finwë have been sundered one from the other for far too long. United were the Noldor when Finwë lead them forth on the great journey from these lands into the West; united should we be now upon our return to our ancestral home. It is time to close the breach separating the descendents of Míriel and Indis and become one people again.”
“Why should we wish reconciliation with traitors and -” Turgon began to say angrily, but a sharp look from his father silenced him. “Desirable it might be to accomplish such a reunion, but the quarrel between the House of Fëanor and the Houses of Fingolfin and Finarfin is not lightly placed aside,” said Fingolfin, “and I deem it is your House that is chiefly responsible for our division, and thus must bear the principle burden of ending it. How do you propose we begin this task?”
“I propose we begin it thus.” And Maedhros stepped up to the foot of the platform on which Fingolfin’s chair stood and, to the astonishment of Maglor and his brothers, dropped to his knees before their uncle and hung his head like a penitent. “In the name of my House, I apologize for our cruel betrayal of your people, our kin whom we abandoned in Araman without just cause. I would beg forgiveness from the Houses of Fingolfin and Finarfin for our treacherous act, though I and my House deserve it not. And though I cannot undo the harms inflicted by my House on your people, I can and will act to ease the condition of those who were fortunate enough to survive the journey across the Helcaraxë. For it is not just that we, who arrived on these shores by riding in comfort upon stolen ships, should prosper from our theft while those whose arrival was achieved only with pain and the expenditure of much blood remain in privation. I have therefore given to Lord Fingon a list of the goods to be transferred to your encampment following the conclusion of this meeting; know that they will remain yours whether you accept my apology or no.”
“On behalf of the Houses of Fingolfin and Finarfin, I accept your apology, and grant my forgiveness to your House for its desertion of my people in Araman,” Fingolfin said gravely, and Maedhros raised his head and gazed into his uncle’s eyes.
“I thank you, Lord Fingolfin. There remains yet one area of contention between our peoples, namely the question of the kingship of the Noldor, which following the death of Finwë did by right of birth pass to my father Fëanor. As the eldest son of my father, many would hold that the kingship now passes from my father to me. But I say otherwise, and do now renounce any claim I may possess to it in favor of you. For if there lay no grievance between us, lord, still the kingship would rightly come to you, the eldest here of the house of Finwë, and not the least wise. The House of Fëanor now swears its loyalty and allegiance to Fingolfin, the rightful High King of the Noldor.”
When he heard his brother utter those words, Maglor realized what he had to do and, reluctantly, bent his knee before his uncle; after a brief moment, his younger brothers followed his lead. What differences the younger sons of Fëanor had with their eldest brother would have to be aired later in private, and Maglor was certain that several of his brothers would definitely be doing so, for Caranthir’s face was slightly flushed and Curufin’s hands were knotted into tight fists. In public, however, they could not afford to dispute their elder brother’s authority, and both Caranthir and Curufin knew it. So they knelt and acknowledged their hated uncle’s authority over them as the now-undisputed king of their people.
Once the Fëanoran delegation had bowed to him, Fingolfin rose from his seat and stated, “Let the differences that formerly divided our Houses be forgotten. The Noldor stand as one people again!” He then stepped down to help Maedhros back onto his feet, whispering into his ear as he did so, and with that act the tension in the hall broke and people began move about and converse. Maglor soon found himself caught up in a crowd, for as he moved towards his brother’s side, so did most of his cousins, who were all speaking to Maedhros simultaneously, expressing happiness at seeing him alive and recovering and praising him for his words to Fingolfin. When he reached his brother’s side, Maedhros smiled at him, but Maglor could see the uncertainty in his eyes as he reached out to him with his remaining hand. Maglor smiled back and took his brother’s hand. “Our uncle has invited our family to dine with him and our cousins tonight, brother,” Maedhros said as Maglor stepped next to him. “We’ll need to send someone back to fetch your harp; everyone is looking forward to hearing you play, or so I’ve been told,” he said, glancing over towards Fingon and Angrod. “I’ve already told our uncle that we’d be there,” Maedhros said quickly, giving his brother a stern look as he sensed Maglor’s unvoiced objections. “I’ll send someone to get it now,” Maglor replied, acknowledging defeat, “and tell our brothers about the invitation.” And warn them, he thought to himself as he walked away, that the consequences of any misbehavior on their part tonight will be painful – I will make sure of that.
When Maglor had finished speaking with his younger brothers, Fingolfin beckoned him over to one side of the hall. “I am concerned about my eldest nephew,” he said quietly, glancing towards Maedhros. “He is still pale, and far too thin.”
“He is not as recovered as he tries to appear,” Maglor stated, and stared coldly at his uncle. “He certainly isn’t ready to be attending feasts.”
“I am sorry, but it is necessary. Our family must show that we have reconciled our differences before we can expect our followers to do so. I will see that the evening ends early, to avoid tiring him too badly, and I trust that you will also look out for him.”
“I intend to,” Maglor replied.