1. The Cold Hill of Himring
Two excellent stories, "Under the Curse" by Finch and "What Flesh Remembers" by Deborah, gave me the inspiration for this piece. So if you like it, give them the credit; but I'll take the blame if you don't.
Is this the same Maedhros as the one in my earlier stories "Captive of Fate" and "Necessary Sacrifices"? I think he may be, but he hasn't told me yet.
Nonetheless among the Eldar, even in Aman the desire...was not always fulfilled. Love was not always returned; and more than one might desire one another... Concerning this, the only cause by which sorrow entered the bliss of Aman, the Valar were in doubt. Some held that it came from the marring of Arda, and from the Shadow under which the Eldar awoke; for thence only (they said) comes grief or disorder. Some held that it came of love itself, and of the freedom of each fëa, and was a mystery... (Laws and Customs among the Eldar)
I do not know how much more of this I can endure. Fortunately, I will not have to find out, for the season is growing late and we must take our leave soon, before the weather makes travel too difficult. I thought I had learned all there was to know of pain during my long captivity - what a child I was then, for all my years! That was merely suffering of the hröa, which can with an effort of will be endured. This torment of my fëa is far worse, and yet I shall continue to bear it until Arda is broken and remade - even if my oath did not constrain me from seeking an end to my incarnate life, I know I would find no relief in Mandos, for I will never consent to be healed of this and Námo cannot help one who is unwilling to be cured. It burns, yes, a terrible fire within me, and yet in some strange way it warms my heart. I do not care that it is an abomination, and despite the pain it brings me I treasure it.
As a child, I delighted in the stories of our kindred and the laws of our people, handed down to us, Mother said, by tradition and through the teaching of the Valar. My favorite was the old counting tale. I loved to picture the first fathers, Imin, Tata, and Enel, waking up under the stars and turning to see their wives sleeping next to them, man and woman, one love for each. That is the way of things, we were told - each person has a proper match, one to whom he will give his heart. Don't worry, Maitimo, our mother reassured me, your heart will tell you when you have met yours. And as we all grew I watched as, one by one, my brothers and cousins found their mates - Maglor, Curufin, Caranthir, Turgon, Finrod, Orodreth, Angrod. Not all, of course, for we Quendi mature at different rates, and love comes to each of us at a slightly different season in our lives. When we set forth on our journey, both your heart and mine were still untouched. By then, of course, I had come to know that my mother's stories did not tell the entire truth. I had learned through the sad history of our family that love can be unrequited, as Indis's was for so long before my grandmother Míriel fled her hröa forever. Had she not done so, would Indis, her heart still yearning for my grandfather, have remained alone forever? I do not know. And I had learned that some love is forbidden, for do our laws not proscribe marriage between cousins or siblings, deeming it incest? The existence of such a law surely means that at least once a pair of cousins or a brother and sister must have felt such desire, else why write an edict forbidding those unions? But I had never known anyone who had actually felt such a terrible passion, and I was confident then that the day would come when I too would meet a fair maid and my heart would turn towards its proper object, as was natural. About the ardor that has filled me for so long now, our lore and laws are silent. It is loathsome and abhorrent, a violation of everything that is proper, a twisting of the natural procreative urge to a barren end. That there are no laws forbidding this does not comfort me, for that is simply because until now they were not needed. Do we have a law forbidding us to breathe water instead of air? None of our kind, until me, has ever before been corrupted in this way.
Perhaps it is intended as punishment, this longing of mine, a product of the Curse. For I have spilled blood unrighteously, and I unwisely invoked His name when I swore our oath, an oath that I am sure now He would not have had us take, though having sworn it we cannot now escape it. Or perhaps He has altered my nature in this fashion to prevent me from passing on my family's faults to yet another generation of innocents; it is certain now that the Heir of Fëanor will get no heirs of his own. For I feel nothing when I look upon a woman, and I know I never will. You are the only one I will ever desire. As a punishment, it has failed. Disgusting and unnatural it may be, yet I do not wish my nature changed; I regret only that my feelings for you must remain forever unspoken and unrequited. I would rather burn with this passion, however much it hurts, than go back to my previous innocence. And although it pains me to know that my feelings for you will never be returned, for your sake I am glad of it. I love you. I want only your happiness, even if it must come at the expense of my own. And I would not see you disowned by your father, scorned by our people, and driven out as a pariah, which is what would surely have happened if your heart had mirrored mine; we would have inevitably come together, for I would not have had the strength of will to deny you, and thus would have been discovered. There is already talk of me, this I know, for I have overheard it. But my unmarried state, though unusual, is not completely unheard of among our people, and they attribute it to many things: my dedication to the protection of Beleriand and the fulfillment of our oath (which leaves me little time to court), the effects of my previous torment on my fëa (I am told that my gaze now is... unsettling; there are few who can meet it, and none of them maids), my disfigurement (and is it not ironic that I, Maitimo, am now so distressing to look upon, with the perfection of my other features only highlighting my absent hand). In none of these speculations, of course, have any uttered the true reason for my state - such a thought would never occur to decent people. So long as I am careful to watch my reactions around you, my defilement shall remain known only to me. I will not end up an outcast and reviled.
These past few weeks have been both a torment and a joy. I have missed you so much! The sight of your face, the sound of your voice, the touch of your hand - these are to my fëa what the water you once gave me was to my hröa, on that day so long ago when you cut me down from Thangorodrim. I have enjoyed our long talks, and our silences, sitting companionably under the trees after a successful hunt, enjoying the peace of the woods together - almost it could have been the old days, a return to our childhood bliss under the Light of the Trees, when we were as close as brothers. But then it comes - a random touch, a certain tone in your voice, an instant when the light catches your face just so - and I feel fire flood through my veins and my flesh begin to stir, and I remember why I now dwell so far from Hithlum. I lead my kindred away in part to put some distance between us, though that was of course not one of the reasons I uttered publicly, for I had begun to feel these unnatural urges shortly after my return from Thangorodrim, and by the time of the council of Mithrim I could no longer endure them. Yet I knew that I could not speak of them to you, both for shame and because I knew without asking that you had found your match at last. How your face shined when you first spoke of her to me! And how much pain you unwittingly inflicted on me with your innocent words! I am glad that she has brought you such happiness, for you deserve all of it and more, but every time I see the two of you together I feel as if a knife has pierced my heart. And now I return, after so many years apart, to find that soon you will be a father! I am flattered that you chose to discuss possible father-names for your child-to-be with me - it is a mark of our closeness that you would raise the subject with me at all, and I agree that Ereinion will be a fine father-name if it is a son, your own sire will be flattered - but I do not like the images that our conversation raised in my mind. I do not want to picture you making love to your wife. You said today that you wish we could meet more often, that it is a pity the many leagues of Dorthonion separate us, and I agreed with you - but in my heart I am grateful for that distance. I know that my voluntary removal to east Beleriand and my manner with you - more aloof now than before Thangorodrim - have both hurt you. I am sorry. I would never willingly cause you pain; I know, however, that what you would feel should you became aware of my desires would be far worse, and I could not bear to see you look at me with revulsion in your eyes. I choose as I must, for both our sakes.
Thank the Valar this feast is finally ending! I think it is the knowledge that this will be our last night in Hithlum that has me so unsettled. It has been an effort to take my eyes off of you all evening, and I have had to force myself to converse with the other guests, despite my complete lack of any desire to do so - it would not do to have people notice me staring at you, after all. And yet all I wish is that they would go away and leave me in peace to drink in the vision of you - it will be long years before we meet again, and I would take back with me as many memories of you as I can, for warmth and comfort in the cold season to follow.
In your finery, you have been worth looking at tonight. The torchlight pales in comparison to the light shining from your eyes - almost a Vala you might be. I think perhaps it is your obvious happiness that makes you glow so, brought about by the simple pleasure of having so many of those you love and care for present at the same time for once. Your mother is absent, of course, and your brother and sister, who have not been seen since they abandoned Nevrast to settle in some secret realm still undisclosed, but your father came, and Angrod and Aegnor are here, and me. And, of course, your wife. Your devotion to her is touching, and obvious - your face softens every time you look at her. I will remember that lovely expression - and try to forget, as best I can, the one responsible for it. I cannot bear to watch her as she gazes with adoration into your eyes, her belly swelling in a gentle curve, filled with your seed. Were it not for the grief it would cause you, I would wish her dead.
The sound of your voice is intoxicating; the room feels close and hot as my blood starts to rise. Oh please, not now! Silently I curse myself, and turn away from the sight of you. I quickly gulp some chilled wine, hoping to cool the flames beginning to burn inside me, and try to distract myself by listening to other conversations, but this plan fails as the room goes silent; my brother has begun to sing. It is a love song he performs tonight. My brother's wife chose to remain in Aman rather than follow him on our quest, and he misses her terribly; his longing for her is clear in his melodious voice, adding to its beauty. At the sound of his song my senses reel, and I feel the heat rapidly building in my loins. There is no longer any hope of quenching this ardor; the fire in my body is consuming me. I need to leave now, while I still have a shred of self-control, lest my shame become public. When my brother's song comes to an end I turn to leave the hall, telling those who inquire that I wish for a walk under the starlight before retiring - we have a long ride ahead of us in the morning, I say, and I would start it well-rested. I manage to maintain my dignity long enough to reach the woods; only when I am at last out of sight among the trees do I begin to run.
I run until I am gasping for breath, flushed with my exertions. The frosty air has not chilled the fires in my hröa, but flamed them. The pressure in my groin has grown unbearable. Hurriedly I begin to fumble with the lacings on my leggings - it is hard to untie them with only one hand, but I have had long years of practice. At last they are loosed, and my erection springs forth, burning in the cold. I picture you in my mind as take it into my hand.
I know that what I am doing is wrong. Deeply wrong. The desires of our hröar were given to us by Eru, I was taught as a child, to cement the union of a man and woman and produce offspring. They are to be shared with a spouse, not spent like this. But I am doomed never to have a mate, for the one who has captured my heart has chosen another, and even had he not, our unnatural union could never produce children. I did not choose this strange love, it chose me, and who besides me will suffer for what I do now? My body aches with a desire too powerful to suppress and impossible to ignore, and I will now do what I must to gain release from it for a time.
I find that I am standing in a small clearing, and as I begin to stroke myself, I look up at the stars and imagine it is your hand touching my flesh, your fingers running through my hair and not the wind. I tremble as the tension in my body mounts, and think of the sound of your laughter and the brightness of your eyes, remember the feel of your body pressed tightly against mine, holding me close, when we rode the eagle. As the point of my release draws near I can no longer see the stars, only your beloved face. Then the moment arrives, and for a brief instant my senses explode as a shattering wave of ecstasy sweeps through me; dimly, I hear my voice cry out your name - "Findekáno!"
And then it's over. I find myself standing here alone, limp and drained, my hand stained with my spilled seed. As always after I do this, I feel empty inside. Although the act provides desperately needed physical relief, in the aftermath I inevitably find my loneliness is increased, for despite my visions of a moment earlier you are not here with me, and you never will be. I wipe my hand clean on the grass, then, slowly and sadly, tuck my now limp organ back inside my leggings and begin the difficult process of relacing them.
I have scarcely begun this task when I hear the footsteps behind me. Someone has followed me! Even if they did not see my actions, they surely must have heard my cry. The secret I have so long guarded is a secret no more, and sickened, I realize that soon it will not be just one person who knows, but everyone. I will no longer be Maedhros the Heir of the House of Fëanor, leader of the Noldor forces in east Beleriand, hero of the Dagor Aglareb, but instead Maedhros the defiled, twisted by the Curse on his House, filled with a foul and incestuous lust for his male cousin Fingon. I want to run and hide, but there is no place to hide from gossip, save into the wild alone, and I will be forced there soon enough. I feel the shame burning on my face as I slowly turn to face the one who, in satisfying his curiosity, has unwittingly destroyed my life.
It is my brother. He must have become concerned when I left the hall, and decided to follow me; we were always close, and the bond between us only deepened after my rescue from Thangorodrim, when he chose to stay beside me to help me while I learned to cope with the loss of my hand. My shame and guilt is doubled when I realize that it is one of my own kin who has witnessed my depravity. What he must have felt while he watched my actions I do not want to imagine. I cannot bring myself to meet his gaze; I drop my head and slowly turn away.
But then I feel his hand on my shoulder, and I hear his familiar voice, firm and even. "Maedhros, look at me," he demands. Escape denied, I turn and slowly, reluctantly, raise my eyes to meet his. What I see there shakes me to my very foundation. For my brother's eyes are filled not with anger, or disgust, or contempt, but compassion. And then I feel the hot tears begin to slide down my cheeks, despite my desperate attempts to hold them back, and I fall helpless into his arms and he holds me close, rocking me gently and whispering loving words into my ear, while I lay my head against his shoulder and sob.
Today we will begin our return journey, the long, slow ride across pine-clad Dorthonion to east Beleriand and my March, back to the fortress my people have constructed on the lonely hill of Himring. It is a barren, windswept place, rising above its fellows to take the full force of the north wind - like me. Winter's snows will be arriving soon, and once again my household will complain of the drafts that, despite our careful construction, somehow always manage to find their way into the halls and rooms. They will bundle themselves in warm furs, and build up the fires, and shiver, and dream with anticipation of the spring to follow.
I will be glad of the chill.
Mandos only being able to cure a willing soul : "For there was, for all the fëar of the Dead, a time of Waiting, in which, howesoever they had died, they were corrected, instructed, strengthened or comforted, according to their needs or deserts. If they would consent to this. But the fëa in its nakedness is obdurate, and remains long in the bondage of its memory and old purposes (especially if these were evil)." ("Laws and Customs among the Eldar", Morgoth's Ring (History of Middle Earth, volume 10), p. 222.)
The counting tale: This can be found at the end of the essay "Quendi and Eldar" in The War of the Jewels (History of Middle Earth, volume 11). Imin, Tata, and Enel ("One", "Two", and "Three") were the first three elves to awaken at Cuiviénen, and founded the Vanyar, Noldor, and Teleri, respectively.
Maitimo: "Well Shaped One"; Maedhros's mother-name, given to him because "he was of beautiful bodily form" ("The Shibboleth of Fëanor", The Peoples of Middle Earth (History of Middle Earth, volume 12), p. 353).
The spouses of Finwë's grandchildren: In The Silmarillion, Turgon, Curufin, and Orodreth are married (Turgon is the father of Idril, Curufin of Celebrimbor, and Orodreth of Finduilas), although only Turgon's spouse is actually mentioned (see "Elf sexuality" below). In the essay "Of Men and Dwarves" (Morgoth's Ring, (History of Middle Earth volume 10), p. 318) Tolkien mentions that Maglor and Caranthir are also married. Amrod's marriage is mentioned in "The Shibboleth of Fëanor" (The Peoples of Middle Earth (History of Middle Earth, volume 12), p. 346). While Finrod is not strictly speaking married, he does have a close relationship with Amarië of the Vanyar (The Peoples of Middle Earth (History of Middle Earth, volume 12), pp. 318 and 349), and Maedhros is assuming that they would have wed had Finrod not left Aman to follow the Noldor to Middle Earth.
Elf sexuality: The view of homosexuality I show in this tale in no way reflects my own; however, after reading the essay "Laws and Customs among the Eldar" in Morgoth's Ring (The History of Middle Earth, volume 10), I think it is reasonable to assume that it accurately reflects how the Eldar would have seen it. In that essay, Tolkien flatly states that marriage is "the natural course of life for all of the Eldar" - essentially, they all marry (yes, I 'm aware of all the unmarried elves in The Silmarillion; perhaps it's a side effect of the Curse of the Valar?), and are all heterosexual. And elves marry for life, with the first act of sexual intercourse forging an unbreakable bond between their souls. (See "Laws and Customs among the Eldar", Morgoth's Ring (The History of Middle Earth, volume 10), pp. 210-212.) Fingon couldn't return Maedhros's love at this point even if he desired to; he's sexually bound to his wife. And from the way the attraction of Maeglin to his unmarried female cousin Idril is mentioned in The Silmarillion as an unnatural act of incest, I can only imagine how Noldorin society would view Maedhros's sexual attraction to his married male cousin. Sadly, Maedhros's prediction of how he would be viewed and treated if his secret ever came out is likely accurate. And his view of himself as unnatural and perverted is, unfortunately, typical of the way a homosexual person raised from early childhood in a highly homophobic culture will (at least initially) regard himself when he first becomes aware of his sexual orientation.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.