Maedhros watched as the light, the Silmaril he was certain, plunged from the cliff. Just before it touched the waves the light lifted, and sailed away across the water.
He fell to his knees, his mind reeling. We lost our father's Silmaril. Forgive me brothers; Celegorm, Caranthir, and Curufin, and little Ambarussa. Forgive me father I have failed you, and mother whom I shamed; find peace, Elurid and Elurin; my dead men, and the enemy.
He took several deep breaths to calm his pounding heart. If there is anyone who might listen, please Malgor, you must live. I need you. I am sorry, brother, I am selfish.
He tightened his fingers in his hair until he thought that it would break. He imagined the red strands falling around his face like a veil of blood. Does Maglor still live? Or is he covered in blood, laying among the dead or dying?
No! Stop! Do not think that!
Concentrate… focus… just like on that cursed mountain… what do I see? Block out everything else….
Sight - Look left… the fireplace is grand, I see waves…. It has been carved to mimic the sea….. Look right... A rug with more sea-life. Behind me…. Carved animals of both land and sea on the floor… a shelf of books… Children's books?
I feel… cold…the floor and walls are stone, grey stone, simply cut… much like Amon Ereb.
Focus on myself now…. What do my senses tell me?
Smell - smoke and blood….. My own clothing no doubt...
Taste - blood…. my imagination no doubt….
Hear - the sea outside the window…. Yet the sound of fighting has stopped. Crying children….. No, I do not, will not, hear those boys again. Those Peredhel children have not left my conscience.
Then he sat up and looked around himself, as the details all snapped together in his mind. He did hear crying, there was at least one child very near-by. A nursery; dear Valar I am in a nursery!
"Little one?" he called softly. "Is there a child here?"
He heard footsteps behind him, and turned in time to see a dark-haired child dart away through the door that he had broken down. It was locked to keep the child safe. The guard he had slain must have tried to protect them.
Maedhros gave chase.
The boy was small, and seemingly able to be everywhere at once. "Child please," he called, "come back and let me help you!"
The brat swore at him. They ran through the wreckage of the once beautiful city, the boy darting around and behind broken furniture and crumbling stone. This is not possible, Maedhros decided, he moves from one place to another too quickly. Then he recalled rumors he had heard, of Elwing and Earendil's children. Twins. I am chasing Peredhel twins.
Finally he cornered them - he was now convinced there were two - in what appeared to be kitchens. For a moment he wondered why boys would run to a kitchen, but soon learned why.
One of the boys tossed a kitchen knife at him, the blade aimed for his chest. He had no time to move and defend himself, the act of hate and ruin from such a small child scared him. I have scared them, my attack has scarred them.
Thankfully the knife bounced harmlessly off his armor, but years of instincts carefully honed took over, and he took two long strides forward and grabbed one boy's tunic and pinned the other with his stump. "Listen carefully," he said, "for this is the last warning you shall get. Never, ever, try to kill an elf."
The boys cried and tried to wriggle away. The one pinned by his stump escaped easily, but found that the other was not so lucky and ran back. Maedhros released them and strode to the door and closed it. He turned to face the trapped boys. "Are you the sons of Elwing?"
They looked at one another, then nodded.
"Have you names?"
"I am Elros and this is my brother Elrond." The speaker was the one he had previously pinned with his stump. Now that he could see them better, he noticed that beneath the grime their clothes were identical in style, but not color. The one who identified himself as Elros wore red, his brother Elrond wore blue.
"I am Maedhros," he said. "I will not kill you." Even as he spoke the words he felt the oath, buried in his heart, protesting. He offered it the only compromise he could; Never again shall a child die at mine or my brothers' hand. "You will come with me, as you will serve as hostages to be traded for the Silmarill." He rested his hand on his sword hilt as he spoke.
He recalled Maglor once saying, after Maedhros' search for the last set of Peredhel twins, 'children are to be separate from war, Celegorm or his men, I do not wish to know which, have truly broken my heart.'
The boys seemed fearful. Eyeing his sword and the hand that gripped it Elros said, "You said you would not harm us."
Irrated at their refusal to obey Maedhros snapped, "I said I will not kill you. What elves can survive would surprise you." He held out his stump for them to see.
Both began to cry. "Come with me now," Maedhros ordered. To his surprise they complied. They walked to him as stiffly as puppets, made to move by another's hands. "Before I open this door, know this, I may not be able to catch you both should you chose to run, but I can very easily catch one." He opened the door and all three of them filed through. "Lead me to your rooms, and be quick about it."
They complied, and Maedhros received several strange looks from his men as they passed. None had news of Maglor though.
Finally he saw one of Malgor's own men, and called, "What news of Lord Malgor?"
The soldier bowed and solemnly replied, "None I fear."
Maedhros heart clenched, and he reminded himself that there was an entire city for Maglor to get lost in. Just because one man has not seen him does not mean he is alive; alternatively, just because he has not seen his body does not mean he lives. "Thank you," he choked out. The expression on the soldier's face told him all he needed to know about how angry his tone must have sounded. "Gather in the main courtyard, tell all you see. We must leave soon." He saluted and continued on, but he knew gossip of the children would quickly spread.
Let them gossip, perhaps it will attract my bother's attention.
The boys lead him to the room he had first seen him in, then into a smaller room which held their beds and clothes. "Sit on the beds."
As they did as he ordered, and Maedhros knelt by the trunk at the foot of each bed and dug through, tossing aside clothes. He was amused to see that all their clothes were color coordinated; Elros's were red, Elrond's were blue.
He selected clothes and shoved them into a bag he had Elros fetch for him, and but saved a simple and practical outfit for each to change into. "Put these on." Seeing their hesitation he said, "I shall turn my back."
They changed quickly and he once again led them from the room. Before he and the boys left the nursery, Maedhros felt a small tug on his sleeve; upon looking down, he noticed Elros looking up at him. "Toys?"
Maedhros suppressed a groan, he said, "One each, be quick." They each dove for their personal favorite toy. Elros chose a ship and Elrond a stuffed creature nearly half his size. When Elrond also reached for a book Maedhros said, "I have books aplenty."
"It's his favorite," Elros explained.
Maedhros gave them each a scorching glare, "Hand it over." He took the book from a reluctant Elrond and tucked it under his arm; a stump was still good for some things after all. "Tis mine now and your behavior will earn it back. Now we leave."
The walk to the courtyard was silent as the boys, who he made to walk in front of him, kept looking back. When Elros grabbed his brother and made to run, Maedhros simply grabbed Elrond and waited for the other to come back. Elros remained out of reach and watched, as if testing Maedhros.
Maedhros was fed up with them. He did not want to bring them, yet the only way he could be certain his oath would not make him kill them was to bring them. He tightened his grip on Elrond's wrist enough to make the boy cry out and Elros returned in seconds.
They resumed their march to the courtyard.
To Maedhros' great joy his brother was standing in the courtyard waiting for them. He looked at the twins with a raised eye. "I did not believe the rumors." Then he hugged Maedhros, and whispered, "I am glad you are alive."
I will not show emotion, not too much in front of my men. Maedhros said "As am I." Then pointed to the twins and said, "They are Elwing's children."
Maglor smiled at them pleasantly at the same time asking his brother in Quenya, "Hostages?"
"Aye," Maedhros replied, "and they know it."
Maglor knelt in front of them and they drew back. "I shan't hurt you, come here."
Elros looked at Maedhros, then back to Maglor. In a whisper he no doubt thought Maedhros couldn't hear he said, "He promised not to kill us, but said he could still hurt us."
Maglor's expression let them all know how displeased he was with that. "I mean you no harm," he said. "I rather like children." He reached into his pocket and withdrew a handful of sweets. "Would you and your brother like a mint?"
Elros took two, and passed one to Elrond. "I am Elros," he said softly, "This is Elrond." Elrond blinked to let them know he acknowledged his brother's words as he ate his candy, for which Elros had already thanked Maglor.
Maedhros also took a candy from his brother, though he was not overly found of the mints. "We must leave soon," Maglor said, once again using Quenya which they assumed and hoped the boys would not know. "My scouts have seen ships on the horizon, sailing from Balar. I have already seen to the dead. The Ambarussa shall come with us though, to be buried in our lands."
Maedhros agreed. After the deaths of Celegorm, Caranthir, and Curufin they had agreed that burying a Feanorian in an unmarked grave was a disgrace, but to bury them in lands unprotected by their brothers left them at another's mercy.
Maedhros glanced at the children. "How shall we bring them?"
"One can ride with each of us, I do not know what they would do if we left them unattended." He patted the boys' heads, and even though they said and did nothing it was apparent they did not appreciate the touch. Maedhros wasn't certain that his brother had noticed.
Maglor ended up with Elrond, and Elros went with Maedhros. When Maedhros had tried to lift Elrond, Elros had stepped in and shoved his brother toward Maglor, as if protecting him from the red-haired Feanorian. Maglor and Maedhros had exchanged knowing glances, but said nothing, and pretended that it hadn't happened.
When Maglor moved to place Elrond in his saddle the boy shivered and gripped Maglor's leg. The toys they had been allowed to bring had been placed in the supply wagon, along with Elrond's book and their spare clothes - it was probably for the best that Elrond and Elros were not aware that their only belongings rode in the same wagon that carried the bodies of Amrod and Amras.
"Child," Maglor asked, "What is it?"
Elrond swallowed and looked fearfully at Maglor, then behind him at his twin who was being lifted onto Maedhros' mount. "Have you ridden before?" Maglor asked suspiciously. Elrond shook his head.
Maglor frowned, and his mind worked quickly for a solution that would not waste too much time. Not all their men were prepared thankfully, so he had a few precious moments to help the child. He pulled the stallion's head down, so Elrond was nearly nose to nose with the creature. "Touch his nose," he said, "He shan't bite."
Hesitantly the boy stretched out his fingers and tapped the velvety nose. A tiny grin danced on his face for a moment, and even though it faded quickly the fear went away and did not seem to return. Elrond continued rubbing the horse's face as Maglor pretended to check the saddle over and make sure the girth was tight enough. Maedhros, though he was aware of the bluff, said nothing.
"Would you like to get on now?" Even though he posed it as a question, his voice allowed Elrond to know that he had little choice. The boy nodded, and Maglor carefully gripped under his arms and lifted him into the saddle. Elrond stiffened when he found himself sitting on the large horse, and grabbed a handful of the horse's mane.
"Hold tight to that," Maglor said as he mounted behind him, "you won't hurt him."
Elrond nodded, hanging tightly to the coarse hair. As they left the city Maglor shifted his body and cloak so that, try as he might, Elrond could not see Sirion disappearing behind him. He did not need to remember Sirion in flames and ruin, but as the beautiful costal haven where he had been born.
They rode the remainder of the day, and long into the night. Occasionally one boy would cry out, a long wail, and the other would answer in kind. Then they would fall silent before even Maedhros could think to hush them.
When Maglor rode alongside his brother the two would reach and try to touch fingertips. Maedhros forced them to stop when such an attempt made Elros nearly fall from his mount.
His small body slipped to the right, where Maedhros' lack of a hand meant he could not grab him. Maglor, always the watchful one, lunged sideways, catching his fingers in Elros' tunic. Maedhros panicked, and his heart began to pound, as his brother hung suspended between two horses; and only a tiny child was between him and a painful fall.
Maglor's eyes were wide with terror - and both boys were shaking – as his fingers desperately, on his other hand, clung to a leather strap attached to his saddle. The pressure of Elros' weight against Maglor was all that stopped the Feanorian from a long fall to the ground, and Maglor's pressure on Elros was all that stopped him from the same fall.
Maedhros and Elrond stared uncertain of how to help.
"My lord!" The voice of Malgor's squire momentarily distracted Maedhros, and he turned to stare at the elf.
"Yes?" Maglor snapped
The squire's fingers fumbled, then knotted in Maglor's tunic. Maedhros failed to notice that his squire had come to help as well, until he reached across his lord and grabbed Elros in a similar manner.
Elrond still clung to the saddle horn in fright, tremors racking his entire body, and Maedhros envied him the ability to have such fear and not be judged.
Slowly the squires counted down from three, and upon reaching zero they both pulled toward them, righting both Maglor's and Elros in their saddles.
Maglor straightened and grabbed Elrond, to assure himself the boy was alright. When Elros straightened Maedhros smacked his head and scolded him.
"Never again," he snarled at both boys.
Maglor remembered to thank the squires. His leaned over and whispered, so that Maedhros could not hear, "If it had not have been so serious, I might have laughed." Maglor imagined what they must have looked like and agreed.
They made camp as the sun rose, too exhausted to carry on. A watch was created, of volunteers who claimed to not be as tired as the rest. With nowhere else to put them, Elrond and Elros were led into the tent that Maglor and Maedhros shared. Maglor found warm blankets for them, and tucked them in before collapsing on the bare ground, intending to sleep that way.
Maedhros had other plans, and forced his brother to change out of his filthy clothes and fetch himself a bed roll. Maglor grumbled the entire time.
The twins watched their bickering in fear. As the Feanorians were habitually speaking Quenya, they did not understand that the argument was not over their lives, but merely Maglor's health.
Soon they all settled down, Maedhros was the first to fall asleep, then Maglor.
To Be Continued…
Author's Note - I didn't think I was ADHD until they put me on ADHD medicine, and WHOOO! Now I can concentrate! I can get a couple thousand words in a day, no sweat; I used to only manage a few hundred a day. I have actually managed to write most of this story before I bothered to publish it! New chapters will come soon!
Also, let me warn you, I really don't know ANYTHING about children. So if Elrond and Elros are really strange that's why. Please be patient with me.
This chapter has been beta read by TARDIS Blue Carbuncle. Thank you!