The following story is a part of my account on Elros's and Elrond's first times in the Himring, fostered by Maedhros and Maglor but instead of following a strict cronology and separable threads it turned out to be an illogical bunch of wild symbolism and a rudimental study on the shades of Maedhros's personality.
On names: the use of Russandol, the epesse of Maedhros may seem deeply indiscreet but in my opinion it was likely that the twins grew up speaking Sindarin, which, in those times, could be more strongly influenced by Quenya; and if this was indeed the case, 'Russandol' – given its meaning, 'copper-top' – was something that was easy for them to remember. (Even if we include the fact that the Sindarin people spoke near the Mouth of Sirion was much different from the Sindarin of Doriath or that of the eastern lands of Beleriand). There is no word of this in the story but I believe Makalaurë would have suggested the use of the epessë use to make 'Russandol' a bit less fearful in the twins' eyes.
Quenya names and the translations of Elvish phrases can be found at the end.
All published chapters are parts of the CORRECTED VERSION of this story, thanks to kim-onka and Nosmaeth!
A wave of shiver shook little Elrond's bones as he tightened around himself the blanket he stole, wishing for a hot bath and his mother's kiss. But that old, moth-eaten piece of wool was everything he had.
The castle was so cold he could almost feel the blood freezing in his veins. Makalaurë had set some logs afire in the hearth of the small room he shared with his twin, but Elros was not there; they could not sleep together that night. They were punished for having tried to escape through the backdoor, eventually caught by Russandol, who – as usual – was not in the brightest of his moods.
They had never heard Russandol yell this loudly. They had never hated Russandol this badly.
And then Elrond was left alone in the dark, afraid and cold, with an Orc under his bed.
The Orc had a certain cunning, it could hide well, but Elrond, with all the confidence and precaution of a child, was convinced of its presence. Obviously, at the beginning he tried not to reveal that he knew about his unpleasant visitor but the Orc was there all the same, making those terrible creaking noises in the middle of the night and Elrond was deadly afraid of it. Apparently, the Orc was as hungry as he, and it wanted to eat him.
And the castle walls were cold, and Elros was nowhere.
He made his way along the eerie aisle, where silvery moonlight glimmered on some faded tapestries which covered the walls. Dawn was still far, the moon a fat crescent, inclining to halfness. Elrond had to act quickly, for the Orc seemed to grow hungrier than ever.
Elros had to be with Makalaurë, on the top of that scary tower Elrond hated the most. To reach his brother, first he had to climb those large, ice-cold marble stairs, turn left, then left again to avoid the guards, jump through that breach in the wall where no one could follow him, not even the Orc, then climb more stairs, and more and more and more... and then slip inside the room, silent as a shade, trying not to wake Makalaurë.
Elrond thought it could be done.
He'd already climbed half the stairs and reached their flight when a door sprang open and orange torchlight filled the corridor. Elrond skulked to the wall with his back and closed his eyes, waiting for the doom to strike him... but slowly, the light moved further and he heard long smooth steps, then a determined voice.
"How many of them?"
Russandol. It was Russandol.
"A hundred or more, my lord. They will reach the river before dawn."
"Send word to the mountains. There could be more coming."
"Our scouts are aware of them, my lord. They beg permission to hunt them down."
"Four-and-forty, my lord."
"Send a dozen riders after them. It has to be enough."
"As you wish."
"And close the gates immediately when you leave!"
"We always do, my lord - "
"Immediately is not a minute later, and not three seconds later. Immediately is a heartbeat later at most. Understood?"
"Understood, my lord," came the guard's voice from the room, almost as terrified as poor little Elrond quivering in a dark corner. He wanted to cry but he didn't dare.
Why is Russandol so evil? Why does he hate everyone? What wrong have we ever done to him?
And what is lurking out there? A hundred of what...?
Whatever it is, it can't be worse than Russandol.
Elrond gave a start, weighing the opportunity of silently walking back to his room and letting the Orc eat him rather than to risk being discovered, but he had no chance.
The guard left the room in haste and ran down the stairs without even noticing him, and Russandol even closed the door... but the latch never clicked. There remained a thin orange line of light between the frame and the door, and just when Elrond thought he could safely leave the dark corner and sneak past the door, he was horrified to see Russandol's eye peeking through the gap. The door sprang open, light filled the aisle again and Elrond was standing there, shaking from head to toes before Russandol's giant figure. The tall Elf seemed scarier than ever in the dim light of the torches.
"Look who's there! Plotting another escape, aren't you? Without the other little fool, this time! Are you so desperate?"
Russandol wasn't yelling now. His voice was soft but deadly cool, honeyed with mockery which just made him sound even more evil.
"I wasn't planning an escape," Elrond said, his voice trembling. "I was just searching for Elros."
There was no use of lying. Russandol would have known.
"How moving! Still... are you trying to tell me that you're not old enough to survive a night without your precious brother? You are lying, little one! You want to flee. You want to go home, but you have no home now. You would even kill me if you dared. If you could."
"No, I would not!" Elrond screamed it to Russandol's face, tears in his eyes. "I'm not as bad as you! I just want to kill the Orc!"
That was the first time ever he saw Russandol looking confused, even disturbed.
"There is an Orc under my bed," Elrond was sobbing now. "It wants to eat me!"
Russandol rolled his eyes.
"Enough of this stupid whimpering! No Orc can enter our castle. Your brother is alive - we haven't eaten him yet if that brings you relief. And if you close your little mouth and don't try to escape again we won't eat you, either."
That was almost reassuring, but somehow Elrond's tears were disinclined to stop falling. He could not even remember why he was crying, what was hurting him so badly but it still hurt and his tears were still washing down his face. And Russandol was just standing there with that uncertain expression on his face that Elrond could not see properly through his tears, probably that's why it reminded him to unsettlement, even fear.
"Don't cry -," Russandol finally managed but it did no good, because Elrond was afraid of opposing him and yet he couldn't stop sobbing.
"For the stars of Varda, just stop this childish folly!" Russandol yelled at him some moments later but – of course – it did no good, either.
And then Russandol knelt in front of him (but he was still much taller).
"So there's an Orc under your bed," he stated solemnly, looking deep in little Elrond's eyes.
This was so unexpected that his eyes widened and the tears stopped.
Russandol believed him!
"What does the Orc do?"
"It makes... sounds," Elrond said, still in a shaky voice.
"What sounds? Does it talk to you?"
"No, it just... creaks."
"Creaks. I see."
Russandol rose to his feet, then slid into the room and came back with a longsword, about the size of Elrond.
"I shall go and kill that Orc," he said coolly. "But then stop snivelling and let me get some sleep."
The blade left its scabbard and Elrond gave a start when he heard the sound of steel.
Russandol approached the room with smooth, silent steps, but they were so long Elrond had to run as he followed them – which made noise. Too much noise. The Orc knew without doubt that they were coming... but Elrond was no longer afraid.
Russandol will surely kill that beast, he thought. Russandol could kill anyone if he wanted, if he really wanted.
And then they arrived.
The door was half open as little Elrond left it, the logs had turned to ash in the hearth and all the warmth was gone from the room. Elrond's bed was empty, the blankets thrown at its end as he'd left them. His clothes hung untouched on a chair, the moth-eaten curtain was also at its place. Nothing moved.
"I emphatically counsel for any Orc who dwells in this room to show up immediately, so they may gain a swift and painless death," Russandol declared in a ringing tone. Elrond could hear scornful amusement in his voice.
The room remained silent. No one answered.
"You are hearing my second and last warning," Russandol said. "The next one will be a blow through your throat, dear Orc."
"It is in here," Elrond heard himself saying. "It's just hiding. It is afraid of you! I'm not lying, please, believe me!"
He was sobbing again. What if they'll just stand and watch and the Orc fails to show itself? Russandol would think he'd lied, and all his wrath would turn against him. That was more than he could bear.
Russandol looked at him, wondering. Then he walked to the bed and kicked it with all his strength.
A handful of mortar fell from the walls, covering Elrond's pillow with a dusty white blanket – and there came the creaking sound, louder and more terrible than ever! Elrond wanted to flee but something made him stop and look back, trembling and terrified as he was.
Russandol tossed the bed aside with a quick flick of his arm – even with one hand, he was so horribly strong! - and the Orc ran to the middle of the room, probably as horrified as Elrond himself.
Only, it wasn't an Orc, just a huge, black rat. Robbed of its shelter, the creature sticked to the floor, trembling all over – same as Elrond who was now looking to its small, coal-black eyes.
Russandol glanced at the longsword but suddenly changed his mind; he wrenched the balcony door open and kicked towards the rat which let out a squeak and ran out to the wilderness.
Elrond stood there for a long time, his heart filled with shame instead of relief. Russandol sat on his bed, his eyes never leaving the child's face.
Why was Russandol looking at him with that strange light in his eyes? Was he angry now? Was he planning to hurt him? Was he about to yell at him again and chase him back to bed?
Another shining tear washed down his cheek.
"What a whimpering little fool you are!" Russandol groaned. "What on Arda is the matter now? We finished that terrible Orc. It's gone. No one is going to eat you and your brother is safe. I have no more time to hear you squirking like a mouse! What the hell are you afraid of, truly?!"
There is some strange courage in saying out loud what we are afraid of.
"You," Elrond eyed Russandol through his tears. "You are always so angry with me! And Elros! You hate us, and now you will hate me even more because the Orc was not real!"
"No one is going to hate you," Russandol said after a long, sullen silence. "Do you hear me, child? Stop crying. Raise your head and get yourself some dignity."
"What is a dignity?" Elrond had to ask. "Is it a weapon?"
Russandol laughed silently.
(How can someone laugh without even a sparkle of happiness in their voice?)
"A weapon, aye. A shining sword. Have it sharpened so you can shove it amongst my ribs one day."
Elrond didn't understand that.
Russandol helped the little boy to bed and tightened the blanket around his legs. He did it a lot clumsier than Mother, probably because he had only one hand. Still, he seemed a little less evil now. He set the logs on fire in the hearth, and warmth started to creep towards Elrond's feet. Russandol glanced at the small flames, then shook his head and unlaced his furcloak (it was made of a giant bear he slew, Elrond had heard the guards saying).
To the boy, it seemed like a sea of fur which embraced him warmly as Russandol bespread it on the top of his blankets. He even removed a strand of black hair from his eyes and placed it behind his ear.
Little Elrond didn't understand that, either. Was Russandol planning to behead him now?
But somehow, he didn't. He must have changed his mind.
But why did he act so different now than usual? Why did he sit on his bedside for a moment before he left, watching the dance of the flames in the hearth, and why didn't he lock the door?
And why did he leave his warm cloak on him?
"Elros, look! I can fly!"
Little Elrond was standing on top of the bastion-wall arms outspread, his tunic flapping in the cool wind as Makalaurë had strictly forbade them. Elros tightened his arms around his twin's chest, trying to pull him back, but they were both fascinated by the wide, unknown lands they could see opening out to the green-gray horizon. The wind was playing with their hair.
"That is wonderful, seldo1, but it is just as easy to fly downwards and break your neck," came Makalaurë's calm voice from the background as he lifted up the two of them before they could resist, stashing them carefully behind the epaulement.
"But I want to see them coming! Please!" Elrond begged.
"To see who coming?"
"The scouts! They fought a hundred of something and I'm sure they will soon arrive!"
"A hundred of something?" Elros raised his brows.
"Orcs, that would be," Makalaurë said in that calm, elegant tone of his. "Those filthy beasts ravage everything these days, but our lances and bows are stronger. We can defeat them."
As if to justify his words, a sound of a horn came echoing from Himlad's fields and fifty-some riders emerged from the endless sea of grass. The scouts were coming.
Little Elrond didn't understand what happened next.
The gates were opened, the guards shouted down from the walls to greet their friends, the flags of the house of Fëanor were flapping proudly in the wind, as ever. The bright red forelock of Russandol appeared in front of the newcomers and the leader of the scouts was commanded to present his reports. But then four riders carried something through the gate. Whatever it was, it required carrying, though it seemed to be alive, even conscious. The twins couldn't see the creature's face and the guards disappeared with it quickly behind the castle walls.
And then Russandol came up to seek his brother, in the deadliest of his fury.
"Come, Otorno2," he breathed, unable even to say Makalaurë's name. "Come with me."
Makalaurë froze. "Is it..."
"No," Russandol said in a shaky voice. "Not anymore."
His madly angered glance suddenly turned towards the twins.
"You stay here," he said in a low, menacing voice that made the blood freeze in their veins. "Understood?"
"Understood," Elrond and Elros whispered.
No one locked the door; because who could withstand Russandol's fury?
After minutes, or maybe even hours of sullen silence, Elros walked to the door and peeked out to the empty stairs.
"We have to stay here," Elrond reminded him, but he sounded uncertain. He would have followed Elros if he'd gone forth...
Hunger and cold had its effects. They left the room and sneaked slowly past the stairs. Nothing moved, even the guards were away.
"What was that thing the guards carried past the gate?" Elros suddenly asked. "Did you see it? It had red eyes."
"I did not see it," Elrond swallowed, "but it was definitely a Something."
"A Something, Elros!" Elrond whispered to his twin's ear. "I heard Russandol at night, when he was talking to a guard. He sent his riders out to war but he never mentioned who the enemy was. It must have been a whole army of these Somethings! Maybe they captured their leader, who is here now. Maybe Russandol wants to question him, so that's why the scouts left him alive."
"These Somethings must be terrible, than," Elros whispered back. "Even Russandol was afraid of that creature, did you see?"
"No, he wasn't!" Elrond snapped. "Russandol is too brave to be afraid!"
"Why would you say such of him?" his brother frowned. "Russandol is evil!"
"Yes, he is. But he is also brave!"
They were at this point of their argument when they heard the footsteps. Swiftly, they hid in a cobwebbed corner but the steps came from the other side of the wall. It must have been a guard who strode back and forth along the corridor.
Looking around, Elrond realised that they were lost. Neither of them had ever seen this part of the castle – it was dim, torch-lit and even eerier than the others. They've almost decided to turn back and try to found their way to the tower where they were left, but Elros suddenly caught his twin's arm.
They were standing in front of a thick iron door which was half-open... and through the gap, they could see the Something, in all its horror.
The creature was tall as an Elf, pale as a corpse and ragged as an Orc. Its face had once been beautiful but its skin was a greyish brown now, slowly turning to black; one of its eyes shone pale red, the other was missing, its lips were thin and withered, its teeth sharp and most of its hair had fallen out. It was bounded to a chair with Makalaurë and Russandol towering above him. Russandol was clutching his longsword, Makalaurë his harp; and they were arguing.
"You cannot kill him, Maitimo!" Makalaurë whispered in despair. "Spare his life, he is our friend! He is Antalossë3!"
"He was," Russandol said coolly. "He isn't now. Would you call Antalossë all the corpses we'll still have to bury through our endless years? Our friend is worse than dead. A thrall of the Enemy. A walking corpse. Let him die, and find peace in the Halls of Mandos!"
"He might still recover!"
Russandol fleered, his rusty voice dancing on the edge of madness.
"Recover, you say. Recover! Look at him, Brother - he's already half an Orc. He can't talk, he doesn't understand our speech. Let him die!"
"Maybe he is just shocked! Maitimo, please -"
Makalaurë was squelched by a low, terrifying roar that seemed to gush out from the Something's throat. Elros reached for his twin's shoulder to jerk him back from the gap, but it was too late – the Something saw Elrond. Apparently, it was hungrier then the two of them together; it froze for a moment but then it began to stretch the rope around its torso, so violently it began to crush.
Elrond's heart was beating like a drum; clanging together with Elros, he could feel that his twin was just as frightened. He caught his breath and gave a start as if trying to run away, but at this very moment the rope gave way and the Something jumped forward, rattling like some savage beast.
Elrond's horrified scream was swiftly muffled by a headlong shove of Russandol's right arm that sent him flying to the wall. The tall Elf grabbed the Something by its neck, shook the creature violently, crashed it to the wall and began to throttle him – for with one hand, he couldn't reach his sword.
"Maitimo!" Makalaurë cried but the redhead paid no mind. His grip only loosened on the Something's neck when the feverish light flickered out in its eyes and its jaw dropped.
"Russandol!" Elrond heard himself shouting. Tears were washing down his face. Elros was sobbing silently.
"It's over," Russandol mumbled in his throaty voice. "Probably for the best. It was to be done."
"Still, I feel more like a kinslayer than ever," he added a moment later, studying the haggard face of the creature that once was called Antalossë. "Morgoth's decay starts deep within; and whether his havoc looks uglier on the inside or the outside, no one could tell."
"Maitimo!" Makalaurë called out again, on the edge of tears.
The taller Elf lifted up his gaze as if caught out.
"Makalaurë," he said coolly. "Have this dirt cleaned up, if you would."
And thus he turned to face the twins.
"You!" Russandol's mere gaze could have congealed river Celon that ribboned over his wide lands. "I commanded you to stay in the tower! And I did it for a reason, dimwits!"
"We were afraid," Elros began to weep.
"I commanded it!"
"Maitimo, stop yelling!" Makalaurë raised his arms and stood between his brother and the shivering children. "They're frightened to death!"
"They're lucky to be frightened! Lucky even to be alive!" Russandol snapped.
"Look at me, little ones!" Makalaurë knelt in front of the twins. "Russandol and I want to protect you. Do as you are told, and no harm will ever come to you in this castle. And now let's go and eat something. Don't let the shadows of evil trouble you."
And he reached for their hands.
Russandol was not present at the dinner, nor did Elrond see him in the next three days. But the morning after he woke to the sound of warhorns; and when he and his twin stumbled down the stairs to learn what happened, they walked past Makalaurë. He looked care-laden but smiled wanly at the sight of the children, and told them Russandol had rode out to chase the Orcs in the mountains. Elrond felt relieved – the thought of being captured in Himring seemed less scary without the rigour of Russandol. And still, his absence left him curious and his mind filled with questions while they occupied their chairs around the breakfast table.
"Makalaurë," he suddenly blurted out. "What was that... that something Russandol killed?"
Makalaurë froze for a second, his hand stopping right above a slice of bread. He glanced up to meet Elrond's eyes, and when he saw that the twins were watching him with equal interest, he sighed.
"That – that was a thrall of Morgoth," he said slowly. "That's what the enemy does to the unlucky ones whom he captures alive. The creature that almost killed you was an Elf once; tall and dark-haired as I. Even our eyes were similar, now that I recall. His name had been Antalossë; and Maitimo... Russandol loved him dearly. He valued him over other soldiers, for his wits were very quick. Antalossë was one of his most faithful servants, but I think he never really liked to be here - we're settled too far north and he ever missed hunting in the woods. So Russandol sent him to our cousin Findekáno as a sergeant. But after... after a long time, he came back and served us faithfully until his capturing. By the time our scouts carried him back, it was too late, as you saw. Russandol was right, we could not have saved him."
Elrond froze. There was a long, sullen silence.
"You mean that thing... that was an Elf?" Elros asked in a shaky voice.
"No. Not anymore."
"So that means...," Elrond whispered in horror, following the thread of his twin, "It means that every Orc..."
"No! Not every one of them."
Makalaurë sighed in despair when he looked at the horrified faces of the twins, pale as ashes.
"I should not have told you..."
They should not have asked, maybe, but Elrond was restless. Trembling and terrified as he was, he couldn't think of anything else. He scarcely ate a bite, musing on Russandol who killed his friend without hesitation when he became an Orc.
Would he kill Makalaurë, too?
And how does one become an Orc? During torment? Without sunshine and bread and water? By an evil spell, before the burning eyes of the Enemy?
Or is Russandol so wild and evil because he's half an Orc himself? And if he is, why did he save his life?
Makalaurë = Maglor
Maitimo = Russandol = Maedhros
Findekáno = Fingon
1: seldo means "boy"
2: Otorno is not the usual quenya equivalent of "brother" (originally, it would be "toron"). "Otorno" adds to the meaning "sworn brother" or "associate" which sounds kind of informative when it comes to the sons of Fëanor...
3: Antalossë is a name with a word-combination I formed myself; its meaning would be "Snow-face", appealing to his rather lurid skin (while the poor thing was still an Elf, at least). He is an own character, though not developed.
Base from The Silmarillion:
"But of those unhappy ones who were ensnared by Melkor little is known of a certainty. For who of the living has descended into the pits of Utumno, or has explored the darkness of the counsels of Melkor? Yet it is held true by the wise of Eressëa, that all those of the Quendi who came into the hands of Melkor, ere Utumno was broken, were put there in prison, and by slow arts of cruelty were corrupted and enslaved; and thus Melkor breed the hideous race of the Orcs in envy and mockery of the Elves, of whom they were afterwards the bitterest of foes."