A tale of Beleriand, as derived from the Gray Annals, translated by J. R. R. Tolkien.
Author's note: Miredhel "Jewel-Elf" is my own creation, but all may use his character or name freely. It seemed more appropriate than using an established character.
For those who wonder, Mablung and Beleg were the only Sindar in the Nirnaeth. Beleg might be a more familiar character, but I admit to having always liked Mablung better.
I stand at the edge of the abyss, and the gaping dark before me is a field of bodies. Their faces are black with blood, Elven, mortal, foul, their hair and clothes make an endless tapestry across Anfauglith, and their bright swords lie forsaken in death. A wind whips from the distant flaming peaks slamming dust into my eyes and down my throat, and my hand falters with the swing of the axe, misses the neck, hits square between the eyes. Blackness comes gushing forth from the face, a roar of pain, and I am struck from behind when I struggle to keep the bile in my throat down. I feel the bones shatter in an exact and sudden pain, and my weapon arm is limp, thus I must turn desperately, grab the Orc's windpipe with my bare hand, and when this fails, jab at its eyes. My hand is filthy and burning, and my wounded shoulder burns, and my pounding heart burns, and gasping for breath I fall forth into the abyss.
Then Miredhel's strong grip tightens about the back of my chain armor, and he pulls me up, from the darkness, to my feet, and stands, my arm about his shoulders, while I cough and blink the dark away. His eyes are hidden under unkempt dark locks, but I glimpse a feral smile on his noble Noldorin features. His sword seems to flash and tremble with excitement. He holds me upright, and I do not fall.
"Still alive, Mablung."
Yes, I am still alive.
He makes sure I can stand on my own – my right arm is useless, and I feel broken ribs grind as I breath, but for that we learn to wield weapons with both hands, and I would rather not breath this air at all. Miredhel is taller than I, and stronger. He stands by my side when again we charge. Miredhel, jewel-Elf, a proud Noldo of the West, a captain in High King Fingon's army, his sword long and bright – he wields a short, vicious knife in his other hand – his eyes shining here in the midst of the darkness, as if this is the high doom he lives to face. Here, this dreadful battle, he cries in delight hacking a swarthy mortal's arm from his body, and I finish the poor creature off to the music of screams.
Miredhel. We are friends. I did not think I would see you like this.
I lost sight of Beleg in the commotion. His hair is darker and his build more solid than mine; he mingles easily with the Noldor. I wonder how he fares, an archer in the sea of swords. Should he die I alone would return bearing the tale to Doriath, and I alone would be singing the songs of Daeron round the campfire of the survivors, and I do not want to sing alone. Miredhel taught some of the Noldolante to me, it is a different thing altogether. The Noldor make music of everything that is terrible – doubtlessly they would make such songs of this.
I am sorry for thinking this of your people, Miredhel.
They are fierce, the Noldorin warriors, certainly we only still stand for this reason. They do not lick the blood off their swords as the Orcs do, but they swipe their hands over the blades, feeling them slick and warm. They shout as they fight, and laugh, like a storm and wildfire. Miredhel laughs. We stand back to back, fighting for our lives.
"You waste your breath," I tell him.
"I'm reminding myself I still have it," he answers.
He gathers men about him, one of them bearing the standard of Fingolfin, all of them bearing long swords of ice-brightness. We push into the depth of the battle, searching for the High King whose name Miredhel screams, seeing the host of Balrogs – I shudder at the sight and stumble back, a young soldier sniggers – screams loud and good, desperate, no title but a name. "Findekano!" he screams in his forbidden tongue.
We see the standard in the distance. We see it fall.
A company of Elves bearing a different standard meets with our own, bringing us a moment's respite. Miredhel hurries forward. I let loose a long whistle in the code of Doriath, straining to hear a reply from Beleg, but none comes. I am alone.
Miredhel brings into the crowd of our company a tall Elf, red-haired, one-handed. Maedhros Feanorion - Maedhros Kinslayer – whose breath is heavy and hair bloodstained. He spares me a glance, and inclines his head in semblance of greeting. I am planted to the ground, and my limbs are iron-cast. I knew I was fighting by his side, Beleg and I both, by our King's permission. I cannot bear myself to return the gesture, and he narrows his eyes and looks away.
"Fingon is felled," he says to Miredhel, his voice tight and without emotion.
"I know, milord," my friend replies.
"You must keep fighting," the Son of Feanor tells us, all of us. "This day cannot be lost. Orodreth's men were on the threshold of Angband, curse it! A step more, and we'd have seen the Light!"
He lies very well, this Maedhros Kinslayer, and when he speaks of the Light a shadow overtakes Miredhel's face, and his men fidget and shift, mutter and swallow hard. They are not Feanorians, I tell myself a truth, my friend had no part in the deeds done in Alqualonde, done for this Light.
"We are yours to command, milord," Miredhel says. Maedhros studies him long. He catches my eye for a scarce moment, and holds me captive in his fiery gaze.
"Push on," he says, gripping Miredhel's shoulder, and turns, leading his company away.
And we push on.
For the Light.
Or so Miredhel's men cry.
He holds back while they rush forth with their weapons, like a sudden wind reaping through a field, felling mighty trees, a dread storm. They are crazed, I want to tell him, they would all die, not a song could contain all our sorrows. But he looks after them with pride, and lifts up his sword to hail Maedhros, who in the distance is bearing up Fingon's standard and summoning warriors to his stand.
He turns and looks over me, his eyes narrowing in concern, my friend Miredhel.
"You are holding up?" He asks.
Yes, Miredhel, I am holding up. I may not have the light of Aman within me…
"Have I a choice?"
But I have a just cause.
Fingon's words, from a thousand mouths, and my own also, I realize, as we push on, and fight, having no choice indeed, fighting the darkness and the abyss back. I am holding up, Miredhel, with my dying breath, for the Light, for sunlight, for twilight, for all that is good in this world…
I am sorry for thinking this of your people, Miredhel!
But the roar of battle increases around me, and we are nearing the host of Balrogs that felled the King of the Noldor. Fire scorches my lungs as I struggle to draw breath, and ice freezes in my heart, and in between there are dark thoughts as I watch Maedhros and Miredhel draw their swords together. Kinslayer and friend, why that difference? Why is my friend, who laughs so, different than my enemy, and why is that enemy different from those we are all fighting?
I shake my head – my hand falters – trying to clear those thoughts away, to bring the light into my heart once more. Miredhel lets loose a cheer and throws his head back as the fire demon crumples before him. Such fierce joy, I almost wish to share it, here in the midst of all this, almost…
Miredhel, my friend, what am I becoming?
"Come, Gray Elf! A few steps more!" He calls to me with his desperate smile. Gray Elves, so they named Beleg and I, in affection and recognition of kinship and difference both. Gray Elf I am, O Noldo! Fight your wars alone!
I step backwards, a single step only.
My vision is filled with my friend Miredhel, and Maedhros Kinslayer, both their swords bright, blasts of fire amidst the darkness and abyss. An Orc gets past the Feanorian's guard – he falls with a startled cry. Miredhel kills the creature, drops by his wounded lord's side, helps him rise as he helped me, calling out the name:
"Still alive, Maitimo."
In his people's tongue.
I take another step, away, I walk away, I almost run…
A hard fall, over a dead body, landing on my shattered right arm with a shriek of terrible pain. I almost lose consciousness – the world swims before my eyes, the air refusing my gasps – a black form is upon me, to end it – Miredhel runs, forward, to me.
"A Elbereth! Gilthoniel!"
Miredhel's sword is a Noldorin blade, long and terrible. It sinks into my would-be slayer with the eagerness of its wielder, blood splatters over my face. For a moment, I am buried in the darkness, in the abyss, and Miredhel, standing as a shield offers me his hand to aid.
My hand would not obey me to rise and grasp it, and then Miredhel screams.
He falls on me, dead before our bodies touch, the sword loose from his grasp, his face forever locked - not in agony, as I thought, but in a grin, the last smile of defiance. His expression in terrible, and joyful, and his eyes, open, seem to see a distant light.
Miredhel, my friend.
His killer does not see that I yet breathe. Some disarmed Orc has taken my axe, and I, alone and unarmed, remain here, holding a dead Noldo's body.
Then I rise, and I take Miredhel's sword to be my weapon.
There is yet battle to be done. A few steps more.
What can be changed today, I wonder? Nothing, maybe nothing at all, I see this as I rush to join the company, Miredhel's a Maedhros, merged now that so many have fallen. The Feanorian lord does not see me join his men, this is for the better. Beleg is not here to see me defend him, That is for the best. I am alone, and not alone.
Miredhel, my friend, the Great may not forgive you, but I shall, I shall, as I must. I am sorry for having thought this of your people, I am sorry for thinking as I did of Light, for seeking the difference so. We both seek light; let your light be mine. And I will avenge you, my brother.