Melting of the Snow

By Le Chat Noir

Four months of restless searching had brought nothing, and he had resolved to leave the forest's shadows only when Neldoreth's white mantel had entirely disappeared. He had in fact long abandoned all hope of ever finding would it be a half-rotten carcass; but strangely, there remained a part of him that was loath to leave those woods behind. Acknowledging defeat this once, he was dimly aware, would mean never hoping to win again in their great battle against their doom, forsaking all his chances to ever emerge victorious, not against the hordes of Morgoth, for that had become an absurd dream, but against his own sword. And there also was this other detail, which he did not like to think about: he was not entirely willing to go back to being a lord of his people, son of Fëanor.

When, stumbling from fatigue and hunger, he pushed open the heavy door to the great hall, in the middle of the night, there was a great crackling fire lit in the hearth, and, as if he had been waiting for him to arrive, Maglor sat by the fireside, alone in the hall, placidly staring into the flames.

Wordlessly, he collapsed into a chair, and buried his face into his arms, knowing no more until Maglor deposited a tray of light food in front of him, with a pitcher of wine and two glasses. At the moment, there were no words needed, and Maedhros was grateful to his brother for his silence. He pulled the tray closer, and forced his hand to take up a fork; however, all he could do was pick at his food without even bothering to carry it to his mouth.

Maglor, sitting a little way off, watched his brother eat with his chin in his hands. Then the dark-haired elf moved to pour himself a glass of wine, and Maedhros was surprised to hear him laugh. It was neither the empty laughter devoid of mirth that they had long been accustomed to hearing, nor the voiceless rictus that deformed the face in burdensome silence. No, but the sound that reached Maedhros' ears was one that he hadn't heard in a long time, longer than he could remember; a kind of laughter he had all but nearly forgotten in those pitiless times of war: with a pang to the heart, he heard his brother utter a laugh of true, pure glee, the kind of laugh they had heard everyday of their lives in ages past, in Valinor where the light never died.

"Father was right! So indeed the people of the Elves are now free." Maglor emptied his glass in one long sip. "Free to choose between the sword and the wolves!"

He seemed to rejoice greatly at the idea, and was again overcome by a fit of joyous laughter. Strange shadows were on his face, and, slightly sickened by his brother's display of merriment, Maedhros looked away from him to the fireplace, where humongous flames leapt, devouring each other in their frantic dance. But we chose the fire, he thought, and that choice is final. Annoyed by the uncalled for thought, he redirected his gaze to his brother again, to find that latter watching him with intent eyes.

For a while, he held the other's gaze, quite lost in the unbounded darkness that seemed to lazily swirl inside, till a high-pitched noise pulled him out of his reverie. All that remained of Maglor's glass laid in shattered pieces on the table, and his brother's clenched fist combined pallid knuckles and long trails of blood; enough to tell of the goblet's demise.

Maedhros didn't even move. There was nothing left to do.

After a while, Maglor hung his head, and part of Maedhros suddenly became deadly afraid that his brother would start laughing again; but instead the former musician uttered but a single word "Children…" with a deep sigh of anger.

Maedhros shrugged. "No one deserves their fate."

The younger elf remained unmoving. A heavy silence hung over their heads, infinitely more threatening than the bourreau's axe.

"So now the Silmaril rests with the surviving Doriathrim," Maglor said, his voice flat.

Abrupt anger swept through Maedhros' body. "Can you think of nothing else?" he cried, rising to his feet.

Maglor contented himself with staring at his brother with his great troubling black eyes, and anger drained from the elder elf, and along with it, all strength; as he realised that the very same thoughts had been his all the while before his brother had found the courage or the indifference to voice them.

A great weariness overcame him, and, falling back into his chair, he waved the matter off with a jaded hand.

"We will ride when the time comes." Do not worry, the circle of blood shall not be broken. "For now let there be rest."

And, unnerved by his brother's innocence as he sensed Maglor's reproachful eyes linger on him, "What," he snapped, "do we now have another choice but to honour his memory until the end?"