All Copyrights belong to the Tolkien Estate. No profit whatsoever is being made by this publication, and high respects go to Tolkien and his original works of some of the best fiction to date.
Written from Maedhros' PoV. Brief overview of his captivity in Thangorodrim, his rescue by Fingon, and his early recovery in the care of his kin, with an ending that examines what we see ourselves as and what others see of us. Warning for potentially disturbing imagery. Characters are Maedhros, (briefly) Maglor, and Fingon.
I begged for mercy, I begged for release. Free me! I cried. Free me so that I might return to the land of my birth, and ask of the Valar forgiveness for my wrongdoings, seek the pardon of my kinsfolk, find myself again along the path of absolution, and be rid of self-loathing and walk under the stars once more. I begged for healing, I begged for peace. Free me! I cried. Free me from the confines of my marred body, this prison of pain and torment, so that I might rest in Mandos' Halls until my heart is mended, until my Oath is forgotten, until I can live in this world again without feeling as a stranger within my own skin, as a trespasser in someone else's bitter mind.
Of course I asked this, though in fewer words; 'tis why I led him to me. It was an effort to speak, an agony to sing. It would be my last discomfort, I thought as I sang in answer to him. I brought him to me, he who came beyond hope and expectation to help me; but only in his own fashion, as it occurred. "Kill me," I begged. So easy, so near, so soon. Always a remarkable archer, close range, unmoving target, over in a beat of my darkened heart. Long bow, strong arm, sure aim. "Kill me," twice I begged, twice I lived on, spoiled and hateful, a mockery of my last desire to die and repent, to be cleansed and remade. A swift kiss of a blade was my repayment, for trying to do the right thing, or have it done to me. And shaper than a serpent's tooth was the betrayal of Fingon the valiant, whom I must have loved; for one cannot be betrayed if one does not first trust.
Now the wind is in my hair, and I know I will never be saved, and a final prayer disperses silent upon my lips. Dispossessed am I, and a Valar's pity I judge spiteful beyond measure. Take me home then, and I shall dwell in the madness I have wrought, and I will forget of any other way. To laugh as one fey is to feel naught at all.
I lay in fire, I breathe in ash; my body is broken in pieces, my blood runs as poison. I do not know who this being is, this weak and ruined thing, but it crawls on my flesh and swims in my veins, and I writhe under such violation, not knowing it is me I would be free of. I hear voices around me, whispering things of fever and affliction; once there was weeping, quickly removed. My arm is numb, yet more painful than aught else. I cannot tell if it hurts presently, or if it is the memory of anguish I feel haunting me; but it itches, it burns, it aches, it grinds upon my every perception in wakefulness and sleep, and I would bite it off if I could. And I feel my hand, perhaps still hanging from Thangorodrim, pelted by sharp hail, mouldy from unclean rain, blistered under the flaming light of day, and slowly pecked at by crows and insects alike. I fancy I can even feel the bits and pieces they sever, burning in the acid of all those hungry little stomachs. Fever, they whisper, those familiar voices, terrible fever.
"Thank you," I said, "thank you for this." He looked at me in an unsure way, and I heard it myself: my voice was sarcastic, though not by my leave. Thrice he had come since I awoke with any wits about me, once every day at noon, but I had not acknowledged him until then.
Eventually he smiled, an act of will and condolence. "You are quite welcome," he replied. But I heard also his thoughts: You are yet weary, you are not yourself; I forgive your strange mood. He opened a shutter to let in some light, and I hissed at the biting pain of it in my eyes.
"Of course, forgive me." A tightness was in his tone; things he was not saying forced him to chose words carefully, and he would sooner say less than speak cryptically- unlike others who had visited. He did not return to the bedside, lingering in the shadows. I could not see him, but the purpose was that he could not see me.
"So damaged," I said, trying without success to move my worthless right arm, "Already I feel that it must be so; I can barely move, and everything is pained. Is it a hideous sight?" My face, I meant, my body. I had opened my eyes seldom, and looked at little, but in my brothers' eyes I gleaned my reflection well enough. They were best at concealing their observations; others were less adept. Fingon, however, was the worst at it by far, and I guessed he might have been the most repulsed by what he saw.
"Not at all," he said, but did not look nor approach, and I could not see how many tears he shed for telling me such a lie at that hour.
"I hate the new light," I said to my brother, interrupting his song. He would not believe my words, that I truly had no desire to hear music, and had come day after day to sing for me regardless. That morning he played a harp, and as every morning he drew back the curtains, in spite of my protest. I would watch the patch of brightness creep menacingly towards me from the foot of my bed, until it shone in my eyes and heated my face. I watched even then, and if my brother thought my dread was feigned, he was mistaken. The light reached me.
"I hate it, close the drapes!" It stung and burned and discolored the world and was no comfort to me; for long years after it felt that way, like scorched twigs scratching at the soft flesh of my awareness, and hiding from me the stars I loved.
Maglor sighed, but rose from the chair and did as I asked. "The sun you may not love, but the moon shall be whole again soon. Then there will be a new light upon us that you might enjoy." He returned with a smile, and sitting made ready to play his instrument again.
How could he know that any ascending voice sounded like screaming to me? How could he know that every morning, thanks to his attendance, I was reminded of Thangorodrim and the shrill wailing of tortured thralls echoing around me -my own voice having not been the weakest among them- and the cursed sun beating down until I was nearly blind and deaf and crazed by it all? How, if I had not the heart to tell him?
"I want to see a mirror," I said, and he ceased his song again, abruptly.
"Brother… no." He leaned forward, harp forgotten, and cradled my hand. "There is no need. You will heal, in time. Be patient now, and rest without care. Should I send for fruit to break fast? You seem restless. Would a different song sooth you better?"
"Bring me a mirror, as it is the only favor I have asked of you, or begone from here and seek a better hobby for yourself than defying me." Yet it was true that I did not need one of what I requested, and desired mostly that which my behavior would bring about. Maglor forgot his song, and dropped his eyes, and left the room. He did not return, not that entire day or the next morning, and I slept in the dark and was glad for the silence at last.
"Here is a mirror for you, cousin," I was told days later. Fingon stood over me, fear and sorrow in his eyes.
"I did not ask it of you." I looked for an instrument in his hands, but there was none; he had not come to sing, thankfully.
"Your brother will not return hither. He thinks you search for things to hate, and he will not supply you with reasons to do so."
"But you will?"
"I will do as you ask, because you cannot do so yourself." He hesitated, and looked away as if committing some vile sin and overcome with shame. "Here is your mirror. But if my friendship means aught to you, pray apologize to your brother, who only wishes to have you well again… as do we all." That last was a whisper, and as I raised the mirror to my face, I watched Fingon as he winced with closed eyes, sensing my movements and seemingly anticipating my reaction.
Almost did I scream, at the absurdity of it alone, if not the irony. Of all the scars I would carry till the end of my days, of all the trials I bore during my captivity by Morgoth, of all the things that seemed to me the most humiliating to endure, of all the violations that haunted and hurt me still… it was such a thing that bothered others most. The healers changed the bandages of my stumped wrist without flinching, the chambermaids thoroughly cleaned my body without aversion, my brothers spooned me broth without impatience, and sat me up to purge without irritation. And all along, I would wonder, Wherefore these strange looks that I receive? Why do eyes of family and friend avoid mine directly, yet examine my face with fervor when they think I know it not, only to flee from my returning glance as if to escape my wrath?
Fingon looked away still as I lowered the mirror, feeling better within and without than I had felt since my 'rescue' –I alone refer to it as otherwise, in the privacy of closed thought. But even then I knew that concerning certain things my mind might change, and I thought less about being denied my wish to die in that terrible hour.
"Fingon, my friend, look at me. I beg you please to look at me." Surprised by my words, or perhaps their sincerity, he did so, slowly, warily. I smiled, or I was smiling already, and his knees gave out so completely that he sat on my bed before he could master his balance. I laughed, or close enough to it, and Fingon sat gaping at me with eyes wide as the blue sky, warm as the sun, beloved as the stars.
"Fingon, Fingon! Tell me it is not true, that you sorrow for these scars I wear?"
Tears sprang to his eyes. "I sorrow for you, and all of your woes! But your beauty is undiminished in my eyes, in all of our eyes." He took my only hand in his shaking ones, and kissed it, wetting the 'scarred' skin of my forearm with his tears. Then he leaned forward, and kissed my brow, and I heard his breath tremble with forced control. I could not help but laugh again, though I was sorry to see Fingon fret in his ignorance until I could explain.
"Please, do not be upset," he said to me, likely taking me for fey with my grief, and smoothed my hair as if petting to calm some wild and dangerous thing. "It is lovely in its way, aesthetic even, like the spotted petals of a rare orchid."
"Fingon, you fool, bless you!" His eyes were then understanding, as if all doubt left him, and he looked prepared to call for aid should I become violent or unreasonable. I never asked him or any other what form of torture they imagined such scarring had resulted from. I understood well enough thereafter those curious and rueful and horrified looks I yearned to comprehend before.
I said on, "The sun, Fingon. 'Tis the sun and it alone which has done this, for there is no other explanation, and I watched even in that first year so exposed to its light as my skin grew spots such as these before my very eyes, for no reason at all, as it seems. They are not scars and they do not pain me. Do not weep for this of all things!"
"We thought…" he faltered, embarrassed, relieved, still concerned, but the beginning of a smile gracing his fair face, "I could only imagine..."
"Look elsewhere on my body for telltale signs of harsh abuse; for my face was left for the most part untouched." Fingon flinched, but I did not. I could feel every scar on me, indeed they still radiated with the memory of their birth; they were the most alive parts of me, and I would not forget them. But my face was untroubled by such burdens of memory and meaning, as were my forearms which matched with brown speckles of color, dancing as if in joy up to my shoulders, and other places too were dotted likewise, I recalled, and it seemed then that the pain was less in those areas.
I laughed. Someday I would explain to someone particularly curious and brave that what was perceived as the most ruined part of me was in fact a thing without cause or harm or care. The true scars would never be known; they are too deep to observe, or perhaps too obvious to matter. I could think of nothing else for it but to laugh.
Eventually Fingon joined me, and we embraced. For the first time since we last shared a private tryst at the shores of Araman, we embraced. I decided to tease my brothers about it all, when I was grown hale again, and they would not hesitate to avenge themselves for my fun.