To No One Else
He had fled to the very edge of Arda and still it was not far enough.
In this desolate place, where Arda still struggled to form its shape, he who was Feanor's son, Maedhros, had found at last wisdom. However his understanding did not bring him peace but instead deepened the well of his despair. With hot winds assailing him and jets of flame escaping the earth in powerful columns of ash and liquid fire, he knew at last that his doom did not await him in Aman but rather here. It was an apt place as any for an elf of the Noldor tainted as much as he, to find his end. He no longer feared the doom of men but his heart was heavy indeed with what had led him here.
His life had been a series of choices, some good and some bad. He had chosen to leave Valinor with his father in pursuit of Morgoth but he had refused to participate in the betrayal of Fingolfin. It was a pity that his conscience did not allow him to stop the burning of ships that would have borne Fingolfin to Arda, instead of stranding him on the Grinding Ice and causing so much suffering. He had lived and breathed his father's vengeance, allowing it to poison him as irrevocably as it had changed Feanor. His father in better days had been a craftsman, a creator of beautiful things but when he had died in Ard-Galen, Maedhros had seen a man twisted by vengeance, far removed from his earlier nobility.
Feanor's death should have taught him the folly of vengeance but Maedhros was already assailed by another kind of fever, one as potent as the need for vengeance. Like the rest of his brothers and his father before him, Maedhros was obsessed with the possession of the Silmarils. His mind had been unable to see any other path than the one that would allow him to acquire it. He thought of the choices he made, the hand that had been sacrificed and all the Kinslaying he had been party to because of the jewels forged by his father. His existence had been bathed in blood and treachery because of the Silmarils but still he could not desist in his need to acquire it.
Even when the Valar had destroyed Morgoth in the War of Wrath, Maedhros could not escape his obsession and to his greatest shame, he convinced his brother Maglor to join him in his deceit. Maedhros wondered if Manwe's agent, Eonwe had known what his alternative would be after he was refused the return of the jewels. Eonwe had looked upon him with a sad resignation and now Maedhros had understood that his words were ominous with meaning because Eonwe knew that it was beyond the sons of Feanor to let go of the Silmarils, that they would pursue it to their utter ruin.
Once again, Maedhros had proved his willingness to kill for the Silmarils and the poor guardians of the jewel bore the unfortunate brunt of his greed. Killing them had extinguished the last flame of nobility inside of him and yet Maedhros had barely noted its passing. All he cared about now was the satisfied knowledge that at last, the Silmarils were in the hands of its rightful owners. Eonwe's words to him that the deeds of his family had relinquished their right to make such a claim was hardly a concern. Not so for Maglor whose apprehension remained throughout their act of treachery, despite Maedhros' best efforts to calm his troubled spirit.
In the end, it appeared that Eonwe was correct after all.
The moment he clenched his fist around his father's greatest creation, Maedhros felt an agony coursing through him unmatched since he was forced to sacrifice his hand during Fingon's attempt at rescue. The burning, searing pain that gripped his body, drew from him a scream of agony. The Silmarils had no wish to be ferried about by one who had lost its favour. Maedhros had retched at the scent of his burning flesh, doubling over in pain as he soiled himself and the jewel fell out of his grasp, traces of burnt skin still clinging to its flawless facets. Maedhros was certain that his brother would undoubtedly make the same discovery when he paused long enough to handle his own jewel.
When the red haze of pain had faded from his mind, Maedhros felt as if he had been bathed in a shower of cold rain. It was a sobering realisation to suddenly awake from a deep sleep and learn that in your dreaming you had killed and shed blood. Such was the wisdom that rested over him as he stared at the Silmarils, the jewel sought by so many, for which wars were fought and loyalties were betrayed. His obsession had left bitter parting gifts and when Maedhros understood why he would never feel the grace of Eru upon him again, wept in sorrow and despair.
His tears had brought him to this place where the earth heaved underfoot and breathed fire from gaping fissures. Fire and ash riddled the air he breathed and made him flinch when embers of heat brushed against his skin. He looked at the black sky above and wondered if Maglor still lived. How had his brother accepted the knowledge of the Silmarils' rejection? No better than he, Maedhros supposed. In either case, it mattered little because this was a place of endings. The doom of men would be his fate and Maedhros knew that it was a just end for all that he had wrought in Arda.
He could no longer even carry the Silmarils in his hand and had only been able to bear it this far because he had placed it within the confines of the Dragon Helm. Azaghal presented the helm to him for saving his life. Maedhros had retrieved it after hunting down the dwarves responsible for the sacking Menegroth in their efforts to steal the Nauglamir. The helm had been his gift to Fingon and Maedhros' abhorrence of the dwarves gaining possession of it had led Feanor's son to reacquire it at any cost. He had hoped to return it to the line of Hador as Fingon would have wanted but that was no longer possible.
Maedhros looked into chasm, a mere inches from his feet, stared past the mouth of darkness and followed its depths to the amber glow of light at the very bottom. As much as he despised himself and his actions over the Silmarils, he had not the strength to let it go for fear that someone else might claim possession of it. Even now, he was the jewel's creature and Maedhros had come the realisation that there was only one way in which he could free himself from it. He took Azaghal's helm and stared at the jewel inside of it, mesmerized by the light of the trees that lived within its crystal facets. No one knew with what Feanor had constructed the Silmarils, only that the secret would reveal itself with the unmaking of the world.
This thing of beauty had changed the fate of his people, had turned his father into a fanatic, made him into a murderer and caused Morgoth's complete and utter destruction. The Silmarils had been the achievement of his father's skill but had ruined his family forever. Closing his eyes, it was the only way Maedhros knew of severing the jewel's overpowering hold of him. It would be a temporary respite because there were no eyelids in the mind. Its spell diminished briefly and as tears rolled down his cheeks, Maedhros reached into the helm and enclosed his fist around the jewel one last time. The pain rushed at him, sending waves of white-hot agony through his flesh. He opened his mouth and screamed in defiance of it before forcing his legs to move.
He was almost mindless with agony when his feet propelled him forward. The helm rocked briefly against the ground where he had dropped it and was the only witness to the Maedhros' despaired leap over the edge of the chasm.
Maedhros felt air beneath him, felt the rush of heat that preceded a blast of fire from this chasm and felt no fear even if the Silmarils was burning a hole through his palm. He cared nothing for the bloom of fire at the bottom of the pit, rising quickly to greet him and the jewel. He saw it surging in a wall of flame and knew that his doom would be quick if nothing else. He feared not his passage from the world because at least there was one consolation to all this.
The Silmaril would belong to no one else after him.
Doctor Petra Tebben had met her benefactor only once. However, one meeting was all that was necessary when that benefactor was John Malcolm, the CEO of the conglomerate known throughout the globe as Malcolm Industries.
Petra had found Malcolm to be charming if somewhat intimidating. She had the impression that he enjoyed using his very formidable presence to provoke that response in the people he met. She had to confess to not liking him very much and had regarded his initial request to see her with much skepticism. As one of many archaeologists in the Museum of Stavanger in Norway, she did not know why the wealthy magnate had singled her out. Her professional career until that point had been less than stellar, her papers were informative but not striking and it was the striking that attracted large research grants. She had become resigned to the fact that she would never be considered a giant in her chosen profession.
John Malcolm had changed during their one and only meeting.
When she met him in the company headquarters in Oslo, she had been uncertain what to expect. Certainly, it had surprised her to learn that he was familiar with her research, which was largely centered around the Temple Glacier of Hofsjokull in Iceland.
During her brief expedition to the collapsed volcano, she had uncovered ice samples from far beneath the caldera of the mountain that revealed traces elements of minerals that were somewhat of an aberration on the periodic table. However, the samples were too minute in their quantities and too contaminated by time for an accurate determination as to what they were. At best, they were a curiosity, at the very least, speculation. Petra had been convinced that there was something to find deep beneath the glacier of Hofsjokull but she had neither data nor theory to offer anyone as to what that might be. Certainly not enough for a grant and was partly the reason why she had chosen to travel to Oslo to see Malcolm.
Malcolm not only believed in her research but offered to fund her with no limit to the expenses she may require to seek out what he believed was the secret beneath the mountain. She suspected that he might have an ulterior motive but the truth of it was, she was too eager to go embark upon the excavation to look very closely at his reasons. She accepted his offer of a grant without question and only raised a brow when he made the request that the project be called Maedhros. When she questioned the man about it, he had been evasive but not before reminding her that his money allowed him his eccentricities.
Petra tended to agree.
She was on a Malcolm Industries plane to Iceland within the month after her meeting with its CEO, having carefully selecting her team. As promised, Malcolm ensured that the excavation was in want for nothing. They were provided with the state of the art equipment and what they did not have, she only had to ask to acquire. A tremendous amount of money was funding the work and for the next year, they burrowed deep beneath the glacier, extracting ice samples, analyzing the data and finding that curious residue of unidentifiable material. At first, she thought that it could have been the effect of a meteor hit. It was certainly conceivable. It would explain the presence of the minerals they were unable to recognise. However, the deeper the excavation, the more the theory was disproved until Petra abandoned it all together.
In the meantime, she sent her reports dutifully to Malcolm who always returned to her a quick note of encouragement and confidence but interfered no more than that. One thing she admired about him, considering that individuals privately funding scientific pursuits tended to be impatient and demanding of quick results, was his patience. He always encouraged but never insisted. The expedition continued without pressure and this freedom to work at their own pace was very liberating indeed. Petra counted herself fortunate that she had found Malcolm as a benefactor or rather, he had found her.
The excavation reached a turning point when a computerized laser fusion device began malfunctioning while conducting potassium argon dating. The machine was replaced with another while it was being repaired and the replacement soon displayed the same defect. At first, she thought it was a coincidence but her scientific curiosity had been piqued and as any good scientist would do, she carried out an experiment by acquiring a third machine for the analysis. The defect remained. A technician explained that the only other explanation was the fact that the devices were detecting something other than the argon atoms in its spectrometer.
It was purely on a whim that Petra used a Geiger counter to examine the samples and found that its readings were almost off scale.
At first the team thought they had struck a vein of uranium but none of the subsequent techniques to determine this for a certain could prove it and the excitement that they had stumbled upon something utterly unexpected bade them to continue despite the possibility of radiation poisoning. Petra's report to John Malcolm was answered by the arrival of an expert in the field who quickly assuaged their fears and persuaded them that it was perfectly save to continue with the work. Petra had been more eager to do so because she knew they were so close. She could almost taste it.
But then John Malcolm died and suddenly, she was without a grant.
His successor David Saeran ordered the immediate termination of the project but Petra was not about to stop now that she was so close to the find of a lifetime. Malcolm's generous grants and Petra's carefully handling of the project's finances ensured that the excavation could continue for at least six months to a year. She told no one on her team that she was defying their new patron's wishes. Petra was convinced that the find would vindicate her in the eyes of David Saeran and make him see that she was right to continue against his objections.
Two months of hard work and finally, they discovered something.
It was not at all what they expected. It was not some strange new material that radiated an unknown form of energy but rather an archaeological artifact that rightly belonged in a historical museum. The helmet was beautifully crafted and unlike anything she had ever seen before. None of the other members of the team could identify its origins. It was clearly fashioned out of iron but the smelting techniques were unlike anything recorded and the carbon dating placed it at almost one hundred and fifty thousand years of age. The historical record was clear that iron had not been worked until the last thousand years and never to the degree of sophistication found in the helmet before them. A hundred and fifty thousand years ago was an evolutionary limbo for the human race, a time before modern man had made his arrival onto the world stage. The cranial capacity of the individual who would have worn this particular helmet clearly showed that it was far larger than the cranial structure of a human being.
Whatever the race created this helmet, it was certainly not human.
Petra knew without understanding why, that the helmet was connected to the unusual energy readings. Somehow they were linked and she only had to dig deeper to find out why. It was there beneath the earth, she was sure. All she had to do was find it.
Then the find of a lifetime would belong to no one else but her.
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