Author's Note:  This was originally written as a monologue, but with the encouragement of my friend and Goddess Anya (a.k.a. Eruannath) it has evolved into what you read here, a one-sided conversation between Maedhros and Random Soldier #28.  It is, in some small way, a tribute to the Spirit of Fire himself, and a look at his ultimate fate.  Any and all feedback is always appreciated!

Disclaimer:  I dabble in Professor Tolkien's world for pleasure, not profit.

The Question

The tall captain looked far away from me, to a place where I have never been, a place where I hope I shall never go. He was silent for a long moment. I began to wonder if he was perhaps offended by the question; but then he spoke, slowly and carefully. "Take a fire." He gestured toward our small campfire, then looked hard at me, to see if I understood him. I nodded- yes, yes, continue-

He drew a breath, and the next words came out all in a rush, tumbling over each other like water in a rocky streambed. "Take a bright fire, a blazing beacon of flame, and feed it. Feed it with wood and with brush if you like, but also feed it with pride, and sorrow, and despair. Feed it hopes and dreams and love- and with fear and greed- and blood . . ."

Another moment of empty silence came when the flow of words stopped. I shifted, uncomfortable, and made as if to speak, but he turned to face me then, and the look on his face silenced me. He spoke more quickly, with intensity. I could not withstand the bright heat of his eyes; uncomfortable, I looked away.

"It will take all these things, and change them, and make them part of itself. And it will grow taller, brighter, hotter, a tower of many-colored heat, insatiable, ever thirsting for more, and more, and more . . ." I noticed, though he did not seem to, that his fist was clenched tightly- in anger; or in restraint of anger, perhaps.

"And then, when it has grown so high that you cannot control it any longer, you will grow frightened. You will fear it; and with the fear will come hate. You will try to quench it- with water, with dirt, with anything, everything- but nothing will stop it. You have fed the monster, and now it will devour you too.

"Then-" He turned away again, and spoke more softly, with what seemed to me to be sorrow, or regret. "Once it has consumed everything in sight, once it has mercilessly swept away all trace of whatever was once in its way- it will stop. There is nothing more for it to feed upon, and so it must devour itself. It is the only way a fire knows."

There was a long pause. My comrades, already restless, began to lose interest in the seemingly pointless tale, and stirred and murmured among themselves, returning to their games of chance. But I was caught and captured: a hart to his hunter, a fowl in his net. When at last he spoke again, it was so quietly that, I think, none but I heard what he said.

"When at last your fire is gone, then what remains? Nothing but smoke and ash and living embers- but the smoke and the ash are soon carried away upon the wind, and the embers quickly lose their life. Where there once was a bright flame, you are left with naught but destruction, sorrow . . . and hate, yes, that terrible deathless hate." An echo of the fire seemed to flash briefly in his eyes, but he banished it with an effort.

"Now look at what is left of Fëanáro." He bent close, looked me in the eye. "Do you understand?" His voice was gentle, despite the passion with which he had so recently spoken. He did not wait for an answer, nor did he seem to expect one, but stood and left the circle of the firelight. My comrades gathered around me, asking what the captain had said to me, what it meant- but I did not answer them. I could not.

Did I understand? No- I was young and foolish, and I knew little of the world, as it was then and is now. I did not know who this captain was, this Maedhros, son of Fëanor, the Elven High King.

Later I heard more of him: of his capture by the Enemy, just a few years after he wandered into our fire-circle. The rumors came to us slowly- at the time my regiment was stationed at the mouth of that winding southern river known as the Swiftsheen- that the Elves were left leaderless, that they had pulled their armies north and out of the war, that there was no hope.

It was nearly fifteen years later that I heard the news of this captain, of his rescue from the dread mountain- miraculous, some whispered- the Elvish king, aided by the winds and the gods, swept down on the back of a great demon, armed only with his courage and a silver knife, to recover his cousin and his liege lord. None of us believed it, then; remember, these were hopeless years for us, and folk had no cause to place faith in idle rumors. 

It was true, in the end. No doubt you have heard of him- Maedhros One-hand, scourge of the free lands, bringer of war, with whom our people were once allied. He it was who had deigned to speak to me, answering my question, and asking one of his own.

But of the answer I am no more certain than I was that night.