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Maedhros notes the lack of atmosphere with some amusement.
Strange, really, how he still feels so acutely, but there is nothing to feel. The emptiness, the vague, thin mist swirling about his feet, the utter grayness of the air, the bitter, acrid smell - it reminds him of a makeshift warrior healing camp.
He is very conscious of the space. He has felt the same only once, years ago, when a sword was first thrust into his hand. The heat of the forge had not left it. Then his entire being concentrated on the polished metal shaft, on the knowledge that he was holding it, that he was the lever to operate it. It was a heady feeling.
He wants the sword in his hand, so that he can experience the completeness of the memory. It seems so empty without the sword.
So, this was what they called the afterlife. He wants to laugh, but he cannot. Then he remembers that he does not have a throat to laugh with. He wonders how everyone else laughs here.
He has no body. At least, none that he can feel; it is odd, yet rather liberating. He tries to flex his left hand. It flexes. But it is not there. Without realizing it, he moves his right hand. It moves. He is surprised. But it is not the same, he is intelligent enough to realize that – it is not even there. He wonders why he tried.
Still, there is no use in dwelling on actions not undertaken. Maedhros always knew that. The unsaid, the undone and the unimaginable are not things he recognizes. It is not vanity, because knowledge of the self, realized without external prompting or coaxing, cannot be called ego. He does not know to gather pieces after a loss, because he has never really lost enough to strive to reclaim. Or perhaps it is because what he has lost has never been left for him to find.
Total loss. Total victory. He never does things halfway.
He wonders if he will find what he is seeking. His mind tells him that he may not, and he despises nothing more than simply drifting about, searching, and not finding. He does not wonder why he searches, because it must be. Because it is. Someone once told him that that was all that was required.
Anyway, he does not stop to question his actions. He never has. His friends, and his enemies, have learnt the hard way.
It is odd, suddenly. He wonders why he thinks the way he always did. When he was alive. When he breathed air. In his vanity – he will be the first to admit it – he thinks that it is because he did not die completely. But he did. It does not occur to him that change is something he can control. Middle-earth rid him of that illusion. He will wait to change, now.
Mandos is a curiously silent place, he thinks, as he drifts along grey walls and grey smoke. He might just like it, then.
Suddenly, a presence is tangible. Maedhros does not need eyes to see. He does not have eyes.
'It is not quite what you expected, is it?' Fëanor murmurs. Maedhros' words die in his non-existent throat. He never thought that he could remember a voice so well.
'No,' Maedhros says, finally. 'It is not.'
'Were you well-greeted?'
'As greetings are here, yes.'
'The Lady of the Tapestries is an intriguing companion.' Fëanor says. 'Her husband, on the other hand, is most unimaginative.' His voice changes, shifting from chiseled baritone to low murmurs, like mithril melding with steel. Maedhros wonders how his father has preserved his voice in such a voiceless place. 'Not everyone is awed by echoing proclamations of doom if repentance is not carried out. He certainly needs some oratory lessons.'
Maedhros cannot help himself. 'From you?'
Fëanor pauses. It is more a pause in speech than a pause to think of what to say. 'He would not come to me.'
How like his father, Maedhros thinks, to take what would have been an attempt at humour, and crush it in opaque responses. But he knows that the comic is very important to Fëanor.
'There is no singing here,' Fëanor says. 'You might miss it.'
"Have you met Fingon?"
The statement is casual. It is as if Fëanor asks what time of the day it is, if there is day or night here. It is emphatic in its simplicity, and insulting in its implication.
But Maedhros is not insulted. Neither does he think it strange that his father has asked the question so early in the conversation. "No," he says. "I have not met Fingon."
"Do you wish to meet Fingon?"
Ah, Maedhros thinks, this is the real question. The earlier one was a shield. His father has not lost his conversational skills.
"It does not concern you."
There is a tangible pause. Maedhros imagines Fëanor's expression. It would be half-quizzical, half-ironical.
'Good, yonya' Fëanor says, and his voice suddenly seems quieter to Maedhros. 'You have begun learning how to heal. I knew you would learn fast.'
'I am tired.'
'You will be. For some time. After that, it is all the same.'
'Is he here?'
'Who?' Fëanor's voice changes slightly, but Maedhros cannot catch the meaning of the inflection.
'You know who.'
'They are all here,' Fëanor murmurs. 'You must be specific.'
'Fingon.' Maedhros says. 'Is Fingon here?'
'Of course Fingon is here. He died, did he not?'
'Have you seen him?'
'What do you think?'
For a moment, time stops. Fingon is there, here. Maedhros' mind travels back to the rising, arid dust of Hithlum, to the vultures circling the bodies, to his desperate search for a body, one body, not bothering which dead elf he stepped on, slipping in the trenches and the blood.
He had not found it. The soldiers said that they buried him. Maedhros killed the soldier who told him that. Later on, he was oddly thankful for not having had to do it himself.
But Maedhros knows that he will not go to Fingon. It is not pride, not vanity – just ordinary will. He will not go to anyone, except the person in front of him.
'Have my brothers been to see you?'
'No,' Fëanor sounds reflective, and rather amused. 'Namo tells me that they battle their anger. He says it in a very forbidding manner; I think he expects me to be impressed.'
'Ah. So battling anger is not the way to eternal forgiveness?'
'There is no such thing as eternal forgiveness, son. I know you do not wish for it. You are not that great a fool.'
Maedhros is gratified, and slightly surprised at this admission.
'No,' Fëanor continues, his voice resounding in the empty silence, 'You do not even believe in forgiveness. It is a wonder you even believe in immortality.'
A pause. Maedhros can imagine Fëanor leaning back, stretching his ghostly limbs in languorous grace. After a while, his father says, 'There is a system here that you should take note of, because it will be useful. There is no need to tell your name here, if you do not wish to. The Valar like their subjects to repent in isolated silence. Unless you give your permission, no one can seek you out.'
Maedhros knows that Fëanor will not answer his question now. It will be relegated to the list of what was asked, and what was not answered, for many reasons. But Maedhros does not mind; he thinks he knows the answer.
'Did you give me your permission?' Maedhros asks.
'I wanted to see you.'
If there were tea or wine, Fëanor would have offered. Maedhros would have accepted.
A childhood memory strikes – hardly a memory, actually, more a sudden flash of colour on the canvas of Maedhros' mind– of Fëanor laughing as Tyelkormo struggled to recite the names of various metals and alloys for their tutor's test. Fëanor laughing as he advised the young Elf not to remember without understanding. But Fëanor himself had never understood imperfection. It was – is – a vanity Maedhros has acquired in some measure.
Maedhros has no patience for ghostly spectres. The physical has always held a great importance in his life. He knows that what he can see, what he can touch, can always be defeated. This vagueness: vagueness of form, vagueness of mind, vagueness of the anticipatory senses – it irritates him.
He wishes that this moment were physical – that he could be Maedhros in body as well, not only in mind. And that Fëanor could be seen as Fëanor, not simply heard.
Fëanor laughs. 'The Valar try to be merciful. They do not wish the dead to confront their murderers or their victims. They do not know that the dead will confront the dead, no matter what. After all, there is not much else to do here.'
Fëanor is comfortable, relaxed, almost tranquil. Maedhros has only seen his father like this once before: when Ambarussa were born. It is unnatural. He wishes he could see Fëanaro's eyes. The flame would reassure him.
'Do you remember the sword we made, you and I together? Your first?' Fëanor asks. An uncanny statement, to Maedhros. He wonders if thought travels like speech here.
Maedhros remembers many things about his life; he assumes that he is supposed to. He is quite surprised at the clarity of it all. One would think that in Mandos, certain life-altering memories take on even larger proportions, illuminated before the serene eyes of the Lord of the Dead, and the rest, the more inconsequential, would filter into blessed oblivion. He wishes that were so.
'Of course I do,' says Maedhros. 'I remember it so clearly.' He pauses, waiting for Fëanor to say something, but continues when he does not, 'I remember the colour of the fire, and the hiss of the metal – the smell, yes…the smell of the forge. It was raining outside. Maglor was singing. I made him sing the same song to me for years after that, before I went into a battle. I remember you, your hands…'
Fëanor's hands were shaking, Maedhros remembered. Trembling as he handed his eldest his weapon. He recalls the red heat of the flame that cast a hallowed glow on the walls of the fortress, the storm outside, his brother's voice. Nothing more. No mention of the blade itself, its inscription or its shine. But he remembers his father's hands shaking, and that even he, even Fëanaro was caught in a moment too violent for propriety, too great for censure. In Maedhros' eyes, it disproved his perfection. He will always love Fëanor in that moment.
'Will you not ask me if I used it well?' Maedhros asks.
'I have never needed to ask unnecessary questions, Maitimo.'
But Maedhros needs to know. He needs to be the listener here, not the talker. 'Answer me, father.'
'You ask me something to which you want to hear the answer.'
'There is no crime in that.'
'No, Maitimo, there is no crime. Your mistake lies in pretending that the question must be mine, instead of yours. I have no questions. The ones I had have all been answered. You know that is my way. So, ask your question. But remember, it is yours.'
'I used it well,' says Maedhros.
'I am sure you did,' Fëanor replies.
'I taught them all how to use it better.'
'And did they learn well?'
Maedhros feels himself smile. It is curiously easy, done without a physical movement, but he can still feel it. 'What do you think?'
'I think that you would have been a more than adequate teacher.'
It is a compliment. Maedhros remembers that that is how Fëanor praises. 'They were good students.'
'I know they were,' And such is the power in his father's voice, that Maedhros can hear the stark pride in it.
'Even if they are behaving like ignorant fools here?'
'Everyone is an ignorant fool at some point of time.'
'I see.' Maedhros wonders if his father made a careless statement then. No, he decides, it cannot be. Fëanor does all his thinking before, talking later. Suddenly, he wants to laugh. 'Why are they keeping you here?'
'They think I will be…reformed'.
'Is it true that eternity is a very short time?'
Fëanor considers a while before replying.
'I wouldn't know.'
Another pause, very long and yet very short, after which Fëanor says, 'Come again, Nelyo. It will be entertaining, I assure you.'
It is a polite dismissal, and the old nickname resurfaces. Maedhros knows that it will be his identity again.
He can feel his father's smile. He knows what that smile will be like. Rare, amused, impatient. Quite, quite beautiful. Fëanor is like that.
With eyes that cannot see, with a body that cannot move, Maedhros leaves, comfortable in the knowledge that not everything has changed.
Yonya – My son (Quenya)
Tyelkormo – Celegorm
Nelyafinwë – Maedhros
Notes :- Canon does not specify if Feanor, or his sons, ever left Mandos. Post-Dagor Dagorath however, is anybody's guess. This happens before.