Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters of J. R. R. Tolkien, nor any of the various dramatic incarnations thereof. No profit is being made from this work.
Hello, and welcome to this story! Before we begin, I'm going to give a brief warning. Although most of the story is pretty low-key in terms of sex and violence, there will be one scene that is graphically bloody. Don't worry about it sneaking up on you; you'll see it coming a mile away. If you don't like blood, skip that section. It's pretty short, and you won't miss much of the plot by skipping the gory bits.
Part of the tragedy of the Silmarillion is that the main characters are all related to each other. It is the story of a family divided against itself, of the two half-brothers, Fëanor and Fingolfin, who were too alike to get along. The House of Finwë must unite if it is to defeat Morgoth, but time and again, that proves to be beyond them.
There are two lines in this story which are quoted directly from Tolkien. You'll probably recognize them, but if not, I will mention them at the end. Enjoy the story, and I will meet you when it's done.
1. The Tie That Binds
"You jest. That is the only possible explanation for this, Maglor." Fingon whirled to face his cousin and gave a snort that was almost a laugh. "This is a Fëanorian joke, a jape that is perfectly crafted in all respects save one. It is not funny."
Maglor sighed. "It is no joke, Fingon." His long, elegant hands twisted in his lap.
"I cannot accept that," Fingon said. "For then I would have to accept that you would truly abandon your own brother to the clutches of Morgoth, condemning him to torture and perhaps death, while you wait here and do nothing. And I cannot accept that about you, Maglor. Therefore, for my own sanity, this must be a joke in the worst possible taste."
"No. It is the truth." Maglor's voice, normally rich and vibrant, had grown thin and tight since Fingon had seen him last. He smiled mirthlessly. "If it would help to preserve your sanity, then know that there is sound reasoning behind my decision."
"Sound reasoning!" Fingon cried, pacing up and down Maglor's small yet comfortably appointed private sitting room in Hithlum. "Yes, I would very much like to hear your sound reasoning, Maglor. I would like to hear what reasoning has led you to abandon your brother to torment. Were Turgon captive and not Maedhros, I would not sit in camp and do nothing. I would --"
"Yes, what would you do?" Maglor asked sharply. "What would you do, were Turgon captive and you in my position?"
Fingon stopped his pacing, letting his gaze come to rest on one of the cabin's rafters. Someone had begun to carve a twisting, flowered vine along it, transforming something rough and functional into a thing of beauty fit for a prince of the Noldor. Wherever Maedhros was, he could not enjoy the beauty of this carving. "I do not know what I would do," he admitted with a sigh. "But I would do something. I would not sit back and surround myself with comfort while I knew that my brother wailed in captivity. I thought you were a better person than that, Maglor."
Maglor's face twisted with hurt and rage. With an inarticulate cry, the normally gentle singer surged from his chair. He crossed the hall quickly, spun Fingon around and grabbed two handfuls of his cousin's tunic. "Do not say such things to me," he snarled. "You cannot possibly know what has gone through my head since Morgoth took my brother. How dare you presume to judge my actions?"
"Put me down," Fingon said calmly. His heart beat once, twice, three times, and then Maglor opened his hands and let Fingon go.
"I am sorry," he said. "I should not have done that. I am at my wits' end, Fingon. I truly do not know what to do. We cannot storm Angband; your father proved that. If I were to send a sortie forth, Morgoth would spy it immediately, and I will not endanger the rest of my people. I have my younger brothers to consider, as well. I do not wish to lose any more people I love." Maglor's voice cracked, and he turned away.
Fingon was silent. He had held no particular love for Fëanor, but the news of his death had nonetheless come as a shock. How much more so must it have affected Fëanor's sons? Suddenly, he thought he understood everything that had happened, the disastrous parley with Morgoth, the frantic flight to Hithlum, and now Maglor's refusal to send anyone to Angband.
"You are the High King now," he said slowly. Maglor's shoulders twitched.
"Please, do not remind me. I learn slowly, but I am learning. I can rule well enough, as long as I do not stop to think about what I am doing."
"I see." Fingon shifted his weight awkwardly. "What -- what can I do to help you?"
Maglor dropped into his chair and glared at Fingon. "You can leave. You can go back to wherever it is that you came from and leave me to learn my new trade in peace."
"Shall I bring my father here?" Fingon asked. "If you feel that you need aid --"
"Do not bother," Maglor said. "I know exactly what Fingolfin thinks of me." He held up a hand to still Fingon's objections. "As it happens, he is probably right. And you can tell him that. Now, go. If, among all the other things that I must think about, I come upon a way to release Maedhros from a vast, impregnable fortress of rock, I assure you that you will be the first to know."
Fingon opened his mouth to make a sharp response, but he thought better of it. Instead, he gave a short bow. "Farewell, my Lord High King," he said, not unkindly. "If you change your mind and decide that you need aid, you have but to ask."
Maglor nodded sadly, and Fingon left the hall.
As his horse cantered gently along the lake shore, Fingon regarded the sharp peaks of Angband thoughtfully. When he had arrived with his father and brother and sister and their host of followers, the mountains had seemed a perfect challenge upon which to vent the rage of Fingolfin. After the assault had failed, and he had learned that Maedhros was imprisoned somewhere in that range, they had loomed sinister in his mind. Now, he considered the invisible ties of pain and love and their cursed Oath that bound Maedhros's brothers to the mountains, and he wanted to scream at the senselessness of it all.
His foul mood lasted until he drew within the bounds of Fingolfin's settlement on the north shore. As he dismounted and moved to lead his horse to the stable, he heard a squeal of "Uncle Fingon!" A whirlwind of golden hair and grass-stained dress hurtled towards him, and he laughed as he swung his little niece high into the air.
"What, Idril, were you so eager to see your old uncle that you could not wait until he came politely in the door?" he chuckled. Idril wrinkled her forehead, confused by the twists of Fingon's speech. She nodded her head vigorously.
"Was that no, you were not eager, or no, you could not wait?"
"You are silly, Uncle Fingon."
"Ah, well, it does not matter," Fingon said. "You are here, after all, and you may as well make yourself useful. I must brush my horse before I go into the house. You may hand me the brushes, and if you are very good, I will let you help with his legs."
"All right." Idril slithered down from his arms and hurried into the stables to fetch the box of brushes and currycombs while Fingon led the horse inside. They worked together for a few minutes before a shadow fell over the door.
"Idril! So that is where you have ended up. I have been looking all over for you." Turgon tried his best to look exasperated, but a smile twitched at the corners of his mouth.
"Hello, Turgon," Fingon said. "Someone could not wait to see her Uncle Fingon back from his ride. She has been very helpful. See how clean my horse's legs are."
"And her dress is filthy." Turgon sighed. "But that has happened before, and it will happen again. I am not concerned about that. Today," he added, waggling a finger at Idril, who giggled.
"Idril, will you hand me that hoof pick?" Fingon asked. "This old boy must have his hooves cleaned, although he does not like it much."
Fingon shrugged. "Perhaps it tickles him. I have an idea. Let us distract him. Turgon, will you show Idril where the apples are kept?"
Turgon cut a golden apple in pieces and showed Idril how to offer the pieces to the horse on the palm of her hand. The horse crunched contentedly while Fingon made short work of his hooves. When he had finished, Idril patted the horse's nose, and Fingon led him into his stall and poured him a snack of oats.
While Idril walked up and down the stable aisle chattering to the horses, Turgon pulled Fingon into a semi-private corner. "Did you see any of the cousins?" he asked.
Fingon nodded. "Curufin invited me to take tea with his new wife; the better to show her off, I think. She is a pretty little thing, though she does not have much to say for herself. And I had audience with Maglor."
"Ah. And did Maglor have anything to say for himself?"
"Quite a bit. Among other things, the cousins have no plans to go after Maedhros in the foreseeable future."
Turgon looked up, startled. "What? Is Maedhros dead?"
Fingon sighed. "I do not think so. Maglor seems to believe that his brother still lives. And yet he will not order a rescue."
Fingon shrugged. "Believe it. Maglor has changed, Turgon. The years have not been kind to him."
"But to abandon his brother . . . " Turgon shook his head slowly. "Father will have plenty to say about that."
"Yes, he will." Fingon grimaced at the thought of the coming conversation with Fingolfin. He heard Aredhel's dinner bell ringing from the cabin and squared his shoulders. Turgon gave him a sympathetic glance and called Idril. Slowly, the trio headed for the cabin and the meal that awaited them.
"Fools!" Fingolfin spat. "Fools and children! They are too stubborn to go off and make a real home, and they are afraid to mount any sort of maneuver that might change their position. They will not even make an attempt for their own brother? Hmph!" Fingolfin stabbed at the bowl of rabbit stew in front of him with his fork.
Fingon sighed and poked at his own stew. The meal had not been a pleasant one. Fingolfin still bore a grudge against the sons of Fëanor and would just as soon have remained peacefully on the north shore of the lake, without ever coming in contact with his nephews on the south shore. Fingon was inclined to forgive his cousins, for he knew well the strain of living with a charismatic father. In the years since they had finally arrived in this new land, he had tried many times to induce Fingolfin to re-establish contact with the sons of Fëanor. Fingolfin had dismissed Fingon's arguments that a family must not let strife divide them forever. However, when Fingon had declared that they could not ignore their obligations to the sons of the High King, Fingolfin had relented and had grudgingly allowed Fingon to ride around the lake to pay what was ostensibly a formal visit to their Lord.
Fingon had been glad of the chance to see his cousins, especially Maedhros, with whom he had always been close. But when he had arrived at the camp on the south shore, Maedhros was nowhere to be seen. After they had finished their tea, Curufin had taken Fingon to see Maglor, and Fingon had learned the true scope of his cousins' misfortunes.
"They are bound to this place by their Oath," he said slowly, aware that he was rationalizing as much for his own benefit as his father's. "They are sworn to recover the Silmarils, and that Oath takes precedence over anything else they might consider."
"If they believe that, then they are fools, the lot of them," Fingolfin snapped.
"From Caranthir I would believe it," Turgon put in. "But not from Maglor. Idril, drink your water or do not drink it, but do not blow bubbles in it. Maglor always struck me as more reasonable than his brothers. Surely he is not as deluded by this idiotic Oath as they are?"
"He was as quick to swear as the others," Fingolfin said. "He is less violent, that is true, but that is only because he puts all his cleverness into singing and playing on his harp. A dreamier child I never did see. And he is now the Lord of the House of Finwë!"
"Be thankful that it is not Caranthir," Aredhel said. "You must admit that, at the very least, Maglor's inaction buys us time to consider the situation fully. For my part, I do not wish to repeat the misunderstandings that led to what happened at Alqualondë."
Everyone at the table fell silent. Turgon winced. In the silence, Idril banged her fork on the table. Turgon took the fork from her, glaring at his sister and brother. "It is precisely because of what happened at Alqualondë that I do not wish to waste my time coddling my cousins' whims. But for their treachery, Elenwë would still be alive."
"If that is so, then why do we remain here?" Fingon asked. "If you and Father are so irritated by Maglor's inaction, then why do you not leave? There is a whole world to explore. What binds you to the cousins? You do not even like them."
"They are hotheaded, treacherous fools," Fingolfin said through gritted teeth, "but they are kin to us. And I refuse to sink to Fëanor's level and abandon my kin in their need. What would they do if we left? What would become of them under Maglor?"
"There is the answer, then," Fingon said. "You use your own pride to conceal your abiding love for your nephews. And because you do love them, you are angry that they do not move to help Maedhros."
"Why do they not move?" Fingolfin asked. "If Maedhros were freed, then we could reason with him and perhaps separate ourselves from the traitors in good conscience. But they will not move, and so we must remain here with them."
"Enough," Aredhel said firmly. "This discussion will take us no further tonight. We are not required to like the cousins, but for the time being, we must live with them. And if we are to do that, we cannot maintain our silence and distance. It is my counsel that Fingon should return to see the cousins and determine the full extent of their situation. Then we may properly decide whether we wish to leave them or to render aid."
Fingolfin sighed. "It is good counsel. We will wait, and then we will see. Do not return to them yet, Fingon. I will let you know when the time is ripe."
Fingon nodded. It was not much, but at least he felt that he had found the crack in the wall that divided the Houses.
Turgon stalked outside with a bottle of wine after the meal was over. His family let him go without comment, for they, too, missed Elenwë. Aredhel took Idril away to put her to bed. Fingolfin, after receiving a goodnight kiss from his granddaughter, retired to his chamber, where a lamp burned long into the night. Fingon sat in the main room for a while and wondered what to do with himself.
Finally, he decided that, if he wanted to make peace among the houses of the Noldor, he had best start with his own. He went outside and found Turgon sitting on the grass gazing at the stars, the bottle of wine open at his side. Fingon sat down next to his brother and saw that he had been weeping.
"I am sorry, Turgon," he said. "I should not have talked about the cousins for so long at dinner tonight. That was a topic perhaps best left for the day."
Turgon sighed. "It was not wholly your fault. I contributed my share, so I am just as guilty as you." He offered the bottle to Fingon. "Have some wine. Let us drink and be friends again."
Fingon examined the bottle. In the moonlight, he could see that it was half empty. He took a sip and then set it down away from Turgon. "It is good wine," he said. "Do not waste it mindlessly in your grief."
"She was so beautiful," Turgon said. "It was so sudden. She fell with Idril. Why could I not have saved them both? I keep asking myself what I could have done differently, and I cannot think of how I could have saved Elenwë that would not have meant Idril's death instead."
"Perhaps there was no way to save them both. You did all that you could do."
"But it was not enough. Nothing I could do would have been enough." Turgon glared across the lake. "That is why I do not especially mourn the cousins' misfortunes; it is no more than they deserve. If they had not burned the ships, we would not have had to cross the ice in the first place. Why did they do that, Fingon? Did they not think of the pain they would cause?"
"I do not know." Fingon had asked himself that very question many times on the long, terrible march over the ice floes. He could not reconcile his memory of his playful, inventive cousins with the shock of their betrayal. "Perhaps if I renewed relations with them, they might tell us that."
"I want to hear their explanation," Turgon said. "But you will have to be the one to ask. I cannot face them yet. I would spit in their faces."
"Then I will go. When Father gives me leave to do so, I will go and ask them why they do what they do. And perhaps this breach will be healed."
Turgon snorted. "You are an idealist, Fingon. I cannot imagine the magnitude of a deed that would be proper restitution for all they have taken from us."
"Neither can I. But the cousins were always inventive. I hold out hope that they will surprise us one day."
They were silent for a while, staring up at the moon that hung large and silver in the night sky. "When will Father let you return to them?" Turgon asked after a while.
"I do not know," Fingon said. "But I am sure that he will tell me in his own way, in his own time. It is unlikely to be tonight, though. We should go in and go to bed. You look tired."
"I am exhausted," Turgon admitted.
"And no wonder. Grief is hard work. Come." Fingon pulled his brother to his feet. "Aredhel has put your daughter to bed, and I will do the same for you."
Fingolfin made no mention of a second visit to the cousins the next morning, nor did he say anything for three days following. Fingon went about his daily business, working at all the little tasks that would transform settlement at Hithlum into a real town.
His latest project was cutlery. When Fingolfin's people had set out to cross the ice, they had abandoned all that they did not need to survive, and all of their forks and spoons had been left behind. When they had arrived in Middle Earth, they had carved new ones from wood, but these were crudely made and tended to warp and split with use. Fingon and some of his friends had carefully saved the antlers from deer that they had hunted. The smaller prongs they carved into buttons for clothing, and the longer branches would make new cutlery.
In exchange for new cooking pots, Fingon had made a complete set of forks, table knives and spoons for their smith's large extended family. Now, he was carving a set for his cousin Finrod. As he sat in his workshop carefully shaving bits of horn, a shadow fell across the table. Fingon looked up from the spoon that he was carving. Fingolfin stood in the doorway watching him. In one sudden movement, Fingolfin approached him and dropped a cloth-wrapped bundle in his lap. Fingon opened it and saw a pair of leather gloves. They were not new, but they were warm and serviceable.
"If you have a mind to visit your cousins again, you may leave those with Maglor," Fingolfin said brusquely. "More than likely, he will need them. A harpist's hands ought to be protected, and I am sure that he will not have thought to bring a good pair of his own — just those rough war-gloves that the others use."
Fingon smiled. "I am sure he will appreciate the thought, Father."
A few days later, Fingolfin left him a package containing two silver collars set with polished lumps of the amber that he had collected from the lake shore. "These are not because I like Curufin, you understand," he told Fingon. "But you said that he had taken a new bride. Her husband's crimes are not her fault. She should have a wedding gift."
"Of course." Fingon carefully kept his face straight as he laid the collars into a pouch with the gloves.
Over the course of a fortnight, Fingolfin produced small gifts for each of his nephews, leaving them with Fingon. Each time, he announced loudly that the item was certainly not to be understood as a token of affection, but rather as a necessary object which the careless recipient would surely have either forgotten at Alqualondë or not thought to provide for himself.
There was some suspense over the question of a gift for captive Maedhros. Finally, Fingolfin appeared with a small box that contained a checkered board and an assortment of pebbles, some white and some dark. "If he is ever rescued, he will be quite some time in recovering," Fingolfin explained. "If he is still as rambunctious as I remember him, he will be insufferable until he is fully recovered. This will perhaps distract him and keep him from running off and doing something foolish. And if he is not rescued, the others may keep themselves occupied with it as well."
Fingon nodded soberly and tucked the box safely in the pouch containing the other gifts. "Thank you, Father," he said. "I have been thinking. Since there is no immediate work to be done tomorrow, perhaps I will ride around the lake and learn what I can of the cousins' plans for the future. By your leave, of course."
"Do what you will," Fingolfin answered. He made a show of returning to work planning next year's garden. Fingon hid his smile behind his hand and picked up his carving.