After Fingolfin and Fingon returned from their visit to the sons of Fëanor, they gave news to all who wished to hear it. Life settled down into its normal pattern. Fingon remained within the confines of his family's land, and everyone soon grew accustomed to that restriction. His bruises healed, the soreness in his muscles faded, and he was able to spend much time working in the garden, baling hay, or chopping wood for the winter. Sometimes he woke sweaty and trembling in the night, a dream of dust and steel and blood fading from his mind. But more often, he dreamed of the wide lands beyond Hithlum that waited to be explored.
When three weeks of Fingon's confinement had passed, a messenger bearing the insignia of Fëanor's house came riding around the lake. Fingolfin went to greet the messenger and politely invited him to stay and refresh himself, but the messenger refused. He placed a letter into Fingolfin's hands and left in the same hour. Fingolfin looked at the letter in surprise, then carried it to the garden where Fingon was weeding.
"This is for you," he said.
Fingon examined the letter. His name was written on the outside in unfamiliar handwriting, but the seal was Maedhros's. Hastily, he broke the seal. The letter was short, and the script was wobbly and uncertain, but still legible.
My dear Fingon,
I have been learning to write with my left hand. Since I am not yet strong enough to visit you and you are not yet permitted to visit me, I determined that I would write to you as soon as I was able. Each day I regain a little more of my old strength, and my left hand grows more skilled. I intend to return to my old life as soon as I may. Often, I think back to that day on the mountain, and I find that I have no regrets; or, rather, I regret my captivity, but I do not regret that which I lost in rescue. Do not let your heart be troubled by your deeds. I have thought of a way to make small restitution to your people. When I am strong enough, I will come to you. Watch the lakeshore for my coming.
Your loving cousin and friend,
Maedhros, son of Fëanor, High King of the Noldor
Fingon stared at the letter for a long time, then glanced at the lake. The water shimmered in the sunlight, and a duck swam lazily among the reeds. Someday soon, Maedhros would come riding around that lake, and Fingon hoped fervently that whatever happened would be enough to calm Fingolfin's anger and end their feud, for then his deeds would not have been in vain.
It was the last day of Fingon's confinement. His cousin Finrod had appeared that morning and invited Fingon to dine with him the next evening to celebrate his release. Fingon had accepted the offer with an eagerness that made Turgon laugh out loud at him.
"Now you are the one pining to be free," he said. "Should I chop your hand off, I wonder? Snatch you from under Father's eye?"
Fingon laughed and threw an early windfall apple at his brother. Turgon dodged the missile and seized a bucket of water intended for the horses.
"Here's what will quench your burning need for freedom!" he cried and sloshed the bucket. Fingon jumped back, but the edge of the arc of water splashed over his knees. He leaped at Turgon with a cry of mock rage, and then the two of them were wrestling and squirming in the dust of the stable yard, shouting with glee as they had done when they were small.
Aredhel appeared at the door, her hands floury from the bread she had been kneading. Idril looked over from where she had been feeding the rabbits and squealed to see her father and her uncle wriggling playfully in the dirt. Fingolfin hurried out of the stable and tried his best to look stern.
"Boys!" he said. "Your chores will not do themselves while you play." He did not move to interrupt them, however, for it had been long since both of his sons had laughed so freely.
Fingon had just pinned Turgon to the ground when the sound of distant trumpets filled the air. He looked up and saw a great, formal procession marching around the lake. Astonished, he knelt in the dust while Turgon squirmed out from under him.
"It is the sons of Fëanor," Fingolfin said. "They are coming here on business." Fingon remembered Maedhros's letter and stared at the procession.
"Now?" Aredhel said. "I cannot possibly receive them like this. I am covered in flour! I must set the bread to rise and change my apron, and then Idril must help me lay the table with the good dishes, and . . . " Still chattering, she vanished inside the house.
Turgon leaped to his feet and glanced at Idril. "Your face is smudged," he said. "Come inside and wash."
"You are dirty, too, Father," she said. "And so is Uncle Fingon."
"You are all dirty," Fingolfin said. "But there is no time for you to bathe properly. Go inside and clean yourselves off as best you can. There will be no shame in meeting the sons of Fëanor looking as though we have been interrupted at our work, for that is the truth."
Fingon ran to his bedchamber, stripped off his work shirt and muddy trousers, and scrubbed at his face and hands. The water in the washbasin quickly turned brown, and he hastily dumped it out the window. There was no time to wipe the basin. He pulled a fresh shirt over his head, struggled into clean trousers and pulled on his boots. As an afterthought, he dragged a comb over his head. Deciding that he was clean enough, he hurried outside.
Aredhel was waiting with Fingolfin, wearing a fresh apron, her hands clean and damp. Turgon emerged from the house a moment later with Idril in tow, a hairbrush in his hand. He ran the brush through Idril's hair distractedly as Idril stared at the approaching procession, too fascinated to complain that her father was pulling her hair.
Heralds sounded their trumpets, and standard-bearers marched stiffly, the banners with the insignia of the house of Fëanor flapping in the breeze. Maglor drove a light carriage, and Maedhros sat beside him. He was still terribly thin, but he sat with dignity, and some color and life had returned to his face. The younger brothers rode on their horses behind the carriage, in full armor, gleaming in the sunlight. Behind them rode a small host of retainers surrounding a wagon. All the Elves of Fingolfin's settlement had come outside, drawn by the glitter and noise of the procession, and they stared at the visitors in amazement.
"We will never be able to feed them all," Aredhel wailed. Fingolfin patted her hand.
"We will do what we can, Aredhel," he said. "Let us discover what they want of us first." He stood tall and solemn, as befitted a son of Finwë, in spite of his plain work clothes and stable-smudged face. The procession halted at the edge of the stable yard.
Maglor climbed down from the carriage and assisted Maedhros out. He retrieved a small package from the seat. Tucking it under one arm, he offered the other to Maedhros. Maedhros gripped Maglor's arm and nodded to the rest of his brothers. Slowly, the sons of Fëanor approached Fingolfin.
"Fingolfin, son of Finwë," Maedhros said. "The sons of Fëanor, son of Finwë, have arrived to make our deepest apology for our betrayal upon the shores of Araman. We acknowledge the shame of our deeds, and we regret with whole heart the suffering we thereby inflicted upon your people, our kin. We beg most humbly for your pardon and seek to offer what restitution we may to you and your people." Supported by Maglor, Maedhros went down on one knee there in the stable yard. His brothers followed suit.
For a moment, no one moved. Fingon became aware that his mouth was hanging open, and he shut it, glancing at his family. Fingolfin and Aredhel looked just as stunned as he felt. Turgon's face turned gray, and he clutched Idril's hand so tightly that she whimpered and tugged. Turgon released her abstractedly, and Fingon, thinking that Turgon was about to faint, quickly put a supporting arm around his brother's shoulders. Turgon leaned against him, shaking a little.
At last, Fingolfin found his voice. "I accept your apology, Maedhros son of Fëanor," he said, "and I declare that the ancient friendship between our houses shall be restored. Whether my folk choose to renew their ties to yours is their own business, but I will encourage them in this matter. Rise, nephews, and be welcome."
Fingon let out a breath he had forgotten he was holding. Turgon sagged against him, and Fingon drew him into a swift, strong embrace. There was no time to say anything more, for the sons of Fëanor had risen to their feet, and Maglor was smiling broadly.
"We thank you for your kindness, Uncle," he said. "We would also make restitution for the ills we have inflicted. By your leave, we would begin with Idril."
Idril looked dubiously at the tall stranger in the shining armor, then looked at her father, who stood pale and trembling, Fingon's hand on his shoulder. "No!" she cried, backing up against Turgon and wrapping her arms protectively around her body. "I will not let you do the bad thing to me! Father!"
Turgon laughed shakily, knelt down and stroked Idril's hair. "Do not be afraid, Idril," he said. "They will not harm you. 'Restitution' is a big word, but it is not a bad thing. It means that Cousin Maglor wants to give you a present to make up for something you have lost."
Slowly, Idril turned back to Maglor. She squirmed and stood on one foot in embarrassment as he went down on one knee to her. "I am given to understand that you lost something precious to you when my brother was rescued," Maglor said. "Therefore, I have made this especially for you." He offered her the package he had taken from the carriage. After only a moment's hesitation, Idril reached out and took the present. She untied the linen wrapping and found a beautiful little harp made of cherry wood. Her name was inlaid in gold on its body. Her mouth hung open, and she could not speak.
"That is lovely," Turgon said. "What do you say, Idril?"
Idril gulped. "Thank you, Cousin Maglor," she said. Maglor smiled at her.
"You are most welcome. If you would like, and if your father would permit it, I could teach you some of my favorite tunes."
Idril looked at Turgon, who nodded. She grinned and turned back to Maglor. "I would like that very much," she said. "Can you teach me today?"
"Perhaps," he said. "If time remains at the end of the day. We still have much to do here." He rose and walked back to the wagon. Lifting the cover, he pulled out a wooden chest and returned to Maedhros's side. The younger brothers murmured among themselves, and Maglor exchanged a look with Maedhros. Fingon did not understand what was going on, but he thought that his cousins were not all in agreement about what would happen.
Maedhros silenced his brothers with a glare. He beckoned Fingolfin to come and stand before him. "I am Maedhros, son of Fëanor the High King of the Noldor," he said formally. "In the presence and hearing of all assembled here, I do hereby foreswear and renounce my own and my family's claim to the title and rank of High King, choosing instead to pass that honor to my uncle Fingolfin, son of the High King Finwë."
With his left hand, Maedhros flipped the latch on the chest that Maglor held, lifted the lid, and withdrew the shining crown that Fingon had seen his grandfather wear. This he placed delicately on Fingolfin's head, saying, "If there lay no grievance between us, lord, still the kingship would rightly come to you, the eldest here of the house of Finwë, and not the least wise." He nodded to Maglor, who handed the chest off to a page and helped Maedhros kneel at Fingolfin's feet. The younger brothers exchanged glances of varying degrees of resentment, but they, too, knelt before their new King.
Slowly, the people of the settlement realized what had happened. In a great wave, they knelt. Fingon sank to his knees before his father, stunned. He was dimly aware that Aredhel and Turgon had knelt as well, and that Turgon had pulled Idril down beside him. In the silence, Fingolfin looked around at the throngs of the Noldor bowed in reverence before him. He reached up to touch the crown on his head, then glanced down at his rough work clothes. Fingon saw him visibly gather his wits together, and he stood tall to address the sons of Fëanor.
"Get up!" he said. "You are kneeling in my stable yard, and the dirt will ruin your clothing and dim your bright armor. Get up, you foolish boys!" He hauled Maglor and Maedhros to their feet and embraced them, holding Maedhros long. "Welcome back, nephew," he said. "I deem that you have paid for your sins and paid for them fairly. Be welcome among your kin." Then he kissed each of his nephews in turn and beckoned for the people to rise.
There was a great feast that evening in honor of the reunion of the sundered branches of the house of Finwë. To Aredhel's relief, nearly everyone in the settlement contributed a dish. The sons of Fëanor uncovered the wagon they had brought and gave Fingolfin's people many rich gifts to replace the treasures they had abandoned before setting out across the ice. The wagon held beautifully illuminated books, bolts of fine silks and linen, and many useful and beautiful objects of metal and glass. Fingon received a bright new sword to replace the one he had notched trying to cut the cuff that bound Maedhros's wrist. Finrod and Fingolfin both accepted strings of horses of Valinor, more graceful and slender than the large draft horses they had tamed for themselves in the valley. Aredhel held several bolts of silk and was already planning fine new dresses for herself and Idril.
Those who had skill with instruments brought them to the feast, and the Elves sang and danced as the evening fell. Idril played a short piece on her new harp and received much applause. Maedhros reclined in the comfortable guest chair which Fingon and Turgon had carried outside for him. Fingon brought two plates full of food, and sat with his friend to eat. Maedhros's eyes shone, and even though he could not join in the dancing, his feet tapped in time to the music.
"You seem almost too cheerful for one who has just dispossessed his family of their inheritance," Fingon remarked.
"I am happy," Maedhros said. "I am much happier than I expected to be. I suppose that is a sign that it was the right thing to do. Maglor was wilting under the strain of acting as regent, and I did not want to burden any of the others with the crown."
"What about you? You were wrong, you know. By rights, the crown should have gone to you as Fëanor's eldest."
Maedhros shrugged. "That is true. You did not witness the long quarrel I had with my brothers over that very fact."
"They do not support this act?"
"They support it now; I have made sure of that. Being the eldest still has its advantages. They do not all agree with the decision, and I fear that they never will. Maglor supports me with whole heart, as he has ever done, and the twins do not seem to care either way. Curufin would prefer that I had not given up the crown, but his main intent is the recovery of the Silmarils, and he relented when I suggested that we might be freer in our pursuit of them if the responsibility of the Kingship were on other shoulders. Caranthir and Celegorm proved difficult. I must admit that, in the end, I did not convince them of anything. I simply ordered them to support my choice."
"And you are sure that they will obey your orders? I do not want to face the wrath of your brothers, and I certainly do not want to witness another Kinslaying."
Maedhros shook his head. "No, cousin, do not fear. Though dispossessed of the Kingship, I retain full rights as head of my House. Caranthir and Celegorm will obey my orders in this."
"That is good. But you have still not answered my original question. Why did you give up the crown?"
"I gave it up because I do not want it," Maedhros said. "I have no interest in being the High King of the Noldor. That is what your father wants. I want to keep our Oath, and recover the Silmarils and avenge my father's death. I could not do that and be High King at the same time, for I could not be responsible for all the people while on my quest. The only way to fill the needs of all was to pass the Kingship on to the one who truly desired it, your father."
"May he have joy in it," Fingon said. "He has already proved himself an able leader." He waved at Turgon, who was following Idril through the crowd. Turgon waved back, and Idril spied them. Clutching her new harp, she ran over to them, Turgon close on her heels.
"Did you hear me play, Uncle Fingon?" she said. "My new harp sounds like. . . like summer! It makes a very warm sound."
"I did hear you play, Idril," Fingon said. "Did I not tell you that Maglor makes good harps? You will be a fine musician someday if your father allows Maglor to teach you."
"We will see about that," Turgon said dryly.
"This is your daughter?" Maedhros said. "She has you wrapped around her little finger, Turgon. My brother will be giving harp lessons yet."
Idril looked from her beloved uncle to his tall, thin companion. In her efforts to be polite and not stare at his truncated arm, she found herself gazing steadily at his bright eyes and sharp-boned face. Fingon smiled and winked at Turgon. "Idril," he said, "this is Maglor's older brother, our Cousin Maedhros. Will you greet him nicely?" Turgon's eyes went wide, and he sucked in a sharp breath, but he did not speak. Idril stared for another moment, then bobbed a little curtsey.
"Hello, Cousin Maedhros," she said. "I am Idril, Turgon's daughter. I am glad to meet you."
Maedhros smiled. "Hello, Idril," he said. "I am Maedhros, Fëanor's son. It is my pleasure to meet such a charming little lady as you are." He reached out and took her left hand in his, planting a delicate kiss on her knuckles just as if she were a grown lady. Idril giggled, and Turgon put his hand on her shoulder.
"Come along, Idril," he said. "We have interrupted Fingon and Maedhros in their private conversation."
"Not at all," Maedhros said cheerfully. "I was simply explaining to my cousin here about all of the weighty responsibilities he will enjoy as the Crown Prince of the Noldor."
Fingon choked on his drink. He spluttered and coughed, and Turgon had to slap him on the back. Idril's face lit up. "Are you really a Crown Prince, Uncle Fingon?"
"His father is now High King, and he is the oldest son, so he is indeed a Crown Prince," Maedhros said, clearly enjoying the moment.
Fingon coughed. "Neither does the younger son escape responsibility," he told Idril, determined to spread the shock around. "Turgon your father is also a royal prince now."
Idril whirled to face her father. "Really, father? Are you really a royal prince?"
"It seems that I am," Turgon said, and he gave Fingon a look that promised mischief later.
"Does that mean that I am a princess?" Idril asked.
Turgon laughed in spite of himself. "You have always been my princess, Idril," he said. Maedhros put his hand over his heart and inclined his head.
"Indeed you are a princess, Idril," Maedhros said. "The daughter of a prince and the granddaughter of the High King can be nothing less."
"Did you hear, Father?" Idril said, dancing a little with excitement. "I am a really truly princess. Cousin Maedhros said so."
Turgon sighed and finally cracked a smile at Maedhros. "Cousin Maedhros does not have any idea what he has begun by naming Fingolfin High King," he said. "He has unwittingly created a princess out of a whirlwind. Either the whirlwind must now learn some manners befitting a princess, or the Noldor will find themselves facing a greater peril than any they have yet known."
"I knew my decision would have interesting consequences," Maedhros said cheekily. "Idril, have you met the rest of my family? I have five other brothers besides Maglor, and I am sure that they would be eager to dance with the new Princess of the Noldor."
"More cousins?" Idril asked. "There are more cousins to meet?"
"Five more," Turgon said. "Come, let us go say hello and leave Uncle Fingon and his friend to their conversation."
"All right," Idril said. "I like cousins. Cousins are the best thing in the world! Goodbye, Cousin Maedhros."
Maedhros waved goodbye as Turgon and Idril vanished into the crowd. Fingon barely managed to contain himself, and as soon as his brother and his niece were out of sight, he doubled over laughing.
"Now that is what I like to see," Maedhros said. "A Crown Prince who truly enjoys his station in life."
"Oh, Maedhros," Fingon gasped. "Did you see Turgon's face? He will spoil that child rotten!"
"That is what daughters are for," Maedhros said. "My father always wanted a daughter so he could do just that. But he has left me with nothing but six brothers, none of whom have daughters of their own. Your sister and Finrod's sister are all grown up, and so Idril is the one I shall spoil now."
"I am glad," Fingon said. "I am glad that our families are friends again and that you have the chance to spoil her."
Maedhros put his hand on Fingon's shoulder. "It would not have happened without you, my friend," he said seriously. "You saved my life on the mountain. All of this is ultimately your doing. Look on your work and rejoice."
Fingon looked out at the crowds of friends reuniting with friends. "It is not wholly my work," he said. "There remain many deep grievances to be worked out between our peoples. But they are talking now, and I suppose I can claim that, at least. But most of all, I am glad that you are here with us. I missed you, Maedhros."
"And I missed you, even at the burning of the ships. You are right, Fingon. There remains much to discuss. But we will do that later. Tonight we will simply celebrate being alive."
"Agreed." Fingon raised his glass and drank. Then he sat back with Maedhros and watched the Noldor dance. Celegorm danced with Aredhel, and Caranthir twirled Idril off at the edge of the dancing. Fingolfin presided over the celebration with regal dignity, as if he had been born to the Kingship. Fingon slouched happily in his chair and finally decided that all of his pain had been worthwhile. The Noldor had begun to reunite, and he could dream of adventures and exploration once more.
Many thanks to all who have read and enjoyed this story. It's the first R-rated story I've written, and I was minorly nervous about it, but it seems to have done pretty well. No one seems to have run from it screaming in horror. I'm fascinated by the responses, as always. It's neat to see that new perspective on something you wrote, to see which details stick and which emotions come across.
The first scene of this that I wrote was the amputation scene. At the time, it was just an exercise in detail writing, bloody and violent details in this case. As I wrote it, I began to get a sense of the two characters involved in that scene, and it began to feel more and more like the middle of a story. I was hung up on the idea of a beginning and an ending until I finally realized that Maedhros was not a main character in the story I had in mind. Once I realized that the story was not about Fingon-and-Maedhros, but more about Fingon and his immediate family, I was good to go.
Idril is a precocious little girl, and she wormed her way into the story entirely on her own. She proved enormously useful when I asked myself why Fingon "just happened" to have a harp along on a rescue mission instead of signal flares or chisels or something useful like that.
Two lines are taken directly from Tolkien: Fingon's prayer to Manwë, and Maedhros's line "If there lay no grievance between us, lord, still the kingship would rightly come to you, the eldest here of the house of Finwë, and not the least wise."
Again, many thanks for reading this, and I'll see you next time!