Smoke rose lazily into the sky, drifting eastwards with the wind, the air thick with the smell of wet ashes and blood. Not unfamiliar smells, on the whole; altogether too familiar, really. It wasn't that he paid attention to, though, stepping over the bodies, examining faces one by one, and feeling his heart sink.
After the fighting was done, they had been missing three. And that they hadn't been found yet did not bode well. Maedhros knew well how little would keep his brothers still. There were still some wounded, some dying, and he hoped to find them there, but somewhere in his heart he knew he would not.
Their names circled aimlessly in his head as they had since he'd found them missing. Celegorm-Curufin-Caranthir. Add to that Telvo. It occurred to him with a sort of grim humor that he was running out of brothers where once he'd had a surfeit of them.
"Maitimo!" Pityo's voice, toneless. "Over here." Picking his way over the carcasses of Sindarin dead – they would deal with them later – Maedhros made his way slowly to his littlest brother's voice.
It was only one of them, in the end. One name he could cross off. The flatness of that thought nearly made him sick. He knelt next to Caranthir's body, his expression calmer in death than it had ever been in life, still half tangled with the body of the Elf that had killed him, Caranthir's sword through his chest, a quarrel of arrows embedded through Caranthir's torso, sticking out grotesquely, like a pincushion.
"Cut them out," Maedhros heard himself say, "We'll need a pyre. A proper one." His voice sounded dull and emotionless in his own ears. They would surely think him a monster for feeling so little. That was all right; they would already.
He stood, slowly, nodded slightly to Pityo, who was watching him with slightly narrowed eyes. "Thank you. Any…any sign of the others?"
"I'm still looking," he said curtly, and Maedhros lingered long enough to be sure that the Elves handling his brother's body were ones he trusted before continuing through the hall. Blood spattered the fine marble walls in gruesome swathes of red. The floor was sticky with it. He tried to focus on the faces, twisted in fear, in pain, in rage. None of them familiar.
There was a profound empty space in his chest that seemed to have drained away all feeling. But that was all right too; this way, he could function. He would have to, no matter how many pyres they would be building today.
He found his third eldest brother next. They'd cut him near to pieces to bring him down, and he'd killed many of their folk anyway. Lying in a pool of blood, facedown, Maedhros nearly missed him, and only managed to recognize him by the sword near his bloody right hand, hilt inlaid with green, the likeness of a dog where his palm would have rested. Of the Dog, correctly, but no one had mentioned that to Tyelko in years. No one dared.
Maedhros turned his brother over carefully and was glad to see his face largely untouched, other than a broken nose that he straightened conscientiously, even knowing that his little brother would no longer care. Grey eyes stared blankly into grey eyes, and with a twitch, Maedhros closed them, glad that he still could. That while his brother's body was cold, it wasn't stiff yet. He hadn't been dead so very long, even if any one of his wounds might have been mortal by itself.
Pityo was at his shoulder, looking over it. Maedhros found his voice again. "We'll need a second pyre," he said, dully. "Will you see to it? I have to…Curufinwë is still unaccounted for." Pityo nodded slightly.
"I'll take care of it." He squeezed Maedhros' shoulder once before he rose and started off again. Looking. He didn't find Curufin near either of his other brothers. It was down a hallway, rather, and he found him because he heard someone breathing. Raspily and with difficulty, but amid the silence of the dead the sound was loud, and he followed it.
If he was lucky…
Of course, he wasn't. Their family never had been. Curufin had dragged himself to a wall, propping himself up sitting halfway, head lolling back against the stones, struggling to breathe, his arms wrapped around his middle the only thing holding him together. To Maedhros' own ears, his footsteps sounded loud.
Curufin's eyes snapped open. "Maitimo," he rasped, and licked his lips with a bloody tongue. Feeling numb, dazed, Maedhros dropped to his knees for the third time and started to pull his brother's arms away, even knowing there was nothing he could do.
"Kurvo," he said, and then was at a loss for what to say next, as Curufin resisted him.
"No…dead. Dying. Have to…Maitimo, the Silmaril."
Maedhros felt his blood run cold. "…yes?"
"Did we get it? Did we…succeed?" He coughed, blood dribbling over his chin. Maitimo wiped it away with infinite gentleness and thought of the secret door cracked open, the missing daughter, Dior's bare neck, and the dull emptiness seemed to grow more profound.
"Yes," he lied, because he could see the fever in Curufin's eyes and knew he needed the peace, "Yes, we did." He nearly choked on the next words. "You did not die in vain, my brother."
Curufin exhaled a sigh and breathed no more, his last expression one of peace. Maedhros shuddered, and lifted the body carefully, the last lie sour on his tongue. Curufin-Celegorm-Caranthir-Telvo. Let them be tallied to his account.
He emerged from the broken palace covered in blood and cradling Curufin's body to find three pyres already built. Everyone had known already that three sons of Fëanor would not walk free of here.
It was easy to lay Curufin's body on the pyre that was still empty, and Maedhros heard his hollow voice, not quite his own, say, "Light them," and they were lit. He watched the flames reach for the sky, watched the fire consume his brothers' flesh, and could not even find the tears to weep.
Maglor was beside him. His face was haggard. "Maitimo, we don't have to do this," he murmured, "We don't…there are choices, still. You know…"
"I know nothing," the hollow voice said, "I swore. I will keep my word." He looked across the fire and could see Pityo's face, blank and empty of all emotion, staring into the flames. Dead-eyed. He looked to his side at Maglor's face, too thin and drawn and full of pain. Maedhros didn't think about how his face must look.
"The Havens," he heard himself say, distantly. "She will have gone to the Havens. It is to there we will go also."
Maglor's expression twisted. "Before the fires of your dead brothers have even gone out! Have you no heart, Maitimo? Give us time to grieve. Those of us who still can."
Maedhros was at a loss to explain the profound emptiness that would not allow tears or grief, and merely shook his head, slightly, still watching the fires. "No. We have delayed long enough."
Maglor took a step toward him, coldly furious anger written on his features. "So you lead us all to our deaths! You rush us to our Doom, Maitimo, and seem glad to do so-"
"I do what I must do," Maedhros said, hollowly. Maglor made a small incoherent noise as one of the fires – Celegorm's, perhaps, fell in on itself. He could no longer see any of his brother's bodies.
"So be it," Maglor said, bitterly, "So be it, brother. If you command."
Maedhros said nothing, and watched the fires burn.