By the time the news came, it had long since grown cold. Maedhros' company dead, Maedhros himself captured and taken to the Enemy's stronghold. And that was all. The argument hadn't stopped since, and sleep came uneasily when it came at all, for all of them. Faces were haggard. Tempers were short. And never more than this day.
"Are we to simply leave him, then? You will abandon your own brother to torment and death if he is lucky?" Caranthir was on his feet, furious, expression twisting. Maglor was standing as well, his face drawn and hollow, too thin, with the marks of little sleep and pain graven on his brow.
"We don't have a choice, Moryo. It would be folly to try anything else. What would you have me do? Send all our might against the Enemy's stronghold and break ourselves against the walls in the desperate hope of rescuing one who may already be dead?"
Celegorm's fist hit the table as he rose, expression blank with anger. "Don't say that. You betray him, our father, all that we stand for – if we strike hard enough, fast enough-"
"Then we will die," Maglor spat, raising his voice. "We will die, and uselessly, oath unfulfilled, with no one to stand against Morgoth and no chance at stopping the darkness from covering the land. And what then? Will you embrace that so gladly? Maitimo understood sacrifice."
"Maitimo is not dead!" That roared, from Caranthir again, shoving back from the table hard enough that his chair fell over. "He. Is. Not. Dead. And I will not – I will not have you treat him as such."
"I am the eldest here, now," Maglor said, voice strained, "Listen to me, Moryo, as you would listen to him. Please."
"The eldest here, yes, but not the eldest," Pityo said, sharply, his voice quieter than the others but no less dangerous. "I agree with Moryo. We can't simply leave him there. Not our brother."
Maglor closed his eyes. "I'm not asking for your agreement. I'm telling you. It would be suicide or worse to attempt to rescue him. So we will not. And like it or not, you will obey."
Celegorm's breath hissed through gritted teeth. "No. If I have to go alone – I will not, Cáno, and you cannot ask us."
"I can, and I will, and I am." His voice was quiet, but final. "Until further notice, we will proceed as though Maitimo will not return. Thus, as he spoke with our father's voice, now I do. And I command you, Princes, to stay your hand and make no move."
Curufin's voice was a drawl. "By the time we got there he would be dead anyway, most likely. If we make no move than Morgoth has no reason to kill him. Better alive to play with." There was a profound silence, and then a shudder, as they all considered that. Maglor's expression spasmed briefly. Curufin stood. "I agree with Cáno and stand with him." The last seemed directed at Celegorm, primarily, whose gaze did not shift or waver, the set of his jaw still fierce and furious, the stare between them humming with tension. Moryo spoke.
"I don't. And I won't. I don't care about the rest of you cowards. Do you even care at all?" He challenged Maglor. "Do you even care about him? Do you just want his place, that's why you're in such a hurry to proclaim him dead and lost-"
The moment Maglor snapped was clear by the way he stood, trembling, his voice a cracking tone none of them had ever heard before. "Don't you dare," he cried, "Don't you dare, Moryo, accuse me of not loving him. Accuse me, worse, of coveting his place, his power. Don't you dare. I love him just as much as any of you do. Do you think this doesn't hurt me? But I have to think of what's best, I have to think of what he would do, I have to think of the best course for us and those following. I don't want this. I don't want this, all right? But as it's been thrust upon me, I have no choice. And my decision is this – we will do nothing, because there is nothing we can do."
There was a moment, of quiet. Softer, voice quivering slightly, Maglor added, "If I thought I could go in his place, Moryo, I would. Just as much as any of you would. We swore an oath. That, and the family, has to come first. Not anything else. Not even our brother."
Everyone was looking down when he finished speaking, except for Caranthir. Caranthir stepped back, head held high, and snorted. "Maitimo would go back for you," he said, too softly. "Without even hesitating. He would go back. And you know he would."
He turned and swept out. The others followed him, quieter, except for Curufin, and Celegorm glanced back before speeding up his pace to catch Caranthir. Maglor caught a glimpse of him gripping their younger brother's shoulder and talking quietly into his ear before he dropped his face into his hands.
Kurvo's hand rested lightly on his shoulder. "It's not your fault they don't understand," he murmured. "You know that. And if anyone could escape from Angband, alone, it would be Maitimo."
"Leave me," Maglor said harshly, because he could feel himself about to break and wanted no one to see. He waited for Kurvo to squeeze his shoulder once and step outside before allowing himself to weep, even if he wanted to scream, thinking of what his brother might be facing now.
There could be no doubts, though. No doubts, and no turning back.