Blood of Innocents
Three Years Later: Maedhros
He found the clearing, just as he had the year before. Little had changed in that time; the brook still flowed cheerfully along its course, and the berry bushes still bloomed upon the rocks beside its banks. It was early in winter, and no snow had fallen yet, though a light covering of frost glittered upon the fat red berries. Sighing, he dropped to his knees beside the brook, dipping his hand into the chill waters, rinsing the dirt and dust away from his skin before lifting his hand to his lips to drink.
When he was done, he stood, shaking droplets of water from his hand, and surveyed the clearing slowly. Frowning slightly, he climbed atop one of the large rocks by the water's edge and sat down, looking over the clearing with deeply troubled eyes.
After a moment, he closed his eyes, lost in though. In his memories it was deep winter again. Snow covered the ground in a glittering powder, ice sparkling upon the branches overhead, a world made of crystal and diamond. He stood at the edge of the clearing, a strange mixture of disbelief and desperation flooding his heart.
He stared at two sets of footprints – the boys' footprints – that formed a short trail down from the edge of the rock to the center of the clearing and then stopped. It was as though the children had simply vanished. He had circled the clearing twice before falling to his knees beside the last footprints and weeping in utter defeat. He had tried…oh gods how he had tried. And he had failed.
Maedhros opened his eyes, and it was early winter. There was no snow, no footprints, yet they burned as clearly in his mind, as if they were before his eyes once more. He shook his head slightly, still lost in thought.
He should have given up the search then, but he had still clung to a thread of hope, a strange desperation. But three years had passed, and he had found no sign of the children. In his mind, he knew they were gone, but his heart refused to accept the fact.
There was a rustling in the branches above his head, and Maedhros looked up to find a nightingale perched amongst a bunch of leaves, still clinging desperately to their branches, despite the frost. A gust of wind swept through the clearing, rustling the remaining leaves, loosening a few from their hold, but the breeze was warm, and carried promises of flowers and springtime.
Maedhros knew then that She was there, standing behind him. He could feel her presence once more, for the first time in three years. Maedhros closed his eyes, tears tracing down his dusty cheeks.
"I so wanted to find them," he said, staring down at the sparkling water in the brook.
"I know you did, Matimo." The voice was musical, beautiful and yet sorrowful beyond all description. It told of an almost forgotten light captured in stone, of bloodstained waves, of a heart that could never be fully healed. Maedhros looked back over his shoulder, startled. He had not expected the reply, not really.
"Maglor," he said, his voice betraying his surprise. His brother smiled at him, from where he stood resting against a tree, his dark hair fluttering in the wind. Maglor strode across the clearing, and traced his hand down his brother's cheek, as though to affirm that it was truly he, and not some spectral shade. Maglor smiled, and embraced his elder brother.
"I've missed you, Matimo," he said, releasing his brother from his grasp. Maedhros found he could only smile softly and nod. It was all right, though. Maglor understood. He looked around the clearing, taking in his surroundings.
"What is this place, Matimo?" Maglor asked. "The earth, the trees, the waters…they resound with some secret energy."
Maedhros shrugged, staring at his younger brother with solemn eyes. "This is hallowed ground, Maglor. Just at the hills and valleys of Valinor are hallowed. And just as we are banished there, so too is our presence here unworthy."
Maglor nodded, but did not reply. He did not need to. He understood his brother's words all the same. "Does this mean that you are ready, then?" he asked finally, not looking his brother in the eyes. Maedhros felt a tug at his heart, but he sighed heavily, and nodded.
They jumped down from the rock without a second word between them. Together they crossed the clearing and made their way into the surrounding forest. They had not gone twenty paces, when a gust of wind swept at them from behind, carrying a rain of dry brown leaves. Maedhros froze. For a half-second, he could have sworn he heard the sound of children's laughter carried on that breeze. The sound renewed the ache in his heart, and despite himself, he turned once more to look back at the clearing.
At the edge of the clearing, a woman stood, clad in moss green, her raven hair framing an extraordinarily beautiful face. Her eyes were green…blue…the color of meadows overshadowed by clear cerulean skies. She smiled ever so slightly at him, and he stopped, staring in awe. He had not expected to see Her. Not really. Reverently, Maedhros laid his hand over his heart, and bowed, conceding the victory to her, the Guardian of these Woods, who had so many years ago woven her girdle of enchantment about the forest, laying her protection upon not only the woods, but all those who dwelled within. She nodded, turned, and was gone.
Maedhros turned away, picking up his pace in order to catch up with his brother. The ache in his heart remained, but it was lighter, somehow, sorrow without regret or bitterness. Maglor, realizing his brother had fallen behind looked back at him and smiled.
"Are you coming?" he asked.
Maedhros nodded. "Yes. Let's go," he said, his voice firm, resolved. For he knew in his heart that his search had finally come to an end.
As they walked, Maglor sang softly, and Maedhros was only able to catch snatches of the words.
"An arrow of freedom is piercing my heart
Breaking chains of emotion
Give a moment to pray, for lost innocence to find it's way
Fields of sensation, a cry in the dark
Hope is on the horizon, with a reason to stay
And living for a brand new day." (1)
The two sons of Fëanor wove their way through the dense woods as night fell around them. Two small, grey-clad figures amidst the towering trees above, mere children in comparison. Together they sought their way out of the forest. And together, they found it.
1 – These lyrics were taken from the song The War is Over, by Sarah Brightman, which I was listening to as I wrote the last two chapters of this story. It is a beautifully haunting song, which tells not about external wars and battles, but the war one wages with oneself. I highly recommend listening to this song, or at least locating a full copy of the lyrics.