What Flesh Remembers
First Maedhros heard the song. A sweet song, almost a vision, like the songs of his brother Maglor in the lost time of peace in Valinor. Or, perhaps, like the songs of his almost-forgotten mother Nerdanel, in the years before she turned away from his fury.
Through the haze of pain nothing was clear. He believed himself to be dying. Were there songs in the Halls of Mandos? And if there were songs of this sweetness, would it be a place of fear? He willed himself back. Even the refuge of Mandos was not for him. He had sworn the vow of the Silmarils, hallowed by the name of Eru Iluvatar:
to pursue with vengance and hatred to the ends of the World Vala, Demon, Elf or Man as yet unborn, or any creature, great or small, good or evil, that time should bring forth until the end of days, whoso shall hold or take or keep a Silmaril from our posession.
He had sworn this oath standing tall, outstretched sword reflecting torchlight in the hand by which Morgoth now held him captive. And now, through this vow, even the escape of freely chosen death was disallowed him.
He could still feel the touch of the Silmaril on his hand, from the one time his father Feanor had allowed him to hold it. Like light it was, and fire, a beauty beyond imagining. His hand still felt the weight of it, even now, and still ached with its absence.
Yet the song continued. It is not, then, of Mandos, Maedhros thought, knowing from the unceasing pain that he remained alive. He allowed himself to fall into the song, not caring where it came from. He noticed at one point that he was singing as well. Perhaps he had gone mad, and was hearing only his own voice? Then he heard a cry, and looked down, and the singer was before him.
"Fingon." Maedhros whispered the name through bleeding lips. Fingon, who had once been his dearest friend. Fingon, whom he had abandoned to die in the ice of the Helcaraxe. "Have you come here to kill me?" he asked, hope suddenly beginning. If he was slain by violence (as was only fitting) he would be free, unbound by his vow. An end to pain. Valar, let there be an end.
In response, Fingon lifted up his bow. Maedhros looked to heaven. Valar be witness, I have not turned aside. As he watched, Fingon's arrow shot heavenward.
"O King to whom all birds are dear," Fingon called out, invoking the name of Manwe, "speed now this feathered shaft and recall some pity for the Noldor in their need."
In a moment the mightiest of Eagles appeared, and brought Fingon to the rock where Maedhros was bound. Fingon lifted Maedhros up, to take the pressure off the hand by which he had hung for so long. Then he took the bound hand in his own.
"Why have you come?" Maedhros asked again. He knew Fingon had risked death, or worse, in this attempt.
"To heal the breach that divides our families," Fingon responded. "Because you are the greatest warrior of our people. For the sake of our childhood friendship." He bent to the hand that was cupped in his and kissed it softly.
"And because you love me," Maedhros said, suddenly realizing.
Fingon looked to him, and did not answer. His gaze said all that needed to be said.
But neither Fingon's strength nor his skill could free the bound warrior. The iron band would not break, and the chain could not be loosened.
"Will you kill me?" Maedhros again asked. He felt, distantly, Fingon's strong arms around him. Fingon lifted his sword high above his head. Maedhros closed his eyes, preparing to die at the hands of his friendhis beloved. He opened his eyes in time to see the flash of the sword as it crashed down on his outstretched wrist, severing flesh, muscle and bone. Then he was on the Eagle, and they were away.
Blood flowed though Fingon's fingers as he bound the stump of the arm. Blood, Maedhros thought. My hand is blood. He thought he might live, but did not know. There was one more question he needed to ask, one more answer he needed to take with him to Mandos. "Why did you follow me to Alqualonde?" Of all his cousins of the house of Fingolfin, only Fingon had brought his host into the first of the kinslayings.
"Because I saw my cousins falling and I thought of nothing but to save them. Because I, too, dreamed of the shores of Middle Earth. Because your father's words spoke to me, and I believed them." He spoke his shame and his pride as one. "And because I love you."
"This hand," Maedhros said, looking at the mangled stump. "This hand has done so much evil."
Fingon took up Maedhros' left hand, and stroked the length of each finger. He kissed each fingertip, and then the palm, and then the wrist. "It is fortunate, then, that you have another."
They knew little of the ways of love, as both were yet untouched. Yet their first fumbled caresses brought Maedhros such joy as he had never expected to find outside of Valinor. He wondered how it was that such beauty could be given him, now that his seeking hand was gone.
As Maedhros lay beside his lover that night he could still feel his lost right hand, as if it were still there. He knew he always would. But it was not the Silmaril that he remembered in it, nor the sword reflecting torchlight. He felt his lover's gentle fingers, and the softness of his kiss, burned, as if it were, into the memory of the flesh.
The story of Fingon's rescue of Maedhros is in Silmarillion 13: Of the Return of the Noldor. The vow of the Silmarils is from Silmarillion 9: Of the Flight of the Noldor.
This story was inspired by Finch's excellent story 'Under the Curse', to which this can be seen as a prequel.
I wrote this while in the middle of 'As Little Might Be Thought', because there really wasn't a chance in that story to develop Maedhros' character and history. If you want to know what happened to Maedhros between this story and that one, I strongly recommend Ithilwen's stories 'My Brother's Keeper' and 'Easy is the Descent.'
As always I bow to the Great Professor Tolkien, and beg his forgiveness for any misuse I have made of his work.