Summary: The House of Fëanor has a somewhat vehement meeting, Fingon rescues Maedhros from the Thangorodrim, and the latter passes the High Crown on to Fingolfin. Hm. Brotherly love. PLAIN brotherly love. Which means NO SLASH.
Author's note: Hm. Has anyone read The Once and Future King out there? Am I the only one who's finding a strong likeness between the House of Fëanor and the Orkney Faction? Just examine each one of them closely, and you'll find that they're so different from each other that such a family can really be nothing but dysfunctional.
Some historical things at the bottom, to be ideally read before the fic. And this is the second part in my four-part-series. Yes, I'm just soooo intelligent I wrote the second part before the first. That is why there are some things the reader may not understand.
Disclaimer: I don't own the House of Fëanor, nor do I own Fingon and Fingolfin. They are the property of Master Tolkien, and I beg his pardon for using them for my enjoyment.
Of iron and of steel
By Le Chat Noir
The tent was large. As large as a tent could get without collapsing, that was. It was made of white cloth, to let the light in, but there wasn't much to. Two blazing torches were set on the central pillar, sending eerie shadows dancing on the curtains. It was cold, even with the fire, the freezing cold that can only be felt in the dark of the night, and a howling wind swept over the flat land, flapping the cloth in a threatening way. In a corner, stood a tiny wooden table, with a simple chair. The only other seat in the room was unoccupied, somewhat more majestic and artistically wrought than the other plain one, with carvings on the wood.
There were six in the tent. Slight shivers running down their spines, they held their heavy cloaks tight around their shoulders, and small clouds of mist came out of their lips each time they drew a painful breath.
The House of Fëanor had been called to meet in urgency, after the first rising of Isil. The horns of Fingolfin's host had been heard sounding in the distance, and a great turmoil of problems had arisen, in the absence of their usual leader. Maedhros was deemed lost. But then the opinions of each the brothers diverged, and it had been two hours of heated discussions. However, the case remained unsolved, and the disagreement between each party was only growing worse and more bitter by the minute. Maglor, who had stayed silent for the most, was leaning against the pillar, if the piece of wood could be called so, mainly listening to his younger brothers' argument. Curufin was sitting at the table, absently trying to carve the wood with Angrist, sometimes adding his own in that emotionless drawl of his, but never looking up. As for Celegorm, he stood behind his brother, looking at his work, with his elbow nonchalantly resting on the chair's backrest. At the moment, it was Caranthir and Amrod's turn for the spotlight. Surveying each other with a menacing glare, they circled round the room, turning around the central pillar, and, therefore, Maglor. Their voices hadn't risen to louder than the level of normal speech, but the wrath in the younger brother's voice could be felt brewing, and the contempt the other one showed was beginning to annoy not only Amrod, to whom it was addressed, but every other elf present. Almost spitting at each other in their anger, there was something horrible in their way: their likeness to each other, the glow of cold fury in their eyes, and the contained fire that was to explode any moment. Any moment.
"And why, I ask you, should we cringe from their coming?"
"Because we can not fight them."
"And again, what reason can you give? Were they not our father's foes?"
Amrod's voice rose.
"Our father's foes? But who didn't our father consider as foe? Can we fight the whole world alone, five that we are now left, with only the tenth of our people behind us? Can we fight those whom we have already betrayed and left to die? We should be begging their forgiveness, asking them to accept us back. Can we afford to fight the last of those who can still be our allies? Can we?"
"Beg for their forgiveness?" Caranthir sneered. "How like a son of Finarfin. How weak and naïve." He shrugged, smirking, and turned his back unto his younger brother. "Well, if that is your will, brother, I am no one to oppose it. Drag yourself to your knees in front of them. But that will be done without my support." He then turned to address the others. "What about you, my brothers? Will the Sons of Fëanor humiliate themselves in front of their lesser? Or will we fight for the honour of our name?"
But he had counted without Amrod's blind rage, without Amrod's pride and pain. The youngest elf, at hearing his brother's words, suddenly understood. He did not know what, but it was as if everything made sense, and he remembered the dark figure, far away, leaning forwards to set fire to the tall ships of silver sails, the cracking wood, the orange flames rising to the dark skies, the unbearable heat in the icy coldness, and Maedhros's tall frame, walking away in the snow. He remembered the cry, little heard above the deafening and entrancing sound of the destructive hunger of the fire, and the little child's face appearing from somewhere in between the blazing hell. And then, another cry responding to it, a silhouette sprang from beside him into the fire, and then … no more. Then was darkness, with the soft rain falling, and the smoke slowly floating upwards and the last cracklings of the dying fire …
"So you want it to be!" He cried, at last giving way to whatever hatred or furious sorrow had been consuming his heart for all that time. Drawing his sword in a flash, he sprung forwards, aiming to his older brother's back. Caranthir, upon hearing the shout, spun round and unsheathed his own sword, but would have been too late to stop the deathly blow. However, before Amrod had the chance to realise what was happening, a gleam of steel flashed on his left, and his leap was stopped by another blade than Caranthir's clashing with his own. Turning to look, his eyes met with Maglor's reproachful ones, whose arm countered his without trembling.
"Amrod." He said in a stern voice. The younger brother's hand went weak and his sword clattered to the ground. "This is truly the last thing we need."
Another wave of rage washed over the younger elf, adding itself to the one which hadn't nearly worn off.
"This? What do you mean by 'This'?" His voice went higher and higher, till he was nearly into hysterics. "The slaying of one of our brothers? But what have we been doing? What have we done?" He trust both his hands almost into Maglor's face. "Look at these hands! What kind of blood can they claim not to have ever shed? None! Sparrows, fawns, gulls, orcs, elves, maids, children! Ha!" He laughed aloud. The others watched him, as if bewitched, with a kind of morbid curiosity. "What do I fear now for wanting to slay my brother? What kind of punishment can be worse than that the Valar already have prepared for us? What kind of woes can still befall those who have born all, who have betrayed and fought and killed? What …"
He didn't get to finish his sentence, for Maglor seized him firmly, almost violently, and gave him a hard slap on the cheek. He stayed stunned for an instant, his cheek rapidly turning red, staring into the other elf's grim face without seeing it.
Eventually, he broke down into his older brother's arms, weeping and sobbing in his shoulder, while Maglor gently caressed his back, whispering words of comfort in his ear. Caranthir, shrugging in disgust, sheathed his sword and looked on silently. Fëanor's second son looked up from his youngest sibling's shaking frame, and rested an austere glance on each his other brothers, the younger of whom he had helped raise after their mother had left. He recognised them not. And sadly, in his heart, he wondered what had become of them … of himself. As though not only Amras, but all of them had perished in the fire of Losgar.
"Caranthir, next time, pray hold your tongue."
But a cold drawl, which was not the dark elf's, answered him.
"Maglor, it is not because you are now the eldest you can pretend to ruling over us." All eyes, except Curufin's, which stayed riveted on his work, turned to look in the direction from which it came.
On the previously unoccupied seat, now was seated Celegorm, assuming his usual nonchalant and careless posture, however with every single muscle in his body tense as if ready to jump. His eyes were cold, and face set in frightening determination, and he stared provocatively at his older brother.
Maglor, after giving Amrod a last pat on the back, let go of him and slowly walked up to Celegorm, working a dangerous smile, which seemed almost sincere, on his lips. Amrod's tears had dried up. He had momentarily forgotten his own troubles to care about those, which he felt thousand times graver, of his siblings.
"Do you remember whose seat that is?" Against his will, Curufin, who still refused to look at the scene, but only listened felt a shiver run down his spine that was not due to the cold. Maglor's voice was unnaturally sweet, though beautiful as it always had been, and full of refrained emotions he did not dare to think out.
But Celegorm didn't answer, didn't make a move, only surveyed his older brother's face and pasted smile with suspicious and icy glare. Maglor, still advancing on him slowly as ever, spoke up again.
"Do you remember whose fault it was that he isn't with us today?"
"Morgoth's." Celegorm replied, after a pause, harshly.
But the smile vanished from Maglor's lips, and his voice fell with his face.
"No." His tone was sharp, harder than any of them had ever heard it. "It was yours, brother dear. It was you who ordered the retreat after the Orcs' attack. It was you who forbade the other soldiers to join in the fight." He was now close up to the seat, and spat directly in Celegorm's face. "It was you who watched unmovable as he was taken away! It was you who refused to even attempt to save him! It was your fault just as much as it was Morgoth's!" He paused and inhaled deeply, then added in a low, but no less hateful voice. "Now it is too late."
For a long minute, they both stayed still, frozen, staring into each other's eyes. Maglor's whole body was trembling slightly, and both his hands were gripped tightly on each the chair's armrests. After a while, Celegorm responded:
In his corner, Curufin's voice was heard, unnervingly casual, as if unaware of the tense situation. "For lack of a better answer."
Celegorm cursed in his heart. Even he himself had to admit his answer had been lame.
But Maglor had risen from his forwards-leaning position, and his back was turned to his brother. The older elf seemed to be staring at a precise point in space, straight in front of him. The three others waited, silent, and the only sounds that could be heard were the fire's crackling and Angrist's blade dug into the wood no more. In a dry tone, he ordered:
"Take your leave."
And Celegorm, slowly standing, strode out of the tent, leaving the curtain flapping after him.
Maglor turned to look at each of his brothers, and said in an icy voice which was not his own:
"And whoever will henceforth take this seat besides him shall taste the bitter edge of my sword."
For a long moment, there was silence. Then Curufin, who was now playing with his dagger alone, running it swiftly across sheets of paper, remarked in a careless tone:
"The fact still remains that Fingolfin is nearing."
Caranthir took a step forward.
"Shall I meet him?"
"No." Maglor's answer was sharp. "Amrod was right. We cannot fight."
"What?" In his surprise, Curufin dropped Angrist to the ground, but then quickly bent to regain hold of her. "Why?"
The dark-haired elf was then pacing to-and-fro the tent. "Firstly, in a military point of view, we're outnumbered."
"But we've got the best soldiers!" Curufin protested. "Fingolfin's host consists mainly of women and children! And they must be weary, worn out by Helcaraxë, unable to fight!"
But Maglor went on, unmoved.
"Secondly, I think the blood that now drenches our hands is quite enough. One would at least want to wait until it's dried to add a new layer to it. Thirdly, this is ridiculous. If you think they are too weary to attack us, we will not attack them. It's only logical."
Curufin thought that the logic in his brother's speech somehow escaped him, but submitted nevertheless after a moment's pondering.
"Fine. We'll be moving our camps to the South of the Lake."
The sombre shreds of dark clouds of night veiled the daylight, forbidding the sun's rays to pierce their layer to shine on the fallen land. All was silence, save for the deafening roar of the mountain's forges somewhere, everywhere around him. Fingon, shuddering, kept his glance lowered onto the rocky path, if it could be called so, his feet dangerously trod on. The Thangorodrim wasn't light on those she found were walking her flanks. Or at least he supposed so, not knowing if anyone had ever walked those before him.
For hours he had been following his feet wherever they would lead him to, not having an afore-decided aim, not knowing where he whom he sought could be. The mist that surrounded him made every step a threat to his life, as he was never sure where the ground was nor the void.
Suddenly, his right foot stepped on nothing, and he almost slipped off the cliff. Quickly retreating lest he should tumble down to a certain death, he advanced slowly to the same spot again, and tried to pierce the mist's veil with his eyes. He hadn't been mistaken. There was no more way he could go, but back. A sigh of despair escaped him. All he had endured, all the shadows that heaped on his heart, all the fear, - no, not fear, but what then? -, all the tortures of his mind, they were for nothing. Nothing but to turn back and flee. He grinded his teeth. What had he expected in the beginning? A miracle? But he had learnt so much in such a short time, and among those things was the fact that no more miracles were to befall him, nor any of his kin.
He stood there for a time, balancing between the necessity of going back and the rage he felt swelling from his heart.
Then, leaning back on the mountain's hard rock, he began to sing.
He had tightened his cloak around himself, shivering with cold and a strange kind of dread, with his eyes closed and lips quivering, half-parted, little lone figure standing invisible in the grey swirling mist. He sang a song of old, a song he remembered having learnt, one evening under the waking light of Telperion, from the one he was now hopelessly seeking. It was a simple song, a shooting tune to be sung lightly by a gleeful heart, but somehow it was the only one that came to his mind, that which he had been repeatedly chanting under his breath to himself, softly, to calm the wild pounding of his heart. It was a song to Laurelin, the golden rays of Laurelin the bright, and Fingon, through the fine layer of his eyelids, could almost see the light shining through the dark veil, and feel its gentle glow on his face.
He smiled. Through the thick layer of mist, a voice was heard that wasn't his own. A whisper, a murmur barely sustained above the fire's roar, but still audible to Fingon's elven ears. It was a voice filled with incredible pain, sorrow and something indefinable that would afterwards never leave it entirely. But Fingon would have recognised it between thousands other voices, however much horror its grievous intonations stroke into his heart. Opening his eyes, he began walking back on the path, now knowing his aim, and trying to walk as straight as he could in its direction. Yes. It was Maedhros singing in his pain.
At last, after much stumbling due to his precipitation, he saw him. And the song died on his lips.
The elf hung limply from the protuberance on the cliff. The mist had somewhat cleared with the height, and he could see even the other elf's face as precisely as if he had been at arm's length from himself, the very face whom he had wished to see so often these last years, but then he wished he had never. The once handsome and beautifully shaped complexion now bore hollow cheeks and almost translucent porcelain skin, the colour of ivory stained with crimson blood. His rich auburn hair, the hair of his mother, hung in something that could still be recognised as meant to be a braid. The son of Fëanor's eyes were closed, and he was somehow glad of it. He did not think he would have been able to contain the tears that welled in his at the sight of their fallen light, the brightness that he had adored but could not, he thought, have survived to the pain of months spent with Morgoth's iron ring around his wrist.
He could go farther no more, as again the cliff plunged down in front of him. The other elf was aware of his presence, but did not show it. The stillness hung between them, seeming uncrossable as the yawning pit below their feet.
"Cousin?" Fingon's voice rose, like a scared child's in the dark of the night. The silence's crystal wall shattered into thousand pieces.
He thought, but could not be sure, the bloodless lips had twitched into somewhat a smile, and the wind howled, bringing him the reply in a painful whisper, which he guessed more than heard.
"You can call me by my name, you know."
He stayed transfixed, unable to move, unable to tear his gaze from the tortured elf's face, unable to lift a hand and brush his tears away, unable to say but what he recalled having said once before, such a long time ago when the light still lived and the flowers bloomed and did not die …
He tasted the word on his lips just like the day he had spoken it for the first time. And then, the older elf half-parted his eyelids, letting the brown pupils show in the slit. He flashed a short, quick and feeble smile to his younger cousin. Fingon felt he his heart filled and near to overbrimming with joy and relief, wanting to laugh and sing and dance, however much these were inappropriate to the circumstances. But the smile had vanished from Maedhros' face again, just as if it had never been there. His eyes were closed again. The wind sighed in Fingon's ears.
"Losgar, Araman …"
"How can you say such things? Speak of it no more!" He shouted, and his cry resounded on the rock. "It is not the moment."
Nothing was answered, and Maedhros's body returned to its original stillness and lack of facial expression. At first, Fingon stared, but then, gradually, felt that queer kind of dread and fear overcome his spirit again, and anguish came with the silence. His heart began pounding, pounding faster and faster, and streams of tears flowed down his face. The need to do something, to shout, to kick to stone arose blindly in him, unreasoned, and he panicked.
"But I see no way." It was a stupid thing to say, he realised. But he just had to say something. Actually, Maedhros opened his eyes wide, not mere slits anymore, but there was no sparkle in them nor smile.
"There is a way you can free me." His voice was cool, silvery clear and ringing true, so true Fingon felt at the same time a terrible hope and a veil of shadows clouding his heart. Plunging in those eyes, whom he had first seen laughing, weary but merry and warm, plunging in those eyes that were still the same but now cold, oh so cold… He took a step back, not really knowing why, and shook his head in denial of nothing in particular. He could not look away. Could not. And Maedhros stared into his eyes, binding him to the ground and forcing him to listen to a truth he did not want to hear. And the mountains roared underfoot.
"Do you remember the pearls of Alqualondë? The white walls of pearls stained by crimson blood. Do you remember the friends you had in your host? What happened to them all?" The voice was a whisper, almost painfully mocking, and Fingon felt his teeth clench against his will. Maedhros should have known, must have known what had happened. "Do you remember seeing the fire dancing from afar? The silver sails of tall ships. What did you feel when you understood? When you understood that we had betrayed you, without a thought of regret?" The younger elf thought he saw his older cousin blink, but in the wrath and terror that was slowly rising in his heart he paid no heed. "Do you remember the torture of the ice under your feet? Seeing the first one fall, followed by so many others? Feeling your heart torn between the love for your dying people and the fire of revenge? Heeding the face of death. Do you remember? Do you remember what my father has done?" The tirade had begun low as a murmur, the horrible susurration of death in your ear, but through his speech Maedhros' voice had grown, louder and louder, as his body tensed, in a last start against the ring which bound his wrist. He shouted the last sentence. "Then, for the love of Manwë and those you have lost, slay me, son of Fingolfin!"
The cry resounded emptily on the mountain. Fingon stared, as two tears rolled from both the older elf's eyes and strained his cheeks, merging with the blood which already smeared them. Fingon wept freely. Never before had he seen Maedhros cry. As a young child, he had always regarded him with respect and the kind of unshakable faith he had never quite lost. Maedhros was his older cousin, who had helped in teaching him the repulsive names of far-off stars, who had taught him some advanced tricks in archery and swordplay, who'd told him how to stay still and mute to let the fawns come lick his palm, and how to throw a flat pebble so as to make ricochets on clear water surface.
Half-blinded by his tears, Fingon stumbled back several steps, not caring where he put his feet anymore, and shook his head once more. Maedhros sank back to his previous posture of abandon, in despair. Then his voice was a whisper again.
"Slay me, if you love me, brother…"
For some seconds Fingon did nothing. His shoulders shook with sobs. Then, after having somewhat stopped shaking, he lifted his bow slowly. His heart stopped beating, and this time, he was sure he saw a peaceful smile on Maedhros' lips.
"O King to whom all birds are dear, speed now this feathered shaft and recall some pity for the Noldor in their need!"
But the arrow never was shot. Fingon's prayer had been answered. The deafening sound of gigantic winds flapped, and Thorondor, the Eagle-lord, swept down from his dwellings, seizing the young prince by the shoulders, and bringing him to the rock where Maedhros was bound. There, he held himself as close to the rock as possible, as the protuberance on which he stood was narrow.
Maedhros saw the dagger in his hand, and guessed his will. Somehow, he managed to muster a mocking smile.
"That won't be of any use. Don't you think I tried?"
But Fingon set to work anyways. He had to make bizarre contortions so as not to fall off the cliff, but for a long time he tried to dig his dagger in the iron and the rock. Maedhros said nothing, but his eyes were shut, and his breath was thin. Eventually, the steel of the dagger shattered, and the blade fell from Fingon's hand down into the abyss. He sighed deeply, and leaned on the rock again, his feverish mind working madly to seek a non-existent way. The older elf stared at his profile, which was what he could see, in an intent way. Fingon found it unnerving, and turned to face the other side, so as to present the back of his head to the other elf. Therefore did the query come from behind him.
"Won't you kill me?" The voice was distressingly casual and morbidly hopeful. Fingon spun his head around sharply, and his answer was harsher than he would have wished it to be.
"No." Something died in Maedhros' eye, and Fingon bit his lip. "The way to that freedom for you would be for me but the way to still tighter bounds."
And so they stayed still in the silence, heeding the fire-roar not, gazing at each other in the eye, both knowing that Fingon's quest was a hopeless one, and had always been, since the moment he set foot from his father's camp. After a while, the younger elf began to play with his eldest cousin's hair, idly fiddling with the tangled strands.
"I've always loved the colour of your hair."
Maedhros' eyes narrowed.
"You said Losgar wasn't the matter at hand. Do you seriously think my hair…" But he never got to finish the sentence. Before he had the time to realise it, Fingon had unsheathed his sword and cut through his wrist with one blow.
Then all went too fast. His lips were half-parted with surprise, and the cry of pain stayed stuck in his throat. It wasn't the usual, daily and horrible pain to which he had come to get used to, if that was possible, but a searing, splitting and sudden pain. At first in the son of Fëanor's gaze was but dismay, the grief of realising a dear friend's betrayal when it is already too late, but half a second later the terrible look had turned into one of peace. Then his eyelids dropped and he fell into Fingon's waiting arms.
The dark-haired elf wavered for a second, and cringed at how light the other had become compared to his height. The blood pouring from the severed wrist drenched his garments, but at the moment he couldn't care less. Without realising how he had made it, soon they were on the Eagle's back, and Thorondor bore them over the mountains towards Mithrim.
Fingon was pacing around the tent. Maedhros laid in the bed in which he had been since back from the Thangorodrim. He hadn't budged, taking nor food nor drink. He laid perfectly still, on his back, his eyes fixated on a point of the ceiling, and one never knew if he was awake or wandering the Paths of Dreams. It was a thing Maedhros could do, and it was distressing.
"Stop pacing around. You're giving me a headache."
Fingon started, and almost let go of what he held in his hand, behind his back. It was the first words he had heard his friend pronounce following his return, and, immediately remembering what he had been pondering on seconds before, he dropped to one knee at the foot of the bed.
"Why do you kneel before me?" Maedhros' puzzled and still weak voice rose from the pillow.
Fingon fought back the urge to run up to his lifelong friend and hug the wind out of him, but instead settled for a tone serious and neutral. He had been thinking for days at how he would break it to Maedhros, since he had been given that task to fulfil, and such a query just didn't suit his initial intentions, and, he deemed would only confuse him in his speech. He therefore ignored the question asked, and answered with his gaze lowered.
"Maedhros the Tall, son of Fëanor son of Finwë, Heir to the High Crown of the Noldorin" And he presented the Golden Crown with both his hands, lifting it for the other elf to see. "Lord." He added after a moment of silence.
Maedhros found his gaze to be fixated on the simple golden ring, made by Aulë himself, to ornament the forehead of the High Kings. He remembered beholding it, its tender and soft light clashing with the raven-dark hair of Finwë, the first king. Bemused, he tried to sit up in his bed, despite the pain that immediately soared through him at the slightest movement, but found it difficult; and he thought of all the things he would be finding difficult to do without a right hand. Then his gaze rested on the crown again, as it was held between the fingers of his younger friend. Something inside him wondered how it was that the High Crown had been taken all the way through Helcaraxë, and how it was that his father hadn't found it when seeking it before the departure, leaving the tasks and chores to his sons. The answer came by itself. Some wiser elf had already laid hand on it, keeping it out of the overly passionate lord's reach. So his father had remained the King without a Crown. For a very short time, and for that he was cruelly thankful. The madman he had heard speaking in Tirion wasn't his father. It was a passing spirit, the spirit of wrath, and it had bewitched them to lead them to their doom. Nothing to do with the Fëanor he had known, the father who was so gentle and delicate in his craft, marvelling like a child at his own work, and giving the gems he made as freely as generously.
Fingon glanced up to meet the absolutely blank and hard face of his friend. He stood, and Maedhros surveyed him from head to foot. He saw him tall and proud, strong and wise, while he lay in bed, feeling feeble and frail, and about just as little kingly as possible.
"Call your father in." Fingon flinched from Maedhros' bitter voice. Because he felt it was because of him. Now there was the barrier of ranks between them, the barrier between vassal and lord, and once built up, it could be crossed no more. Because he had known all along, he had known that those moments on the Thangorodrim were their lasts as equals, as cousins, as childhood partners, when he had gone at the risk of his life to seek the friend he loved as a brother. He didn't think about the lack of thankfulness. He knew he had not given Maedhros what the latter wanted. Death.
Fingon walked up to the bed, and laid the crown on the snow-white sheets, smeared with crimson blood. Then he strode out of the tent, leaving the older elf staring after him, fiddling with the golden diadem.
When Fingolfin came in, he found his nephew in the very same posture. Lifting the flap of the tent, he was shocked to meet the icy glare burning directly in his own eyes, with the intensity of a pain too deep for even elven understanding. The left hand was still playing with the wreath, while the right arm remained hidden under the sheets.
"The Crown is yours." Maedhros didn't seem to be talking to him, but rather addressing someone beyond, far behind his back, and at first Fingolfin was too dumbfounded to think anything.
"I beg your pardon?"
"I'm offering you the High Crown of the Wises." His tone was light and indifferent. There was a moment of heavy silence, and Fingolfin thought hard. To no account. The information was too difficult to accept. How often had he wished in his heart to bear that crown on his forehead! How often had he wished to be eldest son, thought of what could have been different, what he could have done better than his half-brother! How often had he dwelt in those bitter thoughts!
And yet at that very moment, as his yearning suddenly fell on him, he felt like it was a bullet of lead. And he only managed to ask:
"Because you are wise." The reply wasn't long in coming, but then its length left to be desired. Maedhros had obviously not been prepared for such a question, as natural as it seemed to his uncle.
"You are too." Was immediately answered. Fingolfin was surprised, and surprised himself. They spoke as children, with the sentences of pure truth, and there was no disguise nor hidden meaning in their phrases. Just the plain truth, their plain thoughts. Somehow the words escaped him before he thought about them. It was strange. It was as if it was the little boy he had been who spoke, who believed in his nephew's wisdom with unshakable faith. Not the millennia old elf who had seen too much to believe in anything anymore.
"My wisdom has failed me once."
Fingolfin understood. He had seen the consequences of that failure. And he knew that that kind of mistake could not be risked twice.
But Maedhros's eyes had become distant, and he spoke again.
"The House of Fëanor has born and scathed much. With the Rebellion against the Valar and the Kinslaying of Alqualondë, the Desertion of Araman and the Fire of Losgar, the weight of the High Crown would be too much for us to bear. And we would fall. And we cannot fall. Therefore will we stand, stand as fallen lords of too much power."
Another silence followed, then Fingolfin spoke softly.
"When shall the people know?"
He had not foreseen the other elf's reaction, for at once the latter became nervous and agitated.
"As soon as possible. As soon as I can stand. Tomorrow. Now."
Fingolfin watched in horror as the cooper-haired elf struggled to sit up in his bed, with teeth clenched not to let the yells of pain escape. Immediately, Fingolfin rushed to his side, and pushed him down on the bed again, his hands pressed on Maedhros' shoulders. The other elf resisted, but with so little strength that Fingolfin almost felt pity welling in his heart. If only Maedhros hadn't been a son of Fëanor… Then he met his revolted stare and held it with his own, and they were lord and king no more, only uncle and nephew, stubborn members of the same family, with a yawning gap of hatred between them, a hatred too deep to be dug out.
Then Maedhros relaxed, and Fingolfin let go of him warily, expecting him to spring up again. But Maedhros did nothing of the sort, only let a weary and ironic smile linger on his lips.
"And pray tell your son of my gratitude."
However, Fingolfin knew that was useless, for no gratitude was expected and very little was felt.
Notes : It is said that Tolkien wanted to make one of the twins, Amrod or Amras, I don't know which, die in the fire of Losgar, but that it never made it to the published Silmarillion. In this fic, this is what happened, Amras died. So don't be surprised.
Also, one question. Are the Sons of Fëanor older or younger than the Sons of Indis? In this story, I settled for older, but I really can't be sure, as Maedhros' once said to Fingolfin "You who are the eldest of the House of Finwë" or something.