Chapter 10

Anaire left the house as Telperion flowered that night, saying she did not wish to share her home with weapons. She said she would go to stay with her friend Earwen, for doubtless she and her husband had shown more sense.

Fingolfin let her go. Finarfin had already accepted the swords he had sent over, as Fingolfin had known he would. His younger brother had little initiative of his own, but could be counted on at least to follow. When Anaire returned, she sat with her husband across the table covered with swords. She looked at them, as the hours passed, and did not speak. As the flowering of Laurelin neared, she let her husband teach her how to usa a blade.

*

Fingon opened the shutters of his rooms in the light of Laurelin to see Feanor standing in the courtyard. Maglor was on his right, and Celegorm on his left, and all three were armed. They carried large swords, heavier even than his own, and they wore tall helmets with plumes of red. They stood silent, unmoving, but their very stance was both a challenge and a threat.

Before Fingon knew what he was doing, he was outside in the courtyard, facing them. Facing Feanor. Feanor's eyes burned into him, and did not allow him to turn aside. He felt the invading force of Feanor's mind probing into his, thick dark tendrils that would tolerate no blocking.

"I do not fear you," Fingon said.

I have not asked for your fear, the thought was placed in his mind.

"Then what do you want from me?"

Feanor raised a hand, clenched it, brought it down. At the edge of his vision Fingon could see a glance from Maglor that looked like sympathy. Then Feanor's mind-touch was all he felt, battering at the walls of his mind.

Where was his father? Where were Turgon and Aredhel? What had possessed him to come out to face Feanor alone?

You are braver than your father.

Fingon knew the voice was Feanor's, and saw the weakness of his own resistance. He dropped his mind-guard, and let his thoughts be filled with anger for the one who stood before him. You are no teacher, he made himself think. You hurt people. I will not learn from you.

Will you not? Thoughts came unbidden, one by one. It was like the seeing-stone, only more, for the images were not outside him but seemed to spring from the deepest places of his soul. He felt the sword-dance in his limbs, vanquishing dark creatures, and then saw the admiring eyes of those who would call him a hero. His brothers, his sister, and even his father were in danger, but he knew his valor kept them safe. Bards sang of his deeds, a joyous song of triumph.

And there was more, another prize for the hero. A gentle touch, pliant lips, a body as aroused as his own opening beneath his sharp thrusts. His breath came hard at the unfamiliar feelings

Unfamiliar. Therefore, not his own. "You tried this once on me already," he said. "You might as well stop. It worked better with the seeing-stone."

The last statement was a misstep, for it was clearly false. Fingon felt Feanor's laugh in his mind. You ask me to stop the desires of your soul?

"Just get out of my head."

You are braver than your father. Invitation as well as praise. Fingon felt nameless desires course over him, and named them false, and did not move.

As if invoked by Feanor's words, Fingolfin finally appeared. He strode confidently across the courtyard to stand in its centre, next to Fingon, facing Feanor. Behind him followed all the members of his house: Anaire, Turgon, Aredhel, even little Argon, each one bearing a newly forged sword. Each brought several guards with them. They formed a half-circle around the edge of the courtyard. Aredhel hesitated briefly, looking to her friend Celegorm, but when he did not acknowledge her she took her place in the line.

Alone between his two sons, surrounded on all sides, Feanor looked strangely frail. Fingolfin placed his right hand on Fingon's shoulder, and smiled broadly, showing his teeth.

So this was why Fingolfin had delayed so long. He had needed the time to organize his entrance. The time Fingon had bought him. In times of battle, a son is also a weapon. This weapon seemed to have served its purpose. Fingon bowed to his father, and ran back to his chambers.

Maedhros was still there, looking blankly out the window. "Why did you leave me alone out there?" Fingon snapped.

"What could I have done against my father?"

"What can any of us do against your father?" A hero needs help from no one, the thought came, in a voice like Feanor's. You are braver than your father. "But never mind that. Let's go."

"Go where?"

"Somewhere your father and my father aren't."

"And just where would that be?" Maedhros finally turned around, and the exhaustion was visible in his eyes. Fingon reached over to touch his friend's arm to steady him - and a shock of arousal shot through him, vivid as the lusts Feanor had planted in his mind. Or drawn out of it. He jerked his hand back and wiped it roughly against the cloth of his leggings.

"There is only one place where we can be free of our fathers," Maedhros continued, in real or feigned ignorance of what had just taken place. "Only Beleriand. And we need my father's help to get there." Maedhros paused, as if trying to will himself courage. "And that means I need to go back to him."

"Do you want to?"

Maedhros looked out the window for the space of a long heartbeat, and then back again. "Yes. I shouldn't. But, I do."

Fingon let out a breath he hadn't noticed he was holding. "Well, then, I suppose you will."

*

Feanor's hair was unbound, and his eyes were dark, dark like the star-lit skies in places beyond the light of the trees. The tension in his stance revealed each line of his muscled body. Fingolfin appraised his brother as they faced each other, taking in the tall red plume, the form-fitting leather armor, the sword that was a perfect match to his own. He placed his hand at his waist, where his sword-belt hung. How had he never noticed that when he stood at his full height he was the taller of the two?

"You have forged swords in secret," Fingolfin said, pointedly looking down. "You seek to drive me from Tirion. You will answer before the Valar, and Finwe our father."

Feanor looked side to side, at the weapons surrounding him, and then back to Fingolfin. "Give me back my son."

"Your madness endangers him." Fingolfin's gaze moved from his brother's eyes to his chest, his arms, and his hands. He knew they would be hot to the touch. I have been touched by fire. I am aflame. Fingolfin felt the fire, and knew it to be in himself. He took Feanor's hands and brought them to his chest, where the green stone lay, resting Feanor's fingers against the stone he had forged. "We are one, brother," Fingolfin said. "Let there be peace between us."

Feanor left his hands on the stone for a moment, and then lifted them slowly away. "I do not offer peace," he said, softly, "nor do you seek it. I fear neither the Valar nor our father. Only return Maedhros to me."

A breath. Eyes met, and held, neither taking nor giving.

"He comes, Father," Maglor said, the only words he had spoken.

Maedhros crossed the line of Fingolfinian guards to step into the circle. Then he turned back to Fingon, who stood still at the doorway of the house. "Bring me my sword, the one we forged yesterday," he called. Fingon nodded, and ran off.

"Do you return with me?" Feanor asked.

"In a moment," Maedhros said.

Feanor turned back to Fingolfin, his mouth twitching. "You have something else that is mine." He placed his hands again on the green stone that Fingolfin wore. It blazed at his touch. A swift tug, and it fell into his grasp. Then he reached back with both hands to clasp it firmly around his own neck. It burned brightly there, casting shadows of green light around the courtyard.

Fingolfin reached for it instinctively, and then returned his hand to his side. "We will meet in Finwe's court."

"We will."

By that time, Maedhros had his sword. He lifted it above his head, and all eyes turned to him. Then, he grabbed it by both ends, and bent it across his knee. Fingolfin watched in amazement. Everyone knew Maedhros was strong in body, the strongest of all his people, but to break forged steel? Maedhros continued, bending the sword until it was beyond use. Then he threw it on the floor. "Did you think I would bear this against my cousins?" The silence in the courtyard carried even Maedhros's soft voice.

"No," said Feanor, "I did not. Shall we go?"

Maedhros nodded, and took his place next to his father and brothers. "I will return," he said to Fingon.

"Of course you will," Fingon answered.

Fingolfin watched as they moved away. I have faced the fire, and it does not burn. He had lost the stone, but it had been an encumbrance, binding him to Feanor in a way that did not give strength. And Maedhros had shown that Fingolfin had a power of his own, subtler than his brother's perhaps, but potent nonetheless. If the hand that can bend a sword is strong, the voice that the wielder of that hand will hear is stronger still. Maedhros had forged swords at Fingolfin's demand, and denied his father his complete loyalty. If words were stronger than swords, Fingolfin knew that he could face Feanor before Finwe, and emerge victorious.

*

Argon and Aredhel clasped hands and cheered. Turgon smiled. Even Anaire looked relieved. And Fingolfin blazed, as if he had won a great triumph.

Well, Fingon reflected, if his father did not have the wit to understand everything that had just happened, he was certainly not going to explain it to him. As strong as Maedhros was, he could scarcely have bent Feanorian steel. By breaking a sword, Maedhros had shown not only his unwillingness to fight against the Fingolfinians, but the weakness of the weapons he had forged on their behalf. He had brought his safe return home with the revelation that his betrayal of his house was less complete than it had seemed.

We are pieces in a game, Maedhros and I, in a mad game of strategy played between our fathers. But if pieces on a board could think, could feel, then perhaps they could move in ways not intended by the players. Perhaps they would want not to be on different sides.

Fingon had his own sword, the white-blue blade Ringil. Maedhros had forged it for him in the forge-fire of the Feanorians, and it could not be bent by any hand. One day, he would wield it against a real enemy, alongside his friend. In Beleriand.