Author's Notes: This story was written for the journey big bang on livejournal. My thanks goes to my great friend and beta HaloFin17, who has been supporting me in this project for a really long time. She stayed with me through all the incarnations until this fully fledged "Songbird" finally came together.
The sea was calm. But the captain of the ship was seasoned, and he had sailed the seas around Númenor and Middle-earth since he was eleven. He could feel it in his bones that a storm was not too far away. If they sailed just a bit faster, they would get to Forlond before the wind and the rain found them. He shouted for his men.
It was a tight race. They missed the straight road to Forlond, which had not happened in the captain's last fifteen years on a ship, and had to sail up the coast for a time. The wind picked up noticeably, the waves became rougher. He sent a brief prayer to Ulmo. It was late and steadily getting darker by the minute, but perhaps this in part saved them any more trouble; for the lookout spied the lights of Forlond, and it was not long then until they safely entered the harbour of the capital of the elven realm of Lindon.
Elrond kept a chest in his quarters which he rarely opened. It was made of old oak wood and appeared entirely inconspicuous with no decorations, dirty even, and contained a tattered banner which had once been dark blue. Elrond never took it out, had never attempted to have it restored. It had already been in bad condition by the time it came into his hands.
The banner depicted a stone, a jewel of greater worth than any forged before, or any crafted after. There were two circles, one right around the jewel and another larger one set in a diamond. From the centre of the jewel issued eight flames, four reaching into the outer diamond, the other four smaller ones restricted to the circle.
It was not just any emblem, not just any symbol of a house. It was not even just any symbol of the House of Fëanor. It was the flag kept by Maedhros and Maglor until their last sin, until they had at last regained the remaining two Silmarils at great cost.
Beneath the banner lay a harp of plain design which Maglor had owned long ago; there was a ring in a small box; a piece of torn parchment with fragments of mournful verses; wolf teeth on a leather cord. Elrond also carried a dagger which had been the bard's last gift to him before they parted ways; it was unsurpassable in quality.
It might seem strange to have so few memories for several decades spent in the company of the elves he had learnt to call Russandol and Makalaurë. But by the time they met, the Fëanorian brothers had long stopped bothering to establish permanent quarters anywhere. They travelled wherever they saw fit, more often than not fleeing to escape Gil-galad's troops. Thus their belongings had been few, and more aimed to be practical than memorabilia.
Still they had left Elrond some; perhaps they had even had a premonition that they would not need their belongings for much longer. Now, the half-elf kept them in the chest and rarely took them out.
The year was 443 of the Second Age. Less than a year ago, his twin-brother Elros had died, and only today had a ship from Númenor come with messages from Elros' son Vardamir to both King Ereinion Gil-galad and Lord Elrond. Together with a letter, a sword had been handed over.
Elrond immediately recognized it as one which had belonged to Maedhros. He doubted that it had been touched or sharpened often in the time Elros had had it, but despite this, its blade was as keen as ever, another inimitable work of Fëanor.
Thankfully only Gil-galad was with him when Elrond unwrapped the sword: there were no friends of the sons of Fëanor in Forlond. Some spoke worse of them than others. Gil-galad curbed his tongue in Elrond's presence, but he had his own unvoiced opinion on the brothers and their treatment of the half-elven twins they had captured.
Still he looked at the sword with some interest as Elrond handled it reverently. Fëanor's rune was etched onto the pommel, and the sword's name was written in Quenya in fine lines on the curved blade.
"Do you think of them often?" the high-king asked, taking a sip from his cup of wine.
Elrond shrugged. "From time to time," he admitted.
Maglor had disappeared not long after he had regained and lost one Silmaril, and none of the scouts, whether sent by the elves of Middle-earth or the elves of Valinor, the Sindar or the Noldor, had managed to catch up with Maglor. Only rumours came to their ears from time to time, saying that the last son of Fëanor was wandering by the sea and singing laments. Elrond was probably the last to still keep an ear out, but even he had lost hope that Maglor would ever reappear. And many argued that it was better if the Fëanorian remained gone.
Ereinion gave a nearly inaudible sigh. Since Elrond had come to Lindon over 400 years ago, their relationship had been one of great friendship. The half-elf and his brother had been disoriented from years of moving around Beleriand and living in less stellar conditions with the Fëanorians. Ereinion was a famously genial elf, and it was said that in this Gil-galad was more like King Fingon than Turgon, though who had made that judgement was not clear anymore; for there were very few elves from Gondolin who had stayed in Lindon for any length of time to be able to judge so, and who else but they would know what Turgon had been like as High King? In any case, Ereinion had immediately dispelled the use of titles between him and Elrond and taken him under his care.
While Elros had quickly made contact with humans and soon found himself at home with them, Elrond had worked hard at the court of Lindon. It had taken a while until the other elves had ceased looking at him as if searching for flaws, uncommon outbursts of violence, or anything else that might have been caused by the Fëanorions' teachings.
"You probably shouldn't carry it in public," Ereinion commented, jerking Elrond out of his memories.
Elrond just barely restrained himself from throwing an annoyed look at his cousin. Of course he wouldn't carry the sword in public. Ereinion perceived the half-elf's sentiment anyhow and lifted his hands in a placating gesture.
"You don't usually talk about your time with them," he said.
"I felt that speaking any kind word about Russandol and Makalaurë would not be welcomed."
"Elves have a long memory."
"That's one way of putting it."
There was a knock on the door, and at a word from the king it opened. Elrond covered the sword's pommel and Fëanor's initials with his palm.
It was Ereinion's secretary, come to remind him of his impending meeting with Forlond's builders' guild. Ereinion emptied his cup.
"I'll see you tonight at dinner?" he asked the half-elf.
Elrond left for his quarters. He sat in front of the chest, opening it with a key which never left his person. It might seem strange to lock these unwanted and forgotten things away like precious treasure, but to Elrond that is what they were. He took his time removing each item: the faded banner, the small harp; he opened the box and twisted the ring around his fingers; he read through the broken sentences of Maglor's poetry, and pressed his thumb onto the pointed end of a wolf tooth. He gazed down at the relics around him and remembered.
580, First Age
There was talk that the War of Wrath would last forever. The worst thing was not knowing anything: only the elves from Valinor, the Maia and the Vala were part of the host most involved in the War of Wrath. They had not asked for the aid of the elves of Middle-earth, and those who had considered joining forces with the Valarian force had quickly been dissuaded by messages from Eonwë.
Every elf in Middle-earth, however, could tell stories of nights spent awake with terrible noise in their ears, the earth trembling beneath them from the Valar's feet and the great destruction left in the Valarian host's wake. And these days it seemed to get worse rather than better.
Not even–or perhaps especially–the sons of Fëanor dared to approach the main host. They contented themselves with taking out stray troops of orcs and other vile creatures which had either fled from the Valar or not yet met them.
The half-elven twins Elrond and Elros had, after some great discussion between the brothers and a fight between Maedhros and Erestor, been allowed to take a small part in the skirmishes, always under the watchful eyes of Maedhros, Maglor, or Erestor.
But as fewer and fewer orcs crossed their paths, and the tales of battle from the Valarian host became less frequent, they came to the conclusion that the end of the war was near. Morgoth's fortress had not yet been reached, but everyone knew that it was only a matter of time and that there the war would be decided.
Russandol and Makalaurë were increasingly often enclosed with each other, speaking about what was to come. The half-elven twins were not included in these meetings. Why Maedhros and Maglor took counsel together seemed obvious to the twins; it was the Silmarilli, of course, which were foremost on their minds. Elros made some derogatory remarks out of the Fëanorians' earshot. Erestor scowled more than usual. Elrond was silent and listened to what he could.
"Two jewels only remain. We have failed to break Morgoth's hold on them; soon, if they are indeed victorious, it will be the Valar who shall gain them. What of us then? Still we have an oath to fulfil, for it merely sleeps now," Maedhros had said to his brother. Elrond had noted that Makalaurë rarely spoke up.
But it was the bard who one day said to Elrond and Elros while Erestor was present:
"The oath's dreadful voice will likely call to us soon, and it seems to me that the War of Wrath becomes only more terrible. If–when," Maglor corrected himself, "we set out again to regain our father's work, we will not take you with us. You have some years yet before you reach your majority, and Russandol aches to get closer to Morgoth's fortress to perhaps prevent the Silmarilli from falling into anyone's hands but ours. It is getting too dangerous, and thus I have suggested sending you to Ereinion, Orodreth's son, who is said to dwell on the Isle of Balar."
Neither Elrond nor Elros said anything. They had gotten used to living with Russandol and Makalaurë, but they did not fool themselves by thinking that it had always been by choice.
Maglor had not said any more at that point, and Erestor, surprisingly, had not pushed despite his visible surprise at the unexpected change of Maedhros' mind. Perhaps all the times he had fought with Maedhros had finally had an impact on the redhead?
None of them had even remotely assumed that the twins' welcome in Forlond would not be as stellar as they had expected.
443, Second Age
As King Vardamir had sent a number of scrolls which Elrond wanted to take a look at, the half-elf made his way to the library.
The library of Forlond had grown quickly since its founding, not least due to Erestor's influence. Erestor, after years of going with less than five books, had finally flourished in his new surroundings, and his only annoyance was the current librarian, a centuries old Sindar who didn't show any signs of sailing West anytime soon and was the biggest obstacle in Erestor's ambitions to head the library. Erestor's first choice of career as an advisor had been denied to him; his willingness to go with the sons of Fëanor, even if only to take care of the half-elven twins, had made the other elves suspicious of him.
Erestor was not especially tall – Elrond towered above him by more than a head – and lithe, with waist-long, raven-black hair which the counsellor usually bound to a single tight plait when he worked. The full glory of his hair was only revealed on few occasions, like on feast days or when Erestor spent his leisure time in public.
The elf was calm under all circumstances, and Elrond had never seen him shy from stressful situations. He hardly ever wore a smile, and he was known for harsh words to those he thought deserving of them. He was reliable and efficient, and sometimes Elrond wondered what life with the Fëanorians would have been like if Erestor hadn't been there.
Elrond wasn't surprised to see the other elf in the library, already bent over one of King Vardamir's scrolls and examining them with a keen eye. On his entry, Erestor lifted his head, irritation at the interruption quickly erased off his face, and greeted the half-elf. Elrond went to his side to see the scrolls for himself.
"Genealogies," Elrond realized.
Erestor hummed in agreement. "Your lineage in particular."
"Anything I don't know yet?" he asked jokingly.
The other elf snorted. "Hardly. Just checking to see whether they're correct. It's amazing how much humans forget over just a few centuries."
Tentatively Elrond reached out to trace the inked letters of his brother's name. The date of his birth and death were written in smaller script beneath, the name of his wife next to him. Elrond swallowed.
"It's amazing how short a year can be for an immortal," he remarked.
"Grief isn't something that passes over night. Even decades later it can still be like a sore wound," Erestor replied matter-of-factly. Elrond did not doubt that Erestor had his own wounds, but he never spoke of them.
"Do you know where the rest of the scrolls King Vardamir sent are?"
"The librarian had them put in the chamber there. He has already said that he will want to have a look at them."
"He'll have to wait until I'm done."
Spring in the area around the Gulf of Lhûn was a busy season. Not just because of farming. All three major Elvish towns around the gulf, Forlond in Forlindon to the north, Harlond in Harlindon to the south and Mithlond to the east, held spring equinox festivals. Ever since Gil-galad had settled in Forlond and set up his court there, Forlond was the first to celebrate spring, followed by Harlond, currently governed by Celeborn; it was undisputed though that Mithlond, the last to celebrate, held the oldest and best festival.
Forlond's spring equinox celebrations were only ten days away, and all duties had long been delegated. Elrond was in charge of the seating plan, a task Erestor considered beneath him because, to quote him, "any air-headed scribe could do it." That, in Elrond's opinion was not quite true – he still vividly remembered Makalaurë's stories of what disputes had been caused in the Fëanorian household just over the question of who sat where. And that had been at a normal every day dinner! It was, however, true that Erestor could have handled a task more important, if anyone had been willing to give it to him. But the king did not oversee everything himself, and neither Elrond nor Erestor were the kind to ask for the king's favour in a matter such as this. They bore it stoically instead.
Besides, Erestor was much more annoyed on Elrond's behalf about the half-elf's task, which had been to write the invitations to elves of high rank such as Celeborn, Galadriel and Círdan; now that was really a task for an 'air-headed scribe'.
538 First Age, by the mouths of Sirion
There was shouting, screaming, and the sound of battle; swords clashing, bones breaking, bodies hitting the muddy ground with a muted thud. It had been raining for days. The house of Eärendil and Elwing was not much larger than the other houses, nor did it show any signs of particular luxury. They had had at least one thing in common with most citizens by the mouths of Sirion: they were refugees. They had escaped the sacks of their cities, and now there was another one.
Elwing was gone. She had fled through a window, seeking to lead the sons of Fëanor away from her sons. And indeed, Maedhros pursued her until they came to a cliff from which there was no escape. She jumped into the sea, and Maedhros turned away with a cry of anger and despair.
Their failed task should have ended there, but Maedhros turned back to the house, his wrath unleashed and hungry for destruction. This third battle of elves against elves was the worst, with even some of his own and his brothers' followers rebelling. He stormed back into the house, overturning furniture as he searched uselessly through the rooms for something that was not there, because he had already seen it shining brightly upon Elwing's chest.
A locked door was no obstacle for the eldest son of Fëanor in a rage. He splintered wood as he kicked through the door, sword held tight and ready in his left hand. The room he entered seemed to be a nursery, with wooden toys strewn around and two small, child-sized beds sitting next to each other on either side of a window. He took in these details within a heartbeat, but his attention immediately zeroed in on the sole occupant of the room: a slender elf of average height with loose, waist-long raven hair stood protectively in front of the doors to a closet. His eyes were fierce, but his breath came quickly. He was no warrior, and the short, ceremonial dagger awkwardly clenched in his fist only confirmed the assessment. Only the most skilled assassin would dare attempt to go against a man armed with a sword with such a weapon, and this elf was no such person.
Maedhros' lips curled mockingly. "What are you protecting?" he demanded.
"I shall not tell you," the elf replied through clenched teeth.
Fëanor's eldest approached the elf with two long strides. His opponent threw himself at him in a desperate move, and Maedhros did not even bother using his blade. With the stump of his right arm, surrounded by a metal vambrace, he struck the back of the elf's fist, causing him to drop the dagger with a cry of pain. With his left hand Maedhros knocked the pommel of his sword across the elf's forehead, and the elf's body was thrown sideways onto the floor where he remained.
Maedhros paused briefly to see whether the elf had truly lost consciousness, then opened the door to the closet. At first he did not see anything in the darkness, but indrawn breaths and whimpering drew his eyes to the floor where two small children crouched, their arms wrapped tightly around each other. Identical grey eyes set in identical faces gazed up at him in fear.
He had no time to consider his next action, for at that moment Maglor burst into the room behind him.
"Brother, is Elwing truly gone with the jewel?"
"Indeed she is," Maedhros replied grimly, turning to the bard. "She jumped into the sea with our father's Silmaril on her chest."
"Mother," one of the children cried. The other quickly hushed his brother.
Maglor peered around his brother to the children. "Twins," he exclaimed in amazement, his face turning soft and sad. "Ambarussa, Russandol,..." he began, turning to his brother again, "the Ambarussa were both slain."
Maedhros lowered his head in grief, copper hair falling to shield his face. When he lifted his face again, determination showed in his eyes as he gazed intently at the children. His hand tightened around his sword, and Maglor feared he meant to kill them. He stepped between his brother and the children.
"Brother, has not enough blood been shed already? Please, Russandol, spare them." It was evident that the bard felt for them.
His brother laughed grimly. "Do you want them? These are the sons of Elwing. They took our brothers, so I say let us take their sons instead. Twins for twins. A fair deal if you ask me!"
It seemed to Maglor that there was madness in Maedhros' eyes, an insanity that he had caught a glimpse of before on occasion. He spoke of the twins as if he were talking about pets, and what his reaction would be if Maglor said no, he could not fathom.
"Yes, I'll take them," Maglor forced himself to reply calmly.
Maedhros began to sheath his sword.
"Not without me you will not!" a voice croaked. The elf who had attempted to protect the brothers earlier, slowly stumbled to his feet with some effort. Blood streaked his face from a split lip and a crooked nose.
The eldest Fëanorion promptly whipped out his blade again. Maglor staved him off with a gesture of his hand.
"Who are you?" the bard asked.
"I am their tutor."
Maedhros laughed disparagingly. "More likely their nurse. They are much too young to be taught. What are they, eight?"
"They are six, and half-elven. They grow quicker in mind and body than elves, and mannish children start learning their letters at five," the elf replied defiantly.
The elf shot the redhead a dark look.
"What is your name?" Maglor inquired before his brother decided to answer the elf's challenge with his sword.
"Very well, Erestor. If you go with us, you must obey us. You take care of the children and do not interfere in our affairs. You will not contact any of your relatives or friends!" Maglor warned.
"I have no relatives left, and I have no wish to learn of your bloody plans. I will care for the twins and nothing else."
Maglor accepted with a nod. Maedhros did not argue, a sharp look at Erestor the only sign of his disapproval. Erestor did not react save for staring back.
443, Second Age
Elrond's eyes snapped open. His bedroom was flooded with light, and birds were singing their morning greetings outside his windows. As an elf prone to visions, a trait inherited from his mother's line and ultimately Melian, dreams always held greater importance for him than for other people. This was the first time he had had that dream. Of course, he remembered flashes of the day of the Third Kinslaying. But he had never been told what happened before Maedhros wrenched open that closet door, nor had he ever asked.
He wondered why he had so many dreams of that period now of all times. Perhaps it was his brother's gift which had opened his mind to reminiscences.
Elrond made his way to Ereinion's quarters. As they still had much to speak about, they had agreed to have breakfast in the privacy of Gil-galad's rooms.
The high king sat already at the table, dark hair hanging in wet strands down his shoulders. He wore dark blue robes which were loose and comfortable. In front of him, Forlond's servants had already served breakfast consisting of eggs, fruit, bread, butter, and honey.
"Did you sleep well?" Elrond inquired as he settled down in the chair across from the king.
"Like a rock. You?"
"I had a strange dream."
Ereinion raised an eyebrow. "Vision?"
"I'm not sure. I dreamt of the attack at the mouths of Sirion. There were things I saw which are certainly not memories, and I do not think anyone told me about them either."
"Was it anything to worry about?"
"No. I saw Erestor. I'll have to ask him later whether events happened as I saw them. To tell the truth, I haven't thought often about that day. I hardly remember it anyhow. No matter." He gave a small sigh before changing the subject. "I need to do some work today for the equinox festival."
He was still working on the seating plan and trying to remember which elves didn't get along at all so he wouldn't to put them anywhere near each other.
"Don't you have a meeting with a Númenórean emissary?" Elrond asked.
The elven King nodded. "I do. But don't worry about it, we can do without you for the day. Gelmir will be there with me to make sure I don't do anything stupid." He smirked. Of course, Gil-galad was a perfectly capable king, but he made jokes at his own expense as much as anyone else's.
"Isn't Gelmir a bit young?"
Gil-galad shrugged. "Good chance to learn then."
Elrond didn't argue.
He met up with Erestor for lunch as they often did. In a way, they were both outsiders, and it made them rely on each other for much. Erestor, of course, was in the weaker position as Elrond's family ties and friendship with the king afforded him some advantages.
They were in Elrond's study where they had privacy for their talks, be it of the important kind or merely gossip. Elrond's dream had been plaguing him all morning, and so, as they drank their tea, he finally asked:
"Do you remember when Russandol found me and Elros?"
Erestor raised an eyebrow at the unexpected topic. "Every moment of it."
"Did you fight Russandol? Did you stand in front of the closet where we hid?"
The elf threw a wondering look at him. "Did that cur- I mean Maedhros tell you that or the bard?"
Elrond smiled sadly. Erestor had had a lot of colourful names with which he referred to Maedhros. Moreover he had steadfastly refused to call the brothers Russandol and Makalaurë, the names they preferred over their Sindarin translations.
"Neither," he replied. "I dreamt about it this night."
"Like a vision?"
"Like a vision, merely of the past. It was more than a memory, for I could see Russandol and other things I could not have seen even if I had a perfect memory of that day. I was wondering whether I saw truly."
"You probably saw the truth. Though I would not say that I fought Maedhros. I never had any significant weapons training until I followed you into the Fëanorions' camp."
Elrond frowned. "Who taught you there?"
"Russandol?!" Elrond exclaimed in surprise.
Erestor smiled a little. It was not without bitterness. "Yes."
"But we never saw you training!"
"You were with Maglor during those times. I didn't want you to see it, was even against Maedhros training you and your brother when the time came. I knew his methods, and they were ruthless at times, and I doubt that he always knew whom he fought. When you were old enough and Maedhros got his way, I made sure Maglor was never far during your sessions. We fought harder than ever then. Both verbally and when sparring."
Elrond swallowed. "I remember. I never knew why. I didn't even think about it."
"You were a child, and you had other concerns. Suffice to say, Maedhros taught me what he liked, though never enough to turn the dagger to his ribs."
"Would you have?" Elrond demanded, suddenly hit by more insight into Erestor's character and his relationship with Maedhros than ever before.
Erestor laughed dryly. "Probably not."
Elrond thought he understood then. His dark-haired advisor had not merely hated Maedhros. He had respected him, too, though he might never admit it openly.
"He was mad, I think," Erestor mused.
"Elros said so once, too. He thought Russandol had broken years before the end, and that it was not Morgoth's torture that did it."
"Probably not. More likely the Nírnaeth."
Elrond thought of his brother Elros. His exact words had been: "You know as well as I that it was not the torture which broke him. But broken he is, and only that damned oath still keeps him alive. T'would be better for all if it weren't so." And when the message of Maedhros' suicide had come to them in the Valorian camp, Elros had brought two bottles of wine into their tent and said: "I'm sure he's better off wherever he is now."