Disclaimer- I don't own Tolkien. If I did, Luthien, Aredhel, Eoywn, and all the ladies would have made different choices. :)
Takes place during the Mereth Aderthad, or the Feast of Reuniting, which Fingolfin held 20 years after he arrived in Beleriand to be all "yo everyone let's be cool." Yeah. :)
It was looking to be a wonderful night.
At least, that was what Maglor had thought. Why wouldn't he? Every other night of the Mereth Aderthad had been one of good feasting, pleasant company, a nice, friendly vibe, and most important of all, quality music.
He should have known that such a good thing couldn't last.
The song hadn't started out bad. It had been nice, in a quaint sort of way. A simple tune so the minstrel could clearly sing his story without worrying that he'd outplay his song (Maglor always said that you didn't need to sacrifice your music for your song, but to each their own). Daeron and Maglor occasionally glanced at each other, smiled, and shrugged.
Still, a pleasant enough song. That was, until the bard started describing his villain.
"A tall man was he, falsely proud and hard-eyed."
It was normal Sindar far; they had a tendency to over-exaggerate the antagonists in their stories. Obviously, the Noldorian minstrel was playing to his audience.
"He bore many scars, three on his face and countless others beside. The ragged tears twisted his mouth into a cruel shape, a hint to the demon inside."
Almost without thinking about it, Maglor glanced at Maedhros, who sat at Fingolfin's right side (a seat normally occupied by Fingon, but he had asked Maedhros to sit there in deference to his giving up the crown). His eldest brother was stock still in his seat, looking, to the trained eye, rather uncomfortable.
Maglor would have shot him a sympathetic glance if Maedhros wouldn't have hated it. An unfortunate coincidence that the villain of the piece had the same types of scars Maedhros did, even down to the one that ran across his mouth (although, in Maglor's opinion, it did not make Maedhros look cruel).
The song continued; the villain dastardly stealing the protagonist's son and making off to hold him for ransom.
"The child cried at the sight of him, for he was hard to look at; even when he smiled, for he was missing many of his teeth."
Maglor couldn't help but check Maedhros for his reaction again; his brother appeared decidedly unhappy, gaze trained on the floor. One couldn't tell by looking at Maedhros, but he was missing eight back teeth, and rarely smiled for it.
Maglor looked across the circle of lords to see that Fingon, too, had noticed. His cousin was clenching and unclenching his fists, his face white with anger. Ah, Fingon could be so wonderfully impulsive.
"The child hated to be carried by him, for his height was tremendous, and his russet hair was tangled and unkempt."
Maedhros kept his hair unbraided and unadorned, except for his circlet, to stand for his torment. He could not braid it himself, and he refused to take up a servant's time with something so trivial, he said. It had caused an outcry from the fashion-conscious, but Maglor had secretly adored his brother's choice.
How dare he be mocked, by some two-bit minstrel no less, for it? Maglor was of a mind to grab that bard by the throat and drag him out of the hall. He took a quick looked around him and saw that, yes, others had noticed. Fingolfin's normally pleasant countenance was stormy, Turgon (who had so short a time ago detested the Fëanorians) was looking thunderous, and Galadriel rather haughty (although, thought Maglor through his rage, that could have been because of anything). Finrod, Aredhel, and all the rest of them, they had noticed. Only Mablung, Daeron, and the messengers of the Green-elves and Gray-elves seemed unaware; they were caught up in the mediocre song. Círdan's face was blank, but that meant little to Maglor.
What hurt Maglor the most was Maedhros's reaction, especially after the next line of the song ("The coward hated children, for he did not understand them"). His brother, so well-known for his quiet outrage, his ability to make others feel bad through sheer expression (best utilized while raising six brothers), and the new, deep inner pain that seemed to manifest itself through rallying their people and forging them a new home out of barren lands, did nothing but sink into his chair and turn red under his scars.
"The brave warrior pitied the craven, for he had been broken by torment and ruined by malice."
The bard continued his song, unaware of the consternation he was causing. Maglor was teetering between causing a ruckus and shouting his outrage and staying silent and making sure that that bard never came near him or his brother again when Fingon stood up.
Maglor winced when he saw his brother cover his face with his hand. Clearly this was what his brother had been hoping to avoid.
But Fingon didn't say anything. To Maglor's, and everyone else's, disbelief, he only glowered at them all and left the room. The bard, still oblivious, continued playing.
Turgon, to Maglor's ever surprise, was the next to go, followed shortly by Finrod and Galadriel.
Well, what would it look like if he, Maedhros's brother, didn't stand up for his own brother after that? He stood up, bowed to Fingolfin (no one could say he wasn't a performer), and left the hall, only to find the others congregated outside the door.
"We were wondering when you would join us," said Galadriel thoughtfully. "I told Turgon it wouldn't be long."
Maglor glared at Turgon, who shrugged cheerfully.
"Ridiculous, isn't it?" said Fingon angrily. "There's no excuse! That can't have just been a coincidence!"
"If it wasn't," said Galadriel. "It was poorly disguised. He cannot have thought we wouldn't noticed."
"Plus," added Maglor hotly. "It was entirely untrue. The bit about the 'scared of child'? Made my skin crawl! My brother was more of a father to us than one could imagine!"
There was a short silence, the kind that preceded any possible mentions of Fëanor, before Finrod said softly, "It could have been an accident."
"Russet hair?" said Fingon in reply. "Accident my as-"
It was then that the door opened and the High King walked out.
"Language, son," said Fingolfin as he strode out into the hallway.
"You too, father?" asked Turgon.
"I have no idea what you're talking about," was his reply. "I just thought the air in there was stifling. I'm going for a walk."
And Fingolfin did just that.
Turgon let loose a laugh, and they all winced. Turgon's laugh was loud and felt as though it ruptured the air; the bane of parties, the conversation-stopper. There was no doubt everyone listening to the music had just heard it.
The door opened again. This time it was Maedhros himself, still red and sheepish.
"I figured," he said, his voice low and rough as it been since Thangorodrim. "To hell with it. If Fingolfin could leave, why not me?"
They all shared an awkward smile.
"C'mon," said Turgon. "Let's go get some wine from the cellars and get roaring drunk."
"Where?" asked Finrod.
"Here, of course," replied Turgon. "They can all leave the wonderful performance and find half the land's princes rolling around on the floors."
"And princesses," said Aredhel, popping her head out of the door and joining them.
The night, Maglor thought, was turning out to be a fine one indeed.
Turgon's "conversation-stopping" laugh idea is taken from The Tempered Steel, by Lyra. I've always really loved it, so I used it here.
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