This is part of the Lingering series. It is meant to be slightly different from the rest of the series in that it shows mainly Elrond's point of view. It is meant to have several chapters, but to my great chagrin, I cannot promise a new chapter any time soon. In fact, the first one has been lying around since August, because I wasn't totally satisfied with it. I'm still not, but perhaps posting gets me back into the mood of things.
It began with the Second Age. Or actually, it did not begin at all. It simply did not end.
At the end of the First Age, Maedhros and Maglor disappeared with the last two Silmarils. Only through rumours did the rest of the elves learn that the brothers threw both of the jewels away, Maglor his into the sea, Maedhros his into a chasm. Eonwë had told the truth that they could not keep the jewels, and Elrond grieved for them.
After the war, Elrond went with Gil-galad to Lindon.
"I'll keep an ear out for them," Gil-galad told him quietly on their journey.
It was nothing less than Elrond had expected. If Maedhros was alive, he was still the former high king of the Noldor.
Rumours flew here and there. Maedhros and Maglor did not settle, nor did they set foot in any Elvish settlements.
Years, decades, a century passed. Then word came that the sons of Fëanor had moved into a fortress in the far north, on the eastern bank of the River Lune. Gil-galad did not do anything to chase them away, which was message enough.
"Did you know that Maedhros has spies now?" Erestor questioned him. The elf was drunk on wine Oropher's son, Thranduil, had brought. He would never have said something like this otherwise.
"Do tell," Elrond said, leaning forward.
"He's recruiting humans, I hear. He has some elves who settled down with him as well, a couple of strays from the kin slaying."
Unfortunately, they were interrupted then by one of the minstrels starting a song, one which Erestor apparently liked so much that he rose to dance.
Elrond was not without his own resources. After all, Ereinion was grooming him to succeed him, as it was unlikely that Ereinion would ever marry and sire an heir. Elrond did his research, and when Ereinion noticed, he sighed and said:
"I did not want to force you to decide which side you're on."
"What do you mean 'side'?" Elrond inquired. "They're not doing anything."
"No, they're not. Not yet."
"The Silmarils are gone."
"And thank Eru for that. But you of all people should understand why I would rather keep an eye on them. I know my father loved Maedhros as a friend. However, they have done too much to Middle-earth to be ignored. I don't want another war, Elrond, I really don't."
Elrond nodded. Neither did he.
Unfortunately it came for them anyway. In 1600 they received the alarming news that Sauron was planning to complete his master's work and subjugate Middle-earth. Celebrimbor had been a fool in trusting "Annatar" who Ereinion had refused, and thus rings of power had been forged which were now at the centre of the new war.
For the first time, Ereinion made contact with Maedhros and Maglor again, sending Elrond to the fortress in the north. The fortress itself was small, and the village surrounding it was no bigger. The buildings and walls surrounding it were sturdy and of dwarven make, with no decorations. Elrond wondered why Maedhros had chosen to fortify their home so.
Elrond recognized some of the elves he saw as camp followers of the brothers before the War of Wrath. Apparently, they had found their way back to their lords afterwards. Himedhel he knew as well as a supporter of the brothers.
It was a shock to see them at first. Maglor came in first, and he seemed nearly unchanged to Elrond. Age had left no marks on him, except that his eyes looked more weary.
Maedhros came in next, and he had lost none of his great presence. But he had lost weight since the last time Elrond had seen him, and his cheekbones looked nearly sharp enough to cut stone. They had always been a prominent feature of his, but now they seemed even harsher. Their embrace was short, but long enough for Elrond to feel the edges of Maedhros' bones beneath his skin.
He regretted having left them for so long.
"Don't look like that, Elrond. You did what was best, and we will never hold that against you," Maedhros reprimanded him. He had always been practical to the extreme.
Elrond visited them several times after that, as long as it was still possible. War broke out as they had all predicted, and travelling was no longer safe. By word-of-mouth he heard of his foster fathers' sorties against orcs with their people.
Then Ereinion and Elendil decided to make another attempt at an alliance the like of which had not been seen since Maedhros had rallied the peoples of Ennor in the First Age for the battle that would forever afterwards be called the Battle of Unnumbered Tears or Nirnaeth Arnoediad. The very battle that had cost Ereinion's father, Fingon, his life.
Elrond was working in the tents of healing on men and elves and even some dwarves on the plane of Dagorlad. In this tent, all of them were sweaty, bloody and injured. In those tents, they were all the same, whether short-lived or long-lived or immortal; any of them could die at any moment.
Erestor, looking harried and frazzled, found him there and said:
"You need to come to the King's tent. Immediately."
Elrond quickly finished wrapping the bandage, washed his hands, and followed Erestor across camp.
Inside the king's tent, he found Ereinion sitting on a chair while Maglor knelt in front of him, reciting an oath of fealty. Maedhros stood off to the side, and Elrond assumed that he had gone first.
Elrond was surprised. His foster fathers had not announced themselves to him as they usually would have.
Elendil was also in attendance, together with his sons. He looked bemused. Without having seen the First Age for himself, he lacked the understanding for the significance of this scene.
The Sindar, thankfully, had apparently not heard yet, for they were not here. Even Celeborn would have found it difficult to restrain himself.
Maglor finished by kissing Ereinion's hand, and the king accepting his oath. As much as Elrond knew and dreaded the difficulties his foster fathers' presence would produce, he was glad to have them here.
"Elrond," Maedhros greeted the half-elf. He embraced his former foster son first, then Maglor did the same.
"It is so good to see you. But can you fight?" Elrond inquired.
"We can," Maedhros claimed. He looked well, better in fact, than he had the last time Elrond had seen him.
He had gained in weight and muscle, and he showed no sign of his hand causing him pain. Maglor also stood tall and proud, like the warrior he had been in the First Age.
"Nelyafinwë will mostly help me plan and work on our strategies," Ereinion said.
Maedhros bowed his head in acknowledgement. It was, nevertheless, naive to assume that the two would not eventually be on the battlefield. They did not have the resources to let such valuable warriors sit the war out.
The alliance successfully fought its way into Mordor. They suffered great losses: Amdír and half of his forces were wiped out in Dagorlad, then the Sindar King Oropher and many of his people died because of an ill-advised, untimely attack. Elrond grieved with his son Thranduil.
"I wish that hard-headed elf had listened to me!" Maedhros cried out the night after Oropher had fallen, leaning heavily on his sword in Ereinion's tent.
Elrond and many others agreed silently. However, they all knew that the elf driven out of Doriath by Maedhros and his brothers in the First Age had never been able to follow the redhead. Thus he had not waited for Ereinion's signal, and it had earned him death.
They fought on all the way to the foot of Mount Doom. Then Sauron himself came out of his stronghold. Until that day, Gil-galad's spear Aeglos and Elendil's sword had wreaked fear and death among the orcs. Now, both of those weapons proved useless against Sauron's might.
Maedhros caught sight of the Dark Lord, and a flame of dark fury rose in him. He threw himself into the battle, and witnessed Sauron strike the killing blow against Gil-galad with his mace. None within hearing would soon forget his cry of anguish as the son of his beloved cousin was slain in battle much like Fingon and so many others before and after him. The next blow of Sauron's mace was aimed against Elendil and Maedhros both, and the firstborn of Fëanor fell on the battlefield with many others next to him.
He did not witness Elendil's death. Nor did he see Isildur's desperate swing with a broken sword, which by some lucky chance cut off the Dark Lord's ring—which turned out to be Sauron's downfall. Maedhros did not see Círdan and Elrond counsel the son of Númenor to throw the ring into the fires of Mount Doom. Their counsel went ignored. The man insisted on keeping the ring as an heirloom, as the ring had suddenly shrunken in his palm and seemed so harmless to him.
Perhaps it was a good thing Maedhros Fëanorion did not see any of this. Or perhaps, Middle-earth would have been grateful if the redhead had been awake to do what Elrond and Círdan did not do: force the man to give up the ring, even kill him if necessary.
As it was, Maedhros was not there, and Isildur never tasted the lava of Mount Doom nor the steel of a Fëanorian sword.
Maedhros had been badly injured by Sauron's blow, and when Maglor carried him off the battlefield after much searching and showed him to Elrond, the half-elf initially thought that he was dead.
Closer examination showed that he was still breathing, and Elrond and the bard brought him to his and Maglor's tent. It was a princely tent, both in size and furnishings, although outside of war it would not be considered as such. Each of the brothers had a bedstead covered with furs, several suits of armour and swords were at their disposal, there were two trunks with personal belongings, and a bag of tools and items used to care for and sharpen the weaponry and mend the armour.
In this tent, they laid the eldest son of Fëanor down, and Elrond cared for him and Maglor. He trusted no other healer to take care of the brothers. Maglor had suffered cuts and bruises, some of them quite serious. But he was quickly healed compared to Maedhros.
Several of the redhead's ribs were broken; his left shoulder was dislocated; his knee was so badly bruised Elrond feared some kind of break or dislocation there as well; but his head was the healer's most serious concern. Maedhros had worn a helmet made by the naugrim that had protected him from worse injuries. Nevertheless, half of his face was a giant, dark bruise, and he had been knocked deeply unconscious either by the blow or by the fall.
But despite all this, it must be said that the Dark Lord had probably not realized that Maedhros was only unconscious and that if he had not been distracted by Elendil and then Isildur, he would have broken Maedhros' body and stomped him into the dirt as Gothmog had done to Fingon. There was no doubt that he had feared and hated the sons of Fëanor fiercely.
Elrond and Maglor cared for him for many days. It appeared that the Doomsman would not call Maedhros to his Halls this time either, and the redhead eventually woke. He was forced to spend a long time in bed, but that in itself did not bother Maedhros, as he spent most of that time asleep.
With Ereinion Gil-galad dead, the Noldor in Ennor were once more without a king. The elven leaders came together in what had been Ereinion's tent. There stood Celeborn and Círdan, Thranduil and Elrond, Maedhros and Maglor, but none of the others of high rank. It would irk Maedhros later that of those present only three were actually Noldor.
Círdan had taken the crown from Ereinion's body. It was still slightly blackened and tarnished, but the dents had been removed by an elven smith. The shipwright held it aloft and offered it to Elrond, whom Ereinion had named his heir long ago.
But the half-elf shook his head and thus rejected title, crown and throne. Maedhros, although he would not admit it aloud to many, breathed a sigh of relief. It seemed to him that bad luck haunted the Noldorin High Kings in Middle-earth: they had all fallen in battle—except him, and Maglor, if one counted the bard's regency in Maedhros' place during Thangorodrim.
Celeborn and Círdan looked to Maedhros then, heavy frowns marring their faces. The offer was not made explicit, nor did they make it willingly. Maedhros said to them:
"The Noldor of Middle-earth need no king. Never again will we be as strong east of the sea as we were in the ages past. Let Ereinion Gil-galad, son of my beloved cousin Fingon, be the last king of ours to die in battle."
And it seemed that all elves present also breathed a sigh of relief then. Had Maedhros been in the mood, he would have laughed at them all, himself included. Yet it was a sad moment, for Maedhros had predicted the truth: the Noldor wearied of Middle-earth. Many sailed West, and those who did not either lived with Círdan near the havens, or with Elrond in Imladris. The power of the elves waned.
Elrond saw how Maedhros and Maglor were grieved by it. They, after all, did not believe they would ever have the choice of sailing west, and they did not forget that the One Ring was not gone. It took many honeyed and good words from Elrond to prevent Maedhros from going after Isildur and finishing what should have been finished on Mount Doom. They returned to their fortress, their host diminished through the war.
Isildur was killed not much later—Maedhros did not have any hand in it—and the Ring was lost.
I owe my dear friend HaloFin17 a big thanks and an apology. She edited this chapter and said it was fine, but I was still hesitant to post it because I wasn't happy. I posted it today at last because I hope that it might animate me to write more. As it is, it may stand alone for a while. But thank you HaloFin, for always being my greatest supporter!