The World breaks Everyone by mangacrack
Summary:

Strength isn’t just about how much you can handle before you break.
It’s also about how much you must handle after you've broken.

In which Maglor is creepy and insane. His family tries not to care.


Categories: Fiction Characters: Amras, Amrod, Caranthir, Celegorm, Curufin, Erestor, Maedhros, Maglor
Content: Angst, Hurt/Comfort, Slash
Challenges: None
Series: Series of Greater Misfortune
Chapters: 25 Completed: No Word count: 107420 Read: 7652 Published: April 20, 2015 Updated: August 24, 2017
Story Notes:

EDIT: Chapters 01-08 have been reworked, edited or rewritten. It's worth rereading those parts before jumping to Chapter 21!

1. The World breaks Everyone by mangacrack

2. More familiar with Strangers by mangacrack

3. The Animal in You by mangacrack

4. The white Fog with the Name by mangacrack

5. Warpped Minds and Deranged Thoughts by mangacrack

6. The place where they know you well by mangacrack

7. These silent chances pass one by by mangacrack

8. Filled with the glow of fiery stars by mangacrack

9. We sail into the night of uncertainty by mangacrack

10. When I walk into the promised land by mangacrack

11. The powers called the stars to dance by mangacrack

12. feverish eyes threaten to unbalance my mind by mangacrack

13. The wind that shakes Himring's Hills by mangacrack

14. In all these memories I see you smile by mangacrack

15. Once I rise above the noise and confusion by mangacrack

16. My Heart is a Ghost Town by mangacrack

17. The Voice, the World and the Silence by mangacrack

18. The demons lie again. Play pretend that it never ends. by mangacrack

19. Something stronger than Words by mangacrack

20. Another day in the right direction by mangacrack

21. Stripped down to the Bones by mangacrack

22. Steady as a beating drum by mangacrack

23. The hammer is coming down by mangacrack

24. Walk in the Valley of Kings by mangacrack

25. I'm flesh. I'm bone. by mangacrack

The World breaks Everyone by mangacrack
Author's Notes:

Author's Notes: This started out as a prompt list and quickly turned into something much, much bigger. It's a work in process and I advise you to read the warnings. Slash is implied and discussed but since this isn't a romance story you don't have to worry about (or hope for) smut in this fanfic. Or at least not for a very long time.

Otherwise: take a deep breath and have fun.

Warnings: This story increasingly deals with psychological issues & mental disorders. If you have difficulties in that area, please be careful. I tend to warn only if gets too graphic. You may contact me anytime if you think certain trigger warnings are neccessary. This story contains AU Elements as well, but not enough to be label as Canon Divergence. And in case you're worried about the Sons of Feanor - Relationship Tag, have no fear. This story will feature no incest, just a close bond between messed up brothers. But there'll be slash later. (Much later :D)

 

 "A star has gone mad and the madness spreads like cancer."

- The Sandman Overtures

 

 

 

~

 

Rain splatters from the sky and Maglor pulls his hood deeper into his face to avoid getting hit by the heavy drops. But it's only of little use, thanks to the wind he gets soaked anyway. But the wet clothes clinging to his skin barely register in his mind. It's been raining for weeks now. Small ponds have turned into lakes and singing streams into soaring rivers. It's not safe to walk anywhere - too easy to depths of a puddle can be misjudged. Not all who live here in his gap can swim. Beleriand is a vast land that either deals with dry seasons or heavy snow. Rarely the people born here have time to take a bath in a river.

He cares little and searches his way through the mud. The path isn't safe. 

But he hears a sound above Maglor lifts his head. A vicious smile spreads over his face when he makes out a dark shade against the clouds. 

Good to know that his efforts haven't been in vain. 

"Shadows carry whole story," Maglor says. Perhaps to himself, perhaps to someone is listening. 

He draws his bow and aims. The arrow flies through the air and blood joins the rain when it finds its target. 

 

~

 

 

Usually Maedhros doesn't mind when his siblings visit Himring. It means he could spare himself the energy to hunt them down. When Celegorm's conversations with various animals fill the hallways Maedhros is thankful the hunter stays put for a few heartbeats at least. When the Ambarussa use the shadows of his fortress to scare his soldiers witless by appearing out of nowhere, he only joins their play of hide and seek and Himring gets wary of the red shade of their hair.

Maedhros hums to whatever noise his brothers produce. It's an old and familiar sensation embedded into his skull, a distraction from the silence of his own thoughts with only the howling winds as company. The noise is easier to bear than the emptiness in his head. 

What disturbs him is Maglor's toxic presence. His brother is in a fool mood, otherwise he would singing. Maglor always makes noise unless something has rattled him. Now he's brooding, sitting on a bench in the great hall with one knee drawn to his chest and his arms wrapped around it. His eyes are barely visible beneath his unbound hair and he still stares holes into anyone who dares to walk by.

Maedhros' hall is empty because of it.

Out of all brothers his soldiers wisely fear Makalaurë the most. As warriors who face Angband's fumes daily they all learn to deal with the Fëanorian Lords sooner or later. Advice how to handle the brothers are passed around like currency but even the ancient lords of old who made the journey twice avoid Maglor when he snarls at them.

They all fear him and yet don't understand why when Maglor is of a smiling kind of being. Very few see the power wrapped up underneath the kind smiles. With Maedhros standing beside him on the battlefield it's easy to overlook how relaxed Maglor is face to face with danger. That he travels alone sometimes, simply to visit his brothers no matter how many miles and orcs stand between them. But Maedhros doesn't worry over the Canafinwë –him least of all. It's Celegorm usually with his shifting mind, his growls instead of human speech and too animalistic behavior recently.

No, Maglor has the freedom to come and go as he pleases and while his brother is armed with a fine sword, he doesn't use it often. Either he asks the nature to hide him from view and like always Arda is charmed by Makalaurë's fine voice or he makes you forget you've seen him in the first place.

Caranthir once complained that orcs wander his lands because encountering Maglor and his people leaves them confused without any sense of direction. Consequence was the patrols found the orcs murdered in their sleep since even they surrendered when Maglor softly sings one of his lullabies.

The brave among their kindred challenge his brother to a battle of wits. The wise prefer it if he doesn't speak at all.

The scratching of a pen on paper is the only sound breaking the silence but as his older brother Maedhros feels Maglor's thoughts swirling like a leaf in a storm. Only after Maedhros has finished his letter –his seasonal debate with Curufin that Celegorm's talents are no use for anyone if he's more animal than elf –he turns to the brother he first held in his arms.

Since they are the only once in the hall he tilts his head and Maedhros looks at Maglor directly to meet the raging beast.

He notices that the eyes are nearly white. They've been for quite some time. Ever since father left them, Maglor's eyes reflect any light that hits them. It makes it increasingly difficult to hold his gaze, especially for outsiders.

(The only elf who ever dared to compare Maglor's eyes to the Silmarils in Maedhros presence was never seen again.)

All of this makes Maglor a frightening creature. He's everything the living mind refuses to comprehend. For the Moriquendi he's the phantom of the gods they have never seen themselves, for men he's the power that is gifted to the elves by their birth. Strangely it's the dwarves he gets a long with. Perhaps because the Khazad prefer the dark silent earth the open wailing sky and recognize danger with ease.

Maglor is violence with forethought and the dwarves find him refreshingly honest for an Elf.

„I demand to know what's bothering you,“ Maedhros finally addresses the issue when Maglor continues to stare at him. „I haven't seen a single soul ever since you drove the last soldier away. If you chose to hibernate in that corner of yours, I would like to know beforehand.“

The answer is a hiss.

Images flash through Maedhros mind. A burning plain between high mountains. A moonless sky above and the stares hidden by black fumes. A single figure ahead, surrounded by winged demons higher than trees. The echo of rising despair when Fëanor is cut down one time too often and the once god praised throat won't release a single sound.   

Finally the touch of Maglor's memories fades and the eldest son blinks. Then he blinks again.

Maedhros is releasing a sigh before he raises from his chair to approach his brother and settles beside him to throw one arm around Maglor's shoulders. He's using the bad arm for it because he needs his remaining hand to bury his fingers in Maglor's uncombed hair.

Words are hardly enough to sooth the shame burning in his brother's soul.

Since this is his little brother Maedhros has no need to hide his stump from view and uses it to pull the trembling body against his chest. Among his sibling his reservations easily fall away and uses his maimed arm far more often. They don't shy away when they feel the scarred tissue on their skin which makes it simpler to hug them.

His hand is stroking Maglor's head to relieve him from the assault of his far to vivid memories. The stump moves up and down over Maglor's back. There's hope Maglor would finally drop the unshed tears but out of experience he know it takes the privacy of their bedroom for it.

„You couldn't have saved him,“ Maedhros says and it sounds like an absolution. It has too, otherwise Maglor doesn't believe his forgiveness is true. „It's difficult to come to terms with but none of us could've. We were unprepared, overpowered or too far away to help him.“

The years of fighting against Orcs taught him this. At that point there was little what they could've done to safe Fëanor. Morgoth had needed an outlet for his anger because by now Maedhros followed the theory the Dark Valar hadn't meant to be discovered when he stole the Silmarils and burned down the trees. Perhaps it had been his goal to blame Ungoliant, appoint her as the enemy to make himself the hero but Morgoth hadn't counted on Fëanor's sharp mind, no matter how riddled with grief it had been.

„I miss him,“ Maglor finally speaks up, tugging at Maedhros' hair. „I miss father so badly.“

Sensing the self-blame beneath that sentence – as true as it was – Maedhros kisses his little brother on the top of his head.

„He didn't want us to die with him,“ Maedhros whispers fiercely. „It was his choice to die. His death was a sacrifice. Our troops would've never been ready in time to respond to Morgoth assault. He surprised all of us with that ambush.“

Maglor responds with a muffled wail, crying into Maedhros tunic like a toddler. Perhaps his voice truly failed him that day but Maedhros couldn't discern Maglor's scream from his own back then.

He'll blame himself either way, Maedhros thinks.

Just like he knows that Celegorm blamed himself for his delay. He has the strong suspicion that their hunter retreated into his mind because for him father was the sacrifice for freeing the Falathrim. Little wonder Celegorm turned towards his animals, lost himself in their cycling patterns of life and death and preferred their simple needs over his own emotions.

Father's loss nearly destroyed us, Maedhros admitted and hugs Maglor a little closer.

But he doesn't remember that period of time very clearly anyway. Much vanished beneath pain and confusion after he had been taken. Continuing to comb through Maglor's hair, letting his little brother cry his way back to humanity, Maedhros wishes for the sun to settle. The pain is easier to bear beneath the cover of their shared bed, with their bodies pressed together and their minds entwined under the pretense everything would be alright again.

What a beautiful lie.  

More familiar with Strangers by mangacrack

The rain is still falling but Maglor knows it's worse than before. Wind as picked up, howls around his ears and makes it difficult to keep a sense of direction. When he finally finds the target he shot down he rules out that the change in the weather is a coincidence. A loud curse leaves his mouth but the storm swallows it immediately. Walking towards the winged beast Maglor quickly discovers that it's dead. One perfectly aimed arrow brought it down. 

He'll have to thank Tyelko later for the arching lessons. 

But it doesn't mean he has what he came for. Maglor curses again and kicks the dragon. Killing that thing is only half the pleasure. 

For the rider is gone. 

Maglor's eyes search the empty land. There's nothing to see but a dark empty sky. Yet he knows the enemy is out there, not far. Hiding probably, hoping that Maglor will go away and he can make his way back to Angband. 

"I'll find you," Maglor shouts and this time the power in his voice drowns out the raging storm. "I swear to all the powers in the world that I'll find you. You can't escape." 

He doesn't get an answer but Maglor knows that his message has been heard. Then he retreats and seeks cover, intend to get out of the rain for a while. 

 

~

 

 

 

Maglor's eyes are white. Few notice the lack of colour because the whiteness reflects any kind of light, thus painting his eyes in the shade of his enviroment. At night his eyes are dark, near the sea they appear grey and around his brothers they are dyed red. But theorectically they are white. The fire in his mind burns everything away. The brightness of his soul shines through them but the most of the time Maglor knows how to avoid the gaze of others.

In Aman Laurelin and Telperion basked everything in their light and his eyes adjusted so no one noticed. In Beleriand the sun burns over their heads in a cruel, revealing manner and the Moriquendi only see Aman when they look at Maglor.

His eye color is seldomly an issue. Its an oddity, doesn't hurt him and is in truth just a side effect of the fire in his soul.

Sometimes Maglor curses his father with satisfiying ferocity. Who else but Fëanor is resonsible for the restlessness he feels? On occasion Maglor is torn between pitying and envying his litte brother. Curufin's hands are never idle, always creating, working with a skill that is Fëanor's own. But unlike their father's, Atarincë's mind is peaceful and quiet. It's driven by logic, numbers and the laws of nature.

No, Maglor hates Curufinwë. He wants to strangle him and scream at him because for all his reputation, he isn't father and doesn't understand why Maglor has been so irritating lately. Of course he's going to apologize, but only when it's its over. In that way Curufin is a good brother. He huffs and looks annoyed, yet in the end he leaves you alone.

Right now Maglor prepares a meal for them. Something rather complicated to keep his hands busy. His mind drifts when peeling potatoes doesn't clear his mind and songs start to float around in Maglor's head. Forms, shapes and colors. All fragmented of course but Maglor likes to put them together. Sometimes it's like a puzzle to figure out, today it's more like weaving, connecting the fragments through his touch.

"Cáno," Curufin calls him. Maglor blinks, trys to push the colors away. He can barely see the table in front of him.

"Yes?" He responses with a question when he looks up. His brothers appearance seems to be far away.

Thankfully Curufin is patient. Unlike him, who got energetic Tyelkormo as first little brother. Then Carnistir who wasn't any better.

So instead of answering, Curufin points at the dinner table. Maglor sees blooming flowers growing from it in beautiful tendrils while next to the half cooked meat sits the spirit of a rabbit, hobbling around in confusion.

"I apologize," Maglor says quietly and wonders if he has to kill the rabbit a second time.

"No songs of power at the dinner table, please," Curufin answers with a sigh and sounds like father.

But it's just his voice. The command is mother's since father would've let sing until the flowers became large trees with fruits they could eat. Working with father was fun and easy. Father understood how the limits of the physical languages, created by guttural sounds of the throat.

Still hungry? Maglor puts his suggestion close to Curufin's mind. While his little brother doesn't reach his level of mastery, he still catches the thoughts easily and responses with a hummed argeement. As much as Maglor enjoys the use of language sometimes, the easiness with which words and meaning can be bend, he prefers the use of oswanë in privacy.

It's far easier. More honest. Words are the manipulation of sound and air. Songs are the same, just intervoven with intention. In Aman they praised his golden voice despite his own troubles to understand why it was so special when it's just another way of asking someone to do something. But that was in his early youth. Here in Beleriand, in his adulthood with his father's lessons in his mind, he understands his own otherness. He doesn't use his voice to carve beauty, his songs are a tool, a means to an end.

Eru build the world with his voice. Songs aren't meant to be treated with reverence. They're laws. Laws on which the universe runs. Law of conversation with reality.

His brothers know that. Before, with father still alive to care, it was a childish notion. A way to annoy his sibling. After the darkness came Maglor insisted on educating his brothers. They had be able to tell differences between a pasttime and a weapon that could safe their lifes.

"We appreciate that you wish to keep us safe, Incáno," Curufin says with a smile, using a nickname Maglor earned a long time ago.

Yet to call him mindmaster is a reminder. He plots and picks schemes apart when his siblings cannot see them. With an affectionate growl, he hugs Curufin. Under much protest but Maglor is still taller than his little brother, even it's just a little and feels only content when he has Curufin safely in his arms.

Finally the little brother surrenders. He's practiced with Maglor's lack of dialog. His big brother seldomly talks. He sings or prods at your mind when he wishes to hold a conversation.

Curufin huffs when Maglor attempts to shuffle through his mind. The phyiscal contact brings their fëa closer and it almost melts when they touch. For a few moments they are one being, one bright mind born from the same fire.

Forcing himself to relax, Curufin allows the contact to continue. Meeting Maglor like this isn't easy. He doesn't comprehend boundaries and his mind is without end. In the dark hours of doubt and fear, Curufin believes this is what the void must feel like.

Big. Vast. Endless.

But he knows better. Curufin is aware that Canafinwë's mind isn't a door into darkness, matter how clumsy he always feels when stepping through the newly drawn door. Like always Maglor encourages him to come closer, taking him by his hand to draw him in.

Curufin groans. Makalaurë's mind is alien to him, like the workshop of a craft he has little knowledge off but his brother still forces him to look at a concept, study it, remember it until Curufin comprehends what it means. 

It's not always easy. It's like the time when father put the Silmarils into his hands and asked How did I do it? No matter how much time passes or many theories he writes down the answers always stays the same.

It's always I don't know.

But Cánafinwë is aware of this. Curufin can see it in the white eyes when they study him.

And yet you love me , he wonders.

When Maglor finally draws away, returning to his attempt to make dinner, he leaves his little brother standing in the middle of the room. Dizzy from the swirling emotions dominating him, Curufin thinks of his own love for his brother. I don't speak your language. I don't comprehend the images you show me and yet I'm unable to doubt your love.

Returning to his previous task, Curufin muses how much of this certainty was actually his own.

In the corner of his eyes he sees Maglor's mouth twitch.

 

-

 

Eventually they settle down, each with their own projects to occupy themselves with but Curufin gets suspicious when the spirit of the rabbit doesn't vanish. It runs around the room as if its still alive no matter that it's glowing in blue transparent light. By the third time it hobbles past his feet Curufin glares at Maglor who appears to be studying a book. Appears to being the correct words because he hasn't turned a page in the last half hour. 

"Makalaurë, can you tell me what's going on here?" Curufin asks and suppresses a sigh.  

Getting a straight answer out of his older brother isn't an easy feat. 

"Nothing." The bard shrugs and makes a show out of turning a page. Curufin wishes Maglor would stay out of his head. "Why?"

"I don't mind your antics but you can please put our dinner back where it came from," Curufin says and points at the rabbit that's trying to eat the plants. 

"Not necessary." Maglor hums under his breath. He doesn't even have the curtsey of looking up. "It's going away sooner or later." 

Curufin growls. When he goes to bed an hour later the spirit is still there, just like Makalaurë. In the next morning his brother is gone and his wife finds a living rabbit sitting under her desk. 

 

End Notes:

I've always wondered about oswane and the impact it can have. Are there some Elves who don't talk if they don't have to? How much of it is telepathy / empathy? Does it work over long distances? Unlikely, but it would add to how alien elven minds could be. Galadriel uses it in LOTR with Elrond. I doubt it's like working a cellphone. It's too impersonable. Sinces elves fade when their spouses die, I make the use of oswane between partners partly responsible for it.

By the way, according to elfdict incáno does mean mindmaster. It got me curious that the word itself exists. Or why. Hence another note to Maglor's otherness. Strange how Curufin is almost normal compared to him.

The Animal in You by mangacrack

 I'm not going to make it.

The thought comes up from somewhere. Not sure why. Been a while since I had a clear thought. Strange ... to be able to actual think. I notice that my feet are heavy. They dragging over the ground, leave a trail.

He will find me. 

Another strange thought that comes unbidden. Who will find me? I can't remember. Anything. 

There's nothing beyond the forest I'm stumbling through. Not even animals. Or souls. Either living or dead. 

The only sign of life is the blood running down my thigh. I look down. My left hand is covered in blood. The wound is deep but not fatal. It should hurt but the rain is so cold that I barely feel it. Shiver run down my spine and I feel a sense of dread. Fear pools in my stomach. 

A rustle ... kind of hot. Kind of cold. Kind of happy. 

I'd run if I could. But I can't even walk faster. 

I sink to my knees. It's going to end here. 

 

~

 

 

Rain is pouring outside, again, and the door creaks when opens and a gust of wind pushes it against the wall with an ugly noise. All eyes travel to the entrance, curious what kind of visitor they should expect at this kind of hour. Most eyes belong to warriors who just returned from a shift or where about to leave. They're trained to wander the land unseen, to observe which gives little room to actually surprise them.  

Yet when a huge dog steps in, barely able to fit through the door many eyebrows rise. A few hands immediately travel to knife and sword handles, but their Lord stopss them.

„No,“ Makalaurë says, eyeing the large, wet dog with his white eyes. A lazy smile curls around his lips. „Leave him be, he's not dangerous. I have been expecting him.“

Careful nods are given and meaningful glances are exchanged when the dog simply walks down to the end of the hall where Lord Makalaurë has his seat. Usually he worries about reports from his spies but today he's relaxed and his lips stretch into a wry arrogant smirk when the hound approaches him. When Lord Makalaurë is finally in reach, they greet each other like old friends. The muzzle of the hound nudges against Makalaurë's chest who runs his fingers through the thick fur in return.

„He is Huan,“ their Lord announces with a honest smile. „You'll proceed like always while I'm going to collect a towel for our ... guest.“

Makalaurë leaves the hall, humming a joyful tune. His spies end up shrugging and return to their tasks. A few narrow their eyes in suspicion when the black dog attempts to climb on Lord Makalaurë's throne. Not that Huan would care for their glares, the dog curls up and closes his  eyes. 

Yet a sharp whistle disturbs his sleep. The sound carries through the thick walls of the mountain and Huan's gaze travels to the door Maglor disappeared through. With a deep growl the dog drags his body down from the throne to follow the call clearly meant for him. Even the soldiers know that. Anyone in Makalaurë's cardre is familiar with their Lord's voice and refusing a personal address takes willpower few possess. 

They all watch the dog vanish into the shadows, far to silent for a normal animal.

The dog only bares his teeth when he reaches Maglor. Finding the elf is easy with his nose, and even easier for Huan, attuned to his scent this his birth.

The Lord of all Voices in Beleriand is already waiting for him, in his personal bedchamber none less. Huan waits by the door but Maglor suggests to step closer. Soon fingers run through his thick wet fur and a lean human body presses against the animal.

„I missed you so much,“ Maglor says and buries his face into the dog's shoulder. „You had us all worried.“

Taking Huan's face into his hands Maglor looks at the dog with quiet despair. He wants to hold on and never let go. The last weeks had been hard. Not knowing where is little brother was just added to the stress. Sleep has never been his best friend but the worry over Celegorm banished even the last hours of sleep from his mind. 

„You vanished from our sight. Not even Ambarussa could find your tracks.“ The caress turns into a full embracing hug, Maglor clinging to the large dog. „Don't do that again. Please, Tyelkormo. Never again.“

The dog lets out a sigh. Its form quivers, blurs around the edges and when the shifting stops Maglor is holding his brother in his arms, hands touching a human face. Well, almost human. Some of the teeth are too sharp and the hands look more like claws than actual fingers but Maglor is fine with it. 

„Didn't mean to stay away that long,“ Celegorm murmurs, voice hoarse from disuse. „I got into a fight with Curvo and when I stepped out to calm down I lost any sense of time. Hadn't a human thought in weeks.“

With a shaking breath, Maglor hugs Celegorm a little tighter. He cares naught that his little brother is still naked, like always when he loses his fur. Only the hair is a bit longer than usual and Maglor's grip is is enough to wring rain water from it. At least Celegorm kept his usual muscled image. Maglor runs his fingers over his brother's rips and he's glad there are no signs of hunger. 

„Don't leave,“ Maglor begs, seeking to smooth his distress at the old fear of losing his little brother. „Don't leave again.“

For Celegorm it's normal to come and go as he pleases. He could vanish for days and turn up just when father had collected a company to track him down, grinning with leaves in his hair and at least one tooth short.

In Aman Maglor didn't care. The brothers always knew Tyelkormo would turn up again sooner or later. But Beleriand is different. Open, dangerous with orc's waiting at every turn. Though they tend to leave animals like Huan alone. Too difficult to hunt and Huan's teeth are sharp.

How often Celegorm would return with blood around his mouth? Quite enough.

He kept them fed in the first days after they reached Beleriand in utter darkness. They lived entirely on meat these days, not knowing what else was edible.

When Celegorm realizes that Maglor refused to let him go, he says, „I promise I won't disappear like this again. I didn't mean to be away so long.“

It sounds honest and Maglor knows Celegorm, the fair elf means what he says. But Huan is an animal, a beast and human thoughts are beyond him. It's only a matter of time until Celegorm runs off again without plan or determination, only led by simple animal wants and needs. It's not his fault. It's simply who Tyelko is. Wild, strong and dangerous. 

„Can you stay a while?“ Maglor asks, knowing it would be the only way to keep Celegorm human. „Help me out a bit?“

Normally Maglor refuses any assistance. He refuses help in order to proof that he can manage his life alone. No matter how overbearing brothers might have to say to that. 

But Celegorm has always been kind of an exception. 

„Of course,“ Celegorm grunts. „But only if Nelyo stays away. I can do without the lecture.“

„I can't promise it, but Ambarussa is scheduled to arrive with supplies in a few weeks if it helps,“ Maglor answers and finally lets go of his brother.

Celegorm drags himself upright, a little unsteady on his feet after he had been running on four legs for weeks. He makes his way to Maglor's bed. Without his fur the air is too cold and he's still naked. As soon as Celegorm's head hits the pillows he's out like a light, mind and body too exhausted to care.

Maglor watches his brother for a long time, fearing he vanishes if he does so much as blink. Despite his words, there was no guarantee if Celegorm would be still in this bed next morning. Maglor hoped as much, he missed his brother.

Months without contact, almost two seasons were too much to bear.

Oswanë worked best with spouses or relatives. Men and animals were difficult sometimes, depending on how long their mind had been exposed to elvish minds. It got always easier with time. Yet Huan was neither men nor animal. Not even Fëanor truly comprehended what exactly Oromë taught his son. At least he hadn't shared his knowledge with Maglor or the rest of his children. 

„Sleep well,“ Maglor whispers when he joined Celegorm later, hugging him from behind to keep him from leaving.

The white Fog with the Name by mangacrack

Maglor bolts upright. The truth runs through his veins like lightening. He hates those dreams but he doesn't question them. Still half trapped in a different world he tumbles forwards, grabs his sword and makes his way towards the door. Only practice is the reason that he finds the way to the stables. Walking is a little difficult when your mind provides different images than your eyes. 

It's like seeing double in the worst kind of way. 

Thankfully he's good at acting. He smiles at the only person he sees. Next minutes he's gone, riding out of the gates.  His people will have to do without him. They're capable of defending themselves. Unlike others.

Unlike his brother who's walking into a trap. Not a deliberate one but that's makes it just more dangerous. 

Since his horse is long used to his moods she knows what she has to do. Maglor tells her where she has to go and in the next moment they're speeding over the land. The lack of rain helps a lot. 

"We just might make it in time," Maglor tells his horse and then focuses on more important things. "Otherwise me all might descend into darkness." 

 

~

 

Fog claimed the land weeks ago and yet to release it's hold. Between the heavy mists and the occasional rain Caranthir feels as if he had gone deaf and blind. His usual senses betray him at every turn. His warriors are restless, but they trudge on even as the cold winds tear at them. 

Numb and weary they are - all of them. Caranthir barely feels his exhaustion. There's a part of his mind that is wide awake and alert. Perhaps his training as warrior's not to fall asleep in the wilderness. Or it's a deeper instinct. Something more animalistic that keeps him grounded, aware of every little sound that reaches his ears.

Caranthir wonders if Celegorm always feels this way. The knowledge of being watched by prey and other predators alike. The urge to look back over the shoulder waits beneath his skin, yet Caranthir knows better Tyelko taught him well in the past, made sure to pass on everything he learnt from The Great Rider. Keeping secrets from his brothers had never been Teylko's strength. Instead he saw it his responsibility to prepare every sibling that came after him in for the ruthless life every animal lived by.

Taught them how to kill an animal with their bare hands if they wanted to eat.

 Father never protested, Caranthir thinks back. Not even when Tyelkp came back home with blood around his mouth.

A cold chill creps down his spine and Caranthir eyes his warriors carefully. Something is off. Do they notice the heavy air around them? The fog swallows sounds and blurs edges. It becomes more and more difficult to see past one's own hand.

Why do I think of father right now? Caranthir wonders, frowning. Unlike most of his brothers he doesn't need father's steady presence to breath evenly, doesn't need him to bring his thoughts in order or to calm his mind.

No, Caranthir didn't need Fëanáro. He just missed him.

And craving his presence never helped so he tried to put a stop at it.

Usually it works but today Caranthir apparently is looking for something. Some kind of sign or advice what he was missing. Why else would be in this situation, running through the wilderness searching for what might be just a rumor? His scouts spotted an Elf wandering through his lands. Lost. Sometimes naked. Sometimes bleeding. Whoever he is, he causes a lot of disturbance and so Caranthir decided to investigate   

„My Lord,“ one of his warrior's announces, „A rider is approaching at great speed.“

Caranthir stopped to look at the direction his man pointed at. Narrowing his eyes he could make out a moving shadow, quickly bridging the distance between them.

„Stay on alert,“ he orders and draws his sword. „But don't attack outright. With this fog we can't be sure if it's friend or foe. It might just be a messenger who hasn't even seen us yet.“

Serving under him since years, his warriors know their Lord insisted on capturing the enemy. The band leaders at least. Caranthir values information and swallows his hate for Orcs if it meant learning more about them. Even though he brought most of the prisoners to Maglor. He is current the expert in extracting information. No matter how unwilling his victims are.

Against Maglor they have no chance. 

Finally the fog lifted around the rider's. For a moment Caranthir only saw a dark cloak fluttering in the wind before a faint whispering reached his mind.

...in time, in time … have to reach him in time, I must … Caranthir feels a familiar voice mumbling through old connections.

Just as his warriors prepared to attack the newcomer, Caranthir recognizes the rider.

Áva carë! “ Caranthir's voice cuts through the fog, prevents his warrior from making a fatal decision just as Makalaurë breaks into their group and tugs hard at the reigns, forcing his horse to halt.

Caranthir can't even greet his brother or dissolve the confusion among his warriors who reacted just in time. Instead Makalaurë jumps off his horse and pulled him into a tight, crushing hug.

„Carnistir. Carnistir, I'm so glad I found you,“ he mumbles into Caranthir's dark hair and refuses to let go. 

„Brother,“ Caranthir answers just as quietly before he forces his brother to look him into his eyes. „What were you thinking to approach us without warning? We nearly attacked you!“

Maglor's white icy glare told Caranthir that his warriors just escaped the danger of sudden death, not him.

„Not that I'm not glad to see you,“ Caranthir mends quickly. „I'm just wondering what are you doing here.“

Alone, as he feared. Makalaurë usually knows better than to take off in the middle of the night. If his second in command is lucky, his Lord left a note. Most often than not even that but by now nearly everyone got used to the second Fëanorian vanishing into the night. Caranthir notesd with pride that his warriors have relaxed considerably but vows to remember those who haven't put away their weapons yet.

Those are people with good instincts.

„You have been wandering around in this fog for days,“ Maglor tells him, pulling away from the hug but still looks like as if he wants to hold on.  Caranthir feels like an elfling with the one arm around his shoulders and Makalaurë's protective glaring. „It's not natural. Had I not come you would've had little chance to find your way out if it. I know the person behind this trap.“

Caranthir's eyebrows shots up. He hasn't even noticed the enchantment.

„Have you come to kill the person,“ he growls, aware how quickly their group could've tired or how fast their rations could've dwindled if they had no way of noting the passage of time.

Makalaurë shook his head, hissing. „I won't lose him to Morgoth Bauglir and his spells. A defeat is unacceptable. I want him by my side and serving our side, not working against us.“

Then his older brother turns and started to give orders. Caranthir bites down on his lip to hold the anger boiling inside of him. As much as he loves Makalaurë, he is a nightmare to any structured organization and hell to anyone when he overstepps authority. Maybe it's his right as his older brother and as Himring's Dragon second in command but their father had raised them better than that.

Father always made sure the older brother didn't simply assume they had privileges or any claim to Lordship just because they were born first. Caranthir was seething and wished to bury his shaking fist into Makalaurë's face.

Exhaling slowly Caranthir reminds himself to take it easy.

Breath, he tells himself. Just breath. He doesn't see it this way. He doesn't mean anything by it if he hurts you like this.

On another day Caranthir would've argued and insisted to lead his men. But Makalaurë probably just saved their lives and they are sick of this fog. If letting Makalaurë have his way meant going home soon, Caranthir will act wise and responsible for once.

 

-

 

Just a few hours later, Caranthir was glad he listened to his brother. Blind and nearly deaf he holds on to Makalaurë's hand as they march towards the center of the fog. There is little left to doubt that the environment is enchanted and Makalaurë is forced to use his voice, just to find a way through it. Leaving the warriors behind was difficult - but the only choice. It was easier for Makalaurë to send them home with his voice than to guide a dozen people through this labyrinth. 

Originally his brother intended to go alone but at least Makalaurë didn't argued when Caranthir announced he would accompany him.

„I found him,“ his brother suddenly hisses with satisfaction and takes a sharp turn, eyes shining with determination. 

Compared to the grey fog clinging to their clothes, his eyes were warm and silver. Not ghostly ashen and transparent.

Caranthir suspects the power currently surging his brother's body is nothing to trifle with. It's not the first time for Makalaurë to summon forces beyond his understanding. Usually it's when he sings, creates images and worlds to dream in. This ... this is different. Caranthir almost cries when he realizes how much like Fëanor Maglor looks right now. The air crackles with pressure around them when Maglor throws his own will against that of the enemy. Wind picks up and in an instant the smoke is gone.

The air clears and reveals and Elf. Tall, lean and truly almost naked. Covered in blood and dirt as the rumors reported back to him. But Caranthir suspects that's mostly his own. What disturbs the image of an injured Elf are the eyes. 

They're black. Empty. 

Orcish. 

Where Caranthir alone with it he'd kill the other one. Swift but without mercy. Nothing good comes from those who suffered too long from Morgoth's shadow. Caranthir has been told that the mind of the Black Enemy is everywhere once you go too far north. It presses against your walls, your insides and tries to corrupt you like a slow working poison. This Elf in front of them clearly spend too much time near Angband though he isn't an Orc. 

Not yet. He still has hair and a beating heart. 

The other one sways a little, has difficulties to stay on his feet. It makes a harsh sound, an unnatural one and looks like as if it's ready to lung at them. Kill them with bare hands and a poisonous bite. 

Caranthir draws his sword. The true battle might be fought without blades but he's rather careful than sorry. 

Maglor doesn't stop him but he says, „It's almost done.“

His voice sounds strained and soon he rests his forehead on Caranthir's shoulders who can't help but notice that his brother is covered in sweat and that his legs are trembling. Putting an arm around him, Caranthir supports Makalaurë with a guarded expression in his face. But his eyes never leave the creature and the tip of his sword is still pointed at it. 

No matter how much he annoys him sometimes Caranthir is possessive of his brother. Who has taken father's loss the hardest and changed so much after it.

Caranthir strokes his brother's hair when he shudders with effort to keep upright. But whatever Makalaurë is doing it's working. The other one falls into the grass. Either dead or just unconsciousness. Not that Caranthir cares after he sees out of the corner of his eyes how roots grow from the earth and pin the other down. 

„By the Stars, what a fucking mess,“ Makalaurë murmurs, indicating that the strange battle is finally over. He closes his eyes and slumps against Caranthir's large frame. "I could sleep for a week." 

„Then rest, brother,“ Caranthir replies, his voice soft and caring. „I'll keep watch.“

Makalaurë attempts to protest but he complies when Caranthir sits down down and drags his head into his lap. Before he actually falls asleep Caranthir eyes the other one laying in the grass. He looks harmless right now ... and a certain aura of malice has dispersed. That's something not even Caranthir can deny. 

„Is he dead? Or a danger to us?“ he asks, fully aware how Makalaurë sometimes misjudged his strength when he invades the mind of others and crushes their will with his own. 

He remembers the words how Maglor wants this one alive and he hadn't gone through so much effort to obviously free the lost Elf of Morgoth's influence if it isn't important. 

„No, j ust keep him like this until I take care of him, “ comes the response, barely audible. Quietly Maglor adds, „If he asks, tell him his name his Erestor.“

Caranthir sighs with weariness and wonders if all the trouble will be worth in the end.

Warpped Minds and Deranged Thoughts by mangacrack

He doesn't expect the punch that sends his head flying to one side under the blow. Still surprised Maglor touches his face carefully. It hurts, it really hurts. He'll be lucky if the bones aren't broken and won't carry bruises for weeks.  He wants to say something but Maitimo's angry features prevent him from opening his mouth. His brother is seething and clearing considering doing it a second time. Maglor braces himself but the blow never comes. Maitimo just exhales with a shaking breath and his entire body seems to shrink when the tension leaves his shoulders.

„Nelyo, can we talk about it?“ Maglor tries. Yet he doesn't know what to say. He can guess why Fëanáro's Heir is upset with him but Maglor isn't sure.

The reason has to legitimate since Caranthir shuffles around them and the Ambarussa hunt the shadows. None of his brothers is intervening, leaving Maglor to face Nelyafinwë's wrath alone. It's been a few days since the confrontation and Ambarussa must've sensed something was off or else Maedhros' wouldn't have been here so quickly. 

Maglor reminds himself to throttle the twins next time they're alone. 

„You stupid little nuisance!“ Maedhros shouts and takes Maglor's neck into his good hand to shake his little brother in his renewed anger. „What were you thinking of facing a Núlandur* alone? Running off into the night like love sick teenager? Had Caranthir not been in danger you had plans of not telling anyone of us about this, am I right?“

Maglor's eyes shift towards Erestor who is now bound, blindfolded and still unconscious. That Elf isn't a threat. Not to him, he adds in afterthought.

Maglor tries to tell Nelyo this much and completely misses Maedhros' point. 

„He couldn't harm me,“ he says, raising his hand to touch Nelyo's thick red hair. Consoling the eldest among them seems necessary. „He could only try. I'm perfectly capable of handling someone like him.“

It's his dammed duty. Why else is he guarding the gap and not one of his brothers? You can't keep such enchanted and bewitched people away with swords alone. 

Maedhros swears loudly and pulls Maglor into a tight hug. Despite his one arm, it's impossible to escape the embrace and Maglor's relaxes. This he knows. Maitimo taught him a long time ago until hugs between brothers didn't feel awkward anymore. 

„I'm fine,“ Maglor whispers to Maedhros because this is what his brother's mind craves. „I'll be more careful next time.“

„Liar,“ Maedhros answers just as quietly. His head rests against Maglor's shoulder. Shoulders slumped in defeat. „You're going to drive me insane one day with your antics. But if's going to kill someone it's me, not you.“

„Don't say things like that,“ Maglor hisses, taking Maitimo's face into his hands and forcing his brother to face Maglor's white crazed eyes. He wants his brother to look at him while he makes this promise. „We'll survive this war. We're going to win. We'll see Morgoth Fall.“

The image is burned into Maglor's mind. It came to him in with flames. The same who took his father from the physical world showed him Morgoth End. Perhaps it was an aftereffect of Fëanor's violent and unwilling departure. Or perhaps Námo showed kindness, showing Maglor the goal he had to work towards to. A target for his hate, his pain and his helplessness. A reason to get up every morning.

A reason not to keep screaming while kneeling on the ground among his father's ashes.

Lost in his thoughts, Maglor doesn't notice how Maedhros mumbles, „One day we might even win this war. But not all of us are going to see it happen.“

With these words Maedhros pulls aware, wondering how Maglor managed to disperse the boiling anger he felt when Carnistir's warrior's appeared on his doorstep to tell him what happened.

„What happens now?“ His little brother has the nerve to ask.

 Turning towards Maglor, Maedhros growls, „You're going to watch the....,“ he bites back the word creature, “...Núlandur. He's your responsibility and I can't have him wandering around alone in our lands, no matter how useful he might be in the future.“

Caranthir told him about the effort Maglor put up to get this one alive. The description is enough to make Maedhros' heart stutter. Had Maglor been alone ... who knows what could've happened. Maedhros feels father emerging in his blood just from thinking back to Carnistir's mangled appearance when Maedhros found the little group. Perhaps Maglor could wade through such danger with ease but he needed to keep in mind the dangers to others. 

Responsibility isn't Makalaurë's greatest strength. Never has been, if Maedhros remembers correctly. 

Maedhros stalks off to calm his anger. Ambarussa isn't  anywhere to be seen but Maedhros knows they're still around. 

„Make a camp while I tend to the horses,“ he grumbles. While there's no one but him around, making it look like as if he's talking to empty air his orders will be obeyed.

A whisper in the wind is the only answer he gets. Enough for Maedhros who hasn't the patience right now to face Ambarussa since he doesn't remember when they joined his mad race to find Maglor. Normal for Ambarussa, who's apt at sinking back into the shadows and watching other's walk by unaware. But today Ambarussa is too much like Makalaurë and Maedhros intends to avoid everything connected to his brother for next few days.

 

 

-

 

Ambarussa is used to stalking the shadows. It's part of who they're are. Since birth people confuse them. Are confused about who and what they are. Even their parents couldn't figure it out a long time because sometimes there're two red-haired Elves, looking completely alike. But that's not it. Sometimes ... there's just one person. Called Ambarussa. Like right now. 

With precise steps the youngest Fëanorian approaches the prisoner. He's hasn't awoken. Not a surprise given how Cáno's voice could be heard miles away. It made Ambarussa run faster, get Nelyo. Truth is while he's good at hiding in the shadows and becoming one of them, he doesn't have the strength to stop Maglor when push comes to shove. The balance when he's Ambarussa and not PityoandTelvo is a delicate one. Given how it was Makalaurë who taught Ambarussa to make the distinction in the first place ... it'd be far too easy for his older brother to disrupt it. 

He has done so in the past. On purpose when Ambarussa was being noisy or on sheer accident when Makalaurë wasn't paying attention. 

Right now using is second nature is the best way to get a good glimpse on the Núlandur. Maedhros is probably right at called him this. Of course there're stray, lonely Elves who lose their mind when they wander through Anfauglith. 

But a lost one who'd have woken up by now. A lost one would never have the strength to resist Maglor so long. 

For Ambarussa isn't blind. He noticed that his brother spend a lot of time with the prisoner in the last days. Long hours which Makalaurë spend sitting quietly next to the Núlandur.

Something which makes Ambarussa suspicious. There's something off about the Elf. Makalaurë's voice, pure and beautiful like light itself would've cleansed the prisoner inside out, dying being the only alternative. And yet is the prisoner still cloaked in shadows. 

Ambarussa cowers next to the Elf who is still sleeping. Close up he almost looks like a Noldo but the dark coloring could be a side effect from spending too much time in the North. 

"Shadows are my thing, little one," the spirit says and studies the Elf. "Lets find out who you truly are." 

Fingers reach out and touch Erestor's forehead. Makalaurë isn't the only one trained in the arts of oswanë. 

 

 

~

 

Words reach his ears. Soft, luring ones. Sweet ones that sooth his wounds like cool water. He couldn't make them out, not quite. But soon the words are joined by a careful touch.

Probing. Nudging. 

Like a mother that wants her newborn cub to drink. 

So he crawls towards the fire. 

 

~

 

 

Erestor wakes up and blinks in confusion. The stars above blaze in a sharp, judging light that makes Erestor uncomfortable. Only when his mind has cleared a little Erestor takes notice he isn't staring into the sky but very white eyes. His head rests in the lap of another person. That so far is the only thing he knows - despite the fact that his wrists are hurting, sore. 

It takes a while to process even this. 

After a while Erestor finds the strength to address the other Elf. 

„You're Canafinwë,“ Erestor says.

His voice sounds hoarse and a little frightening. Too dry and certainly not beautiful. Not like the voice that woke him up. 

"My name is Maglor," the Elf above him corrects. He bends down as far as he's able to in order to look Erestor in the eyes properly. "Please call me Maglor." 

Since the voice is still so incredible gentle, charming and tranquil Erestor obeys. Though he wants to protest. It lays on the tip of his tongue. The name he has been offered sounds wrong. A little harsh, cut off and abrasive. Incomplete, perhaps?

But Erestor's head is still throbbing. That and the fact that he doesn't know anything beside his own name causes him to shut up.

The Elf with the false name smiles as if he's reading Erestor's thoughts and lets his thumb run over his forehead. Erestor carefully breathes out and relaxes under the touch. His eyes are getting heavy again. No wonder since his body still feels heavy and sore. Getting up would be a bad idea right now. No matter how foul the taste in his mouth it would be a bad idea to throw up on his Lord's tunic.

Especially not since he rescued me , Erestor thinks before his thoughts halt.

Rescue. That seems right but his memories don't go back so far. Even the responses of his body match that thought because Erestor wants to curl himself into a small ball. Hide himself.  Only the gentle hands prevent it.

Dread pooling in his stomach. Erestor whispers, „What happened to me?“

It seems to be the right question because something happened. Specifically to him. Otherwise he wouldn't hurt so much. 

„You're safe,“ Maglor answers him. His sentence carries a timbre that could summon the dead. „Don't think on it. Just focus on getting better.“

With a guard like this Erestor choses to settle back down and lets himself be embraced by Maglor. Half awake he watches his surroundings with interest yet his thoughts drift away far too often. It takes hours until he's finally asleep. Hours until his mind calms down and he spends the night cradled in Maglor's arms.

 

-

 

When Ambarussa steps out of the shadows the body is a dark contrast to the firelight in the distance. Even Maglor has a little trouble to making out anything beyond the eyes, shining dangerously yellow because of the fire. If it weren't for the red hair, giving away the position of his brothers Maglor almost believe think that he's alone with only Erestor for company.

„I'm surprised he's still coherent after you cooked his brain,“ Ambarussa says.

It's agitating to hear him speak since voice and echo are out of order. It's unnatural for two persons to speak at the same time, using just one mouth. Maglor just eyes the spirit and shrugs. There's little what he can say to counter his brothers words.

„Erestor is strong. But that's hardly a surprise,“ Maglor answers with a smile. His hands never stopping their caressing the temples, the forehead. „Given where he wasted away in the last two centuries, killing him was an option I hesitated to take into consideration after he endured so long.“

"But he remembers nothing," Ambarussa accuses, dark and angry.

For a moment he flickers, his image distorts enough to get transparent. It's not often for Telvo and Pityo get upset enough to break their concentration that keeps their spirit together. The solid walking spirit returns after a moment, staring at Erestor first than at Maglor. Who notes how much Ambarussa resembles Maedhros right now. They possessed the same hair color, the same burning force behind their words and the same kind of anger. Right now it's directed at him. 

"Did you do to him what you tried with Nelyo?" Ambarussa asks and points at Erestor. "Is no one going to recognize him? I'm surprised Nelyo hasn't already." 

"Nelyo isn't himself right now," Maglor answers with a little too much indifference in his voice. "And all Maedhros needs to know is that Erestor was a prisoner of Morgoth which should be enough for him to back off." 

In the darkness not even Ambarussa can see how his hands are clenched to fists. „Besides it's kinder for Erestor if he doesn't to remember anything before this day.“

„Kindness,“ Ambarussa hisses and bows down until he can look Maglor into the eyes. „Do you really think it's kindness for him never to remember who he is? That this particular questions never gets answered? What's going to happen if someone sees his face and wants and answer?“

It pains the singer to see him so angry since it's usually them who get along best, understanding each other's likeness when it comes to jumbled minds, odd thoughts and strange occurrences.

"I'm going to take care of that as well." Maglor's words are kind and apologizing. As if the deed is already done and there's nothing what the twins can do about it. 

„What are you going to tell him if he ever asks why you named him kinsman**? Or is he never going to leave your side so you can keep the memories from returning infinitely?“ Ambarussa spats. 

Silence stretches between them, Ambarussa fuming while Maglor works through the unfamiliar sensation of feeling guilt. Head hanging low, he finally answers.

„I've seen his mind, little brother. There's nothing I could've done," Maglor looks up his white eyes are shining brightly and even Ambarussa who is often crass and uncaring due to his nature as spirit flinches at the sight of the tears."I saved as much as I could but healing him is beyond me. You know that even my powers are limited. Most of him was gone long before I became aware of a Núlandur wandering in our lands."

After a moment of silence Maglor adds. "The rest I sacrificed in order to free him from Morgoth.“

The situation is familiar. After Fingon brought Nelyo back from the Thangorodrim Maglor attempt a similar tactic. Years of torment were too much for his brother's mind which constantly flickered through various state of sanity. Of course he tried to help but other than bringing Maedhros' mind in order there are limits to what Maglor can do. Back then Ambarussa accused him of meddling since he's the one most likely to notice when something is wrong. 

In Nelyo's case they all had to accept that their brother's mind healed at its own pace. 

Though it's still difficult to meet Maedhros' gaze and see no recognition behind those eyes. Sometimes it's almost unbearable. But Ambarussa stops that thought. Rather pain, nightmares and memories of torture he rather has a sibling with amnesia. 

Crouching down in front of Maglor, Ambarussa takes a better look at Erestor's sleeping frame.

"Is there any hope?" Ambarussa asks a little calmer than before. "I'd grieve me to lost a friend. Among our family there weren't a lot of people born around my age and we always got along well." 

"Unlikely. I count Arakáno as well and truly dead," Maglor gives the sleeping Elf a long last look. "Fingolfin isn't going to get his son back. Erestor is all that's left of him. 

He's not surprised to see Ambarussa vanish into thin air, leaving Telvo and Pityo mourn their cousin hundred of miles away in Amon Ereb.

End Notes:

* Servant of the Black One
** True fact. Erestor means kinsman according to internet sources.

The place where they know you well by mangacrack

Just like he promised Maedhros is still angry the next day. Maglor understands and tries to deal with the fact that his brother is cross with him. But it's more difficult than he expected at first since Maedhros refuses to acknowledge him in any way or form. Usually it's customary for the Fëanorians to eat together when they happen to be in the same place. Today Nelyo doesn't even look at him when Maglor joins him at the fire in the early morning. Maglor shifts in the grass and wishes he hadn't sat down next to Nelyo out of habit. The silence stretches uncomfortably between them until Caranthir appears and hangs a dented pot over the fire.

Caranthir's famous irate temper doesn't make an appearance this morning  but he isn't the most talkative person either. Not unusual so Maglor is unsure what to do about him. He gives him space as Caranthir keeps stirring the stew and focuses on handing the food out to the soldiers instead of trying to make conversation with Makalaurë who takes it as cue to stay away. 

As someone who is said to started humming as soon as his father cleaned the blood of him after his birth Maglor detests silence. Especially one that isn't filled with his family rummaging in the background. And after last night he can't count on Ambarussa to appear and distract his mind.  It's actually better if Ambarussa stays away until they have cooled off or they might spill everything to Nelyo.

Maglor shudders at the thought and eyes his brother's large form carefully. Gone is the Maitimo, who would lay on his back in the grass and offer his stomach as pillow for his elfling brothers. His once long red hair is cut short now in order to maintain it even one-handed. Maglor had been sad to see the long red hair fall.  Now he mourns it since it would hide Nelyo's grim expression. Maglor knows that the hateful eyes are his fault but he can't look away either. Shuffles around his brother in hope he might say something, anything. 

The hours drags on like this. It might be better, healthier for everyone if Maglor would take his things and say his goodbye neither he nor Caranthir dare to simply get up and leave. Despite the fact that both of them are Lords in their own right with the freedom to move as they please. Yet they can't. Or at least Maglor can't. Isn't even able to think about it. Not while Nelyo hasn't moved the entire morning, obviously brooding and Maglor doesn't need to sit next to him to feel the hot waves of anger slapping against his fëa.

The slow burning fury haunts him, torments his mind and rips his patience to shreds. 

Finally Maglor caves, realizes that Nelyo's rage is a storm that won't calm down anytime soon. Ducking his head he rises to check up on Erestor. A small blessing that the elf kept quiet in the last hours and didn't make a fuss after waking up among strangers while not able to remember anything but the name Maglor planted in his head.

When he finds Erestor awake, but still resting under the tree where he had left him earlier Maglor feels his guilt freezing his insides. In the light of the new morning Ambarussa's words carry even more truth than they did yesterday. 

„How did you sleep?“ he asks, unable to forget his conversation with Ambarussa in the evening. Maglor never thought it could be so hard to forget whose son Erestor truly is. 

He'll have to pretend. It won't do to cave under his own rules. So much of Erestor's soul fell away, when they fought. He had been wrapped so deeply in Angband's chains that's a surprise he survived the process in the first place. There aren't many people who do this well after having been rescued, memory loss or not. Remarkable, given how long Argon had been lost. 

„Dreamless,“ Erestor answers with a shrug.

Maglor sighs in relief. At least this worked as intended. Touching the minds of other people will never be an exact science. Not even for him, who has more practice than the most. 

„You should get something to eat,“ Maglor says. "Join the others around the campfire. You'll have to meet them sooner or later." 

Anyone with a sharp eye can  see that Erestor isn't in the best shape. A bit skinny, a bit too pale to go unnoticed, but not bad enough to arouse suspicions. It's to be expected, given what Erestor has been through. Maglor may be able to manipulate memories and influence minds, but affecting physical objects is much harder. No matter how Fingolfin's son calls himself, it's still the same body.  

„Didn't think it would be a good idea with the way Lord Maedhros is acting,“ Erestor implies carefully. 

Having opened his eyes unnoticed as the group was occupied with breakfast, Erestor took his time to watch them. Concluding how the Lords mood ties to Lord Maglor's behavior wasn't really difficult and he doesn't wish to get between that. 

„My brother will deal with your presence,“ Maglor almost snaps. „It's me he's angry at. Not you. Now get up, who knows how long it is until we get orders to march.“

Erestor doesn't question his new Lord. The dynamics within the group confuse him though Maglor is obviously responsible for his life. So he joins the group of soldiers, he picks a place farther away from the Lords with the intention not to put off the rest of the company, who probably worked hard to gain their position. Best not to agonize them from the beginning by getting too familiar with Lord Maglor.

Everyone gets quiet when Erestor sits down, holding their breath. Erestor takes notices that no one looks as Lord Maedhros, but still waits for some kind of sign of approval.

Yet its Lord Caranthir who moves unexpectedly. He hands him a bowl and a piece of bread, accompanied with a curt nod. It breaks some of the tension and soon Erestor is too occupied with answering the questions of the other soldiers to notice what happens among the Fëanorians.

At least at first. Soon the voices grow loud enough to carry over the camp even though the soldiers practice politeness and pretend not to

 

-

 


If there's anyone stupid enough to ask what he's been doing all morning, Maedhros would answer with breathing. Trying to breath without letting his anger rise to the surface. But the world was growing red before his eyes and sensing Maglor's fëa beneath his skin just makes it worse. It takes hours to realize he's not thinking clearly. That something is off. Maedhros doesn't usually feel like a hungry dragon breathing down on unsuspecting victims, ready to burn them to ashes. No, it's Maglor's presence around him which causes theses violent thoughts. His brother is like a finger prodding at an aching wound right now. 

Maedhros has the urge to leave and one glimpse in Maglor's direction is proof enough that he has to. Soon. 

Every time he closes his eyes he sees Maglor in his mind. The image doesn't leave, not ever and Maedhros resents his constant presence. There's an ongoing need in him to remove Maglor from his mind. Breathing is difficult around. Moving even more. 

Maedhros fears what he will do if Maglor gets too close to him, speaks the wrong word. The hope the anger would vanish after their last conversation evaporated. 

It's no use, he thinks after another two hours of battling the raging fire his anger presents. 

 

 

The grim line around his brother's mouth tells Caranthir that Nelyo finally has enough. His steps are long, determined and calculated as if he had to put thought into every movement behind them. Caranthir knows his brother well enough to see how difficult it is to restrain his anger. 

Saddle my horse, Caranthir hears the command ringing in his head and thinks the Sindarin Name fits far better than those of the past. 

Maitimo is the brother he grew up with. Maedhros is a general of war, a soldier of terror and strength. There are times, when the self of his older brother steps aside and reveals a creature Caranthir is less familiar with. Maedhros isn't Nelyafinwë, heir to the throne and second only to Atar among the Noldor. Gone is the gentle smile, the mischief in his eyes and the caring hands tending to scraped knees. Instead there's a long heavy sword on the broad back, red hair pulled into a short and simply braid while the eyes promise death to every Orc in existence. 

Caranthir knows how his siblings worry about Makalaurë usually. He wonders if they see how much Maedhros is like Atar, just before he drowned in the sea of flames, silver blade flashing like lightening, cutting down Valaraukar with screaming his defiance to Manwë in the sky. 

But he doesn't say anything of this. He makes sure his mind is cloaked as he prepares everything for Maedhros absence. 

 

 

Of course his departure doesn't go unnoticed. Hoping to escape unnoticed is futile but Maglor makes a ruckus by stalking towards him, seething in anger he has no right to feel. Maedhros is glad he's already on his horse, towering above his brother. He may be the tallest elf around, but Makalaurë always has a way of dragging him down to eye level. 

"You're leaving," Maglor accuses him, folding his arms over his chest. 

The tension between Fëanáro's sons hasn't gone unnoticed in the camp. Just as that Canafinwë is the only elf able to stare into Maedhros' eyes with flinching. Though some whisper it's the other way around. The white eyes travel to the horse, disgusted and the animal dares not to move. It fidgets under the blank stare, until the eyes release it from scrutiny. 

"I'm hardly alone with this habit. But unlike some I'll tell you where to find me in the next months," Maedhros sneers down at his brother. Leaning forwards he adds viciously, "In the unlike case you need my advice while running Himring, send word to Barad Eithel." 

There's a beat of silence while everyone holds their breath. 

Maglor just answers quietly, "So you're off fucking Findekáno again. If you manage to track down the Highking in the meantime, I'd appreciate if you remind him of the maps he promised me last winter." 

It's a skill to wrap so many insults into two sentences. Maedhros stomach clenches painfully. It hurts, it actually hurts to get his faults and misgivings slapped into his face like that. He wants to scream at his brother there's no fucking with Findekáno going on, no fumbling between the sheets or innocent kissing. Touching skin is cold these days. 

Maedhros looks at his little brother for a moment and ponders, how he can hurl all the hurt and pain back at him. How he can hit him best after the comment about Findekáno, Nolofinwë and the jab against his abilities as leader. And while still Nelyafinwë balks at the idea, Maedhros knows exactly how to do that. 

He fights down his anger, swallows his emotions until his voice and uncaring, "Until I return you're Lord of Himring, Leader of the Host and the Star of our House. Let's see how long it takes before you abandon your duties in favor of a mad quest."

Maedhros tugs at the reins and turns around to ride away, yet he still sees Maglor's expression before he does. The image his little brother's face doesn't leave him for days. 

The few warrior he takes with him as escort are polite enough not to mention his dark mood. If they spot the occasional expression of doubt they don't mention it. Yet the open space at their Lord's side, where Maglor is supposed to be is glaring obvious. The journey they was planned weeks beforehand and originally involved Lord Maglor coming with them while Prince Tyelkormo manages land and people until their return. Lord Maedhros expressed his intention to keep the journey a secret for now, wishing to present it as a gift to a brother he saw less and less.  

The same warriors sworn to secrecy regarding their Lord's intended gift now hold their tongues as Nelyafinwë murmurs Cáno during his restless periods of sleep. 

 

These silent chances pass one by by mangacrack

The journey is long and unpleasant, beginning with the fast pace Maedhros sets while crossing Himland. Celegorm is nowhere to be seen, he doesn't seek his brother out like he usually does, when he catches a scent of blood like his own. Maedhros pretends it's because the speed of their horses, outrunning even Oromë's great hound. The days after drag on slowly while Doriath watches them in judgmental silence. The line of never ending trees stretch on and on with and the only notable change is that the leaves turn red with time. Spotting Ered Wethrin in the distance, the southern mountains hiding the High King of the Noldor from Melian's view, Maedhros' eyes travel to his right seeking the white peak of Tol Sirion's watchtower. He considers meeting Orodreth in his own home for once, but the warrior can spend his time better than dealing with a distant, hated relative. In his father's halls Oropher is quiet, reserved and not easy to anger. 

Maedhros values him enough, not to bother him. It will spare Orodreth the necessity to explaining Finrod, what Maedhros is doing in these parts of Beleriand. It's rare for him to venture further than Ladros. In Angrod's house he's always welcome and a frequent guest. But it's not a secret either that Finrod doesn't approve of these dealings with the Fëanorians. Since Angrod's and Maedhros' friendship weathered centuries already, they have taken to of simply not informing Finrod.

Spotting Minas Tirith in the distance, is a reminder that he was not among his brothers, who he can always count on in times of need. Maedhros' expression grows grim while he rides forwards. As far as he aware, he has only one ally in the land that's not his. Another reminder of the first dark days he spend in Beleriand. 

 

-

 

Weeks later Maedhros finds himself at the place he hates the most. Lake Mithrim is almost completely hidden in the mist, just like Maedhros remembers it from his first days of freedom. His warriors size the opportunity to rest, mend torn clothes and free their weapons from Orc blood. The journey was a taxing one and crossing the Ered Wethrin a challenge with so few paths in the first place and all well hidden. 

And no Cáno to call out the guards, Maedhros thinks less angry than before.

It's a unalterable fact that Makalaurë surrounds himself with people, is always able to spot them for his ears are sharp and can detect souls from miles away, if he puts his mind to it. 

Here at Lake Mithrim, where the grey mists branded themself forever into his mind as symbol of Maitimo's death, Maedhros can distance himself from the anger. How can he stay mad at his brother, who calmed his troubled mind with his voice after Maedhros woke screaming each time he went to sleep? His wailing carried over the lake every night until his brother came and chased the horror away. Makalaurë's singing made the nightmares look like nothing more but washed out images on torn paper.  

More often than not Maedhros has trouble recollecting much beyond the day, when he found Maglor staring down at his mangled broken self. The white eyes held promise, horror, determination and cold scarring fury. Maedhros hates this part. In a way he was born here, in the days of gathering his strength, learning how to walk, eat and fight. Like a newborn that had to be cared for. 

His brothers taught him their skills, everything he needed to learn after they discovered that Maedhros forgot everything. 

Not everything, he thinks while rubbing the stump where his hand is supposed to be. Nelyo remembers his father's lessons. His father's face. 

But Maedhros isn't Nelyo. Nelyo is a worn out wraith, dressed in rags, eating whatever is granted to him. Maedhros can't fault Nelyo, doesn't condemn him for the fact he begged pleasenofatherbrothersnonoCánohelpnomore ... Maedhros understands, pities Nelyo yet he can't look at him and recognize himself either. 

Taking up a stone, he hurls it into the water. The surface barely ripples, when the stone hits and the mist swallow any sound it makes. Maedhros' frowns. Why can't everything be like Himring? Cold and sharp. Clear and Cutting. Here the edges blur too much and Maedhros is reminded that sometimes Nelyo bleeds through. 

"It is not like you to lose your self-restraint," someone comments and Maedhros turns his head, annoyed that his lack of self-composure has been witnessed.    

"Nolofinwë," he growls darkly before he remembers himself and the fact that his uncle is High King of the Noldor. 

Who cuts any formal meeting short by a wave of his hand, since both of their encourages are out of earshot. They are gathered in a loose half-circle to protect their Lords from outer threats while Maedhros and Fingolfin create history. Those with interest note that few Kings meet more often than these two. They are also the most friendly in regards of politeness towards each other. 

"The guards informed me of your crossing. I admire your skill to conquer my mountains within days, when many others balk at mere thought," the High King says, a greeting devoid of all posturing. 

Both are alone but the political game never does leave them. It can't, when authority grew with them in their cradles. 

Maedhros reads message as it is intended. Fingolfin wishes to know why he's early. 

"The feeling of stone beneath my feet is familiar to me and since I had only to walk and not fight like usual, my arrival is nothing remarkable," he answers and deflects the reprimand that as outsider he should 've asked for guide before traveling over Ered Mithrim. Instead Maedhros adds, "Where is your son?"

At the question emotions flash in the eyes of the King, who crossed the Helcaraxë. Nolofinwë doesn't like to be reminded that he has only one son left, after Turgon stopped staring west and build himself a shiny cave. Well, it rumored to be city, but Maedhros can't imagine Turgon thinking safety measures and proper defenses. Anything larger than a band of Orcs and he runs to hide in a cave. 

Sometimes it worries Maedhros that it was Celegorm of all people, who told stories of their extended family while he recovered. Nelyo would know if Turgon was different once, but Maedhros can hardly go and ask him. 

"In Barad Eithel," comes the short and curt answer after the High King joins him in watching the fog spreading further over the Lake. 

Maedhros translates the response like this: He's the dutiful heir I raised, fulfills my wishes with dictation even though they displease him at times. Though Fingon hides it well, Maedhros has witnessed, how much he hates the High King's fortress. Usually Fingolfin stays there, lives and fights at the place, where Fëanor laid down his life with Angband always in sight. It's Fingon who manages Hithlum, rules and loves the people and answers their worries, while his father kills Morgoth spawns with a ferocity that matches Maedhros' own.               

"Did you lock him into the tower like an unruly child?" Maedhros ask aloud, before he can stop himself. 

He feels vicious today. Perhaps it's the thought that he could never do the same to Cáno, no matter how difficult his brother gets. Confining Makalaurë would just make everything worse. Himring would be devoid of all life within a week, either dead or having fled. Cáno can do this to people, if he sets his mind to it. He's also capable of attracting them like flies, when his voice turns into the sweetest of all honeys. 

"There's been an alarming increase of attacks," Nolofinw ë states, cold as the ice he crossed for this war. "Dragons mostly, they try to fatten their bellies since most of them sleep through the winter and each time they attempt to fly over the peaks, we take them down from both sides."   

"I have seen no dragons of late," Maedhros murmurs. "Not more than usual, little flying lizards at best that are easily taken down by an single arrow."

"Nearly two months ago entire swarms rose into the sky," Nolofinwë glowers, his features torn between worry and hate. "It's almost as if someone opened a cage. We are lucky they show less intelligence than usual. With their wild, animalistic behavior I guess Morgoth lost some of his hold over their minds." 

"That's not necessarily a good thing," Maedhros counters. 

A single dragon is a planned attack, aimed to bother them and to do as much damage as possible. A single dragon is a weapon, forged to perfection.  Many dragons at once on the other hand, tend to spread chaos over the land. By  stealing cattle and burning crops or fighting each other for dominance. That chaos, produced by a mindless beast, an simple animal without true needs and purposes, causes more damage than a servant of Morgoth directing it. 

Fingolfin agrees while eyeing the sword on Maedhros back. "It'll do you good to be prepared. We travel towards Barad Eithel tomorrow morning. Since I just returned from leading most of my people deeper into the hills of Dor-Lómin, it's time to reunite with my son. The journey is safer if we stay together." 

"I'll inform my warriors. We can discuss other topic's in the next days. There'll be enough hours of endless boredom," Maedhros says and walks away.  

Of course Nolofinw ë is glad for his assistance. He'll sleep better at the thought of Maedhros blade reaching far enough to take down any dragons they will encounter. The High King doesn't have much allies inside of his own Kingdom. There are his Lords, yes. But it takes Oropher days to reach Barad Eithel, and his father and his uncle are even further away. 

The High King is a lonely man, who relies too often on his own strength. 

 

 

Fingon waits for father and his former lover as they make their way into the inner yard of the fortress. The towers of Barad Eithel will protect them and guard will shot any dragon from the sky that dares to approach. For now they are safe and Fingon will do everything he can to keep them here as long as possible. He doesn't run immediately run to his father. There are too many people around, warriors are dismounting and arguing with stable boys to make sure their horses are looked after. Healers check the wounded to decide, who might need their aid. It takes time since there's a lot of superficial damage like burns, scratches and dirt covering most of it. 

Maedhros is the first heading towards him. People step aside immediately to give him space. 

As far as Fingon can tell all the blood on his armor is not his own. He wishes the grin spreading over Maedhros' face is a result of their reunion, but Fingon doesn't dare to hope. He saw from the walls how Maedhros killed the last dragon alone, his blade being the only one long enough to reach the unprotected belly of the beast.                

Fingon can't suppress the shiver running down his spine as Maedhros stops just an arm length in front of him. He has to crook his neck to look into his face.  

"Aryonwë*," Maedhros greets him, showing teeth in the attempt to smile, to be nice. 

"Maedhros," Fingon says back, colder than he intends. He doesn't like his mother name, but the last time Maedhros called him Findekáno was as he begged to be killed. Not once that name passed this lips again in the years that have passed since then. 

"Do I guess right, when I say you are still in one piece after the last fight?" Fingon adds and wishes immediately he had chosen a less sharper tongue since Maedhros lowers his arms that he raised to pull him into a hug. 

Yet it's perhaps for the best. 

"I'm not injured," Maedhros hisses.

Fingon concludes that he doesn't want Maedhros to touch him. He's in a bad mood, still excited from the last battle and Fingon the anger behind the eyes makes him more uncomfortable than the dragon blood splattered over his body. 

"Perhaps you would like a bath?" Fingon asks. "You could eat, while the servants prepare the hot water." 

For a moment nothing happens. They look at each other, Maedhros staring down with his eyes hidden under the red bangs of his hair falling into his face and Fingon gazes back, expressionless and polite. A growl escapes Maedhros mouth when Fingon doesn't yield. It pushes all other noises, horses snickering, hoofs hitting stone, warrior boasting and counting their kills. It's a wonder no one mistakes Maedhros for another dragon. 

Fingon says nothing, does nothing as Maedhros shoves him aside to stride into the halls as if he owns them. He uses too much force and Fingon hits the wall behind him. It doesn't really hurt. It's just another reminder how things had changed. While he waits for his father the crown prince of the Noldor thinks back and tells himself Nelyo would never use his superior strength to his advantage.   

"I'm sorry," Fingon whispers to Maedhros, who is too far away to hear him. "But I can't. You aren't Nelyo, Maedhros. I can't love you."

That fact never changed no matter how often they meet. Or how much Maedhros tries. But Fingon couldn't even pretend anymore not to see the differences between Maedhros and the lover he once was. Nelyo had been tall yet lean. Not build like Maedhros is now. Growing muscles ate away what little of Nelyo Fingon rescued from the Thangorodrim. The rest was hidden by his brother. Each one got a piece, leaving nothing for Fingon.   

Unless one counted the fact that Maedhros remembered enough of their time together to be hurt by Fingon's rejection. 

 

End Notes:

*Aryonwë - Heir

 

Filled with the glow of fiery stars by mangacrack
Author's Notes:

The original chapter has been extented a little. I found a plothole (aka Maedhros arriving in Himring without never actually leaving Barad Eithel).

Maedhros spends his days in Barad Eithel either assisting the soldiers killing the never-ending flow of the incoming dragons. Most of them are nothing more than annoying pests. Training the recruits, who look at him with fear until he tells them how Angband is much worse. Otherwise he tries to be alone, to find a peaceful moment for himself, which isn't easy in a fortress build to train all sorts of soldiers.

Right now Maedhros is sitting at a large wooden table, not bothered by anyone, because he's eating. They can't talk to him, when he's busy putting stew in his mouth and cutting meat with one hand is enough to silence their questions. The truly brave souls trying to engage him in a conversation, are deflected by his loyal warriors. Some have gathered around the table as well, showing the Nolofinwë's soldiers that their Lord is never truly alone. Just in case they plan on doing something stupid. While most Elves gathered in Barad Eithel are hardened warriors here, who acknowledge they need every sword they can get in the war against Morgoth, some still seek to destroy him due to his reputation as a Kinslayer. 

Funny how that memories he has no trouble accessing. Of course Nelyafinwë choose to be a bastard in this. He can take the bright images away, father's and mother's smile, his brothers breaking in cheers over some silly joke, but he leaves Maedhros with the dark empty days of Beleriand. Perhaps that's why he hates his other self so much. Nelyafinwë is a thief, who stole Maglor's smile. Maedhros loathes the gap in his mind, the blank black abyss he meets, solid and unbreakable. He would be fine on his own, he knows he doesn't have to remember the past to be himself, but he can also never tell if Maglor speaks the truth. If Maglor's smile is a lie. 

"If your fucking eyes have always been this way," Maedhros mumbles to himself. 

He would continue with his cursing, but Fingon enters the room. Maedhros notices due to the increase of chattering, the occasional greeting from a bold soldier. 

Tense he grips the handle of the kitchen knife tighter. It doesn't make him feel better, even though it's clear Fingon is just crossing the room, taking a shortcut from one destination to another. His cousin and once-time lover doesn't stop to greet him. 

Fingon makes sure to avert his eyes. 

"I still wonder how he came by the name The Valiant. I've never seen him live up to it." A voice hisses the comment next to him. 

Maedhros turns his head and spots his brother glaring at Fingon. The warriors haven't noticed the new company. All of them seem occupied and Maedhros has learned from experience that no one will notice Maglor while Maedhros' talks to empty air. 

"They remember his brave deed of freeing me from the Thangorodrim," Maedhros answers softly and reaches over to put his remaining hand over Maglor's. 

Like always it surprises him that it's actually warm, despite that Cánafinw ë  is thousand miles away, the body somewhere beyond the empty grass plain. Yet it seems not even dark mountains can separate them, if Maglor's powerful mind intends to find him.  Curious how the same person gets worked up on something like jealously. Maedhros knows it's nothing else, the faint trembling in Maglor's body is familiar. 

A few moments pass and Maedhros doesn't have to add anything else, just lets Maglor's snarl until it fades away. Finally they seize each other, both aware that this is not an hallucination nor a dream. Maedhros wants to be angry, still is in some kind of way, but he doesn't have to use hurtful words right now. Maglor feels his emotions through the touching of their hands and Maedhros gets a rare glimpse into Makalaurë's mind, sees how he run off in haste in fear of Caranthir.    

The rescued Elf flashes through Maglor's mind as well. Maedhros doesn't quite understand what he's seeing. It looks like as if Maglor cutting mold out of half-rotten fruit, too hungry too throw away the good parts.              

Cáno looks miserable, when he finally says, "I'm sorry, Maedhros. I realize how it must've looked like to you, but he wasn't as dangerous as you might think." 

Another image burns through Maedhros mind. He recognizes Angband, chains and a familiar sensation of pain. He gets what Maglor tries to say. Whoever the Elf is that Maglor rescued, his brother believed that the abilities Morgoth sometimes awakens in his prisoners were no match for his own. 

Maedhros just shakes his head and carefully wraps his arms around Maglor. 

"He woke memories in you. How you felt when you couldn't help me," he answers and leaves it like that.

It had taken a while to realize it, but in hindsight it's glaring obvious. From what Maedhros has glimpsed the Núlandur managed to preserve some of his soul, despite the rot of Morgoth's power slowly settling in. During his torment Maedhros managed to resist. To withstand, to a certain point, but even that has a price. It's difficult to deduce that Maglor probably acted on his own guilt regarding the time Maedhros' spend in Morgoth care.       

Emotions like that make phrases meaningless, especially when his brother's f ëa burns right next to his own. Maedhros feels almost peaceful again, undisturbed by his nightmares and his memories. Perhaps it's father's fire in Maglor's soul, closer than ever since his own feels unreachable that let's his lips transform into a smile. As long as their are like this, he can forget his anger at Maglor's insane stunts and his lies. His habit of never telling the truth unless he's forced to do so. 

Maedhros resumes eating and finishes his entire meal, before he notices that something his wrong. Their thighs pressed together Maedhros cuts his meat with Maglor's help. He stops, when the fingers nearly slip under the short blade. Looking up Maedhros sees Maglor staring east, past the people in the hall, past the walls of Barad Eithel, beyond the darkened field that is father's grave. For a moment Maedhros sees what Maglor's sees. 

He jolts back into reality and his brother fades away, eyes still and unblinking, and Maedhros is left alone with the knowledge that Himring is surrounded by dragons, larger than anything what Barad Eithel faced in the past weeks. 

 

 

Maglor slowly swims back to awareness. He sees nothing but a wall, far far away. There's a blue spot someone in front of his vision until it's replaces by skin. It takes long time - seconds in truth - that what he sees is a hand. It moves up and down. A face replaces the hand, but Maglor can't focus on anything but the fine red strings before his eyes. 

"I think he's well and truly out of it," the two-face speaks. 

"Great," someone huffs, obviously not happy with Ambarussa's conclusion. 

Maglor feels his chin lifted. His vision is still fuzzy but the wolf in front him is oddly sharp. He's standing upright and wears armor. Maglor wonders why the wolf carries a sword and a bow, if he has claws he can use. Trying to ask doesn't work. Can't the wolf hear him? Maglor tries again. His lips are moving, at least he think he does, yet the sounds hit a wall, bounce off and travel back to him. They hurt his ears. 

The wolf is now talking with the two-face, discussing something, calm and collected. He bellows sharp commands at two-face who obeys. Maglor sees two-face nod and burst into sparks. Two-face goes up in flames and flies out of the window. Maglor follows the sparks, sees them land on two different spots, far away from each other.                                                                           

Sharp pain flashes through him and Maglor stops trying to look at two-face who torn himself apart for some reason. 

Breathing heavily he leans forwards, struggles to control his senses. 

"Makalaurë," he is called, called back into his body and the chair he sits on. 

Maglor studies the person in front of him. He looks familiar even though Maglor can see him only in black-and-white.   

A word pops out of his mouth. 

"Atar?" he asks, guessing the identity. He knows all these weird people around him. He isn't afraid of them, doesn't have to be. 

"Flattering, but no," grey-person says and sits down beside him. "Can you tell me my name?"  

"Curufinwë," Maglor smiles at his brother, remembering who he's looking at.

But that's all energy he can draw on for now. His effort to hug Curufin, ends with him nearly falling out if the chair. Not that Maglor notices. His sense of touch usually returns last, hence Curufin is there to catch him. Knowing the routine, Curufin place Maglor back into the chair as he asks, "Can you tell me who you are?" 

"Maglor," Curufin gets the short, devastating answer and flinches. 

His brother must have seen it, since he stares at him with more awareness in his eyes than before. Carefully Maglor adds, "Cánafinwë." 

And because that still doesn't sound quite right, another word follows. 

"Fëanorian." 

Maglor actually beams and expects Curufinw ë to be be proud of him. But Curufin isn't bursting with cheer, he just wraps his arm around Maglor's shoulders to drag him upright. It takes a while and Maglor is leaning on his little brother heavily by the time they make their way ... somewhere. Walking is slow and an exhausting task. 

"I'll safe my lecture for a moment of more lucidity," Curufin tells Maglor who's gaze has gone empty again. 

There's is awareness in his eyes but there's still more dark grey than white. Curufin hopes the side effects will settle quickly this time and swears to himself he'll keep a better eye on Makalaurë in the future. Usually it isn't this bad where Maglor loses all means to stay attached to reality. Past events have shown that the side effects are inconsistent. 

Curufin's observations fill entire books and he's still not closer to finding an answer. 

 

 

-

 

Unfortunately Maedhros can't just saddle his horse and ride out of the door. Maglor's call for help worries him to a great deal, and while his own warriors would never doubt his questions, Nolofinwë's people are another matter. One reason for this journey was the growing dissent among the Noldor who viewed Maedhros' growing influence as attempt to size the crown. His uncle proposed a visit in order to show a united front. Being seen fighting off dragons helped a lot to ease fears and growing suspicions. Yet exact this situation makes it impossible for Maedhros to head Maglor's call immediately. 

Right now it would seem as if he's abandoning the High King. Fleeing the battle field in order to safe his own skin. 

As much as he wants to rush to Maglor's side, because it has to be bad in order for his little brother to swallow his pride and call out, he has to be patient and wait for an opportunity. 

It comes in form of a dragon, one far bigger and mightier than the ones before. Not even six hours after Maglor made contact with him, they see entire platoons fleeing south. News are a beast has risen from Angband and is currently defiling Ardgalen. Burning the land and everything in it. Maedhros meets with Nolofinwë and Fingon on the battlements. Father and son are arguing behind him, but Maedhros tunes them out. His senses stretch North. In Himring it's easier, but he knows this earth as well. 

Father died here. The air is still thick with his spirit, the echos of his death still sound through the air. Maedhros had been just as glad to resettle to Lothlann as the rest of his siblings. None of them could've lived in the place, where Fëanáro laid down his life. Where the Valarauka surrounded him and had to attack him all at once in order to cut him down. Maedhros loathes the place, but he's connected with it enough in order to get an idea of what's happening further north. 

It helps that fire moves across the grass. Maedhros concentrates and in the next moment he's no longer in Barad Eithel. 

Instead he stares down a drake. Huge, long and terrifying. Like a snake that has risen from the depths of the sea. What Maedhros notices first, is the lack of wings. But the dragon is too heavy for such a feat anyway, because he's larger than most houses. Far longer as well. 

"Nephew?" Nolofinwë calls him back. "What have you seen?" 

Fingon looks angry that the King is asking Maedhros instead of him, but it's a well-guarded secret that the Prince isn't capable of even the most basic forms of oswanë. Let alone advanced techniques as the one Maedhros just used. 

"Trouble," Maedhros says. "This threat must be dealt with. The tales are true. It's just a single dragon, who caused our armies to flee south."

"Then we must drive him back. We cannot allow this beast to go further." Fingon's words are sure and insistent. 

Maedhros watches as his cousin argues successfully that he should lead the archers. Fingon's sudden ferocity is a surprise, Maedhros' can't remember if he has ever seen such hard lines on his face. Usually it's Nolofinwë, who leads the armies and joins the big battles, while his son rules Himlad. Perhaps it's his own presence that drives Fingon to validation. Thanks a light injury Fingolfin received a few days ago, Fingon convinces his father that he'll lead the mounted arches. 

When Fingon storms off to get his armor ready, Maedhros can't help but think that his cousin is trying too hard. 

Nolofinwë takes him aside, shortly before they ride out. 

"You'll take care of him," the King states. It's not a question nor is it an order. 

They both know it's a fact. Neither of them mentions that Maedhros is the better fighter and in the upcoming battle the most likely one to turn the endeavor into a success. 

"Of course, I will," Maedhros answers. "But I hope you don't mind if I send him back with a wounded pride."

His eyes travel over Fingon's form. Despite the armor and the cold expression on his face, the Fëanorian finds Fingon's appearance pleasant to the eye. Yet he can't exactly define the feeling in his gut. Desire perhaps, born from the need to bend Fingon over the nearest surface and fuck his haughty attitude right out of him. But that's not love. That can't be what Fingon remembers sharing with him, while Maedhros has not a single clue. Among his brothers his troubles with his memories is an inconvenience, but they have learned to work around that. Stories and mind-sharing trigger memories. Sometimes Maedhros doesn't even notice the difference.

Yet with Fingon it's different. Fingon is put off every time Maedhros blinks in confusion.

The ride into battle against Glaurung and Maedhros stamps down every single flare of hungry longing, he feels when Fingon gets too close. Past experiences have shown that this reaction is just another attempt to finish their argument. Irritation is what causes Maedhros' growing fantasies, not lust or need.

End Notes:

Trivia: That Fingon fought Glaurung in 260FA is a fact. Maedhros being there as well is my own addition.

We sail into the night of uncertainty by mangacrack


Curufin drags, shoves and carries Maglor through the half castle, determined to let him have some rest. It's not particular easy since Maglor's is tall, lean and heavy enough not to be easily manhandled. In addition to that his brother's has very little control over what his body does whenever his mind slips ... sideways. That's the word he always uses. Curufin can't tell if it's accurate or not, he has never seen his brother's mind open when his like this.

So it takes them ages to get down the stairs, working against each other instead of following the same heartbeat as Curufin is used too. Usually he breathes in sync with Tyelkormo, has the same step as Carnistir but today he and Makalaurë are disjointed.  

The main hall is the biggest hurdle so far. Everyone whose drawn to Maedhros knows of Himring's defenses. Those who's houses has been damaged in some kind of way has gathered here, even a few families made the long way up the mountains to seek refuge behind Himring's strong walls. Thankfully most are busy eating, sleeping or tending to some king of task but enough people pause to look at Curufin who guides Maglor as quickly as possible towards the other door. Maglor's unwashed, blood soaked hair hides most of his face, it's simple to assume he has been injured. Curufin leaves it at that. He doesn't need to explain his brother especially not to their people. He shouldn't have to. 

Hearing them laugh would be the worst but seeing them shy away from Maglor is just as bad. While Curufin doesn't mind commanding the respect of his people, the crowd looks at Maglor with barely disguised fear. Those native to Himring at least offer to help, open the doors for Curufin. Even if the reason is just because it means getting Maglor out of their sight more quickly.

Maedhros is their king, unchallenged by his scars, his injuries or the blood on his hands. Maedhros will command them until the day he dies. 

Do their people fight so much to keep Nelyafinwë, Son of Fëanáro, alive because some have seen who will follow him on the throne?    

"Out of my way," Curufin growls at the people he meets in the hallway. In his eyes they're guilty of treason already in their unwillingness to love Maglor for his sacrifices. 

All obey. As quickly as possible and all make sure not to touch them, not even on accident.

From him they fear cruelty, degradation and insults. From Maglor they expect far worse though they cannot name it. 

-

Curufin refuses to feel relief when he reaches Maglor's chambers. Yes, his brother is heavy but caring for him is not a chore, no matter how unpleasant the task is and that his shoulders relax with the weight no longer upon them. His battle armor is heavier than his brother. Instead he's grateful Maglor has no injuries at least. Curufin doesn't have to spend the night at Maglor's bedside, worrying about fever, blood soaked towels and infections. Yet he is still very careful as he lays Maglor down on the bed, his hand supporting the head until it hits the pillow. And then he can't bring himself to pull it away immediately.

Maglor's gaze is still empty, far away and possibly experiencing horrible most likely. Sometimes, so has his brother confessed once, he's trapped behind a wall, unable to communicate or he walks among his memories and when he wakes up everything is different. His senses, Maglor told him also, are also entirely unreliable when his fëa distances itself from the hröa. Both parts of him perceive the world differently.
At times like these when Maglor lies defenseless as his mind and his body try to settle again, Curufin hates himself the most.

He doesn't have to look down in order to know that his hands are balled to fist, shaking in helpless anger. In everything else they're skillful, tools that create small and bigger things. Only Maglor's mind they cannot examine. 

Fighting against the urge to reach for Maglor with oswanë, Curufin bends his head to let their foreheads touch.

"Wake up soon, Makalaurë. Don't let your mind wander into places where no one can follow you," he whispers in painful memory, remembering how it was the last time. 

But Maglor doesn't answer and Curufin knows better than to let their minds meet right now. He's more likely to get harmed than he'll be able to help. Maglor always tends to handle oswanë like writing a letter. The words simply appeared in one's head sometimes and Curufin has to resist the urge of thinking them as his own. More or less successful, depending on Maglor's mood and subtlety. If they are discussing a topic, working on a solution side by side it's less unsettling. Then it's more like tossing an idea back and forth, toying with it while studying all angles and less like wondering if the opinion you just formed is your or not.  

Now unshakeable mental walls separate them, Curufin lies down next to Maglor on the bed aware of the futility of fighting against them. He'll stay the entire night no matter if he's needed elsewhere. So instead of rejoining the battle, Celegorm's harsh biting commands in absence of Maedhros, Curufin shuffles closer to Maglor, draping himself over him to protect him from intruders in case they should dare to make it this far and dares to enjoy the warmth.

Curufin closes his eyes and for a moment nothing hurts. For a moment Atya is alive and they're sleeping in the garden, resting from the taxing lessons Curufinwë Fëanáro liked to put them through. Highly theoretical debates about light and how to harness and manipulate it.

The fact that he never truly grasped the creation of the Silmarils when father showed it to him, is a greater source of pain than it was back then. Once he marveled at his fathers skills who laughed and said Curufin would figure it out one day. Here in Beleriand, pressed against Maglor's body the memory of his father's certainty turns into despair and mockery in his dreams.   

A knock on the door reminds the world is filled with dragons he can kill and other minor problems he can solve. 

Quick and up in seconds Curufin opens the door. He does his best to look stern, composed and angry at whoever dares to disturb his brother in his private chambers. Yet is appearance is less frightening than usual with his clothing ruffled and his braid dissolving into a mess of knots. 
So Curufin has only his expression to go by when he finds him face-to-face with an black-haired elf. The sharp-cut cheekbones and the strong chin speak of a true Noldor and though he lacks rich clothing or any other sign marking him of higher birth, Curufin cannot dismiss him as servant either. 

In fact he remembers this elf, his name even since he trailed after Maglor in the last weeks like a guard dog, hovering at his side constantly. Less for his own protection but to create distance between the Lord of all Voices and the susceptible minds in Himring. Curufin struggles with the closeness he witnessed between his brother and this elf but there're few who put up with Maglor day in day out for weeks. 

"Lord Curufinwë," Erestor greets him. 

He bows low, properly greeting the Prince in a courtly manner since it's their first personal meeting with each other and Erestor hopes if he treats Lord Curufinwë he'll make out alive at least. 

"Name your intentions," the Fëanorian Lord demands, straightens his back to fill out the door. No one gets past him as long as Maglor isdefenseless. 

Erestor hesitates before answering. "Lord Maglor summoned me." 

Their eyes travel to the figure on the bed, Erestor's worried while Curufin's shine with suspicion. 

"When?" he wishes to know, sharp. "Right now? Did you hear him calling you?" 

Erestor ignores the pained expression that even could pass as jealously and shakes his head. 

"No, Lord Maglor insisted I'm to keep him company in the next few hours. Right before he charged Prince Turcafinwë with the command for the next hours, he gave the order I should spend the night here. In front of his door if I have too," Erestor recounts. 

It had been an odd thing to ask but Erestor hasn't questioned it. Maglor's presence is path he follows in this strange new world ever since he had woken up to it. Since distance between them makes him uncomfortable, causes him to break out in sweat and had his knees shake with fear, Erestor keeps himself by Maglor's side. 

Warriors have commented his behavior right now, informing him that Fëanor's blood doesn't acknowledge the existence of debts the way the Sindar did. That a good deed never has to be repaid in servitude. That Fëanor's blood outright refused that forced loyalty. 

Erestor tried to argue that he isn't slave to the whims of his Lord. That he seeks Maglor's presence because it makes him feel comfortable - that it lets him sleep dreamless at night. Yet he tired quickly of arguing with others and they seem to accept it. So far no one stopped him or assigned him another task to fulfill.    

Unfortunately Lord Curufinwë possessed the will and the authority to send him away. Erestor steels himself for the words. As his brother it's Lord Curufinwë right to override a command, especially due to it's questionable nature. And he isn't a fellow soldier, years in voluntary service, no one who has fight decades in active duty. 

Erestor is a stranger among these people who feels compelled to guard a single person since he needed him to breath, to think. 

To his surprise, Lord Curufinwë stepped aside and let him enter.

End Notes:

I struggled a lot with chapter since 1.) Curufin 2) not Maglor's POV but people's reactions to him instead and 3.) Curufin again. Regarding to him, I can't write him as the asshole with daddy issues. So I pretend he isn't there yet! I can't do the asshole part if I have to but the daddy issues imply that Feanor didn't love Curufin enough. Or didn't pay enough attention to him. Since Feanor is a loving Adar, I guess the daddy issues mainly appear in Nargothrond since Curufin has the feeling he's failing the oath, his father's cause and his pride in general. Let's not forget that Curufin was a refuge who has travelled hundreds of miles, losing families, children and soldiers before reaching safety. Curufin is another person in Nargothrond and really can't blame him? 

But that's just my opinion on Curufin, don't mind me.

When I walk into the promised land by mangacrack

 

Erestor gulps as the door is closed behind him, his wrist tingling under the touch of Lord Curufinwë who draws him inside. After the heavy door slams shut the room is filled with silence while Lord Curufinwë studies him. His dark eyes are intelligent, sharpened by the battles of the last weeks and he follows Erestor's movements, counts each of his breath as if he's afraid Erestor would steal his brother's precious air. Since all he can do is linger while Lord Curufinwë inspects him, Erestor fights the urge not to stare at the motionless Maglor on the bed.

Not that Erestor can see much of him. Slopped on his back, his long limps stretched out and his face covered by the unbound air, Maglor appears fragile. A lifeless empty vessel because the force behind those eyes has fled the body.

"Kinsman," Lord Curufinwë calls out and Erestor turns his head to meet those keen eyes again.

It still takes him a few moments to recognize the word as his name but slowly he's getting used to it. Just like every new face stares unblinking for a moment after they learn his name. Erestor is convinced Maglor's choice in naming him thusly was deliberate and anticipated the uncomfortable reaction of calling a stranger kinsman.

Yet it distractes from the gaps in his memory, so Erestor is grateful.

"Yes?" he answers, honestly interested.

Lord Curufinwë has his arms crossed over his chest, yet able to create an atmosphere that isn't completely hostile towards Erestor. The use of his name was deliberate and Lord Curufinwë rarely bothers with false pleasantries. In the discussions about battle strategies Erestor witnessed him to be straightforward and honest, less interested in idiotic time wasting discussions.

"My brother is called Lord of all Voices by many and since I've seen you to spend a lot of time with him, I gather you've also take note of that the land and its people holds their breath when he speaks."

In respect for the figure on the bed, Erestor only nods instead of uttering a meaningless sound of agreement.

Lord Curufinwë continues. "He kills their worries, their fears and buries them deep as soon as they're dead - even their hope if he thinks anger is a better motivation. Can you tell me why my brother is craved but not loved?"

The answer is laughable easy though Erestor doesn't know it shouldn't be. But he shrugs, aware yet confused by the effect Maglor has on Elves in general.

"He's larger than their idea of morality and it frightens them," Erestor answers. He adds some of his observations, on good guesswork that Lord Curufinwë will appreciate them. "Unlike him there weren't raised to embody authority. Nelyafinwë is their denied and outlawed King. From him they expect a certain amount of peace and prosperity in return for their loyalty."

"And the rest of us?" Lord Curufinwë asks, grinning dangerously and baits Erestor to give the wrong answer.

"You forge the swords and Maglor gets them bloody," Erestor states and Lord Curufinwë's seductive smirk freezes in his face.

Somewhere in the dark dead recesses of his mind Erestor wonders why he isn't more afraid. Lord Curufinwë is known for many things but kindness is usually not among it.

But Lord Curufinwë says nothing, doesn't get angry. He just nods and admits defeat.

"Well, I can hardly reprimand you for speaking the truth, soldier." Lord Curufinwë settles for a shrug.

There's a quiet moment between them and Curufin intends to study Erestor, look at his face and search for clues why he seems familiar but Maglor interrupts them. It's really just a groan but both elves turn around, their attention fixed upon Maglor and it's impossible to tell who was at his bedside first. Curufin drops to his knees to be on his brother's eye level.

Erestor remains a step behind, seeing it was only polite since he wasn't family.

"Curufin," Maglor mumbles, actually addressing him in Sindarin.

Usually Maglor avoids using the translations but Curufin guessed his brother needs  a reminder which year he woke up to.

Interlacing their fingers, Curufin says, "You had us worried, Makalaurë. It took you longer than usual to return."

"Maedhros is in Barad Eithel," Maglor explains, not realizing Curufin might not understand what he's trying to say.

Instead he skipped to the important part.

"Did you reach him?" Curufin needed to know and hoped for once Maglor would give him a clear answer.

The thought of Maedhros so far away from them never sits well with him. It's an ugly feeling in his stomach, the thought of Nelyo gone and not there to protect them. Not even Tyelkormo mocked him for wearing armor far more often than usual. But in the past weeks Tyelko had occupied with fighting off dragons, shooting them from the sky while bellowing orders to soldiers.

Maedhros didn't know but without him the hunter of their family turned into a different person. Usually it's easy to forget Turcafinwë is Fëanáro's third born son, the second child to be instructed in the ways of leadership like Nelyafinwë was. Curufin hadn't been born yet but even later if became clear that you couldn't always depend on Canafinwë, no matter how good he was if he actually tried. 

But Curufin had watched Makalaurë's suffering after Nelyo's imprisonment. His brother had nearly destroyed himself to keep his mind from straying, to be the King his father's people demanded him to be. 

"He's coming," Maglor mumbles. 

There's no doubt in his words despite the fact he hadn't actually asked Maedhros to return to Himring. He never has to because Maedhros knows. And no one in his family will question the truth regardless how unreliable they think he is. 

In the end he tells Curufin, "Join the battle. You're needed. Maedhros takes the short way and Angrod will provide him with fresh horses."

"Our brother will be earlier than we expect." Curufin concluded, nodding as his mind started to work the news into the battle plans. 

They had decided the matter with the dragons had to be settled as swift as possible before they dispersed and bothered the populace for years to come. Dragon's were easier to kill if they came in groups. One dragon means his body is too large to leave room for others. 

Throwing a glance at Erestor, Curufin asks, "Is this why you summoned your guard?"

Maglor wrinkles his nose in displeasure and buries his head in the pillow, hiding from the world and the screeching dragons. He does manage to tune them out, their twisted ever hungry minds steadily going silent even though Maglor knows they're still there. But with a little bit effort their snarling voices no longer sound through his head. Only Curufin and Erestor are left now, still talking to each other.  He can't make out the words but Curufin's harsh tongue tells Maglor enough. His little brother is giving instructions to a Noldor he barely knows or trusts, not aware they learned their letters together. For a long time they thought they would be the last additions to the Royal Finw ion Family before Ambarussa surprised everyone.

The memory that Curufin and Argon were thick as thieves during early childhood and  counted themselves as friends even later on, makes Maglor uncomfortable. He wishes he could ignore the past and simply pretend that Erestor is just an elf without memory he rescued.

Yet he feels the muted tendrils that once held Arakáno together, broken verses of a unraveled f ëa trying to recreate the song of Arakáno's former self.  Feeding Ambarussa the lie that there's no  possibility that  Erestor would ever remember was easy. Realizing Erestor will be forever a victim of his meddling is not. 

Sudden silence forces Maglor to lift his pillow. A world without sound is unnatural and right now there's little to hear in this room. Only one heartbeat other than his own right now which means  Curufin is gone. Glancing around confirms it.

"Lord, do you wish something to eat? Lord Curufinw ë says mind travel exhausts you," Erestor asks, eyes honest and shining with worry. Still the elf tries to be overbearing, instinctively knowing Maglor knows his condition better than he does. 

"No, thanks. Just keep me company," Maglor responds and gestures for Erestor to come closer. 

Since he struggles to sit up on his own without feeling nauseous, Erestor grabs his arm as Maglor threatens to topple over again. A hand runs over his back, gives warmth and comfort and for a moment Maglor and Erestor sit quietly side by side. Words aren't necessary since the dragons outside and the sound of the restarting battle is enough to fill the silence. 

"Should I get some water at least?" Erestor offers. 

Maglor nods and stifles the urge to apologize, because when Erestor gets up he's too distracted to notice the invasion of his mind. Maglor's movements are too subtle, mute and thoughtful to arise suspicion. It helps that Maglor knows the ruins of Erestor's mindscape already, large parts he destroyed himself to unearth Morgoth chains. Guilt dulls the white eyes to greyness as Maglor poisons the ground where Arakáno is put to rest. No flowers will grow on the graveside of Fingolfin's son and Maglor will make sure the seeds of the corpse he laid to rest won't ever reach Erestor's garden. 

"Lord Maglor, are you well?" He hears Erestor asking but Maglor doesn't meet his eyes and refuses to act. 

The thick black hair falls over his eyes to hide the questioning gaze towards his hands. His father was a great craftsman who took pride in the usefulness of his work, detesting nothing more than trinkets and ornaments. Sometimes Fëanor called him the twin of his mind and revelled in Maglor's sharp observations. Right now the second son wondered what his father would say to his deliberate acts against the value of family, causing it to crumble after a brush of his corrupted soul against the vulnerable joints.  

"I'm a Noldor," Maglor mumbled to himself, not caring of Erestor could hear him. He needed to speak the words, utter them to world and free them from the confinements of his mind. "I'm the voice of a dying kingdom." 

End Notes:

I hope you like the detour into Maglor's headspace. There's other stuff going on but I try to define his mind in other words other than 'insane'. That word isn't truly covering what's going on in Maglor's head.

But I've good news as well! I've recovered my Silmarillion Book in one of the many, many boxes I unpacked while I was busy. Which means I can reread it, especially the Luthien-Beren Part and than move on and figure out the thing with Celegorm.

The powers called the stars to dance by mangacrack
Author's Notes:

Dôlraw - mountain lion
Turkelvar - Lord of all Animals

Celegorm commanded his forces to halt. His short whistle sounds through the mountains and his archers hide in the canopy and between the ledges, gone in a heartbeat and silently waiting for the dragons to return. Since Himring had been carved from the mountain sides and been build across a lot of chasms, the heart of the fortress is difficult to access and unreachable for most creatures. 

There's only one way left for the dragons, they've to fly into the gaps in order to reach even the outer rim of the fortress and Celegorm has his arches well trained. Every attempt breach the line ends with a dead dragon. Corpses flaster the ground and rocks beneath them, arrows buried in their eyes, bellies and vulnerable necks depending on which spot they exposed on their approach. 

Celegorm breathes through his nose, making no sound as he smells fire in the distance. They've reduced the number of dragons and only the intelligent ones are left by now. Yet even those pose no actual threat. The truly terrifying already gave up and returned, flying north as they realized that Himring's stones wouldn't falter today. 

That's a victory and negligence only could tarnish it. 

A rustle below him makes Celegorm look down. He finds two of his warriors several feet beneath him, carving up a dead dragon. They don't have the time and the strength to pull the corpses into the storages yet they can't effort to waste meat. Besides they know his orders on killing animals. As long as the meat is edible as the flesh of some foul creates of Angband tends not to be, it'll fill their stomaches. It's up the cooks to make it look pleasant because he doesn't makes differences when it comes to food. He'll hoard it in the armory if he has to, no matter what Maedhros say when he returns. The sheer number of dragons they killed in the last weeks will make it difficult, the clean up is going to take months but no son of F ëanor will waste valuable resources.

And dragon skin is rare to find, Celegorm shot down more gold in the last three days than the dwarves of the Blue Mountains could dig up in a year. He doesn't have to be good with numbers to know the fortune they can make of this. Even if Curufinw ë forges all soldiers a new armour, made from bone and dragon skin there's still enough of those creatures left to trade with the dwarves. 

"Lord Hound," a voice whispers to him. "Riders approach."

Celegorm looks around. No one of his soldiers has spoken. Then he spots a bird perching in a tree just a few arm lengths away.

"Thanks," he chirps back.

The sound is so low down his throat the elven warriors next to him don't even lift their head. Good enough for him. Speaking with animals is easier, though the conversations tend to be short or touch strange subjects. Before he can say more, offer the bird something for his kindness it flutters away. Celegorm knows he will never see it again unless he shoots it from the sky.    

"Dôlraw," Celegorm calls out in his nearly human voice. The timber is still too deep, just a vibration in his chest but he's heard. 

A rustle several feet below him is the answer. The elf he called doesn't come out, doesn't approach his Lord. He just stays unseen and waits his orders. 

"We expect riders," Celegorm relays the message. "Let me know if they come on horse or wargs." 

"Of course, Turkelvar," the elf answers under his breath. 

Celegorm tends to forget how young warriors can be. This one just joined him a few seasons ago and Celegorm hasn't beaten it out of him yet not to use such honorifics where his Lord can hear him. As Prince of the Noldor he's used to protocol and titles, loyalty. Outright worship still doesn't sit well in his stomach. But he won't scold the boy today. Dôlraw makes his way down the mountain wall swiftly. He's barely seen, not even a third of his trained and seasoned warriors detect him. 

And it's been a long week out here. So Celegorm swallows the urge to growl at Dôlraw. If he wanted the boy could feel his Lord's anger trembling in his chest, just from one angry howl sounding through the mountains. For the good of everyone Celegorm forgets for a moment that the hunters and the grey-elves alike speak of him with reverence. Word spread quickly of his abilities though the civilised thought them exaggerated.

Those responsible to feed their kins empty stomaches knew better.

As long as they don't invoke my name on the dinner table , Celegorm muses quietly, pretending that it wasn't already the case. Thankfully he could chalk it up the rumors spread among the tribes how none of Lord Tyelkormo's people have ever starved no matter how hard and difficult the winter was.   

Celegorm's snarl could've been mistaken for a smile if not for the sharp fangs it produces speak of a hidden truth. No, no one of his people ever died of starvation. Yet not all lived through the winters either. Untroubled by the cruelty of nature Celegorm falls silent and waits for a sign from below, weapons ready. If his nails are slightly sharper than a few moments ago the warrior next to him doesn't comment on it. 

 

-

 


Dôlraw creeps forward, carefully jumping through the trees. The way down had been easy enough though a little frightening if he counts the distance he covered. But Turkelvar had asked him of all people and the young warrior saw the chance to prove himself. Yet actually discovering the riders his Lord had mentioned is more difficult than expected. What he identified as large moving group from above is harder to clarify the closer the gets to the ground. Dôlraw wonders if he missed a turn, if he's searching the wrong area and fears the shame of going back empty handed. 

Orc's would make more noise, Dôlraw knows from experience. Though he doesn't know if Himring baits different enemies. Orc's were capable of  stealth and ambush yet even Dôlraw thinks that's a futile attempt. Himring is stronger than anything he has ever seen before in his life. More like a city instead of a fortress as everyone always said. 

If one looks from the right angle, if one stands at the feet of the mountain and crooks his neck to stare up, Himring's battlements shape a crown. 

A noise beneath his feet makes Dôlraw freeze.

His head snaps down, dagger drawn from the sheath in a slit second but the moment Dôlraw's eyes connect with those of  the creature below him, he's lost. He falls into the bottomless pit of yellow burning fire, spreading and burning everything. Eyes wide in horror Dôlraw still can't look away, the fiery abyss is to close. A wrong step he'll fall and burn and ... 

"Boy," the creatures hisses. Dôlraw blinks and below him the features form into a face. 

A normal one, elvish. Calm, waiting with arms crossed over his chest and foot tapping on the ground. Dôlraw needs another minute to take in the armor, the long blade on the back of the elf and the red hair. 

"Lord Himring," Dôlraw finally speaks, wonder and awe coloring his voice. 

He actually doesn't know his proper name. Doesn't know which one he's allowed to use. In his home his mother calls him awful things sometimes. Dragon most often but that seems a bit impolite given the occasion. Though Dôlraw is sure his mother never speaks out of disrespect. More like fear. Reverence perhaps also though that is reserved for Turkelvar, their god who provides for them. 

Dôlraw knows the King of Himring is Turkelvar's brother so he must be a god as well. Swallowing Dôlraw puts his dagger away carefully. It's offensive to draw a weapon in front of a power like this. Around the fires the King of Himring's name is spoken together with the Balan, tales about them and the Lords in the West fill entire nights. 

"Excuse my behavior, Lord Himring," Dôlraw apologizes as he jumps down from his tree. His heart still hammers against his chest to have aran so close.

Thankfully the fire god is benevolent as he just makes a dismissive gesture.

"No harm done," he answers, actually answers.

Turkelvar growls more often then he speaks so Dôlraw is surprised for a moment. Though he doesn't know what to do with the amusement in the fire gods voice.  Most likely he laughs at Dôlraw's apology. Rightfully, the avari boy thinks after a moment. As if a mountain boy like him could even harm Himring's King with his dagger. 

The terrible eyes that had shown him the fiery pit earlier are focused on him still. The god tilts his head to the side, questioning Dôlraw's worthiness of standing in his presence and raises an eyebrow after a while. 

King Himring waits for an answer and Dôlraw almost talks so fast he's babbling. He has never learned to speak to a presence like this. 

"Your honored brother Turkelvar sensed riders in the domion, Lord Himring," Dôlraw says. "I was send to scout ahead."

There's no comment on his performance. King Himring just nods, mighty and benevolent. He glances around, upwards mostly. Dôlraw knows Turkelvar's forces are hidden there, too well to be seen but King Himring narrows his eyes on occasion. There's no doubt he can see every single one of the warrior that are guarding his throne. 

Dôlraw wonders if he knows their names as well and if he will honor the souls that have fallen in defence of his city. 

"Go back to your post," he orders and Dôlraw realizes he actually has to climb all the way up again. But up is often easier than going down. Besides he knows the way now and the mountains are rough. Edges to hold on to are everywhere and easy to find.

"I shall speak with my brother in the meanwhile," King Himring murmurs under his breath. 

"Is there a message you wish me to relay, Lord?" Dôlraw asks carefully, tries to be helpful. Though he can't imagine that there's something King Himring cannot do himself. 

The fire god shakes is burning hair. It's magnificent though tamed by a braid and all the dirt from travel can't diminish its beauty. Or perhaps the firegod chose this form for Dôlraw to appear less frightening. Rumors are all seven brothers can change their shapes and Dôlraw has seen evidence of one case already. It had been an honour, a blessing he'll never forget. 

Turkelvar has chosen in personally, came one night to his parents after he had seen in Dôlraw's soul and judged it. 

"Your help is not necessary," the fire god says. "I'll call him down to me."

It's a dismiss. Dôlraw recognizes it as such and starts climbing again. He wonders if he'll see the fire god again. Will ever speak with him again. Yet he shouldn't be ungrateful. Meeting two of the seven stars is more than the rest of his tribe will ever receive as gift.

Dôlraw climbs into the fog hanging between the mountain peaks and disappears from sight.

 

-

 


Maedhros waits until the Avar child is entirely out of earshot. He has nothing against their distant kin, get rather well along with the tribes roaming the land in the south but he never claims to understand their traditions. The Avar was young yet well trained. The reason perhaps Celegorm recruited him for his forces.  But some of his brother have always gotten along better with the Avari than others, Celegorm and Ambarussa most of all. Maedhros is content to let them handle such diplomatic relations. He sticks to his closer kin and is fine with it. Thankfully Orc's have no need for conversations at all. 

"Conversations," Maedhros sighs quietly, "are nothing but a hassle."

It hadn't been easy telling the High King he had to leave though Fingolfin understood his need to be with his people in such times. Fingon had protested, argued they couldn't effort sending Maedhros away now when Barad Eithel was surrounded by dragons. In another time Maedhros would've been flattered, seen it as Fingon's way to keep him close and safe but this wasn't his gentle cousin speaking to him.

Just heir to the crown who balked at the prospect of riding to battle himself.   

The distaste in Maedhros eyes after facing such cowardice had caused even Fingon to flinch.

They had parted without a proper goodbye. There is little left what they could tell each other. 

Inhaling, pushing the unpleasant thoughts of the last months away, Maedhros concentrates. Closing his eyes he can hear the animals whispering to each other, a mountain lion stalking his prey, mice hurrying through the grass, birds singing in their nests and among them is  another sound. 

A deep heartbeat from a sleeping beast, calm and oblivious to the world since there is nothing that could harm it. 

Huan, Maedhros calls. 

The echo faded through the mountains. The wind stopped shaking the leaves from the trees, bugs and little animals vanish beneath the earth to safety and the predators devouring the dragon corpses left alone by the elves halt in their movements, sharping their senses if the the sound is challenge is directed at them or if some comes to steal their kill. 

A growl is the response, deep and vibrating in everyone's chest as Huan awakens. The Mountain quivers, animals flee and Dôlraw freezes on his way up, daring to look around what causes the alarm. His breathing stops for a moment as a shadow jumps from a cliff, shape dark but unrecognizable not even climbing, rather falling and flying down, using a ledge as landing platform on occasion to slow down. 

A few heartbeats later a great black hound disappears between the trees. 

 

-

 

Dogs cannot grin but Huan does as he touches the ground. The landing his silent despite the weight. Not even an elf standing right next to him could've heard his paws connecting with the ground. Not a single leaf rustles as Huan jogs towards his caller, tail wagging. His nose twitches as he catches the scent, rich and smelling like fire like always. 

Redfur-Onehand was here. Huan's nose doesn't even have to touch the ground to follow the trail. Moving through the forest his easy, despite his height makes taking the direct path difficult sometimes

Huan bursts into the clearing and a crosses the remaining distance between him and brother with a few big jumps. 

"Uff, Huan," Maedhros groans as Huan greets him, tail wagging heavily. 

But he doesn't move the get the large dog off his chest who's pushing two of his paws into it, minding the claws while standing on two legs as best as he can. Scratching Huan behind the ears, Maedhros takes is time despite the fact the rest of his company is annoyed by the delay. 

"I'm back," Maedhros whispers and hides his grin in Huan's fur. 

Underneath the surface Celegorm grins back. Huan rubs his muzzle against Maedhros chest before he lets go and his paws connect with the ground again.  Since he isn't a dog, he doesn't go and greet the other soldiers. A few are unsettled by the large hound and keep their horses away. Only Maedhros' beast huffs a greeting. It eyes Huan for a moment but they know each other, tolerating the company because they have to. 

Himring still stands, Celegorm manages to send. Forming sentences in these form isn't easy and remembering names is even harder. He adds, Lot of dragons. Easy prey. All dead. 

As I expected, Maedhros answers. The House? 

House means family for Huan and after all the years the brother's know how to translate around the images.

Healthy, Celegorm answers. Two-face has a bloody muzzle. 

Maedhros wonders for a moment but he decides that it probably means that Ambarussa has killed a lot rather than the twins are hurt. But that's not actually the answer he longed for. It's Celegorm he senses on the battlements. It's Celegorm who has command right now. 

Voice? Maedhros questions carefully. 

Sleeps, Huan growls and Maedhros senses Celegorm's voice. 

Though it lessens Maedhros worries that Huan responded to Maglor's usual name. Depending on his mood and his condition there 're a few less friendly ones which makes Celegorm a good pick to when it comes to handling Maglor's sicknesses when they befall him, as rare as they are. 

Gather the House, Maedhros commands. I want the blood in Himring upon my return. 

Huan doesn't nod, doesn't answer. He just turns left and vanishes among the trees, probably returning to wherever he came from. If the soldiers wonder about the short encounter they hold their silence and ride on. Since the dead dragon's begin to pile the closer they get to Himring, the have other worries in their mind and keep watching the sky. 

End Notes:

I wanted a fight scene but no dragon volunteered. Some other time I guess.

Which means I can talk about Dôlraw. He comes from my conversations with Encairion how Feanorian followers probably worshiped Feanor as their god. Since Dôlraw is a rather young, uneducated Avari - great at hunting and such, but names? History? Other than the ones spoken around the campfire? Nope - he gets a lot of things wrong. Hence the King Himring, he simply doesn't know how to address people (let alone the many Kings running around). Even if he did, invoking the names of the gods is forgidden or reserved for speacial occasions. . So ... I wanted to put the Noldor and their powers in perspective. They're taller and stronger just by having lived in Valinor, they better educated as well in certain arts and need longer to reach maturity. For a boy like Dôlraw the Feanorians are similar to (pagan) gods. Spirits that walk the lands especially since they have powers that sets them apart.

So in Valinor you have one god who is Eru and that's it. Or you have Manwe and the other Valar, depending on your world view. In Beleriand you have ... a Feanorian pantheon. Not completely unlikely in this fic since no one is running around building schools and giving everyone a detailed amount of history. In Fingolfin's land its different perhaps since the majority is Noldor there but further east there are the Feanorians and lots of Nandor / Avari making up their own opinion.

Side News: I'm definitly writing the Luthien & Huan story. It's going to be a fic on it's own, I'll let you know when I've more.

P.S. If this were a slash story I would write more about Celegorm and Dôlraw. Young innocent boy worshipping his god. I still might, in a separate fic. It's just tempting...

feverish eyes threaten to unbalance my mind by mangacrack

 

The weather is cold and grey, clouds flying deep and keep the land in a fog. Though most of it will clear in the next hours, Ambarussa judges while he stands guard on a hill surveying the tents beneath him. Sounds of horses, dogs and elves slowly waking up reach his ears and he fights the urge to tell them all that they should keep quiet. Further south he doesn't care, in the grass lands surrounding Amon Ereb it's summer for most of the year. 

But this is Maglor's home and not as quiet as it should be. Any sound that rings through the air is an offensive disturbance, barely tolerated by the natives. They won't say anything, especially not in their Lords absence yet Ambarussa has seen the judgmental glances of Makalaurë's guards. For them the lowlands at Himring's feet are filled with too much people already. Despite that they were thankful for the help against the dragons and the extra eyes spotting Orc's trying to use the opportunity to sneak through the gap that Maglor is known for guarding. 

Successful so far. Ambarussa intents that it stays this way. He knows for himself that every Orc escapes here will bother his people later. And letting his brother down when he entrusted him his land, the most dangerous spot in the east, isn't an option. Not for Ambarussa. 

A shadow slides next to him and a glance to his right shows Ambarussa his first guess had been right. 

"Chieftess Taweth," he greets the uncrowned Queen of the Nandor with a nod but averts his gaze quickly after. His eyes travel north instead, waiting for another sign. "I hope your night has been restful?" 

"I cannot complain," the woman answers and ties her daggers to her belt. She takes up position an arm length next to him, back straight and hands clasped behind her back.  "I'm here to relieve you of your duty. Someone needs to watch the camp while Fëanáro's Clan meets in Himring." 

"You've my gratitude," Ambarussa answers, as polite as dares to be without slipping into court language. 

Taweth is the grandchild of Lenwë, the last one and a proud woman who doesn't appreciate the feeling of being mocked. After her father and her brother perished in the battle that felled Denethor as well, she became chieftess. Ambarussa isn't sure why but the Nandor never crowned a King again. But Taweth is the leader of a large tribe, her claim a true one and Ambarussa is grateful for her influence among the Nandor. It was her permission he needed to build Amon Ereb in South. Now it's the home of the twin sons of Fëanor. 

Well, home is a word with too much power in its suggestion. Stronghold and temporary residence fits far better no matter that Amon Ereb looks like Formenos in a summer field.

"I don't mind," Taweth answer, her head turning North. "My tribe lives in safety most of the year. But I came to see for myself what the black foe does to our lands and how much our kin fights to keep him at bay. We owe you this." 

"We're allies. I appreciate your help nonetheless. There enough others who are blind to Morgoth work," Ambarussa says and leaves it at that. It's always been easy with her, at least in this form. Atyarussa and Minyarussa confused her as they did with most people. 

"Has Chieftain Maedhros decided how long needs your and your brother's presence?" Taweth asks.

Though Ambarussa wonders why. Is the question a concern of security for her people she brought along with her for this fight? A curiosity to visit Himring herself perhaps? Or simple conversation? Ambarussa found her face unreadable.

"Our brother hasn't laid down an exact number of days," he answers instead. "No doubt he'll use the opportunity to keep us by his side for some time. The family doesn't come together very often."

Not anymore. One or two brothers visiting each other has become the habit. But a gathering of all seven is not that common. Maedhros argues it's a security risks. Yet Ambarussa remembers that the task of bringing the brothers together has always been under father's authority. Or Canafinwë's. But now one is dead and the other is lost and lifeless. 

Before he disappears Ambarussa bows before Taweth. A last greeting in politeness since her standing as unwed chieftess isn't always easy. 

"I can't promise my return before you and your people leave," Ambarussa says. "I'm aware you wish to return to your homelands before spring rises and since the greatest threat has been removed, I thank you for assistance and give you leave to depart whenever you desire. Of course you answer to no one yet if would inform Lagorphen before your departure he would be grateful." 

Taweth gives a curt nod. "He is the silent warrior with the intelligent eyes." 

"Correct," Ambarussa says. "He's in command as long as Maglor is away." 

He ends the conversation after that, swiftly walking down the hill to mingle between the tents and people slowly waking up and greeting the new day. It's pleasant to see how Taweth tribe have mingled with his own. Even some of Maglor's people have stopped keeping to themselves as they usually do. Not that Ambarussa can fault them. The grasslands behind the mountains are always dangerous, the gap being an all year invitation for Orc's and other nasty creatures to use. In the past weeks the hills almost felt crowded. Ambarussa has no doubt that Cáno felt more comfortable in cold Himring than down here. It doesn't take a lot to imagine the irritation of his face at the prospect of so many elves crawling over his lands, Ambarussa snickers to himself. For himself it's a pleasure, a testimonial of his independence.

Of course all the brothers try to shove him further south, protecting the youngest. Ambarussa doesn't protest outright. It would be foolish to argue with Nelyo. Instead he sneaks up North whenever it pleases him. He isn't banned from visiting Carnistir or Cáno. 

Especially the latter welcomes his company. At least he's always a margin happier than before when Ambarussa visits, so he takes that a win. Besides it's always better to be able to dictate the terms of the visit yourself. Getting a visit from Cáno is seldom a good thing. 

 

-

 

Ambarussa shoots glares at his brother and wonders if Cáno is doing this on purpose. 

"What are you doing here?" he growls and crossed his arms over his chest. 

Makalaurë is an almost transparent figure sitting cross-legged on the only sturdy table in the entire camp, grinning wide. He waves at his little brother, cheerful - like he could fool Ambarussa that he isn't mad like hell under all of that.

"Can't I visit my favourite little brother?" Makalaurë shoots back, raising an eyebrow.

Still smiling. Huh, hell. Ambarussa nearly says that Curufin is the favourite of his, in terms of younger brothers. Title of favourite brother of all times goes to Neylo. Ambarussa doesn't mind that ranking. Being Cáno's favourite means he hides his concerns from you because he thinks it's better this way.

So he takes a deep breath, walks into the tent and shuts the entrance behind him so one will interrupt them. Makalaurë is just a distorted image, white mist pulled together that carries a picture and a voice. While he can appear solid it's always taxing for him, screwing with other people's senses like this, especially if they aren't supposed to notice Cáno's meddling. 

"I'm literally on my way to Himring. Just a few more days and you can bother me in person," he says, collecting his stuff for emphasis. 

He makes two piles. Cost a bit more when he has just two hands instead of four but talking to Cáno is easier as Ambarussa. Atyarussa and Minyarussa mean well but his other half's freak Makalaurë out in this form. He once said he doesn't like what he sees when they're apart. Ambarussa guesses it's more like that Cáno just wishes to deal with as few people as possible. 

"Himring is full of people. It gets a bit crowded," Makalaurë answers. 

Makes Ambarussa which crowd bothers him more. Real people around him or the mob of souls in his head. Cáno never deals well with the voices he hears after a battle. Faint echo's of the once living are difficult to ignore if they tune out the living. There's a reason why it's better to saddle Cáno with strategy and intelligence. He's not much use for clean-up hence his reputation to leave dead bodies everywhere he goes - Cáno doesn't deal with corpses in emergencies only.

"Is that all what you wanted to tell me?" Ambarussa asks.

It can't be everything. Cáno doesn't just stop by in person out of a whim no matter how insignificant the reason seems for outsiders.  

"Nelyo is back," Makalaurë's voice drops into a whisper, trying to hide the pain in it. 

Ambarussa bites back a curse. Of course. Fucking Nelyo again. Sometimes he wonders who he should be angry with. Right now he resents Nelyo more than Cáno though Nelyo hasn't done anything for Ambarussa to justify his anger either.

"Perfect. Go and talk to him," Ambarussa says. Orders, in a voice what he hopes resembles their parents. 

They were always good at coaxing Cáno into doing things he doesn't want to do. 

"We parted in anger," Makalaurë argues as if it's relevant. As he expects Nelyo to be angry.  

Ambarussa stops in his task and walks up to Makalaurë who's chewing on his lip, thoughtful. Probably trying to picture what he should say to Maedhros when he sees him. Or he makes plans on how to avoid him. It's not always easy to tell. But since Ambarussa knows Makalaurë better than he most he knows the desire to make up with his older brother will win out in the end. 

Makalaurë can't stand the thought of Nelyo hating him. The reason why he doesn't confide in him like he once did and rather brothers Ambarussa with dirty tactic's. 

"Look," Ambarussa sighs and resists the urge to reach out the empty air in front of him. "He crossed half Beleriand in matter of weeks just because you called him. Whatever anger he felt it's gone. Right now he's just worried just like back then." 

"I know," Cáno mumbles and Ambarussa wonders once again what his fucking problem is. 

There's a easy solution at hand and yet Cáno takes the hard way. The detour through the dark parts of his heart. In this case Ambarussa is aware that involves Arakáno somehow. He hasn't mentioned their lost family member again after Carnistir told him that Cáno didn't just rescue him. Apparently their cousin was a servant of Morgoth and now he doesn't remember anything anymore. 

Good, as far as Ambarussa is concerned. Losing him the first time around was difficult enough. Between father's death, Nelyo's capture and Nolofinwë's arrival Ambarussa barely had the time to mourn for his best friend. Or feel guilty about the manner of his death. So perhaps he'll never get his cousin back. But it can't hurt to check out if Erestor is a worthy friend. 

As soon as Ambarussa can hug Cáno in person, he'll apologize. It's not fair that his older brother is always the one to choose between misfortunes. 

The silence between them drags by, Ambarussa occupied and Maglor content to have company until everything is assembled for the journey. Even the horses are ready by now and there's no point in dragging it out. 

Turning towards his brother, Ambarussa ask, "Do you want to watch? If not you should leave now." 

Maglor shakes his head. "I don't mind." 

He waves his hand, gestures for Ambarussa to go on. His little brother nods and checks the entrance one last time. People already wonder why there's often just one twin around, not two. Rumors say one died at Losgar but Ambarussa always snickers at that.  

(Maglor agrees. The thought of father allowing the youngest even near the burning ships is hilarious.)  

His thoughts get interrupted by the flare. At first Ambarussa is just glowing faintly, revealing the true nature of his unnatural body before he catches fire and dissolves into sparks. Maglor is glad he isn't here in person, that his body is sound asleep. The sparks are everywhere, singeing a few pages on the table he's sitting on. Maglor watches the fire pass through his body until it dies as quickly as it was born. 

Shifting his gaze to his little brothers again, he raises his head to greet Pityo and Telvo. Maglor admits that he looked away on purpose. He can't claim to be always sane but he isn't that mad yet. Seeing Ambarussa evaporate is always harder than witnessing the melt. Perhaps because becoming one person actually makes the twins happy. The other way around is more like watching Ambarussa die. 

Which always makes him sick because it reminds him of father. 

"Cáno," two voices greet him in unison. Pityo and Telvo have their arms slung around each other's shoulders. "Since he welcomed you so rudely, let at least us tell you that it's nice to see you. It's been a while." 

Maglor smiles and fights down the sick feeling in his stomach while the twins untangle themselves. 

He shrugs. "You know how Ambarussa. Straight to the point like always." 

Telvo shakes his head in disapproval while he reaches for his pouch and his weapons. They have agreed to treat Ambarussa as another person. The twins agreed to the request after conversations became a bit difficult how they should address past conversations. Always worked so far. Yet it's strange how the twins entire personality sometimes disagrees with Ambarussa actions. But Maglor thinks is partly because Ambarussa doesn't have to worry about the separation, the feeling that half of your mind isn't were it should be. 

Maglor intends to wait for a while since he doesn't want to give his little brothers the feeling that he prefers Ambarussa over them but Pityo interrupts the silence. 

"Telvo might be concerned over pleasantries but could you fuck off?" the twins asks. Maglor recognizes Ambarussa's lingering frankness in him. "We'll leave soon and it's probably for the best not to be seen talking to empty air."

Yeah, right. Because as if that could stop him. The first a minstrel learns is how to draw attention. Making people look away is just the next step but Maglor doesn't say anything.

"Travel safely," he tells him. "We'll be watching the road."

Again they look like as if they want to hug him. Since they can't Maglor intends to make the goodbye as quick and painless as possible. He disappears between one breath and next.

The last thing he hears is Telvo's voice. "Tell Nelyo to expect us in three days."

Maglor wakes up before he can glare at his little brother one last time. Erestor is his victim instead who flinches back with an confused expression on his face. Not that Maglor cares right now. He just wants strangle Telvo like that the insolent little fucker deserves.

Now he has to talk with Nelyo.     

End Notes:

So, it's official. I'm writing that Luthien & Celegorm story. Probably would've balked but NaNo starts soon and it's the perfect opportunity to bath in the insane idea's I'm having.

It's also fact that the twins built their home over Denethor's grave, the last King of the Nandor since the Laiquendi never named one again. Ambarussa must be badass to pull that off hence his good relationship with the Nandor in general. I had this headcanon for a while and just itched to include it. And since I've the urge to clarify ... elves usually sleep with open eyes. Maglor really sleeping. Mediating is the better word hence why he was sitting cross-legged on the bed and the table several hundreds miles away.

In case someone is interested, this story has a pinboard. I collect pictures for inspiration. Great pasttime and a wonderful source for ideas.

The wind that shakes Himring's Hills by mangacrack
Author's Notes:

I'm sorry for the long delay but I was writing Nanowrimo in November and the December is always hell on heart. But I've good news: a long chapter and some other stuff.


"Hanta, Háno." = Thanks, brother.
Aranvó = Son(s) of the King.
Núlandur = Servant of the Black One

To his disgust is Himring is still full of people by the time Maglor decided to leave the sanctuary of his room. His words to Ambarussa were true when he said it's crowded. People are everywhere and the noise level has risen considerably. Now the battles are over, servants are running down the halls, cleaning up and busy to catch up with the tasks that had to be put aside before. It makes getting rest impossible since the worried folk now gathers outside to sing and celebrate the victory of their soldiers. As much as Maglor wants, pulling a pillow over his head won't help. Between the trampling behind his doors and the singing under his window, he forces himself to get up. The miserable headache will affect him downstairs as well so he just might as well to give into the itch beneath his skin.

For once Maglor is grateful for Erestor trailing along. On other days it annoys him, the shadow with the familiar face following him like a living ghost and weighting on his mind. Today it makes things a lot of easier. Maedhros announced at his arrival that the lands are safe again. Against his expectations most of the folk stayed instead of departing in order to return to their homes to rejoin their families. Unfortunately news about all seven sons surrounding Himring travels fast and as expected Fëanorian's gathering is like when small and isolated fires connect to one huge blaze. Together they could raze down a forest. 

(Fire crackles in the distance but Maglor ignores it.) 

Maglor rubs his head as he makes his way through the overcrowded castle. Himring isn't meant to hold so many people, the sheer number of refugees overwhelmed them when they left their homes for protection from the dragons. He'll have to mention that to his brother. It won't be the last time this problem comes back to haunt them. He sees elves that made camp in empty corners or slept on the stairs even, due to the lack of room. But once command goes back to his older brother Himring isn't his problem any longer. 

What bother's Maglor right now is that he's back being addressed with Lord, Aranvó and The Crown Prince. The first is alright since the common folk as to call him something though it doesn't help his mood he's recognized at every corner. It's the clothing, most likely. At homes in the hills he can dress practically but here it's expected he acts his status. Nelyo inherited a lot of father's stubborn followers, the most loyal as they preferred to be called. As consequence they tried to uphold tradition, caring not in the slightest they theoretically had a High King in Barad Eithel. 

Hence why all Sons of Fëanáro are stubbornly referred as Aranvó - the King's sons. 

The last title actually makes Maglor laugh when an elf bows and murmurs the words. The elf is confused as Maglor hurries to get lost, trying to flee from the flutter of panic he feels in his stomach at these words. 

"Maglor, may I interrupt?" Erestor asks and tugs at his sleeve. "Since you seem to have no clear destination in mind, I suggested we get something to eat. You don't look very good." 

He snarls his answer, negative of course. Food would do the dark pit in his stomach good but eating in the great hall is out of question. Too many people. Too many opinions and voices that wish to heard. Maglor fights the desire to invoke blessed silence by his command. Of course everyone would obey, the common folk is silent when he speaks but Maglor knows what oppression feels like.  

"That has to wait," he gives his answer to Erestor. Somewhere in the back of his mind Maglor wonders about Erestor's dejected face but he shoves that aside. Right now the overwhelming need to escape his own emotions is more important little Arakáno's opinions. 

"Wait, Maglor. Then at least let go get something for you," Erestor calls after him but Maglor lets the word just wash over his head, ignoring the sound like he does with the most and stalks off. 

There's only one room left in this place that isn't overrun by people. 

 

-

 

Maglor wishes he could say Maedhros' study was dark and small, depressing as the black recesses of his tortured soul but this was Maglor's abominable mood talking. Nelyafinwë's study is the exactly opposite of Maglor preferences, wide open, huge windows with a beautiful view over the mountains and the room tailored to his needs. In fact the room looks like Maedhros tries to follow every advice the healers give him. Far less pompous as Finwë's own taste, comfortable looking and very, very quiet. Especially the last part makes this room worth an entire kingdom in Maglor's humble opinion. Pulling his legs up, Maglor rests his chin on his knees and closes his eyes to forget the world around him.  

Yet the sounds won't vanish. They're muted now but Maglor can still hear the dragon's screaming in the distance. For anyone else the winds howling joyous over Himring's battlements drown out the songs of the dead. Once again Makalaurë wonders why most people of his race are so bloody deaf when it comes to the matter of listening to the chants of the deceased. 

The one person with a mind sharp enough discern the dancing wind from the mourning lifeless is Erestor. Despite his mood Maglor has seen how Erestor's gets distracted sometimes, looking left and right as if he was searching for something. Calming as it is that he's not alone - well, no he's not the only one but there few among the Noldor that bother to sharpen the talent - he has no intention of teaching Erestor just yet. 

Mad he might be in the eyes of some but Maglor isn't that unkind. Erestor still clings to his side, following his footsteps like a stumbling foal while drawing strength from Maglor's fëa to heal his mind. An odd way to come to parenthood but it's far too late to shy away from that responsibility now. Teaching his craft to Erestor 'll have to wait for a while.

"And certainly not doing it here in Himring," Maglor mumbles, crunching his teeth.

Oh no. Shaping Erestor's mind 'd wait until the worst beneath the surface has healed. Elvish souls were durable though only when given the chance to knit themselves back together. Without interference from the waking mind. It's always bad to mix these to, give a conscious spirit opportunity to meddle. 

"I take from your words that you're eager to be gone from here." 

Maedhros' words wash over him like a morning spell, bewitching and freeing all the same. As Maglor turns his head the dragon's voices quiet down, sinking back into the earth as if they too intend to listen what the rightful King has to say. There's certainly enough power in Nelyafinwë's bones to do so. Though Maglor banishes the images of his brother commanding leagues of dead dragon's quickly from his mind. Too tempting and entirely unhealthy. He recognizes most of the bad ideas crossing his mind. 

"It's not that bad yet," Maglor tries to reassure his brother. True, he's a bit absent minded but he doesn't want the first words between them after long painful months about him leaving as soon as possible. "I wasn't talking about the company. That one is fine though a bit cramped right now."

Since Nelyo is nearly undressed and freshly washed, never one to miss the opportunity after Angband where clear water is rarer than light and warmth, Maglor can't miss the deep sigh. Muscles ripple across the naked stomach and Maglor counts the scars meanwhile. Relieved to find no new ones and the old fading, he tilts his back to get a better look of Nelyo's face.

"I'm aware that so many people make you uncomfortable, Cáno."

Maedhros's words more stating than apologizing but Maglor knows how to take that. His brother really can't tell his people to go away when he just returned after his stronghold has been attacked. Not to mention that word got around how all Seven Son's are going to meet at Himring, a rare event in itself and this time the common folk is allowed to attend. Too many people swarm the halls already and they'll never leave as long as the gathering of Fëanor's children is scheduled.  

"That's not true. While I certainly prefer solitude I don't mind people. I just can't stand it how they're filling out every corner of my home," Maglor objects.

Maedhros can't help but watch his brother in amusement.  His lips twitch as they form a smile. The sullen voice Cáno is talking in is almost cute. Unexpected from a half-insane creature that has grown to detest company and practices knife throwing skills in its free time. Yet Cáno's frown doesn't frighten Maedhros as much as it should. Perhaps he should try to remember that Cáno's hobby is actually tampering with minds that come in contact with his, adding and removing memories like ingredients to a brew but even the prospect that his own mind being affected by it doesn't make him balk. Right now he only sees a pouting teenager and Maedhros doesn't have to be able remembering Aman in full detail to know it's true for once.

He bends over his little brother to hug him from behind, pulls him against his chest to whisper in his ear, "Hanta, Háno."*

Maglor turns his head, raising an eyebrow and asks, "What for?"

"Not many call Himring their home," Maedhros answers and breathes in.

Maglor smells like a wet grey day, clouds hanging low and mulling every sound. But that's just the surface. Another deep breath and Maedhros' nose is filled with the scent of burning woods, crackling fire and colored light he's been looking for. Maedhros buries his nose in the crook of Maglor's neck. His brother makes not remembering Aman - anything before the darkness - less difficult. 

Instead of answering Maglor just tilts his head a bit and combs through the curls of Maedhros red hair.    

For moments there's nothing but peace, comfortable silence between brothers who hold on to a hug longer than it's necessary for a nice-to-see-you-again meeting. 

"You should go dress yourself," Maglor finally pulls away, muttering under his breath. "You'll get cold." 

"Yes, Cáno," Maedhros huffs, doing his best to hide his delight and his laughter. It's somewhat hilarious how it's always Cáno who worries most about his condition when he can barely remember to properly take care for himself. But Maedhros always lets him because it does help Cáno keeping his own schedule straight. 

With great effort Maedhros pulls away. Goes to hide his scars and his maimed arm under layers of clothing so it won't make his many guests uncomfortable. Most spectators don't know what to do with a one-armed soldier, holding back out of fear because the desire to help could come across as insult. His brothers thankfully know better. Maedhros doesn't mind it when they make his life a bit easier despite the display that there are now task Maedhros can no longer handle alone. Pride is futile in the wake of cutting meat when one of his brothers is there to do it for him. That they check for poison during the process with Curufin's specialized knifes Maedhros ignores but he doesn't forbid it. The possibility of assassination not entirely out of question. Who asks twice when the cook uses the wrong herbs with so many people running around in his kitchen? 

Alqualondë changed the way the Noldor treat death. 

Míriel Þerindë, the grey dead queen, frightened them. Others revered her out of the same reason. Father detested worship of his own person unlike Finwë encouraged his own followers because they questioned the King less this way. 

Maedhros hated that he didn't remember how exactly their grandmother had played into their daily life. When he saw his people bowing their head to the image of a grey-cloaked woman, sometimes with a huge belly or a red stain between her legs he didn't know how to react. Instead he nodded only and tolerated it. They harmed no one. And if it pleased him that female Avari asked Míriel Þerindë for strength during pregnancy then it was his own opinion. 

Little does Maedhros know of his own popularity among the tribes, gained by his silent tolerance regarding the subject which powers and people are to be prayed to. Usually elves follow the way of their Lord, accepting his rites and prayers as he invokes them on feasts and holy days. In Doriath it's even worse. The Sindar have little or no choice at all. They're bound to the way their King celebrates his Queen. Maglor of course does know but he has no intention of telling Nelyo about this. The frown on his face whenever elves engage in debates which prayer to the fëa of your ancestor is the correct one is entirely Fëanáro's. The exact same what-is-this-nonsense face.

Maglor sees no need to aggravate his brother.  

A knock on the door interrupts the silence. It's not hesitating nor soft. Not that of a servant. Maedhros bids the visitor to enter and is surprised to see the Núlandur march into his rooms. His step is sure and unwavering just like a his fëa which is kind of a surprise. Maedhros doesn't even have the time to be angry. The last time they met the fëa of this elf was shrouded in shadows, unclean and black. Now it's still smudged, tainted to those who have eyes to see clearly but it's not foul anymore. 

Astonished Maedhros watches how the Núlandur's fëa fights, brittle on occasion but burning as bright as it can while trying to turn the dark edges into lighter shades.

"Eat this," the Núladur orders and puts a plate in front of Maglor. It consists of fruit, bread and meat. All things Maglor can nibble no matter how distracted he might be. "Or I'll spread the word that Lord Maglor refuses to take his meals because he's worried there might not be enough for everyone."

Against his own judgment Maedhros chuckles when Cáno stares at the Núlandur eyes wide in horror. Maglor snarled but the other elf doesn't budge.

"Don't dare, Erestor. Do not dare," Cáno growls so deep he sounds like a dragon. But he takes the plate into his hands and starts eating. 

Maedhros watches the Núlandur turn around who is about to leave when their eyes meet. The Núlandur hides his wince quite well. If he feels fear, he doesn't let Maedhros know. 

"I'll wait outside," he tells both Fëanorians. To Maglor because he's still under orders not to leave his side and to Maedhros because he's the Lord of Himring. 

"Dismissed," Maedhros answers casually. He can accept another soldier if he knows how to behave.

Especially since Maglor seems to have adopted him, given the behavior he witnessed. Cáno had students before. Despite his mental misgivings sometimes, Cáno knows how to deal with the pupils he instructs. He archived mastery in various crafts a long time ago though in their family most have given up keeping track of it. No Finwëion is surprised when Maglor masters an instrument within an hour or invents a new one.

The drum for instance.

Much to Indis horror Maglor created enough to disperse them among the family, making it the instrument of choice during family gatherings from there on. Serene flute and quiet harp playing was replaced by loud creative, rebellious chanting that went well with the heavy rhythm the drums created. Maglor added a few songs with easy text and memorable choruses after too much wine caused more more giggling over the Ainulindalë than actually singing it. 

His reputation as famous bard aside, Cáno is also renowned for his mastership everything regarding Oswanë. With Fëanáro dead the only left to claim the title as well is Artanis. 

(There's much discussion why the House of Nolofinwë has yet to give birth to someone natural in the Arts of Mind Knowledge. Another reason for the feud between Nolofinwë and Fëanáro is that Makalaurë once denied Findekáno any claim on the title Incánus.) 

All these thoughts run through Maedhros head, half remembering forgotten images before they slip away again when the door closes and the brothers are alone again. For a while the only sound is Maglor's chewing while Maedhros finishes dressing himself before he goes over the most important papers Maglor left for him. No matter how fickle his brother is on occasion Maedhros can trust Maglor to painstakingly take notes of everything he does. 

"Nelyo," Cáno finally prods, breaking the silence. "Are you angry with me?"

Maedhros lifts his head to meet the white eyes. They appear insane as always but behind that colorless terror waits uncertainty. 

"Regarding the Núlandur you named and dragged home like a stray," Maedhros drawls. He keeps his voice even, showing neither anger nor forgiveness. Sometimes Cáno needs to be reminded that Maedhros has the right to judge him. 

Maglor nods, carefully. He looks tired. Haunted as if sleep evades him. Maedhros notices that Maglor is actually bracing himself for anger, a lecture or even harsher words. As much as he wants to hug his little brother and tell him it's okay, Nelyo can't relent yet.

"That depends on how much you haven't told me yet," he says and points at the door the Núlandur vanished through. "You know that I don't need detailed memories of my childhood in order to tell when you're lying to me."

End Notes:

As you may know I've hinted at what would happen with the Luthien story now that Celegorm is Huan. Congratulations, to cheekybeak and Encairion, I'm writing it. It's getting far, far larger than I ever planned but it's fun. First I'll continue this story to a certain point in the Timeline before "that Luthien and Celegorm" story takes over. There's also the Fingon Interlude that's halfway done already. So I haven't been entirely inactive. (Little do you know. I've plans and this is turning into a series!)

So, Happy New Year Everyone.

In addition: mitzirocker gets an Award for calling Celegorm "discount Orome!" ... I laughed SO HARD. You have no idea what that did to my brain.


 

Worldbuilding

Religion: As a German history in school consists mostly of where, when any why Europe waged war. One memorable feud was when France allowed only one religion and the King of Prussia happily invited all the minorities because they were educated and good for economy. Aside from the fact that I enjoy building paganism into the story, Maedhros has similar reasons here. Neither Fëanor nor Nerdanel were religious people, hence why most Noldor either worshiped Míriel or shied away from the subject and bowed the Valar (Indis influence).

Society: There happened a lot of development within the society between the Noldor coming to Aman and leaving it. I might add that I stretched the official timeline a lot when it comes to the Year of the Trees. It begins with that Finwë was just a chieftain in the beginning and his pompous lifestyle (being called King, dressing himself with rich colour and jewels, living in a palace) is due to the fact he simply can. He's showing off while govering his people and they emulate him. Then Fëanor is born and later becomes responsible for things like running water, bath houses, libraries and schools etc. Add the fact that most of the First Age Hero's are born into these mind boggling times where a new discovery is just a around the corner when you know how to use your mind. Do it right, discover something new and they call you a genuis. That mindset and that history gets incredible important after the Noldor return to Beleriand.

Immortality: I don't believe that the Eldar and the Avari are truly equal. Living thousands of years with something like a sun while the others dwell under starlight, must have caused physical differences at least. That the Noldor are very tall is a fact. They also could raise they children in peace and prosperity. Unlike the Avari they had the time to educate themselves.

Which means for this fic that there are degrees of immortality. Avari aren't as strong or as fast as the Noldor though they learn quickly. The Elves in Doriath are worse, because they're mostly untrained yet better educated. The first decades after the Fall of Doriath must've been hell because their bodies weren't used to the strain. The Teleri are more difficult, being the closest to the Noldor strength wise. Though in the First Age they're more of a fisherfolk. With the Noldor they become sailors and advance to explorers in the Second Age. So the strength/immortaility thing evens out in the Third Age. Glorfindel being the expection because he's a Vanya who can cleave a grown man in half where your average Avari can't even lift the sword Glorfindel uses.

In all these memories I see you smile by mangacrack
Author's Notes:

Fëanorionnath - (S) Refers to all of them as a group. Used as term for "the Fëanorian's" by outsiders.
Fëanoryn - means "some of them" and is used when a Son of Fëanor speaks of people loyal to their house.
Aranvó - King's sons, common name for the Sons of the Fëanor, used as title as well as reference to the group itself

Maedhros stares at the massive wooden door Maglor slammed shut when he stormed out of the room. The sound still echoes in his ears. He swallows empty because his mouth feels dry and when he reaches for a glass of fresh water, he has to sit down. Numb and shell shocked Maedhros realizes that he doesn't know how to deal with the snarling spiteful creature that introduced itself as his brother all those years ago at Lake Mithrim's shores. It's difficult to discern why it shocks him now when he has been aware of this for quite some time but Makalaurë Cánafinwë feels like a stranger to him.

Now more than ever. Maedhros cannot fathom why he ever hugged that ill-natured person who shares his blood. He should remember those feelings at least no matter if his memories loose themselves in shadows.

A picture flashes before his mind.

 

 


The World had gone dark. Laurelin and Telperion were gone. Nelyafinwë's eyes flicker back to spot where they used to stand. Usual it'd be a glowing beacon on the Pelóri Mountains, right before the gates of Valmar. Now there's nothing but Nelyafinwë's still nurses hope. Despite what his logic might tell him it's no use, he's too used to the light, to the changing of colors from gold to silver every few hours.

"Valmar is a frightening place right now," a brother comments.

Nelyafinwë only recognizes him by his voice. In the little light the stars provide it's difficult to discern Atarinë from Fëanáro. A feat difficult enough on some days. As it is right now, it'll prove to be a challenge. Nelyafinwë blinks while hoping his eyes will adjust soon. He's not Telko or Ambarussa, both being elves who 've hunted often in the parts of Aman where nothing but starlight guides their steps.

"It was my impression that Valmar always makes you uncomfortable." Nelyafinwë remembers all the times where Curufinwë complained about how all knowledgeable and worthwhile Maia never leave their city of light, forcing interested Noldor to visit them instead. Little Curufinwë was the only one among the Fëanorionnath who thought the trouble was worth the trip. Hence why he used to visit Valmar more often than Fëanáro himself.

Pityacurwë shrugs, restless and distressed. Nelyafinwë puts an arm around his shoulders, mostly because it makes himself feel better.

Valmar is cold.

"True enough." Nelyafinwë is concerned that Curvo doesn't protest to his most hated nickname though it's tradition by now. "I've seen the city alight with candles in every corner, trying to ban every existing shadow. Yet now only the light remains that has sunken into the stone itself."

The image is beyond imagination. Since Nelyafinwë can hear the terrified wailing of the Maia and the Ainur even from that distance, he pictures confused spirits hugging and clutching faint glowing rocks. Out of the corner of his eyes, he sees little Curvo smile.

"Fairly accurate, Nelyo." Curvo actually looks a bit more relaxed and has yet to shove Maedhros' arm aways. "Yet your sense of humor in this dire hour surprises me."

Nelyafinwë is know for keeping a cool head during crises. It was him who calmed Fëanáro down after he nearly killed Nolofinwë before grandfather's eyes. The memory if the stressful hours seem far away right now. Everyone in the family had been relieved when they finally got to leave Tirion - even their father. Fatigue had worn Fëanáro's psyche down since he laughs tears as his eldest son cracked an inappropriate joke about Nolofinwë being finally alone with the crown. That was just right after Tirion's gates were closed behind their backs and everyone waited for a reaction while they rode North, never daring to look back. Grandfather was the only one with a scandalized expression on his face.

"I can't help myself, I guess," Nelyafinwë confesses. "I'm not less frightened or confused than anybody else but getting these stupid out of my head helps me think."

Curvo pats him on the back. He grins, "Never change, dear brother. We need you."

 

 

 

The memory fades away and Maedhros can barely breath. His head his clear, sharp and cutting. The window provides him with a great view, snow banks on high cold mountains. In south waits grassland hidden beneath fog. It's home to many of his brothers. In the North waits darkness. Evil. A shudder runs down Maedhros' back but it's not from fear but suppressed violence. Maitimo's handsome features transform into a snarl, into a growling dangerous beast. When Maedhros is finished dressing himself as the Commander of the Fëanoryn the lost memories lose their significance.

He's Maedhros. He is the memory of Angband, Morgoth and anguish. Perhaps it's good that Nelyafinwë of Valinor is dead. He was weak because he was the first to fall in this war.

Newly refreshed and determined Maedhros leaves his quarters. Several elves flinch when they meet him in the corridor. He looks terrible.

Anger boils in his veins and this time, Maedhros swears as he begins searching for his lying, manipulating brother he remembers the least, he wants blood.

 

-

 


Breath, Maglor thinks while trying to clear his mind. Just ... breath. It's simple. You've done it all your life.

It's a little crammed in his head and moving feels like being in father's library. Too small, corridors too narrow, every single space packed with books in some kind of order no one retrace. It felt exactly like this. The thoughts were the same. Don't move, don't knock anything over, never touch loose pages and - for fucks shake - try not to inhale too much dust. Maglor always hated father's personal library who probably built it exactly carted to his needs, following a system only Curvo could follow. Nelyo even refused to set a food inside. The asiles were to narrow for him. So he always abused his I-am-your-older brother rights and send Maglor to pick up the volumes he needed.

Fuck you, Maglor thinks. Fuck you, Nelyo.

The memory of father's library brings him comfort but present-time Maedhros destroys the semblance of inner peace Maglor archived. He feels so close to shattering. Maglor wonders what it'd feel like, to blow apart. Explode like glass hitting solid ground.

Pieces. I'd be in pieces. More than I already am, Maglor thinks and decides against it. It's like standing on the edge of the battlements, arms stretched out like wings. As beautiful the thought of flying might be, the only option is hitting the ground. Hard.

It always ends in a bloody mess.

I don't need that right now.

Maglor tries to breath but instead of inhaling fresh air, scents fill his nose. Leather, sweat, body heat. Elves. So many elves. Wringling his nose, Maglor rubs his temples. He isn't Tyelko with his fine and sensitive nose but his bloody empathy can be triggered by it, because scent can carry impressions. Or wake memories. Memories Maglor doesn't want.

Sometimes he envies Nelyo. Erestor. Starting over sounds good. Forsaking a name and everything attached to it. But it 'd be like trying to run with a ironball on a chain. Futile. Useless. Like walking down the beach without getting wet feet. If he concentrates he can almost feel the waves around his ankles.

Oh, the dear phantom pains of a mind user. Feeling something that isn't there. Not yet or not anymore. Maglor had learned to ignore such things. More often than not he succeeds in overlooking ghostly objects lingering around after the physical aspect has gone. Houses are a popular conduct of such occurrences. It drove Maglor nearly mad when he first discovered this particular aspect. Kept wondering why he couldn't touch the door handle until he realizes that there was nothing to touch in the first place.

Father stopped remodeling their home after that and from there on Maglor always let someone else enter a new abode first. Just to be sure his mind isn't playing tricks with him.

And yet ... water around his feet, stained red so much that it almost glows in the dark ...

Maglor shakes his head to get rid of the image. He stares at his boots to affirm they're dry. The gloomy feeling weighting on his mind, like water trying to drag him down, lingers for a while. Not just a memory then, Maglor decides and tries to remember where he fought at Alqualondë. He fails but that is hardly a surprise. That night was a chaotic event spiraling out of control, blades spinning and flying until only one side remained standing.

The Noldor had won that night. Maglor enters the main hall and pauses in his steps. The sentences echoes in his head while he's greeting by the many celebrating Fëanoryn in front of him.

The Noldor had won.

Something about this is important. Maglor moves in trance, ignoring cheers flying in his direction but accepts the drink that is handed to him. Someone pulls him down on a bench and he lets the person. His thoughts are elsewhere, gnawing on what feels like a vision. Well, not that he has visions. Life is too complicated for that. Full out dreaming the future, asleep or wake, is not his forte and as he knows from Nerwen that kind of power has its draw-backs as well.

No, his sense for the future is much more narrow. Instead of looking through a window that shows but separates you from a distant future, he lights candles in the dark. It allows glimpses, small but accurate. Useful, if one manages to put it in context. This time it's like reading a letter in the dark with only a handful of matches at hand.

The Noldor had won.

Maglor sighs, frustrated by the knowledge he won't learn anything useful tonight. It's just a piece of a larger whole. Perhaps it's a popular quote from a famous speech that has yet to be spoken. Maglor doesn't know and he doubts he'll ever learn what it means. By the time the event comes around he'll have forgotten his vision. Small pieces tend to get lost, often deigned as unimportant. Yet there has to be a reason for his mind to reach out and pick out that phrase right now, in that moment.

Looking around, Maglor sees cheerful soldiers holding onto their drinks and laughing maids, teasing the warriors in good nature how big the dragons really were. The teeming masses make it difficult to identify particular individuals, the halls is crowded. Usual grim and serene faces have transformed into giggling, laugher and open delight. Almost against his will, Maglor feels his lips tug upright. The last months were hard. It's good to see the Fëanoryn happy. The Noldor follow the Aranvó unquestionably and without uttering a single complain. All of the Fëanoryn but the soldiers especially have more faith in the sons of their lost king than they deserve. Serving the Sons of Fëanor and being loyal to their cause gets them little reward in return.

Closing his eyes, Maglor sinks back into the masses and dares to enjoy the cheerful mood, his own mental condition completely forgotten for a moment. Once again the sentence rings through his head. The Noldor had won. Have won? He isn't sure but dares to think this little prophetic phrase gets bothering him because the Fëanoryn had won a major battle and decimated a good portion of Morgoth forces in the process.

Maglor refuses to contemplate the phrase stuck in his head could also mean that the Noldor will see no victory for quite some time from now on.

Not now. Not today, Canafinwë thinks and decides to spend the rest of the day here in the main hall, hidden by the masses. The empty grasslands of his realm hidden beneath the lingering fog will always be his first choice, yet this is as good as it gets. If he relaxes just right, he can quiet his mind and pretend.

Just as he's about to vanish into his mind and enjoy the music of living souls, a hand touches his shoulder.

 

-

 

Cáno wrinkles his face in displeasure. Not because of my touch, no. But he's aware I'd only disrupt his peace if weren't important. He opens one eye to stare at me. Like always the eyes is white, glowing under the bangs of his hair falling into his face. Unlike many I don't share the inclination to flinch or look away.

I'm a hunter and I study my prey. Today I spot a faint color in his iris. Deep red, just around the edge to give you something to concentrate on.

I doubt that Cáno is aware that his eyes changes from time to time. It's not exactly common knowledge. So far only Ambarussa's eyes are sharp enough to see past the deceptive white glow of Cáno's eyes. I've often wondered if it's protection. Animals have claws to fight or long legs to run away. There's a lizard that changes the colors of it's skin. Perhaps my older brother is like that.

Hiding his true colors by letting his fëa shine through because no one can bear to look at it for long.

I don't know how if my brothers have signs as well they can read when it comes to reading Cáno but for me the best bet have always been his eyes. Once you get past the protective glowing layer, you can read Cáno just fine. And as long as you can make out the iris or the pupil at least you're going to be fine. Trouble is only head when the whiteness of his eyes covers everything, when the light swallows the black iris until all you see is hot, searing nothing.

It's good you can't touch eyes. Or else you could burn your hands by trying to covering Cáno's.

At least I hope so. I'd rather not test the theory.

 

-

 

"Yes?" Maglor snarls into Celegorm's direction. He's too annoyed to care if his little brother deserves unkind words or not.

All he knows that the noise is back. Inner peace disrupted, the whispers press against his defenses again. Emotions dance around in this room, brushing against his skin because the elves here can't help themselves. Their merry voices drown out everything, narrow the world until Maglor can't focus beyond what's in this room. Rich scents and the impressions following them fill his nose again, making his head fozzy.

"What do you want, Tyelko?" The question is more like a hiss than a well formed sentences. Celegorm probably can only understand it because he's used to speak to animals.

The grey-haired Fëanorian shrugs his shoulders in apology before he chooses to comb through Maglor's thick black hair with his fingers. Compared to Cáno's mane his own hair is fine silk. But that's mostly because Maglor doesn't always remember to brush his hair. Far too often he binds into a long braid and leaves it like this until it threatens to unravel.

"I guess you've forgotten that Nelyo issued a meeting for all of us. Since the twins arrived in the last hour, we're ready to have it started." Celegorm looks uncomfortable for a second, revealing his underlaying concerns he usually keeps close at heart. "Himring needs to go back into the hands of it's Lord, Cáno. The city awaits the return of it's commander."

Which isn't you. That thought hangs between them but Celegorm is kind enough not to mention it. It's a sore subject for his brother.

Relinquishing control has never been Cánafinwë's strength. Nelyo's influence, as far as Celegorm remembered. Either his two older brother worked together or the fought which way of worked best. In Valinor no one cared since Tirion had been big and the tasks assigned by Finwë plentiful enough that the two oldest and most well-known sons of the crown prince didn't have to meet often over work. There had been a well-oiled system in place to keep the Kings many grandchildren occupied.

All of them worked for the King and the Royal Administration one way or another. Well, he and Írissë skipped some of the duties by joining Oromë's Riders. They simply spend too much time traveling through the wilderness, tending and hunting animals, to be of much use. As the few chosen elves allowed bring back meat, they had been respected and envied for their rare positions. The Valar had always been strict in their insistence how to handle the animal population. Although the Valar tended to leave the affairs of governing the general populace to the Eldar themselves.

As far as Celegorm remembered his history lessons, Finwë had agreed to the deal because his grandfather didn't wish his people to ride out unsupervised and kill large game on their own. Partly because it was dangerous and not many had the training to deal with an angry moose, for instance, and partly because after the arrival on Valinor soon the subject arose who owned what. Finwë had put an end to this by putting the distribution of meat under royal supervision. The royal family sold any incoming meat the public and unless you were a farmer living in the outskirts of Tirion, tending to the field, you had to pay a hefty sum if you wanted more than the usual share.  

By now Celegorm knows about passionate speeches about public property by angry people on market day to appreciate not only the Royal Army - Angrod saved his ass enough times, thank you very much - but also any idea that Cáno cooks up in his head. While Nelyo had always been tasked with calming the angry masses with his smile and his cheerful demeanor, it's always been the black shadow in the background that found a solution. 

Since he had been not just an elf with an magnificent voice but a master of words, a lawmaker, as well Celegorm imagines that Cánafinwë is still furious at Maedhros for taking his position for himself. Not that Nelyo 'd know. As far as Celegorm observed Maedhros has little clue about the predicament he created for their brother after he surrendered the crown to Nolofinwë. 

The reason being that the crown had been mostly a symbol. A cursed object they had been glad to get rid of since father's death. 

Celegorm hums under his breath and keeps combing through Maglor's hair. There are still a few minutes left and judging by the tension in his brother's shoulders, a bit petting is necessary. They might mock him for it but with Huan so close under his skin, Celegorm is aware of how much touch can help and distract from unbidden thoughts. 

"Is it just us or do I've to be prepared to do the whole ritual in public?" Maglor finally speaks up, grousing and glaring at the merry celebration around them.

So far they have been undetected, thanks to the amount of wine. Celegorm is glad for anonymity. His own followers he has under control but whenever their people mix and mingle they grow unpredictable, remembering a time when they had been of something larger. A special unity that ended with father and that Maedhros hasn't managed to reproduce so far.

"Just us," Celegorm murmurs under his breath. "Nelyo might've memory problems but he isn't stupid. Neither you nor the twins can stand the presence of the full council for long."

"Fine," Maglor growls and pulls himself to full height when finally rises from the bench, leaving his drink mostly untouched.

That he manages to do it gracefully while his face resembles a thundercloud baffles Celegorm every time. Perhaps it's a side effect of spending so much time at the Royal Court in his youth. Time Celegorm cheerfully wasted by frolicking through the vast forests of Valinor. If one could call hunting a Vala with nothing but a sharp knife and a manic smile frolicking.

 

-

 

Out of the corner of his eyes Maglor notices a shadow. More sensing than seeing who just rose from his hidden position, Maglor angles his head to glance at Erestor's direction. Hands buried in his pockets, he makes a sharp notion with his hand and as Maglor expected, Erestor follows his silent command. With Tyelcormo guarding his back and Erestor shadowing their steps, they leave the busy halls to wander deeper into the mountains.

Himring is not just a fortress, it's closer to a city. A large percent of it is hidden underground, carved into the mountains. 

During the last months he grew more accustomed to the city and it's hidden values. Using the natural caves the underground rivers created it's more spacious than he originally thought and while Maedhros wisely asked the Khazad to help, since building a house is different than supporting the weight of a mountain, the interior still looks elvish enough. With the right light and if he pretends enough, Himring almost looks like home.

Neither Erestor nor Tyelcormo like the hidden underground passage and are obviously relieved when they step out into daylight again. Well, Tyelca is a forest creature and Argon has no memories of Formenos.

But neither does Maedhros, Maglor realizes as they reach the council chambers that Maedhros uses for official business. In theory both should dislike Himring due to it's probable likeness to Angband. Their damaged minds should've their troubles discerning shadow from evil and yet Maedhros only carves deeper. 

Distracted by the thoughts of Maedhros memories and the barrier in his mind, Maglor muses over the similarities between Himring and Formenos so much that he disregards the arrival of the others. More brothers fill the room and gather at the round table while Maglor leans against a window, staring into nothing with his arms across the chest. 

Later he blames the many distractions he's exposed to as well as the rather unguarded state of his mind. But for whatever reason Maglor notices the incoming fist too late. 

End Notes:

 

Fuck you, Nelyo. I can't let go of your memory issues. Please don't mind the fact that I enjoy tormenting you.

That aside you might've noticed a minor but rather important change: this story is now officially a series! The name has been stuck in my head for quite a while and I welcome the development because it allows me to add fic's independently. Which is incredible since I like to fuck the readers heads from time to time by using a character's rather narrow perspective. Maglor especially is a nightmare when it comes to sharing facts.

Up next in the series will either be Chapter 15 or The Fingon Interlude as I called it before. Since it's far too long already, it's probably going to be a three-chaptered story by itself. *cackles in delight because of evil authorness*

Newest addition to the Series of Greater Misfortune is the short piece The Merchant of Mercy Námo POV, just to warn you.

Once I rise above the noise and confusion by mangacrack

 

"Lord Maglor, you should be more careful," Erestor says and spreads the salve over the swollen cheek of his Lord. It's deep purple already and likely to stay this way for a while. 

The sight is unsettling for Erestor. He has spend his new short life always at Lord Maglor's side and never he has been injured. Despite the fact they had dragons raining down on them, constantly aiming for turning them to ashes with the fire coming out of their mouths. Yet Lord Maglor hadn't even been singed once. Some soldiers called it strategy or praised their Lord's ability for thinking on his feet yet Erestor has his doubts. Not that he voiced his suspicions. In terms of history he was young, remembering little beyond the basic facts and with no family to speak of he was alone and depended on his Lord's favor. 

So no, he didn't mention that Lord Maglor most likely manipulated the air around them because no dragon got ever close enough when he was around and fighting on the battlefield himself. 

The fact that Lord Maglor rarely gets injured, makes it obvious he isn't used to receiving treatment. 

"Leave it, I'm fine," Maglor says and swats Erestor's hand away. "It's just a bruise. It will fade on its own soon enough." 

But everyone will be able to see it, is Erestor's first thought. They'll know that you wounded in a fight. Or on the training ground. 

I don't care, is the response. Erestor shudders as the fierce voice touched his mind, volatile and imprudent.

Compared to the dark landscape covering his own mind Lord Maglor was like a beacon. Terrible, too bright to be looked at directly and consuming everything in his wake. Erestor can understand why Lord Maglor is feared, even among his own people. Fire has to eat to exist, destroy to live and yet its indifferent to carnage it leaves behind. 

"Lord Maglor, would you please not ... do that?" Erestor asks. He assumes the contact is so strong because they're still touching. His fingers trail over Maglor's check, spreading more ointment over the bruise while they carefully check for other injuries. 

Maedhros hit his brother hard and they fought for a while before the rest of the Fëanorians could pull them apart. 

Lord Maglor offers him an amused look, head angled to the side in order to see past the black hair which unfurls from the knot that usually keeps the mane under control. 

"You're the first to tell me that to my face," he says, smiling. 

It's not a kind smile but an unforgiving one since the lurking presence in Erestor's mind doesn't vanish. It only recedes a bit as if it's the only comfort Maglor can offer. Aware that Lord Maglor simply can't snuff the fire out, Erestor bears the contact and tries not to look directly into the light. At least it spreads warmth though even that is searing into his skin, growing more and more unbearably.

"It's enough," Maglor finally says softly and surprises Erestor with the gentleness he exercises to pull the hand away from damaged skin. 

The connection between them fades and Erestor face reddens with shame. His Lord shouldn't suffer from pain at his expense. 

"It's not your fault, Erestor. You're still young, untrained and you've only known me for a few months. It'll get better with time. " Maglor slowly rises to his feat, intend to return to great hall since they still have a meeting to conduct. "In fact, I should shower you with praise and gratitude for enduring my presence for so long. Not counting my brothers, I can count the people on one hand who possess the strength to tolerate my fëa brushing against their own." 

"Thank you, my Lord?" Erestor is unsure how to respond to such a sad existence. His Lord must lead a very lonely existence when most Elves can't touch him for long or hesitate to do so at all. 

Unsure how to proceed since Lord Maglor hasn't invited him to the gathering, Erestor waits by the door. His Lord will call in case he needs something. So he hides in the shadows and observes the Fëanorians walking past him. Lord Celegorm and Lord Curufin he knows, mostly from side though they've exchanged words. Both of them fought at Himring in the past months. The lean redhead rushing past him is a new face. Erestor muses it must be one of the famous twins that walks up to Maglor to inspect the bruise coloring his Lords cheek. 

Where is the other one, Erestor wonders, puzzled. Are the rumors true in the end that one died at Losgar? 

Yet that 'd contradict many tales. Is just one of the Ambarussa partaking in the meeting? Erestor folds his arms across the chest and squints his eyes as the youngest son of Fëanor flickers for a moment. Puzzled by the sight Erestor jerks back yet the image doesn't fade. His eyes perceive still one solid body but two shadows trailing behind him like black smoke.

One part of the shadow twists around and winks at him.

Heavy boots thundering down the hallway stop Erestor from staring. When he spots two large figures, one red and the other black, he hurries to get out of the way. He has little desire to meet Maedhros right now who has a split lip and something that could grow into a black eye but that might be just his bad mood. Erestor is no expert in reading Fëanorians and has even less experience with other people but even he can identify a murderous expression when he sees one.

So he hides behind a pillar and holds his breath until Maedhros is gone. 

 

 

-

 


Thanks the holy fires, we're alone, is Curufin's first thought when he enters the room and takes in the mess around him. One broken chair in the corner, several more toppled over and at last the table turned over. Heavy as it way, it couldn't stand the force of an angry Maedhros' thundering. It had taken his eldest brother just one swift motion to send the large wood desk flying and Curufin remembers with his heart pounding fast against his chest how all had flinched from the sound when it hit the ground.

"At least there's no blood," Celegorm offers who stands next to him with his hands on the hips and a determined expression.

"Small mercies," Curufin groans. A quick survey tells him that it'll take hours to sort the papers Cáno send flying while he tried to escape the enraged Maedhros. 

'Tried to' being the correct word. 

"Any clue what they were fighting about?" Curufin asks. Perhaps Tyelko knows more about the matter than him though it's unlikely. Father's three eldest are private people who rarely talk about the matters they keep close to the heart.

Once upon a time they used to confine in each other. Yet that trust had been lost with Nelyo's memories. For strangers Makalaurë not easy to like, especially if his brother doesn't put effort into it. Since Cáno hasn't been at least trying to appear like a well-adjusted person lately it's only understandable that Maedhros lost his patience with him. Considering that Nelyafinwë had been once know for his temper none of the brothers had flinched when fists started flying. 

Only Moryo, bless him, had reacted fast enough. Bellowing to separate their older brothers, he started to pry Maedhros off the hissing and kicking Cáno.

In the end it had taken Celegorm's strength to reign Maedhros back in. Where once had been clear grey eyes, red fury had taken hold and colored the gaze to dangerous shade Curufin refused to contemplate. Fire circled in the iris and only the hint of Tyelko's sharp teeth against Maedhros' throat let it die. 

"I haven't a damned clue, Curvo. Not a single one." Celegorm shakes his head, arms crossed over his chest to make his displeasure obvious.  

But Curufin doesn't relent and prodded Celegorm's muscled arm with one finger. 

"You must know something, brother," Curufin tries again. "You're the one who spend the last months fighting along side Cáno. Since you're neither dump nor blind your refusal to have seen something fills me with disbelief, if you know what I mean."

For an instance the lips stretch into an amused smile, revealing sharpened teeth that never truly go away anymore before Tyelcormo's face darkens.

"Keep your instincts sharp, little brother. They'll help you survive in this much harsher world," Tyelko offers unneeded advice. Since Curufin is the youngest next to Ambarussa, the hunter sometimes follows the inbreed protectiveness. In terms of physical strength he's superior to all his brothers. Not even Maedhros is a match for him when Huan goes out hunting.   

Yet this is not his only quality. 

"I do have noticed Cáno's new pet," Celegorm shares his observation with Curufin. "Difficult not to since he follows Cáno around like a duckling. Followed us right up to the door and after the fight he hovered over him like Ada used to over bruised knees." 

"I met him before," Curufin adds, remembering the brief encounter in Maglor's bedroom. "Erestor is his name and from what I've gathered is that he has a good head on his shoulders." 

Rumors are that he doesn't remember his past. Celegorm's voice flows through his head, quiet like the snow falling outside the window.

Unprepared by the soft tune, it takes Curufin a moment to discern the meaning of what he just heard. A sharp hiss is response, the only one safe the troubled look he shoots his older brother. 

Celegorm hums and adds, The tales say the Kinsman woke and knew nothing of who he was. Maglor gifted him with a name and since then they've not parted ways. The longest time they spend apart were half a day and I saw myself how ferocious Erestor fought to get back to our brother's side on the battlefield. 

Madness. Madness is the first word that comes to Curufin's mind though he knows that it's unfair. Some of Maglor's edges are new. Curufin is aware that Cáno's fëa had not always shone in a way that it frightened who not accustomed to it. Perhaps the stark contrast was caused by the world they lived in now. Here in Beleriand the rocks had sharper edges and the animals longer teeth than those in Valinor. Everything at whole was a little more dangerous. Of course Cáno would change as well. 

Though it could just be the lack of the Two Trees, the Silmarils and Father himself which caused most elves to flinch when they laid eyes on Cánafinwë. Surrounded by other beacons like himself Makalaurë appeared to be less dangerous. Yet there was no way to test the theory. Curufin cursed the fact already and hopes that he'll stumble upon a miracle one day that soothes Cáno's pains. But how, Curufin asks himself once more when the brother in question steps into the room again accompanied by Ambarussa, when the sources of Makalaurë's suffering are so numerous?

The pain went deep and reached far back into the past. Into a time Curufin knows little about since he hadn't been born yet.

Studying Celegorm's frame who left his side to bother the Ambarussa, Curufin wonders if learning about how Huan came to Tyelcormo could bring answers regarding Cáno as well. Very unlikely but it couldn't hurt to ask. Back home in Himlad Curufin just might persuade the hunter to give more than a short cryptic answer as he usually did when the subject was brought forth by the few brave enough to ask. Under the light that the only other reliable source is Nelyafinwë who Maedhros doesn't remember, Celegorm would have no other choice but to break his silence. 

The memory Cáno's bruised face might help the matter. 

 

-

 

Ambarussa is reluctant to leave Maglor's side so he keeps the hovering to a minimum. Cáno avoids touch when he can though he last longer around Ambarussa. Perhaps because his body is not quite of this world. Yet today Telvo and Pityo are the opinion to keep their distance, delegating towards Celegorm who seems to suffer from the same problem. Slinging one arm around Tylka's shoulders helps, but the urge to spread more ointment on Cáno's bruise that covers a good part of his face doesn't disappear. Damm Maitmo for having such large hands. At least Maglor's servant did a good job but the injury must sting nonetheless. Ambarussa knows from experience Maedhros' punches hurt like hell and yet Maglor's never voiced a single complaint in last few minutes Instead he works quietly to set the table right and collect the fallen chairs, intend to move on with the gathering as if it never been interrupted. 

He should say something, Ambarussa thinks, displeased that the fight going to swept under the rug. It's not like Cáno to quietly take a hit.

Celegorm's disgruntled look says about the same. While he moves closer to hug his little brothers avatar, he uses to proximity to take a deep breath. Outright sniffing at Maglor is too obvious yet the only way to tell how hurt he truly is. As the master of distraction and deflecting question, it's never been an easy task to take care of Maglor. 

I must disagree, little ones. Celegorm interrupts Ambarussa's thoughts. Close proximity enables Oswanë and since Celegorm taught the twins everything he knew about hunting it's easy to guess what troubles him. It's just like Cáno to take a hit and tell no soul about it. Though I admit it has gotten worse in the last months. 

It's all Nelyo's fault, Ambarussa snarls but does his best to keep his expression guarded. 

More often than he likes his temper flares, uncontrolled, since in terms of age he's the youngest even though the counting years will never affect him. He changes with Pityo and Telvo. Not before, not after nor with Arda itself. Celegorm ruffles his hair, Cáno forgotten for a moment. Ambarussa hates the gesture but leaves his brother be. He had never been the cute child but at gathering such as these he suspects his older brother's need an outlet. A comfortable way to defuse the tension and giving Ambarussa a moment to breath, to get his temper back under control. 

Though today Tyelko might just need a substitute for his affections, using Ambarussa instead of Cáno in order not to get his hand bitten off. 

Huan could help. The hound 'd put his head on Cáno's knees, keeping him grounded until he has been scratched behind his ears. The reason Celegorm isn't doing just that and uses Ambarussa instead means that there's the valid possibility of Maedhros murdering them all. 

The eldest son of Fëanáro certainly looks like it when he reenters the room, Caranthir shadowing his steps. Everyone tenses for a moment and Moryo readies himself to grab Maedhros in case he does something stupid but nothing happens. Maedhros' eyes only fixate Maglor for a heartbeat before he walks past him, choosing his regular spot at the end of the table.

Maglor doesn't even look up when Maedhros' shoulder brushes his. Nothing indicates that they fought like drunken rivals just half an hour ago.

The room is silent when Maglor sits down next, two seats away from Maedhros. A curt commanding gesture has Ambarussa sitting down on Maglor's usual place to Maedhros' right.    

Curufin is the first to get over the initial shock, settling down on the left side of the table directly in front of Maglor. Celegorm and Caranthir shared a quick thought, not even needing to look at each other to know that Moryo's place would be on Maedhros left today. By tradition the seat on the left is reserved for Celegorm. Rearrange the usual order might be for the best unless they want another brawl on their hands.

 

-

 

"May we beginn? I think we spend enough time tallying around," Maglor starts. Nothing hints at the fight prior. Fists don't fly and at the first glance the two eldest seem at ease, if it weren't for Maglor's irked expression. "Unless you aren't finished with me yet."

Maedhros nostrils flare but before his temper can flare up again Caranthir puts one hand over his hand, prevents him from balling it to a fist. The reminder is enough for Maedhros to calm down though his fëa is still spiked with anger when he breathes out to regain his composure. His skin itches but the last half hour has proven that violence is apparently not the correct way to make Maglor talk. 

"You're right, brother. Enough of this. Back to the usual order." Maedhros voice is more like a low his despite his effort to keep it even. The next words are strained, controlled and directly aimed at Maglor. "You're well aware what that means, Canafinwë. Himring is mine to command and while I've to thank you for keeping it safe while I was visiting the Highking and his heir, I demand it back."

Maglor's nod is slow, the motion restrained and only Ambarussa sits close enough to notice how tense the singers shoulders are. 

"The land is yours to command Nelyafinwë Fëanárion who is known as Lord Maedhros in Himring."

Maglor speaks.  

The words cause all brothers to flinch. None had anticipated that Cáno would speak in Valarin and therefore shuddered as the power ran over the fëa. Yet only Celegorm gasps for air, clutching his chair and ruining it with his claws while Curufin and Caranthir remain unaffected as soon as the echo of Cáno's words faded.

"Warn a guy, would you?" Celegorm shoots Maglor a dark look who only raises an eyebrow.  

"It has the same effect as if I had spoken the words in Quenya, Tyelko." Makalaurë says and settles for a shrug however petty the gesture might seem.

"While I appreciate the instantaneous effect, Cáno, I ask you to be more considerate next time. Not all of us have the mind to withstand the language of the Valar," Maedhros speaks up again and this time his voice is deeper.

The response is a silent sneer but in the end Maglor keeps silent. His opinion that they should be fighting against Morgoth's hordes while speaking Valarin only, has fallen on deaf ears time and time again. Without a doubt, the method is effective since it frightens Orc's and most of the other creatures. However even most of the Eldar who have seen the Light of the Two Trees cringe at the sound of the Gods and ever since the Avari joined their ranks, the option became pointless. Used to a much harsher world the pure version of the Song Maglor discovered it made their kins ears bleed or heavily confused their minds. 

But that never stops Maglor from showing off on occasion when he's alone with his brothers and that display of power helps to calm his nerves while his left side of his face burns from where Maedhros hit him.  

Who is obviously more comfortable than before now where his temper has an outlet again. Maedhros, intend to pay no attention to his little brother's antics, leans back in his hair and folds his hands. If he concentrates, he can feel the inner fires running down his body and into his feet where its absorbed by the ground beneath.

Caranthir swears he can see the stress lines fade from Maedhros' face. It's like a beast that has finally recaptured it's favourite spot in the sun and no longer a reason to lash out in anger.  

Ambarussa wrinkles his nose because he knows it's the truth but trapped between Nelyo and Cáno he's aware how much it cost Maglor to surrender the position which originally was meant for him. Once again Nelyo is the king without a crown - like father and Finwë trained him to be. Yet he holds too much power in Ambarussa's eyes. Maedhros is a commander in the field, the highest force a soldier can answer to. But going by Cáno's close guarded expression and what Ambarussa remembers from his lessons it's never been father's intention to surrender the sword of judgement to his eldest son as well. But after Maedhros returned from the Thangorodrim he needed to be back in command, craving control in a unfamiliar world while being surrounded by kin he only sporadically recognized Maglor held his tongue. And said nothing until it was too late.  

Difficult to say whom one should pity more, Ambarussa thinks. As best as he's able to without rousing suspicions Ambarussa glances back and forth between Maedhros and Cáno.

While Maedhros breathes easier now because Himring is back under his command, Cáno fidgets in his seat. Yet is his unease truly the loss of the power he guarded for several months or is it because of Maedhros declaration of authority? 

The former is a cause for concern. Cáno doesn't need power additional to the one he possesses already. It's oozing from his fingertips and has been under his command long before Telvo and Pityo were born. Should Maglor think he needs more power it's either because Morgoth's growing forces or because his own are failing him. 

Tss, it's not that Nelyo needs Cáno to kneel and offer his sword. It's his own fucking fault that his fëa is out of sync with his hröa, Telvo offers his opinion on the matter. 

In the face of his memory problems it's a natural occurrence, Pityo intervenes. Since Nelyo look back and revisit his memories, he needs the assurance. Cáno is well aware of them.

Telvo snorts. Yes, that's why he spoke in Valarin. Because he's considerate and doesn't want to hurt Nelyo's feelings.

Perhaps it's not Nelyo's feeling Cáno wants to hurt but Maedhros, is Pityo's callous remark and Telvo's next response is a passionate outburst. 

Ambarussa lets them speak until their argument fades into a background noise. It's useful on occasion and less distracting than having them both sitting at the table. He's used to hear the voices of the originals in his head. No matter the distance he's just a part of a greater whole. Despite they longing to be complete Amrad and Amros have developed enough personalty to argue on occasion, especially when the matter at hand has no obvious solution.  

Meanwhile he resists the urge to strangle Cáno and demand answers from him. Clearly they need a private moment since the attempts of Maedhros and Maglor to reconcile are failed spectacularly. The bruise on Cáno's face has grown, reaching from his eye over his whole cheek to his jaw. Ambarussa can see the dark blue and purple pattern out of the corner of his eyes.

Yet the pain pales in comparison to the fact that Nelyo raised his hand against the brother he used to love the most. 

Who is Cáno going to trust if the person he used to rely on avoids him like Noldor do boats, Telvo whispers.

Ambarussa's has trouble following the conversation. Thankfully Maedhros sticks to tradition to today and question them in chronicle order. 

It's not fear. No matter his memories Maedhros is too wise to be blinded by fear, he hisses back and ends the argument before Pityo needles Telvo with his own opinion. Any further and he'll dissipate. An uncontrolled end to the fusion is always painful and a distraction Maedhros wouldn't tolerate right now. Besides there's only six chairs left after the last broke. 

Finally his mind quiets down. Ambarussa doesn't know if it's because Telvo and Pityo saw sense or because one of them would've to stand for the rest of the meeting. Knowing them, it's the latter. 

 

-

 

Between the deep shadows of the stone walls where the light of the lamps don't reach, Erestor waited. Arms crossed over his chest he exercised patience. Staring on a spot in the distance he strains his ears in the attempt to follow the conversation. For the most part he even managed to discern the meaning yet the brother's are alone with only a single scribe recording the conversation. Too buried in his work the scribe isn't useful for Erestor who struggles whenever a Fëanorian changes the subject or half of a sentence is left unsaid because the rest already knows the content.

Erestor admits that the gathering proceeds rather quick. Much faster than he anticipated which is due to the lack of nobles and warriors. Not even the high ranking Lords, old friends and loyal followers have been invited. People with more privilege and right to be informed about Himring's fate have been told to wait. Explicit and without any exceptions. 

The fact he's here anyway makes Erestor nervous. His expression sours. 

Here's not here on Lord Maglor's orders. So far Maglor refused to involve him in any official matters. His status as Lord Maglor's personal servant is for protection and because it frees him from any duties the gatekeeper might have assigned to him otherwise. 

'It's too early', his Lord always says when Erestor mentions it. 'When this insanity has passed we'll talk. I promise to answer your question, Erestor. But not now.' 

When his name sounds through the door, biding him to enter Erestor knows it won't come to that. His mind is blank and his hands shake when Erestor steps from the dark corridor into the hall. Through the windows the mountains stretch on in an endless row and before that all Sons of Fëanor look at him with expectation. 

Maedhros' eyes land on him, large and filling the room with his presence and Erestor dares not to look at Maglor no matter if a single gesture of his Lord 'd give him comfort. He might not be able to recollect his old name but he remembers his first day with absolut clarity. Lord Maedhros wrath is difficult to forget. 

"I've one question for you," Maedhros addresses him and his gaze burns itself into Erestor's soul who struggles not to give himself away. 

Slipping up around Lord Maglor who wanders in and out of his head whenever he pleases, is one thing. Opening his mind in front of strangers, in front of the High Princes of Tirion and uncrowned rulers of East Beleriand, another. 

"Yes, Lord Maedhros," Erestor says. His tranquil composure is a surprise to himself. "I'll answer you honestly and as best as I'm able to." 

Fëanor's eldest son nods. Erestor thinks it's an improvement that he isn't hailed as servant of Morgoth anymore.  

"Since we've met only briefly and the rumors around your person have only grown since then, I wish to hear out of your mouth," Maedhros begins and Erestor braces himself for what comes next. 

For a final time Maedhros looks at him and the weight of his attention is worse than staring a dragon into the eyes. Erestor has learned that a dragon can be fought. This mighty beast in front of him that was once destined to inherit the throne of Tirion annihilates all opposition with a single breath. 

"Who are you?" Maedhros asks and waits for an answer. 

Faced with only one possible answer, Erestor straightens his back, claps his hands behind and doesn't hesitate when he answers, "Forgive me, Lord Maedhros, but I don't know. I don't remember."

Silence conquers the chamber. It seems that every single Fëanorian is frozen or too afraid to move.

Erestor has a urge to clarify. He repeats, "I don't remember anything at all. Nothing beyond the day I woke in Lord Maglor's arms."

End Notes:

*takes a deep breath* ... roughly 4.5k and I'm glad that the chapter is finally, finally completed. I'll leave it to you to open the discussion. Meanwhile I've an announcement to make. This story will feature slash in future chapters though it'll never turn into a romance story. Just to warn you. But given my pace it'll take a long time before we reach the point were the slash gains important.

I'll also post the first part of the Fingon Interlude in the next few days, so keep an eye out. I created a series for that reason, easier to follow updates. Depending on my mood I'll rewrite the The Merchant of Mercy as well. There's an idea floating around in my head that I wish to exploit.

Happy Easter Everyone =)

My Heart is a Ghost Town by mangacrack

 

Maglor wants to go home. Deep down in his heart he accepts that despite the fact he's surrounded by family, his brothers he loves to the point of insanity, he wants to go home. Himring is an incredible achievement, build in record time to bring their people safety and with a clever layout to confuse their enemies. Maglor knows this place is made from strong walls, almost carved out of the stone like it's the way of the Khazad and it'll be one of the few relict's that will withstand time and season.  

Yet right now all he wishes is to descend from the mountains and disappears between the swallow hills of the land he calls his own. Return to wide plains where he sleeps under Varda's stars, wakes with the grey fog hiding him from the enemies eyes and where the sun darkens his hair during the summer months. The longing is great, growing with each passing moment that Erestor and Nelyo spend staring at each other. Himring is big, safe enough that such issues can come forth. At home he doesn't have such luxury. At home he must focus on survival of his people while making sure to hold the line, otherwise the Orc's will push through the gap one day and rape the land. 

That he knows how to prevent. Orc's are easy to fight. It's instances like these where it's a struggle to keep a clear head, seeing the bigger picture when Morgoth makes his moves in the shadows. 

Taking a deep breath Maglor collects what remains of his concentration. Erestor is one of those hidden moves Morgoth made. A complicated case since Maglor isn't sure he has won already. Erestor is free of Morgoth influence, for now. But there's much Maglor doesn't know yet. He has to be careful. 

Surrounded by this brothers who all tensed after Erestor's announcement, it's not the best time to rely on guesswork. Especially once Maedhros starts to ask questions Maglor can't answer. Not yet. Maybe not ever. So it's for the best if he ignores the ugly churning of his stomach. 

I know I promised. I'm sorry, brother, Maglor thinks carefully glancing at the person who was Nelyo once. It wasn't fair, it would never be but there was no other way. 

If Maedhros only knew how close to the surface Maglor keeps his secret sometimes. That he only has to reach inside his head and pick the answer he desires so much. But that isn't Maedhros. Maedhros doesn't do such things. Maedhros is decent. Good. Even without remembering why. Maedhros is better than himself who has no such qualms - never, because why not ... people make more sense when you have seen their motivations, when you had a glimpse of the fire that was their souls. Once mastered reading minds was easy. 

Thankfully it was less hearing thoughts - Maglor abhors that practice. Stupid and ineffective, filtering out a single voice whispering in a persons mind. Oh, speaking to another with the mind is useful on certain situations but even for that you have to know where your thoughts have to go. At the beginning it takes effort. To read the person in front of you, to tell tales without words. Yet with time words become unnecessary. Look at Ambarussa. And there's a reason Tyelko is best friends with Curvo. Why no outsider and no close friend, no matter how alike the interests, ever matched what his brothers had with each other. What they all have with each other.

All but him. His brothers don't need the mess that his mind. 

Brothers who are talking again, as it seems.  

Maglor isn't listening, isn't registering what happens. Instead he focuses on that - not for the first time - Maedhros probably feels left out. Only occasion, or so Maglor had thought. Yet to be fair he wasn't constantly in his brother's head. He avoided it. His siblings were allowed their privacy. There had been ugly fights about that issue in the past. So Maglor heeded the order. That was one of the things father had been firm about. Hadn't been very difficult to follow after Nelyo returned from Angband. There are images he could live without. Besides ... even before Maglor hadn't practiced the habit of rummaging around in his older brother's head. Simply because ... he didn't need to know that about Findekáno, no thanks. 

Strange how Nelyo always knew what was up with him, even without having looked inside his little brother's head. Maglor never figured out how Nelyo was so good at reading people just by watching how they behaved. 

Due to his mood and distracted by the recent events weighting on his mind, Maglor doesn't hear someone calling his name. 

"...laurë!" 

"Uh...?" Maglor blinks and looks up, straight into Maedhros angry face. Since his mind is even less accountable than usual, Maglor actually asks, "Did you say something?"

Which is the exact wrong thing to say. Even Maglor realizes that as Maedhros slams his fist on the table.

"I said Explain yourself!" Maedhros roars.  

 

-

 

Everyone in the room flinches. There's power in those words. So much that Celegorm shakes his head to get the ringing out of ears and Ambarussa looks dazzled for a moment. It's not often that father's eldest uses his inborn ability to be stronger and better than anyone else. Nelyo had always been subtle whenever he used it. Often it resulted broken cups or dents in the furniture. But Maedhros doesn't remember how to use it. Is barely aware he isn't like other Elves.  

"Yes?" Maglor drawls and blinks up at his brother. 

The growl rising in Maedhros chest is enough to make the others move their chairs away. As the one closest to him, Caranthir has to clutch at the table to keep himself upright. Not that Maedhros notices the upheaval he causes. From seven pairs of eyes looking at him, only one is important.

"I said," he repeats carefully, "Explain yourself, Maglor. You antics have gone too far. I demand a good reason why you think that bringing a servant of Morgoth without memories into our ranks is a good idea." 

Maglor's scowl speaks for itself. Point for Maedhros not to bring his memories up. They have been dancing around this issue for a time, always ending with Maglor refusing to say anything he knows about the matter. Or to help Maedhros recover them. Yet, this particular question he has to answer. Maedhros is still their uncrowned King. The eldest son of Fëanor. 

"He is not a servant of Morgoth anymore," Maglor says while pointing at Erestor who hasn't moved an inch since answer his last question. With his hands crossed behind his back and the black clothes he's the perfect picture of a Fëanorian soldier. 

"There's never a guarantee that they aren't secret spies or under some kind of spell." Maedhros answer is swift and harsh. Crossing his arms over his chest shows how pleased he is to have this conversation. If it were up to him, he would throw Erestor over the battlements and be done with it. "No servant of Morgoth is never free of him." 

The tension in the room is almost unbearable. The remaining brothers, forced to keep their silence in order not to make the argument worse than it already is, wait for Maglor's retort. Nelyo's capture and his imprisonment is still fresh in their minds and a deep note swings through the room as Maglor's eyes pierce Maedhros'. Candles flicker and a cold touch takes hold of them as if the windows never existed and the gathering is held outside on Himrings snow covered mountains. But after a long, long moment the coldness subsides, fleeing away. It leaves the brothers surprised.

No one suffered more from Nelyo's imprisonment than Maglor, helpless to aid and forced to report any changes whenever he managed to contact Nelyo over the distance.

"Moringrotto dominates this world, Maedhros. None of us is free," Maglor whispers and raises to his feet himself. His fingertips are placed carefully on the table, spread out. A gesture for his brother. "But let me tell you that Erestor is not his prisoner, nor his spy. Morgoth cannot see through his eyes and Erestor could not obey his will, even if he wanted."

"And why is this, little brother?" Maedhros answer is a hiss, his expression sweet. He inches closer into Maglor's direction. Ambarussa is torn between ducking his head to avoid any fists when it comes to blows again or taking one brother each to force them apart before it can happen.

Maglor's answer stops them.

"I bound him to my will." 

The answer is blase and sounds uncaring. Maglor doesn't seem to hear the shocked noises echoing through the room. Erestor's blank face is almost forgotten the moment he draws his gaze away again. Even Maedhros looks put off by the answer. At least at first, before his eyes turn calculating. 

"He cannot betray us?" Maedhros asks, anger appeased. His pointed finger leaves no room for doubt who exactly he means. 

Maglor shakes his head and for those who know him well, he looks almost remorseful. 

"He can't. I made sure of it. Years I spend hunting him down since I took notice of the specific Núlandur roaming the northern borders of my realm. And he always escaped on the back of a dragon."  

Not even Maedhros can hide his surprised expression. He gestures Maglor to continue and settles back into his chair. The collective breath of relief goes ignored. 

"Are the attacks in the recent months related to him?" Maedhros asks, question pointed since he knows Maglor evades a straight answers whenever he can. 

It's been an awful habit to get used to but it's the way the world worked ever since he woke up to a half-familiar world. What irked Maedhros the most is the knowledge that it used to be different. Once, ages ago, Cáno would've told him everything. Unprompted. Maedhros doesn't remember much but there was more honesty between Nelyo and Cáno than between him and Maglor. 

But a clarification of what happened in the shadows in the last months is a good start. 

"I haven't figured out yet how Morgoth tied the dragons to a single elf but I reckon that the attacks were desperate attempts to get Erestor back. Since dragons were entirely made out of magic, crafted from the Songs of Power the Valar first sung when they came to Arda, they need a weight that keeps them in this world. Without someone like Erestor they intelligence will fade over time. They will loose the ability to speak our tongue, to remember days as history and the ability to reproduce."

Everyone in the room is silent and looking at Maglor with raised eyebrows. Who only shrugs the horrified expressions away.

"And before anyone of you thinks of lecturing me," he glowers, remembering the last time he acted on his own and his brothers worried over the danger he put himself in, "All I had was theories. Most I learned when I captured Erestor when I wiped his mind from the influence of the dragons."

"Is he still connected to them?" Celegorm wants to know.

His sharp senses now have focused on Erestor who hasn't moved an inch ever since he had been told to wait in the back of the room. Neither Maedhros anger nor Maglor's revelations drew a reaction from him. But Celegorm's senses are sharp. The breath is a little too even and the stance a little rigid. Perhaps this is the first time  the Núlandur experiences what is like to be blindsided by Makalaurë infamous truth telling. Whatever this Elf feels for Cáno, he knew nothing of the circumstances of his rescue.

If it can it be called as such, Celegorm winces internally. Cáno probably cared little who this elf was before became a prisoner or if he still has family around. He would've killed him in cold blood if had meant to get the sheer number of dragons of our backs.

Cruel as it sounds, Celegorm approves. Mere animals they can hunt easily but so far that had been out of question. Until recently no arrow hurt these beasts and no sword got past their scales. Whatever Cáno did, whatever Erestor was, the dragons lost a crucial defense. Without the ancient song protecting them, they're now more part of this world than before. They could be killed. As far as Celegorm is concerned that is all he has to know. Who cared what became of the slave the dragons kept for their own purposes. Even under Cáno's rule his life would be better than whatever Morgoth had in store for him.   

"I went to great lengths to ensure Erestor is free of dragon's influence. He fought by my side all these months and not a single time they picked him out. Nor did he have any cravings to join their side," Maglor finally answered Celegorm's question, leaving out the important part like always. Perhaps the river ran dry now but the bed it formed was the still there. Empty, for the most parts.

"Are we finally done with this topic?" Curufin intervenes. "I've greater interests than discussing a single elf who can do us no harm anymore. Besides he's now solely Makalaurë's responsibility. Can we please return to more important topics like what we are going to do with all the dead dragons? For my part, I want..."

Curufin derails into a discussion of which parts he needs his experiments and where they're going to store all the body parts reuse. Slowly the topic is steered away from Erestor who still waits in the back, expression unreadable. Instead Maglor sits down again. He even manages to have a civil discussion with Maedhros over bringing the ancient songs of power to life again once the dragon parts have been worked into weapons and armor.

 

-

 

The gathering ends when Celegorm announces that he's hungry and there's a feast to attend. Caranthir joins in claiming he's in dire need of a drink. They leave together, turning it into a race who gets to the festival hall fastest. Shaking his head, Curufin follows them but at a more leisure pace. On his way through the door he tucks at Maglor's sleeve who's rubbing his temples. 

"Come on, you need to eat as well," Curufin insists, studying Maglor's pained expression. 

He's a bit surprised that his brother doesn't put up a fight. Instead he gets up and starts walking, ignoring Maedhros who's still in a deep conversation with Ambarussa. The two redheads are still gathered at the end of the table but only Maedhros looks up for a moment to watch Maglor's retreating back. Then discards the notion to follow him and concentrates on the brothers he's going to see the least once they depart from Himring in a few days. 

Ambarussa is owed some attention. Amon Ereb is far away from Himring. A necessary move to properly govern the lands they live in. Besides they need the contact to the south. Taur-im-Duinath is home to many Avari and while they like to keep for themselves, the trade between their tribes was welcome. Ambarussa managed to form Amon Ereb into a trade city. Far more important than Nargothrond. Finrod established good contacts with Doriath but is too far away from for the Green Elves to be considered of import. Besides the Green Elves already had in abundance what Doriath sold since their home was nearly thrice as large as Thingol's kingdom. No, the Avari desire steel and armor of quality they couldn't produce themselves. Since they only trade with the dwarves when necessary, the arrival of the Fëanornnath produced the desired alternative.  

Hence why Ambarussa is their most important income. Amon Ereb attracted a lot of their own followers when they wished to trade with citizens from Nargothrond ir the Green Elves. Some of Angrod's people made the journey as well, providing the High King with goods his realm lacked. Even dwarves didn't hesitate to enter a city which consisted mostly of Elves and Men. It's Maedhros greatest regret that he will probably never see the twins home as often as he would like. So far he visited the city once and it had only grown since then. But he's needed in the North so travel to South is a luxury. Just another sacrifice until Morgoth is defeated. 

"You should talk to him," Ambarussa speaks up, commenting on the long stare Maedhros throws after Maglor who walked through the dammed door several minutes ago. 

It's obvious that Maedhros tries. Yet Ambarussa can understand why he's so distracted. The news were unsettling even without the knowledge their unknown elf without memories is a cousin. At first he thought of needling Maglor what he thought to do with Erestor but Ambarussa decided against it. Confronting Cáno in Himring with so many ears listening is not the best course of action. He can wait. 

"I'm not sure what we should talk about," Maedhros sighs. Admitting at least that Maglor is dominating his thoughts. "Today I ordered him to talk and it only worked because you're were here. How I'm supposed to talk to him if he hates my company so much?" 

Ambarussa's laugh sounds through the empty room. "Are you serious? I know your memory isn't what it used to be but let me tell you one thing. There's no one in this world Cáno loves more than you." 

Maedhros disbelief is obvious as he pierces his little brother with his grey eyes. 

"Trust me. You ruined love lives with that fact. Including your own," Ambarussa drawls. He smirks as he remembers Nelyo's rants about Findekáno jealousy and the fact that father wasn't allowed to know about it. "I mean your pretty doll never dealt well with the fact that we'll always be more important to you than he ever could." 

"What did you just call him?" Maedhros hisses at the name Ambarussa just used for Fingon. He can't place the anger he feels. If it's Ambarussa's language, his degrading way of speaking or if it's because he aimed it at Fingon. 

Another part of him wonders if it's true. 

"Excuse me? Are you aware that I'm the youngest of all of us?" Ambarussa kicks Maedhros into the shin, petulant little brother that he is. "I'm literally the youngest. Even Telyo and Pityo are older so don't go after me of being the least informed. I know you were fucking him long before I was born but that's about it. Another reason why you should talk to Cáno. He was your best friend. Still is, if you make some effort."

"I'm not the person he remembers." Maedhros sighs. It gets tired repeating it over and over again. 

He feels the line that has been drawn between him and Nelyafinwë. Why else would he wonder on much of Ambarussa's little tell is true. Not, that isn't easy to imagine. Even without his memories, without properly remembering his childhood, the childhoods of his little brothers or Valinor in general, there's truly nothing more important than the six souls who greeted him when he woke in the tent at Lake Mithrim. They made the pain go away. For that alone he loves the rascals. 

But there's more. So much more waiting beneath the surface and Fingon ... can't compare to that.

I'll think on this when I've the time, Maedhros muses. He hopes a little reflection on his relationship with Fingon will bring forth more than just pity.

"Nelyo, it doesn't matter.The memory thing is a nuisance but that's all." Ambarussa groans and throws his hands into the air. He doesn't understand where Maedhros' sees the difference between him and his old self. It not as if he had changed. If anything, the amount of incidents and fist fights had gone down. "Especially for Cáno. You could've returned from Angband as Orc and he'd still need you. As far as I remember he spend most of his life glued to your side."

Ambarussa's eyes reflect the light of Valinor as he looks back on his, Telyo's and Pityo's life. Finally the Avatar says, "Do you expect that to change just because you've the disadvantage of not knowing when to cry Bullshit?"

Maedhros is at loss what to say. This day didn't go the way he envisioned it. Several bruises and some uncomfortable truths richer than before yet not a step closer on how to keep Cáno from slipping through his hands. 

End Notes:

I'm sorry for the delay but real life is an utter arse right now. I tried to make up for it. See, there's so much hidden in this chapter. It should keep you happy until I've the next one. Or read the Fingon/Maedhros Interlude I promised and started to write. Has a lot of Valinor so far.

Thanks at this point go to Encairion for the inspiring discussion in the past weeks. Also, Melota is translating this story into Chinese. You can't believe how happy that makes me *__*

Otherwise ... Feel free to harass me at my tumblr (tag "the world breaks everyone" or "that luthien & celegorm story" in case you want to know more about inspiration and stuff)

The Voice, the World and the Silence by mangacrack
Author's Notes:

As you can see, I'm trying to make up for the long radio silence of the past two months.

 

Erestor descends the steps. He's running, taking two steps at a time. Everyone is gone now. He took another way than the Fëanorian Lords. He doesn't take the direct route. Instead he seeks the lonely places, just always at the edge where he can still hear people. He needs their voices now. Their presence grounds him. Whenever he passes a person they act as a lamp one a street. Lonely but enough to show you the road. 

Thoughts far away yet not troubled by anything specific Erestor runs. Only when he reaches the feast hall he finally stops. Breathing hard he waits on the steps in the yard. One of the big doors has been opened and warm candle light shines from within, illuminating the stones and wall Himring is build upon. During the day the bailey was filled with warrior practising their moves in mock battles, smith forged new weapons or repaired old ones or strong men did their duty in keeping Himring running. Erestor had been doing all of this in the past weeks. Whatever he had been told to do, he did with ease and without questioning the reason behind it. Obvious that his Lord hadn't the time to mother him all day. Especially since his memory showed no signs of returning.

"It'll heal, but it needs time. A lot," one healer had said, backing his Lord's first verdict of Erestor's mind. "Centuries might pass before the first memory returns. Great harm has been done to you and despite our longevity our fëa is fragile once it's been damaged. The race of men, for instance, are far better in dealing with such mental injuries than us Elves." 

Yet he could read it in their faces. He might never remember who he was. With a new name already there was no reason to mourn the past. They were fighting a war and he was just another nameless soldier against the black forces. Yes, his Lord had saved him from a spell, from imprisonment. But how grave that could've been when Erestor didn't dream at night? Didn't react to the vile creatures of the enemy with anything but repulsion - just like all other elves so far. 

I'm not important, Erestor had learned in the first weeks of his new life. His Lord had made some vague noises about telling him more about what happened yet Erestor never really thought about it. As long as he didn't remember it, it could hardly affect him. 

Who am I? This question never bothered him. He was Erestor. It was enough. He had been content. 

Why has this changed? Erestor thinks as he studies the keep. In the dark it looks strange. Tall and ominous, like a father judging the foolish deeds of an overeager child.  Under the Fëanorian banner flattering the wind above him, Erestor feels small and lost. Alone with his turmoil and his thoughts he can't process yet. And perhaps he'd have stood there all night, unable to return to the quarters that weren't his in a life that apperently wasn't even his own. 

"Hey Erestor," one soldier called, finally spotting his lone figure waiting in the dark. "Come inside. The wine is great. There's even food left. Come on."

And he heeded the call. Mainly because vanishing in a crowd helped as little as standing outside getting cold because in the distance, deep in the mountains he could hear the deep dark voice howling for him. It pulls at his chest, grabs his spine and squeezes until he can't neither move nor breath anymore. 

I'm falling, Erestor thinks and nods absently to the chatter as the soldier throws an arm around him, pulling into the feast hall. 

He's falling and it's an ugly feeling.

 

-

 

Something is wrong. It's like a piece of a puzzle that has been forced into the wrong place. Now it's mismatched. Breaks the pattern, the colors and the lines. It just looks wrong. Maglor blinks to banish the image from his mind. It's just the hunger talking. And his dry throat. Well, but there's still the ache. The piece of the puzzle will never truly fit. The edges hurt, straining against the intruder.  

Breath, Maglor thinks while trying to clear his mind. Just ... breath. It's simple. You've done it all your life. Just .... remember ... to breath. 

It feels a little crammed in his head and moving feels like being in father's library. Too small, the corridors are too narrow and every single space packed with books in some kind of order no one retrace. It felt exactly like this. The thoughts are the same. Don't move. Don't knock anything over. Never touch loose pages and - for fucks shake - try not to inhale too much dust. Maglor always hated father's personal library who probably built it exactly carted to his needs, following a system only Curvo could follow. Nelyo even refused to set a food inside. The asiles were to narrow for him. So he always abused his I-am-your-older-brother rights and send Maglor to pick up the volumes he needed. 

Fuck you, Maglor thinks. Just because he can. Besides it feels good to vent a little. Fuck you, Nelyo. 

Not that he means it. Not really. He can't let Maedhros feel his anger. His brother is already confused and hurting. No need to add to that just because he has Nelyo's face. It wouldn't be fair to hurl insults at the wrong person no matter how alike the faces might be. Thankfully he has practice with stomaching his anger, growing up with six annoying brothers intend on wearing your nerves paper thin will do that to you.   

Maglor grinds his teeth and takes a deep breath to calm his thoughts. The feast hall isn't far away anymore and he can't afford to be in such a bad mood when there 're so many people around him. Open minds already brush against his, crashing, cuddling, pinching and groping, made brash and careless by wine and too much dancing. Yet to push them away would be cruel. All those hard faced warriors Maglor commanded in the last months have turned into excited babbling children in their minds and no matter how old or experienced, they'd react as such if Maglor would try to wriggle out of their grasp right now. It'd leave them cold, vulnerable. Exposed to the horrors of the world that could sneak in through an open door. 

Of course his struggle doesn't get past Curufin's watchful gaze. 

"You're aware that you don't have to join us?" Curufin says. The offer is kind but useless. They both know that Maglor won't find any rest tonight, not as long as the hearts of the Noldor are soaring with victory with their songs of joy ringing in his ears. 

"I'll live, Curvo," Maglor answers, voice as soft and kind as he can manage it. He brings up a hand to massage his neck, get the tension out of it. "I suffered through worse and it's expected that I make an appearance tonight. I was their commander over the better part of a year. Neither a kind nor an easy one, I might add. Maedhros does a better job than I do even without remembering the power he possessed in Tirion. I can give the crowd at least this much."

Curufin listens patiently ands notices that his brother used more words to deflect his concern than in his explanation about Erestor. Which means this Erestor is more important to his brother than he's willing to admit. Maglor never talks about his secrets. Or the reasons behind his actions in general. Knowing better than to pry, he asks, "Do you promise me that you'll retreat the festival if it gets too much?"  

The answer is a snort and a dismissive gesture with his hand. For Curufin it's like looking through a window into the past because it's one of Cáno's favourite habits, waving his hand and stretching his long fingers as if he wanted to say don't look here, look there. Usually it worked, especially if you weren't well adversed in ignoring the distractions. With his tall and proud figure, raised as Prince of Tirion and advocated as the golden voice of Aman one wouldn't suspect such sneaky, dastardly ways to get through the daily life.

Curvo knows better than to argue. Instead he Maglor talk (and talk and talk and talk). Obviously his brother mentally prepares himself in order to face the joyous masses that will demand his full attention, his attendance, before the night is out.  

"Oh please, Curvo. This isn't the High Court of Tirion," Maglor tells him. "If I can make it through a dinner with King Ingwë, Lady Indis and grandfather than I'm quite capable of making it through the evening."

A smile accompanies these words and Maglor's steps are long and resolute. Yet he never ventures far from Curufin. More often than not their shoulders touch and it's not because the sheer amount of people swarming the grand hall.  

Okay, okay, I get it. You don't want to talk, Curufin relents. His eyes are never leaving his brother's back when they finally separate, Maglor actually getting himself something to eat while Curufin heads for the High Table manned with Celegorm and Caranthir. Curufin sits down next to his brothers with a defeated sigh. Someone around here must know him well because immediately there's a carafe with wine passed down the long table. It's even the right one and not the strong and bitter beverage his brother's prefer for themselves.  

"No luck, little brother?" Celegorm grins and shows his teeth. It looks teasing to everyone who might listen but the smile is a little too sharp and Curufin understands that the question is once again pointed at Maglor. 

"He doesn't want to share his secrets," Curufin says and lets the sweet taste of wine wash away his worries. "At least not tonight but I actually never expected to succeed after the day he just had. I think fighting Maedhros has taken a lot out of him - more than he wishes to admit." 

The next moment there 're two forceful feet kicking his shins. Curufin let out a quiet curse, directed at annoying older brothers but suppresses the initial urge to hit back. 

"Not in public," Celegorm hisses. So quiet Curufin has trouble to understand him. "With so many ears around someone is bound to listen in. We don't have to spread the word around how strained Cáno's and Nelyo's relationship currently is." 

"Our people aren't blind. Do you think they haven't noticed how much Father's Princes changed since we came to Beleriand?" Curufin reminds. But since Moryo apparently agrees his tone is less sharp than usual. 

"That can attributed to a number of things," Caranthir objects. "We faced battles. We met unimaginable horrors like losing father or the beasts that struck him down. Death is as common in this land as light was in Valinor. Of course our brother's changed. We all did." 

"But...?" Sometimes Curufin forgot how taxing it could be when Celegorm and Caranthir banded up on him.

He grew up with these rascals getting into trouble, dragging him, the youngest, along. They never advertised it and since lived in different parts of the county now, they didn't often get a chance to display it but Celegorm and Caranthir were brother's in the truest sense of the word. They wrestled a lot when they were young, pranking each other when they could since of course they inherited mother's competitive streak and never passed a chance to outdo each other. But they also could read each other blind, better than Curufin was able to sometimes. 

"Well, Curvo..." Caranthir announces, making a show of biting into his grilled chicken. Hence why the next words are silent, only echoing in their heads. 

We can never forget how easy it is for others to fear Cáno. The  common folk may admire him, they can't see past the image of a regal Lord. They're like men in that regard, unable - or unwilling - to look past the illusion of a sharp yet enticing prince. But the people we rely on? People we have to rely on - like our advisors, commanders and scribes that go in and out of our homes on a daily bases?  They talk. And they're the first to notice when something is amiss. 

"I understand," Curufin mumbles and empties his cup of wine. 

Caranthir was right, he had forgotten the effect Maglor could've on other people and if brother thought it wise to remind him ... there had to be more. 

"Is this a warning, brother?" 

The tone was light and innocent, expected from a trio of brother teasing each other during an easy going, happy gathering. Yet instead of eyes with the color of coal, Curufin looked into his brother's face and saw only pitch black darkness. Worry, deep worry for Cáno. A little more and Curufin 'd have to call it fear. 

"I cannot be the only one who has noticed how thin Cáno has gotten?" Agonizing and fervent is his voice when Caranthir speaks.

His fingers dig into the skin of his forearms as his gaze travels to Maglor, easy to find in the crowd as always. Not just because he has gathered a group of people around him but also because their brother his heading from the tables towards the free space where people are dancing merrily. Caranthir is relieved his brothers are subtle in their movements. Curvo has to easier since he has his back to the wall and can survey the room easily. His eyes narrow dangerous thin slits, his fine features getting stern when he finally sees what Caranthir notice already a few days ago. 

"He looks stressed," Celegorm mumbles. A quick glance is enough for him, his memory is good. He doesn't have to stare at Makalaurë like Curufin does. But there's no denying it. 

Maglor does look worn out, since thin isn't really the correct word. Yet Celegorm gets it. Caranthir's meaning of the word is less in regard of Cáno's body. That one is in top shape after months of fighting and killing dragons. On the other hand the spirit behind those eyes ... Celegorm think it has dulled a bit. Especially if he thinks back. Perhaps he should be glad there are no pictures of Prince Makalaurë of Tirion or else he 'd be far more horrified than he feels already. For the Prince in Tirion had little in common with the creature held up by power, anger and determination in front of them. 

The Cáno from their childhood was softer. His smiles honest and his care genuine.  

Today Maglor is a soldier. Alert and always suspicious. Curufin can tell from the way his brother moves through the room. The way he checks out certain people, lets his gaze linger a bit without letting anyone know why. Curufin has no one day why Maglor holds his breath until he passed the elf who laughs loudest. Why he compliments one of the tavern maidens. Why he makes on of Moryo's soldiers piss himself just by looking him into the eyes two heartbeats longer than necessary. In Tirion Curufin would've bet that Cáno is making fun of all these people, secretly laughing at them because in his eyes they're all idiots. It was one of their favourite games back in Valinor, to guess and point out who Canafinwë would show up next. 

Here in Beleriand isn't funny anymore. It's a cause for worry. Remembering how carefree, how careless, Makalaurë used to makes just much more difficult to witness the deep-rooted scepticism in Maglor. 

"Should we take it personal that he's not sitting with us?" Caranthir doesn't looked offended, just curious. 

He's the one brother who usually lets Cáno do what he wants and earns the most visits in return. No matter how concerned Caranthir rarely probes Maglor with questions. At times it makes him the most favourite brother, meaning Cáno comes by on his own instead off having to be dragged out of the rain.

"Cáno is heading where all the musicians are," Celegorm drawls uninterested. For him the topic is over. They can talk about Makalaurë's antics all the time. "So let him be. He'll come around sooner or later. Give it an hour and will at least be able to hear him."

Obviously his brothers wish to talk about something else. Curufin gets that they're right. You can't second guess Cáno's moves all day. Once you start you'll never stop because there's always something that will want to make you snap at him. Or worse it makes you depressed and sleep deprived. Curufin had a phase when growing up where he tried to, had to, watch over his brother. It became an obsessive habit which father ended after a long discussion. Earned him the title creepy kid. For good reason. In the end Curufin learned how to take a break from his obsessions after Fëanor said that he didn't need another one like Cáno in the family.

Nelyo was the only one who managed to be casually concerned for Cáno and yet proceed with his own business without seen as too interfering. 

But since that's an ability the eldest uses on all of his brothers Curufin decides this can't be the big difference. 

 

-

 

When Maedhros finally joins it becomes clear to the rest of the Fëanorians what took him so long. Unlike his brothers the Lord of Himring chose to slip into to different robes. Instead of the colorless and comfortable cloth he changed into a more formal wear. It's not much, just a red with silver ornaments overcoat matching his braided hair but enough to make an impression. Soldiers cheer in greeting. Not all had the opportunity ever since they learned that the uncrowned King returned from his travels. Since Maedhros makes the effort to stop at every table and greets at least the captains and commanders a bone-deep relief starts to settle among the Noldor. Many are seen with smiles on their faces, not just on young drunk warriors but nearly everyone starts to relax. 

Even the older elves look content again. A lot of them once belonged to Fëanáro's inner circle and are now lost souls without their friend and King at their side. In Lord Nelyafinwë they see the only worthy heir and stick to his side as much as they can in fear of losing him as well. Strangely they have no such feelings about Fëanáro's second son. Lord Cánafinwë has always been a strange one, less present in their memories but as much as loved and respected. Though the old guard leaves Lord Cánafinwë alone. They've seen him fight. Enough in the past months to have earned their unquestioned obedience. Nevertheless they know that their counsel is unwelcome. Lord Cánafinwë rarely needs it and doesn't go through the trouble of considering a fact from another perspective when he made up his opinion already.

He's like his father in that, some of the old warriors laugh. Their table is in the back and they remain undisturbed by the younger ones.

Oh no, another says and drinks from his wine, Fëanáro was less stubborn than him. 

Another round of laughter but it's good natured. No one of them means to discredit the prince. Perhaps because they're the only once who see that Maglor dresses like them. Many warriors of the old guard have made the journey twice now, belong to those who followed Finwë to Aman because it felt right at the time. By now they are a little paranoid. They lost two Kings already and with Lord Nelyafinwë it was a close call. Usually weapons in the feast hall are frowned upon yet their swords rest either against a wall or still tangle for their hips. No one is too drunk to fight either and everyone bears at least one more knife at their body. 

Maglor might sit at the opposite of the room yet he's the same as them. He chose a simple stool without a backrest and leans against a wall while musicians surround him. Among the merry singers he stands out easily, dressed in pitch black pants and a colorless shirt. The linen look plain, something that can get dirty or torn and if weren't for his distinctive face and his white eyes one could mistake him from someone of the common folk. His hair is in a simple pony tail as farmers prefer it when they work in the field. His hands are clean but rough and calloused from the handle of his sword which scarcely leaves his side. It's an exception that he didn't bring it with him as he usually does. 

But even Lord Cánafinwë knows that he doesn't need to arm himself among his own people. Not when there's the old guard to protect him should the need arise. 

Besides he's never defenceless and as the evening goes on the frown on Maglor's face slowly smooths out.  

 Around midnight the Sons of Fëanor broke from the high table and scattered around the room, mingling with their people while laughing, eating and drinking in delighted company. They make an effort to be present, especially for those who see don't see too often. Mothers ask question how safe it is to let their children be trained as warriors. Others bring issues of trade and taxes to Caranthir while Curufin is eager to hear more about the dwarves in the Blue Mountains who he doesn't see too often. 

In his little corner Maglor almost looks alone which he refuses leave, as some take note. However even his face softens the more young and eager elves approach about a song. At first they don't even ask him to sing. It's reward enough for the inexperienced minstrels to take out their harps, play a piece and wait for pointers when they're done. Despite his initial mood Maglor manages to each student leave him with a smile.

One by one elves gather their courage to approach the Bard.

They offer him wine which he drinks with pleasure. Fruits and meat arrive in small doses, just a handful each time but since the come steadily they fill his stomach as the evening proceeds. There are even a few whispered offers for Maglor to join someone for the night, most often when the elf in question retreats for the night and makes the attempt to shower the prince with pleasure for the rest of the evening. On that occasions Maglor smiles, dazzling. It doesn't matter that he refuses, polite but not uninterested. Everyone brave enough to invite Prince Canafinwë into their bed are rewarded with something special. All leave with their heart beating a little faster and a blush creeping over their face. 

Some even glance at each other, excited and curious if they were alone in what they saw when the white beautiful eyes were just focused on them.

They're not but everyone who leaves Makalaurë that night and goes to bed alone is inwardly glad that they weren't taken up on the offer. As happy as it makes them, it's enough to have caught a glimpse of the realisation of their fantasy in their Lords mind. They walk away pleased and captivated.

And also very glad not having been taken up on their offer. 

 

-

 

In the end it's Ambarussa who finally convinces Maglor. The youngest is just more than a little bit drunk. His brothers let him because the avatar doesn't get much opportunity for it for it's not safe when he's alone in south with no one to guard him. Therefore he takes advantage if the fact that all of his six brothers are around to stop him in case he does something stupid. 

Six strong, very father-like voices saying, "Ambarussa, no!" are enough to cause anyone stop in their tracks to reconsider their options. 

"Cáno, come on," Ambarussa says and dances around his elder brother, ruffling the black hair until it looks disheveled. "Sing for us. It's been ages." 

"Not that long," Maglor comments, good natured and with a smile. He doesn't seem to mind that his littlest brother keeps destroying his hair. That he tolerates the arm wrapped around his shoulders as well shows how much he eased up during the course of the feast. 

"Oh please?" The twins continue to pester. Aside from the illusion of just one red-haired brother poking Maglor in the ribs, the Bard is very aware of the two minds snuggling against his. "I even promise to go straight to bed after this." 

This makes Maglor laugh out loud, causing the remaining attends of the feast to turn their heads. By now the gathering has quieted down and the minstrels moved from dancing tunes to slower, softer music. 

"I'm going to take you up on that promise, little one. I'm not found of hearing you complain about your headache in the morning," Maglor finally relents, smirking while he reaches for the nearest harp.

It's not his own but the owner doesn't protest. Instead the minstrel gapes in awe that Lord Cánafinwë is choosing his instrument and is very eager to hand it over. Despite the danger of might never getting it back. To hear the once Royal Bard of Tirion sing is an honor that turned into a rare occasion and repayment enough.

Silence takes over as Maglor begins to plug at the harp's strings. Carefully at first, as if he had to test how much the instrument if able to support him and whoever is still talking is quickly shot down. Elbows are planted into ribs and chins get kicked at those who even dare to let out a whisper. The room is full of held breathes and anticipation reigns. Ambarussa flops down in the floor. He isn't picky about comfort. For him is suffices to stand in the first row, hear Cáno's voice at its most clearest. For a few moments there's the underlaying fear that Lord Cánafinwë will only play tonight and while that is just as beautiful, each person hopes for the golden voice.  

Maglor doesn't disappoint.

When he finally opens his mouth and initiates a hymn the Noldor forget the wood beneath their fingers as they grip the table. The walls seem to vanish until the elves are gathered in midst of the stars themselves, shining at Maglor's command as his voices rises and falls in depths. Even his brothers have to gasp slightly as Cáno's crystal bright voice washes over them. Just like his mind it's void of darkness. Love pours over them. Deep and unconditional. That much can gather even the other listeners though no one understand the actual words Maglor is using. 

It's magic of the highest art. The voice that forced Ingwë to come down from his mountain and has no contestant. For one can ever match the intensity and the emotions Maglor summons. The Noldor feel like as if they're falling into a pit, deep and bottomless. Yet their souls experiences freedom and unlimited brightness.

Finally Maglor closes his mouth again and lets the silence settle into the hearts of his men, all still captivated. Some recover earlier than others but no one dares to speak. 

They all feel as they have been taken back to the beginning. Back when all that existed was Eru's voice, Arda in it's unshaped form and the silence that supported everything.

End Notes:

One reason why the chapter took so long, aside from the bloody real life, was because I dreaded writing the last part. It's easy enough to mention Maglor's beautiful voice but actually get that in writing? Oh hells. Which also means that I can't give you one song for reference. I'll give you three.

1) Globus - Preliator. Simply because that one is amazing but is song by a female. Not that this would stop Maglor but still.
2) is Thomas Bergersen - Illusions for it matches the magic I tried to describe and
3) is Nickelback - What are you waiting for? cause that is about the clarity of Maglor's voice.
and 4) Faun - Walpurgisnacht is basically what I envision Nandor / Avari to be. I'm going to use that imagery one day for sure. (Srsly, watch it. It's even better in HD.)

But that's still barely matches what I imagine Maglor's voice to be. His real voice, when he's singing at full power.

What I should mention as well ... I've thrown a lot of what we know about the Valar out of the window. Screw canon. Not sure how much it's going to go into this story but let me tell you that in the beginning were three things: Arda itself. Eru, the Voice. And Quildë, the Silence.

Mainly because I had issues with: Where did Eru come from? Was he hanging out in space and just start to sing one day? So nope, too catholic for my taste. I'm heading more towards the old greek gods. In addition ... Eru isn't going to be a being truly capable of sentience. Sure you can pray to him if you want but don't expect an answer. Words are beyond him. He has the Valar for that reason. He's simply there ... just like Silence exists by default if Eru is the Voice.

Which always made me wonder that topic isn't addressed in by Tolkien / by the Tolkien Fandom. With so much focus on music and sing itself ... there should be someone who mentions the opposite? But that's just geekery of an author having too much fun at world building.

The demons lie again. Play pretend that it never ends. by mangacrack
Author's Notes:

You have no idea - non at all! - how long I've been trying to get those two to talk. It's awful. Bloody Fëanorians. But! All my thanks go to Encairion for my burst of inspiration :D ... After the frequent updates of 'Price of Vengeance II' I was determined to give something back for all the beautiful chapters I got to read in the past two weeks.

Warnings ... nothing beyond Maedhros' continued identity issues and a few references to Angband and it's aftermath.

~

Quildë Cilyawendë / Cilyanna - trans. Quiet in the Chasm

No one stops Maglor when he slips out of the room. After his performance the gathering is muted, everyone lost in their own heads. He simply joins those who're heading off to bed and cuts around a corner, moving in the shadows like a ghost. He needs to be alone. It's impossible to sleep now. Far more likely that he's going to wander around the castle the rest of the night. How can he put his spirit to rest if he just done the opposite of it? Whatever the Noldor feel right now for them the immediate effects will fade soon. For Maglor they're still stuck in his chest. Moving one of the iron doors leading to the battlements Maglor stumbles outside and welcomes the cold air.

When it hits his face and freezes his breath it's like the first in a long time that he can untangle his thoughts and put them into proper order.

More content than he has been in a long time Maglor leans on the cold stone and looks at Beleriand beneath him. The hymn from before is still close to the surface, the words still in his head and beneath his breath he hums the melody. Or something in that direction. The tune changes since he's standing under the stars. Before he directed his piece at Arda itself thanking it for being there, never changing and treating all of Eru's Children alike. However in Varda's presence, he can sense her faintly glimmering above his head like always in a clear night like this, the theme changes a little. Elbereth Gilthoniel is nearly as old as Arda itself for she is one of the elder gods, those who Eru Ilúvater and Quildë Cilyawendë composed first when they met on Arda.

Thanks to Fëanáro he has been taught enough Valarin to sort through the common misconceptions most Elves believed. Since spoken words aren't the Valars strong forte many Elves remain in the dark on how the Spirits governing Aman came into existence in the first place. Not tragic but it makes what some desperate hot-heads called praying completely useless. How can you expect the Valar to help you when said gods don't understand what are you trying to say?

It's one of Maglor's greatest joys to disillusion baby minstrels. Often those are like little elflings sitting in front of him with wide eyes, clutching their instrument of choice and wait for him to reveal secret words that gives them power. Makes other elves stare at them with wonder and awe. Well, perhaps they aren't all elflings. Those in fact, are far easier to teach than the arrogant boy some families sent to him in the past. Endless frustrations awaited him in these days often ending him telling the lazy band of aristocratic children to get out.

At least he could pick his students himself in these days. No Finwë around who asked in passing yet not really giving a choice but instead expecting that his wishes are followed.

Maglor growls at the thought and can't prevent from Finwë's memory darkening his mood.

"Don't think about it, Cánafinwë," Maglor tells himself, slapping his flat hand against his forehead a few times. "Don't think about it. There're happier memories than your glorious relationship with your equally glorious grandfather."

His eyes are looking wild again. Singing usually brings focus into his mind but Finwë can apparently unravel a good mood even beyond his grave.

"It seems I still know you well enough to guess you 'd be hiding up here," Maglor hears a familiar voice that shakes him out the black weariness that threatens to overcome him always when Finwë is a subject.

"What are you doing here?" Maglor asks.

It's not even an accusation born from annoyance. Just a bewildered question. Maedhros is the last one who he expected up here. Or maybe not, Maglor corrects quietly. Given what happened today, the fight and Erestor and that partial truth he told, Nelyo was bound to gravitate towards him again. Always did. Always has, no matter how strained their relationship.

"I wanted to talk to you," Maedhros says.

His voice isn't demanding, commanding him like the Lord of Himring did earlier. It's not even the tone the High Prince of Tirion always used, charming and turning everyones heads. No, this is too soft. Too gentle. Carefully treating forwards as if he's standing on thin ice.

Maglor wonders what his brother wants.

"If that's alright with you," Maedhros - Nelyo - adds. He's still waiting in the frame, door still open and ready to retreat in case he isn't wanted. "If that's what you wish. We can do this another time. I hope. I haven't been the best conversationalist recently."

With a snort Maglor gestures his brother to come closer, "And I'm not easy to talk to. I think that makes us even. So get over here and speak your piece. Chances are that you aren't gonna catch me in a better mood so you might as well make use of it."

Maedhros steps forwards who decides to lean against the huge stones of the merlon which are wide enough for both Sons of Fëanáro. Maglor watches amused how Nelyo tries once again to fold his huge form into a comfortable position. In the end Maedhros has to push his long legs backwards until he's half propped over the stone - like Makalaurë himself who appreciates the gesture. It's been a while since they felt comfortable in each other's space. Strange since Maglor remembers a time in Tirion where they were easily mistaken for lovers, making Fingon green with envy. It's also good to see that Maedhros feels comfortable in his body despite the existing memory problems. He moves with the same grace as Nelyo did and has the same mastery over his long limbs.

Deep down in his heart Maglor is so insanely glad that Morgoth failed to break his brother. Not able to restore his memories of Aman aside the Sons of Fëanáro worked well together to heal Nelyo when he returned from his captivity. They all gave a litte of themselves to mend Nelyo's hröa, washing all lingering aftereffects away, returning Maitimo to his new found glory.

Maedhros spots Makalaurë's growing smirk and raises an eyebrow.

"What...?" he asks and is surprised about the lack of irritation he feels.

Perhaps it's because of the relaxing evening, the wine and the company adding to the feeling of finally being home again. After spending the last months on the road and fighting the winged beasts standing on the top of the stronghold that's his and his alone, build with his own hands when he barely remembered his own name, the pleasure of belonging somewhere is overwhelming.

Maedhros relishes in the simpleness of a relaxing moment.

"I forgot how hilarious you were when you went through puberty," Maglor finally solves the riddle of his knowing smirk from before.

"Was I that bad?" Maedhros asks. He doesn't even bother to dig around in his own mind for memories, feeling too good and relaxed right now to bother with the headache that comes with scratching the wall in his mind.

Besides it feels good to pry a little. They usually don't talk about the time before his memory loss unless it's an important question. Partly because reminiscing about Aman never triggered anything in him and partly because so many memories involved a father he barely remembers and his brother still struggles to speak about. And as far as Maedhros deduced it's Maglor who knew Fëanáro best. Which makes it a delight to see Makalaurë so open with him, opening a window to world he does miss sometimes. It's a little as if them being so close has been always - always - been this way and any other state is wrong and temporary.

"Oh yeah. For years you were falling down the bloody stairs because your feet grew so big you always missed the steps." Cáno laughs at the memory. "Father had to rip it out and build a new one after you crashed to a cupboard one early morning."

Maedhros shifts closer to Cáno until he has basically shoved his nose into his brother's face. Not able to contain a smug grin he says, "Let me guess, I bumped my head on every available door frame as well?"

"Oh, how do you know?" Maglor teases. His smile his wide and honest, hiding nothing. "It's as if you were there."

These words cause Maedhros chest to tighten a little. Yet it's less because he feels insulted. Rather Cáno is teasing him like only little brothers can. Cáno is daring to tease him. He hasn't done that before. Or at least, not as long Maedhros has known him. But it feels good, exchanging jabs with Makalaurë. Before it always, always irritated him that Makalaurë does nothing but talk back. Questions his orders or ignores them outright. More than once Maedhros had to drag Maglor back, literally sometimes, and had to fight his desire not to let out his anger on a stranger.

"Well, it didn't escape my notice that the measuring system for doors among our people is somehow based upon my height," Maedhros says.

It took him a while to notice that he fits through every single door in Himring. Not just within the fortress but the huts and houses of his people as well. Apparently it's a tradition to build a huge door so that the Crown Heir doesn't have to bow his head when you invite him into your humble abode. Maedhros thinks it's a little excessive. Heaving to duck his head is never going be a reason for him to feel insulted but it does help his back. One reason why he loves his people so much despite not remembering all of them. Despite not knowing why they follow him so unquestionably.

What else can he do but return their loyalty?

Their unquestioning ferocity, their kind smiles, their sweat when they practice battles in the yard, the trembling of their legs when endurance fails them after hours of fighting. Not once a single of his people complained or felt insulted that their Lord sometimes confuses a face with a name. All Maedhros witnessed was kindness. Gentle hands and small stories when a archer women tells him that she was once a maid in Tirion and is now paying back a kindness the Crown Heir gifted her by not ratting her out after she spilled over important papers. It's humbling, deeply so. Maedhros breathes in the cold autumn air and contents himself with watching the lights flicker beneath him. In the hearth many fires are burning still, creating an image of warmth despite the freezing chill up here in the dark mountains towering above them.

Next to him Maglor starts humming again, picking up a tune Maedhros never heard before. It's not as heavy as the song he experienced just an hour ago. That went through his body and sunk into his bones until he could nearly grasp the familiarity with his bare hands.

There had been ... thoughts that weren't his own. A little different, in another language even. Heavily accented Quenya which Maedhros speaks but doesn't think in. Not by default. Though he catches himself sometimes, jumping between Quenya and Sindarin without noticing it. He has no clue why that is. What could cause such a fundamental change. In the end he can only attribute it to whatever caused the rift between him and Nelyafinwë in the first place. It's clearly one of the differences between him and ... well, his other self. Maedhros doesn't like the time yet there's no other word for it. The only other description that comes to his mind is 'thief'. For what else is he but a foreign spirit in the body of stranger he barely knows?

Maedhros tears his gaze away from the horizon to study his brother who is still humming under his breath. The noises he makes can hardly be described as words, it's more guttural sounds coming from the throat, the stomach and the lungs. The eldest Fëanorian doesn't need memories or the expertise of a bard to know that very few can accomplish what Cáno is currently doing right now.

The song, if it can be called as such for it feels rather like that Maglor is more talking than actual singing, runs over his skin like warm water and has the softness of fine silk.

I wonder what is he trying to say, Maedhros wonders and ignores the tight feeling in his chest. Is he talking to the stars? The mountains? Do they answer him?

Question Maedhros doesn't voice because he feels he should know the answer. Nelyafinwë probably does. Maedhros hates him a little for it, this night even more than during others for he can feel the other him moving beneath his skin tonight. There isn't enough space for two in here yet Maedhros has to deal. Can't move, can't think, can't fight while Nelyafinwë tries to claw out of the deep dark pits in Maedhros mind.

Maedhros wants to shove him away. Put Nelyafinwë back into the dark coffin he usually sleeps in. Especially tonight. It's the first time he and Cáno are properly talking again and he doesn't want to miss it. Doesn't want Nelyafinwë to ruin it.

There must be a reason why he's here and Nelyafinwë is not. Why Nelyafinwë never returned from Angband.

Of course, Maedhros is glad that he doesn't remember much from it, that his body is healed and shows very little evidence of his captivity aside from his missing hand. But he doesn't remember ever having two of them so that loss doesn't really bother Maedhros. He has learned to work his way around it.

The hug feels less awkward this way. Maedhros doesn't hesitate to draw Cáno into his arms, doesn't pay attention to where the stump finally ends up touching his brother. It speaks volumes that Maglor just places his hand above it, rubbing over the soft scared flesh with his fingers without flinching away. Maedhros' chest trembles a little under the contact. In the end it makes him pull Maglor just further into his arms and doesn't say anything for a long time. Instead he just holds on with his eyes closed and his face buried in the crook of Maglor's neck.

It's impossible to say how long they stand like this, Maedhros wrapped around his brother, snuggling and pressing against his body to share the warmth.

"Do you think I'm just going to disappear one day?" Maedhros finally breaks the silence.

The question must startle Maglor, must touch some unhealed wound in his soul because he swirls around so fast that he knocks his head against Maedhros chin.

"Never say this again," Maglor demands, voice intense and deafening while Maedhros rubs his bruised jaw. Clearly he still underestimates how much physical power is wrapped up in Cáno's lean frame.

It's so easy to forget that Cáno isn't just a Bard but a capable warrior as well.

Still rattled by Maedhros question Maglor grabs Maedhros by his collar and drags him down until their eyes are just a few inches apart. Distress is written all over Maglor's face.

"Never say this again," Maglor repeats, quieter this time and raw emotions bleed into his voice. He clings to Maedhros like a drowning man to log. "I almost lost you once. I can't ... can't bear this again, alright? I know we fight sometimes but that has little to do with your name or your memories. We've always been fighting. That's who we are. We keep each other's head straight this way. But please, Maedhros - "

Maglor leaves the sentence unfinished and for the first time Maedhros sees his brother struggling to find the right words. Usually so skilled to wrap his reasoning to careful structured sentences laced with a double-meaning Cáno is at loss what to say this time. Yet the eyes speak for themselves. Maedhros looks past the unnatural whiteness, how they nearly glow in the dark and focus on the pain inside instead.

"I didn't mean it this way," he whispers and encourages Cáno to rest his forehead against his chest. "It's just ... would you mourn me if you ever get your brother back? Do you miss him?"

"You're my brother, Maedhros," is the first thing Maglor says.

It warms Maedhros' heart how quick and sure the response is because ... yes, sometimes he had his doubts if Maglor still sees him this way. That he doesn't mourn the loss of Nelyafinwë and hold the fact against him like Fingon does.

"I'm glad to hear that." Maedhros swallows thickly and pretends that his voice doesn't nearly break from the sheer relief he feels. Well, perhaps he voiced the question for the sole purpose to hear Cáno denying it. Nonetheless it's something Maedhros wanted, needed, since Maglor will depart soon and he can't leave the matter between them unfinished. The months without him in Barad Eithel had been atrocious. "But I know you well enough that's not the whole answer, Cáno. Out with the rest."

Maglor sighs and raises an eyebrow, hesitating in order to figure out if Maedhros means what he says.

"Come on," his brother urges him on. "Please be honest with me, Makalaurë. There's no need for us to lie to each other."

"Fine. But you won't like it," Maglor grumbles a little under his breath. "Besides it's not that easy to answer your question. Aside from everything Ambarussa might tell you, I'm not responsible for your memory loss. I had my hand in it, yes, but when the Nolofinwion brought you back you were barely coherent. I saw you switching between being Nelyafinwë, the prince you had been in Tirion and ... the creature you had become in Morgoth's captivity."

Nelyo had been awful to look at. Thin, skin rough and burned from the sun while his body hurt all over from older wounds his brother suffered. Maglor doesn't know what happened to Nelyo before Morgoth hung him from the Thangorodrim. All he could guess was that the Black Valar hadn't been able to break his brother and thus put him out of his sight, letting him dangle from the mountains while ensuring that no one 'd ever be able to find him. To this day it bothers Maglor that it Fingon of all people is the one to have rescued Nelyo. Bringing him back from Angband on his first attempt when his brothers tried and searched for their eldest years and years.

By now Maglor is sure that Morgoth wove a spell of darkness around the Thangorodrim, had hidden Nelyo from the world with the intention to leave him there for the rest of eternity. Thankfully Fingon has a, well, unique and for the Nolofinwion also shameful relationship with oswanë. Who would've thought that not being capable of drawing on the mind arts, magic and any kind of fëa bonding at all would be use one day?

"I admit that I don't remember much from these days," Maedhros mumbles, mind going back to the days of pain and confusion.

From his perspective is birth had been the first day he became of aware while hanging alone and hopeless from that rock. His memory blurs whenever he tries to go back further. Sometimes images pop up, washed out impressions of Valinor and Tirion but it's not much to go on. Even Fingon's famous rescue ... well, he remembers recognizing the face. He can still feel the relief of seeing his lover at the feet of the mountain, looking up to him ... calling him back into the real world. He remembers his own tears of shame and guilt, distinctly recalls of begging Findekáno to kill him - but the rest Maedhros always loses in the pool of anguish whenever he tries to fish for more. The next clear memory he can recall is a tent. With six elves around him, their souls cradling his while their fëa nurse his spirit back to health.

How often did he fall asleep, so sure to wake up on the Thangorodrim again, only to be pulled back into the embrace of a concerned brother?

"You should be thankful that you don't remember much from Angband," Maglor tells him and reveals his thoughts in the next sentence. "Though perhaps that's intentional. I see no other explanation for your memory problems since I found mind mostly intact when Fingon brought you to me."

"What?" Maedhros asks a little dumbfounded, staring down at his little brother. "You think that someone did this on purpose?"

"Not someone," Maglor corrects him. He drills a fingertip into Maedhros broad chest. "You."

Shocked and confused Maedhros points at himself.

"Me...?" he says and exhales slowly, trying to make sense of Cáno's theory. "You think I did this to myself?"

Yet ... why did the thought never cross his mind before? In a way it sounded even reasonable. Who else had access to his mind? Who else possessed the knowledge and the skill? Cáno had no reason to bury Nelyafinwë - not when he wanted him back so badly. And had Morgoth been responsible for the loss of his past they would've discovered traces of him in his mind by now. In the first months after his rescue he and his brothers communicated with their minds only. None of them could stand to let him too far out of their reach and he had welcomed the touch. It calmed the nightmares and his pains. Still did.

And yet ... Maedhros wonders why Nelyafinwë ... why he would do something so drastic. Giving up his identity, his name, friends and family - father, god, I can't ... I'm sorry but Morgoth must never learn ... -

Information, Maedhros concludes. He's still strategist enough to guess why such self-destruction seemed necessary. He had been the Crown Heir, King of the Noldor, ... who knew what Morgoth could've done with him? Perhaps he had been on the verge of breaking, of spilling all he knew just to escape the pain. Since rescue would've been unlikely the only way out Nelyafinwë saw ... was death. A death of his self not just one of his body. Both Morgoth and Sauron possess knowledge to create a way around a death, to keep him for dying. To keep his soul from reaching Mandos.

He ... I couldn't escape, Maedhros thinks, Breaching Angband from either side is impossible. It's a realm on it's own, not even completely located in this world. Morgoth's will is law, unbreakable and everlasting.

The more he thought about it the more sense Maedhros could make of Nelyafinwë's decision. Escaping straight forward, running through the doors until he reached the safety of his family again ... an impossible feat. Committing suicide, slaying himself bore similar dangers with just as little chances of success. But as Canafinwë's older brother and Fëanáro's son he must've known enough to ... - yeah to do what?

"Is it all gone?" Maedhros wonders. Quiet enough so that not even Maglor hears him.

In his musing how the new piece fits into the maze that is his mind Maedhros almost doesn't notice how Cáno pulls away from the embrace. Only when Maglor hops onto the battlements to sit on the wide stones with his back turned towards the chasm, his good arm reaches out to steady his foolish - reckless - brother. True, Maglor might be the only one besides Celegorm and Ambarussa able of surviving the fall, hell it wouldn't surprise Maedhros if Maglor spontaneously grew himself some wings, yet why risk it?

With one hand settled on Maglor's knee Maedhros waits for his brother to explain. Later there will be enough time to go after this new discovery. For now he has to exploit Maglor being talkative and forthcoming.

"It is my best guess that you're responsible for the miss inside your mind," Maglor says and takes Maedhros' left hand and the stump into his own. "Your spirit and your body suffered greatly. Not just from the torture but from Angband's poisonous environment as well. While you you were healing, you went from not knowing me at all to thinking we were still in Tirion. You flickered back and forth like a candle in the wind. I first thought it's a result from what Morgoth did to you. Since I'm the only person that counts as a healer in our family I tried to find out what exactly damage was. I wanted to help you."

Maglor runs his thumbs over Maedhros' skin. It's a reminder how far his brother has come since the days on Lake Mithrim. Now the Lord of Himring possesses the power of a dragon and looks nothing like mangled half-orc he dragged back from the bring of madness.

"What did you find?" Maedhros asks, curious. It's strange to hear it from another perspective. Yet it helps, detaching himself completely from the name Nelyafinwë, looking at the situation from the outside ... as Maglor tends to do.

But his brother only shrugs.

"Honestly? Not much. There is trauma embedded into your skull and I did push it into the background to allow you to heal. Yet it's been centuries and nothing has changed. There has to be a reason for that. A specific one because I can count the people capable of outsmarting you this long and persistently on one hand. Whatever the cause you cross the line only sometimes, far and few between. But in the end there remains more of Maedhros than of Nelyafinwë."

After a moment of silence, Maglor adds, "Not that I mind. Please believe me that. I'm just glad you're alive. Just like the rest of us and we'd give anything to keep it that way. No matter how you call yourself or who you choose to be."

"Don't apologize. Not to me," Maedhros requests. He intervenes their fingers, feels Cáno's heart beat beneath his skin. It's relaxing. One of the few constants everyone in Arda lives by. "You shouldn't hide it if you miss the brother you lost. No matter how accepting you are there'll always be a difference between me and him. Okay? So don't hide your grief. It's bad enough to watch Fingon doing it."

What follows is the usual and expected murmured curse against Fingon. Sometimes Maedhros wonders if the reaction is similar to before he lost the name Nelyafinwë or if the change came with Fingon's rejection. Or perhaps their relationship has always been strained. The Highking and his son don't mingle with the Fëanorian's often enough for Maedhros to correctly guess the answer.

"Nelyo...," Maglor rasps, voice strained and suddenly filled with desperation.

Something in Maedhros reacts, wants to leap up and take all the pain away. Hence why he doesn't protest against the name Cáno used. Not when it sounds like a frantic call of a drowning soul.

"Nelyo, I ...," Fëanor's second lowers his head and for a moment he looks like as if he wants to confess something terrible. "We share a secret, you and I. Something we kept from our brothers. From father. From everyone. It's truly the only thing that sets Maedhros apart from Nelyafinwë and I ... what I'm trying to say is - "

The sight of Maglor hunched over tears at Maedhros heart. His brother's shoulders tremble while his hands shake in his brother's grasp. For a moment it seems that Makalaurë opens up, ready to tell his older brother the rest of the story but instead of words only broken noises leave Cáno's mouth. Horrified Maedhros witnesses how Maglor struggles to get a sound out of himself yet all what he manages is gagging, choking on syllables until he's retching.

"Cáno, stop!" Maedhros demands. He doesn't care if his voice wakes entire Himring. His little brother is in pain he can't stand the sight of it. "Whatever are you trying to do, stop it."

When Maglor tries again yet fails and each attempt makes him more desperate, brings him more pain, Maedhros takes a deep breath before finally turning his pleas into a command. An order. One that his brother has no hope of disobeying.

"Canafinwë - Enough!"

The words echoes over the hills and for a heartbeat Himring's stones vibrate beneath their feet. Below them a few dogs start to bark, startled by the sudden sound interrupting the quiet night. Some elves jerk awake in their beds, woken from the power passing through them. Yet before they even can completely shake the sleepiness the words have already faded again.

While Himring's citizen's are trying to go back to sleep, with only a few warriors remaining alert since they recognized their Lord's voice in the wind, Maglor is struggling for breath.

Maedhros, not willing to let his little brother fall, pulls the quivering body back into his arms.

"Come on," he murmurs and guides Cáno towards the door, "Best we put you to bed. This is enough for now."

For whatever this was, the reaction was too violent to be a natural cause. Even Makalaurë's fëa writhed in the confines of the body.

"I'm sorry. I'm sorry." A sob tears out of Maglor's throat. "I'd tell you, if I could. But I made an oath. You made me swear not to tell anyone and I can't-"

"It's alright," Maedhros kissed Maglor's brow. "It's alright. Don't tell me. If you have sworn then don't rattle the oath. Don't disturb it."

No, for it's not wise to go directly against an sworn oath. Of course there are degrees, stages like daily little troths that cause no harm if you break them. Such forgetting to water the plants despite promising to do so. Worse are obligations, task you take on as a Lord or as head of the family. It tugs at you, drags you into a certain direction. It becomes all you think about ... like trying to gather money because you forgot to pay an honest worker who gets more angry each and each day he has to wait. Yet even those are mostly harmless. They may leave marks, depending on how long you prolong their fulfillment but those vanish over time.

Worse are vows of commitment. Oath that form a shackle around your wrist, carve words into your skin until you're forever marked. Those are unbreakable. Even he, the elf without a memory, knows that. There's no escaping when you made a pact with eternity.

While Maedhros leads Maglor down the stairs, back inside to force him to get some rest he thinks of the black marks he discovered on his arms not long after waking up at Lake Mithrim. There's no denying what those marks are. It's the oath. Written on his skin, word for word. Invincible for anyone but himself but Maedhros knows that the fëa of his siblings bear similar imprints. They all made that promise, avowed themselves the retrieval of the Silmaril - and nothing can stop them. Nothing can hinder them.

The oath allows no excuse. Not Cáno's mental health, not Tyelko's tendency to be more animal than elf nor Ambarussa with his doubled soul. They all will be pulled back sooner or later no matter how far they wander or drift off.

"I hope whatever we promised each other isn't as dangerous as the other oath," Maedhros tells his brother.

But Maglor doesn't answer. He's too tired, too exhausted from the attack and the events to properly speak now. Maedhros lets him be, carries him the rest of the way when Maglor's feed give out under him. In a matter of minutes the bard is fast asleep, his head slumped against Maedhros shoulder. With practiced moves Maedhros put Cáno to bed and hopes his dreams will be pleasant.

Just before he closes the door to let Maglor sleep Maedhros pauses in his action. For several minutes he keeps watch how Maglor's chest rises, slow and even. It makes him look vulnerable somehow. Without the frown on his face and his white eyes to scare anyone off Cáno looks far much younger. Not lost, never that, but exposed and defenseless.

"I'll remember one day," Maedhros says. Carefully, since he doesn't know if he can keep the promise. But he wants to. Whatever secret Cáno has buried in his heart he shouldn't bear it alone.

That's what Maedhros is there for. To share.

He's the big brother. The eldest. It's his duty, his task, his reason to get out of bed in the morning.
He doesn't need to remember his father to recollect the oldest promise of all.

Watch after your brother, echoes in his head and Maedhros agrees. Faintly recollects a small bundle in his own slender arms. Watch after him. Watch after them.

The answer had been Yes, father. First said in his own childlike voice when he had been nothing more than an oversized toddler. To remember that Maedhros doesn't need another oath. Or words written on his skin as reminder. Not when these six other souls connected to him brought him back into life. Healed his body and build him back up after he turned into a wraith. Freed his mind from Morgoth influence and put a sword into his hands instead of coddling him with pity.

Maedhros' smile is dark and promises pain when he softly closes the door to Maglor's chamber.

Himring's dragon doesn't go back to sleep that night.

-

Maglor takes a deep breath, content and relaxed. The pillow is soft beneath his cheek. The morning warm and perfect. He keeps his eyes closes and lets the sun warm his skin. Somewhere behind him a person trots through his room, pulls the curtains way to open the doors to the balcony. A fresh breeze hits Maglor's skin and he blindly reaches for the blanket the pull it over his head. Unfortunately it's too short for him and Maglor ends up exposing his feet which now stick out under the blanket. But aside from a small groan he refuses to give up his comfortable position, so Maglor risks his feet getting cold.

That is until a finger pokes into his side.

"Come on, Makalaurë," he hears his older brother teasing, "Get up, you lazy ass."

"Hrmpf," Maglor grumbles and squeezes his eyes shut when Nelyo pulls the covers back. He grouses, "Leave me, Maitimo. I'm trying to sleep."

His brother just laughs, mocking and annoying like only older siblings can, "Enough of that, Cáno. It's your own fault if you drink so much wine in the evening. Time to get out of bed."

The response Maglor gives is crass, something that belongs into a Telerin tavern but not in a room of the Royal Palace.

Nelyafinwë's grin widens and pounces on the bed, enjoying it when he hears Makalaurë screech and scramble away from his tickling fingers.

"You bastard," Maglor curses and jumps out of bed, desperate to get away from Nelyo's evil hands. "You fucking humorless excuse of an older brother."

While Makalaurë curses and searches for his clothes. Less because of the cold, it's late spring but why give Nelyo a target? Those long arms a nightmare for roughhousing. That Fëanáro's eldest son has just archived his goal, namely getting Makalaurë out of bed and halfway presentable, doesn't even occur to him.

"Admit it, you love me anyway," Nelyafinwë laughs in response.

"Yeah, yeah, hate you too," Maglor says.

Since he's currently tying his breeches he doesn't see where his brother his going. Only when he gets no response he looks up, confused. Instead of finding Nelyo trying to sneak up on him again the chamber is empty.

"Nelyo, where are y-..."

Maglor doesn't finish the sentence. His breathing stops when he looks through the window and finds his brother standing on railing of the balcony.

He hurries outside, screaming, "What are you doing? Nelyo, are you mad? Get down there?"

It's at least four stories down and the ground beneath them is solid concrete. Maglor doesn't have to take a peak to know that his brother will be dead in an instant if he jumps.

"Please. Nelyo, ... whatever think you're doing, please get down there," Maglor begs, holding a hand out to his brother to get him down from the damned railing.

But Maitimo only shakes his head, sad and smiling.

"I'm sorry, little brother. But this needs to happen."

With these words Nelyafinwë Fëanorian lets himself fall backwards. Maglor leaps, trying to catch him, words stuck in his throat. When he finally reaches the railing, precious seconds too late, he expects to see his brother falling ... or his body lying on the floor, bloody and broken. Instead he's greeted by wave of heat.

Red molten fire is all what he sees and Nelyafinwë nowhere to be seen.

"Nelyo," Maglor screams his brother's name but his voice is drowned out by the deep rumbling noise of the lava beneath him. "Nelyo..."

Maglor cries the name and tears run down his face when he jerks upright in his bed. Despite knowing that it was just a dream his mind reaches out to his brother, feels Maedhros meeting him always. Only then Maglor relaxes and falls back into the pillows. He fights the urge to seek Maedhros out, go running until he sees him alive with his own eyes. He knows it was just a vision. A dream, a nightmare. Maglor can feel the aftermath slowly ebbing away, retreating into Lórien's realm. It's just one of many he experienced over his life. Not reason enough to bother Maedhros after they just found a common ground and repaired months of mistrust between them.

Yet it doesn't keep the fear away. Or the tears and so Maglor spends the rest of the night quietly sobbing into his pillow, unwilling to go back to sleep.

End Notes:

Erm, ... they talked. That's progress, right?

Otherwise ... November is approaching and I'm partaking in NaNoWriMo again. Not sure how it'll interfere with updates but since I'll be writing on this story you're going to get something out of it. Let's see how many words I can get under by belt in one months. Unfortunately in December work hell but I try not to leave you hanging for too long. And no doubt that I need to write a Maedhros/Maglor kinky fic before the year is out. It doesn't fit into this verse but god I burn for those two. Not to mention that Encairion has been providing me with all the Feanorian Incest in the past weeks.

About the Valar & the Issue of Praying to Higher Powers: It's normal for a society to have some form of religion. I try not to make look too Christian but no doubt that some Elves follow that path, calling out to Manwe / asking for his help etc. It's just ... the Valar mostly speak in their language or converse via singing or take Maia along if they need to hold an entire conversation. I think actual speech is quite difficult for them, so ... Maglor knows how useless prayers are (most of the time).

~

Newest addition to this Series is the story called King's Landing featuring Feanor at Losgar.

Something stronger than Words by mangacrack
Author's Notes:

I'm not a quenya nerd so forgive and correct me if used names are wrong. I just cobble them together with elf-dict.com ... and given the chapter, I'll put out a warning! Gore ahead. It's not much, not very terrible but a bit yucky I guess. Nothing Silmarillion Readers aren't used to but I wanted to mention it anyway. 

Carnadril - well made mirror
Cárina (Sindarin Form)

 

"We're leaving now," Maglor says.

He's wrapped up in a thick cloak since the winds around Himring are cold and merciless. The descend over the open fields is dangerous and winter is approaching fast. No one wishes to linger longer than absolut necessary. Since both Celegorm and Curufin expressed their desire to return to Hithlum Maglor decided to use the opportunity to return to his lands as well. Not that he fears for its state, it's in good hands. But most of the Nandor have already left. As quiet as they move - Maglor still spotted their trail a few days ago, leading away from the Gap further south. Typical that they don't mind fighting dragons and Morgoth's orcs but hesitate at spending the winter so far north. 

Well, Maglor doesn't blame them. He knows he lives not in the most beautiful part of Beleriand. But his needs it suits just fine. 

"Take care," Maedhros whispers his farewell in return. "Don't hesitate to contact me in case you need something." 

"I know." Maglor's lips form a smile, barely noticeable for anyone but the brother standing in front of him. "I know that I can count on you."

Their minds touch and Maglor sighs a little. It's better than any hug. This connection he doesn't have to let go, so when he steps away from Maedhros to mount his horse the love coming from his brother still burns in the back of his mind. Simmering, glowing like a chimney that never gets cold - even at night or during the coldest winter. 

I worry about you, Maedhros tells him in private while the rest of the company follows Maglor's cue. Please take me offer seriously, Cáno. We can help you. 

Ususally I just don't let you, yes, Maglor admits, just as quietly. Here, between them he can confess that weakness of his. It's difficult and a habit he probably never truly shake but the vision of Nelyo's death made him think. Waching Nelyo jump into fire is enough to make him hesitate now. He won't rush off alone again. 

"I'll try to be better."

It's not quite a promise. Rather it's an exchange of trust.

Maglor spend as much time as possible at Maedhros' side, much to their siblings collective relief. He slowly learned a few things about his older brother he had forgotten, preferences that had shifted after Angband or changes he ignored in favor of nursing his own pain. The last few days felt like the years he spend at Nelyafinwë's side in the court of Tirion. Despite the fear and anxiety pooling in his gut of losing him, Maglor is glad to have his big brother back. Maedhros seemed more at ease now. Relaxed. Settled.

Difficult to say if it can be all contributed to the revelation that the memory loss was due to Nelyafinwë's own actions. Perhaps it appeases Maedhros to know that his struggle isn't a result of years of torment. That the damage could be undone. That isn't Morgoth affecting his mind.

Well, Maglor can understand that notion. Going to fall sleep afraid what your dreams will bring and if they're going to be your own at all is an old companion from childhood.

 

-

 

Curufin rides up to his brother until they're so close that he can press his thigh against Makalaurë's. The heavy winter coat falls over his shoulders, protecting him from the cold temperatures neither Maglor nor Huan seem to feel. 

"We should leave soon. I hate to losing daylight," Curufin suggest.

He glances through the gates were Huan is happily barking at the soldiers, already running circles around their men. The freshly fallen snow went flying everywhere, the untouched white blanket disturbed by Huan's big paws who had little trouble moving through the heavily coated slopes surrounding the fortress. 

"You're right, Curvo. The descent isn't going to be easy," Makalaurë hums under his breath. 

He isn't wearing gloves. Why not is beyond Curufin's understanding who is thankful for the fine quality of his own that brought him through cold nights before. Yet Maglor's fingers seem only a little paler than usual when he takes the reigns into one hand to reach with the other for Maedhros. It's not a big gesture when Maedhros enfold their fingers for a moment. Curufin only sees it because his steed has long legs and he has a good view from up here. Quickly yet not able to hide a little sigh of relief he looks away again, his lips tugging upwards. He doesn't need to pry further to know that most of the tension has been resolved. 

While their fights are always intense, Curufin found out early that they never last. Cáno and Nelyo always make up, sooner or later.  

Of course those silences sometimes stretches into months, even years of uneasiness but Curufin knows how his two oldest brothers always gravitate towards each other. He blames their upbringing. Two silly little boys alone for so long with an indulgent father and very few friends around them. While there had always been father's students and mother's apprentices around them, not to mention other craftsmen their grandfather employed in Aulë's name, they distinctively lacked friends in their age. Celegorm's birth hadn't changed any of that, being born so close to Oromë's woods because their family spend the year travelling through Aman. 

Moryo had actually been the odd one, wanting friends outside of their family. Even visited a school three towns over because he refused to be taught soley by Fëanor. 

It was one of Curufin's earliest memories, waiting for Moryo. Glancing out of the window or waiting in the yard to see when his brother would get home. Often he could hear the hooves of the horse long before Caranthir's black mane appeared in his line of view. Curufin remembered the time with fondness. By now he was too big to be picked up with one hand, put in front of his older brother to race with him the last part back to the house. It had been a novelty, riding a real horse with Caranthir who was allowed to travel the entire way alone. One hour each morning and one back home. 

It had been a marvel that father allowed that, at least in little Atarincë's eyes. 

Today an hour of travel isn't even worth mentioning.

That distance doesn't even impact the slightest on their ability to use oswanë, though his and Caranthir's voices always fade first. But that's bound to happen numerous as they are. Cáno is definitely the most talented in the arts, Celegorm and Ambarussa have trained the use of oswanë like a muscle and Nelyo simply had the advantage of being the oldest. It helped that Maglor needed a person he could practice with when he was younger.

Needed someone he could practice on, Curufin corrects the thought with a snort. 

"Curvo," Maedhros calls him. His brother notices how Curvo stared in the distance and mistook his reminiscing for worry about their journey. "I won't let anything happen to you on the way down. As long as you're on Himring's mountains you're safe." 

"I know." Curufin's voice is soft, barely audible over the sounds of laughing soldiers who are eager to get home. "I don't doubt your reach, my brother. We just need to remember what lays beyond the safety of your mountains." 

"Especially since our lands are still covered in carcasses of all those dragons we killed over the past months," Maglor grouses. But he seems more annoyed than concerned so Curufin doesn't think much about it. 

"Will it be dangerous?" Maedhros inquires instantly as if he's just looking for a reason to saddle up and come with them. 

"I wouldn't go and build a house out the remaining bones, no matter how strong they seem," Maglor answers. "Otherwise it's going to be fine. They magic is going to seep into the ground as they decay and in the future there might be a few spots we've to watch out for. But we defeated them and they are going to respect that. It's far more likely that their spirits are going to defend Himring against unwanted visitors. So we might've to warn travellers." 

"We'll talk about this," Maedhros says and pokes Maglor's thigh, very insistent. It takes all his resolve not to haul Cáno back into his study and squeeze all information on the special properties of deceased dragons out him.

When Maglor raises an eyebrow already at the edge of seething fury again, Maedhros relents. "When you have more information. Send me a letter once you know more." 

Appeased, Maglor nods. "I might even bring them in person. Depends on what the next spring brings. What the winter does to them while they sleep and become nothing more than howls in the wind." 

It's a peace offering and all three Fëanorians's recognize it as such. 

 

-

 

Erestor is surprised how easily the horses deal with the snow. They left Himring behind them more than five days ago and no matter that the snow keeps falling and heavy clouds embrace the mountains, the pace is surprisingly fast. Since every soldier had been given a horse once they reached the feet of the mountain the group could now travel fast. More often than not though they were nothing more than a moving shadow in the mist. A dark odd shape that transformed when the wind pulled at their cloaks. Sometimes it seemed they vanish entirely. The fog got so thick - Erestor had trouble making out the person riding in front of him, let alone Lord Maglor who was leading the group. It puzzled him a bit since his Lord didn't look to be the type of a leader who put himself on the front. So far Erestor has seen Maglor delegate more than he actual took the time to lead by example. Yet in a way it makes sense. 

These are his lands. Well, his and Lord Maedhros' but Erestor bets that there's no clear border. Both know the valleys better than anyone else and rumors say that Lord Maglor often ventures out alone, unafraid of what ever creatures might come through caves from the other side of the mountain range. 

"Aren't you freezing?" 

Erestor is surprised by the question. The elf who's now riding next to him is staring at Erestor's bare hands as if he can't conceive why they haven't fallen off at these temperatures.

"I don't need the gloves. They just get in the way when I'm handling the reigns," Erestor answers.

While he's certain that this isn't the first time he's on top of a horse, it's obvious that the Fëanorian warriors are much better riders than him. One reason why he has chosen a spot at the rear - this way he can't get in anyone's path. As long as he doesn't fall behind it'll be no problem.

"You can have mine if you want. They are of better quality than yours," the elf says and Erestor notices that he looks oddly familiar.

Erestor shrugs. "I don't feel the cold that much." 

But he takes the offered gloves anyway. If only to study the face of the stranger. There's something off about him. Pale hair and features that resemble the Fëanorian Family.

It might not be his place, in case he missed a family member of the Lord he's serving but in the end Erestor can't help but ask, "Do I know you? You look familiar though I think we didn't cross ways before today."

The elf sends him a wide smile, lots of teeth and confidence.

"My name is Celegorm, third son of Fëanor," he says in Sindarin, having heard of Erestor and assumes he only speaks Sindarin.

No, you're not, is what Erestor wants to say.

It's an instinctual reaction. Something that he knows that is true all memory issues aside. He has to admit that the deception is good. It's Lord Celegorm's horse, his clothing and his bow. Even the famous dagger he recognizes because one day whey were sitting around, waiting for the next wave of dragons the Fëanorian passed it around and told them the tale how it came from the woods of Oromë. 

The dagger and the bow are easy to recognize for they're made of white bone and not wood or steel. Hence why Erestor doesn't protest in the end. 

But his long silence is noted, so quickly Erestor responds with, "Excuse me, my Lord. I didn't recognize you without your hound at your side as ususal." 

"Huan has been kept up in Himring for the past months," The elf passing as Lord Celegorm laughs. "I'll not deprive him the pleasure of running free again. It'll do him some good and it's not as if he can't take care of himself."

"Thank you for the gloves, Prince Tyelkormo." Erestor finishes the conversation in flawless quenya, albeit his tone is a bit bristle.  

He doesn't appreciated to be smothered. That the elf next to him is impersonating Lord Celegorm isn't his business, a protective measure perhaps though it leaves the question where the real son of Fëanor is. What irks him more is the belittling he receives. He'd have been fine without the new gloves. But when the fake Lord Celegorm just nods and catches up to the next rider Erestor guesses that it's nothing personal. Perhaps the prince needs to be seen taking an interest in his people.    

 

-

 

In the evening Maglor forces the group to build a camp. The horses are tired and need a break. Since it's the last stop before they reach Himlad no one protests though there's some grumbling by very few who wish to get out of the cold. But the smell of warm stew is enough to silence those voices. Thanks to clouds still hanging deep in the valleys Maglor allows a fire to be lit and his men quickly gather around it. Of course the danger remains that they'll be discovered but a few warrior standing guards will suffice. That the Avari prefer to sleep in the trees no matter how uncomfortable it must be without the usual canopy to keep them warm will certainly help. 

Of course, there's still Huan. 

Maglor hasn't seen much of his brother in the last days. Only hints of fur rushing past them or a bark in the distance that everything is clear and the area free of enemies. It's a bit of surprise that Huan gives up his spot at between Carnadril's legs, his best and oldest friend, and heads towards him. 

What's more important than Carnadril scratching you behind your ears? Maglor silently asks. For anyone who's watching it looks like as if he's just staring into the distance, leaning against a tree with his arms across his chest. 

In truth Maglor is relying on his ears to spot enemies. Less because he hopes to hear their footsteps before he can see them. More Maglor tries to listen to the wind. Usually it carries tales of anything unusual. Especially here in the mountains it's easier to get a feeling of what's happening at the other end of valley. The space is enclosed and the sounds thrown back and forth until the wind picks them up and brings them to Maglor. But tonight everything is silent but for a few deer searching for scrapes of green. 

I found a dragon not far from here. It's not far.  Huan shoves his nuzzle in Maglor's stomach. Let me lead the way.

Maglor smirks and pets Huan's head. If you don't want me to go alone just say so, little brother. 

If it's this close Maglor would've found it sooner or later anyway. This valley is one he travels through very often. Apparently Celegorm knows he can't hinder his brother at examining the dragon but feels more comfortable with dozens of soldiers around to come to his rescue in case something funny happens.  

Of course I don't want you to go alone, Huan growls and transforms from a huge puppy to beast with very sharp teeth set in a powerful jaw that can easily snap bones in half. That's why we're relocating the entire camp. 

"Really," Maglor says and looks Huan in the eyes. Today they're winter blue - and unforgiving.

We just settled down and you want to chase them around again?

Of course their men will follow. His own people even without much of a protest but they barely make up a fifth of their party. Most are Celegorm's warriors and Avari who were chosen for their skills with the bow. Over those he has no authority and titles like second son of Fëanáro mean little in the great wilderness of Beleriand.  

Leadership is Nelyo's talent, not his. 

No arguments. I've talked to Carnadril already and unless you inform Curvo we aren't going at all.  Huan bares his teeth as warning and turns around to stalks back to the people around the fire.

The hound buries his snout in Carnadril's neck, teasing and tickling. The elf who could be Celegorm's twin huffs and combs his finger through Huan's thick fur. For outsiders it looks as if Lord Celegorm is roughhousing with his famous dog. For someone like Maglor it's more complicated.

Only a few people openly admit that they know of Tyelko's abilities though many suspect at least and just don't dare to ask. Carnadril has always known. He was there when Celegorm first changed and has remained at his side ever since. That he poses as his best friend sometimes wasn't planned originally but was very convenient when Tyelko couldn't control the shift at first. Having someone around who could pass as father's third son was quickly adopted and mastered into an art. For it spared the family many difficult explanations. Father went so far to take Carnadril into the household. Teaching and dressing him as Fëanorian just helped their scheme in the end.

Since Carnadril had no family to speak of Fëanor brought the boy with him one day since he and Celegorm became inseparable.      

By now Maglor has trouble remembering times when Carnadril hasn't been at Celegorm's side. He's Tyelko's first men, his best and most trusted friend and a most loyal defender. Especially back when Tirion questioned Tyelko's attire, his mannerism and his general not very princely behavior. Maglor never questioned Carnadril's role in Tyelko's life. 

It's good to have friends outside of your family especially when you spend so much time with Curufin as Celegorm does. 

 

-

 

"I'm glad you let me join, brother. It's not often that I get to examine a dragon of such a mighty state for scientific purposes," Curufin says. Currently he's bend over the dragon's head and cuts away a little skin with this dagger. "Do you mind if I free this beast of a few organs and bones he certainly doesn't need anymore?" 

"Go ahead," Maglor mumbles absent. He waves his hand to chase a curious warrior away. 

He can't stand it when noisy ignorant people put their nose in messes that they can't get out of alone. Best to have them far, far away in the first place but with a dragon of this size it's not exactly easy. It's huge. Fully grown and larger than the other adult males they killed. It's claws alone had been big enough to rip out trees at their roots. Right now Maglor stands next to the head and it's twice as tall as he's. Huan has taken to climbing the beast like a rock. Currently he's sitting on the top of the skull. Like it's a vantage point. 

Not unwise since the warriors are investigating the fallen beast with the energy of excited children. Most stick to carve a patch of skin from the scales. As trophy. Fucking useless - at least at this size. Dragon skin is valuable but a craftsman needs a lot of it in order to convert the thick hard material into something worthwhile. What the Avari are folding away like precious white paper isn't even enough to make a single glove. At this rate all they can do is wrap it around the handles of their daggers.

At least Celegorm's soldiers are a little wiser. Instead of creating a new camp, they quickly took to seperating claws and teeth from the flesh. An unforgiving task but theyare used to Curufin's quick and demanding order's well enough so they don't even hesitate anymore. They're also equipped with more than just one dagger, every soldier carrying at least two - if not more. None is afraid to ruin their blades in favor of collecting the rare material. Curufin alone probably knows the exact worth of the beast which is right now nothing more than a ugly carcass between a few fallen trees.

Maglor suspects that there will be many more spots like this in the future. They killed quite a few amount of the winged fire breathing creatures and no matter how hungry, most animals shy away from eating dragon flesh. Aside from the fact that few possess the ability to break through the scales, it's not recommended. Eating meat from dragons has some serious side effects, Maglor found out. Not that he tested it on his own body. Rather he listened carefully to an older Avar Elf who told of strange things that happened to his kin when they got desperate one winter. Most were gone now, had either died or wandered off never to return because they had been cast out.  

Hence why Maglor keeps an eye out on the far to eager Elves hopping around him, drunk on victory and the end of the battles. Having one of the beast they fought in the last months right in front of them just makes it worse. It makes them careless. 

"Brother," Maglor addresses Carnadril and sends Celegorm's bodyguard a sharp look, "Please put your men back in order. I'll not be hod responsible if they keep climbing around. Nor do I recommend further poking the beast with sharp sticks." 

"It's dead. It'll hardly going to open it's mouth to eat us." Carnadril counters with a smirk. But still, he snaps his fingers. At the sound all warriors perk up and follow their Lord's command who points his finger towards the camp. One by one they head back and gather around the fire again. 

Which they wisely set up half a mile away from the dragon, Maglor notices. So much self-preservation is a bit of surprise. 

Well. Perhaps it's not the dragon they're fearing , Maglor smirks a little when he pulls his coat tighter around his shoulders. 

Because Eru knows what he would do if these idiots actually choose to sleep next to a dragon. Dead or not, dragons are to be treated with respect. They have the habit to stick around. 

"My Lord, will you return to us anytime soon?" 

Maglor recognizes Erestor's voice before he makes out his face in the darkness. It snowing again and thick grey flakes spin through the air, dancing around each other minutes long before they finally reach the ground. The white mass is in Erestor's hair and Maglor's coat, slowly merging them with the winter night until they're barely to make out.

"No not yet," Maglor answers. "But you are free to join me."

He isn't always aware how he comes across to other people but Maglor imagines that this time at least his voice sounded kind. Inviting, rather than cold and distant. At least, Erestor stops, nods and then walks up to him. Settles right next to him as Maglor keeps prodding the dragon carefully with his fingertips. 

"What are you doing?" Erestor asks. Though he leans forwards a little, his hands stay clasped behind his back. 

Maglor is thankful for that. Partly because he'd have been disappointed in Erestor's lack of common sense. But the sheer relief that floods him steams from their last conversation. If it could be called as such. They hadn't really talked ever since he announced Erestor's fate to Maedhros. Perhaps not the smoothed way to introduce some harsh facts but he can't exactly regret it either. Nelyo would've never backed off as long as he thought Erestor's unaligned status to be a threat. Still not the kindest way to learn that you'll never escape the person who dragged you away from the abyss.

With force, because Argon was a senseless mass of rapid screams when he first tried to pry him lose from Sauron's shadows. 

Knowing that Erestor is watching him, deliberately waiting for his Lord to answer his questions Maglor stops in his task to sigh. He closes his eyes, shuts the world out and wishes he knew how to be kind. Of course he could explain - or try to at least - but there's a difference between good intentions and bad choices made in hours of desperation were something vastly different. 

Maglor pries open the eye lid of the dragon and studies Erestor's calm eyes in the reflection.

One day I might tell you everything instead of scrapes and half-truths, he thinks, but not as long as the lies hurt less, I won't. 

His focus goes back to the yellow iris in front of him. The diameter has a size of two arms. But that's not what he's interested in. 

Maglor raises his blade until it hovers over the pupil. 

"You might want to take a step back. Make sure the liquid doesn't hit your skin," he warns, waits until his ears pick up Erestor's movement. 

It's something Maglor likes about Erestor. He doesn't question orders. 

 

-

 

It's a horrible sound when his Lord finally stabs the eye. It echoes over the clearing and something inside Erestor flinches. He expects it to hurt, somewhere. In his heart, in his stomach or his head. But the red-hot, incandescent pain he expects never follows. Erestor blinks in surprise. What strange thoughts. But if he actually acknowledges what Lord Maglor stated before than he did had a connection to the dragons before. Perhaps even this one? 

Erestor can't summon the image of climbing on its back to fly away. 

I was surrounded by these beasts for months and never reacted in such a way. Erestor wonders, Why now? 

It's when his Lord pulls on his glove and reaches inside the eye, coats his entire arm with blood and embers simmering in white and orange, Erestor suspects this is about something else entirely. Fascinated and appealed at the same time he witnesses how Maglor pulls out an orb. It has roughly the size of a human head and looks odd in the hands of his Lord. Who goes through a great deal to cover his skin. 

"What is this?" Erestor hisses and involuntary takes a step back. Distantly he even notices that he's panting harshly but his gaze is fixed upon the black lilac thing in Maglor's hands.

The Fëanorian smiles triumphantly.

Erestor shudders when his Lord holds the orb up to gaze into the sphere. A few moments ago it might have been the pupil of a winged beast. Now it has transformed into something else. Something more. Or perhaps it held always the hidden potential, possessed always the pulse Erestor senses thrumming beneath the polish surface, too round and too perfect to be natural.

"This is one of the rarest materials in Arda, Erestor," Maglor lectures. "My father theorized about them but never had the opportunity to gather one for himself. My brother Curufinwë invented the art of craving these into something magnificent. I'll have to help him, of course. Gazing into the eye of a dragon without protecting the own mind is dangerous."

Maglor turns his head towards Erestor. Smiles sharp and dangerous before he finally, finally puts the orb away from prying eyes. Erestor is certain something moved in the center of the sphere, like a trapped fish or a candle. But sure as hell he won't go any closer to find out. That thing can stay away from him. Far away.

Catching up to with Erestor who still stands frozen in his spot, Maglor pats him on his back and laughs.

"It might not look this way but that's an adequate reaction," the Bard says, "Even after the dragon eye has been refined, the Seeing Stones are nothing to be trifled with. Since they're made from dragon they contain the past, the present and the future. Just as a warning, should you ever come across one."

After a pause where no sound reaches their ears but the snow crunching underfoot, Maglor adds quietly, "I mean it, Erestor, don't get too close to the Palantir. No matter how tempted you might feel. You'll not like what it's going to show you." 

"Why not? It's my past. Shouldn't I deserve to know?" Erestor dares to protest.

Though it's an empty one. He knows he won't disobey one of Maglor's direct commands. His Lord looms too large in his mind.  

The Fëanorian swirls around and grabs Erestor by the collar. His free hand holds up the eye between them. Erestor is forced to look at it and notices the dried blood covering the dark surface. What lays beneath makes is heart beat faster and he squirms, trying to get away. But Maglor doesn't let him. 

"Dragon's are the enemies of our kind," his Lord says. The orb pulsates between them. "Many got ensnared in Morgoth shadows and they suffered greatly for it. But let me tell you: A free dragon is far more intelligent than the winged beasts we fought. Dragons posses their own kind of spirit, their own kind of eternal life and no matter what the teachings try to tell you - they existed long before our kind woke to the stars." 

There's a voice inside Erestor's head that's screaming. Loud. Painful. Afraid. Fearing the fire, the light and the nothingness. Erestor isn't sure if covering his ears would help or just make it worse. All he knows that it needs to stop. That the orb has to leave because the longer he's forced to stare at it, the more his mind cracks under the pressure. Like ice. Like ice he had to cross because there's no other way but seeing how thin the ground beneath his feet is - that makes it even worse. 

It's like seeing the water move beneath him, sense the waiting predator. Who waits. Hungry and eager to eat. To swallow him whole. 

Erestor can almost feel the sharp teeth threatening to break his skin. 

"Please," he breathes. Erestor focuses his gaze on Maglor's white luminous eyes because they're easier to bear than the nothingness pressing against his chest. "Please, make it stop." 

A gloved hand comes up and Erestor breathes a little easier when it touches his cheek. It might not be skin to skin but the memory of it is enough. The screaming creature is silenced, gets swallowed by dark waters and goes back to sleep. He and Maglor must stand this way for minutes where Erestor does nothing else but breath, in and out. Again and again. As proof to himself that he can breath. Maglor helps him with it, pulls the shaking Elf towards him into an embrace until they breath in sync. 

"Come on," Maglor says and tugs Erestor into the direction of the camp. "Let's put you to sleep. Forgive me, I should've known that facing a dragon up close was a bit much at once."

Erestor wants to argue against that assessment for it makes him sound weak. Fragile. But his Lord is insistent and drags him towards the fire and when Maglor sits down he makes Erestor sleep next to him.

No one comments when the Fëanorian, rumored to be the most difficult one to live with, puts Erestor's head into his lap. The dragon eye is tugged away safely again and as soon as it slips out of sight, Erestor forgets it's existence. His eyes flutter shut and he falls asleep laying on the cold but not yet frozen ground, wondering how it will be to live among Maglor's people permanently. 

 

-

 

Curufin carefully doesn't comment on the Elf who's using Makalaurë's left thigh as a pillow. Or at least he pretends not to notice his brother's hand combing through the black hair of the unknown Noldor. Given his personality his brother doesn't easily deal with people. Especially those close to him. Friends, true friends that stick around longer than just for a few professional debates are rare. It's not easy for any of them. With so many brothers they rarely needed outsiders to confine in but father urged them to make the effort.

Carnadril and Tyelko are the example that it can work. That there are people who understand. Who will walk right beside them as equal instead following their Lords on command. That the former Núlandur follows Makalaurë everywhere hasn't gone unnoticed. But seeing them like this indicates that there's more than just Cáno's unmistakable presence that acts like a beacon in the night. Bound to his will or not, there are limits on what suggestion can do.

"Doesn't he get cold?" He asks instead. An honest curiosity for Erestor is the only Elf who picked the floor to stretch out on, unfazed by the snow. 

Maglor just shrugs his shoulders. He can hardly tell his brother that Erestor crossed the Helcaraxë and is therefore used to far different temperatures. 

"As long as he sleeps dreamless." 

In order to distract Curufin Maglor pulls out the orb again. With Erestor sleeping there's little danger for him anymore and Maglor makes sure the spirit inside the eye doesn't influence Erestor's dreams. The connection Morgoth build between Argon and the dragons his gone. But the wound remains and is still fresh enough that it hurts when touched even slightly. Over time it's going to scar and heal over but for now it's up to him to keep Erestor away harm. 

Curvo reacts as Maglor expects. 

"You're the best," his little brother whispers in barely contained excitement.

But he tries to keep his voice down since most of the Avari in the trees are sleeping already and the rest of the warriors try to find some rest. Even Carnadril and Huan found a corner for themselves. Not really asleep but not quite awake either.

It leaves Curufin and Maglor the only pair who are still making conversation. A pair of brothers so alike that the dimm light of the camp fire nearly turns them into twins.

"Gloves, Curvo," Maglor reminds his brother softly before eager hands can snatch the dragon eye. 

Curufin snickers as he thinks back. "You sound like father." 

His mind summons Fëanor, always strict when it came to rules of safety. Especially in the forge and with his working tools. A little baffling, for Fëanor was always more concerned about Curvo and Cáno in the forge as when Tyelko rode out and returned with a sprained angle or a broken wrist. 

"It's your own fault, Atarincë," Maglor scowls. "Or have you forgotten the time where you stuck your hand into an unknown liquid and it took three seasons until you could properly use your fingers again?" 

No, I don't , Curufin thinks. How can I when I have six brothers to constantly remind me of my missteps? 

But these thoughts are quickly forgotten after Curufin slips the good leather gloves over his fingers. They areless made to keep away the cold but rather to provide protection against powerful objects like this. Fëanor counseled them early on to be careful. Too many craftsmen lost fingers or an entire hand over the course of their lives and he didn't wish the same fate upon his children merely because they had been hasty and forgetful. 

One reason why Fëanor always carried a pair. Especially after he fashioned the Silmarils. 

To touch such powerful items with your bare hands, Curufin scoffs and shakes his head. If they even mar Morgoth Bauglir's hands, the rest of Arda should treat them with uttermost care as well. 

I delight every day in the fact that father's work brings the Black Enemy unbearable pain each day, Maglor adds, picking up his brother's thoughts with ease at such close proximity. He leans back, gets comfortable while Curvo inspects the black orb.  I once had a prisoner who confirmed the rumors that he wears them on his brow, set in an iron crown.

It's not light conversation and perhaps not the right place. But there never is. Discussing Morgoth and Silmarils needs to be done no matter how uncomfortable it makes them. Neither of them had worked through Fëanor's death already, not completely. But after nearly four hundred years they slowly start to get used to his absence.

Curufin's finger trail over the surface of the dragon eye, checking for cracks and other damages because otherwise he can't use it to make another Palantir. The process is long and dangerous. Most eyes Maglor brings to him don't survive until the finial stage. But Curufin is learning. Even with just a limited number of seeing stones, each has a secret to tell that makes their live a little easier. Sometimes Curufin just wishes father would be still here to help him. Valuable advice that is sorely missed. Just like the comforting hugs when he fails, when his work breaks under his hands or he can't figure out the next step. 

"We'll bring him down," Curufin swears. He doesn't look at Maglor, concentrates on the light flickering inside the eye instead to check if the residual fëa hold enough power for what he intends to do. "I don't care how long it takes or what it is going to cost, but Morgoth will fall."

Nothing less is fit for the crime of taking Fëanor's light from this world.

"Hm, I know." Maglor says.

Since he makes a vague noise of agreement Curufin doesn't look up ... and misses his brother's uncomfortable smile.

End Notes:

The idea with the palantir was a spur of a moment thing but the more I thought about it, the more I loved the concept. I already intended to give dragon's a bit of special properties that don't fade once they die. Given that they're just as immortal as Elves, why not let them gaze into the past, the future etc. And then I thought that this sounded awfully like the palantir. And well, they have to come from somewhere. The Lord of the Rings says there were many, once. So in this version Fëanor created the draft, the possibilty, the theory. But the one actually putting that idea into practice is Curufin. 

I mean, ... Feanor invented the Silmarils. Celebrimbor the three Elven Rings. Lets Curufin have the Palantir, okay?  

Otherwise ... Carnadril will turn up again. I'm glad that I finally introduced him because he exists for a long time already. I just waited for right opportunity. As for the rest ... you'll figure it out on your own. 

Let me thank you at for being such amazing readers. It was been an incredible year.

See you 2017 with more chapters!

Another day in the right direction by mangacrack
Author's Notes:

Year 2017. I've every intention of finishing the fic this year before we get to the next installment of the series. It's lots of fun and I just wanted to thank all of you for the amazing feedback I received last year. But enough of that. On with the story. Chapter has a bit longer than the others because it has to last until Slashy Valentine is over.

Warning: Well, this is the Silmarillion. Some blood, gore and dying people everywhere is to be expected but I guess the rating finally earns its right to exist.

 

"Morning," purrs a voice above him. Erestor blinks as sunlight hits his eyes. "Rise and shine, it's a new day and time for you to wake up or we're going without you." 

"Shut up," a deep voice growls. It takes Erestor a moment that Lord Celegorm isn't talking to him but to his brother. 

A little embarrassed to be caught sleeping in his Lord's lap Erestor gets up as well and stretches his limps to shake off the stiffness. It's only because Erestor is still standing so close to Maglor that he notices the continued oddity from yesterday. As much as the elf next to him tries to convince his surroundings of his identity, Erestor refuses to believe it. He can't shake the strange feeling when he's looking at the face. Someone did a good at copying Lord Celegorm's features but Erestor is convinced that a different person hides behind the grey eyes.

Curious, he follow the conversation between Lord Maglor and the person posing as his brother.

"It's not you who argued with Curvo about the possibilities and probably uses of dragon entrails until early morning," Maglor grouses and rubs his eyes.

Unlike Erestor he never closed his eyes in the first place but rested with open eyes, letting his mind wander. Not the wisest decision since he still guarded the sphere. With the dragon still in reach, the spirit resists to be parted from its body. Most dragons never revive after they die but the intelligent, dangerous ones know ways to anchor themselves to Arda. Take another form in order to cling to life. Right now the dragon, thankfully little more than an animal, scratches the surface of Maglor mind. Partly curious, partly trying to latch onto the brightest source of light he can find.  

It's distracting at the very least. 

"We're going to reach Himlad soon," Carnadril says and pulls Maglor on his feet and puts some dried fruit in his hand. "It should be possible even for you to wait this long. Once we've reached the safety of our borders you and Curvo can spend as much as time together in the forge as you want. I bet Telperinquar has the compound lit and heated already."

"Telpe probably had other things to worry about. The days are getting shorter and therefore Orcs have more time to roam the land." Maglor objects in between his bites. "Let's hope they didn't have to worry about defending the crops on top of shooting dragons from the sky." 

Carnadril hums, pleased that Makalaurë is eating breakfast. He might not be his brother in blood but as Celegorm's best friend he adopted the practice of shoving food into Maglor's mouth a long time ago. His shield brother says it would be alright to let Makalaurë return to his own lands but Carnadril couldn't help but worry. In Himring he spent enough time around the Commander to see the strain he was suffering under. Endless nights with little to no sleep as he defends the fortress against the attacks. 

Perhaps they aren't as close as he and Tyelko, that's pretty much impossible anyway, but Carnadril cares for Cáno as much as the rest of the family did. Not to mention he has personal reasons to be thankful. Young Canafinwë was reason why Prince Fëanor and his very pregnant wife came to Oromë's woods in the first place. 

Throwing an arm around Maglor's shoulders - much like Tyelko is prone to do - Carnadril grins and pokes his would-be-brother into the sides.

"Don't forget who's guarding Himlad. It's not as if we left our people undefended and in the hands of lanky adolscent," he says and chuckles. "I want to see the orc capable of troubling our dearest sister-in-law."

Startled by the reminder of Curufin's wife Maglor nearly drops the dragon eye. Before something can happen to it - Curvo would skin him since discovered the other eye had been completely damaged and therefore rendered useless - Maglor stores it away in a large bag and hands it over to a soldier. They're riding out soon he doesn't want to carry such potential on his back for they rest of their journey.   

It's actually safer to hand it over to someone who isn't a master of the mind arts. 

"Please don't remind me," Maglor begs, when he remembers of who Carndadril is speaking of. "I refuse to set a single foot inside your border if we catch her in a bad mood. Her anger is terrifying. I've never seen a woman adjusting the new dangers we're facing in Beleriand so quickly as she did." 

Carnadril's laughter carries over the camp, waking the rest of the warriors. Slowly they begin to rise and greet the day as long as there's time for. It won' take long now until they get the signal to mount the horses. 

"She's like a she-bear with cubs," the hunter says. "I pity the orcs who found their end through her spear." 

Maglor grumbles, "She's too deadly with that spear." 

"Brother, there're worse things in the world than Talaneth beheading rotten souls with her favourite weapon," Carnadril says and whistles until Huan comes running. Since the horses are long used to the hound running around only dance aside when Huan's tail brushes against their legs. Carnadril approaches his loyal steed that makes no difference between him and Celegorm and turns to Maglor one last time. "Just think of Curvo's love-struck impression when he sees his lady wife again." 

That does make Maglor laugh and Carnadril's chest burst with pride. He counts it as a win to have driven some of Cáno's worries away. That Huan is nudging his leg, giving his approval is a reward enough. 

Not long, Carnadril says while he searches for Huan's gaze. As soon as the Avari warriors leave we can drop this charade. 

Huan barks. Like usual he doesn't mind but Carnadril feels guilty anyway, taking his friend's place as if it belonged to him. 

 

-

 

Hours later Erestor decides he's going mad. Despite his conviction that Lord Celegorm has been replaced by someone else no ones acts with a similar suspicion in mind. Warriors laugh at his jokes, the Avari continued to treat him with respect border lining on reverence and even his brother seem not to notice. Days of careful observation Erestor wonders if it's just him. If his mind is playing tricks.

Wouldn't be so far of, would it? As someone without a single memory, something which is unheard of among Elves as far as he knows, his mind might be damaged. No to mention that he has been accused of having been a servant of Morgoth. The thought alone send cold shivers down his spine and it's not like as if he has an explanation for his theory. Or a defense for title Núlandur.

Even his Lord confirmed it in front of all his brothers - though he added that Erestor wasn't a danger to anyone.

I wonder if that's true, Erestor thinks.

He can't even get angry properly. How? When he knows much about himself...

In the past months he devoted his time to stay at Lord Maglor's side. As result he killed dragons, over and over heading into danger and towards very large pointed teeth. Simply because that was Lord Maglor was doing. When he couldn't help with that - there were days were swords and spears became useless and all work fell to Lord Celegorm and his archers - he aided with maps, making more arrows or peeling potatoes in the kitchens. Anything to occupy his time, to stop thinking about the emptiness inside him. The slow desperate longing for a connection coupled with the fear to get lost within the sea of faces that gathered in Himring.   

After Lord Maglor announced he'd be leaving Himring soon Erestor first struggled with the fear to be left behind. To be forgotten. 

Sheer relief consumed his soul when he was given a horse and Maglor ordered him to stay by his side. A horse, a strong and clever breed, is a gift. Something he can insist on repaying by offering Lord Maglor his services. But whatever courage he possessed, it evaporated as soon as they hit open land. Hundreds and thousands of miles stretch south, a far bigger world than Erestor could've ever imagine. 

This is just a small part of Arda, Erestor thinks as he rides down the hill, overwhelmed by the view of endless hills which are currently covered with snow. And I'm completely alone in it. 

For he assumes there's little hope in regaining his former name or his life. Whenever he asked the healer he got a less than hopeful answer. Unlikely, he had been told at first though the healer never explained how he came to the conclusion. With every upcoming checkup the smiles had gotten sadder. Soon the healer didn't want to talk to him anymore, reaching a point where he avoided him completely. The healer claimed that Erestor was fine, that he should build himself a new life.

'You have nothing to complain about,' the healer snapped at him one day before he turned to tending the truly wounded, warriors with horrible burns and missing limbs. 

Erestor stopped coming around after that. 

I have to accept that there's nothing to be done, he told himself. Besides who knows how long I was trapped under Morgoth's Shadow. I might've no family left anymore. 

For Sauron captured and tortured Elves long before the Valar released Morgoth from Mandos' Halls. 

"Such a long face. I'd have thought you'd be more excited since you're the first elf in years Makalaurë handpicked himself to live in Mithdíniath." 

Erestor does his best to look only mildly annoyed when Lord Celegorm interrupts his thoughts. First because he has been disturbed in the first place and second because he still doesn't know how to deal with the instinctual reaction to back away. Something isn't right with Lord Celegorm and Erestor has no clue if it's perhaps just his mind playing tricks on him. If this reaction is laughable and irrational or if he has genuine reason to be alarmed. 

But the fact that Lord Maglor treats Lord Celegorm as if nothing is wrong, doesn't shed a positive light on Erestor's sanity. There's no way an imposter could fool his Lord. 

"What're you talking about?" Erestor asks. 

Perhaps less polite than he ought to be but the Fëanorian's never punished their subjects for informal speech or outgoing behavior. As long as they respect the chain of command and obey orders in battle members like Lord Celegorm especially treat you with honor. A result from the mixed races in their lands, Erestor observed. A habit long integrated into them since ultimately the Fëanorian Family comes from a folk of craftsmen where you have to respect the work of rival as long as he it's of fine quality. Erestor believes Fëanor is to be credited for raising his sons with the beauty of different opinions in mind since it does the brothers a favor today. 

Above all because it makes dealing with the Avari and the Nandor much easier who don't follow a feudal system. Among them the clan chiefs can elders and warriors who earned the right to lead by experience. It surprised Erestor a bit to see Avari in Himring. Rumors say it that they are better arches than the Noldor who prefer the sword and steel in general. Their assistance was a great help against the onslaught of dragons which the Avari killed with their swiftness and flying arrows, finding a sure footing even on the most slippery stones. 

Erestor is thankful for the help received but questions what the Avari are getting out of the deal. Most seem to follow Lord Celegorm's command though that might just stems from the fact that the Noldor currently outnumber them. Barely two dozens of the Moriquendi accompany them on this travel yet some of them seem to accept Lord Celegorm as their liege. 

Unfazed by Erestor's suspicious glaze, Carnadril says with a grin, "Curiousity, simple as that. My brother doesn't have many people under his command, mostly because he lives in a very dangerous place, strategically speaking. Mithdíniath isn't the right environment to raise your children. Most either go East for Carnistir's city or come with us to Himlad."

"I've nowhere else to go," Erestor speaks. Judging by his glare he wishes to throw Carnadril off his horse.

Who wants to laugh, long and hard at this. He wondered why Makalaurë drags this elf everywhere. Almost like she-wolf does with her cubs, teeth sunk into the neck whenever forced to change hideouts, but by the dark look he receives it's apparent that Makalaurë found someone with a similar personality.

"Oh no, you don't get to do this," Carnadril teases. "Rescued Elves like you owe us no debt. You can go every where you wish since no oath binds you to our service. You can travel to find family again. Or love. Or just luxury and safety further south and yet you prefer to follow Cáno home?"    

Erestor shrugs. "I wouldn't know what to do with myself. I can't remember learning a craft and if I have to start anew somewhere I can stick with the Lord I already know."

Suppressing a snort Carnadril raises an eyebrow. "There must be something strange about you to pick Makalaurë of all people." 

For there aren't many people who voluntary spend time with the insane Fëanorian. His anger is worse than Carnistir's and he's a demanding task master who often leaves instructions and expects results upon his return. It's not easy to follow his logic and Carnadril had enough men in the past who thought they'd last under Prince Canafinwë's command, only return to after a year or two. 

Erestor goes rigid and looks like as if he wishes to defend his Lord but before he can open his mouth a loud howl in the distance breaks the silence. It's a terrifying sound. Loud and harsh soon followed by a bark so deep and strong that the wind picks up and blows snow from the trees surrounding them. 

"What is that?" Erestor asks but Carnadril doesn't answer him. 

Instead the hunter urges his horse forwards, drawing his sword. He recognized Huan's bark and this one is a warning. 

"Orcs! Riders, form a line! Archers into the trees!" Carnadril bellows and his voice carries through the air. "They're approaching from north-east. They're more than the usual band but they're not expecting us to be prepared. Let them come to us." 

The warriors under his command react accordingly. In an instant they go from relaxed to alert and bring out their weapons. They're long used to situations like this and the Fëanorians work together seamless. 

"All non combatants, get on a horse and then behind me," Curufin orders, concerned for the small group of untrained craftsmen that assisted in Himring during the busy months. Most of them know how to wield a sword, it's essential if you wished to survive in Beleriand but despite that very few had to make use of it very often.  

So he makes it his duty to protect them. Curufin positions himself further away from his brothers and the waiting warriors. In case of emergency it's better not to get in their way and make sure the rest makes it home safely. Of course it would mean to part, leave his brothers behind to find but since Himlad is only a day ride away someone has to be able to bring reinforcements. 

"Stay safe," Curufin tells Maglor as his brother heads of to find a better spot. 

While he will lead the craftsman to the next hill where they'll be out of reach for stray arrows, Cáno makes use of his habit to join a battle late. Carnadril is the one to make the first contact with the enemy. Since Maglor doesn't do so well with drills and formations he'll exploit his chances once the chaos breaks out. Curufin clasps the handle of his sword and stares into the direction where Huan announced the orcs. If it goes well, he doesn't have to join the battle but is also means watching his people fight while not being able to do anything to help them. 

It's the worst kind of feeling. 

 

-

 

"Stay at me side," Maglor give the order and Erestor is glad for it. 

With a curt nod he hands the reigns of his horse over and Lord Curufin leads it away. It might look like a disadvantage but Erestor is aware that he would do more harm than good if he stayed on a horse. To his surprise Maglor dismounts as well. He talks quietly to his mare, singing to it in a low voice. The animal rubs her head against her riders shoulder before taking of. No doubt the horse will come to her rider's aid in case Maglor calls. 

Maglor drags him away from Lord Celegorm's group of trained and grim faced warriors and takes up a position a little further away. Neither of them has the desire to get trampled. Once the commotion breaks out some Orcs will certainly attempt to flee but since they've capable warriors on horses it's their goal to eradicate every single one of them. Erestor wonders how well that is going go since there're more Orcs than Elves. 

To be honest it's the first time Erestor encounters Orcs at all. In his mind he has a vague image of deformed creatures with unhealthy skin but that's it. It's proof of how throughly his amnesia is if he doesn't even remember that. 

"Just kill them," Maglor advises, reading Erestor's discomfort in his face. "They're aren't very intelligent. Nor they're well trained. All they'll do is storm the clearing shouting war cries no matter if it were more sensible to back off and flee in the other direction."

Erestor swallows thickly. It doesn't matter that he fought battles with dragon's before. This feels different. The dragons were just beasts and their defenses were strong with many soldiers surrounding him, able to carry him away in case he got injuried. Right now he has nothing more than the sword in his hand and an armor made of leather. 

"Anything I should watch out for?" Erestor asks. 

In the distance Huan's barking again, probably chasing the Orcs into their direction. 

"They're fast if they want to be," Maglor says and lowers his voice into a murmur. He can't prevent the Avari from listening in since they're sitting above them on the branches but at least he can indicate that this conversation is a private one. "But that never lasts. They don't have the endurance for that nor the correct training to make us of it."

Finally Erestor can hear footsteps and the clank of metal. Fast walking people in armor, mixed with shouts and screaming. Something inside Erestor freezes. He refuses to feel, refuses to think about the image of Huan chasing the group. Growling in all his might, biting into flesh whenever he can and ripping limps of in the same motion.

Lord Celegorm is lucky to have such a loyal hound at his side. Without him the possibility of an ambush would've been far larger.

As silent as possible Erestor draws his sword from the sheath. It's nothing special but it served him well so far. Curtsey of being rescued from a Fëanorian perhaps. Among the Noldor even the simpler weapons are of good quality. Not once he saw steel break when meeting dragon skin and in the evening it was normal to find a Moriquendi trying to win Fëanorian still through bets and wagers.

A hand is placed on his shoulder and Erestor shudders when Maglor's fingers touch the skin of his neck.

"Their sight might confuse you, Erestor," his Lord whispers directly into his ear. This time the words are just meant for him, no chance at all of an Avari eavesdropping on accident. "They were our kin once and some effects might linger. But don't hesitate. Just focus on ending their lives."

"Okay," Erestor answer just as quietly.

Maglor's hand withdraws and he feels a bit better. Comforted and prepared for the upcoming battle.  

 

 

Just kill them. 

This is the command ringing in Erestor's head as he slides over the frozen ground, too slippery to find a sure footing and ducks away as the Orc tries to stab him. The blade is short but rigged and ugly. Probably poisoned. Erestor doesn't want to know what happens if it just as much as scratches him. The Orc bellows something but the noise of metal clashing against steel drowns it out. When a horse runs past the Orc and the speed is enough to cause him to tumble Erestor sees his chances and buries his sword in the face of his enemy.

The Orc lets out one last gurgle before he collapses on the ground and Erestor pulls his sword of the corpse with a swift movement. Something wet trails down his cheek but he ignores it. It's either sweat or blood. Hopefully not his own but the thought of being covered in Orc blood isn't very pleased either. 

A quick survey tells Erestor the fight is slowly turning. More and more Orc's are falling and those trying to flee get pursued by the hunters immediately. Every now and then a arrow comes flying from above. As grateful as Erestor is for the assistance they scare him every single time since he never sees them coming and they seem to brush past him with too much speed. He trusts in the skills of Avari. Their bows are good and their aim even better. Yet the underlaying fear to get hit by a stray arrow, either misfired or deflected does more harm than the well intentioned help does good.

For the bowmen can't use their skill to their will unless they wish to risk to hit their friends. 

"Get down," comes the warning. 

Erestor has no clue if it's actually meant for him but he throws himself to the ground and rolls away. Just in time to avoid a heavy shield aimed for his head. 

With a vicious snarl Erestor jumps back on his feet and uses the momentum to knock his attacker over. A kick into the ribs is enough to give him a second to breath but he doesn't hesitate long. The Orc lays on his back and reaches for his dagger yet Erestor is faster. For a moment their eyes lock, Erestor's clear blue meeting empty black ones before the Elf smiles for second brings his sword down. Blood splashes everywhere. The Orc twitches one last time before he too lays dead.

Erestor doesn't spare him a single glance but decides that he needs a moment to breath. With his long legs he heads for a tree group, leaping over corpses whose blood stains the snow. As far as he can tell it's just Orcs he's leaving behind. 

While his eyes are flickering left and right, making sure not to get in the way of flying arrows Erestor runs for cover. When he reaches the next tree he presses his back against the trunk and takes a deep breath. He didn't expect that the battle would break into such chaos. Even fighting the dragons had been easier. After a few weeks that had nearly turned into a routine. Something eight skilled and trained warrior could accomplish in less than ten minutes if everything went according to plan. 

Fighting Orcs is different. So much different. The very air he breathes has a sour taste, like a smell of rot that's slowly spreading out. 

His fingers shake a little when Erestor brushes strands of his hair out of his face. Perhaps it's finally the cold he's feeling for the temperatures dropped considerably around the evening. Or it's the battle, his heart pounding wildly against his chest and the exhaustion he feels creeping up his legs. 

Thankfully it seems to be over because on the clearing at least the Orcs have all been taken down. The first riders are returning as well, still alert and carefully standing guard while the Avari are coming down from the trees and some habits seem just to be common sense, because Noldor and Avari alike start checking if their enemies are truly dead. Erestor watches a brown haired elf kick an Orc and when he hear a faint groan from the dying soul the Elf snaps the neck with a quick motion. 

It looks brutal. Everything of this battle was. 

Just Erestor is less disturbed the display of violence than it's the Orcs who unsettle him. Alive they were hideous creatures. Skin like coal and ashes, eyes just black empty holes that indicated little intelligence behind them. A short study proves that most are just wearing rags. Clothing must be a sign of status. A luxury Orcs don't care for. Some are even in possession of hair. Not just strands hanging of balding heads but thick threats of undefinable color.

Curious Erestor shuffles a little closer. He picks the first Orc in his path and just stand there for a minute, sword still drawn and dripping wet with blood. His clothes stick to his skin, soaked with sweat and covered with dirt and gore. Yet he's more interested in the dead creature before him. In death he looks less beastly. Just deformed by pain and hunger. Erestor notices the hollow cheeks and the bare ribs.   

With a little bit of imagination he even sees likeness between their races. It's as if all light had been sucked from the living body, leaving only stinging emptiness. A harsh void of nothing. Puppets made of poisonous smoke. 

"They're foul creatures," someone hisses next to him. It's the Elf from before who delivered the killing blow who caught Erestor staring at the Orc corpse. "The mere sight of them fills me with hate. I carve my arrows thinking of their death and it grieves me that there'll never be enough to kill them all." 

"I guess so," Erestor answers with a shrug of his shoulders. 

He doesn't want to make himself unpopular by disagreeing. 

 

-

 

"I just want a nice, easy life. What's wrong with that?" Carnadril mumbles as he spots Makalaurë vanishing between the trees. 

He's following one of the few Orcs left alive and the only one in possession of a warg. Perhaps it's the leader or just someone with a shred of intelligence left between his ears. Yet is unlikely importance or not, Maglor has taken to chasing him down.

On foot. 

Carnadril curses his fate and sets after Makalaurë. Only his upbringing in Oromë's band of reowned hunters allows him to follow the Prince through the darkness. Otherwise Makalaurë 'd simply melt with the shadows. By now night as taken the forest and navigating through gets more and more difficult. The Orc seems to be long gone, all Carnadril still sees if Makalaurë's back getting smaller and smaller. Just as he fears to have lost him completely a horrible sound of crunching bones reaches his ears. Carnadril urges his horse to run faster but finding a path through the thick bushes takes time. In the end Carnadril arrives in time to see the scene play out. 

Huan is battling with the warg. They're both the same size, have each sharp teeth and claws and are frighteningly intelligent. Wargs often are, more so than the Orcs riding them. But it's not a battle Huan will lose. Carnadril focuses on the mass of his best friend fighting in animal form for a moment. Blood drips from Huan's fur which is now white. Probably to blend in with the snow. But with the moon gifting them a little bit of light to see the hound looks as he bathed in blood and entrails. 

Bow drawn and ready Carnadril waits at the edge. He isn't needed but in case he wants to be able to intervene. 

His eyes shift the left where Makalaurë is fighting. If could be called fighting. He's trading blows with an Orc and though the beast is better than the rest of the group they just killed, it doesn't help. The Orc is driven back, again and again. It's nothing more than a plaything to Makalaurë, moments away from death. 

The hunter wonders what Makalaurë is waiting for. 

It's almost sick watching the prince play with the orc. Carnadril wants to take pity on it and release his arrow but he doesn't know how the insane prince would react. They all learned that Makalaurë has his reasons for his actions. A dying shriek rings through the night and Carnadril knows that the warg is now dead. It coughs one last time before Huan lets go. 

My friend, Huan greets him with an astounding human voice. Surprising given he just spend the last hours chasing and killing orcs.

Huan comes up to him and sniffs the air. Satisfied to smell no blood on him the hound relaxes, sinking to the ground and watching the fight between the two unequal opponents. It doesn't take long before it's finally over. The orc is afraid, quivering so much that its entire body is shaking. Maglor waits and studies the elvish beast for a moment before he simply reaches out with his free hand and takes the blade away. Bare handed and calm, steady and large as a mountain.

The orc sinks to the ground, waiting on it's knees.

Carnadril expects the killing blow. Insults. Something of that kind.   

Startling is Maglor next decision which is clearly planned beforehand. Instead of hitting the orc the Bard rips the piece of clothing away the Orc is wearing. Carnadril gasps slightly, goes rigid and wonders what happens next. Never he has seen Makalaurë act as such. Even for Huan it seems to be new, judging by the way his mind turns from hunger tired sleep and Curvo to clear thoughts. Celegorm is emerging to stand witness what his brother is doing.

With a practiced movement Carnadril hands the naked, newborn Celegorm his cape and his shield brother accepts silently, eyes transfixed on Maglor as well. The Son of Fëanor doesn't seem to care about the snow burning against his bare feet.   

"Cáno?" Celegorm wonders aloud. Like usual after the change he forgets that he has a voice he can use. "What are you doing?" 

If Maglor hears his brother then he doesn't react to it. He's entirely focused on the Orc. The female Orc - both hunter notice with some unease. It's not often that they encounter female members of their cousin race. They don't know why. Theories say that they're used for breeding or that they're deemed useless in battle and kept in the mountains. Neither of the hunters can't remember ever seeing one but usually they don't stop to check an Orc's sex. But the body, clearly visible in the moonlight, is unmistakable female. Round breasts and the matching parts between the legs as well. Entirely naked the female is chattering, crying even. It doesn't take much to guess that she's afraid of Maglor. 

Anyone would be in her position, Carnadril thinks and doesn't judge the Orc for shedding tears. 

Now sound reach the hunters ears. Celegorm and Carnadril share a questioning look before both shrug. It's not a language neither of them understands. More guttural noise created with the throat than actual words. 

If that is a conversation, Carnadril wants to ask but he can't. Something heavy weighting down on his chest keeps the words inside him. Celegorm only gasps which is more than Carnadril manages. They both watch and as much as Carnadril wishes to say that something terrible happens, that he has a relevation or a lightening comes down to struck the she-orc ... in the end Maglor only wraps his arms around her. Hugs her close while she rests her face against his stomach. 

When she slowly closes her eyes Carnadril doesn't need a hunter's skill to hear heartbeats to know she's dead. It's instinct. A moment where Arda breathes in and the world hinges on a maybe before life snaps back like the thread of a bow and goes on as usual. 

Maglor lowers the she-orc the ground with a gentleness that somehow looks wonderful. 

"We're done here," the prince says to his brother as he walks past the two hunters. "Curvo is waiting for us." 

 

-

 

 

By the time they reach the clearing he has changed again. Celegorm walks beside Cáno on all fours, paws sinking deep into the snow while his brother leaves no trace in the snow. They walk side by side, close enough for Cáno to comb through his furs with his long fingers. Celegorm doesn't mind that it might makes him too much as an animal but Cáno finds comfort in it. Reason enough to avoid the questioning stares for his warriors. Those who can see the difference between him and Carnadril might takes offence that their Lord is treated like a pet. Some of the Avari seem to be particular pissed. 

In the long months in Himring they developed a rather strong sense of worship and refuse to address him with anything but as Turkelvar - Lord of all Animals. The way they see it he might be anything from Oromë student to an independent Maia or Yavanna's son. He hasn't asked yet and Celegorm doesn't know if he wants to hear the answer. Right now he's just grateful for their assistance for they know better than the Noldor that the corpses have to be disposed of. 

Like always they smell foul. Dead. As if they started to rot long ago and just waited for someone to cut the strings. Even mountain wolves won't touch dead Orcs no matter how hungry they are. A sign of how unnatural Orcs truly are for there's little what mountain wolves don't eat. Though this winter they have little reason to worry. The amount of dragons scattered over the land will provide enough meat to last months. 

At least this way we don't have to ride out and destroy those bodies as well, Celegorm thinks and licks his paws free from blood. Burning dragon's is a difficult task, burying them a hassle and throwing them into running water might poison the wells for years. 

Celegorm takes up position near the spot where they gather the dead. Soon they will be burned and then the air will smell clean again. 

But as he sniffs to check if there perhaps a few orcs on the run - maybe they missed one - Celegorm stops. He smells blood. His head jerks up and searches the clearing frantically. 

He smells blood. A lot of it. 

 

-

 

Huan jumps to his feet and follows his nose. The sudden movement causes a lot of Elves to look up as well. Their exhaustion forgotten the first immediately follow the hound, thinking he sensed another attacker. Maglor only furrows his eyebrows. He knows how Huan acts when he's out to kill. This is different because the frightening howls have turned into whines and after another minute or two barks sound through night. 

Maglor tries to reach out with his mind to check what happens but meets no clear thoughts. Only panic. The basic kind of fear only an animal can experience. 

"What happened?" Erestor wants to know as he notices the uproar. 

But Maglor just shrugs. Contrary to popular opinions he doesn't know everything. Though the question is a valid one. Given that he's a master of osnwë and Erestor can only rely on his five other senses it's more likely for him to know why serveral warriors are rushing over the hill. Shouting.

"Let's go and see what's the issue now" Maglor says. "Maybe we can help over there because I'd rather not aid with the cremation." 

Since the night has grown colder and the rush of the battle is slowly leaving his body Maglor walks closer to Erestor as they go uphill. Fallen branches crack beneath their feet and for a moment it seems that they're completely alone. Only the light of the moon accompanies them on their walk. The trees look strange, twisted and almost alive. Maglor knows that the Avari treat carefully in such forests. Even the Sindar, as far as he knows. 

Maglor has long lost such superstitions. In his childhood he ran through Oromë's vast woods. Though not as often as Tyelko but enough to be familiar with forests in every kind and shape. Besides he knows that dangers which lurk in the shadows between this world and the next can always be sensed beforehand. Be they Maia, simple spirits or ghosts. Such things always make noise one way or another. Just footsteps sometimes. A verse out of song hanging in the air, being repeated over and over. 

No, Maglor doesn't fear these forests. He has often wandered through them alone. 

But he remembers that Erestor might not feel this way. 

"How are you feeling?" Maglor wants to now. "I didn't mean to leave you behind. You did well in the last months but my duties prevented my from giving you the training you deserve. Training you'll need in the future." 

"As you advised I focused on killing them. Well, and not getting hit," Erestor says.

Maglor studies his student for a moment but he can neither see injuries nor pain. Weariness perhaps. But nothing what causes him to worry.   

"Then you fared better than most," is Maglor's final verdict. "Orcs are unpleasant and an enemy we'll face for a long time. No matter if we defeat Morgoth one day or not. Their twisted souls are uncomfortable just to look at and the knowledge of their kinship to us our greatest torment." 

"I saw how one of Avar treated the fallen," Erestor murmurs quietly. "I've never seen such hate before. Loathing beyond reason and any common sense." 

Maglor carefully considers his answer. In the end he stops walking and reaches for Erestor's hand. He brings to eye-level and presses their palms together. Erestor mirrors the motion without questioning why. Just follow Maglor's lead and wait for an explanation. 

"Our hands are the same. Our hearts as well. Our blood is red and if we're cut, we bleed. If we're unlucky, we'll die and follow Námo's beautiful voice until we find and enter his halls," Maglor starts and attempts to illustrate the relationship between Orcs and Elves as clearly as possible. "Remember that next time when you're killing an Orc. Most just look ugly in life. In death they loose their repulsiveness and return to their original state again for the corruption lies in their soul." 

"Makes sense, I guess," Erestor says and retracts his hand to study it, obviously lost in thought. 

They resume their walking again. It isn't far now but the pair is moving in an unhurried pace. Maglor knows that his attention will be soon drawn away again and as long as no one cries for his help he'll lend Erestor his support. As he should've been doing right from the start but defending Himring without Nelyo had cost him much of his time. The fortress isn't his preferred territory for combat but with an attack of such magnitude visibility had been needed. 

With the dragon war being over it's finally time to sink back into shadows, cloaking himself with the freedom of anonymity and Maglor plans to do the same with Erestor. He dragged Argon's soul away from the edge, the abyss of nothingness where not even Lord Námo could've brought him back from. So, he has no intention of letting his cousin go anytime soon. That Erestor isn't resisting the pull and seeks his company deliberately aids his purpose.

Which Maglor is insanely grateful for. He doesn't wish to act against Erestor's will whose inner strength is far greater than he anticipated at first.

Yet is doesn't surprise him when Erestor breaks the silence again.

"Can they be saved?" The question is barely a whisper and Maglor notices how Erestor's voice nearly breaks under the weight of it.

Suddenly his heart burns with the desire to make it better. To lift some of the burden Erestor is carrying. Yet it's not his habit to lie outright if he can't help it and the truth will be discovered anyway.

"If there's a way to save an Orc from Morgoth's Shadow then I haven't found it yet," Maglor answers honestly. "Morgoth is an old and angry power. He infects everything what's close to him. Land, light and even souls. I don't think he has even given anything back he once claimed."

For the first time the Fëanorian notices how different Erestor looks from the boy he used to be. Argon had been still a boy when they left Tirion, an adolescent who unlike his siblings rarely left his father's side. Maglor can't quite recall their last meeting but he remembers stumbling on him in Alqualondë. Arakáno had looked very small back then and clung to Nolofinwë with wide terrified eyes.

Well, it's not as if I haven't done the same with mine, Maglor muses. We all lost our innocene in Alqualondë.    

Yes, even him. Though Maglor always believed he was better prepared to the horrors than anyone else it hadn't helped him in the end. 

Since he can't just watch as Erestor's body starts to shake Maglor pulls him into an hug. It's not his usual way. Physical contact is something he rarely initiates - his brothers being an exception. Yet Erestor isn't just anyone. He has no else but him. Maglor fought tooth and nail to free his mind, his spirit and his soul from Morgoth's influence and it means he can't leave his work halfway done. As consequence he comforts Erestor as much as possible, strokes his hair and his trembling back. 

Maglor holds Erestor close, lets the other Elf cling to him as he cries into his neck. 

He doesn't ask for the reason for the tears. Instead he's glad that Erestor is capable of shedding them at all. Months of resolve and composure made him worry if he brought Nolofinwë's son back wrong. If he sealed too much Arakáno away. Out of necessity he's afraid. Nelyo can take of himself whatever his reason is to hide from Morgoth. 

This poor soul on the other hand doesn't deserve the experience what Arakáno had lived through. Once was enough even if meant robbing Erestor all of his past. 

End Notes:

Mithdíniath - Grey & Gap/Mountain Pass (sind. pl.) - name I chose for Maglor's Gap since it doesn't have a name on its own

Stripped down to the Bones by mangacrack
Author's Notes:

I want to apologize for the delay but I've got sucked into a Maeglin Fix-it Fic. It's almost halfway done but that just added to the fact that I went back and edited the first few chapters of this story. It's worth rereading Chapter 01-08. I haven't touched the other parts, but in the end it's just about smoothing a few edges. You're not going to miss anything major, unless you count the added scene in Chapter 08.

~

Bannoth - Sindarin Name for Námo
Tauron - Sindarin Name for Oromë
Rhawon - Roaring Lion
Gurthnost / Nurnossë / Nostanquale - kin of death

Maglor knows something is off, long before they set a foot in the new camp. His eyes search immediately for his brothers, though his heart knows they're unharmed. Curufin looks a little rough, he has scratches on the left side of his face. Obvious that the Orcs tried to attack them from behind and ran into Curvo meanwhile. Maglor does a quick count. Ten to one is not impossible, but it requires training and dictation to battle most Elves don't possess. At least not when they're forced to fight these ten Orcs at the same time.

Needing more than a visual confirmation that his little brother is alright, Maglor shuffles through the crowd until he stands behind Curufin and can a wrap a hand around his wrist. It's cold, wet from snow and blood and possibly strained but the pulse beneath the skin is strong and steady. Faster than normal but that's expected after such a battle. Maglor is close enough to hear Curvo's harsh, ragged breathing. He's trying not to show it among the other Elves, but the ambush took a lot out of him. The bard glances backwards, where the craftsman are waiting. Most look too frightened to have been of true help. No wonder that Curvo had to work hard to get everyone out alive if he had to defend the whole group by himself.

From the outside it may look like that they're just standing side by side, but Curufin visibly relaxes when Maglor extends his mind and basically rubs his nose against Curvo's hair. For once Maglor would've no problem to reach out with his hands, but the situation calls for a different kind of behavior. For Maglor spots Celegorm sitting right next to a fallen Elf.

"What happened here?" Maglor asks aloud. Although what he really wants to if it's one of their men.

Thanks to the many others surrounding the body on the ground he can't make out the face properly.

"The boy belongs to the Archers we set up in the trees. He notices how a few of these bastards tried to sneak around the battlefield to escape. He wishes to aid me and started firing arrows," Curufin explained in a hushed voice, talking in Quenya in order to avoid the other Avari to listen in. "Unfortunately he gave up his position and didn't get away fast enough to avoid the bolt an Orc fired at him."

"Without the leaves the trees don't provide the usual protection," Maglor adds, thinking the boy should've known better. "Is he dead?"

"As good as," Curufin mumbles sympathetically. "The bolt is bad enough, but he also broke a lot of bones when he fell from the tree. I doubt he makes it."

With a sigh Maglor puts the strands out of his hair and contemplates simply letting it lie. Chasing the woman cost him strength as did sending her directly into Mandos' arms. Reaching so deep again will cost him strength and concentration. It's not easy work, after the strain of the last months. Defending Himring was more just then keeping the dragons away physically. Refusing their minds to touch the land, and the people in it, was no small feat. All dragons are connected to Arda in one way or another and they radiate magic just by breathing. Shielding his kin from the influence is exhausting. Maglor had been looking forward to getting some rest. 

With a groan Maglor shoves three warriors aside to get a better view. An older man cradles the head of the injured Elf in his lab, stroking his hair and mumbling nonsense while Carnadril desperately tries to stop the bleeding. Huan sits next to him, stretched out against the body to provide as much heat as possible. What disturbs Maglor is that the injured Elf is just a child. In his eyes at least, he knows that children age faster here in Beleriand than they do in Aman. But even by their standards he only reached maturity recently.

He can't be older than a few decades. Two centuries perhaps, Maglor thinks and decides he can't let that boy die pay for a war that he kicked loose, when he freed Argon from Morgoth's influence. I knew what it would mean, freeing our cousin. Dragons need to be tethered to the world. Otherwise they'll return to being mere animals or their spirits slip into the void beyond entirely. Argon's blood provided them a powerful link. A chain of fire they could use to hold on.

Breaking that chain caused the dragon making a run for Arda. Doing their best to sink their teeth into the world, searching for an anchor individually instead of a single common one.

In the end ... he shouldn't let the boy die just because it's too much work. Or too complicated. Or because he doesn't have the proper motivation for it. Maglor summons the image of one of his brother's lying there whimpering in pain with broken bones. Immediately breathing gets easier and a weight falls of his shoulders. Besides the boy is dying. Námo is listening - or so Maglor hopes.

"Out of my way," he finally announces and nudges the Avar aside that's keeping the boys head stead.

Maglor receives a vicious glare and a loud protest but he silences the enraged Elf with a glance.

"Shup up and let me do my work," Maglor says in a dark voice.

Like the Elf before him Maglor sits down and puts his hands at the boy's temples after pulled his head into his lap, forcing the Elf child to up. Directly into his eyes.

Somewhere in the back of his mind Maglor hears Carnadril sigh in relief, while Huan changes from a wolf-hound with claws and blood on his teeth to something resembling a dog. A form that goes well with small children, cold nights and insane brother's. Maglor ignores all of that. He needs to focus on what's important - the fading life in his hands.

"What's your name?" he asks and doesn't bother to hide how frightening he must appear.

Himring isn't that big and a young Avar worshipping the ground Tyelko walks on get's noticed. Dealing with Turkelvar's insane brother ... Maglor pities the child.

"Dôlraw," the boy croaks. Maglor is surprised he has still the strength to speak. That he leaves the child a choice. When he asks he'll have his answer.

Then Maglor opens his mouth and the night lights up around him.

 

-

 

Dôlraw has never seen a god before. He always suspected that Turkelvar is one of their children. A spirit given shape - like in the legends. But even Turkelvar bleeds when cut, gets hungry and sleeps in a bed like the rest of them. Dôlraw always wondered if that was to put their simple minds at ease. A son of Tauron would never lower himself to such basic needs for any other reason. But that makes his Lord approachable. Sometimes when Turkelvar praises him for a job well done Dôlraw even forgets that the Lord is a higher being. When Turkelvar treats him like an equal.

There's no higher honor. He grew up in the wild and Lord of all Animals was kind to him, let him meet him in person after he sailed from the West to aid against the growing shadow of the dark one.

Dôlraw doesn't regret fighting. Doesn't regret helping the god. Or dying for them.

For he knows death is close. He's hurting, his back burning and it gets more and more difficult to stay awake. To follow the voices of the living. Even his brother his slipping from his grasp but Dôlraw can't say he minds. Everything gets cold, pleasantly numb. He doesn't even notice the snow anymore.

At least I could aid Lord Turkelvar's brother. They'll kind upon my family for helping him, dying in their service, Dôlraw thinks. He wants to close his eyes and follow the soft music he's hearing. It's a beautiful play on a whistle promising warmth, sleep and rest. Just as Dôlraw is ready to let go and fly away with his fëa like a leaf in the autumn wind he's stopped. Something heavy settles on his chest, pressing him down and back into his body.

Dôlraw screams. It hurts. It hurts so bloody much and he tries to get away but the weight is firm, spreading and chaining him to the ground with words until he's forced to inhale. Dôlraw sucks in the air, gasps as the beautiful violence of the winter night hits him with star-like clarity. Above he all he sees is the stars, impossible large and bright, so deep that he gets lost in them.

But hands pull him back. Firm and insistent. Like his father used to when he was a boy. Pulling him back before he could burn his hand on the stove.

It isn't his father. His father followed Bannoth when the northern shadows took his mother.

Do you want to live? Dôlraw is asked. He wonders where the voice is coming from.

Is the Lord of the Souls is giving him a choice...? Long ago his mother sung him stories, told him that the powers are absolut and unmovable like the mountains. Endless as the ocean and with depths people part living in the mortal part would never understand. The powers build glorious Arda, crafted it with their hands and shaped it with their voices. Most of them were sensible and gentle, merciful beings that could be traded with. That answered on occasion if own your voice carried meaning. Except for the four Elder Gods. Those who first woke in the newborn Arda after Eru Ilúvater and Quildë Cilawendë joined their hands to weave the great music together.

You can't argue with the great four, his mother always lectured. To them you're insignificant. We might live long but even compared to our immortal fëa the Earth beneath your feet is always going to be older. The shadows and the stars will always be stronger and brighter than any thought you carry in your heart.

Dôlraw lived by these teaching though his brother called him stupid sometimes. Following the Path as mother always called it, didn't fill their bellies and wouldn't keep them save from the shadows in the North. Perhaps it worked in the past but the Avari quickly learned that the gods no longer answered them. Dôlraw just hoped he was doing something wrong when he sings to Arda the way his mother used to, because until today he never got an answer. 

Yet he never thought what he would do if actually got their attention. 

Do you want to live? This time the question is louder, cuts through Dôlraw's muddled thoughts and brings back the pain. He gasps, struggles for breath as hot blinding pain runs through his spine.

"Yes," Dôlraw sobs, because why he would he not want to live? Arda is harsh but beautiful. Just ...

"Make it stop," he adds. "Make the pain stop. I can't..."

Hush, child, the voice tells him and warmth touches the place the pain originates from. It will be alright. I'll do my best but please bear in mind that I'm not a healer. This won't be painless but at least you can walk again once I'm done.

Dôlraw wants to utter this thanks, he's grateful for the company at least but his heart stops when he looks up. By now he's lucid enough to decipher his surroundings and fear takes hold of him. Instead of lying wounded on the grass a figure looms above him, large enough to carry him in the palm of his hand. Which is ... frightening. Dôlraw tries to bury his fingers into the skin, hold on to something but all he meets his skin. He's truly sitting in the palm of a person.

Trembling the Avar looks up again and meets white eyes. He can't make out much else for the light and shadows dancing them but it's enough to give him an idea who he's facing.

"Bannoth," he gasps. "Lord of the Halls, I'm truly sorry. I didn't mean..."

Enough, the oldest god speaks. His voice flows through Dôlraw like raw power, the mind of the keeper of the dead pressing against Dôlraw's fragile one. Careful enough not to hurt him, just to express his intentions and let the child on his hand calm down.

I'm trying to heal you - something that isn't my expertise. Knitting your bones back together isn't an easy task.

"Thank you, Lord," Dôlraw gushes. He tries to keep still no matter how fearful he is that he's sitting in the palm of a god. He could fall so easily and be swallowed by the void where his fëa will wander in confusion forever. All he can do is trust into the god not to let him fall.

For it is out of question that this is Bannoth, Lord of the Halls of Mandos. His mother always told him that the keeper of the fëa has white eyes and is otherwise wrapped in a dark cloak. Sometimes you might see a glimpse of his hands or of his long black hair but otherwise he shrouds himself in mystery. His face and his true form is for those who enter his halls and it's said only the Returned can speak his name without fear. According to his mother the Returned also carry more light in their souls, for the clarity they gained when they were dead. 

I'm not doing this for you, child. Bannoth tells him and starts to hum under his breath. My brother would be devastated to loose you. He intends for you to join his hunters one day. Which you can't do if you're dead or unable to walk.

Dôlraw gaps and trembles with joy. He didn't think that Tauron holds him in such high regard. A place among his hunters would be a high honor only very few ever receive.

"Please my Lord. Let me return," he pleads. He wants to live. To wake up and fulfill the fate Bannoth laid out for him. "Let me live."

That, child, has never up to me, the Lord says. A frown marks his beautiful face. Dôlraw studies the features for a moment, knowing he will forget them as soon as he wakes up.

Then the other hand joins the first and darkness engulfed him, trapped in Bannoth's grasp like a beetle. Yet he feels safe, pleasantly warm as he listens to the voice singing to him. Singing of beauty and terror and Arda.

For Dôlraw it's as if he's standing next to Ilúvater himself when he gave birth to the great music.

 

-

 

Someone pulls Maglor away from the Avar child. A sensible thing to do since Maglor is heaving, gasping for air like he always has to when he gets involved with the Songs of Death. As much as he resents it, Maglor blends out the world and focuses on breathing. Speaks Manwë's full name in his mind to remind himself he's alive. Detaching his spirit from his body always bears a risk and in touching a dying person he might be dragged along instead of pulling it back. Maglor's hands quiver and balls them to fist to get some life back into them. They hurt and burn, passing the mark from mere unpleasantness to being a serious bother.

But should he expect after coming in contact with a fëa? A fëa attempting to leave hröa behind in order to join its kin in Mandos Halls?

Maglor hisses and reaches for his gloves. It takes a few tries to pull them over his hands but it helps a little when he's done.

What's even better is when Curvo starts to rub his back, suddenly there and providing comfort. It's been a long time since Maglor did anything of that sort he just delved into. they both remember how the last time turned up.

 

Fëanáro is lying on the ground as he reaches out and screams more than he sings, but father uses his last will to reach out and stop him.

"Cáno, no...," Fëanáro smiles sad and knowing. "You can't ... it's too late."

 Canafinwë would protest if he had enough breath left. Instead he presses his palms on Fëanáro's chest, as if their weight could hold his father in this world. But the warm blood running over his fingers tells him it's useless. Fëanáro is fading away. His life seeps into the ground beneath them while his spirit tries to donate as much strength to his children as he's able to.  The words are stuck in his throat. Canafinwë's attempts to talk, to summon the will to sing again all fail. He isn't above of directly calling out to Námo, begging for help if it only means that father will live. Regardless of what happened at Alqualondë. 

But a power stronger than his own takes Fëanáro away. Canafinwë feels it, when the fëa finally slips from his grasp.

His father sighs, when his limbs become numb and the pain fades away. Then he starts burning, catching fire as his body is no longer able to contain his spirit. 

Makalaurë isn't the only one who screams, his brothers suffer the pain as well as their father is ripped away from their souls, but his voice is certainly the loudest.  

 

 

Others call him powerful, but Maglor still isn't over that he couldn't help his father. Fëanor's death was a lesson. He still has to swallow thickly when he just thinks about it. He will never be a healer. Despite all his knowledge and the fact that he's admired, feared and respected... Healing a skill he can't name his own. It's beyond him. Always has been, because healing requires forgiveness. The desire to make things better than they are. Lessen the pain as much as possible and mend broken pieces. He lacks in all of these categories. After Alqualondë, after the darkening, after Finwë... he can't even bring himself to heal scratches.

He acquired the habit of not letting his brothers get hurt in the first place. Maglor doesn't know if he could put them back to together if they were bleeding out beneath his fingers like father had. 

"You should rest," Curvo mumurs and pulls Maglor in his feet to drag him away. "At least you left some blood on his clothes and a few of his bones still cracked. It's going to be bad enough to convince them that you just didn't restore that child's hröa."

Curufin is less than amused when Maglor huffs, snorts because laughing is inappropriate right now.

"I mean it, Makalaurë. No more stunts like this," Curvo hisses. "Do you realize that most of the Avari picked up on Huan in the last months? They worship Tyelko as son of Oromë already. Or as Yavanna's. We don't need you to join their cult."

This time Maglor does laugh. His grin spread over his face and he bites into Curvo's shoulder to muffle the sound.

"Why not? It's not like as if they have a reason not to. I could provide a new trick probably each day for a whole year," he says and covers his eyes with his gloved hand. "I could give them the light they crave, the guidance they seek. They would embrace me with obedient devotion." 

For a moment Maglor is silent, before he adds quietly, "Just look at me, Curvo. It'd be so easy for them to love me. I saved a child of their clan."

Curufin stares at his older brother for a moment, horrified. He knows it's the brush with death that unsettled Makalaurë. He basically joinied hands with Námo and channeling all the Vala stands for. Losing his grasp on reality, his sense for right and wrong ... just for that child which should've been a casualty. Someone who should've been just another sacrifice in the war against Morgoth. 

It's moments like these that Curufin hates the most. He can't tell if saving the Avar means something or if Maglor just acted on a whim. 

"Cáno - No!" Curufin insists softly. He hopes some of his words will reach Makalaurë who has turned to staring at sky, switching between laughing, cursing and rubbing his hands against his thighs. "Don't ever even think about following that path. We both know that such adoration never lasts."

Yet the sad truth is that it's entirely in the realm of possibilities. People have the habit of admiring Maglor. For his skills, his voice, his looks and it's too easy for that admiration to turn into an obsessive love and Maglor doesn't always sees the need to discourage it. Stemming mostly from the fact he spend too much time with the Royal Families or the Valar. People wishes to be ruled, Finwë always said. Which was true. No matter in peaceful or turbulent times people looked to those in power to solve their problems. Even in ever peaceful realms like Valinor or Doriath societies formed their Kings and Lords.

For Maglor is hard to comprehend that people are capable of growing beyond their boundaries. But well, it's always been difficult for his brother to accept others as his equal. How, when he is one of the few to ever studied directly under the Valar? When he has been hailed as musical genius and admired to an extend Curufin had never been comfortable with? In general Curufin isn't worried that his brother goes around bending minds to his will. Sadly, after incidents like this one his mind is more than just a little unhinged. To pull a fëa back to Arda before it reaches the Halls of Mandos, who had to meet it halfway. Grasp it by the wrist and drag it back with force if necessary for Námo's voice is luring, beautiful and full of love. Or so Maglor explained one afternoon ages ago. And on a normal day Curufin would trust Maglor not to exploit the power in his grasp. It's situation like these which Curufin fears the most. When Maglor just acts, because he can. Pulls off the impossible with an afterthought and forgets the entire thing, when he comes to his senses again.

It's an ugly thought, but Curufin is glad that his brother struggles with insanity. The madness, the confusion and the cryptic answers are always easier to handle than his brother when he forgets that moral principles exist for a reason. 

"You, come here," Curufin orders as he sees Erestor hovering behind his brother. The elf who has taken to following Maglor behind like a loyal dog it just what he need right now.

"Yes, Lord Curufin?" Erestor obediently steps closer.

"Stay at his side," the Son of Fëanor instructs and points at Maglor, who ignores them entirely, still focused on the palm of his hands. "Always be within arms reach. It might be even better if you ride together. I don't quite trust my brother to stay on his horse right now."

Erestor nods in understanding and turns to guide Maglor away from the trouble. From the group of Elves who are still in awe of the previously heavily wounded Avari.

Curufin notes that Erestor is even allowed to touch Maglor and stops worrying for a moment as he takes command. As inspiring Maglor's display of power was, they need to get away from this spot. The faster they reach Himlad the better. For anyone involved.

 

-

 

Erestor still isn't over his first encounter with the Orcs but he's glad he has something to focus on. The company moves at a slow pace, allows tired animals and wounded soldiers to breath. Since Lord Curufin concerns proved right and Maglor hasn't gotten better yet, Erestor follows the order and stays by his side. No matter how small the distance or how meaningless the task, Erestor takes his duty seriously and accompanies him wherever the Fëanorian goes. At first Erestor wondered about the necessity of it but quickly realized the reason for the request when Maglor nearly cut his hand open at the attempt to clean his sword from blood.

Thankfully Maglor cares less about Erestor's presence who long expected to face some annoyance, confusion or at least an order to give some space.

No, instead Maglor choses the opposite and stays awfully close. Right now he's sleeping pressed against Erestor's body who barely dares to move. He's afraid if he breathes to deep he's going to wake Maglor who truly needs his rest. The entire day he hung more in his sattle than he was riding. The horse seems to be used to her rider resembling a sack of potatoes strapped to her back for she jogged along, slow and even paced as if she knew not to expect too much help from her rider. Erestor who worried and glanced at Maglor at least twice a minute, had been glad he was spared the horror to ride with his Lord on the same horse. His riding skills had gotten better in the last days, but he doesn't trust himself with another person clinging to his back just yet.

When they reached an outpost for travelers, a hut big enough to hold them hold though it got a little crammed, Erestor thought one of his brothers would release him from his duty. Yet Lord Celegorm is nowhere to be seen and Lord Curufin seems otherwise engaged. So Maglor keeps shadowing him, going so far he's using Erestor's hip as pillow. Erestor has no clue what he should do with this. His Lord is clinging to him, one arm wrapped around his body and basically snuggling with him. Since it looks like Maglor is getting desperately needed sleep, Erestor does his best not to disturb him.

But since he's sitting half upright leaned against a wall, there's not much else he can do but think. Sleep eludes him despite how much he needs it as well. The last battle keeps him awake, the Orcs are still haunting his mind. Their faces transform in his memories, going from hideous to beautiful. From dead stone to flowing water. He can't even tell if their blood had been red or black anymore. Both, perhaps. If he remembers correctly.

In the end Erestor always returns to the moment, where he buried his sword in the Orc's face. His blade is of good quality but not outstanding. It worked. The sword is easy to carry and swift to handle. A flick of his wrist and the blade sings, drawing blood and screams from his opponent. Yet it's just a weapon without a will of its own. Erestor is the one who guided it, moving the steel through the air as if he holding a brush, painting a white canvas black.

It all comes down to one thought.

I killed.

Erestor repeats the words in his head, over and over. There's something significant about it he can't put away just yet. Although it's ridiculous. He shot at dragon's before. Saw Orcs from afar and killed those as well. Even more likely he killed before he was rescued. Erestor doesn't want to think about it but it's likely he has a lot of blood on his hands. Elven blood even. Does it make a difference when he doesn't remember doing it? Dread settles in Erestor's gut. He imagined walking down a street and have someone recognize him. A friend, a family member. Easily he could be recognized as tormentor. As enemy. As killer of a lover, father, brother.

Swallowing thick Erestor decides it might be best if he never learns who he was.

A movement startles him out of his thoughts. Erestor jerks as Maglor mumbles under his breath and moves his hand. That alone wouldn't cause Erestor's heartbeat to pick up, but when the hand slips under his shirt and rest against his naked skin, his breathing goes a little swallow. It's just a little bit of skin contact, but the touch burns. 

"My Lord?" Erestor whispers. Body frozen stiff since he doesn't know how to interpret this. When he doesn't get an answer, he tries. "Maglor?"

Just as he suspects never getting an answer, Maglor does respond. The Fëanorian opens one eye and blinks a few times, obviously half asleep.

"Stop... thinking," Maglor murmurs. The intensity of his voice suggest it's a command, not an advice. "I can't sleep like this."

"But, I don't know how?" Erestor wants to argue.

"Enough," Maglor grouses. He pulls down until they're laying side be side, Maglor entangled and wrapped around Erestor. 

This time the contact is deliberate and the hand on his stomach returns. It stays there the entire night like a weight that's grounding both of them, but unless for the fingers which rake across the skin occasionally, they don't move. Not even an inch. It takes nearly an hour of awkward waiting, in which Erestor is wide awake while everyone is asleep, but it calms him down. The touch goes from unexpected to welcome and soon Erestor leans into it. Falls asleep with Maglor's palm resting against his stomach and his head heavy against his shoulder. 

 

 

-

 

Next morning the mood is relaxed. Most have risen already, eager to return home for this is the last part of their journey. Sometime today they would reach Dracview, a city founded at the river Celon. Still far enough to avoid dealing with Nan Elmoth but heavy fortified to come Himring and Mithdíniath to aid like they had done in case dealing with the dragons. Otherwise Dracview is mostly a stop for travellers. Estolad is wide and settlements difficult to find for there's no straight road on the great plain. For those coming from Amon Ereb or Ered Luin Dracview is the first place, where they could sleep in a bed or buy new clothes.

Not Maglor preferred choice to settle down but he likes the anonymity and returns often enough. Usually to visit either Tyelko or Curvo. Seldom they both lived in the same space as long as they resided in Himlad. Of course, why not? Compared to the vastness of Beleriand Himlad is heavily populated. Bordering at Doriath and Nan Elmoth, enclosed by two strong rivers and the Mountains of Himring it's well protected and easy to defend. Many of the Avari who lived near Doriath before relocated, because Himlad provides better protection.

And a more open policy towards the Green-Elves, Maglor thinks and throws a glance, where the Avari had settled for the night.

For as much as Thingol likes to preach and rant against the Noldor settling in his lands, he treats the Avari and Green Elves not much better. In his eyes they're philistine savages, as much as all Noldor are conquering kinslayers. It's not his business, because he hasn't such a dense population living in his lands, but Maglor can understand the anger of the Green Elves. They might not like most of the Noldor or their lifestyle, but among the Fëanorians at least they're treated like equals. While Doriath barely allows the chieftains to enter the kingdom. Tales speak of how many of Denethor's people left the forest after trying to live under Thingol's rule for a time. Hence why they accept no other king than the one they buried in Amon Ereb.

Maglor is fine with that. The Noldor long had to learn how to deal with too much royalty around too truly care. As far as he can tell, Beleriand is doing well without the isle that Doriath has turned into.

"Lord? May I speak with you for a moment?"

Maglor, who had gone outside to enjoy the sunrise, is surprised to find an Avar warrior approaching him.  Vague he remembers the face but the name eludes him completely.

"Of course, how can I help?" He responds. Perhaps he might not always remember it but Maglor tries to be polite to the Avari. 

In the past they helped against the growing forces of Morgoth and they'll have to depend on them in the future. Both cultures are incredibly grateful for the assistance and many of the Avari especially see the blood spilled at Alqualondë as small price if it means they and their families will survive the next centuries. Olwë is a name many have forgotten and even fewer remember in person.  

"My name is Rhawon," the Avar greets him. He places a hand over his heart and bows deep. "Since my brother is still unable to do so, I wish to express my deepest gratitude for saving his life last night." 

Ah. Maglor now remembers, where he has seen the face last. The elf in front of him is the warrior Maglor pushed away, before he started this whole ordreal that caused the headache he's still nursing. 

"I'm glad I was able to help after you and your kin defended our home for so long," he waves aside. He tries to downplay his part, because Maglor refuses to talk about that particular ability of his voice.

Rhawon stares at him with wonder and disbelief. In a crowd he's easily to overlook, but most Avari don't grow as tall as the Noldor. It helps them to climb through trees without having to worry about longer limbs. As plain as Rhawon might look at first, Maglor senses a sharp mind behind those eyes and if he isn't wrong than this Elf is far older than his brother. Perhaps even old enough to recognize the kind of power he used last night. With the other tribes in Beleriand Maglor would scoff with justified arrogance, because most of the Sindar refuse to look beyond the basic use of their voice. B the Avari and the Green Elves didn't survive until today, because they're stupid. They're wanderers. Explorers and just as knowledgeable as the Noldor. 

But that's not a surprise, given how they're supposed to originate from the same tribe. 

Apparently Maglor can't fool Rhawon, who certainly discussed what happened with his kin. 

"You healed him. You brought Dôlraw back from certain death. There isn't even the smallest wound on him," Rhawon insists. His brown hair is tied into knots, to keep it out of the way during the journey. It makes his face sharper ... and more open, Maglor finds who prefers to hide his eyes beneath bangs. "I felt his fëa leave the body. I mourned him already, thinking my little brother lost and gone."

The Avar glances towards the barn where they camped last night, obviously using whatever skills in oswanë he possesses to reassure himself he hasn't lost his brother, one of his few kin left in this world.

"And yet he returned," Rhawon adds, when Maglor refuses to react. "Healed. In mind and in body, as far as I can tell." 

It's difficult to say, what disturbs the warrior more. The Fëanorian's possible involvement with Námo or the flesh he sew back together. 

"I didn't heal your brother. I'm not a healer. I just told him not to die," Maglor corrects and rubs his neck like he always does when he wishes not to meet the gaze of the person he's speaking with. Instead he counts the clouds above. "Don't be so quick in offering your thanks. Your little brother still might suffer heavy consequences from what happened last night."

For a moment there's a complete silence until Maglor believes that he's left on his own devices again. Which would be nice for a change. Spending nearly a year in Himring made him wary of company. He longs for the empty stretches of his home where he doesn't drown in noises. 

"Does it mean that you are one of the Gurthnost?" The Avar asks after he he took the time study the Fëanorian. "Though I've never seen one with skills like yours." 

Rhawon admits that the Noldor are different what he's used to, but most are easy to get along with. Notably better than the Lathrim in Doriath at least. Of course their Lords are strange to him. He rarely listens to Dôlraw's ravings about Turkelvar - or Lord Celegorm, as the common Sinda calls him -  but in the last three seasons he had time observe Lord Maglor. Who is a strong and capable chieftain, though he prefers the King of Himring himself. 

Yet until last night Rhawon never thought the Fëanorian anything but a skilled bard and warrior. 

Lord Maglor's confused look lets Rhawon rethink the word he used. Learning Sindarin has been going smoothly, thanks to the common roots of their languages, but there are still words that have a meaning beyond literal translation. Quenya is full of those, hence why most of his kin don't bother to learn it. Rhawon himself can't communicate nothing more than the basics himself. Enough to get a gist of what the other is speaking of but nothing he would like to rely on. 

So he repeats his question, using another word. "Nûrennost? Nurnossë?" 

Before Rhawon can launch into a discribtion he sees the realization in the Noldo's eyes. 

"We call them Nostanqualë. Kin to Death," the Fëanorian says softly.

Rhawon nods briefly and looks over his shoulder if someone is listening. It's a touchy subject, especially in the light of that he's speaking to a kinslayer. 

"Aman is a peaceful, nearly deathless land. We never had use for a person appointed to end the life of kin to spare them pain. It got out of habit to name them as such. Especially after the Royal Families appointed specific people to bring back game from the hunt," Maglor says, crossing his arms over his chest. He would look away but in his case he knows it's more effective to stare other's in the eyes. Usually it's enough to break the contact. This Avar is stronger than most. "But I'd like to know what this ancient rite has to with me." 

"Maybe our kin in the holy land never had to kill and would look down at us for eating meat." Rhawon digs deeper. He wants to know if his mother's tales are true. "Yet you immediately knew what I was talking about."

The Fëanorian settles for a shrug. Rhawon is close to asking further, more pointed questions, but the flash of pain in Maglor's eyes stops him. He notices the clenched fists, remembers the way how the bard pulled his brother back from almost certain death. It's not uncommon among their people to deliver a blow of mercy, if there's no chance of healing. If dying is nothing more, but a long journey of agony. Brought by poison, sickness from the fumes in the North or general fading after losing one's partner ... well, usually there's one who decides to carry the burden. Better than to let a beloved suffer further. 

The Lathrim think themselves above that. One reason for the chasm between their people. Living in safety, the Sindar in Menegroth will never know the pain or the necessity of killing their own kin. Thanks to the Spirit Queen, Doriath is deathless and its people live in a realm, where life never ends. Among the Wild Elves taking a life is a rite of passage. Everyone who wishes to be a full member of the tribe must set out, catch an animal and slit it's throat. Only when the boy or the girl watched a life fade from a body they brought down with their bare hands, they can call themselves an adult.   

In this light Rhawon prefers to deal with the Fëanorians, rather than with the citizens of Doriath. Killing another Elf is a heavy burden to carry. The blood will never wash off, but the Kinslayers at least understand the weight of what they have done. More he doesn't need to know. What does he care for a folk that refuses to come to their aid when the Black One wrecked havoc in the holy land to torment them worse than the Shadow did? 

"I'm a Kinslayer," the Fëanorian says - as if it's enough to deter Rhawon from his opinion. "I've taken Elvish lives in Alqualondë. Does it turn me into someone, who sends it's own flesh and blood to Námo to spare them pain?" 

Rhawon sighs. He has to hurry. Dôlraw will wake soon and he wishes to be back before that. The sky turned from deep right to light blue while they were talking and slowly Arda woke from her sleep, makes snow covered Beleriand a little less frightening. 

"I don't think so," Rhawon shakes his head, ready to say farewell. This evening they will part, Lord Maglor will ride east, home to his people and Rhawon's band further south. It's possible though unlikely that they'll meet each other again anytime soon. "That blood will forever stain your hands, but that doesn't exclude the possibility of being a Nostanqualë. I see it in your eyes that you have walked the path before - whenever you admit it or not. How else you could possess the power to strip death from the body of a stranger?"

"You know so little." The answer is gentle, but pained. Spoken by someone who knows their fate, laid out by Bannoth himself, who's hold the power of Everlasting Love, Death and the Future. "I envy you." 

Rhawon eyes widen when Lord Maglor raises a hand. He tries to step back and back off, but a sweet tune reaching his ears traps him. Keeps him from walking away, when Lord Maglor touches his forehead. Before his eyes the scenery changes and Rhawon finds himself in the past. His mother's beautiful smile, her warm and skilled hands as she carves him his first bow. His father's steady presence and his hand on his sons back when Rhawon kills his first Orc. All his worries are washed away, like a river that takes the blood on his hands and cleans him from the filth staining his hands. 

Forget, the river sings to him. Carry on. 

In the end, Rhawon doesn't struggle against it when Maglor blurs the memories of the last minutes. The warrior just follows his voice, listens to the song Maglor gives him. It's not as if he's taking knowledge away, he just buries it beneath loose sand. The Avar can unearth it any time he wants. It's just that Maglor reminds him that he has other, more important things to focus on. Like his little brother, who's still in pain. Maglor may have saved the boys life, but he wasn't exactly gentle about it. 

"Thank you for your time," Rhawon manages to say, before he bows deep and walks away. 

Forgotten is his terror and the wonder he felt when he witnessed the bard pull Dôlraw back to Arda. In his mind he only sees a tired Elf, a fellow warrior and he has fought long enough against the shadows himself. Insisting on answers feels wrong as if he would take something away. Comfort perhaps, what little Lord Maglor possesses. 

When he's alone again, Maglor lets the melody fade away. He sinks to the ground and fights the urge to snarl. Saving a life on a whim is apparently more trouble than its worth. 

End Notes:

From what I've gathered is that the mess with the Green Elves and the Sindar in Doriath is almost as bad as the relationship between Doriath and the Noldor. Apparently there were Green Elves living in Doriath - though secluded and just as welcome as the Noldor outside of the borders. The Green Elves aka Nandor, who later call themselves Silvan (I'm not over that yet, nope!) do their part as well, but some openly reject the lifestyle in Menegroth. Eöl is said to be such a character.

Makes we wonder how became Oropher a King of the Silvan, when he's explicitly introduced as Oropher of Doriath in some sources? I always thought to locate him among the Nandor, far away from Thingol. Because Amdír and Amorth were the Kings of Lothlórien. So ... why? Especially if Oropher and Amdír are probably related to Thingol in some way?

No wonder Legolas moved to Ithilien.

Steady as a beating drum by mangacrack
Author's Notes:

I shouldn't let myself be distracted, but my god the Feanorian Week at tumblr just couldn't be ignored. I nearly wrote 20k alltogether, far more than I originally intended. On the other hand, I got to publish some ideas that've been haunting me forever. Now I can go back to this story. I really, really need to. My fingers are itching.

~

Talaneth - firm / true friend

 

"How far is the city away again?" Erestor asks with a concerned look on his face.

Maglor is kneeling in the grass, separated and hidden form the curious looks of the company and currently empties his stomach for the fifth time in two days. Erestor holds his Lords hair, keeps is out of his face, when the Fëanorian gags and starts coughing again. A single glance tells Erestor that it's just a physical reaction at that point. By now Maglor's stomach completely empty, he barely touched his water skin after yesterday evening.

"Just a day ride," Maglor manages to say after a while. His hands are trembling, when he struggles to get upright.

As much as he wants to help, leap to his Lord's side and assist him, Erestor knows better. In the last few days they stayed close to each other, Erestor saw the sense behind Lord Curufin's order and Maglor didn't object, but the Fëanorian always flinches when someone touches him out of the blue. Hence why Erestor has learned to wait and usually his patience gets rewarded. Like now, when Maglor puts an arms around Erestor's shoulders and they return to their horse.

Since yesterday morning they're both riding on Maglor's incredibly patient and loyal horse, a mare which seems to be aware of the indignity of carrying someone like Erestor, but she bears it for her master's shake. Senda is an intelligent horse, one of those who came from Aman and possess an incredible long live span. Erestor has yet to ask, how it works for a horse to grow so old and be so healthy, but it will have to wait for another time. Right now the mare helps her Lord as he climbs on her back and even waits until Erestor has settled behind him. Without a command the mare starts walking again, slowly and at pace, which doesn't disturb Maglor's stomach further. Erestor doesn't know how the horse knows what ails her master, though he's a little jealous of the close bond they share. His own horse seemed to be glad to be rid of him.

Erestor tries not to take it personally.

"Can I help you with something?" He asks instead, whispering so low that the words are barely audible. "Would tea help to calm your stomach?"

Yet Maglor is glad for it, for quiet is something he earns for while his body is busy fighting itself.

"No, thanks. I doubt even the most healthy tea could help me right now," Maglor grumbles under his breath. He has closed his eyes and lets Senda choose the path. She has seen him worse states and knows what to do. "It's a side effect, I think. It should go away on its own after a while."

"A side effect?" Erestor says and sounds confused. But his sharp mind latches onto the right idea immediately, one reason why Maglor doesn't object to his close presence. "I imagine the reason is, because you saved the Avari boy?"

With an even lower whisper than before, he adds, "We all saw how you did something to him, though most witnesses seem to have forgotten how severe the injuries initially had been."

Remind me to teach him oswanë, Maglor tells himself. Talking out loud, forcing his mouth, his throat and his tongue to form the right sounds is just a hassle sometimes. He might live and exist for music, but not all comes from singing melodies. There're more ways to create a Song of Power than using your mouth. But for that we need to go home first. Besides it has to wait until my insides have stopped revolting against their intended function.

Namely, keeping him alive and well.  

"I'm not throwing up, because of a stomach bug," Maglor explains, mostly to distract himself. "Dôlraw was dying and to keep him in this world, I had to touch death itself. Not the best and brightest idea, when you're alive yourself." 

"So it's a defense mechanism?" Erestor murmurs and despite his misery Maglor has to smile. There's a reason, why he likes Erestor so much. Usually it takes longer to come to such conclusions, but Erestor isn't most people. "Like all those warrior, who get sick when they spend too much time near Angband?" 

Would his condition allow it, Maglor would purr and reward Erestor for good behavior. He doesn't know if Arakáno possessed such a sharp mind in Aman or if it's a survival skill he acquired in the centuries he spend under Morgoth thumb, but Maglor can't deny that it draws him to Erestor's side like honey attracts flies.

"Exactly," Maglor says and makes the effort to sound at least a little friendly, no matter how pathetic he feels. "Morgoth mere presence is torture to most beings in the world, his rotten soul poisons the environment around him."

"Are the other Valar like this as well?" Erestor wants to know. His hands clench around Maglor's stomach, where he's holding on in order not to fall of the horse.

So close to each other Maglor notices immediately, when Erestor tenses up.

"Most of them. Especially the four elder gods. They're different than the others," Maglor hums. "For instance, Manwë is called King of Arda, because it's easier for the Eldar to endure his presence, but technically it's Varda, who has the greater authority." 

Maglor's gaze travels upwards to the evening sky. The sun is already setting, painting the sky in many beautiful colors, while giving way to Varda's creations. Of all existing gods, Varda might be the least comprehensible, even to him who has spend more time among the powers in his youth, than among his own people. His hands are cold and wet, and Maglor's sweating as if he's trying to get rid of Mandos' lingering presence. He buries his fingers in Senda's mane. It ground him somewhat, keeps his fëa from bursting out of his body.

On other days it takes concentration to spirit walk, touch other peoples mind and dreams. Right now Maglor needs all his wits to hold onto his own hröa, remind himself that he's sitting on a horseback and is on his way home. Well, not quite. But Dracview counts as home as well. Thankfully Erestor's skills in observation are astute and he stops asking questions. Instead he shuffles closer until his chest is pressed against Maglor's back, who takes a deep breath and maintains his resolve not to slip up.   

He doesn't want to be slave to his own mind again. Yet when the world starts to slip sideways and the stars are suddenly on his left and the trees are hanging above him an hour later, Maglor suspects it's futile. 

It'll be over soon, he tells himself. Either that or at least Curvo and Tyelko will be too distracted to notice his condition. Which is a small blessing in and itself. Maglor doesn't like to worry his brothers, when they can't help him anyway. 

 

-

 

He'd like to say that it gets better the closer they get to the city, but it's a lie. Maglor can keep himself from throwing up, but that's largely due to the fact that his stomach is empty. In the last hours he refused to drink and eat, lets his body settle down. It's not like as if he'll starve if he doesn't eat the next few days. As one of the Eldar born in Aman he can last a while without food or drink. Since he's unlikely to get injured in his brothers care, it's a low risk to take.

Erestor's warm body so close to his helps as well.  

At one point they switch places, so that Maglor can cling to Erestor and get a bit of uneasy sleep, while his head rests against Erestor's shoulders. That his warm breath against the bare neck makes him shudder every one in a while, Maglor barely notices. Perhaps he doesn't want to, as his hands travel down to Erestor's thighs and grabs them to keep himself upright. 

As the city comes into view, Maglor finally lets Erestor get back onto his own horse. They don't need to advertise Maglor's lack of health in front of thousands of people, which will no doubt stand attention to welcome them back.

Erestor shifts uncomfortably when he dismounts and the heat Maglor radiates vanishes. The silence between them felt familiar, comfortable. Since his own doubts and question won't go away, he had been glad to assist Maglor. Act as distraction and as body guard, while ignoring his own rising anxiety, because the closer they get to the gates of the city, the more Erestor feels the panic taking hold of him. So far Maglor had been the center of his world, his sun which he could rely on to see every morning, no matter how dark the night. 

It's the first time, he'll meet normal people. Himring is so far up the mountains that only a few villages exist in the vicinity. 

Dracview is bound to be different, not only because it's Lord Celegorm's and Lord Curufin's home. 

 

-

 

Dracview turns out to be a truly fascinating place. Erestor can barely keep his head from turning left and right, because there's too much to see and discover. He feels like a curious child, for compared to Himring with it's high walls, Dracview has the look of a desert village. The low buildings are made of wood and stone, surrounded by a heavy and well defended wall, which encompasses far more land than the city could ever need. Build upon a hill, Dracview possesses a natural defense, so why build a wall around it? Erestor wonders for a while until a homecoming warrior tells him, that's its for emergencies. The space is needed for tents and horses, whenever the Sindar and the Avari come here, seeking protection. 

Erestor is surprised to hear that this protection is desperately needed. Not only that Orcs are a threat, but the winters are harsh in the open plains of Beleriand. Though they can endure more than the Edain, many Elves prefer to live safely in a warm having during these months. Nor it's uncommon for an Elleth to give birth within the walls, where they can rely on advice. During the first months, when the elflings are too vulnerable to part from their parents for even an hour, such help and support is most welcome.

Many tribes ad families are thankful for the walls and raise their children in utter safety, at least during the first critical years. It's a wonderous sight for Erestor to see so many children running around. They're shouting and waving, treating them like heroes, as the company rides into the city. The older ones who are on the verge of being too old to be considered as a child for much longer, jump from rooftop to rooftop, racing the company in order to reach the center first. The warriors laugh and wave back.  

Erestor is glad to be back on his own horse, though he doesn't trust himself to let go of the reigns. Since they put him in the middle, he can hide in the crowd. To his disadvantage he's riding directly behind Lord Curufin, flanked by two other Fëanorians. Lord Celegorm he ignores entirely, having accepted that the strangeness of Lord Celegorm's face must come from being exposed to dragons, orcs and too much of the winter sun. Perhaps it will pass after a few restful days.  

Lord Maglor stayed close, even after they switched to riding separately again. In appearance at least his Lord seemed to be doing better, losing some of the paleness. Right until they've ridden through the gates. After that Lord Maglor turned from somewhat relaxed into a a small-eyed and vicious creature of too much mine and not enough sleep. Since none of them touched anything alcoholic after they left the safety of Himring's walls, Erestor suspects it's something else

Considering Maglor hasn't said a word all day and refuses to give a straight answer to anyone, who approaches him, Erestor takes the hint and leaves him alone. Sadly that means everyone comes and asks him the odd questions, which he can only politely decline. 

"Does the entire city look like this?" Erestor mumbles under his breath, when he spots the different colors gracing the city. 

Every house is decorated differently. In fact the viewer could be glad if the houses next to each other are build in the same style. It's as if someone had given a child a white wall and buckets full of paint. Cute at first, but difficult to look at in the long term. 

"You can blame by brother's wife for this," Maglor speaks for the first time since they spotted Dracview at the horizon. His voice makes a rasping sound before he continues, "As brilliant as Curvo is, please suspect Lady Talaneth behind the success, the peace and the prospering you're witnessing."

"I take it makes your Lady just as talented as you, Lord Curufinwë?" Erestor asks, knowing better than to expect another word from his Lord Maglor anytime soon.

Lord Curufin turns his head and Erestor witnesses the strangest transformation ever since Lord Celegorm acquired a new face. The Fëanorian smiles. Not a grin, not one of his sharp vicious baring of teeth everyone witnessed while they discussed strategies for the upcoming battles. No, this is an honest smile. A dopey one that changes Lord Curufinwë into a handsome, dashing prince. 

Erestor blinks, not sure if his eyes are deceiving him again.

"Young man. My wife isn't merely talented," Lord Curufin says and shortly tugs at the reigns of his horse until he's riding next to Erestor. He pats him on his back. "That's the title I claim. She's far beyond that. She's gifted. A light, a wonder in this shadowed world."  

"Oh Eru, no...," Maglor begs next to him and makes a suffering face. "Not now. Just wait a few more minutes then you can shower your love bug with compliments all day. Just wait until I'm out of earshot." 

That Maglor isn't the most social person, Erestor learned pretty quickly. By now most Elves account it as a miracle that Maglor allows him to follow like a duckling. So this exclamation isn't exactlya surprise. Lord Celegorm joining in on the other hand definitely is. 

"Please don't ask him about his son," the pale haired hunter whispers to Erestor, probably hoping Curufin doesn't hear him. "As much as I love Telpe, I can't stand it to hear about his achievements for the next weeks. We got lucky anyway that the attack distracted him." 

"Isn't it natural for a father to be proud of his child?" Erestor wants to know. He can't see anything bad in it. "Or to love his wife?" 

"The first few decades perhaps," Maglor joins in. "But after centuries of witnessing these two act like young lovers, it stopped being cute a long time ago."

"Besides Telpe is an adult by now," Carnadril laughs. "Taller than his father actually." 

Erestor doesn't respond. He can think of worse small talk than listen Lord Curufin praise his astonishing wife who is more beautiful than Varda ... and her stars.

Albeit it makes him curious, what kind of woman is capable of turning Lord Curufin in such an emotional person. He lost much of the sharpness since they ventured into the city. If he has to guess from what he has seen of Dracview so far, the Lady has to be interesting. The citizens lining the streets are a colorful bunch. Like the mismatched houses, he sees tall Noldor, some bright haired Sindar and a bunch of Avari. Though those prefer to watch from afar or from above. Some of the more curious climbed the poles of the street lamps. But it isn't just Elves Erestor sees lining up in the streets, cheering.

There're men and dwarves as well, the later looking like travellers since they're wearing heavy clothes and thick furs. Most of their faces is hidden by their beards, magnificent in their length. Stern is their expression, but not grim or offended. Instead they nod along as the warrior ride by. Some cheer in deep tones, raise their fists in the air as sign for victory, while concerned human mothers question them if the war is truly over. It takes Erestor passing by shops selling bread, herbs and garb for every occasion to realize it is. From a certain viewpoint, it's something entirely new for him. The world he just entered is unreal, something he never even dreamed of in his eight months old life. 

Peace. The word comes to Erestor's mind like the first sunrise after a long, harsh winter. It's looks peaceful.

The concept alone is foreign. Most of these people didn't have to fight in the recent months. While Erestor fought of dragons, felt their poisonous breath reaching his neck, their greatest problem was probably food rationing.  

Erestor imagines living in this city. In the cute little houses with its wooden doors and flowers in front of the windows in some cases. On wooden benches he spots older members of the race of men. Wrinkled and with white hair, they sit contently in a quiet corner and keep an eye out on the children. Finding work here wouldn't be difficult. Nor would be finding a room to rent. Or he might build himself a tent like the Avari do. 

Warmth spreads in his guts as Erestor takes in the new impressions, wide eyed and his heart filled with a strange longing. 

 

-

 

The woman waiting for them on the steps is different what Erestor expects from a Lady of the Noldor. The building behind her is less pompous and more practical. Located in the center of the city directly at a wide open space, that must function as market once a week and other kind of gatherings. The city hall as well is not a crafted as sign of status, but fashioned after getting the most use out of it. Of course the walls are high and straight, but it's common stone, taken of the streets and not expensive marble. Nothing fancy, as the Noldor are prone to do.

Erestor wonders the lack of splendor. He doesn't question the knowledge that creeps up, but he has vague memories of a different kind of Noldorin architecture. Higher. More curves. And more statues.

This building shines, despite its the lack of ornaments. Only a single white star is engraved into the heavy doors and the woman gracing the entrance fits the image. She doesn't do Erestor the favor of looking like a proper Lady of the Noldor. Instead of a dress in blue and a thick coat of fur to keep her warm, the only female Fëanorian shows up in a black robe with dark red armor strapped over it. Her black hair is tied into a braid, held together by a ribbon near her neck. She watches the dirty and tired warriors assemble and waits with an remarkable patience for her husband to ascend the steps to meet her. 

Lord Celegorm gestures the company to follow him. The wellbeing of the horses comes first, which means the animals will be lead to the stables. Erestor is left with nothing to do as an older soldier takes reigns out of his hands. Apparently it's his job to soley look after Maglor and is therefore spared the duty. Not that Erestor had looked forward tending to an animal he barely knows, let alone trusts. Perhaps time will ease his fears, but for the moment horses are still a little too big and strong for his taste. A single well aimed kick can break his legs. 

To have reached Himlad without falling of his horse is enough as an achievement. 

Yet the unexpected liberation of his chores, leaves Erestor free to realize that Maglor received the same treatment and unlike his Lord he can see the first people heading towards them. Filled with questions and concerns, something he suspects the Fëanorian doesn't wish to deal with. 

"My Lord, I believe it's wise to retreat inside if possible," he says politely. "Unless you wish to address the crowd with a speech?" 

Maglor lets out an empty laugh as his gaze follows Erestor's pointed finger. He might not be Lord of the City, but he's still the oldest Fëanorian present. 

"Someone'll have to ease their worries," he says, but makes no move to raise from the cold steps he's sitting own. 

An unobservant person might mistake him for a homeless man. Covered in dirt and dried blood he doesn't look a prince. Let alone like a commander, who fought of dragons with his voice alone. His unkempt hair, greasy and wet from the falling snow supports the image of a beggar searching for a dry place to spend the night. 

"Perhaps. But not now and not certainly not you," Erestor decides and takes Maglor by the scruff to pull him upright. "You're in no state to handle such matters. Your appearance alone would frighten off the mothers I've seen clutching their babes to their chest. Let the Lady handle it." 

"Well spoken. I'm glad to see that Canafinwë finally acquired a servant with some intelligence between his ears."

Erestor feels a surge of annoyance even before he twists his head. The Lady he admired before, and whose famous reunion with her husband he didn't get to witness, is standing two steps above him. She's looking down at them like a hawk and despite the warm colors she's dressed in, she manages to come across as cold as a winter day. In his eyes she'd look better in deep blue, fitting to her nature. 

"I'm thankful for your assessment, Lady of Dracview."

Erestor's back straightens almost out of habit. Pushing his shoulders back to pull himself to full height while keeping them relaxed to hide any hint of aggression. Automatically his feet shift a few inch further apart, searching for a better grip on the frozen steps. That he has put himself completely between the Lady and his Lord through an incredible subtle gesture, Erestor doesn't even notice. 

With a polite bow, he adds, "To my greatest regret neither my Lord nor your husband have offered me a name. How may address you, Lady?" 

Her attention shifts from Maglor, who watches the exchange with empty-eyed apathy to Erestor. 

"Talaneth of the House of Fëanáro," she offers and surprises Erestor, when she extends her hand to wrap it around his own wrist. 

It's a warrior's grip. An honest gesture that goes against all the impressions Erestor got so far. By her attitude his assumption was of having to kiss her hand like the proper Ladies in court demand it. 

"Erestor," he responds with some unease in his gut. 

For the first time he's introducing himself to stranger. A person without any knowledge about his memory issues. In the close knit community of Himring, it barely took three days for the news to spread who he was. Easy to identify too boot, considering he trails behind Maglor like a shadow. After the first few encounters with the dragons, after Erestor proved he could hold his own in a fight, people stopped asking questions. The question about identity - or the lack of one - never came up again. 

Lady Talaneth only raises an eyebrow when he offers no second name, no clan or other likeness to a title she could use to categorize him. Erestor gives her credit for that, but wonders what she must think. As she transfers her scrutiny back to Maglor, accepting his status as side dish, Erestor asks himself what his legal standing is right now.

In Himring he ultimately only had to bow to Maedhros. As long as he followed the laws, the written ones and those the warrior community expected him to head, he had been on the safe side. Here in Dracview, where cultures are mixed and conflicts met compromises on daily bases, the situation is vastly different.

Who is he, what does he possess in order to defend himself in a pinch? When someone accuses him of theft for example ... how does he respond? 

When Maglor steps and takes the lead, Erestor is grateful for it, because all the confidence he build suddenly evaporates into thin air. Dread looms in his mind. Like a spark takes to dry wood, horror inflames and unbidden thoughts threaten his composure. In Himring all warriors bowed before Maglor's word. They believed him, when the Fëanorian offered no further explanation why Erestor is without memories. Many assumed it was simply an accident. That he wandered into the wrong place at the wrong time and triggered a spell. Apparently there enough powers reside in Beleriand to manage that feat, though seldom in such extremes.

In Dracview on the other hand the populace, made up from civilians mostly, live by different rules. They've laws and a courtroom and as consequence prison cells as well.    

From Himring Erestor knows that prison is never permanent, it costs too much to feed a person not pulling his weight. There're other ways to punish a criminal, harsher ones than sitting in a dry warm room and getting three meals a day. For that reason alone Lord Maedhros built his cells into a tower and removed the outer wall. Bitter cold and snow often bother the poor souls trapped in the half open room. On top of that reigns the knowledge, that a single stupid move means falling to your death. Given the chasm lurking underneath the tower, no one would ever even find your bones. Erestor is convinced that Dracview has similar means to hold people. 

On the other hand ... fleeing is useless. With someone like Lord Celegorm guarding Himlad, there's no way he could escape, if it were decided that he's a danger to all without a history to name his own. 

"Can we finally go inside or is there are specific reason we're freezing our ass off hour out here?" Maglor finally interrupts the short and awkward silence. 

Erestor doesn't put it past his Lord to pick up on his discomfort despite how well he tries to guard his expression. Rumors have it that Canafinwë, Son of Fëanor, can look directly into your mind any given time. Only determination and great distance can hinder him. Reason enough to stick to his Lord as close as possible. The last few days have proven that he can't trust his own mind, while Lord Maglor manages despite suffering from a strange sickness. 

"I'm going to insist on a bath first," Lady Talaneth says, eyeing the assembled group with a critical eye. "Especially you, Curufinwë. I'll not kiss you, unless you get rid of the horrid smell." 

Talaneth pokes her husband's forehead as Curufin leans down to kiss his wife. All she gets is an open, good-natured laugh. 

"Of course, my love," Curufin purrs and steals a kiss anyway. "I shall do everything you say." 

"Rascal," Talaneth scolds, though her lips twitch upwards as Curufin ducks away. "Go bath or you'll sleep on the floor tonight." 

Curufin, already half-way up the stairs, turns around and must answer privately since he just looks at his wife for a moment, grinning. Whatever the Son of Fëanor told Talaneth via oswanë, it's enough to make haste in order to get away when she dashes after him with a cry of outrage. 

"Curufinwë!" She hollers and her voice carries over the square. "Had I known that your family attracts so much dirt I'd have thought twice about marrying you." 

The response gets lost as Curufin vanished inside the house, his wife behind him. 

Erestor who hasn't moved a single step the entire time, blinks slowly in confusion.

"Have you truly though the only Lady of the House of Fëanor is even a fraction better than us?" Maglor's voice is definitely amused, as he nudges Erestor on to climb the steps. "Whatever you might learn about Talaneth, always remember that she's the only woman, who had the guts to marry Curvo." 

"He truly loves her, doesn't he?" Erestor mumbles and tries to remember, if any of the other brothers he met are married. Somehow Lord Curufin seemed to be the least likely candidate. 

"Oh yes," Maglor answers as they reach the doors. He lets Erestor enter first. "Especially since her parents didn't approve of the marriage."

The news are enough to distract Erestor from gawking at the interior. Instead he stands in the great hall and stares at Maglor, looking baffled. 

"Correct me, but isn't Lord Curufin still a prince of the Noldor?" he asks.

Surrendering the crown to Fingolfin had done little to blemish the status of the Fëanorian's in the eyes of populace. For their followers nothing had changed and even the Sindar and the Avari heralded Lord Maedhros as King of Himring, knowing little of the subtle but important differences among Noldor Royalty. Lord Celegorm they treated as Chieftain as they did on their own tribes, so Erestor couldn't fathom how marrying a Son of Fëanor was reason for condemn their own daughter. 

Maglor's laugh and carries through the house. "Easy. They wanted her to marry Nelyo." 

Erestor's disbelieving stare is enough to set Maglor off again, though the questioning look is not without reason. It's difficult to imagine Lord Maedhros with a woman half his size. 

To clarify the Fëanorian adds, "Her parents wanted the match as compensation for ore father mined in their mountains. They kept pressing my father to open up engagement talks, but thankfully he refused very single time. He saw no need for it, when Talaneth was one of his students already. So image their reaction, when their daughter didn't chose to court the handsome and very influential Crown Heir, but rather the youngest, most temperamental brat Fëanor had to offer at this point." 

Erestor is too occupied with the news Maglor shares to truly notice where they're going. "What's their relationship right now?" 

"I'm not quite sure. Her parents stayed in Valinor, if I remember correctly." Maglor settles for a shrug as he leads Erestor through the halls, heading into a specific direction. "She has two older siblings, but I don't know what became of them. Talaneth never contacted them again after we came to Beleriand."

Erestor doesn't know what to make of that sentence. Family is a foreign concept to him. He can only take as example, what the the Fëanorians are doing with idea everyday. As different they might be in their personalities and no matter how much they clash and fight, Erestor can't fathom that the brothers could ever treat each like this. Like their worth nothing. Not a word, not a kind glance, let alone their attention. He's not a part of that group, never will be. But it's a comfort to know such families exist.

It makes him feel less alone in this world.

 

-

 

With the horses taken care of, the soldiers are slowly heading home. One by one they trickle of of the stables to meet their families. Some head to the bath houses first, leaving their belongings in a locker room for now. Carnadril listens to their conversations, waits until he's sure that everyone is taken care off. He's already said his piece, the warriors are not expected to make an appearance any time soon. Of course, there'll be a debrief once they've Maedhros final report on damages and the losses they suffered, but as far as he could tell, they haven't lost nearly as much as they could've.

"Your brother is a competent commander," Carnadril tells Celegorm, reminiscing how fiery Maglor defended Himring. "I actually forgot, what a talented swordsman he is."     

Huan huffs, before he yawns, revealing two rows of many sharp teeth, which can easily snap a bone in half. Carnadril doesn't flinch at the sight. Of course not. Instead he raises one of his eyebrows. Huan glowers for a moment, before he shifts. He grows, gets bigger until he's standing on his hind legs, which lose their sharp claws. Soon Huan loses his thick fur. It grows from black to white before turning into naked skin. Carnadril has seen the transformation countless times, but he still can't stop watching how the beast vanishes and leaves behind a person. Some find it sickening to see limps twist and turn, are frightened by the intensity that's needed to go through the act, which is based on willpower alone. 

In the end it doesn't take long, it never does. Carnadril just never tires of seeing the shift and drinks in the details. 

Seeing the naked Celegorm before him it's just as mesmerizing as observing Huan. For him, the connection is obvious. No matter what form, they possess the same kind of edge, an elegance which is powered by raw strength. 

"You forgot?" Celegorm needs to ask, when his jaw finally works again and crosses his arms over his chest. He doesn't seem to feel the cold at all. "Don't tell me, you let yourself be blinded by Cáno's antics." 

"Perhaps. It's been a while since I saw Canafinwë fight like this," Carnadril shrugs and hands his friend some spare clothes. He might not care about Celegorm running around naked as the day he was born, but they need to keep up appearances. In Himring he put up a different behavior, tried to be the heir the soldiers needed him to be.

Celegorm throws Carnadril an incredulous look, while he's putting on some pants. Since it's the first time in weeks, it feels a bit odd. In order to distract himself from the itching feeling on his skin, he says, "It's not wise to dismiss the kind of damage Cáno can do, my friend. I've two hands and feet now, but you still remember that's not always the case."

"Canafinwë doesn't spontanously grow a set of claws and teeth," Carnadril counters. He feels stupid for defending himself, because deep down he knows that his friend is right. Maglor is good at keeping up appearances  but they all know he's mad and dangerous. "Besides it wasn't always this bad." 

Finally dressed both hunters move the leave the stables. No matter how restless their hearts are, even they enjoy the feeling of finally coming home. 

"What happened to Maedhros did a number on him," Celegorm shrugs, though a little subdued. "He blames himself." 

"We all do," Carnadril interrupts as they climb the stairs, following the smell of food and a crackling fire. "But it started before that. I can't say if was your father's death, Alqualondë or something else, but I get the feeling Canafinwë finally cracked at some point and never quite made it back out of the black hole he fell into." 

"I guess, you're right," Celegorm mumbles and vanished into the house to get clean. 

He knows his brother's wife well enough to get clean, before attempting to greet her properly. But right now it's a good distraction to get his mind off Cáno's worsening condition. When he walks down the corridors, he's reminded of differences between him and his brother. He has a warm home, a family to return to and lives a more of less comfortable life. Maglor barely cares enough to keep his house warm. Sometimes Celegorm wonders and worries how well Maglor truly fares by living alone. 

If it's better or worse that he's surrounded by people more or less like him. 

"Say is it just me or does Cáno smell off these days?" Celegorm asks his friend, when a scent hits his nose.

Maglor and Erestor walked down the hall earlier and they above all others are the easiest to track down. They smell differently than most people, but even Celegorm with his long practice can pin down what disturbs him so much. Only that his has gotten stronger after Maglor rescued Dôlraw. Which he still has to thank him for, dammed. But he'll have to check up on the boy first. He needs to know if the strangeness around Cáno is, well Maglor being Maglor once again, or if the boy is affected as well.  

Since he doesn't get a verbal answer, Celegorm turns around to check up on what Carnadril is doing. He's greeted by wet nose in his stomach. With an amused huff, Celegorm lifts his hand to scratch Huan behind his ears. 

"Talaneth will kill you, if you use her precious bathhouse in that form," he says. 

Huan only wags his tail. 

Celegorm groans and for a moment the troubling thoughts are a forgotten. 

 

 

Despite all expectations, there's no huge feast that night. No wild celebration for the warriors returning home. Talaneth knows the House of Fëanor well enough. Despite their tendency for rash and foolish actions, their loud voices and their never ending arguments, they all headed straight for bed. It hadn't just been a hunting trip, but long months of constant vigilance and tiring battles. She barely managed to get her own husband to clean up, before he fell face first into the bed. Since it was still midday and she still had duties to fulfill, Talaneth couldn't exactly join Curufinwë, but she allowed herself a few minutes of watching her husband. After so many night alone, laying in her bed and finding no sleep, because the other half was cold and empty, she drank in the sight of her love snoring softly into the pillow. 

"Thank the stars, you're back Curufinwë," she whispers and kissed the love of her life. She left Aman for him, adjusted from a lifestyle of ease and comfort to running a city filled with people, who didn't always share her convictions, and trains two hours every day to properly learn how to defend herself. 

It's not always easy, but she manages. Mostly, because she has Curufin at her side and a beautiful son to help her. 

A son, who is waiting anxiously at the door, when she finally slips out. 

"Is he back yet?" Celebrimbor tries to whisper, but is barely able to keep down his voice. "I saw Uncle Canafinwë stalking through the corridors earlier, but I didn't want to disturb him. So, is Ada back as well?" 

Talaneth smiles. Her son is her greatest joy and she's never been more glad to see that Celebrimbor has such a good relationship with his father. Coming to Beleriand and Telpe growing up, did wonders to their strained conversations. 

"Yes, he's, but I'm afraid you have to wait a while to greet him," she tries to console her son, who's eyes keep flickering to the door. "He just went to sleep, but I'm confident he's going to wake up for dinner."

"Fine," she says. "But be quiet and don't wake him." 

"Can I at least take a look?" Celebrimbor pleads and for a moment he seems three years old again, crying for his father, because he had a bad dream. 

Talaneth sighes. She has the repuatation of being a stern woman, but she just can't resist her boys. 

Celebrimbor's flashes her a wide grin, before hurries through the bedroom door, moving so silently that she suspects her son spend too much time with Celegorm in the past.

End Notes:

I can proudly annouce: no slash for Curufin. (Sad as it is). Perhaps it's unpopular, but I see Curvo as a man who falls in love exactly once. And it's a person, who's just as loyal as he is. The marriage might be difficult at times, but I refuse to accept that the Feanorian Ladies all stayed home in Valinor. In this verse only Curvo is married, so the point is moot. Still, there's nothing short of Morgoth himself which could've stopped Talaneth from joining her husband, when he left Valinor. I see her as incredible strong woman, who is die hard supporter of Feanor and the closest thing daddy dearest ever got as a daughter. In fact, they got along quite well.

The hammer is coming down by mangacrack
Author's Notes:

I've raised the rating of the fic from Mature to Explicit. This is the only warning you get for this chapter.

After appointing Erestor a room to stay in, Maglor vanished into his own. Tired isn't the word he'd use to describe himself, but it's the best way to escape trouble. He's yearning for some peace and quiet, just few hours to escape the headache. Coming to Dracview all the way, might've been a mistake. He should've head home straight away, but Erestor needs the experience. Aside from practically owning nothing but horse, a sword and the clothes he wears on his body, Erestor deserves some time off. The gap isn't the most pleasant place to live and despite all his faults, Maglor doesn't want Erestor to accuse him off controlling his entire existence. The influence he possess over him at the moment, is bad enough already. No reason to make it worse. 

Maglor gets rid of his clothes, washes his face in a bowl and crawls under the covers soon after. 

Darkness engulfs him as soon as he drifts off. The walls of the room fall away and he begins to float. Out of the house, over the city and then over the hills. Far, far away to escape his body. Maglor stops trying to make sense out of the strange impressions. Who care if the sky is green instead of blue? The clouds take odd shapes, Doriath is cloaked in a golden threads than are spun over the forest like a fishers net and in the north Himring is on fire. 

With a smile, Maglor concentrates on his brother. Suddenly his spirit is in front of a window and he's looking inside. Maedhros' seems well, pouring himself over damage reports and different kind of letters. With a curse, Maglor jerks back, when Maedhros raises his head and looks directly at him. Damm, he has forgotten how sharp Nelyo's senses are in that regard. Nothing escapes his notices, when it comes to the wards surrounding Himring. A force pulls Maglor away from Himring, carries him over the land, farther and farther away until he can't tell anymore if he's dreaming or spirit walking. 

 

 

-

 

 

He's lonely. It's cold up here. The fortress is so empty. Father is in Hithlum again, taking care of his people. Should be their people, but it's hard to tell sometimes. After they drove Glaurung back into Angband and Maedhros left again, he's feeling more disheartened than usual. They didn't talk much, outside of  discussing strategies  But even that was more Maedhros ordering him around, than asking for his opinion. The conflict is killing him. In his sleep Fingon is restless, picturing how Nelyo finally looses his patience with him. He sees himself killed, beaten bloody in a fit of rage and humiliated by the sharp tongue. In between he dreams about being bend over the next surface. Pants dragged down and sharp thrusts make him cry out, because the pace is punishing. Something Fingon longs for. Punishment. Harsh words and disappointed looks. 

Anything is better than the soft words, the apologies and the lost look on Maedhros' face. So Fingon imagines strong hands, one on his neck and one on his backside, forcing him down. The pillows muffle his moans until Nelyo has enough and orders -  orders   -  him to be quiet. Or else. Fingon gives himself over to Nelyafinwë like he used to and is happy, at least in his dreams. 

 

 

-

 

 

"Ew," Maglor spats and tries wrestle some control back into his hands. "I didn't need to see that, thank you." 

What is he dreaming about Fingon anyway? He doesn't care about the bloody idiot, who broke the heart of a already broken man. 

Images swirl up and Maglor is taken by the dreams again. 

 

 

-

 

 

Music draws him in. A harp, played by slender fingers, which know their craft. There are some spectators, the bard is playing for an audience. But not for the ones sitting in front of him. There's longing in his heart, which carries over into his music. A soft and sad meloday. Deep and tragic, trying to recreate the golden days, which are long gone. 

Outside naked, cold stone and flower arrangements decorate the house. Ornaments are everywhere. Specular, through and interesting to look at. It's the work of a desperate soul. It's an attempt, a peace offering for whenever his lost love will visit. He lives on the hope, his home will please him. Will make him stay. He's been good, worked to become a better person. More clever, more well read. More mature. He surrounds himself with scholars, musicians and craftsmen. All races alike praise his city. 

The Khazad travel miles and miles to see it. To meet him. 

Yet of all visitors, there's one who doesn't come. Who has never set a foot over his doorstep before. 

Finrod plays his harp again and starts to sing. 

 

 

-

 

 

His fists connects with the wall. Pain shoots up his arm, but Maglor doesn't care. He's breathing heavily, still half trapped in the dream and doesn't notice anything beyond the rage raising up from his stomach. He jumps out of the bed and smashes a bowl, kicks a cupboard and breaks a mirror, but it doesn't help. Nothing does. The calm he craves doesn't return. His composure is cracked like a broken window. 

Since in the middle of the night and he doesn't want to frighten whatever citizen comes across him, Maglor drowns a glass of wine and goes back to bed after that. He won't find any rest, but it's better than the alternative. 

"Bastard," he curses, when he closes his eyes again and tries to banish Finrod from his mind. "Bloody, rotten bastard. Why you can't stay away?" 

 He'd rather go back to dreaming of Fingon's nasty bed fantasies than having Finrod in his dreams.

Maglor gulpes down a glass of water and throws himself back into the pillows, once he's sees that it's still in the middle of the night. Too early to get up and kill the remaining hours. Besides, he's tired. He wants to sleep. Just rest a little bit, but with his mind in turmoil he's taken down a dangerous road as soon as he closes his eyes again.

 

 

 

 

Rain splatters from the sky... 

 

"Oh no," Maglor mumbles as he recognizes the scene. "Not this." 

But it's no use. This is a dream and he has no control over what he sees. He can't even tell if it's his. He's been there. Experienced it. So why he has to go through it again? Shouldn't it be enough to live it once? Does it have to happened twice? 

 

 

White eyes are searching the horizon. He just shot the enemy from the sky. Morgoth servant it here somewhere, bleeding. His arrow hit true. Not life threatening, but it will hurt. The Núlandur certainly can't walk. Or run away.  Since he's hurt and bleeding, Maglor finds him pretty quickly. He has sunken to his knees and makes a pitiful sight. Prepared to squeeze any useful knowledge out of him, before he slits the throat of his enemy, Maglor opens his mind. He has no intention of giving Morgoth Servant a choice. This one is well feed, trained and still in possession of his teeth and his his hair. So he must be powerful. Valuable even. 

And there out of choice. In Angband you don't have many choices. If you're taken prisoner, you either succumb to the shadows and turn into an Orc or you submit and become a Servant. Some manage to die, but often its just turn into lost spirits wandering in the dark, unable to find the way out. Nelyo is the only Elf, who ever resisted the pull. 

"Show me your face," Maglor orders in a harsh voice, which can be heard even over the thunder crashing down from the sky. "Look at me in the eyes, if you want to die quickly." 

The figure raises its head and hadn't a lightening bolt come down not far from them to split a tree in half, Maglor might've never realized, who the person is he's staring at. Dread settles in his gut. A bone deep fear, because this isn't natural. Something is wrong, wrong, wrong. His senses rebell and gone is the though of beheading Morgoth Servant. 

"Arakáno," Maglor says and summons the truth with his voice, banishing all the lies wrapped around and into Fingolfin's youngest son. 

The son, who died. 

 

 

 

It's early morning and Maglor sighs in defeat. As he had guessed, this wasn't a restful night, let alone a good one. He can't remember a lot of what he dreamed. Only a few images are still lingering in his head, but the sound of the city waking up is going to banish them soon. All what's going to be left is the irritation he feels. His body is itching, eager for some action after it flushed out the lingering traces of the prior days. Between his legs, his shaft is hard and pulsating. Maglor groans and lets his head hit the pillow, when he reaches down to take care of it. It's a hassle, getting rid of his erection. He hasn't been with anyone in the recent months and doing it by himself, won't satisfy the bone deep frustration he feels. Maglor blames the dreams of last night. 

Something about punishment, music and ... he can't recall the last part. Erestor was in it.

  

 

He doesn't expect to be recognized. Arakáno clings to him, lost and kneeling in front of him. 

"Help me," he pleads. "Help me, please. Get me out of here." 

Maglor doesn't know what to make of the look in Arakáno's eyes. Desperation perhaps, but that's not enough. It's too swallow, too light-hearted. Empty... that's a better word. Frankly, it's a surprise that Arakáno is capable of pleading at all. Able to summon enough wit and emotion to get his point across. 

"Fëanárion," Arakáno breathes swallow and coughs roughly. The hand buried in Maglor's cloak is sullied with his own blood. 

Perhaps it's the sight of the freezing, helpless creature, the gods forsaken soul kneeling paralyzed by fear and hope in the mud, that finally moves Maglor's heart. His resolve shifts from cruel and cold to benevolent. In a single breath the grip around the handle of his sword becomes relaxed, itches away a few inches from Arakáno's naked throat in order to think about, what could be possibly done to help this weak, miserable elf in shabby clothes. At least Maglor hopes it's his own ability to care, which makes him to to step closer and not the common blood that flows through their vein. He isn't the kindest person and Maglor feels dread at the prospect that it's only Arakáno's status as Nolofinwë's son, which causes him to act.   

Yet the fear never leaves him, if he would've helped   Erestor , had there been no recognition between them. 

 

 

 

 

 

Maglor knows what follows next, but he likes to pretend it never happened. Erestor doesn't remember, even though Arakáno consented to it. Given how desperate Arakáno was in the few lucid moments, it doesn't mean much. If it weren't for the dream dragging it up again, Maglor could've happily ignored how exactly he bound the Nolofinwion's fate to his own. 

There's only one way to counter so much death and darkness clinging to a single soul. 

 

 

The first time happens right under the raging sky. They're both wet in seconds, when Maglor frees them from their wet clothing. Arakáno's back is pressed into the mud, when Maglor slams him into the ground, but it doesn't deter either of them. It should feel wrong, but the roughness is part of the ritual. The entire point is to drag Arakáno's half-rotten soul back to life and there's only one way to do it. 

"Yes," hisses Argon and clings to Maglor's shoulders, when the Fëanorian parts the slender legs. "Yes, come on. I need this, I want this. You've no idea, how long it has been since I actually touched someone." 

The despair and the explicit consent are the only reason, why Maglor actually goes through with it. It doesn't make it more right, but he tells himself that there're no other options. At least, not quick and clean ones. It will hurt, cutting Angband out of Argon's soul. Best to turn the pain into something Argon can understand. Process. 

He might end up hating Maglor's guts anyway, so it doesn't matter on how he approaches the necessary act. 

Maglor doesn't say anything, when he finally breaches Argon with his hard shaft. Fingolfin's lost son gasps, though it's difficult to tell if it's from pain or pleasure. Theoretically this should be ugly and any witnesses might describe their coupling as carnal. Rough and on the borderline of non-consenusal, no matter how much Argon cries for Maglor to move. To go on. Magic is the reason why this isn't an act of rape. Argon's words carry as much weight as Maglor's silence. Power cruises through their bodies, crashes down, comes apart and blends together again. 

If the entire act is arousing for Argon, then Maglor is glad at least one of them feels something akin to lust. Judging by the moans, by the way Argon wraps his legs around Maglor's waist and writhes beneath him, he's enjoying himself.  For Maglor the throb of his shaft inside Argon is agonizing. It's an ache, that isn't sweet any longer. Too much power flows between them and it corrupts the passion. Twists it into something aberrant. Like a vicious animal that hungers for flesh, because it wants to feed.  

It should be shameful and revolting, how Maglor's thrust turn into a fever, an obsession. The Fëanorian grinds his teeth and pulls at Argon's hair, forces the other Elf to look at him. Only him. 

"You're mine," Maglor hisses with a voice he barely recognizes as his own.

Argon's eyes are wide and his gaze is soley fixed on Maglor, as if nothing else exist in his universe anymore.

"Yes," he says and surrenders to each of Maglor's whims. Lets himself be carried away as he follows the speed and the direction Maglor is providing. "Please..."

The last word is the ultimate surrender. Argon yields his soul to the creature above him. Nothing matters anymore. Before he was just a smear of blood on a black wall, an ugly stain. Trapped and forgotten. Now, with a fire so hot and so close he burns away. Colors wash over him. Feelings and emotions topple him over and when Argon finally feels a hot, wet fluid inside him, he howls.  His body trashes under the savage touch of the magican that just brought him back to life.  

There's blood, semen and dirt on his body. T ears flow down his cheeks. 

But that doesn't matter. Nothing of it. Argon is just glad that he's capable of crying at all. Which he does, while Maglor holds him in his arms. 

 

 

-

 

 

Short breathed and a little worked up from what he can recall, Maglor groans and pills into his own hand. 

"Dammit," he curses as he swipes away the evidence. "I was doing so well, staying away from that line of thought." 

He's restless, fired up by the reactions of his body. In the light of the morning sun his dreams vanish into a haze and he's left wondering, how his mind came up with those images. With his head buried in the soft pillows, it's difficult to say if any of that happened at all. Usually it takes concentration to shove his spirit out of his body and the last part was a memory, something the past as already claimed for itself. In the end Maglor doesn't try to make sense of the night. That his body seeks a way to find release isn't exactly surprising, not after the last stressful months. Yet it disturbs Maglor to a great deal that it's Erestor he desires, even if it's just in passing. What he did back then to free Argon from Morgoth grasp has little to do with sex, passion and love. It had been simply the only tool available for him on such sort notice. 

He had needed something to plant a piece of himself inside Argon, something which could grow and draw the poison out of his fëa until he could rescue him properly. The ancient act, which the first Eldar had discovered as the best way to come to deals and agreements, because it holds far more power than any song he could've come up with on such a short notice. With enough time and dictation, he might have found a cleaner, less personal way. But it shouldn't matter. Fucking life back into Argon's hollow soul is one thing. 

Dreaming about it and waking up hard is quite another. 

Maglor shoves the thought aside and banishes the images of the writhing, pleading body beneath him. Well, Erestor has been at his side for the last months, trailing behind him like a lost duckling. Of course this is bound to affect him one way or another, the Fëanorian rationalizes. Maglor understands the need behind the clingy behavior. Memory loss or not, having lived so long in Angband's clutches creates a need for reassurance. Not to mention that the loss of his identity hit Erestor hard, he just ignored it until now. But despite his unwillingness to engage in any kind of longer conversation yesterday, Maglor noticed the admiring looks Erestor cast left and right, when they rode through the city. There's so much, what Erestor doesn't know. What Arakáno can't know, because he was rotting away in Morgoth's shadow, while the Noldor built their cities. 

It's a truth no one else knows, because Ambarussa doesn't count. Ambarussa is a noisy little menace, who needs to keep his nose out of Maglor's business. That he discovered Erestor's lost idenity happened on sheer accident. Poking around in fresh erected shields, while Maglor was distracted and too exhausted to intervene.

Given how relentless Ambarussa tends to be, Fëanor's stubborness times two unfortunately, Maglor could expect his little brothers would pick up the subject again, when he least expected it. For now, Maglor had free reign and it'd be wise to use the time he had been given, before his brothers inenvitably would start bothering him again.

Quite frankly it surprised him his brothers accepted Erestor so quickly.  

That one meeting had been enough to win them over.

Perhaps they sense an underlaying connection. Something that tells them to put their suspicions to rest. Though Maglor doubts that Finwë's blood was that strong.

We don't have that many examples with those, who return from Angband, Maglor muses and thinks back. Most we cannot save. We try, again and again, only to see them succumb.

It had become practice to let the returned swear an oath, which held so much power, most outsiders considered it unfair. Yet the alternative is to outright kill those poor souls, without any chance for a life after the torment they suffered. Maglor hisses at the thought of Erestor suffering the same fate. He wants to succeed this time. Letting Erestor go and fade into the nothingness of death ... isn't an option. Not Erestor, who stuck around longer than others. Who ignores his bad moods and doesn't treat him like fragile glass.

 

 

-

 

Another person, who never has a problem with ignoring Maglor's moods is Celebrimbor. When he steps into the kitchen, Maglor finds mother and son chatting over a second breakfast, from the looks of it. Talaneth is holding her tea cup with both of her hands, clinging to it as if she needed it to warm her hands. In her dark hair are traces of freshly fallen snow. 

"Already up and governing the city again?" Maglor asks her, when reaches for a cup of tea himself. 

"Someone has to, when the Lords are all still asleep," Talaneth answers, but her voice isn't unkind. "You're actually the first to grace us with your presence. I hope you found your chambers to your likening?"

"Admirable like always," Maglor has the sense to say. 

Talaneth comes from an old family, which put a lot of weight into upholding protocol and tradition. While she rejected her parents stand on politics, Curufin's wife never broke the habit of being nothing less than a perfect host. No matter if she belonged to the House of Fëanor for centuries already.

Her son finally looks up from his notes, when he registers Maglor's voice.

"Uncle Canafinwë!" The young man exclaims and jumps up to hug him. His red, unbound hair is flying everywhere as he shuffles around the table to throw his arms around Maglor's neck. "It's a joy to see you. I missed your return yesterday. I haven't even seen father yet. Are you alright? How did your journey go?"

"We're all fine and unharmed, Telperinquar." Maglor smiles and returns the gesture, appreciating his nephew's enthusiasm. Despite their differences in appearance, Celebrimbor resembles Fëanor a lot, when he's like this. Open and an unstoppable force of curiosity. "I'm sure your father will join us soon, he's never been one to remain idle for long. Besides that, I believe you'll spend quite a bit time with him in the future."

"Oh, yes?" Celebrimbor's eyes brighten at the prospect. "What is it?" 

The youngest Fëanorian obviously fights the urge to run at his father's bedside and shake him awake as toddlers tend to do.

Maglor thinks of the dragon eye, which is already safely stored in Curvo's forge and smirks. "Oh, no. I'm not going to spoil your father's fun. Let's just say that it'd be good if you finish whatever tasks you may have still laying around, before your father wakes up."

Talaneth's relief is apparent, when her son runs out of the kitchen, intend to be done, when Curufin requests time with his son.

"Thank you," she breathes. "As soon as we got word that the last skirmishes were over, Telperinquar dropped his model behavior and turned into a little overexcited boy again. I'll be very glad, when he can get rid of all that energy again once his father opens up his personal forge again."

Maglor hums in agreement. It's not difficult to imagine, how the serene woman, who prefers numbers, logic and maps, might have her hands full with an overexcited young ellon. Who knows no other way to express his worry about his father's and his uncles well-being.

"Well, you can be glad that he didn't ask to ride into battle with us," Maglor comments.

He chuckles with amusement how Talaneth throws him a dark look at these words.

"Don't ever even mention that to him!" She threatens and pokes his chest with her finger. "It's one of the advantages that your father sired so many sons. Despite the grief you give me, I'll never have to worry that my son has to join the battles in the North any time soon. Even the Ambarussa hold their age over Telpe's head, when it comes to the matter of riding to war."

"Something you'll be eternally grateful for," Maglor says and pours himself more tea.

Slowly he begins to relax. Outside snow is falling, while the cold wind blows through the alleys. The courtyard is empty because of it, only a few lonely souls hurry over the place and vanish through the next available door. Pretty as the picture is, Maglor is glad that he can spend the day inside. Nothing is going to force him to leave the house today. He's allowed a few leisure days after the last months.

He can read a book, write a song or two and clear his mind. Dreams like last night are a sign that there's too much bothering him, too many struggles he put aside in favor of defending Himring. A task he managed just fine, but leading armies doesn't come easily to him. Nelyo has always been better at it, standing in the front, while Maglor prefers to merge with the shadows.    

"That's the least what they can do after all the trouble I went through for them," Talaneth says and reminds Maglor of days, which seem to have happened ages ago.

"It was just bad luck that your engagement with Curvo just happened to fall into the year of Ambarussa's birth," Maglor laughs quietly. No one had really expected Nerdanel to fall pregnant again, their dear mother being among the surprised, when she began to show the usual signs.   

The older Fëanorians were used to the insanity that followed. For Curvo and his fiancée it happened to be the first pregnancy they witnessed up close. As result the couple swore off having children any time soon, by the time Ambarussa were old enough not to need babysitters anymore. In the end Telperinquar was the gift, which turned the exile in Formenos from a test in patience to an opportunity. 

Telpe's birth was one of the last time we looked at the future with joy, instead of trepidation, Maglor reminisces and steadily ignores what happened next. 

Thankfully his sister-in-law finished her tea by now and is determined to chase him out of the kitchen. 

"I've ordered the servants to prepare the bathhouse," she tells him, hinting at Maglor's more or less shady appearance. Not that her husband looks any better, but she had to start somewhere to get the boys clean. It won't last, but with Canafinwë at least she knows how much he enjoys a prolonged swim in the pool now and then. "It'll be heated and open the whole day and I'd prefer it if your companion would join you. I went through his clothing and found not much, what he could wear. So get him clean first and then take him to the tailor."

With these words Talaneth considers her morning schedule done and goes to finally wake her husband. Before Telperinquar breaks down the doors. 

 

-

 

Since Talaneth's word is law, Maglor knows better than to wait too long, before heading to the bathhouse. It's one of the luxuries they allow themselves. Neither the Sindar nor the Avari knew the concept of running water before the Noldor returned to Beleriand. Even the Dwarves admired the Noldor's invention and quickly adapted their own homes after they were shown the marvel of pre-heated pools and bath tubes. Given how popular the bathhouses are, it's not a surprise it's one of their most important ways to earn money, after breeding horses. 

Men, Elves and Dwarves alike travel to Himlad, Lake Helevorn and Amon Ereb to experience such a marvel at least once in their life. Since travelers tend to stop here, before heading further west, it's almost a tradition to visit the bathhouses while residing in the city. Of course the Noldor quickly met the demand for diversity. As far as Maglor knows Curufin build at least three different versions of their father's inventions. Which were only meant to accommodate his ever growing amount children at first. By now they've one house directly attached to the Houses of Healing, something Maglor sees simply as common sense. A simpler one in the district, where the inns and bars are located, and which is outfitted to serve the smaller races and a last one, one the Elves tend to use for themselves. 

Maglor knows it's not a coincidence that the last bathhouse is located closer to Curufin's own home. While the two public thermae possessed their own system of underground pipes, layered floors and other details Maglor never quite understood, the third bath is directly attached to forges Curufin's craftsmen use. That the district of the Noldor smiths and artists lays apart from main traffic and busier side of the town had less to do with elvish arrogance. Far more Curufin worried to keep the danger of a house fire away from their citizens. Not even their father could completely erase the probability of flames spreading too fast, destroying everything in their wake. 

As result the backside of the hill Dracview is standing on, is far more complicated to navigate than other districts. 

Mainly, because Curufin got into the habit of connecting two buildings across the street in order to shorten the mileage he ran over the course of a single year. 

Maglor tells Erestor all of this, while dragging the sleepy elf through narrow corridors. Had it been up to him, he'd have let Erestor sleep but Talaneth is not to be trifled with. 

"Don't be surprised to be cornered sooner or later," Maglor warns Erestor, who nods dutifully. "She might appear as stern and strict, but don't take it personal. She's a busy woman, who runs an entire city with her husband and has no regard for people, who tend to waste her time."

"I'll keep it in mind," Erestor mumbles, but is gaze keeps travelling left and right.

Obviously trying to get a sense of direction, yet that's impossible on the first day. Maglor is one of the few, who can safely navigate through Dracview without getting lost, because he spends a lot of time here. Since the gap has no fortified place, which his people can call their home, Maglor tends to either bother Curufin or Caranthir, whenever the need arises. Though Lake Hevelorn shows much more dwarvish influence, due to the location near the Blue Mountains.

Both has its charm, but Maglor can't imagine living there for too long. He's rather curious how Erestor is going to adapt to a lifestyle of a semi-permanent home.

But first things first.

"Get in here," Maglor says and shoves a confused Erestor through a non descriptive door.  

 

-

 

 

They're alone, which doesn't come as a surprise to Maglor. The bath they're using is a smaller than the others and a private one. Mainly used by the ruling families of the city and other artists, since only they know where it lays. It's a little private luxury, since the craftsman often don't have the time to run across the city, whenever they wish to take an hour off and spend it in warm water. Especially during the winter months the thermae get crowded and the prices go up, due to the high demand. Maglor doesn't mind it, when he has company since this bath is used by people capable of holding an intelligent conversation. He has discussed some interesting theories in here, but most often this is a quiet place, where the visitors content themselves with enjoying the silence away from the busy, bustling city. 

Since most of the craftsmen and artists just returned from Himring, they're all with their families. No one of them is expected to show up at work so soon after coming home. Most of the clever minds have a miniature bath in their own homes, a Noldo is expected to manage this much on his own if he wants to call himself a master. 

Maglor doesn't expect to be disturbed, hence why he simply removes his shirt and drops it on the stone bench. There's a little room in front of the bath, which is used to store towels and whatever items the people carry with them on daily biases. Curufin even added a cupboard for sensitives notes, papers or other stuff that's too precious and important to get wet. 

"There's no need to be shy," Maglor comments, when he catches Erestor staring at him. "Strip and get naked. A hot bath is waiting for us." 

If Erestor actually unearthed some prudish tendencies between Himring and Dracview, then Maglor will have to train him out of it. He has little regard for shyness. Mostly, because vanity is a useless thing. Skilled Elves can covered scars and other marks with a little manipulation of their fëa. Unlike the Edain, who bear scars and age upon their flesh, Elves bear the traces of time upon their soul. It's easy for Maglor to draw such imprints into himself. 

"I never realized you had ink on your body," Erestor says. His surprise carries through the room, despite the dampening effect of the steam. 

Maglor blinks and his hands stop at the task of pulling his pants down. He wants to now, "What are you talking about?" 

"The marks on your back. I never notices them before," Erestor exclaims. He angles his head a little and squints his eyes as he takes a step in Maglor's direction. "Though I can't claim I can read them. What language is this? I've never seen anything like this before." 

Erestor's curiosity is drawing him closer to Malgor until he's barely an arm length away. Mesmerized he lifts his finger to touch the strange lines that make they way across his Lord's back, straight down the spine, but Maglor stops him. Catches his hand by his wrist before it makes skin contact. A tremble goes through Maglor and Erestor can feel the shiver as if it's his own. It's a strange feeling, especially since Maglor's hand is still closed around his wrist. 

"I apologize," Erestor says in haste, afraid he overstepped a boundary. "Please don't mind my curiousity. I won't ask again, my Lord." 

Maglor sighs and lets go of Erestor's wrist, where the imprints of his fingers are slow to fade away. 

"No, it's alright to ask. I'm just shocked that you can see them at all," Maglor admits and undresses further.

Erestor notes that the black lines reach from Maglor's neck, over his shoulders, down his back and even spreads over his rips. They look a little unusual for a tattoo, at least what Erestor has gathered from his observations. The Avari prefer decorative lines in various colors that show of their status among the tribe, something that is granted only to older members. The wise ones. Those, whose flesh accepts the markings as permanent, because like everything among the Eldar, ink on the body is temporary. It takes decades, but one day the images fade away.

A feature used in general to mark criminals and offenders. Among the Noldor it's the custom that someone who broke a law, has to work for the person who inflicted harm upon. Erestor vaguely remembers sorting papers of that kind, reviewing how many years a certain person already has spend in thralldom, watching how others were granted their freedom again. 

"Why?" he asks, unsure of himself. 

Maglor doesn't seem like a person, who decorates himself with accomplishments and he isn't a Sindar living in exile either. 

The Fëanorian's gaze weights heavy on Erestor. It's like a punch in his guts, when he says, "It's the oath, Erestor. It's the oath, written upon my fëa since the day I committed myself to the cause. My brothers and I all bear such marks." 

"Oh." Erestor makes a small noise and watches Maglor recede into the chamber behind the next door. He isn't sure what to say. 

Everyone knows about the oath. He heard it before, whispered among the soldiers in hushed voices. Most know it by heart, yet refuse to speak it out loud. They treat it as if it's something sacred. Or dangerous, because oaths of such weight crave themselves into whatever path you walk. Lords usually swear such kind of oaths, when they step into the service of their king and declare their loyalty. To the day their die or until they're released and free to go. 

An image flashes through Erestor's mind. 

 

 

"I've sworn that I'd follow him."

T he person saying the swords sounds desperate. Tired and beaten down as if they've long tried to find a solution to a dire problem. Erestor's eyes perceive some shaking hands. They're pale, just like the naked shoulders. It's cold. so bloody cold and Erestor wants is to cover the naked skin with furs again. 

"Leave this stupidity," Erestor hears someone say. He isn't sure if it's himself. The voice is so much younger. "Get dressed at least or do you wish to die, before we've reached Beleriand?" 

Determined hands try to dress the person again. Black hair gets into the way and his gaze falls onto black marks craved into the shoulders. Hate spreads in his gut, when he sees it, but there's nothing he can do. Nothing at all. It's said and done, craved into the future, which lead them to this horrible place in the first place. 

 

Just as Erestor wants to examine the face of the person, the memory fades away again. He stands there, in a small dressing room in Himlad and desperately tries to take a hold of, what he just saw. Snow. A lot of snow, he remembers that much. A dark haired Noldo, older than him. Aged by grief and despair. Little else Erestor is able to recollect. Only the feeling of raging hate, which kept him moving forward. 

With a cold shiver travelling down his spine, Erestor realizes that he never checked if he has some significant marks. 

A few practiced moves later, he has gotten rid of all his clothes, stands naked in the room and desperately searches for some kind of marks, which could tell him more about the history of his body. A inner fear drives him, urges him on that even the event of recollecting something, remembering a bit of his own past, becomes unimportant. For Erestor senses it's not a true memory, just a reaction to the power of oath at work which unearthed a similar image in his mind. 

Since he can't find any symbols, Erestor hurries after Maglor in search of a mirror. 

His Lord is already sitting a large pool, emerged in steaming water, when Erestor barrels through the entrance, looking left and right clearly distraught. 

"Can I help you with something?" Maglor asks, surprisingly relaxed. 

Erestor expected him to be more tense, after the subject their just briefly discussed. Offended even, since Erestor got a glimpse of something that's incredibly private. Yet Maglor seems at ease. His long legs float in the water, while he's leaning against the edge of pool with his back. Despite his frantic urgency to search is own body for oath marks, Erestor can't help but be fascinated by picture his Lord paints. Completely naked, as it is custom in the thermal baths, he looks far different than usual. His Lord tends to hide a lot beneath his clothes, uses them as barrier between himself and the people around him. So it's impossible not to stare, seeing Maglor exposed and at ease with himself. 

Most notably Erestor finds that the black hair, heavy and wet from the water since Maglor took a dive already, that no longer falls into his face. Revealing a beauty that usually gets hidden under bangs of long black hair. 

"I want a mirror," Erestor is able to say, thrown off by his Lord's appearance. "Do I possess such oath marks as well? I never checked if I've some significant scars or anything in that regard." 

His Lord looks very pleased with himself, when he says, "You won't find any." 

Maglor makes a gesture for Erestor to join him in the water. Since a quick survey reveals that this room has no mirrors either, Erestor follows suit. As well as his Lord, he left any garment in the dressing room and when the warmth hits his skin, the sensation draws a small moan from him. Erestor closes his eyes and makes a small keening noise, when he sinks into the pool. By now he has slept in fine beds, eaten delicious food and has been dressed in clothing that's of better quality than most warriors have in possession. Yet nothing of this compares the the feeling of losing yourself in hot, steaming water. 

It's so good, Erestor wants to cry. The faint image of biting cold in mind and endless falling snow, he lets himself be taken away. This is a luxury, he has never experienced before. 

"You were saying something?" Erestor mumbles after a while, recalling that there's a world that exists outside of the bath. 

Stars, Maglor is just at the other end of the pool and yet Erestor forgot him completely. 

"I said, you won't find any marks upon your body. I took great care of removing any of them, when I rescued you," Maglor says. 

It's the small strain his Lord's voice that forced Erestor to open his eyes again. What happened that the ease he sensed in Maglor's well-defined frame has already vanished again? It shouldn't be that a man, who works so hard on himself is granted not a longer period of reprieve. 

But when Erestor's eyes meet Maglor's, his breath is taken away. His heart skips a beat before doubling in speed, spreading a different kind of warmth through his body. 

Suddenly the bath, the hot water and the steam that separates them from the outside world, don't matter anymore. 

"Oh Stars," Erestor mumbles under his breath, when he can't help but stare into Maglor's eyes. Even through the mist, the white blazing light in his gaze is apparent. Undeniable and more beautiful than ever, now with Maglor no longer hiding his unique eyes behind his hair. He never acts as if he's ashamed of feature that sets him apart from everyone else, but never before Erestor has seen Maglor act as if he's proud of it. The white eyes always seemed to be a nuisance, not an accomplishment. 

Yet right now Maglor is definitely showing off. Erestor knows it, but the small smirk and the slow relaxing of his broad shoulders draws him in anyway. 

He can barely think straight, when Erestor finally the voice to ask, "You did what...?" 

"You break no such marks, Erestor." Maglor's voice is like the warm water around him and Erestor wants to drown in it. "You've no memories for this exact reason. As my brother Maedhros could tell you, being a prisoner of Angband leaves traces and as long as you remember them, you'd hold onto them. But if you can't recollect anything of your time before the first day of your freedom, it's impossible for Morgoth to have power over you."

A part of Erestor wants to cry out in relief, but it's too much to process it at once. Hearing that he's a new person for a reason, will be enough for now. Despite the flash earlier, he's never experienced the overwhelming need to discover his past. It'd be nice to have something of it, but he can't exactly miss it, can he? That he's a Noldo, who crossed the Ice is something he figured out by himself. A picture of endless snow doesn't get him very far.

"Thank you," he whispers instead. Erestor buries his face in his hands, because he finally realizes, that the alternative to the life he has, is an existence with memories dominated by pain and torture. He doesn't need to remember Angband in order to know what horrors lay beyond the black walls. "I don't think, I ever said it, but thank you. For rescuing me, for putting up with me. For putting so much effort into me, even after I woke up. You could've just left me to fend for myself. You didn't need to..."

Erestor lets out a sob, when the realization hits that his life could be vastly different. Even without adding Angband into the mix, the fate of tortured prisoner slowly fading into the void, he never contemplated, what would've happened without Maglor at his side.

He could be wandering through Beleriand now. Homeless, nameless, without a friend or a purpose.  

That thought breaks whatever inner resolve he has been holding onto and Erestor bursts into tears, unable to help himself. He wants to hide in shame, but to his surprise his Lord doesn't let him.

"No, I didn't need to go so much trouble, when there're other things I could've put my time and my strength into."

Suddenly Maglor is there, right beside hysterical elf, and runs his fingers through Erestor's hair. The Fëanorian doesn't let him get away, when Erestor's first instinct is to step back, but the hold is firm and he's pressed against Maglor's warm body. It should be intimidating, but Erestor can't even remember, when was the last time he touched another person. That they're both naked, makes the embrace reality. 

Without the searing touch of Maglor's rough calloused hands on his body, Erestor won't be able to say if he didn't just dream the entire encounter. 

"Why didn't you?" Erestor croaks. Somehow he ended up with his nose buried in the crook of Maglor's neck. Thanks to the unexpected depth of the pool, he needs to cling to the Fëanorian in order not to sink, but it scarcely matters in this moment. "I'm a dead weight. A nameless piece of flesh that is unable to live on its own. You shouldn't bother yourself with filth like me."

Until now he refused to think about it, but it's a fact. Once he served Morgoth. The title Núlandur carries the truth, unwilling or not.

Unable to hold himself upright on his own, Erestor wraps his legs around Maglor's waist. He doesn't want to let go. He expects to be forcibly removed, but no matter how short, Erestor wants to cling to the living body pressed against his own. Instead of pushing him away, Maglor tightens the embrace. Lifts him up until he's supporting Erestor's weight all by himself. They're floating in the middle of the pool now and perhaps it's intentional that Maglor seems like an island in mid of a sea of sorrows.  

It reminds Erestor how strong Maglor truly is. His demeanor hides it well, but his voice can ripe lives apart and summon forces beyond imagination. Of course such a voice needs body able to support and endure power like this.  

Erestor, you're worth the effort, Maglor whispers into his mind. The words resonate in his soul, better than spoken syllable ever could. Perhaps I didn't need to save the snarling creature I first encountered, but I saw a part, which I hoped to salvage. 

"And as far as I'm concerned I succeeded pretty well so far." 

The words are spoken out loud and have an entire different effect on Erestor. They are darker than the sweet honey poured into his soul. More possessive. Like a promise to keep up, what he has being doing. 

Erestor inhales sharply, when he finally calms down enough to get what kind of position he's in. This is not simple hug, a way to comfort a distraught friend. An arm around a shoulder would've been more appreciate in this case. This, clinging to the Fëanorian in a pool with his legs wrapped around the Maglor's waist, who's own hands have settled near Erestor's backside, is far more intimate. 

The most sensible would be to let go, a little embarrassed of the breakdown and put some distance between them. After a little bit of awkwardness, they could both grow past the issue and go on with their life. Lifting his head to look into Maglor's eyes is a bad idea, Erestor knows it is. But he can't help himself. Even from the distance the white color is mesmerizing. Up close, they're even more beautiful. Captivating. Enchanting. 

That his body is only reacting to this kind of intimacy is only natural, especially given how long it had to go without. 

His shaft is starting to fill out and instead of unease of shame, Erestor only feels enrapturing excitement. 

He buries one of his hands in Maglor's hair, tugs and gets a sharp hiss. 

"This is a bad idea," Maglor rasps. But keeps looking at Erestor, refuses to move away and it's apparent that the Fëanorian is just as eager as he is. "I really should put a stop at this." 

Afraid that Maglor will end the whole thing before Erestor can decide for himself what he wants, he leans down for a kiss. Those lips have been teasing him ever since he found Maglor naked in the pool. Glorious and unashamed of his body. 

"You don't know what you're asking for," Maglor says, when Erestor releases him. His voice has gotten darker and the hold more possessive.

"Is it bad, me wanting you?" Erestor wants to know. 

He's still clinging to Maglor and the desire has spread through his entire body, but he has witnessed Maglor being slave to his own senses too often to move on without permission. Even when the strong hands travel further down and settle on Erestor's ass to keep him from slipping away, Erestor tries his best not to just take what he wants. Between them sings the best kind of promise and it's obvious that Maglor is struggling with his own desire. 

All it would take a proper kiss to wake the ravenous hunger that sleeps beneath their skin. 

"It's an incredible stupid idea," Maglor finally says. His look is empty for a moment, far away as if he's remembering another, similar event. "You wanting me is one thing. You've barely known anyone else. That I can understand. But me wanting you, craving you like this ..."

The silence is potent, when Maglor pauses for a moment and all Erestor can do is await the judgement.  

"You don't know what you're asking for." Maglor's voice is filled with regret and self-loathing. As if it's his fault that they can't share an nice and easy hour together. Erestor tries to hide his disappointment, when Maglor lets go, but the emotions must flicker over his face nonetheless. The Fëanorian tries to explain, somehow looking afraid, "I don't ... I'm not good at respecting boundaries, Erestor. I tend to be a little ... forceful at times." 

"Oh." Slowly Erestor gets what is at work here. This is not about him or what he's offering. "I could just say no, if you go to far?" 

For this is how it works, right? 

Apparently not, because Maglor's lips twitch sadly. The Fëanorian swims to the edge of the pool and climbs out, lets the feet dangle into the water. Erestor fights down his body reactions and sits down next to him, drawing one knee towards his chest. Then he waits for Maglor to continue. In the last months, his entire life if he's correct, his entire focus has been on Maglor. Explanations are rare and he'll take honesty whenever he can get it. 

Sex he can find elsewhere, if it comes down to it. 

Maglor's gaze is fixed upon the surface, when he explains, "I experience the world differently than the most. You've a sharp eye and a keen mind, which allows you to see deeper than most others are capable off, but it's still a passive ability. One day I'll teach you how to use it." 

"Are you telling me that I'm too fragile to have sex with you?" Erestor tries to make sense of it, asking in a sarcastic voice. 

Yet the thought isn't so far off perhaps. He has seen what Maglor can do. How his voice is able to influence people and Erestor himself is a freshly rescued soul. 

"No, not quite. I know you're strong enough that I don't harm you on accident. You should see Celegorm's bed partners sometimes. I've more control than that," Maglor laughs, but with a bitter tone the Fëanorian adds, "The difficulties lays in telling apart your desires from mine. I could tie you to my bed, hurt you in away only slaves experience it and yet in the end, you'd think you wanted it all along." 

Maglor twists his head to face Erestor. 

"You can't just trust me not to hurt you. Trust isn't enough, when I can hurt you, enjoy it and make you think that you wanted it all along." 

Never has the Fëanorian looked more lonely than in this moment. 

 

End Notes:

... long chapter is long, but fucking finally ... I've burned to write this for so long the words just poured out of me, when I finally got the last scene. Let me know, what you think of it. Of the entire chapter, since the beginning isn't a the most lighthearted reading either. In the end, ... Maglor is just being Maglor, I guess. But at least we uncovered one of his deepest fears. The last scene is also the reason, why the chapter is so long. I wanted you to get the beginning and the end of the chapter in one go, hence the long pause before.

The idea of bath houses is taken from the ancient romans. If they could do it, than Feanor probably thought of it as well. I mean, they already have to generate fire for the forges, why not develop the concept a bit further? With an independent income like that, the Feanorians never had to worry too much about what kind of power Fingolfin might have over them, because they provide and pay for their own people. Which is also the reason Curufin and Celegorm were so seriously fucked, when they came to Nargothrond later. They lost everything, Morgoth made sure to destroy Himlad inside out, because he knew of its economic value.

Also, I'm quite proud to have reached this milestone. If the matter of power imbalance among (potential) lovers is uncomfortable for you, than I'm sorry but the issue will turn up again. I've waited too long regarding this specific part about Maglor's psyche to let it go now. But I don't think the subject of sex and the difficulties Maglor has with it, aren't exactly a surprise!

Trivia: this was Erestor's/Argon's first hot bath ever since he left Tirion nearly 300 years ago.

Walk in the Valley of Kings by mangacrack
Author's Notes:

Remember Lion King? The scene in the cave with wee!Simba and Mufasa? That's Curufin and Celebrimbor, basically. It's sheer indulgence that I write scenes of them together, because WE NEED MORE FATHER-SON FLUFF between Curvo and Celebrimbor! Painting Curufin as the ever difficult and demanding father is possible, yet unlikely in my eyes. Especially at this point, where Curufin is no worse than the other Noldor around. He wasn't born evil, plotting the murder of cousins in the cradle!

Otherwise. This chapter makes a small references to another story of this verse, called "King's Landing". Which handles Losgar and my headcanon that the Swan Ships were too damaged to send back to Fingolfin.

Another change has been worked into the story (referenced in "Heaven's Reward Fallacy"), it being that Angrod is the oldest son of Finarfin, not Finrod. It's not overly important, just something which made the characterization of the Finarfion's a bit easier.

 

The atmosphere after their bath together is filled with tension, but that's to be expected. Erestor accepted the explanation. A revelation like this can't be washed away with a few sweet kisses and optimism. Furthermore Erestor treasured his friendship with Maglor. The Fëanorian is his Lord, the only one he could accept. Erestor realized this, when they sat in silence next to each other, enjoying the hot water despite the turn the encounter had taken. Whether they ever returned to intimacy and Erestor resumed his place as a potential lover, the unexpected turn isn't enough leave Maglor's side. Actually he sees this as a sign of trust. How many people existed Maglor had confessed this fear to? If it was a fear. From the way Maglor acted afterwards, Erestor suspects Maglor's objection was based on events in the past.

It's not that surprising that a powerful man like him, who has trouble facilitating friendships, has different kind of needs when it comes to love and sex, Erestor muses.

Of course it hurts, being rejected. At least a little, yet Erestor expects that the relationship they built in the last weeks won't suffer from this. He refuses to let it matter. Erestor stares at Maglor's back as they make their way back to the main house. His perception has shifted a little, after being able to admire the broad naked shoulders up close. The tunic hides well that his Lord is a capable warrior. Next to people like Celegorm and Maedhros, whose physical strength is obvious and undeniable, Maglor seems small at times. Thanks to the attacks he suffers, his Lord is very vulnerable on occasion. Outsiders may come to the assumption that Lord Maglor is fragile, faint-hearted and weak at worst.

Erestor hasn't found any evidence for this. Instead he sees a man who suffers, because he's different. For the first time Erestor wonders why that is. What brought Maglor on this path that he isn't able to enjoy normal human interaction and has to watch out even for the smallest reaction. The more Erestor thinks about the wiser Maglor's dismissal becomes. How often he has seen his Lord slip into the minds of others with nothing more than a thought? His voice can bring back the dead, he admitted on going beyond what's normally possible when he healed Dôlraw. With power like this that is dangerous, even when his Lord is doing nothing more than standing still and watching his surroundings, how influential becomes Maglor, whenever he gets intimate with someone?

You're not ready for this, Erestor decides and ignores the shiver that runs down his spine. He can tell if it's excitement or regret.

 

-

 

Curufin has seen many wondrous things in his long life. He crafted miracles with his father, build an entire city, stood on the Taniquentil in his youth and look at the world down below. Yet no matter how beautiful, dazzling or fair the experience was, nothing compares to seeing his son smile. Despite his best attempts of taming his long hair into a braid, the job had only been done halfway, causing the red strands to fly everywhere as Celebrimbor talks animately as Curufin enjoyed his cup of tea. On any other day he might've mentioned the dirt on Celebrimbor's tunic, but given that they hadn't seen each other in  months, he led proper appearances slide. Besides, his son is a growing boy, who vanishes into his workshop, whenever he has time for it. Keeping him clean is an endeavor of futility.

"...and I've received a letter from Lord Angrod two days ago. They've dispatched the remaining drakes in their realm as well, though he's careful and posted guards in Ladros, because he doesn't want to take any chances. He wrote he'd like a regular patrol meetings, since the Pass of Aglon is our responsibility, so I set up a draft to Captain Nanien with a recommended schedule. I think it's quite good, but it'd be wise of you take a look at it, since..."

"Does he ever come up for a breath?" Celegorm murmurs to his brother, while Celebrimbor keeps talking.

"Occasionally," Curufin answer, unable to hide his smirk. "But I'll remind you that's a trait we all displayed at a certain age."

Celegorm snorts. "Oh yeah, you were one of the worst. You talked father's ears off, since the day you figured out how to ask questions."

"As if you had been any better. I distinctly remember how you kept bringing self-made daggers in and let everyone know, where you found bones that big. Mother was furious," Curufin chastises and elbows his brothers into the ribs. "Sometimes I'm a surprised that we didn't drive them mad."

"Then you should be glad that's just me, who drives you out of bed every morning," Celebrimbor comments over a stack of papers.

He doesn't notice the hurt and longing expression in his father's face. Children are something he discussed with his wife at length. After they had Telpe, they agreed to wait until he's older. Yet with Finwë's and Fëanor's death, the flight to Beleriand and the struggles to build a new life in an unfamiliar and very dangerous land, the issue never came up again.

"I'm very glad to have you," Curufin says instead, with all the love and ferocity he can manage to put into one sentence.

The months in Himring were hard. Being a battlefield commander doesn't come as easily to him as it does to Maedhros or Celegorm, but he can manage the logistics behind it just fine. Yet the knowledge of leaving his son and his wife alone in Himlad, weighted on him. Every night he feared for them, dreamed about fire and death and the prospect of finding Dracview in ashes by the time he returned.

"Since we all love Telpe, would you be willing to rent him out for a day?" A voice joins the conversation. "Erestor desperately needs some clothes and I don't know the city well enough to get it done quickly."

Twisting his head Curufin finds Maglor leaning against the door frame, arms crossed over his chest. With his wet hair brushed back and a fresh and simple tunic, he looks far more relaxed than yesterday. That Maglor is barefoot and picked out something with colors, helps the image a lot. He's closer to being a talented, if eccentric bard again than the paranoid commander Curufin had to deal with lately.

"Sure," he says. His plans to have Telpe join him in the forge can wait. "May I assume that money isn't going to be an issue?"

Maglor nods, "Let's figure out later how much I owe you. I only care about that Erestor has more than just one set of spare clothes in his possession. I'd throw in a sword and a few other weapons as well, but I don't know what he prefers."

Celebrimbor throws their guest a friendly smile. "I'd be happy to show you around. Trust me, you don't want to go shopping with my uncles. They always end up getting lost in a book store, get stuck arguing with traders about reasonable prizes or invited by travelers to share a drink. It takes them days to get things done."

Erestor shrugs, knowing he doesn't have much of a choice. After this morning he's glad to put some distance between him and Maglor and the idea to bother Lord Curufin or Lord Celegorm with such a meager task is outrageous. But it would be nice to own a bit more than second hand tunics or the standard outfits Himring provides for its warriors.

"As long as I don't interrupt any plans, you might have, I'd be glad for someone to accompany me. I'm afraid I would get lost," Erestor says, carefully evading what kind of title Celebrimbor should be addressed with. Though it's likely that Celebrimbor is going to insist on being called by his name. He seems to be the carefree type, who doesn't mind titles that much. At least not in a private setting such as this one. Since their little gathering is a good time to mention a certain subject, which kept Erestor wake last night, he turns to Maglor asking, "And while we're speaking about getting lost and distracted, I need to ask if I've to worry about any kind of legal statuses I might or might not have? I have to admit that I'm woefully unprepared, should a situation require some from of proof, regarding my identity. As far as I gathered Himring functions differently in this regard than this city."

"You belong to me," Maglor answers with a finality in his voice. After this morning the words sound less innocent than they'd have a day ago. Erestor tries to suppress the memory of his naked body pressed against Maglor's, who's acting as if there's nothing wrong with his claim since he used the term in the past. "Just mention you're my aid, if someone asks. That you answer to me, personally. Display a bit of arrogance and confidence, that's usually enough to make people stop asking questions."

Erestor is a bit baffled and doesn't know how to voice his worry that this kind of claim might not be enough for the stubborn, petty or jealous.

Thankfully Lord Curufin shows more sense than his brother.

"Among your own kind, I agree with you, Makalaurë. But this is a large city and I'll have to remind you that dwarves can be particular, when it comes to accepting new customers. Today he'll be with my son, but I think it's wise to think of the future." Curufin turns to Erestor. "We'll get you a coat in our colors and with our emblem, that should do it until I've drafted up some papers."

"I appreciate it, Lord Curufinwë. Perhaps I feel just a bit paranoid, but fighting of Orcs in the wild seems easier than sorting out legal matters among people, who don't die of natural causes," Erestor responds with a small bow. With a cheeky grin he adds, "Especially with someone suffering from memory loss."

That earns him a collective snort and a friendly smile from everyone. Perhaps it's inappropriate to joke about his condition, but slowly Erestor has been realizing the futility of getting worked up, whenever the subjects turns up. Healers have mentioned the long lasting effects Angband's influence can have. Lord Maedhros has once spoken a few words to him, about accepting the condition and learning to live with it. Since even Maglor doesn't expect for Erestor's memory to return, at least not anytime soon, it seems time to stop wallowing in questions and possible regret.

"A wise decision. You can't keep looking over your shoulder for the rest of your life," Lord Celegorm tells him and pats Erestor on his back. Since his face his back to normal, Erestor doesn't flinch at the contact, but a part of him swears to get at the bottom of this strangeness. Especially if it keeps happening, yet no one else displayed such characteristics so far.

Then Celebrimbor drags him away, insisting to go immediately before the city gets too busy around midday. Erestor has the urge to say something to Maglor, the kiss and the intimacy still lingering in his mind. In the end, Maglor isn't even looking at him, too occupied with papers scattered on the kitchen table. Erestor sighs and tries to banish these thoughts from his mind, concentrating on Celebrimbor instead.

 

-

 

Curufin waits until his son and Erestor have left the house, before he turns to his brother.

"I rarely question the reason of your descions, but why you just don't let him swear an oath of fealty to you? With me and Tyelko you have representatives of our family to count as witnesses and Talaneth could act as neutral party," Curufin wants to know. Of course it didn't escape his notice how Maglor refused to look at Erestor, when the matter of legal protection was mentioned.

Right now his brother stares into his cup of tea, gaze far away.

It's a surprise that he answers at all, instead of ignoring the question as he tends to prefer.

"I've enough influence over him already. Since I found and freed him, I was the only thing sometimes that held his mind together. He has gotten better, but he shouldn't bind himself even closer to me, than he already is." Maglor's voice grates like it's trapped between good intentions and self-hate.

That he's doubting his own decisions, this long after having made them in the first place and having faced the consequences already, tells Curufin it was high time to get Maglor our of Himring. His brother is a good commander, if the situation calls for it, but it wears him out. The best course would be to convince Maglor to stay a few weeks, before to returns to his own people. Get him to relax by making him spend his time making music. Force him to pick out a companion for a few nights. Anything to get this tension out of him.

Though Maglor reads the silence differently, because his dry laughter fills the room as he he says, "I notice that I can't hear you disagreeing with me. Perhaps I finally did something right, for once."

"Well, I understand your concerns. It's only been a year and while he has been doing quite well for himself, it's a fact that those kind of scars tend to linger. He'll never escape the aftereffects, memory loss or not." Celegorm's offers his opinion, unusually quiet. Just like Curufin, he has been studying Maglor in the last few minutes and the father in Curvo wonders, why that might be. "What I don't understand is your personal interest in him."

Curufin stays carefully quiet. He doesn't want to give Maglor the feeling that they're interrogating him. It tends to end up with Maglor feeling being questioned for every step that he takes, having to justify himself for his condition and how it may compromise his choices. Understandable that such nagging questions make him angry, especially after Maglor has proven in the past that he can look after himself. But there's a difference between looking out for a charge or a young warrior on the battlefield and dragging him into your family home to offer him a place at the breakfast table.

Maglor making friends doesn't happen often and seldom they get along with their family.

Hence Celegorm's quiet suspicions, but they've all people outside their little private circle father called his unholy band of perfect little terrors. Makalaurë is allowed to have his own and so far Curufin likes Erestor far better than the others. Those are singers, bards and other eccentrics with strange skills that fit right into Maglor's own brand of insanity.

"I'm as much as surprised as you that he has been putting up with me for long," Maglor finally says, carefully considering his words. Curufin gets the impression that his brother hasn't put much thought into the question, why he's spending so much time with Erestor. "I keep waiting for the day, where he has finally enough of me. That I need to check his behavior for any strange actions, in the unlikely case he's one of Morgoth spies, doesn't require him to stick so close to me."

"Don't sell yourself short. You inspire people," Celegorm says and gives up his spot in order to run his fingers through Maglor's hair. It's a gesture of comfort between two people, who lost many friends on sea when the storm came and many of the swan ships capsized. Neither Celegorm nor Maglor like to talk about it, but the grief is still there.

"I want to give him a choice," Maglor responds and slams his fist on the table. "I just don't know how as long as he's in a state like this. He has gotten better, but I'm afraid he's so damned impressionable right how, that he can't tell right from wrong."

"Wanting to be your friend, isn't always a sign of madness. As far as I can tell, Erestor has a good head on his shoulders. You shouldn't worry so much and respect his decision, when its his choice to follow you."

Skin contact helps Maglor believe the words. Celegorm's pulse is calm and steady beneath his fingers, utter convinced that his words are the truth. Perhaps they are, perhaps they're mostly true, but that's no help against the nagging feeling in his gut. The fear that he's going to far, that he's going to drag Erestor down with him. It happened before and back then he didn't have to deal with an amnesiac cousin.

"Then just stay a bit longer, Cáno," Curufin offers. "Your people can deal without your for a few more days. Give Erestor time to explore the city and make a few friends. If you truly believe that you're affecting his judgement, give him time to determine what he wants."

"You just want me to help you with your blasted papers," Maglor growls, but it lacks the usual heat, when he's truly angry.

"I refuse to write down all our new findings of the last months about dragons alone," Curufin huffs. "Writing a book is far easier than composing an entire ballad."

"Shut up, you two. We all know you're going to do both," Celegorm laughs, knowing he's right.

Like Fëanor, Curufin prefers his books to record his discoveries. Cáno tends to write and sing songs, playing them at feasts and making them easy enough for other Bards and Singers to remember. Tales spread faster like this, especially among the Avari. It's still a widely used tool, educating children via songs rather than books. Not that Celegorm minds, he has been taught like this as well. Oromë's hunters had little use for papers. Which was and is still very expensive, though Curvo has been working on a formula, which uses a specific kind of grass that literally grows everywhere.

Grass. Paper made out of grass.

Sometimes Celegorm truly doesn't know, where Curufin gets these ideas from. Though the idea of cheap paper is appealing. But Stars, even Cáno's antics are easier to understand, because ultimately it always comes back to music. To Arda and everything in it. Music is like nature in that way. Everything is connected. Everything is part of a greater whole ... and exactly the reason, why they called his brother insane. As relaxed as he's right now, Celegorm still has his hands planted on Maglor's shoulders, it never takes much to set him off. For outsiders it must look like as if Canafinwë Fëanorian is having a fit or moods swings.

But Celegorm knows better. He knows what it is like to look at the world with different eyes. How often does he catch a scent, smelling something which stays hidden to others? Catches lies, half-truth and secrets with a sniff of his nose and has to keep his mouth shout, because he gets into trouble otherwise?

What use is it to bother Cáno with the questions, when he get most answers with a deep breath?

In this case it would be why the hell Maglor smells like arousal, frustration and Erestor, yet Celegorm can guess. Especially since Cáno's little duckling mirrored these scents, though the frustration was mixed with a good amount of anxiety. He won't ask, it's better not to. They can't intervene every single time. Maglor is capable of living on his own, no matter how much Curvo worries. Besides it's not easy, living with special arrangements and certain conditions, which need to be kept a secret. Labeling Cáno as simply insane might be correct, but it's also far too easy. Too many people get away with hurling that insult in Cáno's direction, mostly because everyone is doing it and his brother no longer fighting back.

With his too sharp teeth, his claws and his occasional fur it's very easy for Celegorm to imagine people coming after him for a change. For similar reasons, of course. It's just that Huan's double-edged existence is less obvious than white eyes digging into your soul.

 

-

 

A few hours later Maglor is told to make himself look presentable. He grumbles a little, but since everyone making the effort, he complies. In the end, he picks up a new tunic and brushes his hair, since Celegorm stops at being clean and having braided his hair. Curufin and Talaneth look a bit more dressed up, though Maglor wonders why they care. In their family dirt is a sign of hard work and no one would force a family member to clean up, just for a simple conversation. Who cares, if they end up looking a bit wild and rough? Father set an example with welcoming messengers and visitors, straight after walking coming out of the forge. Being covered in dirt and ashes it irritated those, who hailed from Tirion. One reason why Fëanor liked the set up so much.

"Are we having a fancy dinner?" Maglor asks, as Curufin leads them into the great hall, which they often use for public gatherings. "Or did I miss some kind of appointment, no one informed my about?"

"Nolofinwë wants to talk to us," Curufin answers with a small sigh. "With the battles finally being over, he wishes for a debrief. He contacted Talaneth a few days ago, offering an invitation to hold court with everyone, who was affected in the last months."

With these words Curufin places a Palantír on pedestal and everyone gathers around it. Celegorm looks annoyed, he doesn't like the sensation, whenever he's forced to use the stone. He claims it confuses his senses and rather runs hundreds of miles in order to hold the conversation on person if necessary. Which Maglor can understand, from a certain point of view. Huan is a creature of the earth, connected with power that runs through the land beneath his feet. Matters that involve disconnecting from the hröa from the fëa, is not easy for him. Hence why Celegorm refused a Palantír, when he was offered one. Instead he gave his to Angrod, claiming the Son of Finarfin had far more use for it.

Well, true, Maglor thinks as the Seeing Stone comes to life and begins to flicker. Curufin outdid himself with this invention and surrendered three of the stones to Fingolfin, claiming it's a sign of good will and reparation for the mess that was Losgar. They all know that Curufin would've offered a few Palantíri to their Kin anyway, simply because it's far more efficient than writing long letters and keep sending envoys over trivial matters, but they had to keep up the image of divided fractions.

While Finwë's own descendants see sense in mending old feuds and Nolofinwë had been told the truth about Losgar, the rest of the Noldor isn't as forgiving. The separation began long before the Noldor left Aman. Finwë's own politics started it by creating a complicated web of relationships through two wives and six children, loving a few of them more than the rest.

Maglor doesn't think it's anyone's fault, least of Nolofinwë who struggles every day to keep the Noldor together.

Curufin stares at him and makes a motion with his hand, gesturing towards the Palantír. "Makalaurë, would you please be so kind?"

In the next moment the Palantír reacts to Maglor's voice. It's a low deep hum, the kind of brass a dragon would use to talk to one of his kind. It makes the former eye glow. Deep inside is a spark that comes to life, wakes the remnant of the dragon's spirit.

"Concentrate," Maglor mumbles an order and lets the magic wash over him. It feel like water raising quickly. It's like diving, seeking deeper and deeper without having to fear the danger of drowning. The sensation also lacks the necessary water. None of them is getting wet, but the feeling is the same. Something heavy settles on his shoulders, draws him inside the Palantír and for a moment it feels like as if he's getting lost, losing his orientation in a dark, dark void.

But Maglor feels his family around him and that is enough to anchor him to reality. This is not the time nor the place to take a peak, what else the dragon has to offer. Maglor doesn't often look at the future and its possibilities, but from time to time it's enlightening. Seeing the future is less about knowing events beforehand. Maglor dares to glance at his brothers and feels the pull of the ancient dragon, trying to drag him towards potential scenarios. In the end, Maglor ignores the temptation guides his family down a safe path until they're leaving the darkness behind.

He knows his brothers by heart. There's no need to spy on them.

Trying to take his mind of the images the Palantír tries to tempt him with, Maglor sees figures flickering in the corner of his eyes,he makes the effort and creates a door for Curufin and Talaneth to step through. They lack his abilities and Celegorm's natural instinct, it's safer this way. Noldor with a professional craft and highly trained minds or not, most people needed something visible and tangible to hold on to. Curufin crafted the Palantíri in the first place, because he got tired of asking Maglor to deliver urgent messages. Still, the Palantíri are mostly meant to amplify the range of oswanë, to save stretch out the mind to talk to another person without getting lost in the process.

Maglor himself never needed such tools, but they discovered that with a bit of practice more than one person could join the conversation.

Which is why light washes over them as they pass a threshold. Suddenly they're standing in a grand hall, white and spacious. It doesn't exist, not in real life. The building was never build, only envisioned in their minds and Maglor firmly believes that everyone sees different details. Celegorm is probably seeing a forest and feels grass beneath his feet. Given how his clothing changed from a tunic to his hunting gear, completely adorned with a thick fur thrown over his shoulders and red paint coloring his cheeks, Maglor suspects his little brother is more or less standing in Oromë's woods, rather than Fingolfin's throne room in Barad Eithel.

What does it say about himself, that Maglor sees almost nothing? Great grey pillars, thicker than trees and reaching endlessly into the black sky, is all what his mind provides. Inside the circle the assembled shine in faint light, beyond that Maglor can neither make out colors nor specific shapes. Thanks to the pillars surrounding them and the cold stone beneath his own feet, Maglor imagines they're just standing in a dark, empty and abandoned house.

Strange that he doesn't remember ever being in such a place.

"Please, Nephews and in laws, step closer. It warms my heart to see you alive and well," Fingolfin announces.

Like them, he's mostly a spirit in this place. Which has it's disadvantages. Being a spirit means being forced to show, what you truly are. While it's not impossible to lie and deceive in such states, it's incredibly difficult and usually not worth the effort. Noticeable that Celegorm still tries anyway. With his hands crossed over his chest, no one can see his claws and in a realm like this one, using your mind to speak rather than your voice prevents showing off his sharp teeth. If anyone notices his wild untameable hair, their uncle and their cousins are too polite to mention it.

On the other hand, right now Celegorm looks exactly as practically all tales describe him. The perfect blend of a Avar Warrior and a Noldor Prince.

"We're glad to join you and just as relieved that none of you got burned to ashes." Curufin answers and takes his usual place in the circle.

Next to Tyelko his appearance is almost humble. A simple tunic, though the patterns on its are statement enough. How very Fëanorian of him. What worries Maglor is that he can make out the Oath Marks on Curvo's fingers. With the Palantír making their fëa far more visible than in the real world, where scars on the soul can be hidden without them ever showing up on the skin itself, it shouldn't be a surprise that the Oath is now visible for everyone to see.

He had been aware that they all carried the Oath on different places, depending on what shape it took inside their hearts. What Maglor hadn't known that Curufin's marks had burned themselves into his hands. Black tendrils had wrapped themselves around his fingers, forming strange patterns on his palms and on the back of his hands, before they vanished beneath his sleeves.

The newfound knowledge is a distraction. Perhaps he has time to contemplate the meaning of it later, when the ordeal is over. But Maglor would've been happier not knowing. That's not difficult to assess. His own marks are travelling along his spine, spreading down his back. Maedhros' are on his forearms, around his wrist and he couldn't stop himself from comparing them to shackles. No, subtlety isn't what the Oath was made from. Or rather, what he was created for, if Maglor was honest. The oath was a reminder, a commitment to a goal they cannot afford to lose sight of.

So far they had barely needed it, but Maglor felt apprehensive about the matter.

Finally he forces his focus back the conversation.

"Just by glad that they didn't try to eat any of you," Angrod comments under his breath. Given the fact that his spirit shows a bandage around his shoulder and his left arm, Maglor guesses he speaks from experience.

"Finding your end in the belly of a dragon would be unfortunate indeed. I'm relieved to see you're still among us, Angaráto. I'm deeply grateful of your help and the support your son lends me, whenever I have need of it. Losing anyone of your family would be a heavly blow to our defenses and a great loss I wouldn't be able to bear," Fingolfin says and sends a worried look to Angrod. Maglor understands the ice cold fear that must run through Nolofinwë.

As the oldest of the Arafinwions, Angrod is the most sensible of the lot and also the most reliable. Seeing that he's the only one present so far, is not exactly a surprise.

Doubtful that the rest is going to join them, since only Angrod is possession of a Palantír. Though it'd be possible for Galadriel to attend the gathering. Having inherited most of Indis' Vanya blood, such a feat is possible for her. Perhaps it's not worth the risk, given that she's still in Doriath. Maglor knows that, because they haven't talked in ages. Getting past the girdle unnoticed is almost impossible and requires an amount of preparation, he's usually not willing to commit. Especially, when a letter does a trick just fine.

YOU SHOULD TAKE IT EASY, ANGARÁTO. YOU'RE INJURED. PLEASE LEAVE, ONCE IT GETS TOO MUCH. THE HIGHKING IS CORRECT, WE NEED YOU IN THE UPCOMING WAR.

"Whoa, Cáno, tone it down, would you?" Celegorm complains, suddenly not caring about keeping up the pretense. He rubs his ears, trying to get rid of wave of power that just rolled over them.

"I second that," Fingolfin says and he looks pale, taking a deep breath, because he feels as if he has just been hit into the chest. "I appreciate your presence, Cánafinwë. Without your ability to connect the Palantíri such meetings wouldn't be possible, but please remember that we're not all of us are used to the true power of your voice."

My apologies. I had no intention of harming any of you, but I must admit that the last months were taxing and have been grading on my patience. It's the only excuse I can offer, Maglor says, far more quietly than before. Yet most people present still flinch.

Even his brothers give him a wide berth like now, simply because Maglor is nearly burning with power. They even avoid it to look at him. When he once asked why, he got the answer that his usual white eyes are unbearable to look at. That he's a shining spirit, engulfed in a terrible, terrible light. Curufin supports the theory that it's Maglor sheer power and his control over it, which calls those together, who gaze into the Palantíri. He genuinely hopes it's not true, because Maglor has little clue of how this is supposed to work. Curufin is the one with the math and the thesis. All he does is light a match and makes sure everyone can see in the dark. It's simply far more convenient than shouting into the dark, while hoping the person you're trying to talk to gets the full message... and not just half of it.

"Of course you can't offer anything else but a sad excuse. As if we expected anything else, than rash and violent behavior from you," a melodic voice joins in and another Elf steps into the light. Even though he just arrived, he must've seen enough. He always liked to offer you his opinion, not caring if you desired to hear it in the first place. That hadn't changed, not even after all this time. "I've always had the opinion that there have to be alternative methods to this."

As spirit breathing is unnecessary, but Maglor still inhales sharply and desperately struggles to stay in control. Faintly he felt his body tremble and it takes a great deal of concentration in order to keep up the connection and not let the atrifical realm collapse. He manages it, barely. Seeing Finrod, golden and perfectly composed as ever, wakes old feelings. Wrath and anger mostly. Their existence is nothing new, the emotions have always been there, buried and forgotten. But the intensity of their negativeness surprises Maglor. Yet it shouldn't. Not when Finrod - perfect, golden Finrod - needs to point out his weakness so quickly. Of course he has to rub salt into the wound by speaking perfectly normal, pleasant to everyone present and thereby declaring what Maglor is not and never can be. Perhaps it's good that they're just spirit and not actually forced to sit through a joined meeting. Without several hundred miles and a thick unpenetratable forest separating them, Maglor would've already jumped over the table and wrapped his fingers around Finrod's pale throat.

It's a talent, how fast the little Arafinwion gets under his skin. 

Well, of course such thoughts are going to remain a fantasy. In an actual meeting, he'd be flanked by Maedhros and Caranthir, both of them ready to intervene. With their height and their longer arms, all what he would be able to manage, is to throw something solid at Finrod's head His goblet maybe. Knives are too dangerous for little Finrod's delicate stature, but his expression after being dosed with wine, would be satisfying as well.

Unfortunately Finrod refuses to step any closer, chosing his spot near his brother and the Highking. With so much distance between them, it's impossible to annoy Finarfin's golden child. Not even a little, if Maglor wishes to do it unnoticed.

But Angrod intervenes, much to Maglor's inner delight.

"I'll remind you that Lord Canafinwë has valiantly fought at the front lines in the past months, since Prince Nelyafinwë was gracious enough to defend our Highking and my own lands, long before he finally returned to his people," Angrod says. His voice is like steel, hard and unforgiven. His judgement absolut, making his reprimand sound even worse.

It's a pleasure to witness how Angrod's words are effective immediately, considering the sour expression Finrod fails to hide.

From experience Maglor knows it's never pleasant to receive a lecture from your older brother, especially in public and right in front of the Highking. Whom you owe loyalty. Technically at least. With the perfectly angled bow Finrod offers his uncle, it's not obvious, but Maglor knows his cousin well enough that this is not an honest gesture of respect. As King of Nargothrond he has the tendacy to think himself above other members of his family. Technically also true, since his older brothers were merely Lords, chosen by the people who followed them. While Finrod had been elected, Ingoldo never failed to emphasize this word, by enough noble Lords to rightfully call himself King of Nargothrond.

A glance to his left, shows Maglor that Curufin is as furious as he is. Celegorm cares less about politics, but his disdain is obvious as well. It eases the pain his in his chest, at least a little, seeing his family close ranks around him. Literally, since they suddenly don't care about Maglor's vibrant and violent spirit anymore. Instead of giving him space, they shuffle closer, determined not to let their brother suffer alone. Insulting a Fëanorian means insulting all of them.

Since he can't say thank you without letting the rest know, how deeply Finrod's words have unsettled him, Maglor makes a show of putting his hands on his little brother's shoulders. He smiles, when they don't flinch. When they don't react other than leaning a little closer, realizing that they don't need to be afraid, because they've known each other all their life. Maglor was there, when they were born. Both times. He sang for Nerdanel, hoping to ease the pain a little. Later, he sang to his brothers. Mimicking animal noises for Celegorm and a hammer meeting the anvil for Curufin.

Maglor sends Finrod a vicious smile, unafraid to show off his power and the support he receives.

Look at you, Findaráto. All alone. Bite as much as you want, unlike you I can count on my siblings, he thinks and doesn't care how much Finrod picks up. Similarly talented as sister and having being once his student, it's likely that Finrod gets the message. Even if it's just feelings instead of actual words. Hell, Maglor hopes his expression enough. If not, he has to put a bit more effort into it. 

 

-

 

Maedhros is the last to join. Apparently this is a mistake, since Fingolfin has obviously trouble to reign in the bickering cousins. It's one of the disadvantages of meetings like this. In a throne room, Fingolfin's word would have more weight. Surrounded by servants, warriors and scribes it's easier to act as the King. Since this is a small gathering, mainly consisting of those who are from Finwë's line and a few advisors, it threatens to turn into a typical family dinner. Finwë regularly forced his descendants to get along, at least for a single disatrous evening. Strange that not even Angband could wipe away that particular feeling of annoyance. The few memories he has of these events, make Maedhros want to turn around immediately.

A mix of silent suffering and practiced anger tells him that scenes like this are quite normal for their family, journey across the sea or not. Besides he has practice enough by now, having been able to build new memories on top of those, which are held at the bottom of a frozen lake. Definitely there, but unaccessible until spring comes and melts the ice away.

"...must agree with our dear cousin. While I personally had no contact with Lord Angaráto, his support didn't go unnoticed. As always, he has been a reliable ally and a steadfast friend. Not once I feared that my brother could come to harm, while he took the dangerous journey back home. But past experiences make we wonder, where have you been in all of this, Findarárto?" Curufin finishes his speech, looking as if he's throughly enjoying himself. Given the sneer on his face and Celegorm's practiced haughty expression that completes the image of a spoiled Prince, Maedhros suspects there's a good reason for their behavior.

Curvo sniping at everyone is nothing new, but if Celegorm backing him instead of playing silent support in the background, it's more than just posturing.

"For my part, I'm curious myself," Talaneth speaks up.

Maedhros holds his breath and hopes no one has noticed his arrival yet. He has taken a likening to Curufin's wife. She's a sensible and practical woman, who showed no mercy on his road of recovery. Since he had been greatly weakened and she had no experience with battles, they often ended up practicing together. Quickly they learned to appreciate the strengths of others. Where Curufin's wife was fast and agile, the force behind Maedhros' blows shattered her blade more than once.

She wears the same kind of expression now, calculating and angry.

Since echo is not truly an issue in this empty place, her words are clear and cutting. "With my husband stationed in Himring, it fell to me and my son to defend Himlad. Not once I received an offer of aid from the King of Nargothrond. The girdle makes conversations through the seeing stones not always easy, but as far as I know Thingol hasn't turned to shooting down messenger birds yet."

"These accusations have been going on long enough," Finrod snaps. "I tire of the endless attempts to find faults in my behavior."

Maedhros has to see past Fingolfin and his son in order to look at his profile. Compared to the Nolofinwions, he's an open, complicated mess of emotions. Understandable, since he seems to be under fire from everyone present, due to his lack of actions in the Dragon War. But Finrod wouldn't be King, if he hadn't a valid explanation at hand.

With uttermost confidence, Finrod finally says, "I'll let you know that I had my soldiers ready. Just like my healers and hunters, ready to ride out to those in need. But without any word, where my aid would be needed most, I chose to wait. The Highking knows that a single order would've been enough for me to ride out."

Right, because Fingolfin can be so sure of your loyalty, Maedhros almost says out loud, but he swallows the words in time. The tension between the gathered members is high enough without him adding to it. He ends up keeping his personal opinion to himself, because Fingolfin needs his support, Maedhros finally steps forward. He comes alone. Caranthir and Ambarussa have refused to attend, though they're in possession of a Palantír as well. It's not unusual, just as seeing Aegnor and Orodreth missing. Like his brothers, they will be informed by their family later.

That Turgon is no where to be seen, is a surprise on the other hand.

While Fingolfin's son had given up Nevrast and important relations to Círdan in order for a city deep in the mountains, he kept in touch. Thanks to the Palantír in his possession, he never actually had to leave Gondolin. Not that he answered, whenever Maedhros attempted to speak with him in private, but as far as he gathered, Turgon attended the council in order to brag in front of an audience.

Now he's missing out a golden opportunity and Maedhros can't shake the nagging sensation in his gut. He'll have to collect information on the subject, in case it's more than just Turgon having suffered attacks from the dragons as well. For the winged beasts belong to the very few, who might stumble on the hidden city by sheer accident. All in all, Turgon's absence is making itself know by Finrod's irritating behavior. They're political allies, often supporting each others ideas, especially when they opposed the Highking's rule.

Given the presence of so many powerful mind reader it's dangerous to think such thoughts, but Maedhros remembers Maglor's suspicions. Or rather, his tantrums, when Finrod announced his decision to hand over Minas Tirith to his nephew Orodreth in order to built Nargothrond. The Highking believes the story about Ulmo's vision. Perhaps he wanted to, desperately so. Maedhros might have called his brother merely paranoid, but the argument that Turgon was as sensitive to visions from the Valar as a rock to tickling, seemed logical.

In that case Maedhros had to agree with his brother. His murmuring doesn't always make sense, but he tries to listen to it. Sometimes Maglor reveals interesting viewpoints, when one takes the time to separate the few lines of truth he weaves into the other nonsense.

"It is not my position to judge, but I advocate Findaráto's cautious behavior." Maedhros finally speaks out and cuts into the conversation, because a few members of their council don't seem to be satisfied with Finrod's explanation. "I rather have to hold out for a few more days until reinforcements arrive, than having to deal with a fool's desire to find glory in battle."

A ripple goes through the group and heads turn into his direction. Maedhros takes note of who greets him with respect. First being Angrod, because he was once Prince Nelyafinwë's personal aid and his guard, who never dropped the habit. Most assume the location of Angrod's realm is coincidence, that the Highking wishes to a buffer between his people and the Fëanorians. Not many are aware of the fact that a deep friendship connects the two heirs, something not even the memory loss could take away from him.

They share a short moment, where their eyes meet and they express their gratitude to see the other alive and well.     

"I'm glad you could join us, Nelyafinwë," Fingolfin exclaims, looking far happier than he did just a few moments ago. He pats Maedhros' shoulder and the touch sends a shiver down his spine. How much of this touch is actual real? Maedhros wishes Fingolfin would stop doing it, at least in this form. His uncle always feels ice-cold. Entirely appearing in blue and white, it completes the image of the strong yet distant King. Who has so very few close friends and allies, hence why Maedhros tolerates the touches. "I fear I had to reign in these rascals all by myself."

"You know that I'm always glad to be of assistance, my Lord. Just say the word," Maedhros responsed and it's a little funny how Finrod wrinkles his nose in barely contained disgust, because yes this is nothing, but politics. 

The reminder of the familiarity between the Highking and his supposedly estranged nephew, eldest son of the brother, who betrayed and abandoned him, is a far harsher punishment than the remarks before. Finrod's tries to keep his political ambitions a secret, but his reactions betray him. Some day in the future Maedhros will have to ask Cáno if Ulmo's vision might be a plot cooked up by Finrod and Turgon in order to gain more independence.

If yes, they are being very successful, with Turgon refusing the summon of the Highking and Finrod acting like he's Uncle's equal already.

But that can wait. They've gathered here for a reason and such sessions tend to be a strain on Cáno. It's never pleasant, when they end abruptly.

"At first I wish to thank Prince Nelyafinwë for the support he has shown my people in the past months," Fingolfin announces and has the strength to look directly at Maglor. Not a small feat, since as bored as his brother looks Maedhros can feel the power trickling over his soul. As their father's sons, they all burn with fire, their relation now being more prominent than ever, but Makalaurë still burns the brightest. His spirit is so hot and encompassing that he burns away the darkness engulfing them, all by himself. "The House of Fëanor parted from their Lord and one of their most fiery warriors in times of need. I'll be forever in your debt, alone for the amount of people Maedhros saved through his sheer presence on the battlefield."

While the Fëanorians take delight in Finrod's furious expression at the praise, which Fingolfin keeps up quite a while before he moves on to complimenting Angrod and his son Orodreth, leaving just a few words to the King of Nargothrond at the end, Maedhros notices Fingon's stone cold expression. He hasn't said a word the entire time and he suspects that he's not going to.

His spirit looks strained and pale. Almost white and though Maedhros knows that this form doesn't represent the fëa, but rather a strange reflection the Palantíri create, he can't help but wonder. They parted in near silence, when Maedhros left Barad Eithel. They fought a young, but mighty dragon named Glaurung together. On the battlefield they almost acted like old friends, reading the others movement and intentions. Fingon even surrendered the command to Maedhros for the duration they spend outside the thick walls of Barad Eithel.

Yet that was just professional behavior, in the end. Two Lords and warriors showing sense in the face of a threat in front of them. 

There was no connection. Not even the rekindling of a friendship and Maedhros wanted to know why. What was so different about him that Fingon couldn't look him into the eyes? Was he horrible to look at it? Or did Fingon truly just suffered from the fact that Maedhros never truly recognized him, as Fingon had put it once with a longing expression in his face.

Ever since the day he woke up in that bloody tent, he has recovered a lot of memories. Or knowledge of certain events, at least. Even if he doesn't always have the matching images at hand. Yet what never surfaces is the time around is rescue. Maedhros has clear memories of Angband, Orcs and all the other unpleasentries connected to it. Sometimes the north wind alone is enough to bring him back to that place. A bit too much ashes in the air and he suffocating, thinking himself trapped in a cell deep beneath the earth.

Morgoth tried a lot to break him. Maedhros doesn't know why, doesn't know what the Dark Mad God was searching for. Still, aside from all the horrible memories, that plague him not as often as they could thanks to Cáno, shouldn't there be a bright spot at the end?

Studing Fingon's face never brings the desired answer. Nor does it help to brush with his own mind against the Nolofinwion's. There's no reaction, not even a ripple. Or the slightest clue, what keeps Fingon from reaching out. Perhaps he's never going to know. Fingon's spirit appears as something that is soft around the edges. People like the Arafinwions might interpret this as Fingon being more approachable than his father, but Maedhros knows better. Under closer observation Fingon is clearly dissolving, his fëa dancing in the air like sand on a windy beach.

Together with the attempted neutral expression, Maedhros concludes that Fingon doesn't want to be here. That he's trying to flee.

Maedhros can't help but think that it's his fault.

"All praise and explanations aside, it would interest me how got here in the first place." Fingon speaks up, probably feeling the weight of Maedhros' gaze and choses the logcial consequence. "This war broke out very quickly and non of my scouts could tell me, where the sheer mass of the winged beasts came from. As far as I'm aware, we had no warning signs."

"It's one of Morgoth's attempts to weaken us," Angrod growls. His eyes are like steel, sharp and grey, while his gaze is hard and unforgiving. If it weren't for the same shade of hair and familiar features, no one could believe Angrod to be this closely related to Finrod Felagund. Though Angrod is leaning closer to his Noldorin heritage, always has and it shows in the way the brothers live their life. "Orcs are the norm in my mountains, as are strange appereances the north wind carries into my woods. But I've learned to read the signs. This is the first time, I wasn't prepared. I swear to you, these beasts came out of nowhere."

Maedhros hums under his breath. Of course he has thought about the matter as well, but this doesn't look like a surprise attack to him.

"I doubt that the Dragon War was a deliberate ploy on Morgoth part," he muses out loud and has everyone's attention within seconds. Maedhros tends to be correct in his assessment, maybe because he knows the Mad Valar better than anyone else. "The beasts acted without plan or strategy. A mastermind would've targeted our villages, our crops. Not our most fortified homes. Attacking a rival's home base, is common among dragons and they're intelligent enough to single us out as a threat to their territories. We've been driving them north ever since we came to Beleriand."

"I had the pleasure of dissecting a few of those beasts, because I want to work their hides into new armors. I notices that most of the dragons we killed, were rather small. Only a few decades old at most. Had Morgoth planned this war, why not convince the older beasts, the truly terrifying ones to join in as well," Curufin adds his expertise and Maedhros is glad for it. Talking politics is one thing. Having a craftsmen and a respected smith back your opinion with facts is always better in the long run. 

That they've long learned to pull out convincing arguments out of thin air, thank you father, doesn't need to be mentioned.

"None of the dragons we killed, were capable of human speech," Celegorm says, furrowing his eyebrows as if he just realized the fact. "I've tried listenting to their conversations, but I agree with my esteemed brothers that they weren't particular intelligent. I got nothing of value, just the usual expressions for food and prey."

"Are you trying to tell us that such numbers attacking our realms are merely a coincidence?" Finrod shakes his head, not believing presented arguments. "Orodreth wrote how many of his people got killed, because they couldn't reach shelter in time. There had to be some sort of trigger, which brought us all into trouble. I suggest, we investigate in order to be prepared in the future."

Big words from someone, who hasn't lost a single soldier in the last year. Maglor's voice is vicious as he speaks. He still doesn't manage a normal volume, yet Maedhros doesn't mind the display of power. Often enough his little brother is labelled difficult and insane. Crazy. Seldom Cáno gets to show people that his actions are always based on facts and logic, though it's not always apparent why. That his outstanding abilities don't automatically turn him into a social butterfly, isn't really his fault.

Maedhros watches his brother exchange a few heated glares with Finrod, before he continues, But Findaráto isn't completely wrong. Dragons are like Wargs, they're clever enough to understand basic concepts like joy, grief or revenge. But they don't follow a single pack leader. I figure, a young dragon may have gotten tangled up into a fight, got itself killed and the mother's desire to avenge her child, triggered a chain reaction. In this, dragons tend to be like sheep. It's the pressure of the group, the presence of the few old wyrms at Morgoth side, that keeps the simpler minds on the side of our  enemy as well.

"It would be bad news, if the Dragon War had no true cause and we need to fear it could happen again," Fingolfin says.  

"Haven't we been rather successful? Do we truly need to fear another attack so soon? " Celegorm throws in. "We've thinned them out. It will take them years to get the numbers back to such a scale."

Maybe, but I fear that Morgoth managed to keep the truly terrifying members of that race in his fortress, Maglor objects. He'll use them to breed more and let us not forget that the surviors of this war, are those beasts we're unable to kill.

His foreheads shows deep lines of worry and Maedhros doesn't like the expression. Cáno has a different understanding of safety. Thanks to his voice and his creative use of it, there's not much what can truly threaten him. One reason, why he's in charge of holding the gap. His concern that the Dragon War isn't over yet, should be enough for the rest of them to stay incredibly cautious.  

"What I fear is Morgoth possible rehilation," Maedhros says, more to himself. "Even if he hasn't planned this, he suffered enough losses to be angry about it. I'm afraid, I'll use the next available opportunity to hit us, where it hurts the most."

The Highking has been silent so far. Maedhros understands the stradegy behind it. Like so many times before, he can't simply stop being Nolofinwë in addition to the position he now holds. The common view on their family might be that Fëanor betrayed his brother and the loyalty of his sons to their father could never align with the rest of the Noldor, but Nolofinwë knows that the truth is far more complicated. Not many are aware of the fact that Fëanor judged the Swan Ships too damaged to be send back, not wanting to risk the lives of his own people for a very unlikely success.

But hate substained the fraction, which had been forced to cross the Helcaraxë. They needed to keep that resolve in order to survive the war. Telling their cousins and the common folk that the Sons of Fëanor hadn't any choice, but to follow their father's degree, would just lead to doubting questions.  To a loss of morale they couldn't afford.

Hence Maedhros had ordered his siblings to remain quiet about the subject, when he surrendered the crown to Nolofinwë. Surprisingly it's Caranthir and Ambarussa, who are bitter about it. It doesn't sit well with them to hide the truth and be forced to pay more heavily for a crime, they had no way to avoid. No, Losgar is one of the few instances, where the Sons of Fëanor aren't able to find common ground.   

Complicating matters even further, Nolofinwë's peope didn't know how to feel about the subject either. Glorious. Angrod was one of the only influential people, who Nolofinwë and Maedhros both could count on to put dictation into the war against Morgoth. Without needing any prompting or requiring bribery.

Studying Finrod's haughy expression Maedhros wonders, why the Arafinion is even here. He build himself a pretty little Kingdom, consisting of those with mixed heritage and didn't believe in Fëanor's war, but who were too proud to turn around like Finarfin did. The past year had proven that neither Maedhros nor Fingolfin could rely on Finrod. Although they had to pretend not to know about the disloyalty spreeding in Nargothrond.

It's a tricky situation, they couldn't even discuss in the open, because Fingolfin and Maedhros fear Finrod's own reaction. The difficulty lay in discerning how much Finrod believed in the ideas of his people, who felt very secure with their indendence down south, and how much was to blame on his opportunistic attitude.

"All these depressing matters aside, I'm overjoyed to pass on the word about a postive development in these dark times," Finrod announces after the group moved pasted the necessary listing of casulaties they suffered. "I received a letter from my dear sister that she finally decided to marry Prince Celeborn of Doriath."

If he expected vigorous cheers, Finrod had to be heavily disappointed as he meets the deafening silence. The King of Nargothrond stares into the dumbfounded expression of his cousins. 

"I must admit that I expected a different reaction," Finrod says, confusion and a little insecurity showing on his face.

"When did this happen?" Angrod suddenly hollors. "Why wasn't I informed of this, Findaráto?"

"It's her decision who she wants to marry, brother," Finrod snaps back, displeased to be reprimanded twice on a single meeting already. "Or have you forgotten that you can't exactly tell Artanis what she can and what she cannot do?"

"I never had any intention of forcing her into an arranged marriage, in case you're accusing me of wanting to control my sister's life," Anrgod fights back. He crosses the short distances between himself and his younger brother in order to repeatly poke Finrod into his chest as he speaks. "But she's still a Princess of the Noldor and therefore sworn to the Crown. A marriage between two Kingdoms, of this magnitude nonethless, has to be witnessed and planned accordingly, or else the Sindar will get the impression she isn't anything worth to us."

Finrod swats Angrod's hand away. "She has been living in Doriath for almost a century and her relationship with Lord Celeborn isn't exactly new. What did you expect to happen after they successfully worked past the issue about the blood on her hands, Angaráto?"

"An annoucement! A personal visit at the very least, in case she didn't want whole Hithlum involved," Angrod growls dangerously and the others hold their breath. The oldest Arafinwion has inherited his father's temper. Usually you can count on Angrod keeping a cool head, while everything descends into chaos. Seeing him truly enraged and showing it publicly, underlines the seriousness of the matter. "I still do, by the way. Please inform Nerwen that she and her esteemed husband are expected to show up on my doorstep within a single year, or else I'll not hesitate to involve the Highking in the consequences that follow after."

When Finrod answers with a barely audible curse, he gets slapped. His blue eyes spit fury and he can barely contain his animosity, yet in the end the younger brother knows better than talk back. The red imprint of Angrod's hand on his cheek, though, is evidence of the extent of Angrod's anger.   

The contrast between them has never been more obvious than now, with the oldest and the most popular son of Finarfin facing each other. Where the House of Nolofinwë always ends up in shades of blue, the Arafinwions are Vanya through and through. The untrained eye loves to connect them to gold, usually involving the fallen Laurelin. With the Palantír heightening the contrasts, the differences are easier to make out. Gold is Finrod's color. A rich hue, like a field of blooming sunflowers.

But gold doesn't make a good source for a blade. It's too weak, too malable. It breaks easily.

Angrod learned that long ago and modeled himself after the image of the Noldor prefer.  Strong and with eye made out of steel. That he picked a Noldorin craft for himself long ago, mastery of words in spoken and in the written form, over the traditional arts of the Vanya is quite telling as well. Where his little brother is warm, he's blank, cold and perfect.

Fingolfin matches that image, when he interrupts the argument, before it and dissolve any further.

"As Highking of the Noldor I proclaim that Lord Angaráto's demands are valid," Fingolfin says and Maedhros bets the emphazise is just for Finrod, since he likes to advertise his status in Nargothrond. Hence why Fingolfin has to remind his nephew from time to time, whom he is sworn to. Though rumors exist that Nargothrond has adopted a lot of Doriath customs. "Lady Nerwen is assigned as co-ruler of Nargothrond, although I appreciate the diplomatic work she had done between the two Kingdoms. I'm afraid a wedding between her and member of Thingol's line, a possible heir to his throne, is something that needs to be discussed in detail and in person."

"According to the traditions in Doriath, Artanis and Celeborn are already married," Finrod tries to object, realizing that he brought this upon himself.

"Among Elu's people perhaps, but I do not recognize that union," Fingolfin discards the argument with a finality in his tone not even Finrod dares to argue with. "Please let Princess Nerwen know, that I summon her and her fiance in order oversee the formalization of their intentions. Due to obvious diplomatic concerns, we're going to hold the ceremony in Lord Angaráto's halls. It should satisfy everyone involved. Please inform the King of Doriath as well, that while his presence would be appreciated, it's not a requirement for legal procedures."

For a brief moment there's absolut silence. An errie experience since the Palantíri cancel out noise from the outside. It works with the impressions of the mind, creating an atrificial place removed from the physical world.

While he recoverd from Angband, Maedhros spend quite some time here, because it was one of the few places Morgoth couldn't touch. As result he's used to the pressure, the deafing silence that hangs in the air.

Finrod is not and his eyes are almost begging Nolofinwë to speak.

Very quietly the Highking adds, "Princess Nerwen is expected to resume her place at Lord Angaráto's side coming spring. A refusal is out of question and will be dealed as hostage situation, in case Elu forbids her from leaving his kingdom. Therefore you should mention to your grandfather, how it is going to look like if he keeps Prince Celeborn from leaving Doriath. If the pair is already in a recognized marriage according to Sindar customs, he's going to understand the requirement that how traditions have to be seen to as well. In such times, where we're fighting back dragons, I've no use for further dissent among my people."

Fingolfin holds Finrod's gaze until his nephew answers with an obedient, "Yes, my King."

"Good," Fingolfin says. "Your majesty expects you to report within seven days and please remind your wayward sister that, as her oldest living male relative, she should grand me an audience about her intentions as well."

"Of course." Finrod bows, perhaps to escape Angrod's angry glare. "I'll get to work immediately."

With these words Finrod vanishes like sunrays before a storm cloud.    

 

-

 

The gathering is over. Fingolfin's words have been a clear dismissal, even though Finrod's aprupt leaving can be considered rude. As angry as he feels, whenever Maglor sees Finrod's face, he doesn't truly believe that the mess with Artanis is completely his fault. They've all been ignoring Artanis not doing her duties in Nargothrond, in fact they encouraged her to build better relations to Doriath.

Logical that a marriage would follow, it's basically everything they wanted without trying to pressure Artanis into it. That it happened without further notice, without any form of invitation or announcement though, is cause for suspicion.

Maglor narrows his eyes and his gaze follows Finrod's spirit. This is his realm, of course he can track anyone inside and for all his faults Finrod remains a figure made of golden light. A little dimished maybe, since Beleriand and the War leaves traces on everyone.

I wanted to Nolofinwë to lecture you. Humiliate you a little, Maglor admits. But not like this.

For it's a little unfair to punish Finrod for the surrounding circumstances. The Arafinwions are the only Lords of the Noldor, which are allowed entry in Doriath. Inside that Kingdom Finrod has become their spokesman. The role fell naturally to him, since he occupied a similiar position in Valinor, learning how to be an Ambassor between the Noldor and the Teleri on his father's behalf. 

Finarfin always preferred to take care of the administration in the royal palace, leaving the organisation of the important diplomatic events to his wife. Since Angrod and Aegnor felt closer to their Noldor heritage, growing up in Tirion had an influence their mother tried to control with her other children, the role eventually fell to Finrod. Maglor doesn't think Finrod was ever unhappy with it, it just makes his standing among the Noldor problematic.

Similiar with Turgon, Maglor sometimes asks himself, why Finrod didn't turn around with his father. The King of Nargothrond doesn't seem like as if he truly wants to be here. Had he gone with Finarfin, he could've ruled Tirion, aided by the fact that he didn't kill at Alqualondë. He'd have been the heir, being the last male descendent left, since Indis' line followed Nolofinwë and Irime's children are Vanya through and through.

Turgon obeyed his father's direct order, as far as I know. He wouldn't dare to go against his Lord and the Head of his House, not back then. Maglor goes over the little information he has regarding the crossing. It's not something the Noldor talk about. It's a secret the Fëanorians aren't allowed in on. Understandable, to a point. Maglor doesn't like talking about Losgar either. You had more freedom than Turukáno. You were able to choose to follow your father OR your brother. Yet you act as if have been dragged here against your will.

There might've been a point in their life, where Maglor would've just followed Finrod. Talk to him for a bit. Since the meeting is over and the realm is slowly dissolving, the members of the royal family leaving and waking up again, it would be easy enough to catch up with Finrod before he does the same. A small part of him even wants to. Maglor imagines that he still knows what to say in order to calm down Finrod's temper. Listen to his side of his story, tickle impressions of Doriath out of him, ask him about his opinion regarding Artanis and her marriage. 

But...

There're certain words Finrod screamed at him, after their disastrous reunion at Lake Mithrim. Hateful words that hit him deeply and which Maglor isn't ready to forgive. Aside from the one visit, where Finrod discovered the Race of Men, they've never seen each other in person again. They parted at Lake Mithrim, glad to leave the other behind. Went in opposite directs and for once Maglor doesn't think it's his fault. At least Curufin has told him as such endless times, when they travelled east and build their realms.

And the one meeting involving the Race of Men had been more about proper history making than anything related to personal matters between them. Of course Finrod hadn't been the first Elf to stumble across the Second Children, it's impossible to hide such large tribes, when they're crossing mountains inhabited by Dwarves. Caranthir had been alerted, Maglor sensed them coming. They had spied on the Second Children and decided that their first impression of the Eldar should be someone, who's easy to get along with. Someone, who is a trained diplomat and already proven his abilities by forging a good relationship with the dwarves. Yes, Finrod had been the perfect candidate. 

By the time Finrod had arrived in Amon Ereb, Maglor had done his part. With Ambarussa he kept to the shadows and made sure that the first meeting with Bëor went well. Since the Fëanorian's hadn't left anything to chance, the following months and the years after that had gone smoothly. Mostly, there had been a few hitches, but nothing major. For his part. Maglor liked the Race of Men. They were sturdy, honest and cared little beyond practicality. They also created interesting music and Maglor liked visiting their villages, sitting in the back of a tavern to listen to their tunes.

"Be honest, at first you were only interested in the Race of Men, because Finrod liked them so much," Curufin drawls as he joins his side.

How do you know about that, Maglor asks, raising an eyebrow.

Curufin snorts and points at the figures forming in the mist. With a little creativity, one can make out a golden haired Elf, surrounded by awed and slightly frightened Men.

Oh, Maglor comments. He forgot how easy it is to get distracted in here, how easy it is for the Palantír to pick up impressions and memories. No wonder, it's what they were created for. Dragons absorb power and history in order to stay alive. They like to attach their name to objects and people, because the tales whispered passed down from generation to generation ensures the survival of their race. Perhaps it was a good idea not to talk to Findaráto. I don't want him to pick up anything.

"You shouldn't talk to him at all, Cáno." Curufin's expression is vicious. Unlike Maglor, he doesn't feel conflicted about the Arafinwion. "He isn't good for you."

The protest dies before Maglor can voice it. This is not the best place to discuss his relationship with Finrod and he's too grateful for Curvo's support to defend their cousin in front of him. It's never been easy, not with Finrod. Even during the times they were friends and spend every waking minute in each others company. That was a long time ago, though, and the war changed everything. They almost lived in different worlds now.

"Don't run after him," Celegorm mumurs into Maglor's ear, as he heads back as well. Of course he noticed how Cáno remained frozen on his spot, looking into the direction Finrod has vanished to. His voice is low and brings the sounds of animals with him, since Celegorm is still clad as one of Oromë's hunters. He's the complete opposite of Finrod's princly apperance. "Stay in control, at least, if you can't get rid of your feelings. Don't do him the favor of being able to get the upperhand."

Thanks, Maglor says and takes a deep breath, allows reality to flood back into him. I appreciate it.

The advice and the support is welcome, for once. Usually Maglor hates it, when his brothers stick their noses into his business too deeply. He has always known that he's different, but Maglor still doesn't like it to be called crazy. It stings. His brothers try their best, but sometimes their concern is overbearing.

Well, not in this case. Maglor blinks as the light fades around him and the dragon inside the Palantír goes back to sleep. For a moment he's floating between realms, then he's back inside his body. Quickly he checks on Talaneth, who has the least experience with such magic, but his worries are unfounded. She nods, telling him she's fine and Maglor takes her word for it. During the audience, she kept herself in the background, acting as witness more than as a participant. Yet Fingolfin values her opinion probably far more than Talaneth suspects. There aren't many Noldor capbale of holding their ground against Curufin and if her only fault wouldn't lay in the utter loyalty she feels towards the House of Fëanor, Fingolfin would've granted her a higher position in his court a long time ago.

"I'll take care of the rest of the chores that needs to be done today. I suspect that you three have would like to discuss the meeting," Talaneth says.

"I'm afraid it's necessary, my love." Curufin kisses his wife, before she leaves. "Sadly the crown and the king affects us all, even this far removed from Barad Eithel." 

He turns to his brothers. "For my part I'd like to know what you think about the recent news. Artanis' marriage is hardly a surprise, but it still comes as kind of a shock. Is is possible..."

"Do we have to do that here?" Maglor interrupts Curvo with an irritated expression on his face. "I can still hear the Palantír's whispering." 

They're still gathered around the Seeing Stone and while it has not been that long, time remains tricky thing with the Palantíri. Outside it's midday, hours must have past and while Maglor notices his empty stomach, his body doesn't feel like as if he stood around, frozen in time, for a good part of the day.

"Good idea." Celegorm drags Maglor away as soon as he uttered the words. "I don't like the old dragon either."

They end up in one of the sitting rooms, after Curufin locked the Seeing Stone away again. Very large and quite comfortable. Maglor choses the sofa for himself, while Curufin refuses to remain idle and shuffles through old paperwork he left behind, when he made his way to Himring months ago.

Celegorm is slouching on a simple chair, when he picks up their conversation again.

"As Curvo said. Artanis marrying is something I've never imagined," Celegorm says, laughing. He looks normal again, but it doesn't take much to see Oromë's great hunter again. "She always seemed too independent to ever tie herself to someone else."

"A true marriage is not a prison," Curufin argues. "She's a proud and fiercy woman, perhaps she found her match. But I can understand your disbelief. From what I remember, she has quite the temperament. Makes me wonder, what kind of person her husband is."

"None of us ever has the pleasure to meet Lord Celeborn," Maglor grouses. The Fëanorian fraction held their tongues during Finrod's and Angrod's fight, because the the difficult relations to Doriath are widely regarded as their fault.

That the King of Doriath doesn't like the Noldor, had never something to do with the Kinslaying of Alqualondë. Rather Elu despised the powerful force invading Beleriand and offering his people an alternative to his rule, with far less restrictions. The Noldor represented a threat to his authority. That they killed Teleri in Aman was just the excuse they needed in order to make being neighbours extra difficult.

"Perhaps we're going to get the pleasure in the far future," Celegorm muses, still looking put off at the idea of marriage, though it doesn't even concern himself. "What do you think, are we doing to get an invitation?"

Curufin looks up from his paper, a notice he has written to a smith in town. It mentioned a delivery, something important. Unfortunately the notice doesn't say what it was exactly, so the paper goes the ever growing stack of forgotten ideas and inventions. Fëanor had quite a few of those. Surely there are scholars in Tirion, scratching their ideas as they try figure out the mad ideas of a brilliant genius. That the man quite often felt the same about himself is something Curufin would be laughing at, if he hadn't inherited that trait as well and as far as he could tell, Telpe was born with a natural affinity for chaos that drove Talaneth insane.

For the shake of his wife he tries to keep order, but they all know it's Celegorm of all people, who is the orderly one.

Turning to his older brothers, Curufin says. "You two, maybe. I don't rank high enough in the royal court anymore to be considered important. If Angaráto wants to sell the second marriage as a formality of Noldor customs, he's going to keep this affair under the wraps. With a small feast held in his halls, he can invite Nolofinwë as his uncle. Nelyo as well, since they're friends and Cáno is a Bard, famous for his voice and Artanis' teacher."

"I'd be glad if I don't have to go," Celegorm grumbles. "As you said, Nelyo and Cáno would be enough. Angrod can't invite all seven of us without causing causing some sort of scandal."

Maglor has to grin at the image Celegorm is paiting.

"Father always claimed that his children count as small army," he chuckles.

A true statement, one that makes outsiders uncomfortable in their presence. Perhaps that's why because Nolofinwë treats Maedhros with so much respect. He's in awe how he keeps a unruly band of secretive and plotting lunatics in line. when he barely manages to hold his own family together.

Then he turns serious.

"What worries me more that Artanis literally told no one of her intentions. She might be impulsive, but she knows better than that. Selling herself beneath her worth isn't her style. Not when she could've used her marriage for Doriath finally sending some men into the war." Maglor considers the situation and the more he thinks about it, the less he likes it.

"You should visit her," Celegorm proposes. "You're the only one, who actually can and she likes you more than us."

"She respects me," Maglor corrects. "Besides I can't garantee that I'm actually able to get in contact with her. Doriath' wards are strong and the Queen an entity, which should not to be trifled with."

"Is she able to keep you out?" Curufin asks, more out of scientific interest than anything else.

Even the Palantír can't look too deeply into the forest bordering their land. In fact, Celegorm was the most sucessful in gathering infomation about the Sindar, since he relied on the language of the wild animals. Not an easy task, but usually worth the effort.

"Melian constructed the girdle over many years ad decades. By now it's self substaining, it doesn't take much effort to keep it up and it has been created to keep noisy neighbours out," Maglor explains. With a small smirk he adds, "Thankfully I'm a little bit more intelligent than Orcs and other shades. I've talked to Nerwen a few times, but we usually wait for longer conversations until she's back in Nargothrond."

Lately they hadn't talked at all. Despite common misconceptions, they weren't that close. Centuries ago Finarfin has asked him to turtor his daughter, since she showed signs of power. Young as she was back then, her father had been right. Yet Nerwen's strength laid less in her voice than in the clearity of her thoughts.

Indis gift to her granddaughter. Where most of her children and grandchildren took after Finwë, Artanis was more of a Vanya. Not a fate Maglor envied, since that came with its own set of problems. Yet he hadn't been surprised to find Nerwen among the rebells, who wished to leave Valinor.

Fëanor had reached her heart with her words and Maglor admired her resolve, despite all the prejudges she faced. Compared to Irissë, who is far older and of higher social standing thanks to her father, she doesn't even look like a Noldor. Where Nolofinwë once had only put up a bit of protest, when his daugther learned how to wield the bow, Finarfin and his wife and been resolute forbidden their daugther any kind of weapons.

Fools, both of them. It hadn't stopped Nerwen in Alqualondë at all. 

Maglor wondered if Doriath treated her better than most of the Noldor did.

"I'll talk to her once I'm on my way home," Maglor decides. "The border guards might not let me in, but having Doriath within sight is going to help get past the girdle. Right now there's little what we can do."

Curufin, who has looked distracted for entire time they've been having this conversation,  finally decides that he his projects have settled dust long enough. With a incredibly competent wife and a equally talented, if a bit lazy brother he sees no reason, why he should be kept out of his study longer than necessary.

"I trust you to ask Maedhos if Angrod mentioned anything else," Curufin adresses Maglor on his way out. "Unlike our esteemed King of Nargothrond he can be trusted, although the slip is worrying. We can't have Ingoldo rebelling against his own siblings, after he barely bothers to listens to us. Or Nolofinwë, for that matter, so I expect you to forward any imformation to me you might be able to gather."

"Yes, of course," Maglor hums. "Now off with you. I can see that you longer wish for our presence and I think Tyelko is quite capable of looking after me."

Curufin huffs, but it almost out of the door, before Maglor has finished his sentence. For a moment neither of them says a word and the ony sound that fills the room is the fire crackling in the hearth.

Until Maglor turns his head and stares at his younger brother.

"Since Curufin is sufficently distracted, are you now going to tell me what do you wish to talk about?"

End Notes:

I love writing Noldor politics, which is a glorious complicated mess. I hope it's clear, why Angrod is older than Finrod. I found it an odd choice of Book-Finrod to live in a safe region, while his younger brothers basically camp in Morgoth front yard. Angrod and Aegnor being older makes far more sense and they are also far more loyal to the Crown than Finrod is. Though Angrod is more loyal to Maedhros, but has accepted the circumstances that lead to Fingolfin ruling the Noldor. Or perhaps I just wanted to include more Angrod. They deserve some appreciation.

Hence why Finrod might come across as a bastard. No matter, if Maglor Fëanorian is baised or not. Family feuds do have to come from somewhere and the Finarfions don't get enough attention in that regard. They're never seen as influential or as a driving force in the First Age. So, here we are. I will come back to it in the future.

Also ... holy crap that chapter length. I know it's basically June/July wrapped in one package, but I found no good part to cut it. Might happen more often in the future, since it's always important background info that is going to relevant in the future vs the actual plot.

Trivia: most chapter titles are taken from song lyrics.

I'm flesh. I'm bone. by mangacrack
Author's Notes:

Honestly, I didn't see the end of the last chapter as a cliffhanger. It was just a good place for a cut. My personal thanks go to alikuu this time. Your comments threw me into a writing fit until my fingers itched. Thank you so much! And all others, who like this story. It makes me so happy! Especially since I've so. Many.Pplans. So many more fics that fit into the larger verse. Hence why the fic is roughly at 65%, but I've roughly... 8 more fics planned out (like ... until 3rd Age at least). Also ... I've new writing programm. Called ZenWriter and I'm IN LOVE! Best spend 17$ in a long, long time.

Small Warning: Not beta read. I'm on vacation tomorrow and didn't want you to wait until September for an update, when I've the chapter sitting on my hard drive.

"Since Curufin is sufficently distracted, are you now going to tell me what to you wish to talk about?" 

Celegorm looks surprised for a moment, before he throws his head back and laughs.

"Am I that obvious, brother?" he wants to know.

With his arms thrown over the back of his chair he appears relaxed, but Maglor can see the tension in the muscled body. A pointed look and the raise of an eyebrow is enough for Celegorm to give it. They have never needed words to communicate, though outsiders tend to forget that Tyelko was Maglor's only little brother for quite some time before Moryo came around.

"I don't need to dig around in your head in order to see that something bothers you," Maglor says. Without Curufin can he finally stretches out his long legs on the sofa, not caring if he's still wearing shoes. "While you don't join us often in such meetings, I found it odd that you held back so much. You do enjoy providing useless yet sarcastic background comments."

"That Irissë is missing bothers me," Celegorm growls and allows the animal in him to bleed through.

This time it's not voluntary, a sign how deeply the subject bothers him. Though it's less the sharp teeth nor the growing claws that make Maglor study his little brother closer. It's the wild, empty gaze. Maglor doesn't know if the rest of his family has ever noticed, but he can tell the difference when Huan comes forth.

Perhaps it's because he vividly remembers how clear  the eyes of his little brothers were after he was born and Fëanor showed his son how to hold a newborn. He had been small. Tiny, compared to his siblings in the early weeks. None of the clothes had fit at first, until Tyelko had started eating properly and started growing. Maitimo had called him a wrinkled potato as Fëanor pressed his son against his chest and sang him to sleep.   

Maglor had learned back then, deep in Oromë's woods he had picked up the whispers of the trees and other spirits who had been all exicted about the birth. He doesn't see it as a surprise that Celegorm became one of theirs, is as much a child of the forest as he's Fëanor's son. He grew, fast and big and soon Nerdanel hadn't had to worry about their youngest anymore. At least not about eating, Celegorm always instinctively knew what roots, herbs and berries he could eat and which he had to avoid.

Or he had been taught, more likely scenario, by the spirits and the hunters in Oromë's woods. They all had learned. A lot, even Fëanor admitted the usefullness of these lessons and later they fueled the trips across Aman. Maglor held Celegorm's gaze, unafraid of the hungry, growling animal inside his mind.

No one quite knew how Huan came to be. If Celegorm simply took a part of the forest with him, when he left or if it was something else. His brother's stories never gave a straight answer and deliberately differet each time he told it, smirking and driving his audience mad, because they would never learn all the facts.

Yet the truth was that Celegorm was irrevocably changed. Like him, though Celegorm had been this way from the day of his birth. Or even before that, since he had been conceived in the forest after all. 

I doubt he ever realized how different he's from the rest of us, Maglor muses. Even I'm aware of a ... before ... though I remember not much of it.

But that little difference ulitimately didn't mean much, when there was so much that they had in common. Still do, in fact. Sometimes Celegorm is simply the one brother Maglor gets along best, mostly because they don't need words to communicate. That they let the other simbly be, no matter if holding onto a sane and sound human shape would be wise and reasonable.

"Do you want me to talk to her?" Maglor guesses Celegorm's request. "Or is a check up enough?"

 Celegorm hisses through his long teeth, slurring a little like he always did with Huan this close to the surface.

"A little bit of both, I guess. I haven't talked to her for a while and she doesn't answer any of my messages. That itself is nothing new, I know how Irissë can be." Celegorm stands up and walks to the window, staring out of it as if he could find Nolofinwë's daughter out there in the snow. "But neither she nor Turukáno attended, after their father summoned them, worries me to a great deal. I can't believe she missed an opportunity to mock us, or specifically me, how hopeless and incompetent we are."

"I admit that I haven't spoken to Irissë in person ever since she left with Turukáno," Maglor says, trying to think back when he saw Nolofinwë's daughter last.

They all had been surprised, when she joined her brother. Aredhel was a very capable woman, yet her brother has never been the type to allow others to interfere in his work. They all had expected the contact between Turgon and the rest of Beleriand would be sparse, but the absolute secrecy over such a prolonged amount of time is indeed unsettling.

"I have," Celegorm whispers, still not looking at his brother, but Maglor senses more conflicting emotions beneath the surface than Huan is capable off. "I have spoken to her. We communicate through animals and I've made the trip to their city once or twice."

"You have seen it?" Maglor gasps. Now this is utterly astonishing.

Although, yes, if there's someone capable of finding a city hidden beneath wards and spells than it's Celegorm. Thanks to Huan he can travel huge distances in a short amount of time and cover more ground on four paws than any messenger on a horse.

"From afar. Even I know better than to enter Gondolin. Not with wards and walls like this," Celegorm corrects. With a small, wicked smile he adds, "But animals can pass by the sentries just fine. Seriously, I don't know what Turgon is thinking, shutting himself off like this."

It's because Turgon is an insecure mess, who lost his backbone, when Elenwë died, Maglor thinks and is wise enough not to voice that thought. 

"He's friends with Finrod. That should tell you everything that you need to know," he says instead.

Memories flashing before his eyes, Celegorm shakes his head. "Who would've thought that these two would get along one day? I remember tales, where they tried to rip each others heads off."

While Celegorm is clearly amused by the years, where Turgon was the noisy brat at Aredhel's side and Finrod fledgling musician fluttering around in Cáno's social circles, Maglor does have an idea, why this friendship was formed. The Helcaraxë unearthed a lot of deeply rooted issues that would've been left buried otherwise. But the desire to survive and the need for company in a hellish situation created far more friendships than Finrod and Turgon.

It's something the Fëanorians had to deal with, discovering that Nolofinwë's ranks had been entirely reformed when their uncle finally made it to Beleriand. Torn apart families, bitter feuds between formerly best friends and servants, who had risen to nobility.

It's a reget they've inherited from Fëanor, who's verdict had been that the damaged swan ships should never become public knowledge. Their father believed it'd be easier for the Noldor to understand and he had been ready to shoulder the hate, the burden and the backlash he'd receive for that.

He wanted to explain himself to Nolofinwë, I know that, Maglor sighes and thinks of his uncle's empty expression, when he arrived in Beleriand. Unlike his daughter he never seemed to have taken the whole ordreal as personal.

Maglor doubts that anyone has ever asked Nolofinwë of his opinion regarding Fëanor's betrayal and their Highking never said a word about what happened between him and his brother. Feeling that they had failed their uncle, Maglor decides that perhaps can at least do something about the unhappy romance between Celegorm and Aredhel.

"If I'm going to check up on Irissë, is there something specific you want me to tell her?" Maglor wants to know, realizing that he can't deny his brother such a simple request.

Though it would take time and dictation to sneak into Gondolin. Turgon had been through, when he had built his city.

Celegorm gives up his place at the window, takes a step towards Maglor only to stop and ends up hovering above him in the middle of the room. He looks lost and a wave of pity surges through the older Fëanorian. That his attempts to find love always end in disasters or in casual tumbling between the sheets with strangers is one thing and mostly his own fault. Celegorm on the other hand deserves better and he has been in love with Irissë for so long that both families placed bets when exactly they would announce their engament.

But that never happened.

"I'm not sure," Celegorm whispers, shrugging his shoulders. "I just want to know if she's alright. I'm afraid that she will ignore Huan and I can't ask an animal to travel so far, take so many risks if she never intends to answer me."

"I'll take care of it," Maglor promises and gets up from his comfortable spot on the sofa in order to hug his little brother. He can't stand it if any of his siblings looks lost and sad, he has spend too many hours cheering them up and watching over them while their parents were busy in order to drop that habit now. He rests his chin on Celegorm's shoulders, holding him tight and inhales the scent of rainy forest, before he says, "It might take a while, but I can sneak into Gondolin without having any of the sentries notice me. If you ask me, than they probably didn't have to worry about the dragons at all. Irissë is probably just busy."

As busy as you can be, in a city that never sees war. But past experiences in Tirion have shown how difficult it is to rule squabbling craftsmen.

"I know that," Celegorm groans, but doesn't protest against Maglor's embrace. After the stressful months and the daily fighting against the dragons a minute of absolute warmth and peace is more than welcome. "She's the Queen of Gondolin and has better things to do than take care of a love-sick, pinning old friend she hasn't seen in years."

Just as Maglor wants to reply, both brothers lift their heads as a loud noise, followed by giggling interrupts them. Long trained not to trust such sudden commotion, yes Curvo we mean you, they break apart and take a look.

Though there are not many other residents in this house, the sight of Celebrimbor and Erestor, giggling and slighly dishevelled, takes them by surprise.

"H~ello, unclesch," Tylpe slurrs, his tongue too numb to properly work. He has slung one arm around Erestor's waist, who more or less holds himseld upright by clinging to Celebrimbor's neck. Both have reddened cheeks and their eyes are glazed over. "H-how are shou doing?"

"Are you drunk?" Celegorm hollers, asking the obvious question.

His arms are crossed over his broad chest and he's tapping on the floor with one foot, but if Celegorm attempts to scare the two youngters into proper behavior with his anger, than it has no effect at all - besides Celebrimbor and Erestor renewed giggling.

"I can't believe it," Celegorm grumbles and rubs his forehead, because his nephew is more than just a little drunk. Turning to Maglor he says, "This is your fault."

"Mine?" Maglor asks back, more amused than angry. "How so?"

"Tylperinquar never came home smashed before. But one day with your little loyal duckling and he comes home like this?" Celegorm points at his nephew, who's has his arms wrapped around Erestor and just started muzzling his neck.

Maglor raises an eyebrow, thinking back on Celegorm's regular drinking parties after a successful hunt. In his eyes the pale-haired warrior has no right to judge Telpe. None at all.

Reading Maglor's thoughts, Celegorm yells, "That's not the same! You know that Cáno. And I worry less about proper decorum than about Curvo and Talaneth finding out."

At the mentioning of his parents, Celebrimbor hicks and goes pale. For a moment he looks so frightened that he forgets to hold on to Erestor, resulting in both Elves tumbling to the ground.

"Great," Celegorm mutters and ignores Maglor's comment that Curvo has also no leg to stand on regarding coming home drunk. Finally the hunter offers, "You take one, I take the other?"

Maglor nods and picks Erestor up from the ground. Aside from Telpe's unexpected behavior, he isn't actually mad. Both of them deserve a little bit leeway. Celebrimbor most likely spend the last months worrying about his family, defending his city in his father's absence. He should be allowed to work off some stress and Erestor ... something possessive rises in Maglor's chest, when he helps charge get up again. Visiting Dracview was for the sole reason to have Erestor experience a bit of freedom.  

It's good from him as well, be able to let go and have a few moments of bliss in a safe enviroment. He won't be able to give Erestor back his childhood or his teenage years, but he also doesn't have to draw him back into the war right away. Argon's sense for duty isn't going to let him choose otherwise.

"Hm, you're warm," Erestor mumbles, when Maglor drags the younger Elf down the corridor back to his room. With one hand around his waist and the other thrown over his shouder, he's carrying him more than Erestor is walking on its own.

"Good for you."

Erestor doesn't respond. Instead he mumurs nonesense under his breath and rubs his nose against Maglor's neck. 

"Stop that." Maglor tries to evade the tongue that travels over his skin, because the touch sends a dangerous shiver down his spine.

It reminds him to much of this morning, where Erestor pressed his naked body against his and had been so willing. Just like right now, Erestor would've done everything for him. All Maglor has do is ask and in the depth of his heart Maglor has to admit that his resolve his weakening. He's not made of stone and the hands roaming over his body are a temptation Maglor doesn't want to face.

"Let me at least open the door," Maglor says to Erestor with a strained voice, when they finally reach the guestroom.

But Erestor keeps clinging to him, arms wrapped around his neck while his mouth trails over his collarbone. Biting on occasion and, oh stars, he didn't sign up for this.

Yes, you did. He's your responsibility now, a voice tells him. It sounds suspiciously like Maitimo and like always, his older brother was right. He could've chosen to let Argon die, send his fëa to Mandos or keep him his old self alive long enough to say goodbye to his family. Yet he had chosen differently and he had to stick to that.

A hand trails over his pants, from his thigh towards his crotch and that is the moment Maglor shoves Erestor through the door.

As far away from him as possible, because Maglor isn't a saint. It had been stressful months from him as well, full of headaches and worries to keep everyone alive. The idea of a good round of sex is truly appealing, but Erestor isn't the best candidate. Especially not drunk, unable to give any kind of consent. Though, hadn't he refused Erestor's advances this morning, because he was worried about exactly this matter? His tendency to ignore boundaries, ugly histories with bedpartners and the label of a crazy man aside,  the problem remained to what extend Erestor is able to make an informed desicion.

With a sigh, Maglor maneuvers Erestor into the bed. Getting rid of his clothing is easy, since his charge is half-asleep already. But the bitemarks he finds on Erestor's skin, though, are interesting.

"So, did you have fun with Celebrimbor?" Maglor chuckles and runs his thumb over one of the red marks.

The skin is warm and rough beneath his hand, darker than Argon's had been as well. A little left over from Angband, a trace Maglor hopes to get rid of in the future.

"Telperinquar is nice," Erestor says and drinks the water Maglor places in his hands. He doesn't object, when the Fëanorian cleans his face with a washcloth. Instead he adds with a low, sultry voice, "But not as nice as you."

Maglor's breath hitches. He hoped that Erestor would form some kind of connection with Celebrimbor. Given the state the two boys returned today, he imagined it worked. Quite well, if the bite marks were from Celebrimbor and not from an anonymus encounter in a valley. He had no right to feel so relieved hearing these words.

"Nice is not usually a word people use to describe me," Maglor confesses.

Erestor bites down on his lips, looking confused as his head finally hits the pillows.

"You've always been nice to me," he says and his eyes flutter shut.

The words make Maglor groans and he buries his face in his hands. Somehow he ended up sitting on the edge of the bed and he can't force himself to leave yet, even though he really should.

"Please, don't say such things," Maglor begs, not expecting Erestor to answer, who is finally fallen asleep. "It's not true, Argon. It's never going to be true."

It would be so easy to plant a hand beside Erestor's face to lean down and kiss him.  Ravage his mouth until his gasps would turn into moans. Hands would reach for his tunic again, find the naked skin underneath it and ...

No, Maglor firmly tells himself. Not like this.

He can't deny his desire for Erestor any longer, but going after him while he's drunk isn't right. It's doubtful Erestor is going to remember anything from this evening tomorrow and he has no excuse to take advantage of that.

I can't go that far.

Cause that's dangerous territory. Maglor decides to flee from Erestor's room before he does something stupid, when a hand reaches for his own.

"Can you sing me to sleep?" Erestor mumbles. His head has already fallen to the side, face turned into Maglor's direction. Intervenes his fingers with Maglor's anyway, squeezing them a little, because he doesn't want to let go.

"Okay," Maglor says and keeps his voice as even as possible. His chest still feels tight and his head hurts a little, since he desperately wants to keep the tears away that are suddenly threatening to come forth. "I can do that."

Singing. That's something he knows by heart. It's one thing he doesn't have to second-guess himself with. It has always come natural to him. When he writes stories and dreams with his voice, he doesn't have think. Doesn't have to worry about harming other people.

Since this is a request so easy to fulfill, Maglor makes himself comfortable and begins to sing, "Wait a second, let me catch my breath. Remind me how it feels to hear your voice. Your lips are movin', but I can't hear a thing. Livin' life as if we had a choice..."  

A small noise escapes Erestor's mouth and  doesn't need to look at him to know that some worries and heartaches vanish as the first words fall from his mouth. Maglor doesn't even need to think about choosing the words, it's an instinctive reaction. As much trouble as he has to keep his mind to himself sometimes, in instances like this it's a blessing. He always knows what he needs to sing or to play in order to reach his audience.

It's an urge that goes deep. Day to day he maybe able to pretend that his field of vision is limited, yet fact is that he sees so much more than others. More colors, more emotions, a bigger world.

"Anything for you. Yesterday got away. Melodies stuck inside your head. A song in every breath."

Maglor combs through Erestor's hair, massaging his head with his fingertips. There's no need to let him suffer from an unbearable hangover, just because he wanted to have some fun.  

"Remember me now, time cannot erase. I can her your whispers in my mind. I've become what you cannot embrace. Our memory will be my lullaby."

Singing eases his mind and Maglor resolves that he needs to do it more often from now on. During the Dragon War he had fallen out of habit, since he had more pressing matters at hand especially since Erestor demanded every minute he was able to spare. Situations like this just prove that he gets stuck inside his head and runs in circles, if he doesn't find time from himself. To inhale and let go of all unnecessary thoughts.

By the time he's done, Erestor's breathing has evened out. His dreams will be pleasant tonight and Maglor slips out of the room.

"The next time he decides to have too much wine, he can deal with the headache himself," Maglor mutters, yet decides to give Erestor a little bit more freedom with soothing drinks and demanding tasks in the early morning.

Unlike Telpe, Argon spend the last centuries in Angband still isn't in peak condition. That would take time and it's not safe to say how much of the Light of the Two Trees survived in his soul. Erestor's eyes reflected none of what the Avari called a blessing of the gods.

"I recognized that song," Celegorm says, when Maglor walks past him. "It's one of your lullabies. I've heard so often that any of us can sing it without embarrassing themselves."

Maglor smiles. "I wrote it for you."

That confession makes Celegorm blink in surprise. Those were the last words he expected to hear.

"I didn't know that," the pale-haired hunter says, eyebrows drawn together while he looks at the ground. "I've just ... always known it, I guess?"

Since he has no intention of going to sleep just yet, half afraid what his dreams might bring him this time, Maglor nudges his little brother back into the living room. Neither of them needs much sleep, when their put their mind into it and they're still used to the sleeping schedule of a warrior.

"You were very small, when I discovered the song for the first time. It was a few nights after your birth. Mother and Father were exhausted, Maitimo already asleep and I felt how restless you were. You missed the connection with mother and the darkness of the womb. So I pulled up a chair, looked into the crib and just ... sang what came first into my mind."

Maglor looks Celegorm into the eyes and his gaze holds as much love as it did back then, thousand of years ago, when Turcafinwë Fëanorian was born. For hours the connection holds, while the brothers settle down again each pursuing their own interests. Curufin they don't expect back tonight, since he's throughly distracted by his wife, but neither of them minds. As older siblings they're happy for their brother, since marriage is a fantasy for both of them.

For Maglor at least, he has never been able to wrap his head around the concept. Too often he struggles getting along with himself, bringing another person into it is nothing sheer of outragous madness.

Maybe Celegorm got close, once. But Maglor knows better than to ask why exactly his brother and Irissë fell apart. It wasn't just the Darkening and the separation through the Helcaraxë. If anything, it should've brought them closer together. So Maglor knows better than to ask or to snoop around.

Boundaries will never be his expertise. Neither will tact, but for the shake of the people he loves most he tries.  

That's it until Celegorm breaks the silence by commenting with, "You smell like lust, Cáno."

When the older Fëanorian refuses to look up from his book, he adds, "As did Erestor, when you left with him. Far more, than whatever he did with Telpe, I might add."

That news cause conflicting emotions, this much is clear to Celegorm as Maglor's features twist. Yet all he does is turn the page of his book.

"I didn't do anything," is Maglor's anwer. His eyes follow the lines of his evening lecture, not once travelling to Celegorm.

"But you want to," the younger Elf states. "You want him so much that you're thinking about him even now. That's why you cling to your book and haven't moved a muscle since you sat down. Your fear is that you'd run back and do unspeakable things to him, make him beg and scream your name."

Maglor's head snaps up and he snarls, "Are you speaking from experience?"

Yes, I am, Celegorm answers through his thoughts, not caring when the white eyes pierce into his soul like a spear, digging for examples in his past, where Celegorm was less than the honest warrior Fëanor tried to raise him to be. And more like hot-heated dog not willing to waste an opportunity You know that. We both have made this mistake in the past.

"I know," Maglor says, choosing spoken words over the mind, because it feels more real this way and less like a conversation he had with himself a few times already. "But is it bad, wanting him?"

"Probably," Celegorm shruggs. "I don't care either way. Perhaps it's just curiosity on his part. Or a desperate search for a connection, since you're only thing in Arda he can count on. Since your desire to ravage him until he's too mad with lust to remember his own name, isn't exactly a surprise, after you've latched onto each other so fast, I guess it's only a matter of time."

"Not helpful," Maglor grouses and slams his book shut. "Absolutely not helpful, Tyelko. You're supposed to tell me that should keep my hands off him." 

Celegorm laughs, "Sorry, wrong brother. Ask Moryo if you want a lecture."

He contemplates throwing a book after Celegorm, yet in the end Maglor refrains from it, afraid the sound would wake the house up again. Instead he grins like a maniac and pounces, tumbling with Celegorm to the floor, where his little brother loses precious seconds 'cause he's too baffled to reacted at first.

"Let go, you manaic," Celegorm curses as Maglor puts into a chokehold. Usually he's stronger than all of his brothers, safe Maedhros, but hours of wrestling matches in their childhood render that advantage moot. He can't even kick Cáno right now, since his older brother found the perfect position to make Celegorm flail on his back like a tutrle. "I'm telling Maitimo. Let go!"

"Maitimo can't help you now," Maglor grins and his fingers search for the spot, where he knows Celegorm is ticklish.

Just a few minutes later Celegorm is howling with laughter, pleading to his mean older brother to have mercy and previous worries are forgotten for a while.

 

 

 

-

 

 

 

The following day it took Celebrimbor and Erestor an aweful long time to get out of bed.  Both nurse a hangover and curse the dwarf that challenged them to a drinking contest. While Celebrimbor whines and complains to no end at the kitchen table that he lives with such terrible unsympathic uncles, Erestor tries to keep himself upright on his chair and glares into his tea cup as if it had personally offended him. The look on his face is downright murderous, when Maglor announces that the rest of the chores they didn't finish yesterday, are still waiting for them.

"It's your own fault if you can't hold your drink, Erestor," Maglor says jovially and pokes him into the side. Now, finally Erestor looked like his father, on the few occasions Fingolfin had shown is true anger to bleed trough. "But if you finish them before midday, you're free to do as you like for the next days. I don't require you personally."

"Fine," Erestor growls. Obviously unhappy, but too wrecked to argue. Dragging Celebrimbor away, hold on his wrist very firm, he says to the Curufinion, "C'mon. The faster we get it done, the sooner I can get to sleep."

When the door slams shut, Maglor turns to his brother, "Can you include Erestor in the training regiments for the next few weeks? He does fine on the battle field, but some experience with proper drills would be good for him."

"Of course," Celegorm answers with a devious smile. "Anything particular you want me to focus on?"

Maglor gives a shrug. "Just try to find out what reactions are instinctive and which are deliberate. I have reason to believe that a lot of the fighting knowledge actually comes from his time in Angband."

That is not necessarily a bad thing. Maglor has seen a similar spark in Maedhros' eyes. A willingness to survive, to hold on, whatever it takes. Erestor may seem untrained or inexperienced at times, but Maglor would rather not centuries of fighting to stay alive go to waste. Memories or not, Argon had suffered through Angband and possessed a spirit strong enough to come out of it mostly intanct. Maglor has met others, who had fared far worse.

 

 

-

 

"Do you need something against the headache?"

Erestor looks up and realizes that he must've been groaning non-stop, since Celebrimbor watches him with concern. The Fëanorian seems a bit ruffled and less exicted than yesterday, but Erestor doesn't mind the quiet.

"No, thanks it's fine," he says and it's actually the truth. His head is aching far less than it should. "I just feel a little dizzy, but I will be fine with a bit fresh air."

"Just say something in case you change your mind," Celebrimbor shrugs.

But Erestor doesn't plan on asking for painkillers. He has been fighting against Orcs and Dragons in the last month. Whining, because he drank too much last night, is out of question. He suffered worse and the future is probably going to hold many more mornings like this. Best to get used to it.

Blinking against the morning sun, Erestor tries to remember the last evening. Everything is clear up to the point, where they decided to leave the tavern, stumbling out of the door and up the hill. But after that ...

 

It's snowing again. Not as bad as before, tonight it's little more than a fine blanket covering the surface. Celebrimbor writes the word for fire onto a window and wonders where he put his gloves. After nightfall Dracview is damned cold, especially right now in the deepest winter. Though Celebrimbor likes the city like this far more than during the day. Right it's dark and quiet, serene. A mirror what Formenos used to be like. Streetlamps illuminate the corners, but the back alleys are pitch black, since most citizins have gone to sleep already.

"It's beautiful," Erestor comments, next to him. "I like your city, like this. All the noise and the hectic commontion earlier annoyed me. I didn't know there could be so many people in one place."

"Oh, that's nothing. Right now during the cold season people don't travel that much. Just wait for spring you're hard pressed to find an hour, where the city isn't bustling with people," Celebrimbor boasts, dancing down the street, because this is his city.

"I shudder with horror," Erestor says and stumbles over his own feet.

He gets sick just by looking at Celebrimbor's swirling and twisting, grabs him in the end to steady himself. Erestor buries his face in the Fëanorian's neck, holding on, because the world is tilting sideways.

"I'm never drinking Ale again," Erestor murmurs, too drunk to care about properity. "Remind me, the next time a dwarf wants to hold a drinking contest with me."

Celebrimbor's entire body shakes as he laughs. The sound is almost as beautiful as the white snow in his red hair. Erestor combs through the fine strands that have the color of a good wine and is mesmerized by it. He has never seen such hair before. Not even Maedhros' own, that is far brighter. Like the rising sun or a beautiful rose. Ambarussa comes close, but Erestor had never the opportunity to inspect their hair. So, Celebrimbor it is.

Thankfully the Fëanorian doesn't seem to mind. 

Quite the opposite in fact, since Celebrimbor twists in Erestor's hold and presses the other Elf against a house wall. The stone is cold against his back, but Erestor doesn't think about protesting. Celebrimbor's teasing smile and his beautiful eyes are too much of a distraction.

"I've the feeling that there's something you want?"

Celebrimbor's voice drops low as he shoves the scarf aside and runs his mouth over Erestor's bare neck underneath. The answer is a small gasp, when teeth gently bite into his skin. Erestor's hips buck forward and they meet Celebrimbor's firm thigh, shoved between Erestor's own legs.

"Perhaps?" Erestor breathes and struggles for a clear thought.

He feels hot, compared to the cold night surrounding them and he doesn't even care about the small group of people which wanders by. Perhaps they're going home or are about to start their shift. Erestor cares little. How could he, when Telpe is doing such wonderful things with his mouth?

"What do you want?" Celebrimbor whispers against his mouth.

The question wakes a fire inside Erestor. He knows the answer, the correct one. He'd give everything to replace Maglor with his nephew. In his imagination, Maglor wouldn't ask. His bites would be less gentle and the first thing the Fëanorian would do is trap Erestor's hands above his head. Unlike Celebrimbor, who is sweet and teasing.

"You," Erestor moans and his fingers bury themselves in Celebrimbor's coat. "For now, if that's alright?"

Celebrimbor's laugh is carefree and beautiful. As if he has never known sorrow and his good cheer is infectios, "Of course it is. I'm not asking you to marry me."

Soft lips find his own and Erestor melts into the kiss. He drags Celebrimbor closer, presses their bodies together and allows the searching hands to slip beneath his tunic. Erestor moans and bites down to keep the noise down. Since his mouth just found Celebrimbor's, it only serves to urge the Fëanorian on.

"Having fun?" Celebrimbor grins sharply.

"Yes," Erestor hisses as fingers slips into his pants, squeezing and he wants to cry out, because it feels so good. He hasn't done this often. Only a few times with a soldier in Himring since he woke up a year ago. It was an experience back then. This is better. Far better.

It's not perfect either, because it's not Maglor who's sucking marks along his neck, but this alright for now. Erestor melts in Celebrimbor's arms, trapped somewhere in a back alley while snow flakes fall slow and silent, covering the city in a fine blanket, making sure that the pair remains undisturbed as the temperature keeps dropping.

 

"Oh, hells." Erestor makes a small noise and wants to disappear right here and now. Thankfully Celebrimbor is currently haggling with a merchant and doesn't notice Erestor's trip down the memory lane. "How could I forget that?"

Especially since he wondered about the bite marks this morning, tracing them with his finger. He hadn't thought about them, not with mind still struggling to stay awake as Maglor called him for breakfast. His bed had been far too comfortable, his dreams far too pleasant to get up so early. Well, at least that explained the mess in his pants, because Erestor now clearly remembered that they refrained from doing it right there in that alley. Far too cold for such adventures, hence why Celebrimbor dragged him home.

Giggling and shushing him, as they tried to stay quiet and sneak in undetected.

Unsuccessful, if Erestor remembered Maglor's and Lord Celegorm's stunned expression correctly.

At least I remember most of last night, Erestor tells himself. The relief surprises him a little, but given how he already has so little memories to call his own, it's normal perhaps not wanting to lose the new ones.

Especially not, when Celebrimbor promised to be a good friend.

"About last night," Erestor begins, when Curufin's son joins him again. "Are we ... alright?" 

"Is there a reason, why we shouldn't be?" Celebrimbor asks back.

Today he has braided his hair into something complicated, though Erestor suspects the fancy show is just supposed to hide the fact that they aren't washed and combed. His tunic is clean and Erestor can't tell if it's the same from last night. But as an Heir of the House of Fëanor Celebrimbor probably doesn't have to worry about his waredrobe. Unlike him, who nearly fell over three bags a servant placed in front of his door, most of them being purchases from yesterday.

Erestor shrugs, not sure how he's supposed to deal with the images circling in his mind.

There're the kisses he shared with Celebrimbor in the snow, easy and fun. Like two friends making out and edging each other on. On the other hand there was the moment with Maglor yesterday morning and just thinking about it robs Erestor his breath. Compared to Telpe's carefree nature that single moment with Maglor, closer than ever and yet still so far apart, is more than Erestor can handle right now.

"So we're still friends?" Erestor needs to know.

Maybe it's stupid to ask, given how Celebrimbor stares at him for a moment, before nods. Slowly and very carefully, as if he's afraid Erestor is going to miss it if he nods too fast.

"Yes, you fucking idiot." Celebrimbor pokes Erestor's forehead. "You could fall in love with a dwarf and I'd be still your friend. But I'll get angry if we don't get back soon. I've to heat up the forge. Your sword doesn't create itself and it's going to take days before I'm finished."

"My sword? But I already have one," Erestor tries to protest as Celebrimbor drags him back to the Fëanorian House.

The answer Erestor receives a truly offended look. He imagines Telpe inherited the headshake that follows after either from his father or from Fëanor himself.  A gesture meant to deal with stupid, uncreative idiots who're barely capable of banging a nail into the wall.

"The sword currently in your possession can be your spare," Celebrimbor growls. "You still need a proper one. It's far too short for someone your size. I'm going to make you a better one. A longsword, made out of the finest steel we have. It's actually a combination with the mithril the dwarves are selling us, father wasn't sure if it's possible, but we figured it out a few decades ago. It's just that the process is so damned difficult that it's usually not worth the effort."

He truly can't claim to be a blacksmith, but in the next hour Erestor learns a lot. Apparently the Noldor preferred steel for their swords, mithril being too expensive for the common soldier. Especially since the Fëanorian craftsmen take pride in forging swords that are just as good as those made out of the rare metal. Yet since Maglor is in charge of the most dangerous place in their defence, anyone who fights under his command receive a weapon that's worth an entire fortune.

The mirthil sword also serves as part of the payment, each soldier receives. At the end of their contract each soldier is allowed to choose between a lot of coins or the sword itself. Most choose the sword, knowing what honor it is to possess one.

At least I don't have to worry about money any more, Erestor thinks.

Though he doesn't quite get the difference between a pure mirthril sword and one with a 80 to 20 mixture, but in the end he decides to put his trust into Celebrimbor's abilities. Thankfully it also solves his problem regarding telling his Lord that wants to stay by his side. Given him the freedom to explore Dracview wasn't just an opportunity to take a break, that much was obvious from the start. Between the soldiers in Himring and the months he spent at Maglor's side, Erestor understands that how frequentely the Gap comes under attack.

Yet Maglor manages to keep his people alive along enough that almost everyone reaches the requiered amount of time each warrior has to serve. Two yéni, onehundredfortyfour years times two, not counting the time spend with family.

Listening to Celebrimbor ramble is a revelation and Erestor is amazed by how through the brothers are, when it comes to their system of defending and substaining themselves.

Each family living under the protection of the Fëanorians has to do their part. Either they send a member of their family to become a warrior, three yéni usually unless you serve Maglor in the Gap, or you pay tribute by forging weaponry, working on to fortify the walls or you contributed by donating food or money.

It's a good system. I wonder who invented it, Erestor admits and instinctively knows that his part will always lay in being a warrior. He can't imagine doing anything else. Working on the fields, sleeping safely in his bed while others fought day and night to defend the borders would never sit well with him.

Erestor feels relief. Finally has some grasp on his future. Living from day to day is taxing, when you have not a single idea what lies ahead of you and even more so, if you haven't properly grasped the concept of immortality yet.

"How are you going to make sure that I'm qualified enough to become one of Maglor's riders?" Erestor suddenly realizes.

"Oh, attoháno is going to train you." Celebrimbor send him a cruel grin. "Honestly, I'm gald that I'm I'll be stuck inside the forge. Having to fight Uncle Tyelko is awful."

End Notes:

*Song is by Alan Walker - Sing me to Sleep. I will try not to spam you with songs that I associate with Maglor. Either because the lyrics speak to me, have inspired a certain a scene or because the singer as a magical voice. But this partical song had to be worked into the story!

Despite my best attempts, I couldn't find a translation for 'uncle'. Very strange, given the Silmarillion. I've finally decided on using 'attoháno' which means father's brother. If you have a better idea or a proper translation: OUT WITH IT!

This story archived at http://www.faerie-archive.com/viewstory.php?sid=1538