The world we knew won't come back
Since they never met in life, the first time they crossed each others path it was in the Hall of Mandos. Outside they counted the days of the Fourth Age and by now Námo's Castle was nearly empty. There were still many men coming and going, spending the eternity in circles of life and death, but the parts that once was once filled with uncountable Noldor had slowly drained. The Valar actually enjoyed the quiet, especially since noise in his home often meant wailing, crying and pleading.
Days and days had passed, with the exiled Noldor within his realm and with one soul at a time they left until no one but a handful from the Eldar days remained. Those few on the other hand, troubled him deeply and Námo was at loss what to do.
Especially two of Finwë's line fell short of leaving his care and they hadn't even remotely processed to the point where he considered them healed. However their time in his halls had finally come to an end. Even he couldn't prolong their stay any longer. They needed to go, whether they were ready or not. Námo would throw them out personally if he had to.
With a determined step, Námo turned towards Maedhros, the first of his headaches.
The time we've lost can't get back
When he entered the place, Maedhros the Great had build for himself, Námo let out a sigh. Each of the souls under his care received a room, a place they could consider their own and have some privacy. Never the doors were locked from the outside, only once this had been the case – with Melkor during his first stay here and never again Námo repeated this mistake. But it didn't stop Maedhros from shaping the room into a cell with his mind.
You still refuse to leave your self-build prison, I see , Námo spoke directly into Maedhros mind, considering how the F ëanorian still flinched when he heard the Valar's voice.
At least Maedhros looked at him for a second, before he averted his gaze again. Námo told himself that a reaction was better than nothing, he had worked long and hard for this progress. Of course he could not speak it aloud, but he was pleased to find the shackles had vanished and the room had lightened up a bit. Even a window had appeared and Maedhros currently stood in front of it, watching the world outside.
I came to inform you, Nelyafinwë Fëanorian, that you will leave my halls today, Námo announced.
For a moment nothing happened, than Maedhros spoke. He asked „Have you finally decided on throwing me into the void?“
Námo calmed the rage threatening to take over his mind. Maedhros had used this tactic before and always the thought alone provoked a snarling comment from Námo. He had not once surrendered one of the Children to the Void and he would certainly not start with Maedhros.
Never, Námo vowed. I have never done so and never will. I've even rescued every single one of your self-destructive brothers, heading towards this destination by their stubborn will alone. And just like them, you shall be reembodied.
Maedhros escaped a snort, but today Námo refused to be provoked.
It will happen, whether you like it or not, Námo insisted. I wished it to be your own choice and if weren't for the dire need I would leave you here until your family comes to get you.
„So you do take the last of choices away?“ his charge inquired and his eyes bore into Námo.
Even the Valar felt uncomfortable under this one's scrutiny. Long ago they had dubbed him Maedhros The Great , straight after the War of Wrath when most of the Eldar – dead or alive – had realized that a victory over Morgoth woulndn't have been possible without the eldest Son of Fëanor. Not that Maedhros was aware of this, rarely he left his room or spoke with others through the walls, but it was true none less.
Usually I would not, Námo defended himself. But there's one in a great need and you are the last person who can help him. So I'll no longer let you indulge in your timidity. Not when you could've left my halls whenever you wanted. I never had enough hold over your soul or you mind to truly stop you.
With these words Námo gathered his power and summoned the words Manwë had spoken on Arien's latest anniversary of rising above Middle-Earth. Heavy winds arose, pushing the stones of Maedhros' self-made prison away, leaving Maedhros exposed to the Breath of Life, which descended on the eldest Fëanorian with so far unseen ferocity.
The life we had won't be ours again
Maedhros blinked in confusion, when he took his first breath. Air filled his lungs and after a few heartbeats of panicking there wouldn't be enough, because Manwë changed his mind of sharing his new-found life with him, Maedhros felt a soul-deep assurance when he inhaled the next time and soon his anxiety settled down.
No, he realized. Manwë wouldn't deny him this necessity. The Valar not only embodied wind, but air as well and he felt every breath a living took like his own. And mourned each life, when their chests stopped rising.
„It killed him,“ Maedhros whispered with tears in his eyes, feeling the Valar's unresolved ancient distress. „He cried when I jumped into chasm and joined my kin in Mandos Halls.“
Returning to life had unsettled him, left Maedhros unguarded to the remnants of the Valar's power still cruising through him. Due to his observant nature, Maedhros was probably far more aware of the specific's of reembodiment than others. Since most of the Eldar didn't rejoin the world through a mother's womb, it was technically against Arda's nature to let the dead rejoin the living and it cost each Valar greatly to manipulate the circumstances.
„I was not aware you suffered this much,“ Maedhros told Manwë, knowing the Valar still near enough to hear him.
Súlimo was greatly exhausted, Maedhros could tell. Aware of a debt hanging over his head, Maedhros opened his mouth to apology but a faint whisper in the air stopped him. Listening for a while, Maedhros soon learned it was Manwë's own guilt which drove him towards this drastic act. As far as Manwë perceived the Life of the Eldar, each death could've been prevented, but it had taken him Ages to understand the Children.
We suffered from ignorance of the worst kind. It was like a night of the mind, but without a moon and without stars, Maedhros heard a voice say and he couldn't discern between the Elder King and the Judge.
After the voice fell empty and Maedhros immediately knew he wouldn't hear from the Valar again, unless he chose to meet them in person. This had been an apology and a request for pardon. Maedhros took a deep breath when he exhaled he let go of all grudges he had held against the Valar. His new life would be difficult enough, no need to drag old burdens with him.
Yet one question remained.
„What I'm doing here?“ Maedhros asked a question, honestly expected no answer since he knew the Valar were gone from his mind.
Instead someone responded, just with a small nearly unnoticeable whimper but Maedhros sharp ears caught the sound and better than anybody else he knew the cause. Even before he turned his head Maedhros could taste the torment filling the air, no matter how quiet the whimpers were kept.
When the Fëanor's eldest finally laid eyes upon the figure on the bed, ankles bound with soft leather to prevent self-injury Maedhros comprehended why he had been send back. The elf on the bed suffered from torture only very few had suffered. Any objections or selfishness Maedhros harbored in his heart until this point were immediately forgotten.
Slowly he kneeled beside the elf and reached out to touch him with great care. First Maedhros reached for the wrists and to his surprise the trashing stopped. Then Maedhros the Great bowed down until a simple touch turned into an rescuing embrace. Foreheads touched and eyes were closed until the erratic breathing smoothened out. After a while Maedhros opened his eyes again and saw evidence of what he had sensed with his soul already.
While he had kept to himself in Mandos Halls, the walls itself were made from Varië's tapestries and therefore allowed the dwellers to watch to world so they wouldn't return to the living entirely ignorant. So Maedhros watched, quiet in his grief and his guilt, but he hadn't shied away from the knowledge that the world moved on.
The face peering back at him, with frightened eyes and with scars on his soul not unlike his own, was alarming familiar. Maedhros recognized the elf without a doubt, even in the halls he had heard of him. Had pitied him, like only a handful been moved to do so.
“Íressëion,” Maedhros called out to his cousin through his lineage, not wanting to taint their first meeting by using the wrong name he had been given by his parents. “Íressëion, have no fear. Hear my voice and listen to me when I tell you, the worst is over.”
No one, not even Maeglin who had been bound to this place ever since he had started to end his existence by ripping his veins open with his teeth, could refuse a command of Maedhros.
So slowly the son of Aredhel and Eöl blinked and tried to focus on his caretaker and thus breaching the heavy fog of misery which ruled his mind.
The voice was hoarse from screaming and nevertheless Maeglin tried to greet his cousin. Just as Maedhros he recognized the other face only from tales and what he had seen in the Halls. In Maeglin's case it was an achievement in and itself to recollect this much about another person. In his haze of pain, fear and guilt Maeglin had rarely managed to follow the events of history, but Maedhros' soul fire had burned more honest than any other on the tapestries.
The word he managed to get out, were nothing but a slur. Yet Maedhros understood.
“Don't beg for pardon. Don't ask for forgiveness,” Maedhros to the sorry Maeglin had offered him. “Things are done and there's no need to speak about them. Whatever you hold yourself responsible for, the blame is needless.”
As soon as he spoke the sentence, Maedhros realized if this was true for Maeglin - who received more hate from history than all the Fëanorians together – it must be true for himself as well. With an afterthought Maedhros admitted Námo had been right and even saw the wisdom in his choice, but with the great task in front of him, he cared little about the Valar.
Only Maeglin's well-being remained as his first priority.
Removing the shackles first and drawing Maeglin towards him so that his cousin could bury his face in his chest like his little brothers had done so often before, Maedhros continued to tell Maeglin not to hate himself. If constant dropping could wear a stone, repetition would some day even sink into Maeglin's mind.
For now he opted for familiarizing Maeglin with his voice and so Maedhros prepared to speak, knowing now what the Valar wished him to archive since they obviously failed.
“I think myself as good judge of character and while I've been fooled before, it hasn't happened ever since I returned from the Thangorodrim. Trust me when I tell to know the difference between an Elf and an Orc,” Maedhros promised and watched how awareness returned to Maeglin's eyes, even if the storm in tormented soul still raged beneath the surface. “People change. They lose the way or they lose themselves. But I've always know the difference between those who I had to kill and who Maglor could lead back to sanity with his voice.”
Stroking the burning forehead, Maedhros continued, “As far as I know you were desperate. Have been for a very long time and Morgoth offered you a bad choice. Others broke for less and it's not your fault Sauron once knew kindness well enough to fake it.”
For Morgoth had tortured Maeglin until Sauron came with a deal a prisoner starved for hope and affection couldn't refuse.
Only when Maeglin had calmed down a bit Maedhros leaned down, bringing their lips close enough to kiss.
“Do you know what kept me going after Fingon left my broken self with my brother?” Maedhros asked and seal Maeglin's lips with his own, in order to make sure he was heard. “The hope that the next morning would be less painful. That I would wake up different. Better.”
A shudder was the only reaction Maedhros noticed, but his fingers felt how the trembling eased. Not expecting an coherent answer, he was pleased with his progress. So he didn't stop touching Maeglin even after the elf had fallen asleep.
The world we knew won't come back
The time we've lost can't get back
The life we had won't be ours again
Maybe we'll turn it all around 'cause it's not too late
It's never too late
Maeglin had long feared meeting the other members of the House of Fëanor. For most elves these the reaction would be normal, knowing little about the Great War the Fëanorians had lived through. Well aware that his own life could hardly compare to their hardships, nervousness plagued him ever since Maedhros had decided to leave. Right now they were riding next to each other and the silence was filled with unease. With every step of his horse, Maeglin felt his stomach tighten. It was not far now. They had already lived near the borders of the lands Fëanor had claimed with his return and made the journey a short one.
Somehow Maeglin hoped to struggle through and deal like he always had. It had worked fine in the past, but Maedhros was far more observant than the citizens of Gondolin.
“You're not enjoying yourself,” he stated and glanced at Maeglin's tight grip on the reins.
His first thought had been Maeglin was unfamiliar with riding, but Gondolin's borders had spanned enough land to require horses. From experience Maedhros also knew that mines were rarely located in walking distance to a King's palace and adding this to his observation Maeglin was guiding his horse besides being so thoroughly distracted, he figured the tension in his shoulders had another source.
Maedhros eyes were drawn to Maeglin's pale throat, when he swallowed before answering.
“No, not really. I've trouble relaxing when I'm about to meet the other seven people, who swore to drag Morgoth the deepest bowels of hell themselves if they had to,” Maeglin answered with a biting tone. “So forgive if I fear that they are willing to take me as a substitute.”
One day Maedhros hoped they could openly joke about this, but for now this day was far away and he would not laugh at the fears of his new lover. Guiding his horse closer to the left, Maedhros reached across the gap to take Maeglin's hand into his own and of course he noticed the cold sweat and the trembling.
“I'll make sure my brothers won't throw you into mother's pottery kiln and in the unlikely event they do attack you, I'll come to your defense,” Maedhros promised with enough warmth in his voice to even convince Maeglin to a certain degree. “However I'm certain it won't come to that. You have a sharp mind and will always be able to defend yourself, in the unlikely event they're not able to behave themselves.”
“Still too many people to gang up on me,” Maeglin grumbled.
With a deep sigh Maedhros squeezed Maeglin's hand and refused to let go, when they rode on. Once this had been a Lord of a great House with many smiths working under him with servants, scribes and miners, but the events had taken what little sense of self-worth Maeglin had to begin with.
“I'm certain you will find unexpected allies,” Maedhros said with his eyes focusing on a point in the far distance. He had little faith in what the Vanyar called foresight. The future was fluid and unpredictable. What he knew for certain was how love. Teaching Maeglin the same had been a pleasure so far and their hearts grew closer every day, due to long time they relied on each other now.
As expected Maeglin did not answer, but Maedhros counted the thumb stroking the back of his hand as success and dipped his head to hid his cautious smile. Maeglin continued like this and the small gesture also caused Maedhros heart to beat fast against his chest for the first in a long, long time.