"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.