Man of Steel suggests forged, tempered -like a weapon. But a weapon as much of Morgoth as Feanor, and by the end, in my verse, he is a weapon of Eru. A guardian at the Door of Night.
Standalone but runs through two longer fics, Through a Glass Darkly and although it underpins Where the Shadows Lie, it’s going to be a few more chapters before we get to Maedhros.
For Spiced Wine, whose wonderful scene in Dark Star of the Feanorians at the Gates of Night inspired this idea.
Later, Maedhros looked back at the moments of his capture with cynical contempt at his former self’s naivety. More than that; disgust at his stupidity, his blind and absolute stupdity. He had still believed he was Nelyo then, Maitimo. He had not been subject to Melkor’s attentions then of course. Nor beaten upon his forge into this new Man of Steel that was completely Melkor’s creature, doing His Will just as stupidly, just as blindly. Happily wreaking destruction upon his own House. He had been more use to Morgoth freed, than he ever was during his time in Angband.
He breathed slowly. These cynical and devastating thoughts were more and more frequent since the Tears. (He still could not speak the words. Ignored them, shut them out when they were used by others. Had almost killed a man once… ) He used to be uncertain whether it was worse (or better) to anticipate than to endure (or experience). Now he knew better. On both counts.
No. Some softness sneaking in between the cynical thoughts- there was no place for them here in HIS mind. Steel trap shuts. Snaps shut on anything those other thoughts might conjure. He cannot bear it. Would rather dwell on Morgoth. On Angband. On Sauron. Balrogs..no, not balrogs. Dragons then.
But going back to his original train of thought; In Tirion, or even when they landed on the shores of Endor, none of them had really imagined orcs, or balrogs. Or vampires, werewolves, goblins, dragons or the strange half-creatures that lurked in the shadows of Angband. Indeed, he could not have imagined any of this even in the wildest stories told to frighten little brothers and cousins at night when they begged for a horror story. He almost laughed at his younger self at how innocent, how stupid he had been for he had told them a story of orcs, but in his story, the orc had a heart and was just misunderstood…
There was no misunderstanding in the orc that threw open the door of his cell. But, as he discovered later, there was a heart, in that an organ pumped blood and it spurted over his clenched fists that were wrist-deep in the body of that orc, and he knew there was deep dark red blood in that heart for it was oozing down his arms and pooling at his feet. Not black like they said in these latter day stories that had him itching to move and clenching his fists.
They burned his feet for that killing. And his hands. And chest, nipples, genitals, ears. Anywhere. Everywhere. And pinched them with metal pincers that had heated in the red-hot brazier that was kept burning in the particular chamber favoured by Sauron. He felt he had got away with it a little with only being burned. Sauron had not been present that time.
Then he had found out why Sauron was absent. He had been experimenting. When he came back, he shared Nelyo’s belief that he had got away with it a bit.
Only then did Nelyo learn what pain was and that put the Oath into perspective. For a time at least. ‘Going Into The Dark’ if the Oath was unfulfilled seemed, at the time, relatively tame to the torture inflicted by Sauron. Frankly, Morgoth and Sauron was anywhere but in The Dark and so it seemed a relatively safe place in Nelyo’s view.
He was only returned to his cell when Sauron felt Nelyo had reflected adequately upon his own stupidity. He had to learn, in Sauron’s view, not to kill the staff. After all, Sauron explained patiently as if to a very stupid child, a rather cruel child, that the orcs were merely that. Staff. Doing the bidding of Morgoth and his great lords. They did not think. They were merely following orders and so, Sauron said with absolute logic and absolute scorn, they neither think nor learn. They just do.
He turned and gave an order that had Nelyo screaming until he no longer screamed but simply endured. Because he had no choice. And then he could no longer endure he screamed and screamed because there was no pride to be had in not screaming. And then he stopped screaming and endured.
It went on like this for some time.
Nelyo reflected, for Sauron had directed him to reflect because orcs could not, upon the nature of orcs; he supposed the orcs had some kind of pride in their work. And they longed for approval from their master, cringing and fawning upon him when he stroked their ugly heads like Nelyo himself would a favourite hound. If he had one.
Nelyo learned to dread Sauron. But still he killed every orc he could. And was punished. It became routine and Sauron was bored with routine.
You become more and more like the orcs, said Sauron regretfully. They also neither think nor learn. They also just do.
So Nelyo was taken before Melkor.
It was not the physical torture of Sauron.
Melkor’s merest touch crushed him so he felt his chest was caving in, his ribs crushed his heart and his blood pounded so hard in his veins that he felt they would burst. Melkor’s touch was fire racing along his sinews, bunching his muscles so hard they would burst
There was nothing like it. It touched his very core, his being, his memory. Who he was. And changed him forever. ‘Nelyo’ fled from the laughing accusation that he could no longer be Nelyo. Third.
Third what? Morgoth’s laughter like thunder.
For you are not First. You are not your Grandfather, Finwë, who led the Noldor into Valinor. Who ruled the third people of the Eldar. Who sat at Manwë’s hand. Whom I killed with my own hand so his blood ran over me, and at this Melkor flexed his great fist like boulders.
And you are certainly not the Second. Nor are you Crafty or Cunning, your father. The greatest of all elves who ever or will ever live. How could you possibly be him? A shadow of him is all you can ever hope to be! He who thrashed my Balrogs and thought he could overcome them; fire and flame! ’Twas only there were so many of them that they slew him, pounded him into the dust!
Nelyo hated him and Morgoth knew it. Revelled in it. Savoured it like a rare wine.
So you cannot be third. Third what?
Nelyo, Maitimo did not care. He loved them both, Finwë and Feänáro and Morgoth saw them through his eyes and wept. With laughter. And then he leaned close and it was like a Mountain had moved, leaned down and looked him in the eye -
Nelyo, Maitimo then if he could not be Nelyo, saw…stars, whirling in the firmament. Spirals, galaxies. Distances unimaginable. Fire burning at the heart of the Universe. Darkness - a pinpoint of darkness that swallowed worlds.
Little elf. You are nothing.
He was crushed like a pebble beneath the mountain’s granite fist. Crushed into grit. Dust.
If you are no longer Nelyo, are you Maitimo? Fair one? Well-made one?
You are no longer Maitimo.
Sauron did for that.
Long, long russet-copper hair that floated on the breeze, that an elegant and eager hand once stroked, was pulled from his head, cut, pulled, torn. It did not matter which after a while. Pale skin unblemished like silk, once touched by a beloved mouth so he had shivered delightfully and turned to look with molten-hot silver eyes. Sauron did for all of that. Mottled that silken skin with burns and wounds and infections. Would have cut off his lips and ears and eyelids had Morgoth not stopped him.
You are no longer Maitimo, said Morgoth.
He knew that was true. He was an ugly, misshapen thing. Like the orcs that did for him. They tended his wounds and then inflicted new ones. They fed him and starved him. They gave him water and urinated upon his wounds. He hated them. And hatred fed his every waking moment.
Morgoth was amused.
Who are you now? he asked the ugly, misshapen firstborn, not Third. Not Beautiful or Well-made. But still immortal. Still Feanorian. Still burning with something that Morgoth lacked, or had mislaid, or lost upon the way. Who are you now?
The ugly misshapen firstborn Feanorion tried to stand upon its broken feet, tried to straighten its bent spine from being cracked in chains and racked, tried to speak from its bruised lips- for it still had lips. For now at least.
I am Maedhros, it said in a weak and quiet voice. Maedhros. And I will prevail. I will always… prevail.
And though he was beaten and starved and then fed so he could be beaten and tortured more, every time Morgoth brought him forth, he said the same. And each time, he stood a little straighter. His eyes, which Morgoth had stopped Sauron from ripping out, still burned.
Morgoth had a plan. He turned him loose. After a fashion.
You will bring down your house more completely than I could ever do, he said. Hang him from high Thangorodhrim and set no guard. See how long he lasts. See who comes for him…And then see what happens. Watch as I crush every hope, every dream, every piece of love. Watch as I thread his bones on a spit of despair, as I drain every drop of blood into a cup of misery. Watch as I crush his very bones until nothing is left but ash.
Balrogs crushed Maedhros’ love under their whips and feet when they pounded Fingon, beloved, beloved, beloved Fingon.
The thrice-cursed Oath killed each brother until there were but two left.
His blood boiled in a molten pit, melted his skin, his eyes, his bones.
But the dust from which he was made and was ever, the notes of the Song that was Maedhros, clung together. Slowly, space and time turned and rolled hugely, spiralled past in the soft darkness of oblivion. Those moments seemed an eternity. In that time there was only the Song; glorious, indescribable. He soared on wings of sound, of immense waves of Song, of huge chords rising and falling, symphonies of sound spiralling up and up, around him, lifting in a crescendo of sound and light and unutterable loveliness.
A distant voice, a still, small voice at first but that grew, became tumultuous like the storm, like the Sea, like the vastness of space. In it were suns bursting over the horizons of far planets, the huge galaxies wheeling across the aeons.
Child of Fire…
The voice of Eru.
Stunned. Amazed, he was silent for Ages.
Child of Fire.
Slowly, wondering why he was not in anguish from the burning, he said quietly to the emptiness and air, to Eru, ‘I am quite mad.’
I have you, Child of Fire.
He felt himself cradled as one would hold a windflower, in a breath that was benevolence itself…
He did not want to leave. He did not want to be disembodied, senseless, formless. Whatever it was he would be in the Eternal Darkness to which his unfulfilled Oath had cast him. ‘Will I still be part of the Song though I go into the Dark?’
Child of Fire, blessed and cursed.You will be a watchfire in the Dark where you will fight your sworn enemy. He is your Bane and you are his. This, in truth, is what you were born for.
His heart swelled with Eru’s great love for him, and sadness. It was needed. He was needed. And he would rather cut off every last remaining limb than heed Námo’s ululation at his death.
Then let me dwell in the Everlasting Dark as I have sworn. Alone if I must and for Aeons. He will always be watched because I am here. This is Himring.
The Voice was quiet now; still and utter calm softly fell around the burning spirit. He felt a flex of Power and knew that though he had no weapons, he was not powerless as he had been in Angband, against Morgoth, against the Valar…He went quietly into the Everlasting Dark and wondered if he alone guarded the World from the Outside.
I am the Bane of Morgoth. The Watchfire in the Dark. Morgoth will not pass back into the world because I am the watchfire, the guardian. No. Though Maedhros burned alone for all the long Ages until the very End, Morgoth would not pass the Doors of Night.