In the end, he's his father's son. Maedhros stands before the chasm and as great as the desire is to end it here, he can't. He feels too much resentment towards the Valar. For centuries they fought against Morgoth, lost soldiers, women and children to the war. Yet they never had any hope in finishing it. Not without the Silmarils and the aid from the Valar. Now it's done and he's alone. And feared, that above else. Even among his own loyal warriors, the few that are still around, he's no longer counted as human. He fought too much, killed too much and survived too many odds to be still treated as normal.
Maedhros inhales, smells the heavy smoke rising from the fires below and makes his decision. His brothers are dead. Makalaurë was the last one remaining and he just lost his life a few hours ago. As much as he wants to belief that Maglor didn't truly want to die, Maedhros knows that his brother hadn't much to live for either. The children they raised for a few years, are beyond their reach now. Elros never made a secret out of his torn feelings about living under the roof of kinslayers. Elrond might be another matter, but that was decades ago.
By now Elrond spend time with Gil-galad, Círdan and other great names, who are better people.
If Elrond mourns his foster father, than it's a credit to his good character and not, because either of them deserves it.
But it's still unfair. Unfair that it ends like this, when all they wanted was to get rid of Morgoth. Father always knew what kind of creature Morgoth was. Right from the beginning, Fëanor didn't trust the Vala, when he was released from the Halls. He warned his sons to stay away from him and not believe a thing he might whisper in their ears.
With a roar of defiance that flies over the dying Beleriand like a bird, Nelyafinwë Fëanorian throws the Silmaril into the fire and refuses to jump after it. When he comes down from the mountain, he meets a few surprised faces. None of the few soldiers, who accompanied him, thought they'd ever see him again.
"After all the battles I fought, the hardships I survived, I refuse to give up now," he tells him. Determination shines in his eyes and in the dark night he looks like his father. "I'll welcome death, if it ever dares to approach me, but I won't end my life early, just because it'd be the easiest way out."
Maedhros leaves Beleriand, caring not the least, who is going to follow him.
Anyone who sees him from afar mistakes him for a bonfire, a beacon of light only the bravest dare to approach. He becomes a legend, a whisper in the night and is spoken of only by those who've weathered many centuries already. In lack of a mission and his inability to let go, Maedhros returns to Himring. A few loyal warriors join him, though most of his people follow Celebrimbor. Together they make the fortress inhabitable again. As it turned out, not even Morgoth had been able to unseal the doors, when Maedhros left his home behind as the armies in the North started to surround them.
"I'm surprised how well preserved the walls are," one of the warriors says to Maedhros. If he remembers correctly, the elf's family once served Celegorm.
"My father taught me how to build and how to create," Maedhros says with a shrug. "It doesn't surprise me that the enemy wasn't able to set a foot over the threshold."
The Elf is dutifully impressed and leaves Maedhros be. The Fëanorian knows it isn't going to be easy. The last time he lived here, he still had all of his siblings. Not to mention that this is an island now, though the tides allow crossing the miles to the shore on foot from time to time. Still, they going to need boats. Learn how to live with the ocean.
But Maedhros refuses to yield. He won't give up now. Not when he survived Angband, torture and losing his father. Besides Morgoth might be gone, but Angband isn't. No matter how much Ulmo might try, he can't swallow and bury Angband completely.
"I'll keep watch," Maedhros vows. "Others might soon forget what happened here, but I refuse to let evil raise again."
Círdan is surprised to see him, when Maedhros visits him one evening. The fisher lord is on guard, but not outright hostile. Not that Maedhros would blame him, yet coming alone and unarmed helps a lot.
"What do you want?" Círdan looks suspicious. "I didn't think you had the guts to come here. Ereinion is building a city in Harlindon and after the news of your possible but not confirmed death, I never expected you to return here."
The tone makes Maedhros smile a little. Whatever grudge Círdan has with him, it's not enough to make him budge.
"I've settled in Himring again, with a few of those who are intend to stay loyal to me. I'll build a few ships to safely travel back and forth, but I've no intention to disturb you or the other realms. Please notify your foster-son that I'll keep an eye on the remains of Angband," Maedhros explains. "There are quite a few Maia and other creatures, which escaped the wrath of the Valar once Morgoth was thrown down. They might never return to old strength, but it'd be wise to remain careful."
Almost against his will, Círdan nods. He mentioned the issue to Gil-galad. The sinking of Beleriand doesn't make the taint and the evil go away, though a fresh start can't harm anyone. Well, everyone but Maedhros. Círdan has seen the Fëanorian only a handful of times ever since Fëanor landed on the shores of Beleriand, but right now the tall warrior looks a little out of place. Even dressed in simple ropes, Maedhros can't hide the power and the authority that thrums through his veins.
He's has grown used to the war and now he doesn't know what to do with himself, Círdan realizes.
A part of him pities the other Elf, yet when Maedhros turns around and vanishes into the night, he doesn't exactly look miserable or unhappy.
When Círdan mentions his observations to Gil-galad in the morning, the King of the Noldor only sighs.
"He was born to rule one day. With or without a crown, it doesn't matter to him," Gil-galad says a little wistfully, as if he understand far too well how Maedhros feels. "After so much suffering and loss, he has to pick himself up after each fall. How else can he justify the blood on his hands? Personal happiness comes second, it has to."
Círdan pretends to understand, but in truth he does not. Never will, since the sea provides him with joy everyday.
Years turn into decades and Gil-galad turns a blind eye on whatever Maedhros is up to. His survival isn't common knowledge, not among the Eldar and Gil-galad takes great care not to advertise the fact to the Sindar. Since he isn't sure how most of the Noldor would react, he'd rather not test the Sindar's temper. Though there are rumors among mortal fishermen that someone lives and reigns over the isles in the north, but thankfully no one listens to their tales.
Sometimes he can't help himself. Sometimes he writes a letter, asking for advice, for the opinion of an unrelated outsider or just some old tales about his father.
Maedhros never fails to write back and something urges Gil-galad to preserve every single one. For Maedhros doesn't just write about Fingon, he has tales about the rest of the family as well. Pages over pages, telling outrages adventures of the younger Arafinwions, Aredhel's friendship with Celegorm and how her parents feared that she'd never turn into a proper lady. The letters never fail to make Gil-galad laugh and he publishes them under a false name. The Noldor need to be reminded that their history is more than just pain and loss.
The books become famous, of course. When he's asked, Gil-galad admits that he doesn't write them himself, but that the true author wishes to remain unknown.
The years drag on until the day Celebrimbor himself rides into his city, eyes blazing and with a great cape bearing the sigil of his house fluttering in the wind.
"Where is he?" Celebrimbor asks, as soon as he dragged Gil-galad inside and holds up the most recent book. He looks like as if he will care the answers out of Gil-galad if he has to.
They had quite a few arguments in the past. Heated ones, where every meeting ended in shouting matches and Gil-galad had learned to respect Celebrimbor's temper, his stubbornness and thus rather sends Elrond whenever he can. He likes to think they've reached a truce, an agreement that involves Gil-galad treating Elrond has his heir and in return he leaves Celebrimbor to do whatever he wants. In the last century they've managed to keep their meetings civil, the prospect of enough food and the safety of their people, easing their tempers somewhat.
The King of the Noldor blinks in surprise, unaware what Celebrimbor could mean.
It has to be serious, it's been a while since the Telperinquar Curufinwion, Grandson of Fëanáro made an appearance. Gil-galad thought that Elf had vanished with the War of Wrath and the news of his uncles demise.
Now that fiery warrior and fearsome leader that could've contested Gil-galad's claim on the crown, had he so desired, stands before him once again, drawn up to full height and his fëa crackles against the evening sky. His guards and a few servants watch the scene with apprehension. Elrond remains in the background, but he has his arms crossed over his chest and eyes are stern and full of barely contained emotion and Gil-galad realized that his friend had never talked about his feelings regarding the Fëanorians. Not once, not even in private and yet right now Elrond's polite demeanor threatens to crumble.
Celebrimbor's voice is a whisper as he bends down, "Tell me, Gil-galad. Where is my uncle?"
The Fëanorian's tone trembles with anger, emotions spilling forth in a manner Elrond tries to yet to hold back. But their eyes are the same, deep and fierce. Painted by memories of old and colored by a history Gil-galad in never going to comprehend.
His reign has lasted peacefully, because he learned early on not to judge anyone's past. They always had more than one reason why they should focus on the present and during the War of Wrath quite a few old enemies became friends and companions through the battles they shared together.
"I don't know what you're talking about," Gil-galad tries to deny.
"Stop lying to me. Haven't I earned your honesty by now?" Celebrimbor hisses and frees Gil-galad's latest Lost Tales of History from it's confinement. The King sighs in defeat, yet the Fëanorian already continues, "I've had my suspicions, when these books first turned up. I figured, they were from one of my followers. Someone, who wished to avoid attention and send the scripts to you in order to make up for deeds in the past. But let me tell you, there aren't any other people left, who knew my mother well enough to write about which house she originally came from."
"I guess it's not a surprise you figured it out," Gil-galad mumbles, rubbing his forehead. "I had the scripts copied as I received them, since I didn't wish to edit first hand accounts, when we have so few of them."
The King of the Noldor glances to Elrond, but the Peredhil's face doesn't betray anything. Elrond's expression is guarded, as always. But there's something in his eyes. An emotion so deep that he resembles Celebrimbor more than ever before and Gil-galad wonders how well he truly knows his cousin.
They've talked about the content of the books. Quite often Elrond belonged to those first, who got to read, copy and comment on them. Gil-galad has seen Elrond read the books with great interest, yet never he got curious about how the King of the Noldor came to them.
With a sigh, Gil-galad admits, "He lives in Himring. Forgive me from keeping the news from you, but you might understand that I feared what kind of reaction the news of his survival would cause."
"We're going to visit him," Elrond says with a finality that leaves no room for protest.
During the war Maedhros' fëa burned like the sun itself. Hot and scorching anyone, who came too close. The effect has dampened a little and when he descends the steps with an amused smile Maedhros reminds Gil-galad of the Elf he met in his childhood. Back then he was tiny enough to fit into his father's arms. Gil-galad remembers tucking curiously at the long red bangs when they were introduced. As child he thought he was meeting one of the Valar his Ada always told him about and the silent feeling of awe never quite went away.
"You complete and utter bastard," Celebrimbor yells and jumps over the railing, long before the boat is tied to the pier.
The younger Fëanorian is the very picture of anger and wrath, walks towards his uncle with determined steps and Gil-galad knows from past events that crowds part for him whenever Celebrimbor is in a mood like this. He envies his cousin for his natural charisma sometimes. Elrond is more quiet, but no less resolved to confront Maedhros about hiding away from the world. Though it's probably the fact that neither of them had an idea he survived, if Gil-galad understood the angry murmuring that accompanied him on the trip correctly.
"You insolent self-sacrificing coat hanger. If you're trying to hide from the world, do it right. But don't vanish from the face of Arda and than come back after a few decades, just to leave us guessing ," Celebrimbor continues his tirade and pokes Maedhros into his chest. "I thought, I was going mad, literally reading too much into an old book."
Elrond isn't saying anything, but he has crossed his arms over his chest and seems to be seconds away from tapping his foot on the ground. Gil-galad hates that look, because he loses his patience every time. He can't say how often Elrond has stared him into submission with nothing but silent resolve and a stare that could make Manwë quiver in fear.
Maedhros hasn't even bothered to move his hands out of his pockets. He remains relaxed and only raises an eyebrow as he says, "Anyone who compares you to Curufin is a blind idiot."
Gil-galad holds his breath as Celebrimbor's father is mentioned. That is a sore subject, which he avoids even hinting at. The only time he did, it took three year for Celebrimbor to talk to him again.
But Maedhros is unfazed and continues, flicking a finger against his stunned nephew's forehead.
"You might be the spitting image of your father, Telpe. But your heart, your soul and your actions are all Tyelko," Maedhros sighs and looks incredibly fond. "With the slight difference that you haven't hit me yet."
Celebrimbor's resolve crumbles. His voice wavers as he says, "I can still do that if you want. You certainly deserve it for letting us think you're dead all these years."
"Can I have a hug instead?" The question is addressed at Elrond as well.
When he gets no immediate reaction. Maedhros opens his arms and then it takes only a single heartbeat for the three men to fall into an embrace.
Gil-galad politely busies himself with unloading the boat, but when the wind turns he overhears, Celebrimbor saying, "I thought I was the last."
His heart breaks a little and Gil-galad is glad that the two-and-a-half Fëanorians found each other again. The rift between their people is still deep, even among the Noldor, but he can hope that they'll grow and learn.
He tells himself that there's hope, because the days that follow are nearly perfect. Celebrimbor stops acting as if everyone is out to get him, relaxes enough to joke around and let Gil-galad in on some of his more outragous plans. Elrond opens up in a similiar manner, for he basks in Maedhros' presence while the Fëanorian smiles and laughs.
The sight almost takes Gil-galad's breath away. He doesn't know if it's love, remnants of a childhood crush or just general hero worship, but he takes it as a good sign. If Maedhros Fëanorian can move on from war and loss, than so can he. Perhaps they're truly and finally healing.
Unlike Gil-galad, Maedhros is a bit more realistic about the future. He welcomes his guests into his home, shows Elrond the great fortress he heard so much about and could never visit during the war. Gil-galad is just at awe and confesses that his own city in Lindon is not that grant.
"Be glad that it doesn't have to be," Maedhros answers and then turns to discuss with Celebrimbor how they can repair the left wing.
While he's not alone on his island, he lives with Elves of various origin who only wish to be left alone and a few mortal fishers, so the repairs take time. Since Celebrimbor is the Lord of the remaining Fëanorian Host, he quickly agrees that sending trusted craftsmen is a good idea.
"Do you think we can keep your identity a secret?" Elrond wonders.
He knows enough Noldor, who will drop everything in order support the last Son of Fëanor. Especially if it's Maedhros, who still has a lot of support. It's mostly the other brothers, who get discredited and blamed for the Kinslayings.
Maedhros always seemed untouchable. Surviving Angband only reinforces that image.
Reading Elrond's thoughts, Maedhros smiles. His lips twitch in suppressed amusement as he says, "I surrendered the crown once, I've no compunctions of refusing it again, should someone get the idea of offering it to me."
It takes all of Celebrimbor's willpower not to say, 'Yes, because you're very capable of ruling without it.'
Already the books Maedhros has written are showing how deeply connected the surviving members of their race truly are. As Leader of the Fëanorian Host, Maedhros has been privy to a lot of politics that never made it into the history books. Casually he once described the good relations between Ambarussa and the Nandor, how they earned their respect enough to built Amon Ereb. The paragraph finishes with the sentence that it's a miracle that the hill, where Denethor's grave is build upon survived the great flood and the breaking of Beleriand.
It's just a small tale, but the effect cannot be denied, since Celebrimbor spotted Sindar and Silvan alike, on their way to the Grey Havens in order to ask Círdan to take them to their lost King's resting place.
You've a plan, Celebrimbor realizes after he watched his uncle for a while. You've already ideas brewing in the back of your mind. You'd never content yourself with living an unremarkable life, not with Morgoth finally dead and our family's legacy weighting on your shoulders.
He learns what exactly Maedhros is planning, when his uncle turns to him one day. He says, "You know that I've never been fond of boats. Do you think you could convince the Dwarves to build a bridge to the mainland?"
Many centuries later it's less of a bridge and more like an entire city. It turned out that the Khazad threw all their skills and their enthusiasm at the project, seeing it as worthy replacement of the lost cities of Nogrod and Belegost. It towers over the bay, finally completed thanks to the aid of the Numerorans. At first the Dwarves were skeptic, but Maedhros diplomatic skills ensured that they worked along side each other. Earning respect and friendship over time.
It surprises anyone but Maedhros, when Numerorans and Dwarves settle in the new city, which is made of stone and build on water.
Trade flourishes. Many Fëanorians rediscover old skills and become craftsmen again. Others refuse to put down their sword and prefer to guard the mainland instead. With the growing population the threat the Orcs present has lessened, they never quite go away.
There's an inscription on the gate. It reads They died for us in numerous languages and every visitor has to walk beneath it, if they wish to explore the wonder that is Himring.
It's late at night as Maedhros steps out and watches over his city. It has many names by now, but to the world it's still known as Himring. That stuck, mostly because Maedhros insisted on it. There are various districts that show influences of those who build it. The Dwarfish Port in the South that is also their connection to the Blue Mountains. The settlement further east that harbours those, who prefer to live on land. Many of them are Elves and Rangers, guardians of Arnor.
It's not quite peaceful, not like Lindon is. A lot of the political playground has shifted to Himring. In a way, Maedhros takes care of the international trade, the ships coming from Numenor and their relationship to the Dwarves through Ered Luin and Celebrimbor, while Gil-galad keeps the remaining Eldar happy.
Maedhros is glad not to be involved in that. He has no patience for those, who remain set in their views. He doesn't even know what the Sindar are up to these days. All he cares about that there's talk of building an university. With most of the constructions finished, the descendants of those who shared his dream right from the beginning and helped him build Ost-Eruchín, strife to share and compare their knowledge. They had been forced to do so, early on when Numenor provided materials the Dwarves kept demanding and wished to be included in return.
The result are the seven great towers that surround the city.
It's one of the few concession Maedhros made to the past. While Himring's origin is definitely Fëanorian, he never wished to rule. If he has turned into an advisor for the city council and an impartial judge, than he won't argue. But he's not Lord of the City and neither is he King Maedhros, no matter how much Galadriel complains.
"Your father would be proud."
Maedhros flinches and old battle reflexes have him ready as a figure raises from the sea. It takes a moment for him to recognize Ulmo.
"I can only hope," the Fëanorian says with a shrug. He has buried that feelings a long time ago, rather focused on the present than on the past. "For I will never see him again."
But yes, in the lonely hours he often wondered what Fëanor would've thought of this. Maedhros likes to think he'd bounce down the streets in excitement, demanding to see everything for that's the father that Maedhros wants to remember.
"It's a loss that he's not here to see it. Anyone of your family." Ulmo hums beneath his breath.
The Vala looks content. It's been thousands of years since the last met, the War of Wrath is an Age away, but Maedhros isn't blind. While building the City of Eru's Children - that name, aside from the original one, is the one that Maedhros like the most - he heard the sea whispering to him. He always knew that they could not succeed without Ulmo's blessing, but when they found the waters more shallow than suspected and the constructions went on without any major disasters, he took it as a good sign.
"What do you want?" Maedhros wants to know.
He doesn't interfere with day-to-day politics, but he keeps an eye on the changes within the society. From time to time he reminds the young, why they came together in the first place. To this day the great ships take detours in order to avoid the waters of Angband, even though it'd lessen their journey considerably. Yet the citizen's of Ost-Eruchín know what the cold winds from the north means and they're all aware of the danger that lurks in the water.
Maedhros temper threatens to snap, he's not a saint and being confronted with a Vala brings out the worst in him. He buried a lot pain over the centuries.
Ulmo doesn't say anything, only opens his hand to reveal a gleaming jewel.
Maedhros gasps as the stares at the Silmaril. He waits for the onslaught, the madness that came with the Oath, but his mind remains silent. There's nothing, not even a whisper.
"I'd say that it belongs to you, but I can see in your eyes that you don't truly want it," Ulmo says and closes his fist again. "We've not interfered in your work, Nelyafinwë, but your accomplishments have not gone unnoticed. You've archived more peace and understanding between the Children with your project than we could've ever dreamed of."
Taking a deep breath, Maedhros waits for Ulmo to continue. There have been very few news from the West, only whatever the visitors from Aman carry to Numenor, but Maedhros refused to listen to gossip.
"This is about Mairon, isn't it?" Maedhros asks and contemplates the Maia that moved to the city a few years ago.
He nearly fooled anyone else, including his nephew. But his suspicions were confirmed the moment Maedhros looked into Annatar's eyes and his guest flinched. In fear. In guilt.
"You managed to do, what no one else even thought possible," Ulmo nods, confirming Maedhros theory. "We waited for the inevitable betrayal, yet it never came."
"Everyone deserves a second chance." Maedhros knows that there are some wounds that will never heal, but the Eldar have to realize that the world will move on, with or without them.
"I'd remain wary, if I were you. While I sense no malicious intend and truly hope that Mairon will find peace for his soul, the past cannot be erased. Not for him and not for you either. Memories remain."
With a long haul Ulmo throws the Silmaril back into the sea. Maedhros watches it sink beneath the surface, not as dispassionately as he wants, but his face betrays no emotions when the jewel disappears.
Yet ... there's a new light illuminating the bay.
It may be his imagination, but Maedhros could swear that breathing gets a little easier. The stench of Angband that always blows around his nose also seems to lessen.
"It will remain at the bottom of the bay," Ulmo says towards Maedhros. His wet hair flows in the wind and the Vala wades back into the water. He turns to Maedhros one last time. "I promise that it will be well protect and it cannot be removed. Yet I hope the light of your father's work will help to protect yours, Nelyafinwë. There're enough restless spirits at sea, I have no need to for more."
Maedhros scoffs and watches the Vala become one with the sea again. He heads back inside.
There's little what can surprise Maedhros at this point, not when he has seen everything after watching a befuddled Maia trail behind his nephew like a puppy, but it completely takes him by surprise when a figure crawls onto the small beach near the main harbour one evening. A part of him would call it a coincidence, but it's only been three weeks since Ulmo gifted the city with a Silmaril.
Maedhros stops in his tracks, angles his head and then forgets the breath as the figure raises to its feet.
The first clear view of the face he gets is Maglor spitting out sand.
"Where have you been?" are the first words he speaks, voice thundering through the air.
Maedhros knows that he sounds as if his brother is just late for dinner, but there's hardly an appropriate reaction for the dead returning to life.
Maglor grins a little sheepish, wrings out his clothing and makes a dismissive gesture with his hand. As if he's only gotten lost and not been dead for over two thousand years.
"Curvo says Telpe is not allowed to marry until the rest of us has figured out how to get our legs back."
His little brother grins like the little shit he is and pats Maedhros on the shoulder. It takes a while for the oldest Fëanorian to grasp that there are scales on Cáno's skin . Faint and fading, but definitely there.
"Makalaurë," Maedhros thunders. "Explain yourself."
Yet the Fëanorian can't decide if he should run after his brother or turn back to the sea and stare at the unmoving surface.