Regrettable Decisions - Chapter 6
Days had passed since Fingon's departure and his family was completely devastated. Many who had at first not believed that he had gone to Angband were now beginning to accept it. Some held out hope that he would return, but the elves of Maglor's group, who had already experienced an event like this, did not share it.
Since their first meeting, Fingolfin had refused to speak with Maglor, so great was his anger at the betrayal, but when he realized his son was missing he soon decided to ride around the lake to the High King.
Maglor was busy in his study when someone knocked strongly on his door. "Enter," he said, not looking up from his work. The door opened and long strides took whoever was in the room to Maglor's desk quickly.
"Maglor!" A powerful voice said, startling him to look up and see his uncle's face.
"Fingolfin!" Maglor exclaimed. "Why are you here?" He rose from the chair and walked out from behind the desk. The Elf in front of him looked worried and angry.
Fingolfin replied in a brisk manner, as if he thought Maglor would put the answer off, "I need to know exactly where my son went and why. Rumors among those who did not hear of it firsthand are not enough."
Maglor sighed and lent heavily on the desks. How would Fingolfin react when he learned what Fingon did?
"You know about Maedhros, correct?" At Fingolfin's nod, he continued, "Fingon wished to know what happened to him. Like you, rumors were simply not enough. I told him and it saddened him greatly. He did not say anything, but I know he has gone to rescue my brother."
Fingolfin's face was white with worry and fear. Nothing, including Morgoth, scared the elf lord more than the thought of his children in danger. "Is there any hope that he will return?" Though he did not really believe there was, he had to ask.
Maglor shook his head sadly, hating to give the news. "Nay. My brother had been there for close to thirty years. If there were a chance for escape, he would have found it. Fingon, of course, wasn't captured, but we all know that once he has set his mind to something, he does not turn back."
Fingolfin sighed, the strength of his voice leaving as he murmured, "No, he does not. He and Maedhros shared much in common, it is no wonder they were friends." He shook his head. "There is naught that we can do. My son is full grown and can make his own decisions, I just wish he had made a different one."
There were no words of comfort Maglor could speak, so he wordlessly poured two glasses of wine from a pitcher on his desk, handing one to Fingolfin. The elder Elf swirled the dark liquid carefully, sorrow evident in his grey eyes.
"However did you cope with the loss of one so close to you?" Fingolfin asked quietly.
Maglor took a sip from his glass. "I didn't."
The two elves drank their wine silently, knowing there was nothing more to be said, instead mourning the losses of a son and of a brother.
A cold wind blew against Fingon's face fiercely; sweeping his dark braids back and causing him to close his eyes. His horse bravely stumbled on, but looking ahead he could see the terrain was becoming too ruff for the animal to safely cross. He halted the horse and dismounted, moving so that he was looking into the animal's soft brown eyes.
"Thank you, my friend, for bearing me this far across this desolate land." The horse butted his shoulder playfully and Fingon patted his neck. "But now the path is becoming too difficult and I must leave you here. If danger comes, run back to the camp as quickly as possible." His horse snorted. Smiling, Fingon gave him a last pat and murmured, "Again, thank you, great heart. Namárië."
He began grabbing as many supplies as he could safely carry. His fingers brushed against his harp and he pulled it out. He had put it in his pack for no reason; save that it was a reminder of Valinor, and thus a reminder of his friendship with Maedhros. It was a small instrument, made of dark wood inlaid with silver and gold leaves, and it was light, posing no problem with weight, so he took the harp also, feeling strangely comforted by having it with him.
With a few more items added, Fingon set out. The ground was hard and littered with rocks, and as he grew closer to the mountains he could see dark fumes hovering above the earth. It swirled about his feet and made the air taste foul, causing him to cough, but he trekked onward, determined to find his cousin.
Fingon climbed steadily, only taking small breaks for a sip of water. Before too long, he could go no farther. Steep cliffs blocked his path and Fingon finally began to despair. The wind howled through the rocks, and he could imagine hearing Morgoth's dark laughter mocking him. Why had he even tried? It was a pointless attempt; Maedhros probably being far beyond help, and it was only serving to worry his family and to be the cause of his death.
He sat there for a few minutes, berating himself for his stupidity. Slowly however, his courage began to show itself. He would not give in! Coldness and anger had been his only companions when crossing the Grinding Ice, and while there was still coldness on this venture, he had the love he held for his friend to fuel him on now. Certainly that was much stronger than anger. And if Maedhros wasn't alive, he could at least find some sign of him to give Maglor peace, if it could be called peace.
In defiance of the wind, and all of Morgoth's dark designs, he pulled his harp from his back, quickly tuning it for playing. He then began to sing, giving voice to a song Maglor had composed in the peacefulness of Valinor, a song praising simple happiness and friendship. He stumbled at the end though, finding to his surprise that he had forgotten the rest of it.
In that moment of silence though, Fingon heard something that helped to raise his spirits immensely. Floating down to him were the last verses of the song, sung by a voice he knew well. He could have laughed for sheer joy, but instead he sprang up and quickly followed the wavering voice. Any sign of happiness left him when he saw his cousin. Maedhros was hanging high above him, suspended on a cliff by his right hand, the fierce wind blowing him against the hard mountainside mercilessly.
"Maedhros!" Fingon cried, scrambling up so he was at the foot of the precipice of which his friend hung. From there he could climb no farther. "Maedhros!" He called again when he received no answer.
The copper-haired Elf looked downwards and said in a hoarse, scratchy voice, "Fingon? Why have you come?"
"To bring you back to your family, my dear friend." Fingon began searching for another way up. "I will be up there soon, do not worry."
"There is no way," Maedhros said in a forlorn voice.
"Of course there is," Fingon replied, though doubt began to gnaw at his heart when he could not find a path.
"Nay, there is not," Maedhros persisted. Fingon looked up to see his friend close his grey eyes and say, "Fingon, I know that what I am about to ask you is hard to even imagine doing, but please shoot me. It will be quick and you will release me from this torment."
Fingon's heart grew cold and horror appeared on his face. There was a moment of thick silence between them, until he said exclaimed vehemently, "No! I have not come here to kill you! I refuse to do that!"
Maedhros fixed him with his gaze and said quietly "Do not delude yourself, Fingon. We both know there is no way up. Please, I beg of you, release me from this unbearable pain."
Fingon felt wetness appear in his eyes, and tears soon escaped to run freely down his face when he saw his friend so utterly desolate and wishing for death. "No," he cried again, but it was softer this time. Maedhros was right, there was no way up, and it would be cruel to leave his friend, let alone any Elf, in this place. Ever so slowly, he reached for his bow.
"Thank you, my dear friend," Maedhros whispered, and Fingon could see the pain in his eyes, whether from torment, asking his friend to shoot him, or both, he didn't know.
"Maedhros," he choked out, and then sought to calm his sobs so he could steady his bow. It will be quick, he told himself, over as soon as I release the string. He hastily blinked a few tears away. Someone, anyone! Please stop me from doing this! And seeing no one better to pray to before he loosed the arrow, Fingon cried out desperately, "O King to whom all birds are dear, speed now this feathered shaft, and recall some pity for the Noldor in their need!"*
Suddenly, and as if in answer to his call, an eagle cry was heard and Fingon unbent his bow. The greatest eagle he had ever seen flew down, landing beside him and cocking its head, saying, "I am Thorondor, King of Eagles, and Lord Manwë has seen it fit to answer your prayer. What would you have me do?"
Fingon was wordless in amazement. Not only because of the large eagle before him, but also because of what he represented. Perhaps the Valar had not forsaken the Noldor as much as they had thought.
Finding his voice, Fingon asked, "O King, would you consent to bearing me to my kinsman? He is in need of my aid."
Thorondor bowed his head in answer, allowing Fingon to climb on his back. Once satisfied that he was holding on tightly, the great eagle flapped his wings and was airborne, carrying the Elf to his cousin.
Fingon slid off Thorondor's back and looked closely at Maedhros. Not much could be seen from his earlier view, but standing next to the eldest son of Fëanor he could clearly see bones protruding from his skin, which was pale and waxy. How he had survived without food or water all these years, Fingon did not know, finally deciding that it was some dreadful curse of Morgoth.
Fingon swept a wild strand of hair out of the Elf's face and laid his palm against the sunken cheek, trying to offer some form of comfort. "I will find a way to release you, I promise."
The tormented eyes watched Fingon as he tried to free his wrist. When he found he could not open the band of steel, he tired to break it, but nothing worked. In anger and frustration, Fingon used his sword, but only succeeded in notching the blade. In disgust, he threw it on the ground. Thorondor watched this, but offered no ideas.
With a touch of his left hand, Maedhros stayed Fingon's efforts. "You cannot open it or harm it in any way. It is hopeless to keep on trying," he said quietly in that sorrowful voice that tore at Fingon's heart. "Please Fingon, my dearest friend, just kill me."
"I will not!" Fingon replied, desperately looking around for anything to help free the wrist. "Manwë has seen it fit to help us this much. Why would the Valar give us such hope, only to crush it?"
"We spilled blood on their lands, that is reason enough."
Fingon shook his head fiercely. "They would not do that."
Maedhros sighed and once again said, "There is no hope, please, I am begging you, kill me. You can make it quick and I will hold no anger toward you."
Fingon looked at the captured hand. If only he could find a way to release it! He did not want to give up when the Valar had given them this chance! His gaze landed on his discarded sword, and it suddenly came to him, though he hated the thought. But Maedhros would have a chance to survive, and that was all he asked for.
"Maedhros," Fingon began hesitantly, "I know of a way to release you, but it will be painful and-" his voice grew uneasy, "-you may not survive the blood loss."
Comprehension quickly dawned in Maedhros' eyes. "You are going to cut off my hand." It was a statement more than a question, and was given with an eerie calm.
He nodded. "Aye, if you would give me your trust."
Maedhros closed his eyes. "Do it," he said simply.
Fingon's hands shook as he readied what he would need. He tore strips of cloth off from his cloak and retrieved the sword he had dropped. When he was finished he walked up to Maedhros and laid his hand against his cheek again.
"Maedhros?" The Elf opened his eyes wearily. Fingon swallowed, hating to have to do this to his friend, but knowing it had to be done. "I am about to start. Are you ready?"
For a moment, Maedhros paused, but then he slowly nodded. Fingon closed his eyes and drew in a deep breath, preparing himself for what was ahead.
Maglor walked out of the building with Fingolfin, sorrow evident in both their faces, the wine having done little to help their moods. Fingolfin easily mounted the horse being held by a stableman and turned to face Maglor.
"Namárië," he said with a curt nod, and Maglor realized that the brief moment of friendship had passed and Fingolfin was once more remembering Helcaraxë.
Nevertheless, Maglor replied without anger, "Namárië. May a star shine on your path."
Fingolfin looked at the sky, watching Morgoth's black fumes, and said, "I fear the stars will never shine again." With that, he wheeled his horse around and rode back to his camp.
Maglor gazed at the sky as Fingolfin left, also watching the smoke Morgoth had sent out from Angband. It made the water and air foul, forcing the outdoors loving Elves inside. That had been a problem for the Noldor following him, as they had yet to finish building sufficient shelters since the moving of their camp.
He watched longer, trying to catch sight of the sky above the smoke. A movement caught his eye, and he eagerly turned toward what he thought was a cloud, but then he saw the rhythmic beating of wings. It was some kind of hawk or eagle, but its wingspan had to be at least twenty fathoms, probably more! He had never seen a bird that large!
The stableman who had recently held Fingolfin's horse noticed what his lord was staring at. With an excited call, he showed a nearby companion the bird, and soon all outside were watching.
Fingolfin, who had yet to ride out of earshot, turned and looked too. When he noticed the eagle was flying toward Maglor, he quickly rode back. It was not any day that there was a bird that large flying from Angband.
The eagle grew closer with each mighty flap of its wings. Squinting, Maglor could make out the forms of two people on its back, and this confused him more. Then he gasped suddenly, and his breath started coming hard and fast when he recognized who the two were; dark braided hair, and copper locks that were painfully familiar.
When the eagle landed, Maglor ran forward, unheeding of any danger the bird might hold, just wanting to see his brother. He glanced at Fingon, who smiled weakly at him, and then looked hungerly at Maedhros, whose eyes were closed and skin deathly white. His stomach clenched when his eyes landed on the mutilated wrist wrapped in bloodstained cloth, but here was his brother! Alive!
Maglor swallowed thickly and touched Maedhros' face, who moaned and turned toward him. That action seemed to release Maglor from his stupor and he immediately began pulling Maedhros off the eagle's back with Fingon's help. He was dismayed when he held his brother's light body in his arms and felt how thin he was.
"He needs a healer now," Fingon said anxiously, the first of any to speak in the silent throng surrounding him.
He would have gone forward to help Maglor, but as soon as he slid off the eagle his father had engulfed him in a hug. "That was a very noble deed you did, my son, but your part in this is over," Fingolfin whispered in his son's ear before pulling away from the crowd. "Let Maglor take care of him now."
Maglor missed this, however, as he had already taken Fingon's advise and was heading for the healers. A few elves had run ahead to inform them and to find the rest of the brothers, so when Maglor arrived the healers were ready. As he laid Maedhros on the bed, his brothers dashed into the room, having come as soon as they heard.
The first to speak was Celegorm, whose voice did not hold the usual arrogance. "Maedhros?"
Maglor turned. His younger brothers stood in the doorway, their faces uncertain. He managed a small smile and said, "He has returned to us, beyond all hope."
*This wonderful line is, of course, from The Silmarillion.