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The Adult rating here is really just to be safe for future chapters. I don't intend on including anything super graphic but there is definitely implied physical torture, as well as Sauron being Sauron on screen.
There's a lot of stories featuring this series of events (Maedhros' captivity, rescue, and recovery) and I wanted to put in my two cents.
It's so much fun to be writing Silmarillion stuff again! :)
Chapter 1 The condensation of his feeble breath touched the cup’s surface, and the imaginary vise that had clamped around Findekáno’s chest released its pressure. He was still alive, if only barely. Findekáno placed the cup on the crate serving as a bedside table and sat down beside his cousin. “Ai, Russandol,” he sighed, yearning to take Maitimo’s face in his hands, to clear away the last remnants of sweat and soot. He wanted to draw his cousin’s head to his chest as one might with a weeping child, to stroke the charred, shorn ruins of his copper hair and whisper that everything would be all right. After a long moment, Írissë’s scrutiny turned to her brother. She reminded him of their grandfather in that moment, and of their Fëanárion cousins, so piercing was her stare. But it held understanding, too. “He should know sooner rather than later,” Írissë concluded. “But even he could not be so hard-hearted to turn our cousin away in this state.” She gave her brother’s hand a squeeze, and like a shimmer of starlight, she was gone from the tent. Before making the journey to his father’s tent, Findekáno washed hastily and donned clean clothes, then combed the tangles from his hair and bound it back from his face. He made sure his boots were clean and his mind was as still as he could manage. If Findekáno carried himself with enough confidence, his father would be more amenable to proposals he would not usually accept. Nolofinwë’s spirit did not blaze like that of his half-brother, but all in the line of Finwë had a measure of their patriarch’s strong will. Nolofinwë’s mouth leveled to a terse, taut line and his brow knitted with displeasure. “This is true no longer. Maitimo lives, and I have returned him to us.” Nolofinwë closed the remainder of the distance between himself and his son, seeming to tower over him although they were roughly equal in height.
A Lullaby in Bronze
That first morning, Findekáno had to hold the edge of a metal cup to Maitimo’s lips to make sure he was breathing. His body was still and pale as a corpse that had been cleaned and prepared for burial, though the healers had worked all night stitching and setting and bandaging.
But Findekáno could not lie to Maitimo. He could never know all that his cousin suffered, the nightmares that now lurked behind his closed eyes. Into Findekáno’s mind crept the request spoken in a whisper softer than newly-fallen snow: “End my life.” Would a swift arrow to the heart have been kinder than this? He did not know.
A rustle at the entrance to Findekáno’s tent drew his gaze away from Maitimo. “Enter,” he commanded, though his voice was weaker than its wont, still strained from the stifling smoke of Thangorodrim.
His heart skipped with surprise as his sister slipped into the tent. Her lips parted as if she would speak, but at the sight of her cousin, her dark eyes went wide and her mouth drew into a thin line.
She inhaled deeply through her nose and then said quietly, “Findekáno, this is why you vanished.”
“You have not spoken of this with Atar.” There was no question in her voice.
Findekáno shook his head.
Írissë approached him and took his hand in both of hers without another word. She examined Maitimo with her keen hunter’s gaze, flitting over each puckered scar, each scratch the winds and rocks of the cliff face had scored into his flesh. The survey stopped at the end of his right arm, and she bit at the inside of her cheek to keep from crying out, though an uncharacteristic whimper caught in her throat.
The cut had been as clean as Findekáno could manage, but the site where Maitimo’s hand had been severed was surely disturbing to behold, even after its initial treatment and bandaging by the healers who had so abruptly been pulled from their beds. They had seen many wounds in their crossing of the Helcaraxë and had attended to the result of their prince’s novice amputation with their typical stoicism. Only after they asked Findekáno to step outside had he heard the urgency in their whispers.
“You are weary, Findekáno,” she said. “You did not sleep.”
Findekáno did not answer, but she released his hand, stepped behind him, and began kneading the stiff muscles of his shoulders with her strong thumbs.
“How did you know I returned?” the prince grumbled under his breath.
“You truly believe that your sudden disappearance did not worry us?” She pinched the junction of his neck and left shoulder on purpose, and he winced. “Atar has spoken little, and Turukáno has gone on every patrol he can manage. I have taken to walking when I should be sleeping.”
“I apologize for any distress I caused you, Írissë,” Findekáno muttered.
He could feel himself relaxing ever so slightly as Írissë soothed his exhausted arms and shoulders. He had hardly noticed how sore he was before, though it was hardly surprising considering that he had climbed so far into the Thangorodrim.
“How did you find him?” Írissë asked, taking Findekáno’s hand again. Her tone was gentle.
“I played upon my harp, as foolish as that may sound. Perhaps it was to comfort myself, or perhaps it was in defiance of the dark. I cannot say. But when I paused after a verse, I heard a voice answer my song, and I knew it to be Maitimo.”
“In the mountains? Was he wandering?” her eyes traveled to Maitimo’s right arm again, where his hand should have been. She whispered her next words. “I thought he was held in Angamando.”
Findekáno’s mouth moved soundlessly for a heartbeat before his answer came. There was no easy way to describe what he had seen. “He had been chained there, to the mountainside, by a ring of iron about his wrist. I – could not remove it.” The air hung thick with the words Findekáno had not spoken. There was one injury Morgoth could not claim.
Írissë slowly nodded her comprehension, but her eyes narrowed. “And you carried him here?”
“We were carried,” Findekáno answered, still half disbelieving it himself, “by the King of the Eagles.” He must have sounded like a madman.
Írissë stood in awed silence, blinking as if blinded by bright sunlight. Time stretched, and Findekáno feared she would laugh at him, insist that he had jested, but instead she said, “We should tell Atar of your return.”
“And of Maitimo…?” It had been childish of Findekáno to think he could keep Maitimo a secret, like a butterfly kept in a jar in his room.
Írissë’s confidence wavered. She knew her father had little love for the sons of his half-brother. Even her own heart had turned against them when they forsook their own kin in the far North of the world, and few among Nolofinwë’s host had not spoken bitter words about their departed kinsmen, as so many starved and froze. All of them had been curt and cold in their dealings with the Fëanárions since their arrival at the shore of the lake, and none were permitted to visit their camp unless Nolofinwë ordered it.
As the camp stirred to life, Findekáno could feel eyes following him. Their Prince had returned to them, but their questioning suspicion hung as thick as the mist around the lake. Findekáno pointedly ignored it. They could think what they liked until his deeds had become common knowledge. He had neither the time nor the energy to explain himself to every gawking child or whispering couple.
Findekáno reached his father’s tent in good time. “Atar.” He announced himself in the tone with which he might address a unit of soldiers under his command.
There was the sound of a mug being returned to a wooden table, and then his father’s voice said in an unreadable tone, “Enter, Findekáno.” Those of the court in Tirion knew how to lend their words that sort of irritating inscrutability. Even Findekáno had mastered the neutrality that was a prerequisite for any diplomatic discourse, but his father was a master of his craft.
Findekáno pushed the canvas aside with one hand and strode inside, offering the same nod of acknowledgement he would have given had he seen his father yesterday.
Nolofinwë’s stare, as he levelled it at his eldest son, was cold. It took a great deal of will for Findekáno to keep himself from shivering.
“So you have returned,” Nolofinwë said.
“And you have set the healers into a frenzy, though I see no wound upon you.” The words themselves were casual, but they sounded as if they had been plucked from the most unyielding of harp-strings. “Curious.”
“If I have caused a disturbance, it is for good reason,” Findekáno replied. He advanced a little further into the room, but did not sit down in the chair across from his father. “You know well that one of our kinsmen has been the captive of our great foe.”
Nolofinwë stood, stepping around the table to approach his son more closely. “You took this upon yourself, Findekáno? The rescue of a kinslayer and a traitor?” He would never strike Findekáno – it was not his way – but fury was rising behind his eyes. “You risked your own life, where his own brothers would not?”
Findekáno crossed his arms, refusing to be silenced by his father’s anger. “None deserve to languish in Angamando, save the Black-Handed.”
“And if you had been waylaid? Slain? Taken? What then?”
Findekáno did not answer the questions, but they stirred ire in him all the same. “I was not taken, nor was I slain.”
“You put yourself in mortal danger and told no one,” Nolofinwë countered. “That was reckless of you, Findekáno. Foolish.”
“Reckless, perhaps, but never foolish,” Findekáno snarled, frustration flaring, “Gaze upon your brother-son and tell me you would have left him chained and suffering!”
This silenced his father, if only for a moment.
“You have always been naïve,” Nolofinwë finally conceded, voice flat. “And your heart is young.”
“My heart – ” Findekáno shook his head, searching for words. “My heart is broken that our kin hold their pride dearer than the life of one of their own.” He turned to go, speaking to the tent’s exit instead of his father. “I will do all that is in my power to restore my cousin to health. There will be no more distrust, no more betrayal among us.”
Nolofinwë’s sudden hand on his shoulder was not warm, not reassuring, but the gesture held a ghost of sympathy. “Your kindness does you credit, my son, but know this. Once, I offered forgiveness to Fëanáro, and we steeped our hands in blood to follow him. He cared not. His sons chose their path, just as he did.”
“And I have chosen mine,” Findekáno said, and left.
“How will you tell his brothers?” Írissë asked. “Surely they will wish to see him. They may even wish to take him back to their own camp.”
“If he lives,” Turukáno muttered, earning him a sharp glare from his sister.
The three remaining children of Nolofinwë sat together in Írissë’s tent that evening, dining on dried fruit and day-old bread. Though Findekáno had offered his assistance with Maitimo, the healers had instructed him to tend to himself instead, and to leave them to their work. It was just as well. Findekáno’s hands knew much of battle, but little of healing.
“A messenger will not suffice,” he mused aloud, stretching a piece of leathery apple to its breaking point.
“Then go yourself,” replied Turukáno. “Even our cousins cannot forget your friendship with Maitimo. If they would trust anyone, it would be you.”
This thought had crossed Findekáno’s mind many times, but each time it did, he could only deny it. The vision that chased it away was always the same: Maitimo screaming awake, searching for a face he knew, despairing at the state of his arm. Feeling once again like a captive. Eyes wide, pulse racing. Panic.
Írissë’s voice pierced through his imagining, returning him to what was real.
Both his mind and tongue stumbled as he answered, “I should be with Maitimo when he wakes.”
“Reasonable,” Turukáno said, nodding. “But that leaves the question open.”
“Then I will go,” Írissë said, bold as usual. “It is not far to the southern side of the lake.”
Turukáno bristled. “It may not be far, but it may also not be safe.”
“And Atar may not allow me to ride into battle, but that does not keep my arrows from their marks, and it does not slow my steed. Besides, you must look after Itarildë.”
“You need not risk yourself, Írissë,” Findekáno said. “Atar would hardly – “
“I will go.”
There was no arguing with Írissë when her bright eyes flashed and her voice hardened to steel. Perhaps that was why she had gotten on so well with the sons of Fëanáro, back when they would explore and hunt together beneath the light of the Trees.
“Not alone,” Turukáno insisted. “Findekáno and I will each send a soldier from our companies.”
Findekáno nodded. “Indeed. It is unwise for any of us to travel unaccompanied.”
“They are welcome to accompany me,” Írissë conceded with a smirk, “if they can keep up.”
When Findekáno returned to his tent, the last of the healers was departing. She looked haggard, as if she had been working for many hours with no rest, but she offered him a polite bow as she left and he acknowledged her with a nod.
The healers had certainly been busy in his absence, Findekáno noticed as he made my way to the bed. Maitimo’s bandages had been changed and a salve had been applied to his more superficial scratches and abrasions. The rise and fall of his chest was visible now, if only barely, and he muttered softly and without true words, whimpering in whatever fitful slumber held him.
Findekáno sat down in the same chair he had occupied earlier and wished that there was more he could do. Írissë had once told him, dismissively, that he took the weight of all Arda upon his shoulders. Perhaps he did. Nothing could change the clawing feeling of dread in his stomach, the tearing ache of helplessness.
A nervous twitch ran through Findekáno’s fingers, and he sought out his harp. His own meager talent could not even approach that of his cousin Macalaurë, but music had always been a balm for his spirit. Busy hands, he often found, were good for stilling the mind. He plucked absently at the strings, not knowing what to play, but knowing that he needed to. He closed his eyes, letting his fingers do as they would. Eventually, the notes solidified into a simple nursery song, a candle-spark of innocence from a time long past, and he toyed with its melody as a theme, adding variations as they occurred to him.
He could not bring his voice to sing the words, for he could only remember them as he had heard them the first time, when his sister was small and Maitimo had taught him a song to soothe her when she fussed, a song he had sung to his own brothers. This song. It belonged in his bronze tones, swaying as he rocked back and forth with little Írissë’s head on his shoulder. Not here, in a strange land tainted by blood and death.
When Findekáno stopped playing, Maitimo was silently weeping.
The condensation of his feeble breath touched the cup’s surface, and the imaginary vise that had clamped around Findekáno’s chest released its pressure. He was still alive, if only barely. Findekáno placed the cup on the crate serving as a bedside table and sat down beside his cousin.
“Ai, Russandol,” he sighed, yearning to take Maitimo’s face in his hands, to clear away the last remnants of sweat and soot. He wanted to draw his cousin’s head to his chest as one might with a weeping child, to stroke the charred, shorn ruins of his copper hair and whisper that everything would be all right.
After a long moment, Írissë’s scrutiny turned to her brother. She reminded him of their grandfather in that moment, and of their Fëanárion cousins, so piercing was her stare. But it held understanding, too.
“He should know sooner rather than later,” Írissë concluded. “But even he could not be so hard-hearted to turn our cousin away in this state.” She gave her brother’s hand a squeeze, and like a shimmer of starlight, she was gone from the tent.
Before making the journey to his father’s tent, Findekáno washed hastily and donned clean clothes, then combed the tangles from his hair and bound it back from his face. He made sure his boots were clean and his mind was as still as he could manage. If Findekáno carried himself with enough confidence, his father would be more amenable to proposals he would not usually accept. Nolofinwë’s spirit did not blaze like that of his half-brother, but all in the line of Finwë had a measure of their patriarch’s strong will.
Nolofinwë’s mouth leveled to a terse, taut line and his brow knitted with displeasure.
“This is true no longer. Maitimo lives, and I have returned him to us.”
Nolofinwë closed the remainder of the distance between himself and his son, seeming to tower over him although they were roughly equal in height.