Word Count: 937 + Notes
Challenge: b2wm 2011 #4
Fandom: The Silmarillion
Characters: Maedhros, Fingon
Summary: Fingon and Maedhros spar after Thangorodrim, first with swords and then with words.
Fear, confidence, appetite, anger, pity, and in general pleasure and pain can be experienced too much or too little, and in both ways not well. But to have them at the right time, about the right things, towards the right people, for the right end, and in the right way, is the mean and best; and this is the business of virtue. (Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics)
Maedhros stood at the ready, waiting for Fingon to make his move. His rival shifted his weight first to the left, then to the right before finally lunging forward. Maedhros parried the blow with ease and stepped forward, turning his shoulders as he brought his blade forward. Caranthir had taught him how to do that, a technique he had learned from the Dwarves who so often lost their limbs in battle.
Fingon almost laughed at that, for a week ago Maedhros would have scarcely held onto his sword, let alone deflected Fingon's attack. Maedhros, though, knew better than to let his guard fall, and he was ready for Fingon's riposte when it came. However close they might be when they shared tales around the camp fire, just now they were sparring, and that made Fingon his foe – and he Fingon's.
So began the slow dance they had done so many times before Thangorodrim. Before Alqualondë. On guard, lunge, parry, riposte, again and again, they made their way back and forth across the greensward to the music of clashing steel. Off to the side, Maedhros was vaguely aware of his brothers, watching the match with some interest. Caranthir would be pointing out the ways that Maedhros had learned his torso's new center of gravity, now that he fought one-handed, and Celegorm might listen well. (Amrod, still young enough to care more for sport than battle tactics, would pay him little mind, focusing instead on the finer points of the sparring match.)
Again and again their swords met until Maedhros's chest glistened with sweat in the late afternoon sun, and Fingon on occasion let his sword-arm drop as it grew tired. At last Fingon drew him into a feint, turning Maedhros's sword to the side and touching his own blunted tip to Maedhros's calf. Amrod proclaimed the point from his place on the sidelines, and Maedhros bowed respectfully toward his cousin.
Then, to everyone's surprise, Maedhros swung his sword over his head in a wide arc, driving it into the earth between them, and knelt in front of Fingon. He looked up at his cousin, his eyes earnest and for once unguarded, and saw Fingon's own eyes grow wide in surprise. He knew, then; Fingon always knew what Maedhros was going to say before he spoke, somehow, and now was no exception. He would offer his sword to Fingon's house, and his fealty as well – if Fingon would but accept it.
"You would offer me this?" Fingon asked quietly. "You would offer it freely?" Maedhros nodded and opened his mouth to speak, but Fingon shook his head quickly, looking pointedly over at Maedhros's brothers. He helped Maedhros to his feet and pulled him into a tight embrace. "This talk is not for all ears," he whispered. "Will you walk with me?"
Maedhros nodded almost imperceptibly but did not take the sword. They stood facing each other for a long moment, engaged in a quiet battle of wills, until at least Fingon sheathed his own sword and took Maedhros's in his hand. The two walked away from the greensward, behind the cluster of tents that served Maedhros's household. "What do you mean by all this, Maedhros?" Fingon asked as soon as they were out of earshot of the others. "Submission does not come naturally to you."
"Naturally?" Maedhros mused. "No, not naturally. But with practice even the most obstinate man may be brought round to virtue. I have pledged myself to you a thousand times in my mind. This time, when I did it in truth, I acted as easily as a warm knife through butter."
Running his fingers over the stump where his other hand had once been, he added more quietly, "I have had much time for thought these last few years, Fingon. I have thought long about things I would have done differently, and submission seems to me the wiser course. I could not withstand my father's madness at Alqualondë, and even after I let him burn the ships, condemning your folk to the Helcaraxë. What kind of king would I make?"
"You are not afraid?" Fingon asked. "To have your fate chained to another's?"
At that Maedhros snorted, and any heavy mood that lingered between them melted away. "I have been chained to a rock face until the shackles tore at muscle and skin and I thought I would die from the pain. I understand well the meaning of chains. And I have been chained by oath and blood to a less fitting lord than your father. How much crueler can your own father be than all that? Yet I survived."
"You must make your pledge to him," Fingon said. Nodding toward the sword in his hand, "It is not my part to accept this, or any other gift due a king." He offered the sword back to Maedhros, and this time Maedhros accepted it. "I will hear your words when you offer them, though," he added. "I would hear your words now, were that my part. Neither ice nor fire nor even Morgoth's bonds can long keep us apart, cousin mine."
Maedhros closed his eyes at that, and stood there silently for a long while. When at last he opened them again, his eyes were strangely moist, as though Maedhros the Tall had been brought to the brink of tears. An impossible feat, to be sure, but Fingon could not doubt his own eyes. "No tears," Fingon said quickly. "And no more apologies. Let the past be as passed, between the two of us at least."
Maedhros nodded at that, and put away his sword.
"But when they were landed, Maedhros the eldest of his sons, and on a time the friend of Fingon ere Morgoth's lies came between, spoke to Fëanor, saying: 'Now what ships and rowers will you spare to return, and whom shall they bear hither first? Fingon the valiant?
"Then Fëanor laughed as one fey, and he cried: 'None and none! What I have left behind I count now no loss; needless baggage on the road it has proved. Let those that cursed my name, curse me still, and whine their way back to the cages of the Valar! Let the ships burn!' Then Maedhros alone stood aside, but Fëanor caused fire to be set to the white ships of the Teleri. [...]And Fingolfin and his people saw the light afar off, red beneath the clouds; and they knew that they were
("Of the Flight of the Noldor," the Silmarillion)