[personal profile] martasfic
Title: Oath-Bound
Word Count: 1,016
Rating: Mature (for battle gore, adult themes)
Challenge: b2wm 2011 #12
Fandom: The Silmarillion
Characters: Maglor, Maedhros
Beta: [personal profile] just_ann_now

Summary: After the attack on Sirion, Maedhros and Maglor must search for the Silmaril.

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"We deliberate about what is in our power, that is, what we can do; this is what remains. For nature, necessity and chance do seem to be causes, but so also do intellect and everything that occurs through human agency. Each group of people deliberates about what they themselves can do." (Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics)
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They had expected this, a beach strewn with bodies in a tableau eerily reminiscent of Alqualondë: the sands slick with vomit, the broken bones piercing through skin, the pools of entrails. Maglor found his hands shaking quite against his will and he clenched his trousers to still them. 'Twas gruesome, no doubt, but he and Maedhros had a duty to see to, an oath yet unfulfilled. Stepping forward, the beach under his boot crackled in a sound of sand once caked with blood breaking apart. Another all too familiar sensation. He felt his own stomach churn and breathed deeply, trying to calm it.

Out of the corner of his eye, Maglor saw his brother frozen in mid-step. The muscles all along Maedhros's neck worked against themselves as he tried to swallow, his eyes half-closed as if in pain. Maglor was astonished at how close his brother was to tears. He who had hung from Thangorodrim and never (if Fingon were to be trusted) shed a tear when his own wrist was hacked through; he who had stood dry-eyed beside the young corpses of Dior's sons, grasping at each other and half-buried in snow. Would this beach be his undoing?

"We had to come," Maglor said, his tone wavering despite his conviction in the truth of his words.

"Truly?" Maedhros's voice was heavy, and secretly Maglor wondered whether his brother would hear any words spoken to him. Maedhros sighed heavily and looked over at his brother, and then down at the sight that had shaken him to the core.

"Truly," Maglor answered. "The dead would still be dead, whether we looked on them or no."

"And what of us?" Maedhros asked, his eyes flashing with a sudden rage. "Would my dreams still be my dreams tonight, if I had not strayed here?" He walked down the beach and knelt beside the first of the women laying there. Some had broken necks while others lay in pools of their own blood; all were beyond aid. As Maglor looked more closely he saw what had once been a child under each body, bound in a sling to its mother's chests. "And what of you, Maglor Fëanorion? Would you speak such platitudes if it was your own son here?" Maedhros demanded.

Maglor said nothing at that, for now that he saw what had so horrified Maedhros he hardly trusted himself to speak aloud. Instead he walked over and stood beside his brother, laying a hand on Maedhros's shoulder and squeezing it to remind his brother that he was not alone.

"How did this come to be?" Maedhros asked, his voice almost pleading. "Do you know? How came they to lie here?"

Maglor looked up at the cliff, at the great palace of Sirion overhead. He saw, too, the steep stairs cut into the rock and the scrap of cloth snagged in a crevice that matched the third mother's headscarf.

"I do not know, but I can guess." Laughing bitterly to himself at the irony, he said, "The same sight that brought us down here brought them up – and then down again, by a road less safe than ours. I guess they saw Elwing leap to certain death only to be saved, and they thought to take her path."

He knelt beside the woman and tenderly closed her eyes. "I have heard tell from Círdan's folk – many of the Telerin poor had heard fearsome stories about us. That we would ravish the women while their husbands watched, and slaughter their children in the slowest way possible. In Elwing they may have seen their way out – in the death she sought or the saving she found."

Maedhros spat at the ground in disgust. "And the Valar could not have saved them, too?"

Maglor looked over at him but said nothing, for truly, he had nothing to say. Suddenly a mad thought occurred to him. Might Maedhros try to copy these mothers, and so sever the two of them from their cursed oath? Maglor sprang forward and knocked his brother's sword from his hand.

Maedhros looked over at him, a bit dazed. "If I thought we could find freedom so simply, I would be a fool. Do not worry yourself on that count." Then, looking back down at the bodies laid out before him, he added, "What did we do to make them hate us so much? Are we not their kindred, born from those same elves that awoke around Cuivienen?"

This time it was Maglor's turn to look sharply at his brother. "Need you ask? Alqualondë. The Helcaraxë. Doriath. Now Sirion. We are kin-slayers at our core. Why not kin-rapists and the rest?"

"Yet we are still elves." Though he had spoken those words as a statement Maedhros's eyes shone with a cautious hope, and Maglor guessed that Maedhros had meant them as a question.

"We are still elves," Maglor repeated as much for himself as for Maedhros. "And so we shall act like elves, whatever the others may say. We shall see these elves buried among the honored dead. We shall set them interred in graves apart, when we can. And we shall see that this city's children at least do not die in the snow. But first..."

"I know." Maedhros rose to his feet. "The Silmaril." Maglor picked Maedhros's sword up and handed it to his brother. "It is gone," Maedhros said. "I saw a white gull carrying it over the sea. Did you not?"

"I did," Maglor said, "but I have dreamed such phantoms a thousand times. Carried off by gulls, and dolphins, and the waves themselves to distant lands. Speared on the tusk of a giant boar and taken far beyond our reach. Swallowed up by the very earth. I no longer trust my eyes in such things. For my own mind's ease, I must know beyond all doubt that Elwing has not left the Silmaril behind."

Maedhros nodded at that, and Maglor guessed his brother understood better than anyone this side of the sea. Girding themselves against what they might see, they continued on down the beach.
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