Tears of Bitterness by gwathrandir
((I don’t own the characters–Tolkien does, and all credit is given to him! :D))
We all rejoiced when our brother was brought home again–it had been three long years since he was captured by he Dark Enemy, and our hearts missed him beyond measure. But soon, I was no longer sure it was my brother Fingon had rescued. While he was sleeping, Maedhros looked much the same, albeit for the innumerable scars, some deep and some less so, that criss-crossed his face, arms, and back. But when my brother awoke, his eyes were changed–they were dangerous now, as our father’s had been.
I sat at my brother’s bedside, my hands plucking the harp strings in the ancient tale of The Days of Cuiviénen. Maedhros was still made to stay in bed, though he protested–Maedhros did not look weak, but the hours upon hours he spent sleeping said otherwise. He gazed passed me now with a pained expression. I would catch him looking with loathing, almost fear, upon the patch of sunlight streaming from the window ever now and then. Maedhros had not wanted me to open the drapes, but I did anyway. His room was always stuffy and dark now, and the golden light felt good in a room so often left in gloom. I finished my song. My brother did not say anything, nor did I. WE sat in silence for what seemed like hours, and I finally spoke.
“Which would you like next–the Tale of the Trees of Light, or the Making of the Sun?” My brother’s eyes darkened, and I felt his strange mood heighten.
“I would have neither–both are sorrowful tales, as are all your songs.” His voice held an edge that warned of danger, but I pressed on. My brother must be in there somewhere.
“The Tale of the Sun is one of the happiest songs I know. The victory of the Valar’s Light over Morgoth’s gloom–”
“Damn the Valar and their light, damn Morgoth’s shadows, and damn you, who will not even let me rest without screaming to me of light and happiness and honour!” He rose from the bed and limped hurriedly to the window, then drew the drapes closed with a swift jerking movement. His skin glowed ruddy brown in the red candlelight. He was sweating with the effort to stand. I started toward him to try to help, but his glare stopped me dead in my tracks.
“Brother,” I murmured, trying to disguise the fear in my heart. “Maedhros, what is wrong? You are not yourself. What is the matter?” To my apprehensive astonishment, my brother laughed–a dangerous, fey laugh that echoed into the very shadows of the large stone room, penetrating my body and thrashing my soul like strokes from a whip. It lasted for ages, mocking me, thrashing me, his eyes penetrating me like daggers.
“What is wrong,” he spat angrily, the laughter fading, “what is wrong is that you damnable fools follow me everywhere and let in the cursed light that scorches my sanity and reminds me every moment of that cursed realm where it was almost shattered like glass.” He was yelling now, all laughter forgotten, and his words thudded against my heart like club blows. I felt my eyes grow hot–my brother had never yelled at me before, not even when we were children. He still stood by the window, screaming at me to leave, but I couldn’t. I was frozen to my chair in surprise and fear, trapped there while my brother shouted words of anger and malice at me. In that moment, my brother became my father–his eyes, his words, his spirit. Maedhros cursed the sun that hid the stars from him. He cursed the Valar, who had not been able to keep our grandfather alive. He cursed Morgoth thrice–the Dark Enemy who had stolen our father’s Jewels and then destroyed him. He cursed me, and my blood ran cold. My own brother had cursed me. Tears sprang to his eyes, and he crumbled exhausted to the floor in sobs of angry, bitter tears. There is only so much a man can take. His tears were silent at first, but soon grew to fill the room as his curses had just moments before.
“He gave them to me,” I heard his broken voice say, “he gave them to me and I couldn’t…couldn’t hold them…he told me they would only harm a murderer…they burned my hands…I could see their bloody faces…they’re dead and I killed them… I can still see their faces and now I can’t even stand on my own two feet…” His cracked words were broken with sobs, and it scared me. My brother never cried–not when Morgoth slaughtered our grandfather, nor when the Demon crushed our father. Yet here he was, broken and mad. And I still clung to a thread of hope that could snap any minute.
“What are you talking about, Maedhros,” I asked quietly. “Who gave you what…” I hesitated. “Who did you kill?” At this last question, my brother jolted as if dealt a blow, then turned to look at me with crazed eyes–I winced. His gaze was that of a trapped bear: frightened and threatening. His words were sharper than a two-edged sword.
“I’ll tell you who I killed. I killed the hundreds of elves that went with me the day I was captured, in the battle I alone insisted on entering. The demons all, every last elf; everyone except me. In his malice, Morgoth let me live…” I soon gleaned what had happened.
Morgoth had let my brother hold the Jewels we fought for, but they had burned my brother’s hands and blinded his eyes. ‘For they are the Holy Light,’ Morgoth had said, ‘and they would only harm a murderer.’ Then the Dark One had made my brother live alone with his guilt until Fingon had rescued him.
“I still fell their eyes, always watching me,” he whispered after his tale was finished. I could not understand why my brother was acting this way, so strange and unknown–dangerous and fey. I could not fathom what had happened in those long, lonely hours he had spent as the Dark One’s prisoner. “Have you ever begged for death, Maglor?” he asked with a sinister voice. I did not answer–he knew I never had. He continued, his voice low and menacing. “I have. And I did. But no one answered my cries. Not Morgoth, not the eagles, not the Valar, not even Fingon, whom I trusted above all people. And so here I am. Here I am, insane with guilt and grief, and you sing to me of light and happiness and honour–the three things I will never hold again.” My mind was spinning, reeling with confusion and pity and love and fear–fear of my brother. He was strange and dark; hardly the man who had insisted on going into battle three years ago… This was not my brother. My brother who was always strong, my brother who had always loved life, my brother who–
Who knelt crushed on the floor, with tear-stained cheeks, dangerous eyes, and spirit ablaze with hatred and bitterness. My brother.
I did not know what to say.