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Maitimo's Awakening
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Author’s Notes: This is a side product to my long story, “Elvenhome”, but could be read independently. For those who do so, just a bit of background information: as opposed to Tolkien’s later considerations regarding the family tree of the Finwëans, I follow the version offered in “The Silmarillion” when it comes to Gil-galad’s parentage.

Merilindë is actually Meril-i-Turinqi from “The Book of Lost Tales” – not canonically, of course, just in my little corner of the Ardaverse.

As Fingolfin’s host has arrived in Middle-earth only recently, I assume that my characters are still speaking Quenya – save for the last part. Hence the occasional words in italics.


~~~

MAITIMO’S AWAKENING
by Soledad

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
He came to from that curious state of waking nightmares in which he had spent nearly all the time of his imprisonment to the feeling of excruciating pain. There was nothing surprising in that. His short periods of wakefulness were always filled with pain. More pain than any Elf was supposed to endure. Death would have been a relief – and mightily welcome.

And yet he prevailed. The Oath, as-yet unfulfilled, would not allow him to flee his body. Not as long as his task was not done.

In a way, the Oath was a more merciless jailor than even Morgoth himself could have ever been.

What did surprise him, though, was the fact that he no longer seemed to be hanging from the sheer rock of Thangorodrim, chained by one wrist, naked, exposed to the cruelty of all possible weathers. By the flat timber ceiling above his head, he was in some kind of chamber; a simple, though quite spacious and yet pleasantly warm one. And he was lying in something that felt like an actual bed.

Oh Valar, he had almost forgotten what a bed was like!

The most of the pain seemed to come from his wrist, radiating along his entire arm; the one wrist by which he had been chained. He could not remember if having hurt quite so badly, ever. In fact, the arm had gone so numb after a time that he could no longer feel it – until now. He tried to move his fingers… and realized with a jolt that he could not, for the very simple reason that he no longer had any fingers on that hand.

He no longer had a hand, either. Where once Morgoth’s unbreakable chain had been fastened, there was now just a stump, carefully bandaged and throbbing with pain.

Memories of his latest nightmare started resurfacing: Findecáno coming for him, alone, unstoppable, to free him… His shock and sorrow when he realized that the chain could not be broken… The searing pain of the blade slicing through his living flesh and bone, freeing him from his torments… And then darkness engulfing him, mercifully blending out everything else.

Only it had not been a nightmare, had it? Findecáno had truly come for him, risking life and limb, risking to be captured… risking everything. And he had been strong enough to take his hand, so that he could give him back his life.

That he was lying in this chamber now could only mean that his otorno had succeeded. They had escaped from Thangorodrim, although he had yet to learn the means by which that feat had been performed. He could not even guess, though, where exactly he was at the moment. To which town or which fortress this chamber might belong.

Someone stirred at the edge of his limited field of vision. A tall, graceful figure, swaddled in dark clothes, came slowly closer, and after a while his blurred vision cleared enough to see that it was a woman. An Elf, based on her luminous skin, elegantly pointed ears and the innate grace of her movements. She was raven-haired and blue-eyed and very beautiful in a remote, almost icy way.

She was also quite pregnant, most likely only weeks before giving birth; yet she carried her blessed burden with superior ease. She seemed to be positively glowing with a gentle, barely visible golden light… she must have had some Vanyarin blood, too, in spite of displaying mostly Noldorin traits.

And she was most definitely no peasant. Her sideless surcoat – a compromise due to her pregnancy, no doubt – was made of heavy, dark blue velvet, richly embroidered with gold and small, yellow gems. Her undergown was of undyed silk, and a golden circled studded with diamonds and rubies bound her high brow… almost like a crown. Upon her breast, the device of his Uncle Nolofinwë’s House was emblazoned in silver, gold and azure blue.

Of course, he realized with a touch of regret. This was Merilindë, Findecáno’s wife – who else could she have been? Very few women had followed their husbands or brothers into exile; Merilindë was one of those few. She had not wanted to come, she had fought Findecáno’s decision ‘til the end; but in the end, as Findecáno would not be deterred from his chosen path, she had followed him, taking their young son with her, but leaving their daughters behind in the safety of Anairë’s court.

And now she was with child again. The Noldor, more so the nobles among them, did not grow large families as a rule, but the royal Clan had always been an exception. Both his uncles sired many children – though neither of them could boast with having seven sons like his father – and his cousins seemed to do the same. Well, Findecáno certainly did. The others were not quite as eager.

Or was it Merilindë who wanted a large family? Was she trying to bind Findecáno to her side by the way of parental responsibilities? She had always been bitterly jealous of the friendship and love between him and her husband. Always assumed that he wanted to come between her and Findecáno.

If he was trying to be honest with himself, he had to admit that he never liked her, either. As stunning and formidable as she was – not to mention from the blood of the High King! – he always found her cold and dismissive; at least towards himself. He never understood how Findecáno could have fallen so hard for someone who so obviously lacked any warmth. What he could possibly have seen in her… aside from her exquisite beauty, that is… that he would head over heels wed her, almost in the hour when he had come of age.

That was not supposed to happen. There was supposed to be just the two of them, Maitimo and Findecáno, bound by the oath of true otornor, ‘til the end of Arda – or beyond. Cousins. Allies. Brothers-in-arms. But then Findecáno had to go and fall in love and bind himself to a wife who looked at their bond as a hindrance in the way of her marital bliss.

There she was now, heavy with Findecáno’s child, looking down at him with a guarded face that revealed nothing from her true feelings. Was she disgusted by his wasted body, barely more than shrunk skin and brittle bones, like a desiccated corpse? No Elf was ever supposed to look like this. Like a dead body having escaped from its grave.

Once he had possessed his father’s peerless beauty and his mother’s rare colouring, combined to a stunning appearance that left no-one untouched. Now he was little less than a wraith; and a crippled one at that.

Their eyes met; hers the deep, cold, brilliant blue of the Inwir; his hazel irises ringed and flecked with gold and darkened with a pain that came as much from his tortured soul as from his broken body.

“Are you content now, Merilindë?” he asked quietly, his voice harsh from all those years of crying and cursing and screaming. “You have won. After all these yéni, you have finally won.”

She actually laughed at that. Laughed! But there was no true mirth in her laughter, just bitterness and resentment.

“And how, pray tell, have I won our little contest for my husband’s attentions?” she asked. “You are here, are you not? In my home, such as it is in these days of exile, lying in my own bed, where he should be lying with me, and his only concern is you.”

“You are pregnant with his child,” he reminded her. Could she not see what her greatest advantage was? She could give him children; something he would never be able to do, even if such a union between cousins would be allowed.

“Yea,” she replied bitterly. “A child we conceived as a symbol of our new life together; as consolation over the loss of Aracáno, who died on the Grinding Ice with Elenwë and many, many others, because your father betrayed us. And what did my husband do? He left me behind, alone and weakened by the effort to sustain our unborn child, and went off on the search for you. At a time I needed him most, he abandoned me for you.”

He could not deny that there was some truth in her accusations. Creating a new life required great effort from both parents, but especially from the mother; he could still remember how weakened his ammë had been every time when carrying one of his brothers. Findecáno had taken a grave risk, leaving his wife alone; this time Merilindë had every right to be wroth with him.

“I am sorry for that,” he said quietly. “Could we not make peace between us? Could you not let go of your grudges of old? Look at me; I am no competition for anyone. Not any longer.”

She laughed mirthlessly again. “You do not understand, do you? In your weakness you are more of a threat for me than you ever have been. If he did not turn away from you before, when you were still strong and hale and condemned him, condemned us all to death on the Ice, he would do so even less, now that you are weak and wounded and more in need of him than ever.” She shook her head. “I never had a chance against you. You always held powers over his heart; powers I could not even hope to acquire.”

“You are his wife,” he remained her gently.

“But you are the one who has his heart in your keeping,” she countered. “He should never have married me; or any other woman. It was you alone whom he always needed.”

“We never indulged in such perfidy!” he protested.

“Sometimes I wish you had,” she said coldly. “Then it would be done and over with, or if not, at least I would not be bound for eternity to a man who places another man before me and our children every time he has to choose.”

He wanted to protest again, but there was little he could have said, for she was right. Findecáno had always put their friendship before everything – and everyone – else, even before his family. It simply was the way things were between them. They were otornor – bound by friendship, shield-oath and blood.

The thought that it would make others feel bereft of what would be their due by right never occurred to him. Not until now, when he, too, had been bereft of everything. Everything but the most precious gift of Findecáno’s friendship. And he was supposed to give that up? He doubted that he would be able to do so.

Yet if he did not, his otorno would lose his wife’s love… what little was still there of it. Did he truly wish for Findecáno to spend all coming Ages in a cold and empty marriage, poisoned by disappointment and resentment? For this unborn child to grow up in a family where love has been turned to dismay?

He knew he was the only one who could still do something to redress what had gone wrong. And he might even know what the first step should be on a long way that might eventually lead to reconciliation.

“I need to speak with my uncle,” he said. “Is he in residence?”

His request seemed to surprise Merilindë. Perhaps she had expected him to ask for Findecáno, and his heart yearned to do that; but he was not allowed to. ‘Twas time for him to accept the consequences of his choices and mend whatever fences could still be mended.

“I will ask him,” she said and left.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Nolofinwë, now the eldest Prince of the royal family of the Noldor, was tall, broad-shouldered and fair in colouring, like his younger brother. It was a strange thing indeed that all his children would come after their Noldorin mother: dark-haired, grey-eyed and of willowy strength. Nolofinwë himself, on the other hand, could have easily mistaken for one of the Vanyar.

He offered an impressive sight in his knee-length, royal blue velvet tunic that had wide, flowing sleeves that nearly swept the ground and a high neck, embroidered with silver thread in a pattern of small, meandering stars on the collar, along the sleeves and the hem. Underneath, he wore a silk shirt of simple, unadorned grey with tight sleeves and silver buttons closing the cuffs. His leggings were of soft leather, also dyed a shadowy grey, and he wore high riding boots of the same colour. Around his neck was a silver chain with a crystal pendant carved as an eight-pointed star, in the middle of which a single, multi-faceted ruby was embedded.

A great sword in a finely wrought scabbard hung from his back – the making of it showed the skills of one of the Aulendili, which was impossible, as Lord Aulë would never have allowed the making of such a weapon in his smithy. But Nolofinwë had always been a gifted smith, even if he could not compare himself with Fëanáro’s unparalleled skills, so perhaps he had crafted the sword himself.

His hair was unbraided, save for the two thin family braids held together with a jewelled silver clasp on the back of his head; the rest of it flew down his back like molten gold. He looked down at his nephew with his keen, see-grey eyes – the only features inherited from his father – with cold pity.

“Merilindë says you would speak with me, Nephew,” he said, cutting to the core at once. He had never been one to beat around the bushes and now that he was the leader of the exiled Noldor in all but the title, he clearly saw even less reason to do so.

Maitimo nodded weakly. “We need to address the problem of succession, now that my atar is gone,” he answered. “As you see, I am in no shape to lead our people, and shall not be, not for a long time yet. But even if I had the strength, I think not I would be the right choice.”

“Nay, you would not,” replied his uncle bluntly. “You are enslaved by that cursed Oath of yours; you and your brothers all. You would forsake your responsibilities towards our people in favour of your Oath; and therefore no-one of you would be fit to lead us.”

It hurt to admit, but he knew his uncle was right. Which was why he had come to a decision most likely no-one had expected from him.

“Will you accept this burden from me?” he asked. “Will you lead and guide and protect our people in a way I cannot? They need a King whose heart is not divided.”

Nolofinwë shrugged. “You knew I would, or else you had not asked in the first place. This is why I followed my unlamented brother on this mad quest. I knew you would chase after his Jewels relentlessly, and for that, our people would suffer. So yea, I shall shoulder the burden of kingship again, as I did while my father went into exile with yours – under one condition.”

“Name it,” he knew what would come, but when it came in truth, it felt like a blow into his guts.

“I want you gone, as soon as you are strong enough to travel,” said Nolofinwë bluntly. “You are a bad influence on Findecáno; because of you, he has already become a kinslayer, and he nearly got himself killed or enslaved at Thangorodrim. I shall not have him lose his family, too, because of you.”

Yes, he had expected that demand, but the mere thought of being sundered from his otorno was too painful to bear.

“Please, Uncle,” he whispered, choking on hot tears he had not thought he would ever be able to shed again, not after that eternity of thirst. “We are otornor…”

“Are you now?” asked his uncle with a glacial smile that was colder and more terrifying than the Grinding Ice; but again, Nolofinwë had mastered the Ice – and survived to tell the tale. “And if you had to choose between him and your father’s Jewels, what would you choose, Nephew?”

He did not answer; not that there would be need for that. There could only be one answer, and they both knew it. Nolofinwë nodded in grim satisfaction.

“Exactly,” he said; then he turned to leave. “I have sent word to Macalaurë, letting him know about your rescuing. He is the sanest from the lot of you; the only one I am willing to allow into my home. He will come for you as soon as he can; I suggest you do some fast healing in the meantime.”

He left, without as much as a parting look at his nephew, which was not surprising. Nolofinwë, although more controlled and disciplined than his older half-brother, had also inherited the sometimes fell temper of the Finwëans – with the only difference that his wrath was not hot like that of the Fëanorians but ice cold.

Maitimo wondered whether his uncle would allow him to take his leave from Findecáno at least. He doubted that it would be so.

“You still believe I have won?” he asked Merilindë bitterly when she came back to continue her watch at his sickbed.

“Who else?” she returned with an equal measure of bitterness. “I get to keep his empty shell; his heart, though, will leave with you. It has never fully been mine.”

“I am sorry,” he said sincerely. “I never meant to get between the two of you.”

“You did not,” she answered. “I did. Yours were the older claim. I was the intruder. I only wish I had realized it earlier. Before I had fallen in love with him. Before I would marry him. Before I would agree to let him father my children. Had I not been so blind with love, I would not have lived with a remote stranger most of my life.”

“’Tis not true!” he protested in his otorno’s defence. “Findecáno loves you! He always had.”

“But he always loved you more,” she said tiredly. “How could I have ever competed with a bond formed during your shared childhood? I never stood a chance.”

He sighed, for all this was crushingly, devastatingly true. He wished he could go back in time and do things differently, although he suspected that he might make the same choices all over again. He could not imagine growing up without the friendship of Findecáno. They had always been closer to each other than to their respective siblings.

“I shall leave as soon as Macalaurë arrives,” he offered lamely, knowing that offer to come too late. But she shook her head.

“And have him leave me alone in childbed, to make sure your journey is a safe one? Nay; you shall stay here ‘til you recover – as much as recovery is within your reach.”

“Uncle will not like that,” he prophesized darkly.

“’Tis not his choice,” he replied with a shrug, every inch of a Queen, even without a crown or the title. “’Tis mine.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
And so it came that Maitimo was allowed to remain in Barad Eithel, at Merilindë’s demand, until he regained his strength. Healing would still be a long way to go, and he would have to learn to use his left hand for the rest of his life, but at least he recovered enough to leave with his brother for Himring, where he intended to establish a fortress and keep watch on the borders of the Enemy.

Merilindë had been delivered of a son long before that; a son whom Findecáno named Findobar. Merilinde, however, named her son Írimo. As soon as she rose from childbed, a great feast was held in Barad Eithel, and Nolofinwë was crowned as the High King of the Noldor in exile.

In the following years, there was little contact between Findecáno and Maitimo, save for the occasional messages, for Maitimo had settled in Himring, guarding the passes that led to East-Beleriand, while Findecáno had moved to Dor-lómin to hold it as his demesne and his family went with him. And while their mounted troops patrolled the area that would later be known as the March of Maedhros together, the two cousins rarely participated in those patrols themselves – and never at the same time.

It took almost twenty years of the Sun ‘til they were finally reunited, both attending to the Mereth Aderthad, the great feast of reunion held by Nolofinwë at Ethel Ivrin. Merilindë was there, too, with her sons, Finbor and Findobar, and now she was calling herself simply Meril, adapting to the Sindarin name-giving custom.

She was more radiant than ever, Maitimo found. Being wedded to the haryon of the High King apparently agreed with her. She greeted him graciously enough; but again, she had always been superior to most when it came to social graces. Small wonder, considering that she was of the blood of Ingwë and had been raised at the Ingaran’s court.

She also looked a little less haunted than last time, and thus Maitimo dared to make the first step towards reconciliation – if for nought else, than for Findecáno’s sake.

“As we are both participating in a feast of reunion, do you think we could mend the fences between the two of us?” he asked. “Could there not be peace between you and me as well?”

She gave him a darkly amused smile, although it seemed less bitten now than it once used to be. “You miss him that much?”

“More than anyone I have ever missed in my life,” he admitted freely. She nodded.

“He has missed you, too. But it was Atar Nolofinwë’s decree that he should not see you, not my doing. I would never deprive him from the other half of his soul.”

“You love him enough to share him?” he asked.

She gave him a wintry smile. “They say that the hatred of women is love turned poison,” she murmured. “But it is still love, twisted though it might be. He is incomplete without you, and I want him whole.”

“Most women would not be so generous,” he said, “to tolerate a close friend who would take up much of their husband’s attentions.”

“That may be so,” she replied. “But as you might have noticed, I am not most women.”

“Nay,” he admitted, impressed by her bravery and fortitude. He finally began to understand what Findecáno saw in her. “You are a Queen if there ever was one.”

“That I am,” she agreed without false modesty, “and the mother of Kings to come. Or at least I shall be, should Findecáno decide to carve out his own kingdom one day,” she added with an unexpected twinkle in her eyes.

Maitimo looked at the youngest princes of the royal Clan, standing with the other youngsters of the court: Finbor still a year or two short his maturity and Findobar just an elfling not yet twenty, both spitting images of their sire. Yes, both seemed worthy enough wearing a crown one day.

“I imagine that High Kingship shall be handled well by Nolofinwë’s line,” he said. “They certainly will have my allegiance.”

“Yours… but what about that of your brothers?” she asked. “Tyelperinquar is the oldest of his generation, and he comes from the older line.”

“Tyelpe is barely more than an elfling himself,” he replied. And he has the makings of a great artisan… not that of a King.”

“But his father might,” she pointed out.

“Nay, he will not,” he declared. “I shall see into it. I am the eldest, and the head of our House, and I have transferred kingship to Uncle Nolofinwë. Where I go, they will follow.”

“Can you truly make that promise,” she asked doubtfully.

He nodded with a dark little smile. “Oh, yea, I can.”

She considered that promise, weighing it against what she knew about his brothers. Then she nodded and said in slow, deliberate Quenya.

“Then may peace be between you and me ‘til the end of Arda.”


~The end~

~~~

Timeline:
Fingolfin’s host reached Middle-earth when the Moon was rising for the first time. That year is considered First Age 1. In that same year was that Fingon saved Maedhros from the Thangorodrim.

The Mereth Aderthad was held in First Age 21. I assumed that the Noldorin exiles had managed to learn Sindarin in those two decades and switched to the use of Sindarin names – most of the time anyway. Fingon’s sons, Finbor and Findobar, are only mentioned in HoMe and were later rejected. Their ages were never given. At this time, Gil-galad won’t be born for a couple of centuries yet.


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