In the early hours, when the moon was tired but the sun had not quite committed to day, a lone figure traveled down the path to the market, hidden by his hood, but his height and the errant wisps of red hair hardly left him unknown. He would make his purchases before it officially opened, selecting hastily to avoid the stares and unlistened to whispers, after which he would make his solo trek again, back to a small shack where he hermitted himself away.
On the first day of each month, he would quickly stop at the crafting stall managed by some of his younger brothers. While all had learned the skills of their father in jewelcraft, the smallest and most exquisite cuts were still made by the patience of the eldest’s hand. From them he would obtain his share of the profits, but he never stayed long for conversation. Celegorm and Curufin still refused to speak to him, and the others said only what they must to communicate briefly with him. He supposed sometimes he deserved it, to have had within his grasp the one and only thing they were oathbound to bring back, and he had chosen to bring it and himself to destruction.
On those days, he both wished Maglor were here, and was relieved that his favorite sibling was not present to the scorn of the younger members of the clan. Still, he turned daily to the sea, and watched for ships, and hoped beyond hope that one day he would once again listen to the beauty of Maglor’s harp and wonder of his voice, and find some amount of peace in a land he now felt a stranger to.
Lost in his thoughts, he did not see the tall Sinda in his path, and only realized when he walked into the same space the other stood, arm hitting a surprised shoulder. He stumbled back a step, the contents of his basket jostled so that he found himself stooped down to pick up a pair of apples that attempted an escape.
"Watch your step, Noldo," spat out a discontent browser. He was part of an escort of sorts, a small group of attentive servants following dutifully behind the resplendent figure whom had been bumped. While the trio of assistants wore dark robes and little adornment, their master was dressed in silk of the purest white, a thin crown of patinaed copper leaves winding over his brow, gemstones set in clusters like small red berries. His cloak barely kept from sweeping the ground, expertly tailored, and made not of silk nor velvet, but of tens of thousands of white swan feathers. The wanderer took a step back, but paused as the leader spoke.
"Galion, hold. It was an accident."
"Beg your pardon, lord," replied the sullen Elf softly, bowing low. His braided hair slipped forward, the sun dancing over strands, displaying it like gossamer rubies. He slouched as he stood again, and made to back away.
"Draw back your hood, and you might avoid stepping in the path of someone else," advised Galion, crossing his arms over his chest with an audible 'harumph'. "And another thing -- you shall address him properly, as one would a king."
"Galion, there is hardly a need, here in Valimar," corrected the master gently, but the copper-haired Elf swept into a bow once again, apologizing now for his inability to notice one of royal blood. Before he could say or do anything more to attract the ire of Galion, he slipped away through the growing market crowd, drawing his hood down further.
“My sincerest apologies, your highness.” Galion bowed his head, then tilted it and bent down, picking something up from the ground. “Your majesty, is this item yours?” He held a small roughly-made journal of coarse paper, bound with heavy twine.
The king of old shook his head, but took the item when he recognized the family crest drawn crudely on the cover and scanned the area. “Seems our clumsy acquaintance may have dropped it.” The arrival of livestock and more purchasers thickened the crowd every minute, and finding the tall Elf seemed unlikely. “Perhaps he will realize and return,” suggested the Sinda as he tucked the journal away.
Indeed, he did realize, and did return – but not until the market had long closed for the day, the tents secured, the banners lowered, the carts pulled back to the farms from whence they came. It was then, by moonlight and starlight, that his search began. A frantic retracing of his path, from the dirt road he tread, to the booths, and all around the area where he had had the chance encounter.
There was no trace, and the ground was trodden many times over, providing no clues to him, save one. A single swan feather had been swept to the side of the road, the base wrapped in silver threads and the tips painted iridescent, left forgotten and unseen until now. Perhaps it was a long shot, nothing more than a false hope that the noble he had met earlier had seen his precious book, but at the least he had an excuse to go to the palace to return the Sinda’s lost item in order to ask about his own.
“Is there aught you need, your highness?” The butler stood attentively at the door, checking upon his master in his bedchamber. Under the snow-white canopy, down-filled quilt of white billowing over the sides and up to his chest, the master of the castle had arranged himself at the exact center of the bed, clouds of pillows propping him up. He looked up from the small book he was reading and shook his head. “Perhaps a pot of tea or a glass of brandy?” suggested the butler.
Another negative shake of the head was given. “There is nothing more I need, Galion. If I require something, I can call upon one of the cooks. Or, I could retrieve it myself…”
“Perish the thought, your highness! If anything is desired, do call upon me!” Galion seemed truly unnerved by the thought that his master would perform any laborious task, even one so small as to transfer brandy from the bottle to a glass.
The Sinda bowed his head to hide his smirk and turned to the next page of the book. “You are dismissed, Galion. Sleep well.”
“Thank you, sir. I shall indeed, sir.” As Galion began to back his way out of the room with a bow, the bell at the front door clanged and he stiffened. “Who could that be at such a late hour? Certainly not the prince,” mumbled Galion to himself in reference to his master’s son. He hurried from the room and down the double flight of stairs while his master set the book aside on the quilt and listened intently. Whomever requested entrance was keeping their voice too low to hear, but it was obvious that Galion was displeased to see them. There was a loud sigh, followed by a shuffle of feet and the closing of the door.
By the time Galion reached the bedchambers again, his master was tying the belt of his robe and sliding his feet into a pair of house shoes. “Your highness, you have a visitor. The Noldo from the market,” said the butler distastefully.
“Thank you, Galion.”
“Will you be requiring that brandy now?”
The lord of the estate chuckled and patted Galion’s shoulder as he passed. “No, but it seems you might. Rest well, Galion. I expect this to be a short conversation, if our friend is as much of a conversationalist now as he was early this morning.”
Galion looked wary of his master seeing to the unexpected guest on his own, and stood at the railing of the balcony that overlooked the foyer. Near to the door stood the tall Elf, fidgeting nervously with the rings on his hands as he waited. As the Sinda padded down the stairs, the Noldo glanced up, then down again, studying the inlay of the floor. It was a map of some sort, showing caves and forest, and the marble of their making gleamed and sparkled as the candles in the chandelier flickered.
“Greenwood, my realm of old,” remarked the regal Elf, his hands in the pockets of his robe as he strolled casually towards his guest. “I am told it stands still, ruled now by my great-grandson. No wizards to aid us, no magic rings of power… seems some forget the hardiness of the third clan,” he said as he came to a slow stop, and removed a hand from its hiding place to motion towards a doorway. “Perhaps we can speak in my parlor.”
The other Elf nodded and moved in the general direction, ignoring the 'harumph' that echoed behind him. A small room of great opulence, the ceiling vaulted three stories, with a balcony around the second, and long banners with lines of well-known poems upon them stretched from the bottom of the balcony to the floor. The room itself was round, and the door, too, was curved so that when shut there was but one continuous wall. Even the furniture was rounded – chairs with circular seats and a quarter-moon table. “Brandy?” inquired the Sinda, holding up the bottle he had taken from a round silver tray.
The Noldo appeared about to object, but the Sinda poured the liquid before anything could be said. “Thank you,” he said quietly as the glass was handed to him. He pushed back the hood of his cloak with his free hand, still holding the glass gingerly. Red hair tumbled past his shoulders, slightly unkempt from the intense searching earlier in the evening. “I want to start by apologizing again for my inattentiveness in the marketplace this morning, your highness.”
“You have thrice now. I wonder if I shall need to issue you an official pardon before you stop.” The Sinda smiled warmly, but noticed that the Noldo still appeared apprehensive. “Besides,” he added, “I think two former kings can certainly use a more familiar address than titles, Maedhros.”
With a curt nod, Maedhros lifted his glass and tilted his head back to drink the contents in two gulps. “I came more so on another matter. I believe that you misplaced something today that I have found.”
“Did I?” The Sinda watched as Maedhros reached beneath his cloak and produced the shimmering feather. “Ah, it must have drifted from my cape while we were in the market. I did not know it was molting season,” he joked as he took the feather when it was offered to him. He twirled it between his fingers. “I thank you for returning it. Truly, this could have waited until morning, but I appreciate your eagerness in reuniting it with me.”
Maedhros shifted his stance, and nodded in thanks when the feather was set down, and the bottle picked up in its place so as to refill his empty glass. “There was… actually something more…” His skittishness was more apparent as he spoke without looking at the other.
“Yes.. I seem to have lost something. Dropped it, perhaps. A small journal, nothing of great significance.”
“Really? Having seen the words within, I would have thought it to be of great importance to you.”
What color was visible in Maedhros’ fair skin drained, his hair taking on a fiery appearance against milky-white skin. “You have seen it, then? …read it, even?”
“Come. Let us sit down.” The bottle was tilted to fill the glass Maedhros held to the brim, and was taken by the Sinda to one of two plush leather chairs with rounded backs and circular velvet pillows. “Please, have a seat,” he added when Maedhros did not move a muscle, the words less a request and more a command.
Maedhros followed, sitting just on the edge of the chair, like some wild creature planning twelve different escape plans should the need arise. “I can only assume that you know where my book is.”
“It is safe,” came the reply. A chuckle escaped the Sinda’s lips when Maedhros narrowed his eyes in response. “Please, relax. Does it comfort you any to know that I can assure you I have been the only person to see the pages?”
“Not particularly,” mumbled Maedhros. “Please, if I may have my journal back, I shall leave immediately and interrupt your evening no further.”
“Ah, but I still half the story to go. I suppose it is I who should now apologize for reading your personal notes, but you must understand my curiosity.” The Sinda leaned forward in an attempt to catch the gaze of the Noldo. “You are quite a mystery to everyone here. If our places were switched, would you not have at least the slightest inclination to find out what secrets that diary holds?”
Maedhros attempted to create a rational argument, but managed only to say, “It is mine, and I want it back.”
“Like father, like son.” The Sinda looked away, settling back into the chair. “You shall not leave this house without it, I promise that to you. I do have a few questions to ask of you first, if you might indulge me.” When Maedhros stiffened, the Sinda added, “I have spoken to no one of the contents of your journal, nor will I. You have my word on that.”
Still looking away, Maedhros ground his teeth, but finally nodded. “Ask them.”
“How long do you intend to blame yourself for your father’s sins?”
“The cruel things he did were not his fault alone. We seven might have spoken sense to him, or done something different. After he was gone, I carried on his wishes – I could have stopped it, several times.”
“Once a boulder begins to roll down a hillside, few can catch it, and none can stand in its way.”
Maedhros sat back and gulped the brandy. “Maybe. I could have tried.”
“You keep lists in your journal.”
“Names of people.”
“Every person I killed.”
“And you have spoken to them?”
“As many as will listen. I have gone to them, personally apologized. Well, when the door was not slammed in my face.”
“Something like that.”
“One thing more,” added the Sinda as he stretched over with the bottle, filling the rest of the glass Maedhros still held without asking. “You mention someone frequently in your writings—“
Maedhros ground his teeth again. “You want the name?”
“Not really. I was more curious if the affections were returned or not.”
Slowly, Maedhros shook his head. “Not then, not now. Not ever. He made that clear years ago.” He tilted his head, throwing back the rest of the liquor. “Confronted me in public. Called it disgusting. Told me I should have remained in the Halls, that I deserved it. Even cursed the day he found me at Thangorodrim and rescued me from my torment. Does that satisfy your curiosity?”
“It tells me much.” Fingers drummed upon the leather arm of the chair, then the Sinda abruptly stood. “Come. You have returned what is rightfully mine; I shall return what is yours to you.” He walked across the room, and Maedhros hastily set the glass aside, bumping the bottle. “Upstairs. Follow me.”
The Sinda stopped at the door of the bedchamber and motioned inside. “Right in there.”
Maedhros slid past, missing the appreciative gaze from the Sinda as he passed by. “Where is it?”
“On the bed,” came the reply as the door was closed and quietly locked behind him. “I was reading it there earlier.”
A quick scan located the item, resting in a nest of quilted blankets. As Maedhros turned, letting out a relieved sigh, he caught sight of the door, blocked as the Sinda stood with his back to it. “Uhm, thank you. I should be on my way. Sorry again for the intrusion.”
“You have some place else to be?”
“Well, home,” answered Maedhros as he took a step closer, yet paused. “You.. have more questions?”
“Something like that.” He stepped away from the door, moving closer to Maedhros. “I am enjoying our conversation, and your company.” His eyes flitted tellingly at the bed, and Maedhros’ widened. “I find myself hoping for… further intercourse…”
“I… we.. we hardly know each other,” interrupted Maedhros.
“On the contrary, there are a great many books that discuss you, and I have read several in my free time,” the Sinda told him.
“That hardly constitutes… I know what you are really referring to,” said Maedhros as he took one step back for every two movements forward made by his counterpart. “I was under the impression, from the books I have read, that you are married.”
“I was married. When my disastrous tactical maneuvers cost me my life, my wife moved on. I lay no blame upon her – she would never have traveled here. She would have been dreadfully unhappy. I am blessed that my son and grandson and several of the servants we retained did in fact decide to come here, but her life is there, and mine, by choice or not, is on this side of the sea.” The gap was closed, and the Sinda reached up, touching the Noldo’s cheek gently. “I find you fair, Maedhros, and unhappy in the highest degree. I find myself wanting to see one so lovely simply smile again, as I suspect you once did.”
A hard swallow cleared Maedhros’ throat and he stepped away. “You would not enjoy the consequences of that. I am loathed, not only by those I wronged, but by my own people – my own family – as well. You would share in that scorn.”
“I would risk that, to the lonely life I live now.”
“You would be shunned. Villainized. Ridiculed!” Maedhros shook his head. “I could not live with myself to see another subjected to that!”
Again, the gap was closed, the hand placed upon the Noldo’s cheek. “I would gladly place myself in that position for the moments of happiness we would have.”
“I am a kinslayer!” Each word was individually punctuated, and the silence that followed froze them both, with the exception of the searching look that the Sinda gave, his eyes reading the lost expression, the fear in the other’s eyes, the conflict that was there, the mourning and the bitter solitude he had faced.
Slowly, the hand slipped away, and for a moment Maedhros began to walk past and towards the door. Suddenly, he stopped, upon hearing these words: “I forgive you.”
Turning first his head, then his whole body, something changed in Maedhros’ demeanor. His walls had fallen, so abruptly, that his emotions came forth so quickly he swayed a moment and took hold of the bottom post of the canopy to steady himself, dropping the journal to the floor.
The Sinda reached out for him, taking hold of the other hand and grasping it tightly. “You… do not hear those words often, do you?”
Jaw slackened, head moving back and forth dumbly, Maedhros managed to whisper, “You are the first.” Then came the emotional release, the sobbing and the soft words of regret, barely audible as he was drawn into the arms of the other Elf and held as he babbled his way through an age of misery and all that followed.
When it subsided, and Maedhros pushed himself away, red-eyed and embarrassed (yet, hand still held by the other), he mumbled yet another apology and a request to leave.
“I cannot let you leave by yourself. Not in the state you are in,” said the Sinda. “Stay the night – I have many guest rooms,” he clarified quickly. “I will have Galion ready one for you.” He began to step away, letting go of his grip, but felt Maedhros tighten his grasp.
“How could you ever possibly love me, after all I have done?” Maedhros had the same searching look the other Elf did earlier.
“After all you have said and all I have seen, how could I not?” He pulled the Noldo close again, and received no resistance. “As one who has also been reborn, you must understand my belief in second chances.” He paused. “Shall I call for Galion to ready the other room?”
Maedhros shook his head, and leaned into the touch to his cheek a moment later. “I only hope you do not regret this.”
“I will regret nothing.” Instead of gentle, lingering kisses, their fervor caused them to crash together in a passionate frenzy. The knot of the robe was undone, belt thrown aside; the clasp of the cape that Maedhros wore broke as it was hastily undone. It took very little time for their remaining garments to join the pile at their feet, and for Maedhros to find himself pinned down on the mattress. “I imagine is has been longer for you than it has been for me.” When Maedhros turned his head aside without answer, a blush creeping up his neck to color his cheeks, the Sinda’s lips curled up slightly at one corner of his mouth. “Ah, of course. I should warn you, I have never been a gentle lover.”
“If I had wanted that, I would have sought out some lithe little archer or a lady of the court,” replied Maedhros, his tone sounding rather bored at either prospect.
The other side of his mouth curved up to match, and the Sinda took a moment to admire how striking the auburn hair was against the pale sheets and body. Then he released the hold he had on Maedhros’ wrists, giving them both the freedom to explore with their hands. Fingers traveled over smooth flesh, these reborn bodies unscarred and untested of battle. Hands kneaded and grabbed, almost unsure if the experience was a reality or a well-executed dream.
Maedhros groaned and rolled his head to the side as his neck was nipped and nuzzled; he cried out as teeth sunk down into the sensitive part of his shoulder, almost threatening to break the skin. One knee bent upwards, his back arching slightly, while his arms dropped to his sides and fingers tangled into the sheets. A hand slid down his chest, teasingly caressing his abdomen, before wrapping around the hardening appendage. He cried out, muscles tightening from neck to toes as his newly found lover increased his pressure, feeling the rapid pulse as a few teeth broke the skin, thin lines of red climbing up between the gleam of white.
The tiny wounds were left to stain the pillows, a permanent reminder left to them come morning if they were to blame lucid dreams or the strong whiskey they had shared. The Sinda nipped at the fresh wounds again, and Maedhros reached up and grasped the other Elf’s shoulders, rooting him, keeping his attention on what he had started.
He pulled away with a chuckle, leaving Maedhros to relax his body, slipping back down to rest, eyes half-open, chest rising and falling in rhythm to the stroking of his stiff appendage that had not ceased. “No one ever uses my name anymore,” the Sinda admitted quietly as he tightened his grip and moved his hand faster. “I want to hear it again. I want to hear you say it.” He did not allow Maedhros to do that yet, swooping down to seal their lips, growls and groans following, and then a nipped trail, from a throat that was suckled until spotted with bruises to pebbled nipples that were tugged upon and twisted until Maedhros thrashed his head from side to side.
Once the Sinda reached his destination, he stayed his hand and blew a stream of cool air over the weeping tip. When he did nothing more than part Maedhros’ legs and steady his hands on pale thighs, curiosity eventually got the better of the Noldo, and he sat up, balanced on his elbows. It was then that the Sinda met his gaze, gave a wink, and used his tongue to trace up from the base to the head, which disappeared within peachy lips. Maedhros threw his head back, a cry escaping him, his elbows weakening until he was back down on the mattress again.
The Sinda chuckled with his mouth full, and Maedhros groaned. Teeth raked gently, and Maedhros squirmed and swore and felt his muscles pull and ache. Then… it stopped. For several minutes, this teasing method was used – complete and total pleasure, bringing him to the edge, followed by the absence of touch and a throbbing that would nearly subside just before the motions were repeated. When Maedhros began to beg, the Sinda simply increased the length of the pauses until Maedhros dissolved into pleading whimpers. Only then did the hold tighten once again, the strokes increasing and decreasing in perfect rhythm. Maedhros reached out, managing to blindly grab hold of the Sinda’s knee as he peaked, crashing down as he panted and gasped for full breaths.
A moment later, the remaining essence was milked by the Sinda, making Maedhros grunt and turn his head, groaning as his legs were coaxed to bend. Two fingers slid through one of the puddles on Maedhros’ abdomen, then continued down towards the puckered entrance, leaving a trail in their wake. There was still enough to swirl around the rim, to breach the entrance those first few times when a single digit sufficed to draw groans from Maedhros’ lips and make him clench around the intruding finger. When more of the fluid was gathered up, the Sinda slowly used a second finger as well. Maedhros angled his hips, positioning them to best take whatever he was being given.
With a deep chuckle, the Sinda leaned forward and down, whispering into Maedhros’ ear. “I prefer fucking to lovemaking. I trust this will not be a problem?” He withdrew his two fingers and plunged three in their place. Maedhros moaned appreciatively. “I did not think so.”
When the SInda had himself positioned to his liking, he used the remainder of the essence on his own hardened member. One hand guided his length into the prepared passage, and the other grasped the shoulder he had bitten, breaking the wounds open again. Maedhros hissed and closed his eyes, his muscles clenching around the invasion. True to his word, the Sinda was neither slow nor gentle in his maneuvers. Firm and precise, he took care not to cause injury with his deep thrusting. Though hardly a virgin, the years had been long since he had taken pleasure with another, and he held back little.
For Maedhros, his inexperience in ever being with another so intimately caused his passion to rapidly rise once again. He grunted and groaned, and true to expectations was calling out to his lover soon enough: “Oh! Oropher! Yes!”
“Say it again… say my name….” growled the Sinda.
Oropher strained to attain the best angle for the deepest thrusts, adjust the placement of the long, limber legs that were over his shoulders. “So fair… and so handsome. And all mine…” He embarked upon the final stretch, and in the last minutes used all he had of his strength to propel himself towards his release. The force of it brought Maedhros to climax again, and Oropher, once sated, untangled himself from limp limbs, untied the curtains of the canopy to enclose the bed, and pulled the downy blanket over them both.
Come the afternoon, Maedhros finally awoke. He was alone, or thought he was until pushed aside the curtain of the canopy and looked out to see Oropher sitting in a chair by the window, reading what appeared to be the final pages of the journal. “While I promised you would not leave without it,” he said when he noticed the movement by the bed and the wary look from Maedhros, “I never promised not to read the remainder.”
Maedhros watched with curiosity until the last written page was reached. “And now, knowing all of my thoughts, do you regret last night?”
“Certainly not. More, I feel I was correct in my judgment.” He closed the journal and stood, picking something up from the table. “I cannot help think how sad it currently ends, though. To that end…” He handed the book to Maedhros first, and then the small box he had taken from the table. “I thought perhaps you might indulge me with something more cheerful on the final pages.”
“Those pages are not all yet written,” replied Maedhros, but he was smiling, and this alone was enough of a victory for Oropher at the moment, who sat on the edge of the bed and watched the box being opened. From within, Maedhros removed a quill, made from the feather that had dropped to the ground in the marketplace. “Will you not miss it from your cloak?”
“I can find a replacement for that. This one is special, having brought us together. I am honored to have you use it to write your story.”
Maedhros opened the little book and found the place where he had left off. He tapped the quill idly as Oropher left his spot to retrieve a vial of ink and some blotting paper. After another few minutes of contemplation, Maedhros dipped the nib into the ink and then began to write:
In the early hours, when the moon was tired but the sun had not quite committed to day, a lone figure traveled down the path to the market…