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Like blood and fire

By Nuredhel

Romance / Mystery

The ghosts of who we

The middle of the third age:

A mountain range to the east of the sea of Rhûn.

The female was sitting on a branch high above the forest floor, her keen eyes were following the movements of the animals scurrying around below her, unaware of her presence. She didn’t move a limb, to anyone watching her she would have been naught but a shadow. She was one with the forest, one of its habitants and so she had been for most of her life. She had found this secluded valley a long time ago and she had never left it. She had forgotten if it ever had had a name, if it was marked on any map. It probably wasn’t, it was too far away from any settlements and it held nothing of value. There was just some game, some foul and the thick dense forest itself, no valuable ore or precious gems to dig for and the soil was thin and poor, farming was not an option.

She had no idea of how long she had lived there, to her time was just a worthless notion, a word she had long ago forgotten. She had forgotten almost everything by now, even language. She had become like the animals of the forest she saw as her own, shy and careful, always alert and never did she relax or let her guard down. The only thing she remembered was the shame, the fear, the feeling of being different, something despicable. It was the reason she had sought refuge within this forest and why she had chosen such a life for herself. As a hermit she never had to face anyone, she could live her own life, a life she could form as she wished.

This was freedom, the only freedom she would ever know, she was free from who and what she was and it was all that she could ever ask for. She had found a cave in the mountains when she first arrived so many long years ago, it had become her home and she had survived there alone through cold winters, through blistering heat and both drought and floods. The valley had changed since she first came to the place, landslides and ice had reshaped it and so had the river flowing through it. The forest had moved up the mountainsides and down again several times, the summers got longer and then shorter and she accepted these changes as just natural. She adapted as did all of nature’s creatures.

She didn’t need much, she was clad in animal hides in winter and the only weapon she had was a flint dagger and a very crude bow with some arrows made from twigs. She lived from one day to the next, her mind set upon the moment and she was no longer thinking in words but in feelings and images, like an animal. To the forest creatures she was one of them, in the winter she would share the cave with countless other creatures and she would survive the cold cuddled up among them. She was very thin, her body strong and sinewy and still her appearance would betray her, she never let anyone see her.

People had stayed in her valley several times and none had noticed that it had an inhabitant. Orcs and foul creatures had passed through it too and they had never noticed the eyes that were watching them. The forest was her family and her life and it protected her, told her of dangers, warned her and nurtured her. She had returned to the way of the very first of her race and it felt righteous in some way. She was paying for her past, for her very being.

The female had hardly seen anyone of her own people for a very long time now, she had almost forgotten about them. She stayed there because it was all that she knew by now, she was caught by the routine of her life and the freedom it provided her with. She was living the life of an animal and as such she never had to think. It was good that way. The cave had looked like the dwelling of someone for the first years she had stayed there but now it looked like an animal’s cave with very little left of the things she had brought with her so long ago.

She had been so very bitter and angry back then, it had shaped her, hardened her and turned her into something she gradually realized that she couldn’t allow herself to be. She had become everything she had loathed and feared and this was the only way she could save herself from becoming one of them completely. It was her greatest fear.

She had tried to flee from her own destiny and her own past and perhaps she in some ways had succeeded in this, a little too well.

It had been peaceful now for years, a year was such a short time to her, and yet the years were so very long. Every day a struggle to survive and she had honed her survival instincts into something superior even to the rest of her kin. Her senses hyper sensitive, her instincts sharper than the best blade, she avoided problems and she could almost go into a sort of hibernation if the winter became too long and cold for her small supply of food. She never knew if she would wake up again when she let that heavy sleep claim her but she didn’t worry, she didn’t think ahead at all.

She was resting against the trunk of a mighty old oak, the tree had grown from a tiny sapling to its mighty size in just a short time compared with the time she had spent in this valley and she knew every tree there and every living creature. She had eaten this day, a rabbit. The concept of cooking your food was one she had forgotten about, she ate the meat raw and she just wiped the blood of her face with her fur garments. Her hair was extremely long and tangled and she used it almost as a blanket when she slept. She felt at rest, peaceful. It was summer, that it would be yet another winter soon was something of which she was almost oblivious, the now was all that there was. She yawned and stretched herself, she felt drowsy but it was not the sleep time yet, and she wasn’t home either.

She was ready to get up when she sensed something new, the trees were whispering to her, telling of something new, something that could be a threat. Something had entered the valley. She was on her feet, ran like a wild deer towards the cave and safety but on the way she got curious. The trees told her of confusion, but no hostility. She veered off her course, moved through the canopy towards the source of the disturbance. Her heart was hammering, she had gotten a bit bored of lately and everything new was something she wanted to explore as long as it wasn’t dangerous. And the trees didn’t speak of danger at all.

The three riders who slowly rode along the river were chatting together rather merrily, they had chosen to go exploring when their mission was completed and this area was abandoned by everyone ages ago. It was too close to the vast deserts of Rhun to be considered habitable and the very mountains were hard to get through with narrow passes and many dangers. This particular valley was so secluded they had a feeling that they were the first ever to enter it and they stared at the huge ancient trees and herds of deer with wide eyes. It was such an idyllic site and they stopped by the river and let the horses drink. They dismounted and sat down in the long grass to rest. The tallest of the three took a wineskin from his saddle and took a sip, handed it to one of the two almost identical ellyn who rode with him. “This place is gorgeous, so lush.”

The younger ellon’s voice was filled with wonder and awe and the tall golden haired one grinned and pulled off his tunic, sighed with relief. “It is the mountains, they trap the moisture. I think we may stay here for a couple of days just to explore, or what do you think? My horse is limping a bit and I feel like relaxing.”

Elladan grinned. “Yes, that is an excellent idea.”

Elrohir nodded vigorously, he was in fact very tired since they had been out hunting orcs for two whole months and he felt as though he needed some time off.

Glorfindel sat down and removed his boots. “Then it is decided, we are staying.”

She was sitting in a tree, the canopy was hiding her from view but she could see very well enough. She felt a strange tingling sensation, a need to know more, see more. She didn’t know what these creatures were, they were familiar to her somehow but she just couldn’t remember. They were making strange sounds with their mouths and she tilted her head, her curiosity burning. If she had been able to keep more of her old self intact she would have reacted otherwise, she would have gone into hiding but she was naught but a forest sprite now, a strange innocence had replaced the once so harsh and bitter personality.

The three creatures stayed by the river, even when darkness fell and she did sneak up closer to them, driven by some inexplicable and irresistible pull. After a while she was in the bushes just a few steps away from the simple camp and neither they nor the horses did notice her. Her scent was that of the valley itself by now and her very being was so in tune with nature nobody would feel her presence anymore.

The three creatures killed some rabbits with their bows, and they hung them above fire? That was something she somehow did recognize but she didn’t understand how. Then the two with dark hair rolled themselves into something that looked soft, she had no longer any words for blankets but she did understand the concept and knew that they would keep themselves warm and comfortable like this. The taller golden haired one was sitting there still, staring up at the stars and he was singing softly to himself, a sweet and somewhat sad tune and she just lay there, mesmerized by the sound. She had never heard anything like that, or at least, that was what she believed. It was haunting her, bringing forth a sense of melancholy, of deep longing. She lay there almost trembling as waves of repressed memories tried to break free from the clutches of her mental shield wall but to no prevail. The barriers did hold, she was still the sprite, the wild thing. The one she had been was forgotten also this night.

The next morning Glorfindel walked down to the river and he wanted to take a quick bath so he undressed and walked into the shallow river. It felt wonderful and he just stood there, relaxing and enjoying the sensation of getting cooled down. Then he suddenly sensed something new, he was being stared at. He swallowed, it wasn’t the twins, they were by the horses and the valley didn’t have any orcs or anything like that. The forest itself would have warned them. No, this was something different, it felt almost like an animal but yet not quite that elusive. This was something with a conscious mind.

He walked a few steps towards the shore, just to be safe. Stared around him and wished that he had brought his sword, he didn’t like being unarmed.

She was hiding in the thick canopy of a small tree that was leaning over the river, staring at the creature out there. The sight created a new sensation in her, a sort of longing. Her instincts told her it was a male and she stared at her own limbs and saw that they were the same, the same species? She cocked her head, felt confused. It had removed the things that covered its body and she sort of liked what she saw, it was a very healthy big male, one she was sure all the females would like. There were something almost akin to memories trying to reach the surface of her mind, a feeling of recognition, of desire. She just knew that she would have liked to feel that body close to her own, why?

It was summer, too early for the mating season or perhaps the species she was off was different than the deer? Was that the answer? She had some understanding of the act of mating, she had seen the animals in the woods doing it countless times and she felt a surge of intense longing, yes, that was it. She needed a mate, and this male was the first she had seen worthy of her. Of that she was sure. She was breathing irregularly and couldn’t take her eyes away from him, she moved slowly further out over the river along the branches, how was she to approach him? She had no idea, somehow she just knew that she hadn’t been mated before. She forgot to look down, and suddenly there was nothing there to support her. She had stepped onto a dead rotten branch and she let out a short yelp as the water welcomed her into a very wet embrace.

Glorfindel spun around, ready to defend himself when he heard the sounds. He saw something moving in the water, it had fallen from a tree and it was just one being. He caught sight of something red and white and then it got back onto its feet and he stared wide eyed at something his mind had problems comprehending there and then. It was an elleth, but she was like none he had ever seen before. She looked like some wild thing, naked with a huge mass of matted tangled hair, a body so skinny every bone could be seen and a face he suddenly recognized. He had never seen her before but he had seen someone who looked so much like her it couldn’t be a coincidence. Glorfindel just stood there, staring. Her bright red hair and the shape of her face and eyes, and above all, her height told him who she had to be, beyond any doubt. She was so like him it was frightening and the eyes, Valar, it was the same eyes. The same grey silver eyes with an unearthly shine to them. He had never seen a taller elleth ever, she was as tall as he was and few ellyn reached his height.

Glorfindel swallowed, she stood there, frozen in shock like him. Too shaken to break free from the spell his presence had thrown over her. She was beautiful, no wonder, so had the one who had to be her sire been too. His body did respond to what he saw, she was not wearing anything and she looked at him and then she whimpered, those huge grey eyes got wider and she was gone in a flash, like a fleeing deer. Glorfindel just sighed, what in the name of the Valar was going on? Who the hell was she? Well, there was no doubt about who her father had been, but how had that happened? It was ages ago damn it, back in the first age! She had to be ancient and still she had an air of innocence around her that was shocking. How had she ended up there? Why?

He waded out of the river, put his clothes back on. There was no point in pursuing her, she knew this forest, was a part of it. The trees told him this and she had been there forever, or at least that was what they said. He did believe them, she had lived there for more than an age, almost two. He would have to hope that she would return, come to him instead. She had been curious, of that he was sure. She would come back, he would see to it.

He walked back to the twins and Elladan frowned. “Fin, you look pale?”

He nodded and sat down, crossed his legs. “Yes, I had an encounter with a ghost down there.”

Elrohir gaped. “I beg your pardon?!”

Glorfindel just sent the peredhel a wry grin. “Or perhaps not a ghost, for she was very much alive, but still a relic of the past.”

Elladan sat down too. “Explain this Fin, who?”

Glorfindel stared at the remains of the camp fire, his eyes distant. “We have stumbled upon a mystery my friends, someone who really should not exist.”

Elrohir grasped the wineskin and took a long draught. “Someone who shouldn’t exist? You need to explain that a bit further.”

The golden haired warrior sighed. “When I was bathing a buck naked elleth fell out of a tree that was leaning over the river, she fell straight into the water.”

Elladan did snigger. “A naked elleth? Are you sure you haven’t tried some of the mushrooms growing by the tree over there? They can cause some hefty hallucinations. Darn it, it is always you who get things like that happening to you. A naked elleth, wish it was me.”

Glorfindel just shrugged. Elladan was leaning forward, he was eager now but Elrohir was more relaxed, he had always favored his own gender and couldn’t have cared less if the elleth was naked or not. “I have had nothing but wine, and yes, she was real. And I have no doubt whatsoever who or what she is, the question is how in Manwe’s name she has ended up here.”

Elladan was squirming. “Damn it Fin, tell me, who is she then, this mysterious elleth?”

Glorfindel sighed, his eyes distant and memories of his first life pushed forth, made him cringe as he remembered the bloodshed, the carnage and the sheer madness that terrible oath had released. “She is the last living descendent of Fëanor, most likely a daughter of Maedhros for she is the spitting image of him.”

The twins just stared with shock in their eyes. “The daughter of one of the kin slayers?”

Glorfindel sighed once more. “Yes, some wild thing, barely an elf at all. I think she will show herself again though, I can sense it somehow. “

The twins just stared at each other, the expressions on their faces told of an equal amount of shock and doubt mixed with a fair share of disbelief.

East Rhovanion: Year 30 : Second age of the sun.

Aira just knew it the moment she saw her daughter run towards her down the path, the time had come, the truth could no longer be hidden. She got to her feet, dropped the basket of nuts and took a deep breath, brazed herself for what was to come. Halariel stopped in front of her, tears were streaming down her cheeks and her still childlike body was shivering. She had a bruise on her cheeks and her dress was muddy and torn. Aira let her hand slide through her daughters long red hair, so beautiful, like fire and blood mixed. “What is it my little one?”

It was such an irony to use those words, already now, at a mere thirty five Halariel was taller than anybody else in the small tribe, but she was still pretty much a child in every other way. The girl sobbed and dried tears off her face with a muddy hand. “Mother, is it true what they are saying about me?”

Aira sighed. “What are they saying sweetheart?”

Halariel sat down, she was shaking still. “That I am a monster, that my father was a monster, Calmatan said you were a whore and then I slapped him but he hit me back and pushed me into the mud.”

Aira felt a terrible pain in her chest, like her heart was breaking into a thousand pieces. She loved her daughter fiercely, would do anything to protect her but how was she to protect her most beloved one from herself? Nobody who saw her could doubt who she was, it was her curse. “That was not nice of him, just don’t listen to them, they are just being mean.”

Halariel bit her lower lip, her chin was trembling.”But is it true mother? Was my father one of…of the kin slayers?”

The young elleth’s voice was trembling with emotion and Aira knew she owed her daughter the truth. “Yes, they are right.”

Halariel gasped and stared at her with huge eyes.”Oh mother, how could you?! Valar! How could you…love one of…them!!”

Aira stared down, her eyes filled with dark sorrow. Halariel, daughter of shadows indeed. “My dearest, I didn’t love your father.”

Halariel just stared, incredulously until the true meaning of her mother’s words sank in, she went pale and her eyes huge with terror. “Oh sweet Eru, am I the result of such sin…Mother, did he rape you?!”

Aira swallowed. “My dear child, I got you didn’t I? You are worth it, you are worth it all. You are the most precious thing I have”

Halariel was backing away from her, eyes huge and dark and so terribly like those of her father, of the cursed one who had caused so much grief and sorrow along with the rest of his kin. She keened, a shrill sound that sounded like some dying beast, then she ran. Aira reached out as if to grasp onto the fleeing child but she wasn’t fast enough. “Oh Halariel, I wish it was different, but it is the truth. And we have to live with it, no matter how hard it is.”

Aira’s mate came running, he had seen it all and he stopped, uncertain of what he should do. Aira put her hands around his neck, leaned onto him to seek comfort. “Let her run, she has to know. She will calm down eventually.”

He shook his head. “I fear you may be wrong in that assumption my dear, I know her very well and she is just as stubborn as they all were.”

Aira closed her eyes, she felt so tired, so very exhausted having faced the consequences of those days over and over again. “At least she’s gotten something that may benefit her.”

He nodded. “Remember, she is your child too, she is only your child damn it, forget about him. You have raised her well, she will be alright and they will forget him soon enough. Worry not.”

Aira sighed again and threw some locks of her own dark burgundy hair out of her face. It was that damn color that had brought her undoing  and she had cursed it too many times to count. She closed her eyes and drifted off again, back into memories she had tried to forget, memories of war and death and tragedy and the days that would change her life forever.

The war of wrath: year 585 first age of the sun

She was pulling at the rope with all of her strength, trying desperately to pry it loose, she had to hurry or they would be furious. The stable master had asked for the extra rope to tie up the feet of the ticklish gelding so the farrier could trim his hooves without getting kicked and she had found only this one but it was stuck.

The camp was filled with elves and humans and dwarves too, it was a well organized chaos and she felt so frightened the whole time. She was just an Avari, a forest elf and one of the few survivors from a tribe almost obliterated by a vicious orc attack. Those who had managed to get away had fled westwards and the small group she had been of had run straight into one of the war camps. They had been desperate with hunger and fear and they had been put to work immediately. Since they were Avari they were not worthy of becoming anything but servants and since Aira was young and strong she had been told to work in the stables. She was afraid of horses and terrified of all those haughty Noldorin and Sindar elves who saw her as something almost akin to an animal.

She was being fed and she was safe from the orcs but she knew that this war would determine everything, if they lost then the enemy would surely turn the whole world into hell. She was so scared of that and she barely slept at all. As a servant she didn’t get any information, but she knew that they were making progress. She kept her fingers crossed and tried to work hard so nobody would have a reason to complain about her.

She tugged the rope free and ran to the stable master with it, handed it over with her eyes to the ground. He just scoffed and grasped it, didn’t even look at her. At first everybody had been looking, she had such a rare haircolor and her pale skin and green eyes were not exactly common among elves and absolutely not among the Avari but she was Avari, one hundred percent. She found a wheel barrel and started mucking out the makeshift stalls, she had gotten the hard work and the stable hands of the lords and knights loved to tease her and make her job even harder than it already was.

Being a female with no family and no friends had put her in a precarious situation but she was tough, she knew how to fight and she had gotten some reluctant respect from the others. There were thousands of warriors and horses in the huge camp and it was easy to get lost but she had learned to find her way through the veritable forest of tents and banners. Sometimes the stable master had her running with errands or messages and she liked that, she was a fast runner with long legs and she liked to get away from the stable.

The farrier was done and the stable master got over with a note in his hands. She didn’t know how to read or write and so he often used this Avari elleth to transport messages, she couldn’t read them and because of that she was perfect since she couldn’t leak any information. He handed her the note and nodded. “The edain lord with the boar on his shield, the western part of the camp, go now!”

She knew that part of the camp, it was reserved for the edain and she was a bit frightened of them, in fact more than she was of the elven lords and warriors. There was something in their eyes she didn’t understand. She ran off, the western part of the camp was close to the part reserved for the Noldorin warriors and she was too well aware of what some of them had done in the past. The camp was rather silent this day, many were out there fighting and she ran as fast as she could and reached the western part of the camp without even breaking a sweat. She found the tent with the right banner and mark upon it and a servant came forth and stared at her. She bowed and held the note out. “I bring a message from the stable master to your lord.”

The servant took the note and read it, he made a grimace and nodded to her, turned around and went into the tent and Aira took a deep breath and turned around, started walking back. The camp was muddy and stinking and even though there were latrines dug some gave a damn about it and did their business behind the tents or wherever they felt like it. Many of the edain warriors had gotten ill and the elven healers were furious and up over their shoulders in work all the time. She would have thought that the Valar would have prevented something like this from happening but no. They were too busy trying to conquer Morgoth and his balrogs and dragons to bother with the sanitary conditions of the human encampment.

She was turning a corner when she suddenly stood face to face with a small group of young edain warriors and she immediately knew she was in trouble. These were no knights, these were just ordinary foot soldiers without any sort of honor and she turned around to flee. One of them was very fast and grasped onto her arm, held her tightly. “Oh slow down pretty one, are you perhaps lost? We can show you the way, it won’t cost you much.”

She tried to twist herself free but now three of them were holding onto her and the one who had to be the leader of these men grasped her by her chin and grinned, his teeth were brown and his breath did stink and she coughed and tried to kick. “This one is feisty guys, look at those pretty red locks? I bet she know how to keep a mans bed warm and his cock hard”

He tried to get his hand into her tunic but she squirmed and managed to let out a shrill cry, he slapped her across her face and she felt how her heart threatened to break out of her chest, it was beating so fast and hard and her feeling of panic almost made her paralyzed. The man leaned forward to kiss her but suddenly he was yanked back and the warriors backed away. She blinked and felt how they let go of her.

“You filthy bastards dare lay hand on one of the firstborn? Be glad I don’t ask for your heads!”

The men stared at the two tall ellyn and their eyes were wide with fear, hers were too. She knew these two and she knew that it only was their skills in battle that had allowed them access to the camp and the war. They were the cursed ones, oath bound. She whimpered and swallowed hard. The tall dark haired one didn’t look so bad though, his eyes had some kindness in them. He lifted her chin with a finger and studied her face with a puzzled expression on his face. “What is your name child and from whence do you come?”

Aira felt the eyes of the other one on her the whole time, piercing grey eyes and he was towering above her, how could anyone be that tall? “I…I am Aira my lords, I come from…the east of here.”

Maglor sighed. “A refugee or what? Are you alone here? It is not safe for an elleth to be here without anybody to watch over her.”

She looked down. “I have nobody my lord, I work in the stables.”

Then she felt a hand touching her hair and she jerked, it was his brother and he stared at her red locks with narrow eyes. There was something akin to sadness in those hard cold eyes and his hand was rather gentle. She knew that she was rare, just as he was. His hair was red too but in a lighter tone, more like fire. Hers was almost the color of blood. He tilted his head. “Another fire top, how peculiar.”

She didn’t dare to look at that beautiful and yet so terrible face. “Yes my lord.”

He sighed and bent down a little, stared at her. “You are Avari are you not? I have never met a red headed Avari, and such lush color too, you are rather rare young one.”

She blushed and looked down. “Yes my lord.”

Maglor was smiling. “Is yes my lord all that you can say?”

She shook her head. “No my lord.”

Maedhros grinned, it looked peculiar. “Indeed are you a strange one, I tell you what, you are far too precious to be working in a stable. We need a servant, you are perfect for that task.”

He turned to Maglor. “Send a note to the stable master and tell him we have requisitioned his Avari stable hand. “

Aira just stared at them, working as a servant for those two?! By the Valar, she had stepped from the frying pan and into the very fire itself. Everybody knew who they were and what they had done and the only one people hated and feared more than that family was Morgoth himself. But on the other hand, nobody would dare to hurt her if she served them and she would be safe, at least she hoped that she would be.

She had to follow them through the camp, felt like a midget even though she was fairly tall for an elleth. The two brothers and their followers had an area all to themselves on the outskirts of the camp. It was almost a camp in itself and she feared that she from now on would become even more of a pariah than before. She followed them into the tent, it was rather huge and split up into separate rooms with screens and sheets and it was simple but clean and elegant enough.

Maglor sat down and sighed, he motioned towards a chair and she sat down too, very nervously. “Worry not young one, we will not demand that you work too hard. If you make sure we have clean clothes, clean bedding and hot meals we will be more than happy with that.”

She just nodded and stared down at her toes. Maedhros made a grimace. “You stink of horse and those clothes have seen better days so your first duty will be to bathe and clean yourself.”

He gestured towards the back room. “There is some water in there and I think we have some extra clothes here somewhere.”

He went rummaging through some chest and pulled out a blue shirt that was long enough to be used as a dress, a belt and a pair of breeches that probably were way too long for her. He tossed them over to Maglor. “Here, cut half of the legs off, then they will be her length I presume.”

Aira went into the back room of the tent, it was not large but there was a wooden bath tub there and water in some buckets. She just stared at it all until Maglor came with the clothes. “Here little one, they are clean and there is a comb underneath that pile of towels. You look as if you have been attacked by a tornado.”

She had to grin, she kind of liked him already, there was the same sadness in his eyes as in his brothers but it was softer, more melancholic. Maedhros eyes on the other hand were hard, cold, tormented and there was such anger and hatred in them and also fear, enormous amounts of fear. She wondered if it was true what people said about him, she had seen already that he missed his right hand but had he really been the prisoner of the enemy? Then it was no wonder he looked the way he did, as if he was harboring something to terrible to imagine.

She washed quickly, got the new clothes on and combed and braided her hair, she suddenly felt like a person again and she was shocked by the dark color of the bath water. She had been covered in grime. She drained the tub and washed it and prepared it for the next one who wanted a bath and then she returned to the front room. They sat by the table talking in quenya which she didn’t understand and both stared at her. “Morgoth’s breath, there was an elleth underneath that filth and those rags after all!”

Maglors voice was filled with surprise and Maedhros tilted his head and whistled. “Indeed, you look almost like some Noldorin maid.”

Aira just blushed and Maglor got up, he smiled. “There is a kitchen tent not far from here, you can go there to get us food three times a day. There is wine in those skins in the corner and it is very strong. We want one cup each every evening, do not touch that wine for it will be too strong for you, if you want wine we have a skin with a more normal type.”

She shook her head. “I do not drink wine my lord.”

Maglor raised an eyebrow. “Really? Well, you have missed out on a lot then. “

Maedhros just shook his head. “Oh don’t start corrupting the young one, and don’t spoil her.”

Maglor just grinned at his brother and she sensed that the two indeed did love each other dearly, she hadn’t seen it from that point of view before. They had lost their father and five brothers, and all because of Morgoth and the oath and those jewels their father had made. Of course they were sad and it was something deeply tragic about it, they were like ships without a rudder, being pulled along by a strong current, heading headlong into disaster, helpless to avoid it.

And so Aira became the personal servant of the last two sons of Feanör and she slowly got used to her new life. She rarely saw them, they were busy most of the time with meeting discussing tactics and battle plans and she soon discovered that she had gotten a new sort of status now. The feanörians were looked upon with scorn and hate and resentment but also with respect and as their servant some of it was transferred to her. And her hair did add to it, she was red haired as Maedhros and some thought she had to be some relative of them.

The job was easy enough, she got up from her small bed by the tent opening as soon as the sun rose, rolled it up, made breakfast and tea and laid out clean clothes. After they had eaten and left for the day she did eat and washed clothes and bedding and prepared the rest of the meals for the day. She didn’t interact that much with the rest of the elves in the camp but she could see that they were very curious about her. She did her best to do her work to their satisfaction and they never complained and that gave her a feeling of pride. It was after all way better than working in the stables and she felt as though she mastered these tasks.

She got used to them in a way, Maglor was often very silent and he would sit there staring into nothing but he could also be very kind and show real emotions. She knew that they had fostered two elflings and that Maglor missed them a lot. He would often speak of them and how he wished that he could have been with them instead of fighting in this war but there was no choice.

Maedhros spoke very rarely but he spoke in his sleep, he was often screaming or whimpering and tossing around and she did pity him then. Whatever it was he was reliving, it had to be absolutely awful and it seemed to get worse. She would go to him when he woke up in the middle of the night, carrying a cup of the strong wine and she would see that his hair was wet with sweat, his body trembling and his eyes wide and filled with a despair too great for her to truly comprehend. He would take the cup and empty it and then he would ask her to leave and she heard him sobbing afterwards, every time.

Maglor did sometimes sing, sad songs, filled with longing and sorrow and she would ask if they had nobody left? He answered that their mother was alive in Aman but that they probably never would meet her again, they had one relative left on Arda though, the son of one of their brothers and he was in every way as ingenious as their father had been but not bound by any oath and he had turned his back to them all. Perhaps there was hope for their family after all, if Celebrimbor didn’t do anything as stupid as their father had.

The war was raging and she saw its brutality every day, wounded, dead or dying, heard the screams from the healer’s tents and saw the smoke and dust from afar. Dragons were flying and packs of orcs roamed the lands, she was so afraid every night that the enemy would attack the camp and she was almost shivering when the sounds from the battle fields reached the camp at night. Maglor would actually hug her and calm her down, humming softly and talking to her as he would to a child and she felt safe around him. There was a gentleness in him and she knew he had been a musician, not a warrior at all. This had to be very hard on him, perhaps worse than it was for his brother who had been prepared to lead others most of his life.

She had stayed there for about four months when it all changed, she had been busy washing cloaks and shirts when Maedhros returned to the tent, much earlier than usual. He looked rather terrible and she saw blood on his clothes and there was dark shadows lurking within his gaze. A dark hopelessness that would have broken weaker souls. He sat down and she poured a cup of wine, put it in front of him. He sent her a tired gaze, made a strange wheezing sound and tossed the strong wine back as if it was water. He coughed and wiped off his mouth, as always he kept his right arm hidden inside of his cloak, as if he was ashamed of his missing hand.  “One more.”

She obeyed, poured another cup and he drank that too greedily, with a shaking hand, she saw tears on his cheeks and knew that he somehow had reached a sort of threshold, that it was getting too much for him. He gasped and then he threw the cup at the tent wall, in a fit of uncontrollable rage. “Damn him, damn him forever!”

She didn’t dare to ask him, just retrieved the cup and poured more wine. He took it and drank more slowly. “It is all his fault, all of it. I am so tired of it all, the deaths, the sacrifices, everything!”

She just sat there, he wiped tears of his face and his eyes were distant, and hurt. “I have seen too many die Aira, far too many. And still that…thing! … is sitting there like a goddamn leech sucking the very lifeblood out of the land. I loathe him, more than anything else.”

She did understand but he was staring at the wine skin and then he just grasped it and poured more from it into the cup, pushed it over to her. “Here, take a sip, I hate drinking alone.”

She took the cup, hesitantly. The wine smelled nice though, and she didn’t want to displease him. The taste was stronger than she had expected but not bad, just different. He was drinking straight from the wine skin now and she was a bit shocked by it. He was used to this strong liquor but how much could he really handle? She just sipped at the wine and he kept drinking. He was huge and muscular and strong but even such a massive body had its limits.

He was mumbling, sobbing and speaking in quenya, she recognized the names of his brothers and after a while he tilted forward across the table, just shaking with grief. Aira had finished her wine and it made her head spin, they were right, it was way too strong for her but at least she had had only a small taste of it. She hadn’t been drinking several gallons of the stuff. The wine skin was almost empty by now and he was unable to pronounce the words correctly, his speech slurred and incoherent. She got over, shook him. “You ought to get to bed, you cannot sit here like that.”

He nodded and got back onto his feet, staggered and hit the edge of the table, unable to find his balance. She reached out, supported him and helped him get into the side room that was his. It didn’t have much furniture, a bed and a washstand and a chest with clothes in it, that was all. He was swaying and mumbling and she unfastened his cloak and got it out of the way, then she unlaced his boots and he sat down upon the bed and his eyes were closed. He looked so innocent like that, and again she did pity him. Had he had a choice at all? Probably not, when his father did swear that oath he too had been caught by it. How could he have refused?

Morgoth had killed his grandfather damn it, who would have hesitated under such circumstances? They must have thought it was the end of the world, that seeking vengeance was their only option before the end.

She pulled his boots of, got the blood stained tunic and undershirt off him too and he just sat there, passively and with his head hanging low. He was swaying and she knew that the alcohol was kicking in. She bent down, lifted his legs and tipped him over and onto the bed but he suddenly jerked, reached out and grasped her. She found herself laying on top of him and he had put his arms around her, pressed his face against her throat and was mumbling something that sounded very sore and sad.

She felt like a log. Stiff and rigid and she barely dared to breathe, he was warm and his arms so strong they felt like they had been made from steel. She did tremble, tried to wriggle herself out of the grasp but she found that it was impossible. He sought comfort, warmth and contact like a child seeks its mother and she just knew she was being too kind.

He mumbled again, turned around and suddenly she was trapped beneath him instead of being on top, it had gotten from awkward to frightening and she yelped and tried to push him off of her but to no prevail. He was two feet taller than her and more than twice her weight and he was dead weight too. He just lay there for a while, he didn’t move at all and she feared that he had passed out where he lay. She squeaked, he was so heavy she could hardly breathe and she didn’t want his brother to come and see them like that.

He mumbled again and snuggled against her, she felt his warm tears against her skin and rolled her eyes. What in the name of Eru was she to do? He was so much stronger than her and she felt like some tiny insect, something barely noticeable. He sighed, he was probably going to fall asleep and she had no idea of what to do. Gods, she had to get out of there. His long hair did tickle her and she wasn’t blind to his beauty but damn it, she could not think like that, not about him. She did one last effort, pushed against the wide shoulders with all of her might and he groaned and lifted himself a bit, eyes closed and expression somewhat drowsy. “Get off me!”

She hissed it and he blinked, his eyes completely out of focus and he leaned onto his right arm and then his left hand slid over her face, just once. It was a caress, awkward and almost shy and something about his demeanor changed within the blink of an eye. He tensed up, his breath changed and now his hand was sliding all over her and he started pulling at her clothes. Aira did freeze, she was in serious trouble now, he was making some strange sounds and he held her down with his right arm. She yelled, he didn’t react at all and panic took her. She started fighting him but somehow that only fueled whatever it was that had possessed him. He was panting, gasping words she didn’t understand and he just ripped her clothes.

Aira felt a weird sense of distance, as if she really wasn’t there at all. She wondered if this was how an animal felt once the hunter or predator had gotten its claws into it and the end was inevitable. A sort of floating sensation, a way to protect her own sanity perhaps. He was whimpering, his hand sliding over her skin and he tried to kiss her but she managed to throw her head out of the way, instead he kissed her neck and started licking the skin, it made her cringe. She yelled again, now she hoped that Maglor would return, oh how she longed to hear his footsteps outside of the tent.

She tried pushing him away again but he was way too heavy even when she was filled with adrenaline and fear. He somehow had managed to unlace his own pants and he had also pushed them down, she felt his warm skin against her own and he held her with his arm while he got her pants down too, ripped them apart and pushed her legs apart with a weird mewling sound. She saw his eyes and she just froze again, she was unable to move at all. The fear in them was paralyzing her, she had no idea of what he saw but he was desperately trying to get away from it, to feel something else than terror, to erase something absolutely awful with bodily emotions. She wasn’t even sure that he was aware of what he was doing, it was as if the body on top of her had a will of its own and it was stronger than that of the fêa within it.

Aira was no maiden, she had had lovers before, back home with her tribe but she already knew that this would hurt, she didn’t want it and he was so rough and impatient and more so, he was huge. He let out a strange moan as he pushed into her and his eyes rolled up, she feared that he was passing out. She bit her lip not to scream, he was splitting her in half, cleaving her down the middle, it had never hurt like that before, not even her first time. She closed her eyes, tried to pretend as though it wasn’t happening but it was.

He moved slowly at first, as if he really didn’t know what to do or how to do it, but then he started thrusting more vigorously, laying down onto her and she could just try to endure. She was gasping for breath and felt her own warm tears streaming down her cheeks. He moaned and gasped with each move, had found a rhythm that made the bed creak and shiver and she felt as if she was a nail being hammered into a wall or something. Then he tensed up, threw his head back and she felt him shudder and pulse, felt him spill himself inside of her as he let out a hoarse guttural growl in a mix of pleasure and grief.

Aira sobbed, unable to think clearly, to traumatized to move. He groaned a few times and then he collapsed on top of her, unconscious. She whimpered, he was crushing her with his weight and her own emotional shock was getting too much for her. She felt the world slipping away in front of her eyes and she passed out like a candle in the wind.

Maglor had been held up in a meeting with some of the leaders of the campaign against Morgoth, they had lost many that day and some were elves they had known, elves who had followed them into exile and stayed loyal to them through the whole mess. He had seen his brother leave the others earlier, stricken by grief and he was worried so he hurried back to their tent. He walked in and expected to see Aira busy doing the shores they had given her. He had gotten really fond of the girl and her presence had made things a little easier for them both. She wasn’t there but an almost empty wineskin lay on the simple camp table and so did a cup.

Maglor felt a strange chill running up his back, he took a deep breath and hawked, listened. No sound was heard and he coughed, no reaction. He walked over to the screen that separated his brothers sleeping area from the rest of the tent and pushed it aside. He just stared, to shocked to move. He wasn’t even able to really understand what it was that he was seeing until his brain had had some time to analyze it. He staggered back two steps, his hand pressed against his mouth, tears swelling up in his eyes. He made a keening sound, his legs felt as though they had no strength left. “Oh brother, what have you done?!”

His usually melodic voice naught but a raspy hoarse whisper and he swallowed the nausea and moved forth, hesitantly. She was breathing, the skin clammy with sweat and there were traces of tears on her face but she was alive, at least for now. He knew too darn well that an elf could die from being raped and the thought that his brother could have done something this terrible was too shocking even for him. They had all killed, yes, even their own kin and for that they were forever condemned and cursed but this? Oh sweet Eru, not this! He pushed his brother off her, he had collapsed without even removing himself from her and Maglor cringed and felt a terrible sensation of rage and sorrow. He lifted the unconscious elleth gently and walked over to his own bed, placed her on it and found some water and a cloth. He was no healer but he feared that she could be injured both in Hroa and fêa. There was blood on her thighs and he felt the smell of seed and he almost retched.

He washed her gently, wrapped her in soft blankets and then he turned his attention to his brother. He felt a strange need to turn his back to him, denounce him, even hurt him, but he couldn’t. Maedhros was his brother damn it, no matter what he had done . He washed him too with considerably less gentleness and got his pants back on him before he rolled the ellon back onto his back and pulled the covers over him. When Maedhros woke up there was going to be some very serious and not very gentle words exchanged.

Aira was confused, she had no idea of where she was and she blinked and tossed her head around, what had happened? This wasn’t her bed? Then she remembered and she froze up again, oh gods no. He had… She felt tears swelling up in her eyes again and she felt her body now, the ache between her legs and the terrible feeling of having been betrayed somehow. She tried to breathe normally, tried to remain calm and not let hysteria overcome her. She hadn’t survived the attack and the escape to die now, never. She heard voices, didn’t want to listen but she had to. It was Maglor, his voice was shivering with emotions and he sounded as if he was close to tears. She closed her eyes, tried to deny it all, push it all aside.

“Are you aware of what you have done?!”

There was a mumbling answer, almost nothing more than a whisper.

“Ha?! As if what we have done wasn’t enough already! Are you seriously trying to end up being eternally damned? “

Then she heard Maedhros voice, it was shivering, thin, almost like a frightened child’s voice. “I am already condemned, lost. What difference does it make?”

There was the sound of someone being slapped hard and a whimper. “It does matter, to her! Are you trying to commit every thinkable sin possible? Answer me damn it, what are we to do?!”

She heard him sob, a racking hopeless sound. “I am so sorry, I am! Please believe me, I…I was drunk! You know me, I wouldn’t…”

Maglor was almost growling. “And yet you did! You did brother, you raped her! She was bleeding damn it, she was unconscious. If she dies I will never forgive you, ever!”

She heard more sobs and a low keening sound. “Then do it damn it, kill me! Avenge her, avenge them all, all those I have slain, all the bloodshed I have caused. I am worthy of nothing except death.”

Maglor was mumbling something. “And the oath? Am I to stay here alone, bound by that awful mistake our father made? Do you wish to leave me?”

Maedhros was whispering, his voice so sore and hurt. “No, I do not wish to leave you, never.”

Maglor was walking around, she heard his steps. “I will not forgive you this brother, but I don’t want to see you dead either.”

Aira held her breath, what was to happen to her now? Were they going to get rid of the evidence perhaps? Maglor sat down on the bed, she heard it creak. “I am going to nurse her back to health, no matter how long it takes, then I will help her return to her people if so she wishes. And I will make sure that she is compensated in every way, do you agree?”

She heard Maedhros sighing. “Yes”

Maglor moved again. “I will not let you see her again, you have caused enough grief”

He almost spat out the last words and Maedhros whimpered again, as if he was in pain. She had thought that Maglor was soft, gentle and even perhaps a bit reluctant to use any sort of force but she started to realize that he too had a darker side. It was just very well hidden most of the time.

She lay there staring into the roof of the tent, it was alright with her if she never saw him again, more than alright in fact. And returning to her people? If it was at all possible then yes, she wanted that.  Maglor entered the small room and sat down next to her, his eyes were so sad and he tried to smile but he was a bit pale. “I am glad to see that you are awake. How do you feel?”

His voice was trembling and she knew that he probably weren’t all that used to females in the first place, after all, with six brothers he probably had grown up in an environment completely dominated by males. She had had two sisters and one brother but they had all perished in the orc attack and she had sort of pushed the sorrow away, it would have crushed her sanity if she had allowed herself to think of it. “Sore, I am aching.”

He bit his lower lip, he was blushing and then he was pale again. “Is there something I can get you? Are…are you going to be alright?”

She cringed and sighed, her entire body was aching but she felt a weird heat coming from inside somewhere, a sort of rage. It would allow her to just give in. “Yes, I won’t just lay down and fade if that is what you fear.”

He let out a sigh of relief and petted her hand, almost hesitantly, as if he feared that he would be doing something bad by it. “I am glad, I…do you want a healer? I can get one of them to come to you?”

She swallowed hard. “And let everybody know what he did to me? What just happened? Do you think people will forget about that? The blame will not be his you know, he is already feared. No, it will be mine, I will be the despicable one, the tainted one. I will be the whore who let a kin slayer fuck me.”

Maglor winced, a grimace of pain crossed over his fair face and he shook all over. “Aira, don’t speak like that. It wasn’t your fault, he was drunk and assaulted you, how could you have stood a chance against someone that much stronger than you?”

She looked down, feeling a wave of bitterness rush through her. “Your words are as lovely as ever Maglor, but I did speak the truth you know. No, no healer, I will survive. I can take care of myself.”

He closed his eyes, swallowed. “Then let me know if there is something you need.”

She just nodded and pulled the blankets up, she just wanted to get out of there, so she could forget all about it.

For the next two days she stayed in bed, Maglor was nursing her as he had said he would. He fed her, brought her everything she needed and she felt grateful towards him. He would sing to her and his attempts at cheering her up were heartfelt but also desperate. She had stopped bleeding and her body was mending itself, slowly. She didn’t see Maedhros again, he stayed away but Maglor told her he was deeply ashamed of what he had done and that he more than anything would have wanted to turn back time so that he could stop himself from doing it. She did believe him, but it didn’t change anything.

Maglor had managed to get her a horse and new clothes, food and weapons and also a pouch filled with some gold coins and some pearls. She did feel like a whore when she received it, the payment for that one act of what should have been love but wasn’t. But she needed it, if she was to make a new life for herself she needed it all. A scout was to guard her and help her find some tribe she could join and she felt grateful but also terribly ashamed of herself. Maglor did take her hand as they were to say goodbye, he pressed something into it and she stared down. It was a tiny gem, not larger than a child’s little finger nail but it was so sparkly, it shone with a light that was shocking. She just stared at it and he made a weird grimace. “Ada gave that to me, when he made the Silmarils there were leftovers, small pieces. This is one of them, I have carried it with me but I guess that you deserve it more than I do. After all, the jewels were untainted by evil, I am not, not anymore.”

She put the small gem into a pocket inside of her tunic. “I…I don’t know what to say.”

Maglor stared down, when he looked up she saw tears in his eyes. “Aira, this war will either kill us or destroy us completely, I am sure of it. We are helpless to change the destiny that awaits us. We will be remembered as monsters, as abominations or even worse. I just have this one wish Aira, do remember me as something else, please.”

She nodded, leaned forth from the saddle and kissed his cheek, a quick and chaste kiss and he smiled and touched the spot with his eyes held down. “I will remember you for your kindness Makalaüre, for naught more than that.”

She spurred the horse and rode after the scout and the tall dark haired ellon stood there for a long time, staring after her. Perhaps there was hope after all, perhaps all good hadn’t abandoned them. He could only pray.

Aira rode to the south and then to the east and finally, after many weeks she found a tribe of Avari who welcomed her. She never told them of what she had been through, she just said she was a refugee and that someone had been kind enough to offer her a horse and some provisions.

She was settling down when she one day discovered that the gem was missing, she looked for it but it was nowhere to be found and she accepted that with a shrug and thought it was sad but nothing more than that.  A week later she realized that she indeed had been left with more than she had believed to begin with, she was with child. She did fall into a fit of hysteria but calmed down after a while, it shouldn’t have been possible but yet it had happened and she just had to accept it. She decided that she never would see this child as his, only as her own. She never told anyone of who the father was and they accepted that. They had all suffered losses so terrible they preferred not to speak of them.

When her daughter was born Aira was nervous, she was a red head so it wouldn’t look weird at all if the child had red hair. The eyes were the problem, and she was shocked to see that they were his. Luckily this tribe had had nothing to do with the Noldorin elves and none had ever met any of the feanorians. They didn’t care at all if her daughter had red hair and grey eyes and grew like a bean stalk. It wasn’t until that one fateful evening she had to tell Halariel the truth and it was all because of new elves who joined the group and told of the kinslayers and of the death of Maedhros and the disappearance of Maglor. She felt just an empty cold feeling hearing about how her daughter’s father had ended his own life but she did mourn Maglor, if he was dead then it was sad, truly sad.

She had found a good ellon she had married and she hoped that the future would be good now that Morgoth was vanquished but she knew that her daughter could face a difficult life, she just prayed the Valar that the sins of the father wouldn’t come back to haunt the one good thing he had left behind on this earth.

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