Like blood and fire

The choices we make

She was simply amazed by it all, the gentleness they showed her and the food they gave her and everything. She felt so much better now and she felt her strength return to her, it was weird but she hadn’t realized that she had grown weak over the years. Now it became ever more apparent that she wouldn’t have lasted that much longer and she felt a strong sense of gratitude towards the three ellyn and the tall golden haired one in special. She managed to pronounce his name now and she never wanted to leave his side.

Glorfindel was a bit shocked by her lack of inhibitions, she had forgotten everything about proper behavior and she acted like some child with very forgiving parents. He tried to teach her to speak again but it sort of failed most of the time, she had the attention span of a squirrel but he couldn’t stay mad at her. She was just too sweet and he tried to make her understand that she should show some restraint when it came to some types of behavior but to no prevail. She had some sort of untamed and fierce joy of being alive burning within her, and it was both uncouth and consuming. She seemed to live each minute to the full, caught within the very moment. She didn’t think ahead or stop for even a second to consider her past, she was like an animal caught in the eternal now of those living as one with the powers of nature.

The twins were fascinated by her as well and they too tried to teach her some words, she accepted them by now, she didn’t fear them and she even dared to touch them with the curiosity of a kid meeting someone new. The fact that they were identical was a source of never ending entertainment for her, she would sit there staring at them, tilting her head trying to find some visible difference between the two of them. Towards Glorfindel she acted like some overly cuddly kitten, always seeking his attention and he was sometimes a bit tired of her constant affection. She was charming in her own ways but she did sometimes test his patience and he didn’t want to frighten her by shouting at her or becoming visibly angry.

They did sacrifice one of their blankets and the twins did take one of their shirts and managed to turn it into a sort of wide tunic for her. The blanket became a rather rough but still useable skirt and she did put the garments on with loud giggling and ran around beaming with joy. To her these not very nice clothes were wonderful. Glorfindel had started planning their return to Imladris, he had presented her to the horses and he had managed to convince her of their benign nature. She was still acting very strangely and he didn’t know if she ever had ridden a horse or if he would manage to make her follow them freely. He didn’t want to drug her again but he knew that he had to if she refused to come with them. She could not remain there alone, the darkness was spreading once more, the watchful peace was coming to an end and there were orcs and other foul creatures everywhere.

So one morning they did pack their things again and put it all onto the horses and she stared at what they were doing with huge and wild eyes. She was obviously afraid that they were leaving her behind and she didn’t protest at all when Glorfindel lifted her up onto his great white stallion and mounted the horse behind her. She just grasped onto the saddle horn and looked nervous but she didn’t utter a single sound that could be any sort of protest. They rode out of the valley the same way as they entered it and it soon became very apparent that she had forgotten everything about the world outside of her tiny realm.

She stared at everything with huge eyes and Glorfindel did smile and tried telling her the names of the things she saw. She was learning now but she would often mix words and she didn’t know how to put them together into sentences. She tried, that was very obvious to everybody but she failed miserably most of the time. Glorfindel just hoped that she would continue trying, that the problems didn’t cause her to give up.

They rode down a rather wide valley with gentle slopes and a small river in the middle, the area was not as lush and beautiful as her valley had been, the soil was less rich and could not support such fertile woodlands. But there were wildlife enough and they did trust the trees and the land itself to warn them if any dangers did appear.

Glorfindel had her sitting across his thighs in front of him and in the beginning she was obviously afraid that she would fall for she did hang on to the saddle as if her life depended upon it but after a while she started to relax a bit and leaned more against him. Not that it was all that comfortable but at least it felt better for his horse. It would take weeks to get back home and he just hoped that nothing would interfere with their long journey. He didn’t want to end up in a fight with her there with them, she was vulnerable and maybe even unable to determine whether or not things could pose a threat. The twins had to be extra alert from now on, to make up for the fact that she stole his attention most of the time.

Irelen was busy going through a sack of wool when she heard shouting and running feet, she immediately got back up, stared in the direction of the sounds. She just felt it, something was wrong. The men had left earlier that day to go looking for the material needed for weaving baskets and they shouldn’t return this early. She dropped the bag and got out of her small hut, the son of her neighbor, a tall blond boy stopped in front of her, he was panting and had obviously been running very hard. “What is the matter Lannam? “

She was nervous something bad had happened to any of them, the village was small, everybody knew each other and depended upon each other too and almost every soul there was related in some way. The boy caught his breath. “We heard someone scream, and then we found a wounded elf.”

Irelen gasped, she didn’t quite believe what the boy had said. “An elf? By the gods, there hasn’t been elves in this area for a long time?”

Lannam nodded. “I know, but it is an elf, and he is messed up pretty bad. We need your help Irelen.”

She just stared at the boy, too shocked to really be able to do anything, then she saw the men coming down the path from the woods, carrying a stretcher and she took a deep breath and snapped out of her shock. She yelled at them. “Bring him here, hurry.”

She ran back inside, put a clean sheet and a blanket onto her bed and put a kettle with water over the fire. Her hut was small but well equipped, being the mayor’s sister had given her some privileges and being the village healer even more.

The men came in with the stretcher and she gasped when she saw the figure on it, first of all, he was so tall the stretcher was more than two feet too short, his head and his lower legs just dangled from it, and he was naked. She blushed, she was of course used to seeing naked men, it was just natural in her job but she had never seen an elf before and he was beyond beautiful. It was like seeing an angel. The men lifted the elf onto the bed and she heard a moan from him, filled with agony. Lannam looked as if he was in despair. “Is he gonna die Irelen? He is so pretty, and so big. He lay on the cliffs outside of the holt of beeches.”

Irelen sighed and started looking over the injuries. “I do not know Lannam, I have to check his injuries first before I can even start to guess whether or not he will live.”

She saw that wound in his thigh and she could see that it had to have been caused by an angry boar, she had seen her fair share of those before, and it usually spelled trouble. He was burning with a fever and she thought she had read that elves are tougher than humans when it comes to such injuries but he had to have been laying there for more than a day. The infection was far spread and she could in fact smell it too.

She grasped Lannam. “Go get your brothers, I will need some strong hands here, his knee and hip is dislocated and I need someone strong enough to pull them back in place.”

Lannam cringed. “Oh gods Irelen, that has to hurt like…”

She nodded. “It does, but it has to be done before the joints get too damaged, go now.”

He just ran and she saw that the entire village had gathered on the outside of her cabin, curious and worried. Elves were so rare to come across there and they had great respect for them. She couldn’t believe the size of the elf, how tall was he? He would be towering above her if he had been standing up and she rolled him over onto his side with some effort and started cleaning the wound. She used herbs her mother had taught her about and then she cut away the infected tissue and let it bleed for a while before she stitched the gaping wound up. It did look bad, very bad but hopefully it would heal.

She made a concoction of herbs and then she carefully lifted his head and poured a little at a time down his throat, he did swallow and she hoped that it would lower his fever. The boys returned and she looked at the swollen knee with narrow eyes. It looked grotesque, so black and huge and she just hoped that the ligaments and joint weren’t too injured. The hip was a problem too, it would take some serious tugging to get it back into position and it was going to be a tug of war with him as the rope. Lannam’s brothers were huge and strong and they stared at the elf with awe and a bit of fear too. They knew so little about the firstborn and neither of them had ever seen one. The oldest of them, Grim, touched the long silky locks of red hair with narrow eyes. “Grandpa saw an elf once, and he didn’t say anything about it being so huge?”

Irelen shook her head. “He, not it, he! And some elves are very tall, the very ancient ones I think.”

They accepted her wisdom, she had learned to read and write and that had brought her some respect which women usually never enjoyed there. She nodded. “We will deal with the hip first, Grim, grasp him under the arms, hold back as hard as you can. Lannam, Olrich, you grasp his thigh and pull. I will show you how. “

She had placed a towel over the elf’s crotch, just to protect the modesty of them all and still the young men winced and looked uncomfortable. The idea of touching another male was not all that tempting. She frowned. “Now!”

The boys sprang into action and grasped onto the body and she directed them. The leg had to be both pulled and twisted a bit and after some attempts she heard the clicking sound that told her it was back in place but it caused the injured elf to scream in agony and the sound made the three boys pale and a bit green. “Poor fellow, gods!”

Irelen nodded. “Yes, it is agonizing but it had to be done. And now, the knee!”

They all pulled once more and she guided the joint back into place, it made them all cringe since the elf was making some awful half choked groans in pain but they managed to get that back in place rather quickly. Irelen grinned. “Thank you boys, and now I will give you another task. Please, see to it that everybody goes back to their homes? They are doing nothing good standing outside of my door like that.”

The boys just grinned and she went back to work, washing the joints with herbs that should decrease the swelling and bleeding and some that removed pain too. Then she bandaged the knee to prevent it from becoming dislocated again if the elf moved and put some sort of sling onto the hip too. It took a lot to dislocate that joint so it was little danger that it would happen again, ever. She made the elf drink even more herbs and then some pure water and when that was done she sat down. She had done what she could, now it was up to the gods if he was to live or die.

The village was in an uproar, the men who had been there when Lannam found the elf had to answer all sorts of strange questions and Lannam was the one who got most questions of all and he refused to answer the most stupid ones. He suddenly felt like an important person and not just the blacksmiths youngest son and his face had gotten a serious expression. Some of the women were giggling and asking if there was great difference between an elf and a man and Lannam blushed and refused to say anything, he didn’t want the elf to be overrun by curious womenfolk. Finally most of the villagers returned to their homes to chat some more and the small square became silent once more. Lannam let out a sigh of relief and returned home too, this day had been far too exciting.

He felt himself burn, felt how the extreme heat made his flesh catch fire and his blood boil and he screamed in agony and tried to escape the inferno. Then he opened his eyes and yelped, no fire but still there were pain and he didn’t know where he was. He stared straight up into a roof made from reeds and woven twigs and it smelled of herbs and smoke. He felt terrible, nauseous and weak and his head was spinning. He groaned and closed his eyes, remembered the boar and the wound and he tried to move but found that he couldn’t. He was wrapped tightly in blankets that smelled of sheep and he opened his eyes again. Someone had found him and the smells told him that this had to be a healers home but not a healer like the ones he was used to.

A face appeared through the semi darkness, it was a woman and it was obvious that she was well above her youth. Her dark hair had streaks of grey and her face was wrinkled but she looked very kind and there was a softness in her eyes that calmed him a bit. She smiled and sat down on a chair next to the bed. The room looked very simple, no decent furniture and no colors to speak of, this was a poor persons home. “Relax beautiful one, fear not. I have done what I can to help you, now it is up to your Gods.”

He did understand her, she spoke a language he had heard the humans use but her dialect was very strange and she spoke rather slowly too. He shivered, the agony in his thigh was almost unbearable and his knee was throbbing and so was his hip. She lifted a hand and he felt a cold cloth being pressed against his brow, it did feel good and he winced, he didn’t deserve this kindness. She was just a human but she should not waste her precious time on someone like him. He was condemned, an abomination. He whimpered and tried to turn his head away from her hand and she sighed and touched his cheek gently. “I know I am just human, you would probably prefer that someone of your own race took care of you but there are no other elves here in this area. You just have to accept me I am afraid.”

He wished that he could explain to her that she was wrong in her assumptions, he didn’t mind at all that she was human. He tried to speak but couldn’t, the only sounds he managed to create were hoarse coughs and she tilted her head and looked at him with such pity. “Are you a mute my lord? Oh gods, what dreadful destiny.”

He felt a tear running down his cheek, why he wept he did not know but perhaps he did weep for himself, and the things that were lost. He felt so alone, like there was an endless void surrounding him and he sobbed and wished to hide in a deep black hole. She was there with the cloth again, wiped the sweat away from his brow and then she went over to the hearth and came back with a cup. “Here my lord, this will ease the pain and perhaps help you fight the fever too.”

He drank the terrible liquid with a grimace but he did feel that it worked, the agony wasn’t that sharp anymore, more of a dull ache than a throbbing stabbing pain. She stroked his hair and for a moment he remembered his mother, how she had tucked him in at night when he was just a child and he whimpered once more. His mother, had anyone suffered more as a result of their deeds than her? He didn’t think so, she was everything good and pure in this world and the memory of her the most precious thing he had.

The woman sighed and her face was sad. “Oh, I bet there is someone out there missing you right? But I do wonder what you were doing out there in the forest alone and naked.”

He blushed, he hadn’t really thought of that fact before now and even though the idea of being undressed in front of others of his kin didn’t bother him the idea of having humans glaring at him did cause a slight discomfort. He closed his eyes and she smiled and pulled some of his long hair away from his face. “You reek of disease and sweat but fear not, when your wound closes up I will make sure that you get a bath.”

He nodded, the thought was like a vision of heaven, he did feel sticky and smelly and just terrible. Then a new thought struck him, he didn’t even know what year this was. A sense of dread overtook him and he started breathing faster, his eyes flickered and he was suddenly terrified. What had happened? He remembered the end of his life, how the Silmaril had burned his hand and how he had chosen death. How much time had passed by? Years? Centuries? He could not remember anything between his final moment of mental and physical agony and the awakening in the woods. She touched his shoulder gently, worry apparent in her gentle eyes. “My lord, what is wrong?”

She got nervous seeing his strange reaction, he was writhing and his eyes filled with tears and fear. He made those strange hollow sounds again and then he got his hand free and pretended to be writing something. She got a piece of hide and a stick from the fireplace and he made some strange symbols on it, she shook her head. “I do not know how to read your writing my lord.”

He moaned, then he drew a sun and looked at her with a desperate plea in his eyes. “The sun? it is daytime yes, but it will be dark soon?”

He shook his head, groaning. He drew a line across the sun and marked the beginning and she realized that he wanted to know what time of the year it was, that was odd, he should know that? “It is summer my lord, I am sure you are aware of that? “

He rolled his eyes, drew a circle and pointed at the line. She did understand, didn’t he know what year it was? She smiled. “I am not sure of what year this is the way you measure time, we call this year the year of the pig but it has been forty years since our area was under the rule of another tribe. I heard a merchant call this the third age though, and I think we are somewhere around year two thousand eight or nine hundred but I am not sure.”

He just stared. The third age?! Valar protect him, several millennia had passed since his death, oh gods, they were probably dead, everybody he had ever known were dead and gone. He let out a wailing sound and covered his face with his hands, shivering and she stared at him in shock and confusion. Then she sat down on the bed and embraced him and he pressed his face into her neck and let his tears run free. He was lost, truly and utterly lost. He had no idea of what had happened in the world since his death and he sat there crying until fatigue overtook him and he fell into a restless sleep.

Irelen sighed and stroked the silky red locks, he looked so young but she knew that he probably was thousands of years old, but why had he reacted like that to what she told him? She sighed, she knew little about the firstborn and their lives and could just accept that something had caused him immense grief. She hummed softly and felt a sort of maternal protectiveness towards him, he was weak and wounded and in need of her aid and she would willingly help him in whatever way she could.

She got back up and started preparing some food and there was a soft knock on the door. She opened it and it was one of the other women of the village, she held a freshly plucked chicken in her hands and her eyes were shining with curiosity. “Here, make some soup from this, there is nothing better for the sick than chicken soup.”

Irelen just gaped, such generosity was unexpected, after all, this was not one of their own. “I thank you Shela, I have only some dried rabbit meat and it won’t last for long.”

Shela went over and stared at the sleeping elf, there was something very reverent in her eyes. “I never thought that I ever would see one of the firstborn. Oh gods, he is so beautiful, please tell me he will survive?”

Irelen nodded. “Yes, his fever is going down now and elves are stronger than we are.”

Shela sat down and sighed. “Has he told you anything? Who would wander around in the woods wearing only their skin!”

Irelen shook her head. “He is a mute, he cannot speak.”

Shela gasped, her eyes filled with shock and disbelief. “No? Oh poor thing, that is tragic!”

Irelen made a grimace. “Yes, and I do not know how to read his language, I have no idea of where he has come from, and when I told him we are in the third age of the sun he almost broke down. There is something weird going on here.”

Shela looked at him. “Do you think he is dangerous?!”

Irelen shook her head. “No, absolutely not, but there is something tragic about him, I can sense it. His soul is marred Shela, tormented somehow.”

Shela gathered her skirts tighter around her legs. “So what are we to do with him? He cannot stay here?”

Irelen shook her head. “No, he needs his own people with him, someone who can understand him. I think I will suggest that someone escorts him south. There are elves living further south, in Rivendell. They can perhaps help him.”

Shela nodded slowly. “Yes, I have heard of the hidden valley, and the wise lord of that place. It is a good idea Irelen.”

She nodded. “I know, and it is probably the only solution too. But he cannot travel yet, he will need to recuperate and regain his strength and that knee has to get back to normal too. It will take weeks, even for an elf.”

Shela tilted her head. “I wonder who he is? Too bad he is a mute.”

Irelen made a grimace. “Yes, but he has something almost regal about him, he isn’t just anybody, I can bet on that. He is someone of importance.”

Shela shrugged. “Then why on earth did he end up in these woods buck naked, and chased by a boar?”

Irelen sighed. “I wish I knew but I sense the hands of the gods here, and there is nothing we can do about that, nor should we question their decisions.”

Shela just sighed. “Of course not, I am just very curious.”

Irelen smiled, the smile was a bit stiff. “You can make yourself useful? You can tell the others to leave him be until he has regained his strength, he needs to rest and I bet there will be a steady stream of people coming to my cabin now, just to see him.”

Shela almost beamed with pride, she had the greatest respect for the healer and she grinned and got up. “Of course Irelen, I will do my best.”

Irelen let the other woman out of the door and sat down, stared at the unconscious elf. “I wonder who you really are pretty one, oh how I wonder!”

It was dark when he woke up, the fire in the hearth had gone out and only a few embers threw a sort of shimmering light onto the surroundings. He saw that the woman slept on some rugs on the floor, it made him ashamed of himself. He was using the only bed there and it really was he who should be sleeping on the floor. He heard nothing from outside of the house, just the normal night sounds and he sighed and relaxed again. Why was he here? Why wasn’t he dead? Perhaps this was his punishment? It would not surprise him at all, he did really deserve to suffer for all the wrong choices he had made.

He wondered if his brother had survived for long, or if someone had sought to avenge dead kin or friends and killed him, or if Maglor had done what he had. He saw their faces, all of them. And he missed them too, it was a burning hole in his soul where his family should have been and he wished that he could curse Morgoth again and again, scream out his hatred and anger. The woman moved in her sleep, restlessly and nervously and he forced himself to lay still so he wouldn’t disturb her rest.

He felt the pain in his legs again, the medicine had stopped working and he grinded his teeth together and closed his eyes. He had survived worse, far worse. He still remembered the horrible time he had spent as a prisoner in Morgoth’s own fortress, what the orc’s had done to him. He also remembered hanging there on that mountain, barely alive and in constant fear and regret. He was not going to complain this time, no, absolutely not. The woman was taking care of him and he would get well again, and he had gotten his right hand back too. He should be able to cope with some pain.

After a while he did fall asleep again and he had a strange dream about mirrors, he was wandering through a veritable maze of them and he saw his own reflection everywhere and yet he knew he was seeking someone else, someone he didn’t even know. It was a strange dream indeed and he woke up feeling exhausted and confused. The woman sat by the hearth, she had relighted it and she was stirring a pot, he felt a smell that made his stomach growl and he licked his lips and tried to sit up. She heard him move and turned her head, sent him a warm smile. “I am glad you are awake my lord, I will soon have some food ready for you, I bet you are hungry?”

He nodded and groaned, he managed to sit but it hurt and he also noticed something else, his bladder was full. He blushed and knew that he couldn’t walk yet, his legs could not support his weight at all.

She got up and poured water into a cup, came over with it and he did drink it with gratitude but he made a grimace and felt terribly uncertain, how did he tell her of his predicament? She saw that something was wrong, he was blushing and his eyes were flickering around and his posture a bit stiff. “Is anything wrong?”

He blushed again, more or less like a beet. Then he pointed down at his groin, feeling like a darn idiot. She was a healer, he was sure she wasn’t bothered by such natural things at all but he felt like a kid having been caught doing something very naughty. He made a sound that could be interpreted as running water and she grinned and tilted her head. “You have full bladder right? I guessed so, wait a second.”

She turned around and went towards a simple closet made from roughly made wooden planks, she found something within it and returned with it. It was some sort of flask made from ceramics with a very wide neck and he felt his cheeks burn when she just handed it over to him. “Here, use this.”

He whimpered and she sighed and rolled her eyes. “Fine, I will turn around, worry not.”

She did in fact turn around and he removed the blanket and did what he had to do, it felt so awkward it made him shiver but he didn’t spill anything and she carried the flask outside afterwards and emptied it there. He felt the scent of the village through the door, humans, sheep, cattle, horses. A dog was barking and a long haired cat took a curious peak in through the door while she was outside. There were children playing and he felt that this was a peaceful place, with few dangers if any. Could it be that the world was at peace now? Was the darkness conquered? He hoped so, with all of his heart.

She then brought him a huge bowl of the soup and he ate carefully, afraid to upset his stomach with too much food. But it tasted wonderfully and he did finish the bowl completely, he just used a long time on it. The woman sat there watching him and her eyes were very gentle. She was a soul of light, he could just feel it and he felt a deep gratitude towards her. Would she have acted with such kindness if she had known who or what he was? He felt as though he owed her the truth but how was he to tell? She couldn’t read tengwar and he didn’t know their alphabet either. She removed the bowl and smiled. “Later today I will let you have something solid to eat. Your fever is almost completely gone, I think it will do you good to eat something proper, not just soup.”

He smiled and bowed his head, felt some of his strength return to him. Having a full stomach was wonderful and he felt a bit drowsy. His body needed the rest to heal properly and he laid down again, with his arms behind his neck. She pulled the blanket aside again and checked the wound, it was stitched up together again with a technique that told him she had done such things before, she was indeed very skilled and it was weird to find someone of such knowledge in a desolate little village like this.

Irelen saw the questions in his eyes and grinned. “I am the mayor’s sister and I was once betrothed to a man of some wealth and influence, from a city out west from here. He wanted me to be able to rule his household and taught me how to read and write and I tried to learn as much as I could. Alas, he did die from the plague and I had to return to this place, and I became the village healer. It is not such a bad fate, just a little lonely at times.”

He nodded to let her see that he did understand and she patted his hand and got back up. “The wound is almost closed up now, you heal very fast, I am amazed by it. And your knee isn’t that swollen any more either, it is a good thing. I am glad.”

He rubbed his hip, it hurt like hell and she smiled and tilted her head. “Yes, it was dislocated too but me and the boys managed to pull it back in place, you were really a bad mess for a while.”

He winced, imagined being used as a rope in a tug of war and she sighed and touched his cheek gently. “Rest now, allow your body to heal itself. I know you elves can sleep yourselves well. When you are healed we will try to send you somewhere where there are other elves.”

He nodded but somehow that idea didn’t tempt him that much, other elves. They would for certain understand who he was and then they would turn their back to him or worse. He hid his sensation of fear from the woman and tried to drift off into sleep again, there wasn’t really that much else to do.

After a while he did dozed off and he started dreaming right away. He was standing in the garden outside of his parent’s house in Eldamar and he saw from the silvery light that it was nighttime and Telperion was glowing. He remembered this, this moment. It wasn’t as much a dream as a memory. He walked through the garden, sat down onto a bench and stared at the stars, his heart filled with doubt and fear and also a strange confusion. His own father had threatened his own brother, well, half-brother if you insisted on being precise about it, and he wondered what this would do to their family. He of course knew his father’s flaring temper and he had feared that something like this would happen, having sensed the feelings that were boiling just underneath his father’s controlled expression. But what would happen? He feared that the Valar would punish them somehow, and not just his father but the whole bunch of them. Perhaps there was some truth in the words Melkor had spoken, that the Valar didn’t want the elves to become too strong, too independent.

He almost jumped when he heard a sound from the bushes, he tensed up but relaxed when he saw that it was his cousin, Fingon. He jumped out of the bushes and sat down next to him, his eyes wide with disbelief. His cousin did take quite a chance showing up like that, after all, Fëanor wouldn’t take it well if he saw his half-brother’s son there in their garden. Maedhros sighed and didn’t know what to say, Fingon had always been his best friend and he trusted him like none other and he feared losing this precious friendship. His cousin sighed too, leaned over and placed his head on Maedhros shoulder. “I think the world must be coming to an end, what a mess hu?”

He could only nod, yes, a mess indeed. “I guess so.”

Fingon bit his lower lip, his eyes were a bit distant. “I have never heard so much shouting and yelling in my life and those words? It is a wonder none of the Valar dropped by and ordered them to wash their mouth’s with soap, well, your father at least.”

Maedhros closed his eyes in sorrow. “I am not surprised, I have heard him working in the forge and when something goes wrong he can be a bit….raw”

Fingon just whistled. “That was an understatement, but nevertheless, I am worried.”

Maedhros turned his head, it felt good sitting there with his best friend like that, safe almost. He hoped that nothing would change this good relationship between them. Fingon shifted his weight and sighed again, Maedhros turned his head and saw that his cousin was staring down at the grass with a peculiar expression on his face. “What?”

Fingon turned his face towards him, his eyes were shiny and suddenly he lifted a hand and caressed Maedhros face gently. “I shouldn’t be doing this, but I will not let anyone or anything separate us, if you ever got lost I would come searching for you, this I swear.”

Maedhros was a bit shocked by his cousins words, he was very fond of Fingon and they were as close as they could be but what Fingon said spoke of far stronger feelings that just friendship. And it scared him, because he did to some extent recognize those feelings within himself too. And it was not allowed, they were cousins damn it, and both males. “Fingon?!”

Then his cousin leaned forth and kissed him and Maedhros just sat there and let it happen and there was a strange jolt flying through him, and he suddenly realized that everything had changed in that moment, that the whole world had somehow been remade, reorganized from this truth he now knew.

He had been kissed before, by both ellith and other ellyn but none had made him feel thus and he didn’t know why but he answered the kiss, participated eagerly and threw his arms around his cousin, allowing the feelings to steal away all common sense, all hesitation or doubt. It was wonderful and forbidden and nothing had ever been like that moment, was it the situation with their parents that had pushed them into this? Was it fear? Desperation? He didn’t know and he didn’t care.

The dream ended there and he woke up slowly, staring at the ceiling with tears in his eyes, a terrible feeling of guilt washed through him and he ignored the agony and pulled his knees up, curled up like a child and let the tears run free, sobbed silently while his body shivered and shook in an onslaught of feelings too strong for him to fight. He had caused so much death, so much grief. He still remembered the burning ships, the terrible feeling of loss, the fear of never seeing Fingon again. Gods, it was more than he could bare there and then, memories drifted through his mind like a swarm of deadly arrows and he was helpless to fight them. The guilt and fear just had to run its course, until the bitter chalice was empty, if it ever would be.

He fell asleep once more, completely worn out by his emotional break down and he didn’t know if it was day or night when he woke up again. The woman was sitting by the hearth with two other women and they turned their heads and stared at him and he felt himself blush and he pulled the blanket up underneath his chin and tried to look calm and friendly. The two women giggled and got up, they left the cabin after having thrown some very strange glances at him and he felt a bit better when he was left alone with the healer. She sat down on the bed and placed her hand on his forehead, “No fever, good. I will give you some food and then there is time for a bath, I think that will be a relief or what?”

He nodded eagerly but he didn’t quite understand how he could get a bath there, there was no tub to be seen anywhere. The healer nodded her head. “We have a bath house here, the two you saw are going to start warming water and preparing the place. The boy who found you is coming too, to help you get over there. You must try to use your legs now but you cannot overexert yourself.”

He stared at the healer and sighed deeply, bathing with more people present? Wonderful, just wonderful! Exactly what he needed now, swell! He covered his face with his hand and shook his head. Yes, he was being punished, beyond any doubt. He was gonna pay for all of his sins.

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