The darkening of hearts

Like a festering wound

Chapter five: Like a festering wound…

The party was drawing nearer, and Lerina was getting more nervous by the hour. The last couple of days had been rather busy with all sorts of preparations and the last thing they did before leaving for Tirion was to make sure that Lerina knew the latest gossip, and knew how the dances that were in fashion by now. Fingon had shown her the steps and it had been fun but she was terrified of having to dance with someone she didn’t know. Maedhros reassured her that they would do what they could to ensure that she didn’t have to dance with strangers at all and she knew that all the ner in the family would try to keep her occupied.

But she was afraid of what she would encounter, she just knew that it would be a terrible challenge and she shivered as she sat in the wagon on the way to the palace. Maedhros sat next to her, holding her hand and his huge warm hand felt so safe. It was the only thing that stopped her from bursting into tears. As they got closer to the city it was rather apparent that something was going on for there were banners hung everywhere in the queens colors and the streets were decorated with sand colored in bright colors. There were elves everywhere wearing their finery and the scent of perfume and flowers was almost a bit too much.

The palace was also decorated and it was an awesome sight but Lerina felt a bit repulsed by all the pomp and circumstance. It was just too much, it became vulgar in a way. The vanyar liked it that way, and so Finwë did let his wife have her way but it was rather apparent that the noldor found the splendor a bit overwhelming The carriage stopped and Maedhros leaned forth and kissed her cheek gently. “Remember, hold your head up high and do not let anything scare you. I am here little one. You are more gorgeous than any of them, remember that”

Fingon nodded in agreement and Lerina smiled but her eyes were huge and dark. The seamstress had done such a stunning job and the ladies of the mansion had put up Lerina’s hair and put a small circlet with tiny emeralds on her. The gems she had gotten from Fëanor were glittering around her neck and from her ears and she felt as though she was over decorated somehow. The makeup the servants had put on her made her look way less pale than she would be otherwise and brought some color to her cheeks and she had looked in the mirror and couldn’t quite believe that this was her. She did look stunning and she found some strength in that. At least they couldn’t claim that she looked like a child anymore.

Fingon was wearing some very elegant robes in light blue and silver and he had braided his hair and looked very handsome but her husband was even more striking in appearance. To match Lerina he had put on some clothes in dark green with copper trimming and he was so gorgeous she knew that many would forget about her and just stare at him instead. They were met by Maedhros oldest brother Maglor who stood by the entrance and looked stressed out. “Just my usual luck isn’t it? They want me to sing!”

Maedhros gave him a friendly pat across the back. “Then I will remember to find something to stuff into my ears, just joking brother, I think they have made a great decision. Your voice is the best”

Maglor took a deep breath. “ So speaks the one who never has had to sing a note in all his life!”

Lerina giggled and Maglor took her hand and kissed it gently. “Lerina dear, you look like a vala, being married must be good for you for you are radiant”

She giggled again and Maglor nodded towards the entrance. “You are among the last to arrive, the rest of the family is already waiting. Worry not, this will be a grand evening”

Lerina did doubt that but she managed to put on a shaky smile and Maedhros grasped her hand and they walked up the stairs. Fingon entered with Maglor a few paces behind them, and he didn’t even look at Maedhros and Lerina knew how much it hurt them both that they couldn’t arrive together like the couple they really were. The great hall was glorious, the colors and the lights and everything was almost otherworldly and Lerina was staring at the strange lamps Fëanor had crafted for so long that she didn’t even notice that an ellon wearing Finwë’s uniform announced them. Suddenly hundreds of heads turned and stared and Lerina felt a sudden and acute need to run and seek cover. Maedhros held her hand, whispering. “Relax, you are safe. They cannot harm you”

She shivered ever so slightly but managed to hold her head up and smile. She saw the queen and Finwë up at the throne, both looked stunning and she did see Maedhros siblings and cousins gathered in a corner. Nerdanel stood by her father by a fountain and Fëanor was obviously discussing something with his oldest half brother, he didn’t look very happy at all but he kept his voice down. Many stared at her necklace and earrings and there where whispers of disbelief as they went down the stairs. She knew that her dress caused the disturbance, it was so different from the others there. Many a nis almost gaped and she felt a bit uncomfortable, she was being glared at from every angle and felt it, like tiny pin pricks against her very skin. Maedhros whispered soothing words to her as they walked up towards the king and queen to pay their respects and she managed to keep her chin up and her smile stayed on although it was a very stiff one.

Finwë saw them approaching and got up, walked down from the dais and many gasped, they couldn’t believe that he showed such honor to anyone. He smiled and Lerina saw that his eyes were warm and compassionate. “Welcome Lerina, and my dear grandson. It is a pleasure to have you among us once more.”

Maedhros kissed his grandfather’s ring and to Lerina’s utter shock Finwë bowed and hugged her, whispering that he had made sure that they got a table during the feast that ensured that everybody knew he favored them. Indis herself came down too and hugged Lerina and the young nis saw the soft expression within the queen’s eyes and knew she had a potential friend there too. Indis was rather lyrical in her praise of Lerina’s dress and she made sure that as many of the court ladies heard it as possible. Fêanor came over too and he seemed very pleased by the fact that she wore his gifts. It was very obvious that everybody wondered about the gloriously shining jewels. There was to be a grand feast at first and everybody was escorted to their tables by a servant, Lerina was shocked to find that she and Maedhros had gotten a table between Fëanor and his half brothers, it meant that they were very high in status and Maedhros whispered to her that it was because he was the second heir in line to the throne since his father was the first heir.

After a while she relaxed a bit and the food was being served. She had no idea of what half of it was and Maedhros made sure that she didn’t drink too much. He was acting like a very caring and loving husband, making sure that everybody saw him caressing her, even kissing her a few times. She was glad he was watching over her, some of the wine that was being served was terribly strong and she saw that some ner already was starting to get a bit drunk. She did have fun, it was interesting to watch all the lovely dresses and the jewelry the ladies wore and she felt safe there by her husband’s side. After a while she was so stuffed she couldn’t eat another bite and by now it was allowed to leave one’s table to sit with others and chat. Fingon returned to them, he had been seated by his father’s table and he looked a bit worried. Maedhros leaned forth and Fingon made a grimace. “The valar are insane, they have released Melkor! He has been free for several months already”

Maedhros just gasped. “Are you serious? I thought it was just a rumor? Have they forgotten the mayhem he caused?”

Fingon shook his head. “No, but they think he is repentant and have changed his ways.”

Maedhros almost growled. “ Ada was afraid of something like this, what now?”

Fingon just shrugged. “ I have no idea, but I am rather sure that it will spell trouble. He haven’t changed at all, if he says he has it is one very fat lie”

Maedhros saw that Lerina looked a bit nervous and he kissed her cheek lovingly. “Do not worry dear, they will surely see him for what he truly is and imprison him again before he can do any harm”

Lerina tried to smile and Fingon took her hand and kissed it, made sure that everybody could see it. “Everybody is in awe of you Lerina, my mother thinks you have been transformed into a true swan. And uncle Finarfin thinks you look like a dream.”

She blushed almost violently and Fingon blinked at Maedhros. “You have a true treasure there my friend, but this you already know”

He got back up and bowed before he went to chat with some friends and Maedhros saw that Maglor joined the musicians that were to provide music for the dances. “Soon there will be dancing, are you ready? The royal family is expected to excel also in this”

She managed to grin, once again she felt trapped. “As long as you are with me”

He held her hand, caressed it gently. “Always Lerina”

The music started and the king and queen were the first out onto the dancefloor, Indis wore a wonderful dress in a purple color with embroideries in silver and it was absolutely gorgeous but a bit too long and she struggled with it but managed to dance still the same, although with some difficulties. She was cheered by everybody there and congratulations were shouted and some pushed a huge table into the back of the hall, it was filled with gifts and Lerina had to stare. Some of the gifts were so grand they had to cost a fortune and Maedhros whispered that many tried to bribe the queen into favoring them in this manner.

After one dance the rest of the royal family were expected to join the king and queen and Maedhros took Lerina’s hand and lead her to the dancefloor. She felt eyes all over her again, and she heard the whispers too. Some thought she couldn’t be the same nis he had married, others whispered words of jealousy. She tried to only think of Maedhros and the steps, that made it easier but still it was a bit hard on her. After a while she got used to it, Maedhros let her dance with his brothers, then his cousins and she even danced with Fëanor and Finwë. Fingolfin taught her some new steps and Finarfin praised her unique taste in fashion rather loudly. When she managed to forget about all the strangers present everything was just wonderful but she feared being alone if just for one moment.

The party got more wild and the royal couple retired for the night, she hadn’t really realized it was that late already, the evening had just flown by. Many were drinking hard and Maglor had a hard time trying to make everybody stay quiet while he and the other musicians were singing. He sang a few songs all alone and his voice was heavenly, Lerina couldn’t describe it otherwise. She and Maedhros stood there listening together with Celegorm and Curufin and Lerina didn’t notice that a nis came walking up to her from behind. Suddenly she felt a hand grasp her wrist none too friendly and she turned around to see a very pretty dark haired maiden wearing a very intricate circlet and a dress that had to cost more than the value of a good horse. “So, you have managed to catch yourself a prince? You are just a slut, but maybe you have learned some tricks to get yourself into his bed!”

Lerina just stared, how did this nis dare to use such a language? The female didn’t stop, she stared at Lerina’s chest. “ I see that you have put on weight? Do you have a bun in the oven already? Perhaps you had to get married to make sure your bastard does get a name?”

Maedhros managed to pick up what the nis was whispering and he turned around, and suddenly the nis was pushed up against a column by a very angry ner who was smiling but there was death in his glare. “Heed this advice young lady, if I hear one more negative word about MY WIFE I will tell my grandfather of this and demand that you are made a servant in our house, until the end of Arda!”

The nis paled, she licked her lips and tried to look seductive but that was a horribly failed tactic for Maedhros got an expression of absolute disgust on his face. “Do not think you have anything which can tempt me you little whore. Lerina is a more worthy princess than you can ever be and if she does bear me children nobody will be more proud of that than me.”

Fëanor had witnessed the action and came forth, his eyes were shooting lightning and he grasped onto the nis and dragged her off towards some other elves that had to be her parents. They appeared to be shocked by what the prince told them.

Maedhros caressed Lerina’s cheek and Fingon and Irisse came to their aid too. Irisse brought a goblet of thin wine and some comforting words and Fingon sneered. “I was waiting for it, some ner had the balls to ask me if you had told me what tricks she used to make you marry her, if she had learned something extraordinary.”

Irisse sighed. “The ladies all think she is with child already, the rumors are spreading that she was that way already before you were wed, that it can’t be yours”

Maedhros groaned and rolled his eyes. “That too, I can’t believe how mean some are.”

Lerina almost whimpered. “But I am not…Oh Eru!”

Irisse embraced her. “We know dear, do not worry. It will be alright.”

Fingon sighed. “I fear that such things will be discussed even after this ball is over. Haven’t you all noticed? The respect is gone, everybody is becoming judgmental and full of prejudice, it is as if all the piousness and righteousness is just a hollow lie, a façade created to hide a festering wound within our society.”

Irisse nodded. “You are right, things are changing, and not for the better, just some few years ago nobody would have dared creating such rumors, or saying something like that. Something is corrupting us I fear, and I have no idea of what it may do if it is allowed to go on.”

Maedhros looked tired all of a sudden. “Grandfather and Indis have retired, then we can do whatever we please. I will go and ask the servants to prepare the carriage.”

Fingon smiled. “Do that, I will stay here with Lerina until you return.”

Lerina let out a sigh of relief and knew that Maedhros knew exactly what she needed. She wanted to go home right away and forget all about this ball.

She had been drinking a lot and suddenly she realized that she felt the need to pee, and judging by the intensity she had a full bladder too. She winced and stared at Irisse. “ I have to go to the privy? Could you follow me?”

Irisse nodded. “Of course, Fingon, wait here, we ladies will be right back”

He smiled and Irisse took her hand and they walked towards the privies, on the way they met Nerwen who also needed to visit the ladies room and Nerdanel who looked a bit angry. Apparently some vanyarin lady had approached her and called her a bad nis for having left her husband. The privies of the palace were grand and beautiful and everything was so clean and light and modern. Lerina had been in awe of the running water when she had been there last and Irisse was chatting away about how she and Celegorm had gone hunting alone and how he had fallen and cut himself badly and how he had valiantly but stubbornly refused her to sew the cut because he was afraid it would shock her maidenly fëa and be indecent since the cut was on his ass.

Nerwen laughed so hard she got hiccups and Lerina had done what she came to do and left the privy since there was quite a que already. She waited on the outside and stood there admiring a very lovely painting of two elflings playing on a field when she suddenly felt arms grasping her from behind. She was pulled backwards into a small room used to store table cloths and rugs and a hand pressed against her mouth and the shock was simply so great she didn’t have time to scream or make any sound.

The room was rather dark and she felt herself being pushed down against something that had to be a huge pile of towels or something like that and hands were grasping her by her throat while other hands were trying to untie the lacings of her bodice. She went cold, all over. She couldn’t breathe, her head was buzzing but she did realize what these assailants wanted. It had to be two ner and she could smell wine and something else too, a flowery unpleasant smell. Someone had to have seen this? But the corridor had been empty when she left the privy and she tried to twist herself out of the grip but the hand around her throat tightened its grasp until she felt how her consciousness was fading.

There were voices, hushed and thick with something she barely knew, but it made the taste of bile flood her mouth. “Hold her, that little whore is gonna pay for this, My sister ought to be the princess”

The other voice was darker, deeper. “They say she is with child.”

The first voice chuckled. “It matters not, the prince is such a fool if he thinks that it is his then, she must have had more cock than a henhouse”

The other one laughed and Lerina felt a hand pulling at her skirts, getting in underneath them. “She has got nice skin, I bet that redhead has had some really nice rides on this filly”

The first voice was thick with some dark emotion. “I bet she will be quite a nice fit yes, hurry, I want to test that cunt myself.”

There was a hand trying to pry her legs apart and she felt cold panic rush through her, her heart felt as though it was about to burst. “He will be better off with a new and fresh bride, not this slut. My sister is at least a virgin”

“What if she loses it, or fades?”

“No problem, the world ought to be spared for bastards and whores too”

Lerina screamed inside of her head, she felt terribly cold, and every sound seemed too loud, so violent. “Gag her somehow”

She felt the hand on her throat shift a little and another hand was sliding over the soft hairs between her legs, then a hard finger pushed against her core and the fingernail did cut into her sensitive nether lips, the sensation made her buck with all her might and she managed to take a deep breath of air and screamed. It was one scream but the loudest sound she had ever managed to create. “Damn it, shut her up, I am almost ready here.”

She heard the sound of fabric being pulled aside and she felt tears running down her cheeks, not like this, please Eru, not like this. She wouldn’t survive having her honor robbed from her like that, no elf would. The hand grasped onto her chin and something was pressed against her face, she was being pushed face first into the towels and she felt a weight on top of her, then she could feel something warm and hard being pressed against her inner thigh and she lost it. She tried to buck again and a hand grasped her hair, pulled so hard the world seemed to explode in pain and she screamed into the fabric and felt that hardness pushing against her entrance eagerly. Everything seemed to freeze, like time had stopped, she could only hear her own straining heart and the heavy breathing of the ner on top of her. He was gasping obscene words and she felt that slick liquid already was leaking from him, it was utterly disgusting and she would rather have killed herself than having to go through this.

Then there was a loud boom and bright light and she felt the ner on top of her tense up and she felt hot liquid squirting all over her female parts and then the hands disappeared and she managed to scream once more before everything went completely black.

Fingon just stared, he had never seen his cousin and lover like that before, his eyes were ablaze and he was sneering. The ner who had held her was tackled by two palace guards and he looked absolutely terrified. The one who had been mounting Lerina laid on the floor, knocked out by a vase Maedhros had tossed the moment they entered the room and saw the horrible thing that was happening. Irisse did panic when she left the privy and saw that Lerina was missing but one of her earrings lay on the floor and she and Nerwen had found Fingon and Maedhros and then they had heard the scream and two guards had been close by and came running too.

Maedhros was shivering all over, eyes black with rage and despair and Nerwen and Irisse stood in the door and both were pale. Nerwen was breathing hard, as if she had been running. “Nerwen, run to my father and bid him come, and send a servant to grandfather too, and one to get a healer.”

She nodded and ran and Nerdanel entered, she was pale too and she had brought two lamps that showed the situation in all its horror. The unconscious ner still lay on the floor with his private parts exposed, leaking white fluid and the smell was strong. Lerina was unconscious and Nerdanel gasped and ran over. She grasped the torn skirts and Maedhros almost whimpered. “Ammë, did he…?”

Nerdanel took a deep breath, Lerina still lay on her belly and there were thick droplets of semen all over her butt and female parts. And she saw blood, Nerdanel went pale. “There is blood here…”

Maedhros went ashen grey. “ Oh Eru no, please no!”

He grasped onto Lerina’s hand and there were tears on his face. “ Don’t let us have been too late.”

Fingon swallowed hard. “I do not think that bastard her, when you tossed that vase.”

Maedhros threw a pleading glance at his mother. “Please, can you see if…If she has been deflowered?”

Nerdanel sighed but she nodded. Better her than someone Lerina didn’t even know. She moved a lamp for better light and moved the young nis legs and examined her quickly but thoroughly. The blood came from a rift in her skin, there was no signs of penetration and Nerdanel let out a huge sigh of relief. “She is intact, the swine didn’t have time to fulfill his foul deed”

Maedhros whimpered. “ I want to kill him, I really want to kill him! Oh Lerina, what will happen now?”

Nerdanel was thinking fast. “ I will wash her, and we will not tell anyone of the fact that she almost lost her virtue today. She almost got raped, that is all we will say. The healers doesn’t need to check her for injuries but they may need to sedate her”

Maedhros nodded and tossed Nerdanel a towel and she wiped the semen off Lerina’s skin and pulled the skirts back down into place. Not a second too early for Fëanor and Finwë and a healer burst through the door, all pale and in obvious shock. Maedhros swallowed hard and Nerdanel bowed her head and tried to look calm. The guards still held the ner hard and Finwë stared at him and the unconscious one, his eyes wide and disbelieving. “What has happened here?”

Fingon managed to keep his voice steady. “Irisse and Nerwen was escorting Lerina to the privy and she left before them since the room was a bit crowded. And when they left she wasn’t there but they found her earring on the floor. They ran and got me and Maedhros and we heard her scream and broke down the door.”

Fëanor was pale but the fire in his eyes was almost too bright to be real. “Why?!”

The conscious ner was struggling against the guards and he was obviously rather drunk but able to put up a fight nonetheless. Finwë was shaking all over. “They tried to rape her?!”

The voice revealed his disbelief, it was a crime almost unheard of among elves, in fact they barely had a word for the deed. Maedhros nodded. “Yes, we came just in time to prevent the deed from being…fulfilled.”

Finwë just stared with dark eyes. “Eru, is she alright?”

Nerdanel smiled but the smile was a stiff one, her eyes were cold. “There are no physical injuries but she must have suffered from a terrible shock.”

The healer was an old and experienced elf, he took Lerina’s hand and felt her pulse. “She is in shock yes, she will need a lot of help I fear.”

Maedhros almost sobbed. “What can we do?”

The healer sighed. “ I have never treated the victim of such foul deeds before but I suggest that you get her back home to where she feels safe and spend as much time with her as possible. Never leave her alone, and make sure she eats and drinks. Such a terrible violation can make some of us lose the will to live.”

Fingon saw how deeply those words affected Maedhros and he felt how his heart swelled with love and compassion. Irisse and Nerwen stood by the door and both looked very shocked and Fëanor walked over to the ner the guards held and repeated his question in a voice that could have frozen the sundering sea solid. The ner looked as if he was ready to piss himself and the guards shook him to make him answer. “ Uh, she is a slut, everybody knows that. There is no sin in taking what many have taken before. The prince deserves better!”

Finwë was still pale. “ Oh Eru’s mercy, if that is the common belief then the valar help us all. I knew some have questioned Lerina but I had no idea it was this bad!”

Maedhros sighed and held the limp hand, there were still tears on his face. “I don’t think I can let her return to this city ever again atya, I am sorry but I feel as though we are surrounded by hungry predators everywhere.”

Fëanor looked as if he really didn’t know what to say and the ner spat on the floor again. “Everybody knows she’s been with at least a dozen ner before she wedded the prince, it is common knowledge. She was sneaking out of her parent’s house every night”

Finwë looked calm, deceptively calm. “Says who?”

The ner stuttered. “ Uh, many.”

The king almost growled. “Name one please! I want to find the source of these outrageous rumors.”

The ner was pale. “A stranger, I spoke with him at a shop down by the gates yesterday. He told me everything. And others have spoken to him too.”

Fëanor had an expression of disgust on his handsome face and Nerdanel looked frightened. “How did this stranger look?”

The ner was shaking slightly. “ Tall, handsome, dark hair and rather dark skin. Dark eyes, I think he was a noldo but I am not sure.”

Finwë frowned. “ I know no noldo fitting that description. Did he say anything more?”

The ner tried to look harmless and meek. “ Yes, he said that prince Fingolfin ought to watch his back before his older brother stabs it, and that everybody knows that the Finwëions are flawed and marred.”

Fëanor let out a snort and Finwë gasped and Maedhros shook his head in disbelief. “Who would have the guts and audacity to say something like that?! It is outrageous!”

Finwë stared at the unconscious ner. “ Place them in the dungeons, feed them but keep them separated, and let nobody speak to them. I will decide their fate later on.”

Fëanor gritted his teeth. “Somebody is plotting against us!”

Finwë sighed. “ Yes, I fear you are right son, somebody is trying to pull our very family apart. But who?”

Fëanor sneered and his face looked ominous for a moment. “ Oh but I have a good idea of who this can be. “

He didn’t say anything more, he just walked right out of the room and Finwë turned around and his shoulders slumped. “Alright, we have to try to keep this hidden for as long as possible. And Maedhros, do take her back home. I will send my best healer to your aid if you should need it.”

Nerdanel bit her lower lip. “She may need the company of other females for a while, is there anyone who may want to help her?”

Irisse smiled. “ I would have loved to, but I do not really know her that well.”

Maedhros looked up. “She has got a cousin, one she likes I think”

Finwê smiled. “I know of her, yes, I will write a letter to her parents and ask if she may visit Lerina for a while, just to keep her company. They doesn’t need to know why, and I doubt that they will dare to refuse if I am the one asking.”

Nerdanel smiled and it was a smile of relief. “Good, now, make sure she gets home quickly, she has had a terrible experience.”

Finwë nodded but his eyes were distant, that such behavior had started to appear among them was a source of great worry and that the elves had started to speak of others the way they spoke of Lerina was also something new and very disturbing. He had to start an investigation and question the two ner further but it would have to wait. But something was wrong, he could feel it in his bone and he felt as if he had touched something hidden, something dark and disgusting.

Maedhros lifted Lerina gingerly and carried her bridal style and the servants showed them a corridor only used by the workers of the palace so nobody would see them leave thus. Maedhros felt as though his head was about to explode with rage and fear, Lerina was a friend, as dear to him as his brothers and so pure and sweet. He wished that he could have broken the neck of those morons. The carriage was waiting and Fingon had ran to his father to let him know that he would escort them back to the mansion. He got his horse and rode ahead of them and the driver was making the horses run as fast as they could. He knew that this was a serious situation so he shouted to the horses to make them run the whole way. Maedhros held Lerina closely and he was terrified. She was so cold and her heart was beating so erratically and she looked so small and fragile.

They arrived at the mansion just before dawn and Lerina hadn’t awakened yet. The driver stopped the carriage right in front of the entrance and the horses were steaming. The servants left the house, confused by the sudden arrival and Fingon jumped off his horse. “Quick, heat up the bath and the bedroom. And get some strong brandy”

The nis who was head of the household when Lerina was away looked shocked and she almost shrieked when Maedhros emerged from the carriage, carrying an unconscious Lerina. “Oh Eru, what has happened to our lady?!”

Maedhros was still pale and his face grim. “She was attacked, please, do as Fingon asks of you. I will explain later.”

The servants ran like rabbits everywhere, eager to please and shocked by what their master had told them. Maedhros carried Lerina to the bath and Fingon held her as Maedhros stripped off his clothes. Then Maedhros got rid of Lerina’s dress with the help of the nis in charge of the household. The nis was an elf who had served Finwë and his house ever since they came to Aman and she stared at the torn skirts and her nose shivered. “ My lord, do not tell me that she has been…”

Maedhros growled. “Almost, I have no idea of what will happen to her now.”

The nis swallowed hard. “Before we decided to leave the shores and travel west many were lost to the dark hunter, and some also got captured by the foul creatures that followed him. Some…some had been…violated when we found them. None made it.”

Maedhros bit his teeth together. “Thank you for that piece of information Celariel, I didn’t need it!”

She stared at him, the eyes were very sincere. “I am just being honest my lord, lying to oneself is never wise.”

Maedhros tried to smile. “ I know, help me get her into the water.”

Fingon had turned around, he had no interest in peeping at his lover’s wife and felt his cheeks burn red. They managed to get Lerina into the water and Celariel helped Maedhros wash her and they got some heat back into her body but she was still so very cold and pale. They wrapped her into some soft blankets and carried her to bed and made her swallow some very strong brandy before Maedhros laid down next to her and pulled the covers over them both. She would need his warmth now and his mind was reeling with the different possible outcomes of this.

Fingon went to bed in the guestroom and he was feeling as though his heart was being torn in half. He was so sorry for Lerina and he was also full of compassion for Maedhros, but he was also angry, and afraid. He had sensed something that evening, something he had never felt before. It was cold and dark and ugly and it shouldn’t be there, among their kin here in the blessed realm. It was something that reminded him of the tales they told of the land they had left behind and the dangers they encountered there. This was just evil, a creeping slithering force trying to pry apart everything they had worked so hard to achieve and he knew that his uncle was right. Someone meant them harm, someone was trying to shift the balance of power but who and why? When he finally fell asleep he didn’t really relax but slept caught in disturbing dreams.

Lerina didn’t wake up that day, nor the next and Maedhros had started to fear that she never would come back to them. Then all of a sudden, as he sat by the bed reading some poems just to keep his mind from wandering too far into depressing thoughts she sat up in the bed, screaming so loud the windows almost shattered. Maedhros dropped the book, lost balance and fell backwards and hit the floor with a bang and Fingon who was sitting in the room next door trying to repair some broken tack stung himself on his needle. Lerina stared out into nothing, eyes wide open and she was trembling all over, like a tree in a violent storm. Maedhros managed to get back up, he flung himself onto the bed and grasped her hand and she yelped and stared at him as if she didn’t really see anything at all. Then she blinked and her expression changed to one of extreme confusion. “Maedhros? Where…what…?”

He held her hand gently, sat down next to her with slow steady movements as if not to frighten her further. “Don’t you remember?”

She stared at him with huge wide eyes and suddenly they darkened and she gasped. “The ball, and ….they…”

She curled into a ball, wailing and sobbing and he grasped her and pulled her close, tried to calm her down with his embrace but he couldn’t. She didn’t respond, she was just crying and shivering and Fingon came running with blood dripping from a pierced finger. “Eru, what has happened?”

Maedhros looked as if he was in despair. “She woke up, and screamed, and I cannot calm her down”

Fingon nodded. “ I see, I’ll go get Celariel.”

He ran off and Maedhros tried to rock Lerina in his arms, she was trembling all over and didn’t react to his touch at all. Fingon returned with a clearly shocked Celariel who threw herself down onto the bed beside Lerina and grasped her, feeling her pulse and touching her forehead with a grimace of disbelief. “She is caught by her memories, unable to escape them.”

Maedhros sighed, let his fingers glide through the long silvery locks. “Is there anything we can do?”

Celariel bit her lower lip, she looked as though she was in doubt about something. “Well, there is this one thing…”

Maedhros stared at her. “ Yes?”

Celariel took a deep breath. “Just after we arrived here in Aman my sister in law fell down a flight of stairs and lost her unborn baby, she was close to fading from grief but one of the maiar of Lorien gave her some sort of herb that helped her overcome it. But it was supposedly very dangerous, it could erase her memories completely.”

Maedhros held his breath for a moment. “Can you get some of it? Please?”

Celariel hesitated, she stared at Lerina’s trembling body and sighed. “She has been through so much, the poor thing shouldn’t have to face yet more hardship.”

Maedhros blinked, his expression shocked. “Are you suggesting that we let her die? Are you mad?”

Celariel stared at Maedhros and her eyes were serious. There was a silent strength and sorrow in those eyes that told him she had seen far more than he could ever imagine. “No, I am realistic. Do you know how many we lost during the great journey? How many we found mutilated by the enemy’s monsters? Do you think we could heal all of them? No, we did what we had to do back then, we ended their suffering. And she is suffering my lord.”

Maedhros grasped Celariel’s hand in a grip that could have crushed it. “ I refuse to let her die, do you hear? There is hope, Get that herb or leave this property forever!”

Celariel sighed deeply. “As you please my lord, I will get some of it. I think there is a bottle with some in the apothecary.”

She left and Maedhros embraced Lerina again, her eyes were open but empty, as if her fëa had fled already. Fingon watched in silent sorrow and he knew that his lover was on his side in this. He could count on Fingon’s support now and forever and that was a good feeling. He kissed her forehead gently. “Do not fear little one, I will keep you safe. I will keep you safe forever.”

The moment he said those words he felt a cold chill running down his spine, and he swallowed hard. He had a sense of foreboding, had he just told her a huge fat lie? Had he made promise he never would be able to hold?

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