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Mercy

Uli asked for a happy holiday story rife with blood and gore, more specifically, the death of the 3C Feanorian sons and the desertion of Elured and Elurin in Doriath. And so here is your (slightly bloodied up) holiday story, my dear! I hope you enjoy. :)

(Do I need to post a warning for blood and gore? Since it's a bloody/gory story about a kinslaying. Okay, just to keep the people happy: Please be aware that this story contains blood and violence yadda yadda yadda.)



Mercy

It hurts to die. I didn’t expect that. Always, we had talked of the “mercy of death”; well, we’d talked of that since arriving in Beleriand anyway. In Valinor, death was a curse worthy of almost-shameful whispers, like those that followed us, the kin of Miriel Þerindë. In Beleriand, it was a mercy. I used to pray every night for my brother Maedhros to die, lying in my warm, soft bed in Mithrim, dreaming of blood coursing down and outlining the perfect proportions of his body. Manwë, please. In a single swift motion, you could take his pain. It would be a mercy.

Then Fingon rescued him and I was ashamed of my prayers.

Still, we talked of the mercy of death.

But it is no mercy. My spirit rips from my body, and it is a pain worse than having my arm wrenched and torn from its shoulder. Worse than being cut in half. Certainly worse than to lie with many dozens of arrows imbedded in the soft vulnerability of my body, in the weak places left by my armor.

I arch my back and scream with it, fingers digging the floor, fingernails tearing away and leaving bloody smudges on the floor. How like ecstasy in its singular focus, in the instinctive response of my body—unheeding the basic notions of dignity; screaming, thrashing wildly—and the cleansing purity of it, leaving no room for complications, the way that the heat of fire will purify a healer’s scalpel for cutting.

It hurts. It hurts in a way that—if I’d known my life would end in such pain—I would have wished never to have been born; I would have denied myself every pleasure stretched over many ages: the warmth of the Treelight on my face, the taste of green apples fresh from the orchard, the first time I had lain with a woman I loved.

I look down on my body, watching my spirit stretch from it in an obscene swatch like dirty smoke. Have I become so filthy? Corrupt? I watch as Maedhros enters the room and runs to me with Amrod close on his heels. Amrod kicks aside the body of Dior, whose legs are still tangled with mine, my sword buried to the hilt in his gut. He kicks with unnecessary fury, for from Dior stretches a smoky tendril, and I know that he is dying also.

Maedhros is holding my hand: Why can’t I feel it? I can feel the pain but not the last touch that my brother will give me? He is feeling at my throat for a pulse, but that has faded now. My heart still beats but too weakly to detect. Amrod is worried more about the arrows and is trying to pull them out. One is wedged between the joints of my armor, into my gut—I believe that it might have been the one that killed me—and when he draws it out, a gush of blood flows over his hands. He screams then in an agony that almost does justice to mine, clutching my face and calling all of my names: “Celegorm! Tyelkormo! Turkafinwë!” and lastly, heart-wrenchingly—“Turko!” his voice breaking on the simple syllables and his tears raining upon my face. That, also, I do not feel.

Mercy! Manwë, grant me mercy!

My spirit pulls fully from my body then, and the pain is gone. I watch the light leaving my eyes and Maedhros attempting to breathe air into my lungs and, perhaps realizing the futility, kissing me instead, my blood reddening his lips. Amrod is weeping openly as I have not seen him do since he was still a child running at me on chubby legs, arms held out: “Turko! Turko!” tripping in his eagerness and scraping his knees on the flagstones.

The pain of death is gone, but the memory abides and I know that—when the memories of Treelight and green apples and the love of a woman have all faded—this memory will abide forever, stronger than the rest. I understand now why Miriel Þerindë did not seek new life. I would not seek it either, not with the possibility of that sort of pain with me always.

If I even have such a chance: I realize now that I am dead. I was told, in my youth, that upon death, our people hear the summons of Mandos. I hear nothing.

Perhaps, then, our Oath is true, and the Everlasting Darkness shall be our fates.

~oOo~


I watch as Amrod holds me for a long time, his auburn hair covering me like a shroud, while Maedhros tugs at his shoulder. Amrod, there is still much to do. The room is empty but for them; there had been legions of guards, archers, but I’d slain them on by one, even as they’d shot arrows into me at close range, guarding their king. I’d slain him too, the last action of my long life, the action to which all others had led—stepping stones between birth and death—using the last of my strength to plunge my sword into him, twisting the hilt as I fell to the ground.

Amrod, there is still much to do.

Amrod leaps from the ground then. In his fist, he clenches the arrow that had killed me, and he falls to his knees besides Dior’s body and drives it into Dior’s throat, but the King of Doriath is dead, and his blood bulges forth weakly and stains my brother’s hands. Amrod stands and kicks Dior again, until Maedhros catches him in his arms and they hold each other long and weep.

For me?

I don’t know that I deserve it. Not when there remains a Silmaril to pursue, for surely, grief for my death can wait. But the Silmaril, the reason for my death: let them find it. Let them find it and avoid this end.

But they do not. They stand in the King’s hall and weep. For me.

~oOo~


Caranthir and Curufin have cleared the Sindar guarding the treasury. Caranthir is wounded: The blood is running from beneath his armor and over his hand, dripping onto the floor and marking his trail. Curufin follows and smears Caranthir’s blood with his boots.

“You are wounded, brother. Let me see it.”

“It is not deep,” says Caranthir, but I know that it is. I sense his spirit in unrest in his body, straining against the confines that he gives it, longing to escape, for he is dying, and a spirit will not abide in lifeless shell. I open my mouth to scream at him to let Curufin put a tourniquet on his arm, but I have no mouth, I have no voice, and I go unheard.

He is concerned with the treasury, I know, expecting perhaps to find the Silmaril there. He is opening boxes and tossing them aside, letting gold and gemstones of breathtaking splendor fall to be trod into his blood by Curufin’s boots, growling his frustration with each box. The brother that I loved best as a child and the brother that I loved best later in my life, I think: Caranthir and Curufin, together at last without me in between them. They were never fond of each other—at least, not in the way that they were each fond of me and our other brothers—for where love might abide there was always jealousy. It was Curufinwë, the prodigy, who had come early into our father’s forge, forcing Fëanaro to lose a student, and Vorondil ever after taught Carnistir, who never amounted to much. Curufinwë did not seem to need our friendship, and so Carnistir and I were happy to ignore him or antagonize him (for we certainly could not lash out against Fëanaro, the true artificer of our animosity) when the jealousy became a black poison within us. It was not until Maedhros’ capture that I developed an appreciation for Curufin’s cold logic and quiet fortitude to underscore my passion, for he agreed with my views on the rescue of our brother, and when Caranthir struck out against me in his anger, pressing my throat until the world grew black at the edges, it was Curufin—wordless, without production or drama—who pulled him off of me.

We made confessions, Curufin and I, to each other that we dared speak to no one else. I told him of my prayers to Manwë, that Maedhros be delivered the mercy of death, and he told me that he’d always envied Caranthir’s easy friendship with me and wished always that he could go with me on hunts with Oromë. “If I had known, I would have asked you,” I said, knowing even then that I would not have, that I would have made a point not to ask him, to drive rejection through him and hope to wound our father a little in turn, but Curufin replied that he did not want to be asked. Caranthir was never asked; it was assumed that he would go, like he was an extension of me, and leaving him behind was as ridiculous as forgetting to bring my right arm.

And so he prayed with me, for mercy for Maedhros, and I took him on hunts, and we left Caranthir behind, without even asking. And when Maedhros was returned to us and divided the land between each of his brothers, there were two realms called Himlad and Thargelion, and he thought that I would rule Himlad as Fëanor’s third eldest and Caranthir and Curufin would together rule Thargelion, but I spoke, “Nay, I wish for my brother by my side,” and when Maedhros opened his mouth, likely thinking that I meant Caranthir and about to protest that Fëanor’s fifth-born son should not be given a kingdom of his own, I added, “Curufin, that is.”

But now, they are together at last, without me, my two most beloved brothers (for I ached for Caranthir’s companionship, even with the memory of his hands on my throat, even with Curufin’s sly brilliance to procure for me honors that I would not have had with the help of Caranthir, so alike to me in temperament), unknowing of my death as they search the treasury for what I am suddenly certain that they will not find. Not here. Not ever.

Caranthir tosses another box to the floor, spilling forth golden candlesticks bedecked in sapphires, and he falls then to one knee, springing quickly to his feet again and kicking the box, which he is pretending tripped him. I know better, though: The floor is smeared with his blood and his hand is red with it. Each of his heartbeats sustains his life and brings him one drop of blood closer to death. Curufin says again, “You are bleeding quite badly—” but Caranthir interrupts him impertinently: “Let me be! We must find it.”

He takes two steps before he falls again, his dark complexion suddenly very white, and this time, he cannot regain his footing on the floor slick with his own blood and quickly pooling in greater quantities beneath him. Curufin is tearing away Caranthir’s armor now, revealing a deep gash on the underside of his arm, cut to the depth of tendon and bone; he is fumbling his belt with blood-slick fingers to make a tourniquet to save our brother from bleeding to death and speaking in a gibberish-fast voice, telling Caranthir to keep his eyes open, to keep breathing, to hold on, for me.

For me?

Hold on for Celegorm will not survive your loss, he says, as though he knows that on those many nights, telling each other tales in the wilds of Beleriand, laughing, our blood warmed by wine and our bellies full of fresh-killed meat, even as I was grateful for Curufin’s quick mind and devious plans, I wished for Caranthir, for whom my love had been born in Valinor.

Curufin’s knife falls to the ground as he tears his belt from around his waist. The knife was made by Celebrimbor, although he denies this and claims that he made it. But I am no fool: Curufin is gifted, but this knife is beyond even his blessings.

As he fastens the belt around Caranthir’s arm and pulls it tight, a shadow steps from behind a pile of treasure not yet searched, a maiden, with a tear-stained face and resolute hands, fingers stretching for the knife my brother dropped, a blade of shameless, ornate beauty like that our father had once crafted, the purpose of which practical Curufin had never been able to grasp. The flow of blood down Caranthir’s arm has slowed, and through death-hazed eyes, he spies the maiden behind Curufin and moves his lips to warn Curufin, even as she plunges his knife deep into the side of his neck.

Curufin falls onto Caranthir’s chest, and as he reaches for the knife buried to the hilt in his throat, the belt around Caranthir’s arm loosens, and blood spurts anew. And so Curufin leaves the knife, leaves himself to bleed, and with the last bit of his strength, holds the tourniquet in place and so dies upon Caranthir’s chest, his fingers tight upon the belt even in death.

But it is no use. Caranthir’s weak glance follows the maiden as she tries without success to pry Curufin’s dead fingers from the belt and—realizing the futility of it—tears the knife from Curufin’s throat and cuts the leather instead. Blood washes across the floor and Caranthir’s eyes—in which still shines the Light of the Trees, the love of a husband and father, the love of a brother—flare with pain and then go dark.

~oOo~
They heard it, my two beloved brothers: the call of Mandos. Their spirits fled like smoke carried on a brisk breeze while I still lingered, finding myself in the antechamber to Menegroth with my four remaining brothers, their hands dark with the blood of our kin and still empty of the light of the Silmaril.

Amras had been wounded by an arrow in the shoulder, but the wound is not deep, and Maglor holds him while Amrod cleans and dresses it. Maedhros, though, is arguing with my two chief counselors, sharp-eyed Noldor who had been ever-loyal to my father and were recommended by Curufin for their faultless obedience, and even as I watch, Maedhros unsheathes his sword, and with a single swipe, cuts them both to the ground.

Not for mercy but for vengeance. I see that in the unbearable fire in his eyes.

And without another word to our brothers, Maedhros, strides from Menegroth, running once free in the forest, his mouth open and calling two unfamiliar names, crashing gracelessly through the underbrush, thorns tearing his unfeeling flesh and tears cleaning his face of grime and gore.

~oOo~


As though led to the place, I find the sons of Dior where Maedhros cannot, hiding in a small space beneath a rock. The law of the wilderness, our father used to tell us: Do not put your hands where your eyes cannot see. If someone had taught this to the little ones, then the one would not have been bitten by the snake that lies dead, just past the rocks, and would not be delirious with fever now, clutched in the arms of his sobbing brother.

It does not take long before he dies, yet his brother holds him still, weeping and calling his name, calling him back. And like me, his spirit does not flee to Mandos, but wraps his brother and will not let go.

We are given the choice also to reject the call of Mandos, to live forever in the wilds we love, guarding those whom we cannot leave behind, but it is a bleak and hopeless life, only slightly better than the Everlasting Darkness. Yet, without hesitation, this small boy is making such a choice, so that he brother does not reach the same end as he.

And bitterly, then, I know my purpose here: a kinslayer in life, and so why not also in death? And with my greatest will, I force myself to choke the breath from the one who still lives, fighting the frenzy of his brother’s spirit around me, and I speed them both to Mandos, entwined until they are one, to a better fate than this.

As Curufin and Caranthir before them and as Amrod and Amras one day soon—but I will remain here, and watch them all leave, for the call is not mine to hear and this land is not mine to abandon so readily. For whether by vengeance or obedience or mercy, still I am a kinslayer.

But a strong wind blows into the West, and I might almost hear a song like one I’d heard long ago, in the peace of Valinor, and I might even believe that hope still lives for the Noldor—or even for me.