Written for Back to Middle-earth Month 2011 Day 5, for the prompt: "Write a story or poem or create artwork that will illustrate the consequences of isolation."
It was only the two of them now. They had sworn revenge for their father and brothers' deaths, but all lesser oaths paled beside the great one; the Oath they had sworn laughing, that could not be loosed until the world itself be unmade, that burned like a flame in their souls. Maedhros watched the shadow and light of the campfire play across his brother's face as he bent in concentration over the strings of his harp. Maglor tightened a peg and then plucked the string again, testing its pitch. As always, Maedhros thought of asking him to keep silent. Maglor's music was painful in its wildness, stirring up feelings better left unawakened. They did not dare let their hearts be softened, not while the Oath drove them and set them apart, separating them from their own kind as much as they were distant from the beasts. As always, Maedhros kept his words locked in silence. Music was his brother's craft; it called to him as strongly as the making of the accursed bright jewels did to their father Fėanor. Music flowed through Maglor's spirit and could not be silenced, save by destroying the body which housed it.
Satisfied at last, Maglor drew a hand across the strings with a ripple of sound. Maedhros bent his head and steeled himself to listen. It was a familiar ache, like the pain of his missing hand. Every pain grew bearable with time, save one: the Oath that would not let them rest.
Under Maglor's skilled hands, the harp spoke of wandering and battle, of loss and death, defiance and sorrow. And then Maglor sang. His silvery voice was an exquisitely controlled instrument. First a plain unadorned line, while the harp carried the music forward, then bursting into fiery ornaments, leaping with agility through a set of quick notes, or swelling to perfect richness on a single note and diminishing again until it was a mere whisper of sound. The melody was beautiful, but it was the expressive flexibility of the voice that made the music come fully alive. Maedhros held his breath, rapt and waiting to see what wonder would come next.
As the music continued, Maedhros's spirit trembled within him, yearning toward the sound, carried almost out of its body. At times like this, he could well believe the story he had heard in Valinor, that Arda itself was created through music. It was a performance that kings would give their crowns for, lavished on one solitary auditor and the unhearing stars. Whatever lay behind, whatever might come after—in this moment, this was glory.
At last the music ended, trailing away with a questioning dissonant chord, and Maglor's nimble fingers grew still. Released from the spell of the music, Maedhros let out his breath in a long sigh. Once again, they were vulnerable, a part of the world in which all they met must be their enemy, where they were bound to strike down kinsman and stranger, even bird and beast if it stood in their way. Once again, they were only two weary fugitives by a dying fire. The familiar crushing weight of their doom settled upon them once more, almost comforting after so long with it. As Maglor carefully set down his harp, Maedhros watched the sparks fly up and extinguish themselves in darkness. So we, too—and yet, there could be no mercy for them even in death, for death meant judgement and the Halls of Mandos, whose dictates they had defied.
Maedhros stood and walked away a short distance, letting his eyes adjust to the dark. By long custom, the first watch was his, though he did not think Maglor would sleep. Maedhros did not know whether his brother was fortunate to have a craft he could bring with him through the paths of exile and the chance of battle. He himself had not worked in the forge for long centuries. His single hand clenched on the hilt of his sword. Tomorrow they would reach the camp of the Valar’s host, and he would craft death one last time.