~~*It was quite a typical day, as far as days went back then. Not much out of the ordinary, other than finding the remains of an orc hunting party. There wasn’t much left of the hart, barely any bones… *~~
The words were hastily scratched out. Wincing at the waste of ink, the author tried again.
~~*When the elves came upon the the orc encampment, they held little hope. The prisoners were… were...rubbish, that is what this is…*~~
“Your tea is ready lad. Whoever thought of stewing leaf litter and drinking it must have been eating those colorful fungus pods we found last week. Remember what they made your brother do?”
Trying desperately to banish from his mind the image of his brother streaking through the estate as bare as the day he entered the world, Maedhros accepted the cup and sniffed at it. He hummed and sipped. “Aye, well, these stewed leaves, as you put it, are the only things making it so I can eat. Your offspring is nearly as demanding as you.”
“Oi, that is the future Lord or Lady of Belegost you are talking about.” The current Lord of that realm placed his hand on Maedhros’ gently rounded belly. Azaghâl smiled and kissed the curve delicately. “Do not listen to your Ada, precious. He is just grumpy because the healers told him to stay off his foul-tempered stallion. Your Ada does love going for his rides.”
Maedhros snorted into his tea. “It would seem that going for rides is how I got into this state to begin with.”
His dwarven companion chuckled. “Aye, you do have a point there. But at least you do not have to stop riding all together. Perhaps simply finding a gentler mount will satisfy you.” His eyebrows waggled above twinkling eyes.
“Perhaps. I shall simply have to find one somewhere in this new world.” The copper-haired elf waited for the inevitable bluster.
Azaghâl was suddenly nose to nose with him. “You will do no such thing, lad. We Dwarves crafted this new world. I crafted this realm for us, and if you think for one moment that -mph!”
Maedhros pulled back from the rather sound kiss and smirked. “Still so jealous, my dear Dwarf. Have I not been telling you from the very beginning of our first life together that you are mine and I am yours?”
Azaghâl rumbled and looked away, flustered.
Maedhros snagged his mustache and tugged him back to meet his eyes. “What was that?”
“I said, you cannot blame me for worrying. You are fair to look upon, and dwarves were not even meant to be part of the Song. It was only by the One’s grace that we were allowed to exist.”
The elf reached and flicked at his ear. “Foolish dwarf. It is true that you are neither the melody nor the harmony of Illuvatar’s song. But you are the descant.”
“Descant. An additional independent melody used for decoration. And you lot certainly are independent.”
“Decoration, are we?” He huffed, though his thick (and heavily bejeweled) beard and mustache could not hide his smile.
“With that beard? Aye, decoration.” Maedhros winked. “While the Song was perfectly fine as it was, with just Elves and Men, the Dwarves certainly made it richer and far more interesting.”
Azaghâl preened a bit, stroking his beard. “Aye, well… well!” He peered down at the scratched out parchment. “What exactly is it you are trying to write here, Elf?”
“Our story.” Maedhros sighed at his dwarf’s puzzled look. “There are gaps in my memory of before.”
“Perhaps that is best, love. Those were brutal times. Could be there are things best left un-remembered.”
“Nay, Azaghâl, it is maddening to not have the full story. So I am trying to write it, but the words are not coming, and when they do, they are clumsy.”
Azaghâl hummed and read through the many false starts. “You are starting in the middle.”
“Aye”. He pointed to the page. “You are starting at our meeting, but in truth, our story was first your story.”
“True, but that is not what I am trying to remember.”
“Perhaps not, love, but you do not make a saddle with raw leather, do you? You must tan and shape it first.”
Maedhros’ eyes glittered. “Are you calling me a saddle, Lord of Belegost?”
“Weeell, if the leather fits…”
Maedhros swatted at him. “Hairy wretch!” He chuckled and sat back, finishing off his tea before picking up his quill. He dipped the tip into the inkwell and began to write.
~~~@~~~ ~~~@~~~ ~~~@~~~
~~*The earliest of my memories was the surprised expression my sire wore when I was handed to him. “Nelyafinwë,” he proclaimed me to be. The Third Finwë. I heard the tired objection in my Nana’s voice and loud, boisterous laughter from my uncles. I learned much later that all (namely my grandsires Finwë and Mahtan) thought my Nana would birth a male child, and they had agreed upon my name months before.
That I had been born in a female’s body did not change the decision in my Father’s eyes. I was his firstborn, and I would forever be Nelyafinwë. (It should be noted that only my Father and Grandfather called me that. Nana called me Maitimo or Russandol, which my brothers immediately took to in that irritating way all younger siblings seem to have…*~~
“Russandol, eh?” Azaghâl grinned at Maedhros’ glare. “How precious. Copper top.”
“Do not ,” his husband snarled, pointing the quill at him in a threatening manner. “Not unless you wish to spend the rest of this millennia entertaining yourself.”
Azaghâl held his hands up in defense. “Alright, alright, no need to do anything that drastic. I could not let it pass without at least some comment, could I?”
“Fine, you had your comment. But no more.”
“As you wish love.” He refilled Maedhros’ tea cup. “I will just have to think of another. Perhaps Maedhros the Comely. Or Maedhros Wicked-Tongue. Ah! I have it! Maedhros of the gloriously long legs that feel marvelous wrapped around oof!” He rubbed at his bicep where Maedhros had punched him and chuckled. “Suppose that is my cue to shove off for now. I will return in a bit with actual food. And if you are nice, maybe a foot rub.”
Maedhros huffed and dipped his quill.
~~~@~~~ ~~~@~~~ ~~~@~~~
~~*Not much can be said of my early years. Nana and Grandfather’s wife Indis tried to clothe me in pretty dresses befitting a princess, but soon gave it up when I either stripped them off the moment I was out of sight, or brought them home so torn and spattered in filth that they were ruined. I was quite proud of myself. I showed Father my new breeches and tunic.
He laughed so hard he wept.
From then on, Father allowed me to spend time in his workshop. Sometimes I would practice my letters or my embroidery skills (a trade off for continuing to wear breeches, which I found use for in later leather working projects). But what I enjoyed most was watching works of beauty take shape under Father’s hands. He was taught by Grandfather Mahtan, who was himself trained by the Vala Aule. In some ways, I think he surpassed Grandfather. Mahtan had finesse and skill, but he was content with what he could and could not do. But it was never in Father’s nature to be content, or to be still. Or to accept simply because another told him it was so.
Perhaps that was why he found it so easy to accept me as his son, despite the shape my body chose.
During one of the quieter moments in his workshop, when he was carefully chipping away at a green gem while I cleaned the tools from yesterday’s spectacularly failed attempt at transmutation, I asked if it upset him that I acted and felt more like a son than a daughter.
The clear crystal discs shielding his eyes from gem shards gave them a faceted, insect-like glitter. “Does it bother you?”
I, of course, cried foul. It was hardly fair to answer a question by posing another question. And even worse to answer a question by posing the very same question!
Father sniffed. “It is absolutely fair to pose a question, even the same question, when one’s response first necessitates reflection by the original querent. You did not answer my question, Nelya. Does it bother you?”
“No, it does not, Father.”
“Then why do you care if it bothers another?” Only Father could manage to sound so very certain of himself. “Will their objection change your situation? Can they make your body match your spirit?”
“Then their objections are none of your concern.” He turned his attention back to the gem. “But if you must know, my answer is no. It never bothered me. I knew from the moment you were conceived that my firstborn would be a son. That your body took on the shape of a female’s simply means my son may one day bear elflings instead of siring them.”
And that was that, as far as Father was concerned. When my body’s curves began to develop (mercifully late and small), he brought me to someone who would show me how to bind my chest and dress in a manner that would disguise the more feminine aspects of my body.
I was finally able to fashion for myself a body of my own choosing.*~~
“And a rather splendid one it was, love,” said Azaghâl, putting down the parchment. “Still is, if you ask me.”
Maedhros hummed and shifted position. “Tell me that again when I do not have a babe sparring with my spine and giving me indigestion.”
“It is the hair, or so I am told. Budge up a bit.” Azaghâl reached between his husband and the chair’s back, his fingers seeking out protesting muscles and massaging them into submission.
~~~@~~~ ~~~@~~~ ~~~@~~~
~~*I think I am going to jump forward quite a bit. There is really no need to repeat history everyone already knows. Father’s need to create led to six more sons. (Now that I am expecting my own child, I can only think Nana had the patience of Nienna, or was positively insane to do this so many times). But it also led to the creation of powerful seeing stones, a green jewel to dispel evil, and the Silmarils, to which I owe so much of my sorrow and joy.
They were gems of such beauty and strength that even the valar were envious. So much so, that Grandfather was murdered to gain possession of them. Grief and anger over the loss and the indifference of those who should have cared drove Father to swear his terrible Vow. My brothers and I followed suit, as any good sons would do. (In retrospect, this was a terrible idea, but where Feanor went, his sons followed. And certainly, no one seemed particularly interested in stopping us. Or perhaps they were simply grateful to see our loud, troublesome family go. After all, they did send Mandos himself to warn us not to return.)
What followed was… well, it still defies description. If it could go wrong, it did go wrong. In the worst way possible. (As I write this, my dear dwarf tells me the term is ‘clusterfuck’. Charmingly vulgar, but surprisingly accurate.) Father died and burned, making me King in Exile. I annoyed my brothers by passing my non-existent throne to our Uncle (the only time Kana and I ever truly fought, when he accused me of letting girlish sentimentality and infatuation with our cousin blind me.) It was for the best. Our Oath would always drive us to pursue Father’s Jewels, no matter how many children we orphaned or how much elven blood we shed.
Or, evidently, how many years one of us spent dangling by the wrist from a mountainside. Which, by the way, I do not recommend. I lost both my mind and my favorite hand in that incident.
And now we have come to my first time meeting a dwarf. We had been pursuing a pack of orcs through our lands and managed to pin them between our forces. We made sure they would trouble the world no more.
The slaves they had driven with them were chained at hand, foot and neck in a long row. Most of them had been beaten or whipped. We did what we could to treat the worst of their injuries, and for a few of the poor souls we could only offer a swift, merciful death.
Though we had never before encountered them ourselves, we knew from Findarato and Carnistir’s accounts that we were dealing with dwarves. They were much taller than I expected. Their leader, a bloodied but unbowed fellow called Azaghâl, told us they had been set upon while traveling the road that separated Carnistir’s territory from the lands of the Laiquendi in Ossiriand. We offered to escort them home.
I have never had a polite refusal sound so much like a death threat…*~~
Azaghâl snorted. “Come now, love, it was not that bad. I did give you Telchar’s Dragon Helm.”
“Was it not?” Maedhros resettled himself in his chair. “You were an absolutely wretched lot, but frankly, we needed every ally we could muster. We had just slaughtered your captors, tended to your wounded, and offered you an armed escort home. And we were met with a wall of dwarves in various states of... well... dead, whose polite ‘thank you, but no’ sounded more like ‘no thank you, now kindly piss off’.”
His husband shrugged. “We had heard much about how the Elves of the West did not accept no as an answer, and it was not our way to allow outsiders into our Homes.”
“Not even an outsider you already planned to make your spouse?”
“Ah. Well, y’see…I would not… that is to say, of course I felt a connection, but...” Azaghâl hemmed and hawwed, fidgeting with gems braided into his beard.
Maedhros sat back, enjoying the sight of his normally quick-witted husband floundering. It was a rare sight, indeed! “And you call me wicked tongued. I knew you were saying that just to get me naked!”
“I would never! I did not even know if it would be possible to marry outside my race!” He spotted Maedhros’ smirk and huffed. “Wretched elf. You enjoyed that.”
“A bit.” Maedhros reached for Azaghâl’s hands, pulling him close and pressing a kiss to his forehead. “Peace, my Lord. Neither of us expected anything but a possible alliance that day.”
“Later, I did not care. I had my fair share of suitors, before and after the Oath drove me into exile. Only you gave me more than a moment’s temptation.”
~~~@~~~ ~~~@~~~ ~~~@~~~
~~*As an ally, Azaghâl was a blessing. He knew the area well, which made hunting down Morgoth’s forces much easier, and his advice on dealing with the locals was indispensable. Our alliances were strong, and our hopes for surviving to see Morgoth defeated and our Oath fulfilled burned brighter.
As a friend, he was fascinating. In some ways, his spirit burned as brightly as Father’s, though mortality gave it a desperate beauty. Leadership sat far more easily with him than any in my own family. Whether it was his no nonsense practicality (oddly rare in positions of command), or by some unknown form of witchery, he made others want to follow him. I envied him at times, because others liked him.
He was my friend for a century, dragging me out of my darkest moods and making me laugh so hard I forgot the ache from my missing hand and my missing brothers.
I suppose respect for a fellow leader naturally turned to companionable friendship, but I cannot say when that friendship became love. I often think I was half there before I even realized it had begun. It seemed natural that I should pass along treasures from our raids on orc camps. After all, I had no use for two-handed weapons at the time, but an axe became a thing of beauty in Azaghâl’s hand, and why would I not send gems that I knew would look just fine braided into his impressive beard?
Being the obnoxious younger brother he was, Kana asked me why I did not just leave dead rodents at his door like a cat. He found a dead snake in his boot a month later. I am fairly certain Nana could hear his scream and curses all the way in Valinor.
I do suppose he had a point, however. Not about the rodents, that was simply ridiculous. But I did learn later that the giving of gifts was common in the early stages of dwarvish courtship. While it had not been my intention at the start, I found myself not minding the idea at all. Instead, I sent him one of Father’s seeing stones. After all, poor ‘nistir had no use for it in the Halls of Mandos.
In return, Azaghâl sent me a circlet of braided gold and copper, and an invitation to share a meal when next we met (even if said meal turned out to be dried meat and lembas rations).
And thus began our courtship. Some advised against it, of course. It went against the natural way of things. An Elf and a Mortal could never work long term, because there could be no long term. One brave idiot (or drunk idiot) suggested that it was best to pursue mortals. They were hardly a lifelong commitment, and if I did not like the result, I only needed wait a bit for a skirmish or time to eliminate the problem.
He objected to losing a few teeth. I cannot imagine why he thought I would not make him hurt for the comment. After all, I had killed far more innocent folk for lesser crimes. My affections were not temporary, even if Azaghâl's lifespan would be.
Not that our differences did not give me pause once or twice. We were from very different cultures, and he still did not know about my body’s secrets. But after catching me mid-brood for the third time, Kana sat me down and told me to get over it.
‘We are in the midst of a war, Nelya. For all we know it is possible we may all survive another century, or even longer. Or we could be dead from dragon fire come morning. So if you do not want to court the dwarf, then do not. But if all of this dithering and brooding is because of some ridiculous ‘should I or should I not’, then the answer is do it. Whether for a minute or a millennia.’
It was then that I remembered my brother had once had a wife. He must have missed her.
“Kana, he still does not know what I am.”
“Then take my advice and tell him before you are wed. Believe me, Wedding nights are difficult enough without surprises in the heat of the moment.”
I shared the meal with Azaghâl. Lembas never tasted quite so well as it did with a glass of dwarvish ale and laughter. His kisses tasted even better.*~~
Azaghâl smiled, nuzzling into Maedhros’ neck and digging forge-strengthened fingers into his sore back muscles. “Did they now?”
His husband winced and sighed as the muscle finally gave way. “Aaaaye, they did. The beard tickled too.”
“Really? I never once heard you object to it.”
Maedhros reached back to curl his fingers into it. “I never would have. It was part of you, and I loved it as much as I loved the rest of you. Especially when I found it so useful in getting you right where I wanted you…”
Azaghâl chuckled. “Aye, you caught onto that quickly enough. Not that I minded.” He sighed. “Do not tell your brother I said this - you know how insufferable he gets - but he was partly right.”
Maedhros twisted to look back at him “Was he? You did not seem overly put off by it.”
“A small warning would have not have been amiss, but to be honest, I was not sure what an elf even looked like beneath his clothing.”
“My chest was not clue enough?"
He kissed Maedhros’ shoulder. “As I said, I did not have much to go on for how male and female elves should look. For all I knew, every elf male sported a lovely handful up top as well as below. Honestly, I was just relieved not to see tentacles down there.”
“Tentacles?!” Maedhros squawked. “You expected tentacles?”
“Well, not really , but as I said, I did not know what to expect. That you were a bit more complicated there than I was used to males being…” He shrugged. “You and those under your command called you male, so that was what you were, as far as I knew.”
“And now?” Maedhros touched his rounded belly, his fingers following a foot moving just under the skin.
“Now, I consider myself very fortunate to have a husband who can bear our young."
~~~@~~~ ~~~@~~~ ~~~@~~~
~~*I believe I will stop here. The grief that followed in those last years I dare not bring into this new world.
Sometimes I will see an old companion from those days, and they will ask how I am faring.
I always tell them I am well. But I am lying. I am not well at all.
I am more than that. I am more than well, more than happy.