All light had failed.
There was only darkness. Darkness, and him, and the pain. The pain was the only thing that was not dark. When Maedhros closed his eyes, the pain even blocked out the darkness, drowning it, mostly red, sometimes white.
There were no stars; even they had failed. Maybe they were still there somewhere, above the reeking fumes and smokes of the furnaces of Angband. Maybe they were already gone. Maybe the world was already gone. He had no way of knowing. Sometimes, it would rain, but the rain was black and oily, and it stank. There was no clean thing left in the world. It burned in his eyes and in the many wounds upon his body.
There were no voices, no sounds except the wind. The Orcs did not come up here. He thought that, ultimately, that was why they had chained him here. Down in the dungeons, even when they'd tortured him, there had still been something in him that had fought. Just seeing their faces had filled him with a burning fire of hatred, and the hatred had fuelled him, fuelled a will to live, and fight, that they had not been able to quench.
When they had brought him up here, his first thought was that they would, finally, kill him. Morgoth himself was there, and Maedhros thought, vaguely, that surely now he would finally succeed at something at which his father had failed to be slain by Morgoth in person. He felt an irrational, morbid rush of amusement at the thought. Even then, his body barely alive, his spirit had still been burning, rekindled by the sight of the Black Enemy, the Silmarils blazing in his crown. Even then, he was determined to fight, with his spirit if not his body. Then it had happened quickly. They released the shackles that bound him, and he could feel his anger burning at his inability to rise, to strike, flaring hot enough that he almost felt he could burn them with its brightness. Morgoth himself had bent down to place a single hell-wrought bond on his right wrist, and they had hoisted him up, and left him.
At first, he hadn't been able to comprehend that they were not coming back. Down in the dungeons, they would leave him for hours or days at a time, sometimes to wait for him to recover and sometimes just to wear him out, to leave him alone with the insecurity and the fear of more pain, but they would always come back. Now, nobody came.
In this first time since they had hung him up, he had still been able to grasp the chain with his left hand, pulling himself up with all the strength he could muster to take the strain off his right wrist, holding on with screaming muscles until he had to let go again.
They did not come back for him.
He broke his right shoulder at some point, dragging himself up again and holding on far too long, fearing the pain that followed when he let go, until his left hand slipped with exhaustion and he dropped.
After that, he couldn't pull himself up again. It was when things stopped to matter. He was here, alone with the darkness and the pain and the despair that slowly grated away at the spark of anger that had kept him alive, had kept him himself.
Later, when he was back in the other world, the one that was clean and had light and people in it, they told him that it had been years. Decades even by the fast, soon-fading reckoning of that new, fast, soon-fading age. He had no way of agreeing or disagreeing. When there is no Sun, no Moon, no stars to mark the passing of time, what happens to time? Does it stand still, congeal like blood? Does it cease to exist?
It didn't cease to exist; he knew that much. If nothing else, time was still there, another grim companion in his long, slow torment. But it wasn't measured in years. It wasn't months or days. It was heartbeats.
Painful, laborious heartbeats, the only thing that still marked time. Hundreds, thousands, millions. Too many to count. Too many to bear. The anguish and despair grew with every one of them, until there was nothing else left. The spark that had sustained him was gone, as was the feeling that there was something he needed to do, something that had kept the spark alive.
And even then, the heartbeats kept coming. He wished for them to stop. They should have. He had no right to be alive, no right to still be breathing, for his heart to keep up its dogged, determined persistence to beat. But something forced it, something that did not come from within him, but something that chained his spirit to his body just as the bond chained his wrist to the stone. He was here for ever. It was not a thought, much less a thought that frightened him. It was more than a thought, and at the same time, much less. Conscious thought had become too complex, too exhausting. It was a conviction, one that was not so much frightening as simply there. Even fear had ceased. Fear meant something that pertained to the future, and he didn't have that. The line between a heartbeat and eternity became blurred, and finally ceased to be. There was the darkness, and there was the pain. Degrees varied.
When the darkness around him lifted, it barely registered. It had become interwoven, inseparable with the pain, yet something had intricately unravelled it and taken it away, leaving only pain behind. It did not make sense. Why would the darkness go but leave the pain to stay? His eyes, once used to watching the Mingling of the Lights and seeing the Silmarils in their radiance, watered with the absence of darkness. The light grew as bright as the rays of Laurelin, and with it, a tendril of something like hope entered his heart. He didn't comprehend it; thought was reduced to fleeting notions, elusive like water running through fabric, but he wanted to cling to that tendril, nurture it, so that it might grow into something to sustain him once more. When the light disappeared again, he felt a wild, senseless grief, but it returned, and continued to do both disappear and return with a regularity that made him depend on it anxiously, as proof that the world consisted of something besides pain. Sunrise. Sunset. He learned the words later, in that other world, the one that was clean.
He didn't count the sunrises. Counting would have meant to reassign an importance to the passing of time, and even the vague notion of that sent him reeling. But he awaited them.
Then one of them brought change. It brought sounds. Trumpets, and voices; blue banners flying far down below. Clean sounds. Clean colours. Things that belonged so firmly, so violently to a forgotten time that he would have been sure he was imagining them, but he knew that he could never have, as imagination was something completely beyond him. But the blue of the banners, the patterns picked out on them in silver, stirred something half-buried beneath layers of pain and despair.
"Fingolfin," he whispered.
His voice had a strange sound. It did not belong here, and for several heartbeats, he didn't want to hear it again. Then he realised that, though it might not belong here, it belonged with the ones that were down there. If he could only make his voice reach them, then the pain and darkness would stop.
"Fingolfin!" he screamed. "Fingolfin! Fingolfin!"
There was no reply but the echo of his voice, distorting it and casting it back in wild disarray, fin-nolo-fin-nolo-fin, as in mockery. But the mockery was lost on him. There was not enough Nelyafinwë left in him to feel mocked by the sound of the name that had so infuriated his father.
"Fingolfin!" he cried again, fighting the red anguish threatening to overwhelm him with the exertion, even as the tiny spark within him flared with desperate strength. There was a purpose. And it was unshakably strong, being the only purpose he had known for as long as he could remember. "Fingon! Fingolfin! Hear me! Fingon!"
A wave of agony washed over him then, and though he fought it wildly, he could not struggle free from under it. His world descended into the familiar swirling red and black, shot through with white stabs of agony running through him, drowning out the blue and silver banners below, drowning out the purpose.
When he surfaced again, the sun had set. The sounds and banners were gone.
The spark flickered, and died.
No more waiting for the sunrise. Each passing sunrise seemed to have turned into a mockery of him. The world existed; he knew it now. He could see it. He had heard it. He had cried out for it. And it had turned its back on him and left him here. Time had resumed; but he wanted no part in it. Sunrise, sunset, sunrise, sunset, he turned away from them, turned inward, back to the heartbeats. It was easier there, well-ordered. Heartbeatpainheartbeat. They ran into one thing, one thing that was easy to comprehend as it was always there, always uniform, always the same. Heartbeatpainheartbeat. No more sparks. He didn't want them. They messed up the uniformity and order, and brought more pain, inside and out. Heartbeatpainheartbeat.
Then, a voice that sang.