Since their return to Middle-earth, the Noldor had been divided among themselves. The Sons of Fëanor held lands in the east of Beleriand, while the followers of Fëanor's half-brother Fingolfin settled lands to the north and west. So they remained wary of one another until after the ruin of the Dagor Bragollach, in which High King Fingolfin had been lost.
In the aftermath of that battle Maedhros, chief of the Sons of Fëanor, saw a need for unity among the Noldor. Encouraged by the recovery of a Silmaril by Beren and Lúthien, he sought to build an alliance with the other Eldar of Beleriand. In some cases his approaches were rebuffed: neither Nargothrond nor Doriath joined the new alliance. Nonetheless, Maedhros was able to gain the aid of Fingon son of Fingolfin, as well as many of the Edain and even some of the Dwarves, to build a great force under his new Union of Maedhros.
The first action of the Union was to drive back the Orcs, which had rampaged across the northern lands since the Dagor Bragollach. The Union then gathered an immense army and devised a plan to attack Angband itself and bring about the final defeat of Morgoth. Even Turgon of the Hidden City of Gondolin sent out a force to join the battle. The Eldar and their allies came close to defeating the Dark Lord, but through treachery the long battle was turned against the Union. It ended in the disaster that was known to history as the Nirnaeth Arnoediad, the Unnumbered Tears.
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