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Story [The Silmarillion] "This Taste of Shadow", Ficlets and Drabbles, updated 7/02!

Discussion in 'Non Star Wars Fan Fiction' started by Mira_Jade , Jan 31, 2013.

  1. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Jun 29, 2004
    Nyota's Heart: Ooooh, I am so thrilled that you enjoyed this last drivel - and Oak and Willow! That is one of my hands down favourite stories ever, so I am happy that it resounded with you as it did me. [:D] And it's funny, for this next set deals with Galadriel and the aftereffects of the First Kinslaying, as well. Great minds, I say! (And, that said, I can't wait to read more of your Galadriel piece. [face_batting][:D] I can't wait!)

    laurethiel1138: Growing up much too fast and understanding much at a young age - that truly is Thorin in a nutshell. And yet, it all comes together in the strength and gravity of his character in his latter years. I am glad you enjoyed this look into Erebor before Smaug - for all involved. There certainly is a bittersweetness that comes with writing for this time. (And Rili certainly is Dis husband-to-be. I could not resist the allusion. [face_love])

    And now, that said . . .

    Author's Note: So, one of the more curious things I have found when reading the Silmarillion was just how long it took Galadriel to tell Celeborn about the First Kinslaying. Thingol did not impose his ban on Quenya until the year FA 67, and yet Finrod started building Nargothrond in FA 52 - which was shortly after his stay in Doriath. Doing the math there, Galadriel kept that secret for at least fifteen years, not even speaking of it when Melian asked her point blank about the flight of the Noldor from Aman. While fifteen years is a blink of an eye for an elf, it always seemed strange to me that she would keep something like this from a prospective marriage mate, no matter how painful the memory. So, where I was curious, I had to write. And now, here we are. :)

    Nerwen Eärweniel: 'Nerwen' was Galadriel's mother-name. 'Eärweniel' means daughter of Eärwen.

    Fëar: Plural of 'fea'. A term in Quenya for 'soul'.

    That said, enjoy! [:D]

    "made for whispers"

    CXXXII. Far

    There were times when the knowledge of just how far away from home she was caught her by surprise; like the rains in the summer, when they fell from a cloudless sky.

    It was different here in Endórë. In Aman, one only carried a sword or bow when one wished to hunt or cross one's companion in a friendly competition. In Endórë, one went armed wherever one went, alert for the dangers that the Dark Lord set upon the land like maggots upon a festering corpse.

    Galadriel had known, in theory, of the shadow that laid upon the hither lands, but to now know it firsthand . . . The shadow was so much more than her grandfather's tales; more than the stories her brothers would tell to scare her as a child. She now know Endórë as a land of loss and falling, a land of strife and harsh stones. She had not understood this when she had so naively set out for her own way, her own realm to rule. And yet, now . . .

    In Aman, the only elf to know a sundering within his family had been Fëanor himself, and that one death had sparked a dark prolix of a spiral into madness. Now, there was not a family she now knew that was not untouched by death. Even her companion for that day had lost much – both of his parents had been killed in the same attack, a century before she had arrived in Middle-earth. His grandmother had been taken by Morgoth and returned as Orc-kind, and his grandfather Elmo had ended her life before fading away to join her sundered spirit in huanting the land. Elmo had been of the Unbegotten, a brother of Elu Thingol himself, and to know that not even the strongest of their kind was untouched by tragedy . . .

    “You can still see them take shape in the mists,” Celeborn was concluding his tale as they picked their way through the hunting paths. “He waits for her, resisting Námo's call on his spirit to haunt the places they once knew together and loved. For it is unknown to us what happens to the fëar of Orcs when they depart - for they were once Elves, were they not? They have merely been twisted; tortured and betrayed. Námo may have mercy in Eru's name, and yet, we are not to know until the breaking of the world.”

    Galadriel watched as his pale blue eyes darkened, as his jaw set in a tense line. The Valar had forgotten about these lands, she knew the thought that whispered through his mind. They left Middle-earth to Melkor as his playground, and could not be moved from their high places in the West to aid those left behind . . . or, so it seemed.

    Once was, she would have thought to ignore the call of Námo sacrilegious. Blasphemy. A thing of evil, even. Now . . .

    Now she was not so sure. And yet, Endórë had done that to many a thing she had once thought to know as fact.

    Constantly defeating what she had once known with new understanding was Celeborn himself. When Angrod had first met their kinsmen in Doriath, he had called them uncultured and uncouth, these Dark Elves who had never known the light of the Trees, who had never learned at the feet of the Valar. They dressed in shades of grey, having only known color with the rising of the sun itself. Their only adornments were of leaves and branches and their hair of silver; they knowing little of craft and even less of lore.

    How haughty Angrod's first opinion had been . . . She still felt her cheeks flush when she remembered the arrogant way she had first greeted this people, thinking herself above even their fair Lúthien and their Queen who was also something divine, something greater than them all.

    And yet, now she stood, humbled and renamed, learning the forest at Celeborn's side – learning of the beauty hidden beneath the shadow of Middle-earth. She felt at ease in her own skin beneath the forest's shade. She felt as if she learned herself all over again, far from her quarreling kin and memories of blood on the waves.

    But she would not . . . she could not think of such. Not now. Those were Artanis' memories, and she was Artanis no longer.

    Her thoughts distracted her, and she stumbled with her next step, cutting herself on the rock as she caught her balance.

    Ai,” she hissed in annoyance when she saw a thin line of red bloom on her palm. It stung more at her pride than her flesh, and yet it would throw her aim with the bow if they were successful on their hunt. She walked over to where a wide stream cut through the underbrush of the forest, intent on flushing the cut out until the blood clotted and started to heal.

    She held her palm beneath the bubbling waters, still icy from the winter melt, and she felt her heart turn sick in her chest as memories came back unbidden. Like a flash of stormlight upon the land, she remembered Alqualondë and its sea of pearl touched by ribbons of red . . . she remembered washing her hands in the bubbling surf and feeling the salt of the sea burn at her scraped skin . . . she remembered the silver of her blade in the water as she threw it to pierce the waves, and now -

    “Here,” Celeborn knelt down beside her. He was as quiet as a stag with his approach, and she did not know he was beside her until he reached into the water to heal her hand for her. She watched in disturbed fascination as the small cloud of copper above her palm touched the pale white of his skin as well. It stained him with her stain, and she -

    She breathed in through her nose, jerking her hand away from him. “Do not touch me,” she exhaled in fear, like a wounded animal, lashing out. Almost immediately she regretted her words, for how could she explain her sudden unease? It was not he, but rather she who was tainted in that moment. It was her curse; her doom and bloodstained hands . . . and yet, it was a curse he still knew nothing about. It was a doom which he was ignorant to.

    Her spilling the blood of her father's kin, even in the defense of her mother's . . . she did not have the words in her heart to tell him. She did not think that she could stand the scorn that would settle on his brow in reply. The disgust.

    She made a fist of her hand, ignoring the way her fingers pulled on the skin of her wound. The pain of it grounded her. It called her back to herself.

    “My apologies, my lady. I will not touch you again,” Celeborn said stonily. His face was carefully blank of feeling, as it had not been since their earliest days together, when it seemed that they were constantly offending the other in their learning their opposite ways and views. She had come to enjoy their dance since then; she enjoyed crossing blows with the silver steel of his mind, but now . . .

    She did not have the words to ease his mind, and so she let the silence between them lay like a wound. In the mists of the trees, she thought she heard the spirit of Elmo calling mournfully on the air, looking for something he would never find. There was a touch of the wistful to his voice, a yearning greater than even the insistent call of the Valar, summoning his lost soul home . . .

    For a moment, Galadriel listened, and knew exactly how he felt.

    CXXXIII. Beyond

    It came as a shock; a sudden startle disturbing the quiet stillness of a forest pool.

    Even knowing that it was coming – seeing the limb before it broke, knowing that the branch was weak, needing only the right storm to set it free – did not soften the blow of its doing so. And now she stood with her head held haughty and high; her hair garlanded by white flowers instead of precious stones, her gown grey and elegant in its simplicity instead of gaudy and adorned, listening as words were flung at she and her brothers both.

    Kinslayers and cowards, refusing to aid their mother's people. Traitors and liars, seeking out his hospitality when they knew well of the black deeds that had spurned on the flight of the Exiles.

    Finrod spoke calmly in reply to Thingol's every blow, a note of frustration biting into his voice like a stain of minerals and rust upon a fresh stream. Angrod was not so calm as his first, indignation and anger simmering beneath his harshly spoken words as he gave them in reply to the Elven-king upon his throne. At his side, Aegnor took up his sibling's righteous fire as his own, they finishing the other's words more often than not. Orodreth only was silent, listening as carefully as she did, finding her eye after every particularly cruel accusation. But she squared her jaw in reply to his concern. She did not need her brother to shield her. Not from this. Especially from this.

    She looked, but saw not a kind eye in the court. Even Lúthien's gentle brow was creased with hurt and betrayal. Melian was impassive at her husband's side, her ageless eyes finding hers throughout the hostile arguments. I had asked you, my child, the Maia Queen said in sorrow against her mind, but Galadriel ignored her mothering touch. Why did you not merely say so, Nerwen Eärweniel?

    Galadriel looked to the right of Thingol's throne, but Celeborn was very careful to keep his eyes on his king and none other. She looked, and saw the tight line of his jaw, the stiff set of his shoulders. All were familiar marks of his anger, and under any other circumstance they were those she would seek to fan on and ignite with the easy teasing of their camaraderie. And yet, now . . .

    “Be gone from me,” Thingol finally said when their words turned in angry circles, each side only wounding the other all the more for speaking so. “Not forever, for you are still kindred of mine and you shall again be welcome in these halls. Yet, for now, my heart is heavy in my chest, and I cannot look upon you for my anger.”

    She was the last to turn, trying to seek out Celeborn's gaze before she left, but he would not look at her. He did not seek her out until hours later, when she was gathering her things, preparing to depart with her brothers until Thingol's wrath cooled.

    “Why did you not tell me?” was the first thing he asked. The silence stretched between them, she not even bothering to deign such a question with an answer. She did not look up from her task, moving about her rooms with terse, mechanical motions as she gathered what she would need to take with her.

    “Would you have not said so until we were married, and I saw the memories unbidden in your mind?” Celeborn continued, unfazed by her silence. “Would you have deemed it then time to so graciously allow me the truth of your flight from Aman?”

    “I spoke not because I could not speak,” Galadriel said, her words low and dangerous. “And I am tired of seeking out forgiveness when I have done nothing deserving of such forgiveness. I am tired of being asked to choose between my father's kin and my mother's kin, and I shall do so no more.”

    She looked and saw where he winced, as if she had struck him physically with her words. “I thought that you trusted me,” Celeborn said, his words plain. For the first, she heard the hurt that lingered beneath his anger, beneath his righteous pride. “Is there anything else that I ought to know?” his voice turned scathing then, covering the wound of his hurt. “Is there anything else that would make me question that the woman before me is she whom I thought myself to know and love? Or is Finwë's line too damaged for even that, for truths and their telling?”

    It was her turn to flinch, the blow of his words finding their place between her ribs and sinking in deep. “There is no further truth to share, nothing else to tell.” She felt her words becoming clipped, her voice closed off. She would not let any speak down to her. Not even him. “You now know all.”

    Still he did not believe her, she saw . . . still he did not trust. He stood with his arms crossed and his blue eyes as pale flames with his judgment. She felt anger fill her, thinking only it shall not be so. She would hang her head before no other, not even him.

    When her words failed her, she opened her mind to him, instead letting him see what had happened at the Swan Havens. Yes, she held a sword, she pressed the memory against him until it smothered his mind's eye. While Fingolfin's children jumped to aid the sons of Fëanor, not understanding what happened until it was too late, she had seen, and she had known. And so, she had stood before Eärwen's kin with a sword. Fëanor's sons wore mail and armor, the forged steel in their hands and the flames of their Oath a terrible force to face. The people of Alqualondë were of the sea - fishermen and shipbuilders with hooked knives and fishing spears, peaceful folk with sea shells woven into their hair and sea salt staining their clothes. The massacre to follow was inevitable.

    But Galadriel knew her craft well, and she had struck the Fëanorian supporters without mercy, while her own brothers stood numbly to the side, unsure of which side to aid. It was as if they all had been drunk on strong wine that terrible day. It had been like drowning, unable to tell up from down, until finally she had felt her stomach rebel at the battle's end, and she had tasted bile in the back of her mouth as the ships burned.

    She let him see how easily elven skin rent, how easily elven blood spilled. He would not know, she thought, no matter how many Orcs had fallen to his blade throughout the centuries. She let him see next, how the Valar looked down on the events of that day and judged. She let him hear how Námo's voice rang, as terrible as any unlight when he proclaimed their doom. She let him see how her pride had trembled in rage, for the Valar had called the Elves to Aman as friends, and she'd be damned before she considered herself cursed for turning back to the land of her people's birth. A rebel they called her for returning to the land across the sea? A heretic and ungrateful blasphemer against their power and might? It was not to be borne. Even now she trembled with remembered rage at the thought.

    She next let him see the horrors of the Ice. She let him feel the days of ever-cold, let him see the countless losses the Helcaraxë clawed from the flesh and souls of her people.

    She let him see, and then she opened her eyes to see in return . . .

    . . . pity . . . pity and disgust.

    There was disgust in his eyes for her memories. Disgust, as if she were no better than Fëanor's sons for her deeds. Even though she would later understand that such feeling was not for her, but rather for the foes she had faced, the judgment she endured, she was too angry to realize that then. Then, she only knew that her father's kin was again united; the sons of Fëanor breaking bread with the sons of Fingolfin in friendship and fealty. They looked on her as a traitor against Finwë himself and against the Noldor as a whole. And now the Sindar saw her the same as the cursed people who spilled the blood of Thingol's kin across the sea.

    She was trapped, she realized with a sinking feeling in her stomach. She alone had stood tall in those days, and yet she would receive thanks from neither side. She was . . .


    Cursed, the Valar had said. Cursed, with every deed of their hands falling to naught but ash. She had not believed it to be so, not even with the Helcaraxë singing of their doom with every step. But now, the look in Celeborn's eyes was enough to convince her of the truth of Námo's every syllable. She understood the full extent of her doom.

    “I will obey your King's wishes, and join my brother in Nargothrond,” she said stiffly into the stillness that followed the exchange of memories. Celeborn had yet to say a word. “If I am not needed in the building there, I will rejoin my father's kin in Hithlum. If ever you can look beyond my bloodstained hands, you may then seek me out there,” her voice fairly dripped with her derision. And yet, better did she show spite instead of letting him see how very wounded she was in that moment . . . how utterly destroyed. “Seek me out, if you will, for I will never turn you away.”

    CXXXIV. Heal

    He knew that the halls of Hithlum were abuzz with chatter at his presence.

    He could hear it go back and forth, like a stream over the bedrock below, the current pulling the waters this way and that. Thingol's kinsman. He would be 'royalty' amongst the Dark Elves, the newcomers said with upturned lips and raised brows. My prince, many of the Sindar who lived beneath the shadow of the Noldor bowed before him and raised their eyes in respect, recognizing Thingol's likeness in the silver of his hair and the shape of his jaw.

    Far from home, are we not, Dark Elf? I did not know there were any of Thingol's kin brave enough to cross the Girdle. Came a voice as rich as molten gold from an elf with eyes like fire and hair as black as night. Later, he would know the other as Fëanor's fifth son, and he know gratitude that he did not then know the relation, else would he have caused violence while waiting upon a host's graciousness. The elf spoke in high, rolling Quenya; a version of his tongue used only for court ritual and epic poetry - as if assuming that he would not understand the words spoken against him. You do not wear furs and skins like the rest of your kind? I see no stone blade at your belt. That is well, at the very least - you understand your place. You put on airs for your betters. It is as it should be,

    Your kind . . . airs? Celeborn thought, a boiling in his veins. Nandor and Sindarin and Silvan and Avari - there were distinctions between each, and the grey of his robes should have been telling to any who knew where to look. The other spoke in ignorance and petty superiority, this elf who had spilled the blood of kin and claimed dominion over lands which were already tended and owned. But Celeborn was a son of princes, and kinsman of a King whom even a Maia had thought worthy of binding her life and spirit to. He would not be cowed by the other.

    It did not matter that he had never seen the light of the Trees', he thought. He had no need to, not when he had instead seen . . .

    Curufin, who was fire and flame, was soon drawn away by another – a tall elf with an air of burden and weariness about him, who would have been handsome beyond compare if it was not for the pale and clipped shape of his features . . . the silver scars and the missing hand. Celeborn looked, and knew this one without naming, but instead of the anger he expected to feel, he instead felt only stillness as the Kinslayer's eyes met his and he bowed his head in a gesture of acknowledgment, if not respect. Celeborn knew his own look; he knew he was silver and sleek like the edge of a blade. How many of Olwë's kinsman would have been equal in his likeness, he wondered? How many with his face did these seven put to a blade?

    But the eldest, touched by red, looked as if a shadow overcame him, and the bow of his head turned deeper. Celeborn did not return the gesture, and finally, Maedhros drew his brother away.

    He was not immediately able to go to Galadriel, as he would have wished to. Instead he adhered to the etiquette of the court, and first bore an audience with Fingolfin and his sons, delivering his words of continued friendship and goodwill from Elu Thingol, speaking again of the King's ban on Quenya as the only retribution he would take upon those who had spilled the blood of his brother's people. There was a shadow on Fingolfin's brow, and Celeborn could tell where he balked beneath being administered to by one of the Moriquendi, but the proud King of the Noldor inclined his head at the end. He vowed to make it so.

    It would be a long road to peace and healing between their two peoples, Celeborn thought. A long road indeed, and yet . . .

    His thoughts were diverted when they emptied from the council chamber and he saw that she waited just beyond.

    Galadriel stood tall and proud, ignoring the looks of her cousins as they passed, instead waiting for him. Mindful of the others about, and unsure if she had yet told her family of her Sindarin lover – unsure if he could even claim to be so still – he stood a respectful distance from her. He bowed in the way of her people, and pressed a dry kiss to the back of her pro-offered hand. Once, he would have thought of the blood her hands had seen, now he merely felt the way they trembled. He found his grip tightening against his will, offering her strength. She, who was ever so unmovable . . .

    He felt eyes upon them like insects itching up and down his spine. Regretfully, he let her hand fall away.

    Carefully, he took in the differences since last he saw her, pausing on the elaborate pile of ornate braids and jeweled pins that held back the radiance of her hair, the heavy embroidery of her dress and the rich shade of blue it was - a shade brighter than would be found on a peacock's tail, a color not found naturally in their shadowed lands.

    It did not look right on her, Celeborn thought. He had grown used to her hair flowing unchecked and unbound; her gowns only simple folds of grey and silver and white. She needed no more adornment than that, and yet . . .

    “Come, if you would,” she said, tilting her head. Her eyes flickered in the barest of annoyance to those who still watched them as they slipped from the high and ornate halls into the gardens beyond. Celeborn did not realize just how claustrophobic he had felt until he felt the fresh air on his face. He breathed, feeling his lungs fill with the twilight and spice of the herbs that grew right beyond the doors. There were no trees here, not on the mist-lands by the great lake, and he irrationally wished for the shade of boughs overhead.

    The gardens were too . . . exact, he thought as they walked the winding paths to a secluded place, made so by an arbor of carefully trimmed rose bushes. There was none of the wild about the ornate beds, and yet, it was better than the showy keep they had left - Fingolfin's seat of power more gaudy than a dwarf's horde to his eyes.

    When he looked, Galadriel was standing very still, as if she was one of the statues of stone who stood as silent specters about them. She smoothed her hands over her dress at his appraisal. He watched her take in a breath.

    “Artanis,” he said, wanting to say – needing to say so many things. “I judged you rashly when last we spoke. I looked on you in anger, and I spoke in the haste of rage. I have come to apologize for the harshness of my words, and say, that if you were ever to share . . . if you ever wanted another to help you bear your burdens, I would be glad to be that shoulder for you.”

    Still she was as stone before him, and yet . . .

    She took his hands in his own. Her grip trembled, and a part of him felt humbled that he could reduce this strong, amazing woman to a sapling in the wind. Humbled, and awed.

    “Galadriel,” she whispered, meeting his eyes at long last. As always, he could see light reflected and held deep in her gaze. This time he thought he could see tears, burning and hot before she blinked them away. “Galadriel you have named me, and Galadriel I have been named.”

    “I did not think,” he said carefully, “that you would wish to be called as such. Not here. Not . . .”
    Not after all that had been said between them.

    “Artanis . . .” she said slowly, “ . . . Artanis as she was died a long time ago; slain by the blades of kin and buried by the horrors of the Ice. I did not know that she was laid to rest until I found Galadriel beneath the shade and shelter of the trees. I . . .” her voice faltered, suddenly uncertain.

    Yet, he understood. Artanis was the name of a child, headstrong and stubborn, who fought the impossible fights and tilted her chin to the doom of the gods. Galadriel was a woman, stronger after tragedy, and graceful in the wisdom those bloodstained days had gained.

    And . . . perhaps, the smallest part of Galadriel was also his . . . just as he was becoming hers in the whole of his soul, down to the roots of his bones.

    When he opened his arms to her, she allowed his embrace after only a second of hesitation. The first time he had held her as such, he had felt as if he were trying to hold the newly dawned sun itself, but now . . . Now he felt as if he held his equal, his match. And, if she would let him . . .

    “When you are ready,” he said slowly, softly. “I would hear all that you would wish to say.”

    He felt as she drew in a deep, shuddering breath. He felt her pain as his own; but it was a pain of healing, of bones being set and skin being stitched together again.

    “It is a long tale,” she said as she drew away from him, just enough to sit at the fountain's edge, he following at her side. “And yet, it is one that should be told. It started, as this . . .”

    ~MJ @};-
    Nyota's Heart likes this.
  2. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Aug 31, 2004
    *purrs* [face_sigh] =D= That was fantabulous! Terrific characterizations & poignant emotions and dialogue. @};- @};-
  3. laurethiel1138

    laurethiel1138 Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Feb 6, 2003
    And so Artanis' trials begin, when she humbles herself to become Galadriel... all the way to the Valar's ultimate test, when a certain Hobbit would offer her the Ring that she would refuse.

    It is beautifully handled, Mira. You have a great grasp of your characters' inner turmoils, and what fascinates me is that you never paint any of them as evil. Flawed, in over their heads, most certainly. But apart from Morgoth (and, to a certain extent, Sauron - and perhaps also Feanor), none of them inherently sets out to do ill deeds. There is a certain saying about roads and hell and good intentions - and I believe Galadriel here feels the harsh truth of it - which can be applied to so many others in Arda...

    Lauré :)
    Nyota's Heart likes this.
  4. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Jun 29, 2004
    Nyota's Heart: Aww, thank-you! [:D]

    laurethiel1138: I think that that is the biggest compliment I have received from writing these yet. Thank-you so much. [:D] One of my favourite things about Tolkien's work is that his characters are never black and white - even Melkor was 'fated' to sew discord into Eru's music, so does that make him an evil character, or was he created just to be the villain? [face_thinking] Sauron and Saruman started with the best of intentions, Grima fell because he loved someone who did not love him back. Even Fëanor was not evil, but rather mad and drunk on the lies that Melkor had been sewing in his head. The Númenoreans fell to their want for immortality. Other 'evil' humans were only so because of Melkor sinking his claws into them in their earliest days. There are no mindlessly 'evil' characters, and that is a dynamic that I love playing with. [face_love] Tolkien's world is black and white only in the sense that good triumphs over evil, for the most part, in the end. That said, it was interesting exploring Galadriel's younger days - with her pride and righteousness smoothing out with humility and wisdom. She is a character that fascinates me for her journey, and I'm glad you enjoyed this glimpse here. [face_love]


    Author's Notes: There are no notes to this one. We are dealing with old familiars again. :)

    "from step to step"​

    CXXXV. Steady

    If anything could be said about Eärendil's son, it was that he was surprisingly resilient for a child.

    Elros had taken up the peculiar habit of following him whenever he went. He sat with him while he did his missives; tending to the needs of his men on paper and writing to the small conclave of their supporters left at Amon Ereb. The boy held the quill the same way as he did, fitting his left hand awkwardly around the grip and looking to catch his eye all the while. Maedhros did not comment, did not even look his way when the child could see him, and yet, Elros was undeterred.

    (If he remembered Fingon at that same age; all bright eyes and quiet, solemn concentration as he tried to shape his letters just so, then that was a memory he put away like an offering of a penitent at a shrine. He had not let himself think about his cousin in many years. He did not, could not, think about his friend, long gone now, and so he did not.)

    The boy was there everytime he turned. Elros watched at the edge of the practice years, mimicking his every move with a stick, his motions one-handed more often than not. Elros was there with the horses, feeding and tending a small bay colt he had claimed for himself – the same coloring as Maedhros' own mount – and all to eager to help with anything and everything as Maedhros went about the albeit tricky process of tacking his spirited stallion with one hand. Elros copied the way he walked, following just a step behind and carefully bending his every limb to capture a grace that would not be his until many years had passed. He tried to mimic the way he talked even, 'but Maedhros says it like this,' a common phrase to hear whenever Maglor was teaching the twins the High-tongue. Often Maglor would sigh through his nose and wryly comment, 'Then he is saying it wrong too,' before moving on with a twinkle in his eye that made Maedhros ire catch whenever he was on the receiving end of it.

    When Elros appeared for the morning meal one day with his hair braided the exact same way Maedhros wore his, Maglor could not contain himself. He coughed into his bowl, and had to cover his amusement behind his hand lest he hurt the young one's feelings. Elros did not notice anyway, he being too busy looking to his brother's raised brow, muttering, “I just like them this way,” in a defensive tone.

    He then looked to Maedhros with those same star-lit eyes, and Maedhros held his gaze for but a moment before looking away. He stood and took his leave, ignoring the hurt child he left behind. If the Perelda was wise, he would pick another to idolize. Not him, not . . .

    Anyone else would be better for Elros to strive to be. Anyone.

    “After six brothers and too many cousins to name, you do not have room in your heart for one more child?” Maglor asked later, and there was not a rebuke in his voice so much as a sadness, tired and worn.

    “And yet, look where they are now,” was Maedhros' only reply, and Maglor had sighed, old with many years then as he touched his shoulder and then turned away.

    It was raining now, the stormwater falling on the roof of the crumbling keep they sought shelter in for that night. It had only been two years since he had taken the twins from the massacre at Sirion, and they still moved about the coast, waiting for word of Eärendil's return. They never stayed in one place for long, knowing that Gil-galad and Celeborn still had scouts that followed them, waiting for a moment they could steal the children away without risking them harm. Ereinion was a young king, and his men were stretched thin as it was with Morgoth freely walking the lands. He would not wage a full rescue when he could not muster the forces, and yet, it paid to be cautious.

    The stone hall around them used to belong to some minor chieftain of the Atani, abandoned centuries ago. It was not marked on any Elven map, seeing as how quickly the Sons of Men came and went from place to place, and they had counted themselves as fortunate to find shelter when the sky turned threatening overhead. The waves pounded on the tall cliffs beyond, sounding in place of thunder from above. They were all camped in the Great Hall of the keep, each sleeping softly beneath the storm above.

    Maglor had rode ahead days ago, and had yet to return, leaving Maedhros and an elf named Arheston in charge of the children. The captain had presided over Maedhros' archers, of which there were now few left, and as a widower and a father with none of his children left alive, and he had gladly taken to helping Maglor with the twin's care. More subtly, he was also there to aid Maedhros with the tasks Maglor previously would – for not everything could be done with one hand – and he was grateful for the help of the other man.

    That night, when Arheston was finishing off the first plait in his hair, Elros had watched quietly before sincerely offering to help, and Maedhros had to fight a sigh. He had encouraged the child not, and still, Eärendil's son was as steady as a current in a river, never giving, and he was starting to feel as the stone the waters parted around.

    “When will Makalaurë be back?” Elros asked then, and Maedhros had blinked, for no one called his brother that but for he, and only in private councils, at that. Something had cut through him then, a memory of another time and place, when he had been Russandol to many young ones, each confident of the smiles and undivided attention that would be theirs if they all but came near to him.

    He looks like Fingon at that age, he thought next. Though the world would say Lúthien with their glossy black hair and strange, pale grey eyes; he could see Turgon in the shapes of their jaws and the crest of their brows. Turgon and Fingon had been similar in appearance, alike to the point where they had nearly seemed as the twins before him. The only differing trait between them had been Turgon's greater height – something which Fingon had been teased mightily about, and now . . .

    Maedhros swallowed, taken by memory; memories he had not thought of in much too long, and like a crack in a dam he could feel old thoughts and feelings returning unbidden.

    Maglor,” he had stressed his brother's Sindarin name, a name Elros' own forefather had condemned them to use, “Will be back when he has completed his tasks. His comings and goings are of no concern to you.” His voice had been sharp, and for once, Elros flinched, unsure as he drew back.

    Arheston looked at him oddly as he tied off the last braid, but Maedhros ignored the other man, waving him away as he settled down by his place at the fire. Sleep was slow in coming for him that night, but come it did with strange and twisting dreams; taking him from the holy heights of Taniquetil to the black smoke of Thangorodrim. Fingon stood there on the obsidion cliffs, holding three star-lit stones in his hands. He held them above a darkened void, asking him to choose, his eyes resigned and pained.

    Which do you love more? Fingon asked in a voice that was terrible and sad, but Maedhros had not been able to hear him, for he was then lunging for the gems, and falling once he held them, falling, and -

    He awakened with a hiss of indrawn breath. His heart was thundering in his chest, and he could not get it to slow. He blinked, but saw only the darkened hall, the fires having long dwindled down to embers. Out of reflex, he looked to the side, seeing the twins asleep on the other side of the fire. Elrond was as far from him as was possible, as was his wont, but Elros . . .

    He closed his eyes, but it was no use. The boy had seen him.

    A moment passed, and then another. He kept his eyes closed, but was not surprised when a small hand touched his shoulder, questioning.

    He fought the urge to sigh. “It is unwise to awaken one who sleeps with a dagger, child,” he rumbled, his voice dark with dreams and sleep.

    “But you are already awake,” Elros pointed out, and at that, Maedhros did sigh.

    He closed his eyes again, but heard as Elros scooted near, coming as close to him as he dared.

    “Did you have a nightmare?” the child asked.

    Maedhros was silent.

    “I heard you,” Elros whispered. “You called out names I did not recognize. Were they your parents?”

    He flinched. Where he had tried to forget Fingon, Fëanor was always waiting for him behind every thought, as terrible and consuming as he had been in life. Maedhros remembered him with his mouth turned in scorn, calling him no son of his as he had tried to stay his hand at Losgar. Fëanor had been father to none but his craft in the end, and Maedhros . . . why he still clawed for the one way to earn his father's approval, he did not know. But his Oath would let him do nothing else.

    “I do not like thinking about my parents, either,” Elros revealed on a whisper, seeing his wince and hesitantly interpreting it. “I do not remember my father, except that his hair was like the sun and he smelled of salt. My mother . . . she was not real at times, and I think that I imagined her more often than not. She too had a light, but it was not like Adar's . . . She did not take care of nightmares, so we always took care of each other.”

    Still, Maedhros was silent.

    A moment passed, and then Elros continued, “Elrond has nightmares, though not like you or I. He sees things when he sleeps; things that often come to be. He saw you before you came, the elf with fire in his hair and fire in his eyes who would burn our home. I . . . I normally sit with him until he falls back asleep. It helps, he says. The bad dreams do not come if they know someone is watching. I . . . I could do that for you?”

    Maedhros turned over, putting his back to the child as he did so. He still did not answer him, and yet Elros was unperturbed.

    “It is okay,” Elros whispered softly, accepting an apology that would never come. “I will sit here with you.”

    He felt small hands pull his woolen blanket back up over his shoulders, awkwardly tucking him in, and at the small kindness, he felt something burn in his throat. He swallowed it away, but a stone still remained. He could not rid himself of it.

    He closed his eyes, and in the child's shadow, he slept without remembered dreams.

  5. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Aug 31, 2004
    Beautiful and touching bit of sincere consoling, offered in innocence and kindness. :) :)
  6. laurethiel1138

    laurethiel1138 Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Feb 6, 2003
    Right out of the mouth of babes, isn't it?

    Honestly, there's nothing better than children to set your priorities straight, sometimes, and Maedhros learned that beautifully, here. Elros has a way of cutting straight to the heart of the matter, and I'm sure it must be refreshing (if ever so slightly discombobulating) to Maedhros, to be considered for his own merits rather than for who his father was. The problem lies in letting himself feel the sentiment, instead of closing himself off...

    Lauré :)
    Nyota's Heart likes this.
  7. serendipityaey

    serendipityaey Jedi Master star 4

    Jan 24, 2004
    I know so little about the Silmarillion it's shameful, but your writing is so beautiful, and I love how you dive into the characters. Particularly liked the innocence, honesty and caring of Elros. Lovely :)
    Nyota's Heart likes this.
  8. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Aug 31, 2004
    serendipityaey -- [face_dancing] Do you know how chuffed! I am that you're here? Mira's writing is exquisite, and Tolkien's world - magnificent and habit-forming. So the blend is quite ... breathtaking [face_love] !!
    serendipityaey likes this.
  9. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Jun 29, 2004
    Nyota's Heart: As always, your words just humble me as an author! Thank-you so much for the support, and the kind words. [:D]

    laurethiel1138: That really is the heart of the matter, that's for sure. It was fun playing the innocence of Elros with the very bitter Maedhros at this point of his life. It is amazing how children can make you reevaluate your choices. [face_love]

    serendipityaey: Why thank-you so much!! The Silmarillion is one of the hidden gems of the fantasy world, and you will not regret it if you ever decide to give it a try. Until then, I thank you so much for stopping by, and taking the time to leave your thoughts! [:D]

    Author's Notes: So, while many stories concerning the Kinslaysings are rather dark as a whole - and I myself am guilty of writing a few of those myself, I figured that it was high time for some healing and moving on fic. The second prompt from the NSWFF Prompt Thread gave me a window to do that. (Yes, I am doing the second before the first. Inspiration just works that way, so hush. ;))

    And, we have quite a few notes for these two ficlets, so bear with me . . .

    Arafinwë: Finarfin
    Nolofinwë: Fingolfin
    Fëanáro: Fëanor
    Angaráto: Angrod
    Artanis: Galadriel

    Eärwen: Wife of Arafinwë, mother of Galadriel, daughter of Olwë.

    Olwë: King of the Telerin Elves in Aman. He was the younger brother of Elu Thingol - when Thingol went missing with Melian enchanted him, Olwë took up leadership of the Teleri elves and led those who did not stay behind in Middle-earth with Thingol, to Aman. The Teleri Elves were friends of Ulmo, and very fond of the sea and all it had to offer.

    Lindar: Another name for the Teleri in Aman, meaning 'singers'.

    Amarië: Finrod's fiancée, who did not follow him to Middle-earth.
    Eldalótë: Angrod's wife, who did not follow him to Middle-earth.
    Anairë: Fingolfin's wife, who did not follow him to Middle-earth. (Are we noticing a theme, here?)

    And then, for the second ficlet:

    Maedhros in the Fourth Age: Soooo, I have this thing in my head-canon where I like to resurrect characters left and right from Mandos' Halls. I've wrote fic on another site about Maedhros being reborn and released into Fingon's custody some time in the Fourth Age, and this ficlet is a continuation on that theory. While this does not contradict canon, per say, it is by no means what Tolkien had in mind for the Fëanorians after death, and I am liberally applying artistic liberty.

    Nemmírië: 'Sparkling sea-stone' in Quenya. She is a continuation of the canonical family tree, so, an OC, but not quite.

    Airendil: 'Sea-friend' in Quenya. Olwë is mentioned to have at least two sons, but they were never named, so I took his naming upon myself.

    Caracawë: The Telerin language is said to be similar to Quenya, but not - and yet, Tolkien did not develop that tongue as he did others. I'd imagine that it would have much in common with Sindarin, since the Sindar are of the same line as the Teleri. So, this name is my fumbling attempt to mingle together Quenya and Sindarin to translate Russandol - Maedhros' nick name of old - into Telerin. I apologize for my linguistic butchering in advance. ;)

    come home with a smooth, round stone”

    CXXXVI. Forgive

    The road from Tirion to Alqualondë was dark, so very dark. Shadow sat unmovable on the land, untouched by light for many days now. Even Varda's stars shone as if through a haze, illuminating little of the path below. The light had died in Aman as it was, and now there was only the traveler and the road, making his way by the thin light of the lamp he had to see by. But light crafted by hands did little to pierce the gloom around him, not for long. How could it, when the Trees' themselves were no more?

    Only weeks ago, when Arafinwë had made this same exact same journey, he had not noticed the bends in the path, the difficulties his horse had in finding his way. He had thought only home and Eärwen, his stomach rolling as he rehearsed how he would tell his wife of the carnage he had left behind. He had rode ahead of the few of his host who had repented of their flight, only knowing that he had to be home, that he had to be the one to tell his wife of the loss of her people – of the curse of his people. And yet, he had been unable to find the words as he collapsed in Eärwen's arms, just steps away from the gate. He had been too heart-sick and soul-sore to speak, but it did not matter, for Eärwen had held him, and known, seeing his thoughts as her own through the link that bound their souls. She had inhaled with a shuddering breath, only asking him aloud if their children followed behind him, her voice small but strong as she shaped the wishes of her heart with her mouth.

    And yet, even for that, he had no kind words with which to offer her comfort.

    His strong bride, he had though in the wake of his admission, Eärwen only nodding when he told her of their children joining Nolofinwë's host to cross the Helcaraxë to Endórë. His strong bride, who had tried to hold together a city and a people who had never truly accepted her at Anairë's side before he turned back. His brilliant wife, whose people had known nothing but a blade from the hands of his kin, and still she did not turn him aside. Like a tide to a shore, he found himself drawn back to her, and as the winds above gave the waves their shape, he found his strength rekindled and birthed anew from her own strength in those days that followed.

    He . . . he was the third son of an immortal King, the son least like Finwë, at that. The least Noldo son, often was it said, but Arafinwë had always cared little for words – something that had always made him a calm ripple amongst the ripping currents of his family. Peacekeeper, his father had often called him in a tired voice, but there was a gratitude there, as well - for Fëanáro could never truly hold anger against him, and Nolofinwë never wanted to. When arranging the details for his coronation, Findis had only raised a pale brow before wryly pointing out that all of the reasons he thought the crown ill suited to his brow were precisely the reasons his people needed him now.

    And yet . . . his father was supposed to live forever. If the unlikely happened and Finwë gave his crown to his son, it would be to Fëanáro's brow, and then his seven sons after that. The unthinkable would have to happen for Arafinwë to take up the mantle of leadership. And yet . . .

    . . . the unthinkable had happened. The unthinkable had taken Finwë's last breath and prompted his brothers to give his murderer chase to Endórë, while he stayed behind and tried to hold together the land that laid ravaged in their wake. The thought was a burden that made him turn new eyes to the path, determined for its passing.

    Now, youngest son though he was, the crown was his, and to him it belonged to pull a fractured people back together again. Few were the Noldor who stayed in Aman, and his people were now those older and those younger, for the most part. Those old enough to remember the Great Journey cared but little to seek out such toils again in Middle-earth, and those young enough to not yet know the wanderlust and stagnant stillness of many years could not find the want to leave. Many of their women stayed behind, caring little to loose husbands and worry about the safety of their children in a land where all could be lost in the flickering of a heartbeat. This, Arafinwë knew all to well from his own household. Amarië walked their halls at Eärwen's side, as if waiting, but he knew as well as she that her wait would be a long one – and she was not the only one with a loved one far from her side for greed and the promise of more and new across the sea. Eldalótë was Noldor and proud, and she would not weep for her husband's flight so much as she merely squared her jaw and carried on as if Angaráto was still there as ever. Without the light, Anairë still donned her heavy robes of court and arranged her hair in elaborate piles of braids, the styles lopsided for her lack of seeing, and carried on as ever in the affairs of their people. Although he knew that his brother and goodsister did not have the marriage of flames that Fëanáro and his bride had, or even the easy love he had with his wife, that did not mean that they loved each other any less for the coolness of their affections. Anairë was hard and practical, and without her good sense, he knew that his people would be that much worse for the wear.

    His people . . . those who stayed learned the hardships of living without the light. The months since the Trees last shone meant that all had strained eyes and aches of the head that grew only worse with each passing day, they having ever to strain their eyes to see. Injuries were more and more common as they all adjusted to the not-light, and a strange sickness accompanied the dark – a sickness of yellowing skin and increasingly black moods, they not realizing how their bodies fed off of the light as much as their souls did.

    And yet, more importantly, was the lack of food they were starting to face. They already survived on rations, but their last harvest would only get them so far, and without the light of the Trees to let them glean the fields anew . . . Their hunting was thin, as well, with the creatures of the forest falling from the lack of sustenance from the earth. While the Valar said only soon and patience to the dawn of a new light in the world, Arafinwë could only have so much patience while his people suffered around him. And so . . .

    He rode to Alqualondë.

    It was a ride he already took for personal reasons – for Olwë was both King of the Teleri in Alqualondë and father to his wife, at that. Olwë's people had suffered gravely from the hands of his kin, and reparations would have to be made. Trepidation rose in him for the conversation to come, and he felt ill for it. Never before had the road to Alqualondë given him grief, it had always been quite the opposite, actually. Alqualondë always meant peace and warmth to his soul. In Alqualondë he had been allowed to grow far from the shadow of his father's court when Finwë had sent him away. In Alqualondë he had found both the love of his life, and a love for life . . . he found his calling in the sea and all she had to offer. He found his peace in the white sands and the surf with its pearl foam and blue, blue waves. He had found himself, and only moved back to Tirion at his father's insistence when Melkor's lies grew and his family moved to tear itself asunder from the inside out with each passing day.

    Always . . . always did the people of Alqualondë sing. The Lindar could scarce be silenced, and their song could be heard for leagues down the coast and far down the road that approached their city from the south. Now their voices rose in lament, their song tugging at something deep inside of him and turning. He looked, and yet, the haven of his youth was now in turmoil. The graceful, shell colored city laid in ruin from flames. The quays were in pieces and the great harbors where the shipmasters crafted their wares were as scars against the silver shores. Broken ships, ones that had not survived Fëanáro's wrath, and the sea storms to follow, laid in the water, half sunken as the Teleri fought to scavenge what they could, and rebuild once more.

    If he blinked, he could remember the red of blood and the sounds of screaming – both the pain of the dying and the war cries of those living. He could remember the flashing of steel, and hear the curses shouted by both sides. He could remember his daughter wading into the thick of the battle to defend her mother's people, and his sons as they stood, stunned and unmovable for the carnage before them.

    He remembered, and now he rode through the city streets to find hard eyes meeting him wherever he turned. Never once before had he been ashamed of Finwë's blood in his veins, of his father's colors about his shoulders and his father's crown upon his brow, but now . . .

    He did not bow his head; but he knew shame, deep inside, for the ruin about him.

    Olwë's court was in full session when he was admitted by the herald. Silence instantly cut through the coral hall when his name was called, many unkind eyes falling upon him and staring as he walked forward. Noblemen and lords, whose sons he had known and cherished looked on him with stone brows and unmovable eyes. He looked, and saw many lords who now were those sons, they taking up the mantles of their fathers as those who had fallen were replaced by those who still stood. And there were so many missing, he saw as he looked for eyes he would never again find. He looked, and saw a loss that would never be filled. Olwë himself lost two sons in the Kinslaying, brothers whom Eärwen had wept for as she would not weep for the loss of her children. And it was through fault of his house, fault of his blood. Friend, Finwë had known Olwë as, and their friendship one of ancient days, but now . . .

    He swallowed, and fell to his knee before Olwë's throne. He had always known Olwë as a father, even more so than his own sire . . . Olwë, who always had a smile and laughter like the roar of the waves for him . . . Olwë with his seashells braided into his hair and his robes of silver and blue like the scales of the fish in the reef. Olwë, who had not of a smile or a kind eye for the son of Finwë now . . .

    “You are brave coming here, Finwion,” came the crack of a voice, cutting through the silence that followed in the wake of his arrival. It was all Arafinwë could do not to wince upon hearing so. Upon his head, his father's crown was heavy.

    “I come,” he had to try twice to find his voice, far as it was from him. He had not felt this small as when he had fell before Manwë's throne to beg forgiveness for his people's sins. He had not felt such a weight beneath Varda's stare as he did beneath the unkind eyes of Olwë whom he loved, and Olwë whom he respected. He swallowed, and started again, “I come before you, your grace, humble and penitent -”

    A ripple went through the court. A snort fell from Olwë's mouth, “Forgive us,” he interjected, “for believing little of the humility of the Noldor.”

    He smarted at the unfairness of the accusation. Carefully, he swallowed back his words, instead saying, “You have a right for anger -”

    “ - you and yours came before us in friendship,” Olwë was not willing to hear him speak. Instead, his words rushed from him, building on his tongue as they had been for many days. “You asked for our counsel in sailing the sundering sea to Endórë beyond. We counseled you to wait, to make your decision when you bore not of grief in your hearts and rage in your bones for Melkor's deeds. When you would see not of reason, or patience, we told you you could not take our seacraft, for they were built of our hands and hearts – something your brother should have understood more fully than any other. And yet, the same crimes Fëanáro would lay at Melkor's door, he instead committed himself – taking what he wanted, and slaying any who stood in his way.”

    Olwë sighed, raising his hand to rub at his temples. When he spoke, his voice had lost it's edge. He sounded weary then, weighed down by many days. “I am old amongst our kind, Arafinwë. I know of a sword and what it means to hold that sword with war in mind. But my people are a people born of Aman, not of the land beyond the sea. They knew not of violence, they knew nothing of the sword – especially from those they knew as kindred and friends. I have never seen the like of it, and pray that I never need see so again.”

    “Fëanáro was the one who dismissed your counsel, and took steel in hand. And for that, he bears his own curse,” Arafinwë felt a line enter his voice, unwilling as he was to be charged for his brother's crimes.

    “And yet,” Olwë raised a silver brow, “Nolofinwë's children too held swords, charging in blindly before realizing what quarrel was at hand. Your Artanis, even -”

    “ - held a sword for her mother's kin,” Arafinwë's voice was sharp for the first, interrupting his goodfather. “For that she too is cursed, and for that too she must find peace within herself. And yet, I will not see her name brought to slight here, not from your mouth.” He inhaled, gathering his peace. He softened his voice. “But those who wronged you are gone now, and they bear their own burden across the sea, wearing the doom of Námo heavy about their shoulders. Those who are left would beg that you remember your friendship, and your mercy . . . the same as we would ask that you let us help your people rebuild. For we are craftsman, and we helped you raised Alqualondë in the early days. We would again, if you would but let us.”

    A moment passed. “What are you asking of us, Finwion?” Olwë tilted his head, curious for the first.

    “My people exist on borrowed time,” Arafinwë said. He was still on one knee before Olwë's throne. He had not been given permission to stand and face his fellow king as an equal. “What we have to sustain ourselves will not last us another season without the light to grow our fields anew. But your people live off of the bounty of the sea, and it will take much longer for her stores to run dry. In exchange for our builders and craftsman, we would ask for permission to fish in your waters -”

    He was met by a ripple of amusement from the court. Olwë's snort was sharp in reply to his words. “Always are the Noldor quick to take,” Olwë said, his voice filled with scorn. “Finwë would be ashamed for the actions of his sons, on this day and many others.”

    “Would Finwë be shamed to resort to any means to provide for the people who are left? The people who did you no wrong? Your daughter is amongst those who live on less and lesser still. The women who were dear to your grandsons have stayed behind, and they too will starve – and they are your kin in blood, not only in heart. Those who have stayed in Aman have harmed your people not, and in petty retribution and spite you would treat them as Fëanáro treated you?” He noticed with satisfaction as his words hit like a lance, sharp from his tongue. This time, he felt a righteous pride fill him for the ill looks that were turned his way.

    Ignoring the eyes who widened, he fell to both of his knees, rather than just one. He looked up, and knew that his crown caught on the dim lanterns in the hall – lit by the phosphorescents of the sea, the Teleri at home with the half-light, they always being furthest from the light of the Trees, even in their halcyon days.

    “My name is Arafinwë Ingalaurë,” he spoke out strongly, letting his voice ring in every corner of Olwë's hall. “I am the third son of Finwë Noldóran, the First King of the Second Clan. I am brother in half to Fëanáro Curufinwë, brother in full to Nolofinwë Arakáno. If it is a weregild you seek, if retribution is needed to ensure that my people are cared for, then I ask that you take it from my soul rather than theirs. I am the only one with Fëanáro's shared blood this side of the sea, and I will pay for his crimes in blood if need be. If this is the price needed to cool the wrath of Alqualondë, then it is a price I shall pay – and pay gladly.”

    He leaned forward, bending at the waist to press his forehead to the cool stone of the floor before Olwë's throne. He bowed, his hands forming a triangle before his inclined head. He waited, his life in the Telerin King's hands as Olwë rose, coming to him with a slow, careful step. He waited to hear the sound of steel being unsheathed, truly uncertain as he was of his fate in that moment. And yet, he felt curiously buoyant as he waited to feel a blade at the skin of his neck. He felt weightless, as if he treated water on a calm day; peace filled every corner of his being as he thought that perhaps this was why he turned back from his people's flight. Perhaps it was because his blood was needed to mend this feud, perhaps his blood was merely waiting to fill this hole. Peacekeeper, his father had so often called him. Pacifist, Fëanáro scorned when his words turned hot. Weakling of a prince, wasting the might of Finwë's blood, Melkor had once scathed, disgusted when he could not find yet another pawn to use in his game, his claws unable for find a place to pierce where no ambition laid.

    I do not understand the stillness of your heart, Artanis had whispered in frustration when he had said his goodbyes at the mouth of the Helcaraxë. He had held her close and prayed that Endórë would grant a peace to her soul, a wisdom to her insights, one he could not explain to her with words alone.

    He prayed now, one last time, for both those who moved on and those who were left behind, when -

    Olwë's shadow fell upon him, but not with a sword.

    His goodfather knelt before him in a graceless gesture, and then he felt strong arms gathering him close, as if he was a small child homesick in a foreign court once more. Olwë inhaled, and his breath was shuddering in his chest. Arafinwë could feel his grief as it pulled at his own spirit, seeing with his Sight as Olwë mourned for the loss of his sons and the loss of his people. But he felt a love underneath it all, affection for the man he had become, and pride for his own role in shaping such a being before him, even, and -

    “Already have I laid two sons to rest,” Olwë said, his voice loud enough for all to hear. He did not bother to hide the grief in his voice; he saw no need to. “I would not be able to bear seeing the blood of another one spilled.”

    Olwë's arms tightened around him, and Arafinwë returned the embrace as best as he could, relief filling his heart. He could smell sea salt on the sweet ocean air as he inhaled. The shells in Olwë's hair twinkled as he rose to his feet, and offered him a hand.

    Arafinwë reached out, and let the other help him to stand.

    “Me and mine will offer you what help we may,” Olwë said, his voice filling the hall around him. His eyes were very bright then, his presence filling the court as he remembered his own father doing, Olwë too one of the great leaders who had lead their people to Aman in the eldest days. “And, in return, we look forward to what aid you may offer in our rebuilding. In each, may our people recover the love they once bore for each other.”

    The reaction from Olwë's court was wary, but slowly, the noblemen around him nodded. They took to their knees, acknowledging their lord's decision before turning to make it so. Arafinwë released a breath he had not realized he had been holding, feeling the hostility in the room turn, but just slightly.

    It would be a long road to forgiveness between their peoples, he knew, but it was a road that was now being walked, and walked for the better.



    CXXXVII. Forget

    It was not until moments like this that Maedhros realized that he had never properly appreciated the home he had left behind.

    In the days bygone, he had once explored the whole of Aman from the northern wood to the far shores of the outer sea at his father's side. He had traveled the black forests close to Mandos' untouchable Halls, and had ventured as far south as the shadowed lands of Avanthar. And yet, for all of his journeys, he had not once understood the simple peace that came just by sitting on the white sands of their own eastern shores. As it was in the time of the Trees, Alqualondë was still a land of half-light, the sun seemingly always rising and setting on the horizon, never completely climbing to its pinnacle in the sky. The gentle rays painted the sea in shades of pink and gold the closest to him, and orange and red further out, near to the horizon. The dance of light caught his eye, drawing him to watch the play of the gentle waves as they danced with the pull of the moon.

    He sat at the end of one lone dock. He had been there for some time now, unable to continue his journey north, but not quite willing to turn back on his road. Not yet.

    Are you going to move from there? Fingon teased in the back of his mind. Further on, in the city proper, his friend had been able to feel his approach, and was waiting for him to find the courage to complete his road. It may have been a rather long wait for the other, and yet, Fingon had long grown accustomed to developing patience where he was concerned.

    Maedhros inhaled deeply, and let his breath out slow, watching where the sunlight danced on the waves.

    Every few years, Arafinwë would take time away from Tirion in order to visit his wife's people in Alqualondë. This time, Nolofinwë asked leave to accompany his brother, and Fingon was quick to invite himself along. When Maedhros asked him why, Fingon solemnly explained that he had not formally sought out Olwë's apology for his actions of so long ago – four ages of the sun having already passed since the first slaying of kin on kin. After the silence grew between them, Fingon had carefully asked if he would go with him to offer his own apologies, and Maedhros had been quick to turn him down. Olwë would not be as . . . eager to accept the grief and regrets of a Oath-sworn Kinslayer as he would be to assure Fingon the Valiant of his place within his heart, and Maedhros did not care to revisit such old wounds, long scabbed over and forgotten.

    Forgotten . . . Fingon had raised a brow at that, but did not push him further. Instead, he had smiled that smile that meant that he expected him to reach his own conclusions without any input from him.

    Fingon leaving him for Alqualondë was the first time he had truly been alone since his rembodiment. A childish part of Maedhros wanted to point out that this was no doubt against Námo's conditions for his release, but the solemn Vala was silent within his mind - and Maedhros knew him to be quick to offer his counsel uninvited whenever he saw fit before. Perhaps, he reflected darkly, this was merely a source of amusement for the Judge, and he would hear no more from him until he was given cause to speak.

    Maedhros did not much care to stay alone, and he most certainly did not wish to appear as if he was sulking. And yet, there were few places in Aman where he would find welcome. Tirion he could not bring himself to visit, even if he tried, and he knew little reason to journey to Valmar – he had not, even when he had known an unblackened name. He considered journeying to visit Nerdanel in the north, where she had rejoined Mahtan's kin in the days before they swore their Oath. And yet, he had no wish to open up old wounds, or try to fill awkward silences with words when there was nothing that could yet be said.

    He tried staying with Elrond's folk for a day or so. They had settled to the south-west of Alqualondë, close enough to both Tirion and the Teleri shores, where the riverways in the Pelóri mountains fell in great waterfalls like the home they had left behind. The peaceful settlement was filled with many of the Noldor and Sindarin from Endórë in the later days, and their numbers grew with each passing season. While Maedhros found a welcome there, Elrond too was set to leave with his wife and sons for the ever growing family gathering at Alqualondë - the same as Fingon was - and Maedhros was to be left behind again.

    Elrond tried much as Fingon to reason with him, asking him to ride forth in the light of day and seek forgiveness where he truly knew regret. Maedhros had just as difficult a time with giving his paltry arguments to his former ward as he did to his cousin. Somewhere along the line, Elrond had grown from both the wary child he had helped raise, and the much too young soldier he had known at the end of the War of Wrath, and now he had difficulty in crossing his words with him and coming out the better.

    To think he had once been known for his way with words in his father's court, if Turgon's great-grandson could outwit him so - Turgon, whose strength was not in the shape of his words, but the shape of his beliefs. Silver-tongued indeed, Maedhros thought ruefully. He held grey stone in his mouth, worthless and clumsy in shape.

    . . . he wanted to tell Turgon this, he knew, even if he only admitted it to himself. But that was yet another apology to seek and gain in return.

    He knows much of forgiving impossible things, for he loves you, does he not? Celebrían had whispered into his ear when he had gathered his cloak to leave. Listen to him and take heart, dear one, she had said before kissing his cheek, and her soft words had burned as much as all of Elrond's carefully thought arguments.

    Now . . . now, Maedhros had made it as far as the southern reaches of Alqualondë's waters. He sat at the edge of that one forgotten dock, unable to go any further and unwilling to turn back.

    The waters were calm today, the waves a steady ebb and flow as they came and retreated over and over again. Overhead a gull called, crying out to the sky. He wondered if any of the winged folk were of Elwing's ilk, and felt another turning in his stomach for one more apology to be made.

    Is this your true torment? he asked, seeking out where Námo was always ready and waiting at the edge of his consciousness. Did you let me live again, only to be swallowed by these regrets?

    Do you truly live again, child? came the Fëanturi's reply. As always, Maedhros had to steel himself against the whisper, for Námo had a voice that was more a black wind and the sound of heartbeats than any shape of sound a throat could give.

    I breathe, Maedhros shrugged. Is that not enough?

    Your pulse knew more of life in my Halls than it does now in the fresh air and sunlight, Námo's voice dipped in disapproval. The sound of heartbeats quickened, like war drums and marching feet. Tread lightly with the gift I give, lest I be tempted to take it back, Fëanorian. Never have you been idle, in life nor in death; and the chance to put to rights the things that kept your soul from healing you will now let consume you? This is not Nelyafinwë Maitimo as I have come to know him.

    Know you so well the make of me? Maedhros retorted, well aware that his reply was a child's reply. He was unable to think of anything else to say.

    From every line of bone to each ray of your spirit's light do I intimately know, the Vala rose to his challenge. Do not push me, child, for never have I twice needed to give a spirit life, and you shall not leave my keeping a second time.

    He had no reply for the Vala where Námo expected none. The shadow left his mind, their conversation done, and Maedhros sighed as he leaned back against the dock. He laid down in weariness, closing his eyes against the sunlight. He let the song of the waves lull him, until -

    Something wet dripped down onto his face.

    He blinked, reaching up to wipe the droplet of seawater away. But another fell. And another.

    Annoyed, he opened his eyes and looked up to see large, sea-green eyes looking curiously down at him. The culprit was a child, a little girl with silver braids turned the color of rainclouds from the water that soaked them. She must have just come from the ocean, he understood, sitting up to see where her wet footprints went back to the ladder by the front post of the dock. He raised a brow, finding the look returned as the child put a hand on her hip, where her underclothes were wet from the surf.

    “This is my dock, and you are trespassing,” the child said, her voice a quick spin of Telerin vowels. It took him a moment to understand her speech, the years having turned the language past what he remembered in his own youth. “Who are you, vagrant?”

    “I,” he said, trying not to reveal his amusement for the child's show of pique, “am simply a traveler, who knew not that this dock belonged to any. Please, forgive me for my trespassing.”

    She looked at him from the corners of her eyes, as if trying to gauge his sincerity. But his Noldorin clothes and flame colored hair were as telling as anything else he could have said. Her look softened, and she said. “All here know that this dock belongs to Nemmírië, but your ignorance can be forgiven, as you are not of our kind.”

    “The lady is gracious,” Maedhros said, allowing himself a half smile at the girl's haughtiness, reminded as he was by the almost uncanny mirror of Artanis in her youth. “I saw not of any boat, else I would not have even begun to assume.”

    Nemmírië blinked, her cheeks flushing. “I have not of my own craft,” she admitted. “I am too young, my father says, to sail on my own. So, for now, I use this dock for this.” She turned, reaching into the water to pull up a net she had tied to the ladder, showing him where she had a dozen or so oysters caught.

    “I am searching for pearls,” she explained. “I find only one or so each summer, and even then nothing like what the pearl-divers find in the richer waters, but I shall someday make a crown from them, and stand at the helm of my own ship with the catch of my hands about my brow.”

    “It is a worthy goal,” Maedhros said, amused by the simple dreams of youth. A part of him remembered his father trading gems of his own make for pearls from Alqualondë, and he felt a pang that was not only bitterness as he remembered happier days.

    She rolled her shoulders, looking at him out of the corner of her eyes as she did so. “If you wish,” she said, her voice thoughtful, “You may help me. Unless you were planning to sleep in the sun all day?”

    He looked at the water, and then back at her. He hesitated. Whatever Telerin mariner who owned this dock would care not for their daughter spending time with a Kinslayer, that he knew very well.

    “I have not swam in many years,” he answered, trying to evade her request.

    It was the wrong thing to say. “Years?” came the squeaked word in reply, the girl's eyes wide with surprise. “You have gone years without swimming? I cannot imagine such a thing . . . How many years has it been?”

    He shrugged. “Not in this life.” Not since teaching Elros to swim in the calm waters where the river Brithon poured into the sea, he remembered, and knew another pang for thinking so. He had been too fixated on the Silmarils within Eönwë's camp to focus on the crisis of the Perelda's choice facing his former wards, even when Maglor tried to tell him so, and he had missed that last chance to say goodbye.

    In this life,” she repeated slowly, unraveling the riddle in her mind before understanding lit in her eyes, brightening them. “You are of the Twice-born, newly returned from Mandos' keeping?” she asked and answered her own question at once. “Well then, you must certainly swim with me. I would be honored for your aid.”

    He opened his mouth to protest. She saw so, and cut him off, adding, “And beside, a pearl from your efforts is the price I demand for use of my dock.”

    “You drive a hard bargain,” Maedhros said, looking at her from stern eyes. It was a gaze he had not needed to use since Eärendil's sons were very young and prone to mischief. Nemmírië was not much impressed, he reflected - and yet, neither had the twins been much affected, he remembered ruefully.

    “For a very little bit,” he agreed slowly. “Then I must be on my way.”

    “A very little bit is all I ask,” she said, getting to her feet again. She emptied her net on the dock, and then turned to him. “The oysters are in the seabed,” she pointed at the still waters. “All you must do is dive for them, shift the sand, and take what you find. Simple?”

    “Very,” Maedhros answered. He unclasped his cloak, and reached down to unlace his boots. As always, it took him a moment to remember how to do so with both hands. More often than not, his right hand remained useless at his side, and he completed his tasks with his left hand until two hands were absolutely called for. It was a habit he could not yet shake.

    Nemmírië watched him. She tilted her head curiously. “Are you left handed?” she asked.

    “Not quite,” he answered, not sure how to answer her without going into an explanation he did not care to give.

    “I am left handed,” she said, holding up the now empty net with her left hand. She wiggled her fingers. “My tutors try to accustom me to using my right hand, but my Atar tells them that I may use whichever hand that Eru intended for me to use.”

    The corner of his mouth raised, just slightly. “You have a wise father.”

    “Many say so,” she shrugged. “But he did not have time to find pearls with me today, so the Valar sent me you. I do not yet think that it was a fair trade.”

    “The lady judges me already?” Maedhros asked, teasing her. “That is unfair.”

    She snorted, tossing her head. The seashells in her hair twinkled in the sunlight. “Prove me your worth, Caracawë, and I shall take back my words.” She grinned impishly at him, and then jumped into the water with a breathless yipe. The water swallowed her, and he watched her shadow beneath the waves.

    Caracawë, he blinked at the name the young one gave him. Red-top in the Telerin tongue . . . Russandol, as he had not been called in many years.

    Against his will, his mouth turned up fully, and he smiled as he stood. He dove, and let the ocean cover him.

    With one hand, he had not much cared for swimming. In Endórë there had been little cause for simple leisures, at that, not with a war and its constant fighting. Not with an Oath and its ever reaching hands. But now he was not forsworn, and he had only his years open and many before him until the end came and the Valar again made their use of him – he still waiting to pay his dues in a way that had yet to be demanded of him.

    Yet, the ocean was now rolling over him with an easy, restless current, and he let the waters carry him as he dove down through the crystal depths, towards where Nemmírië was already searching the sandy bottom for oysters. He lost himself in the task, letting the dance of the water and the play of the sunlight on the waves above him take his cares.

    When they had more oysters than the net could hold, he helped Nemmírië take the net in hand, and they kicked for the surface again. He gestured, letting the girl climb up onto the dock first while he climbed with the net after her. In his first life, this would have been a task impossible to him – or rather, far much trickier – but now it was a thoughtless motion as he took his seat next to the girl.

    She took out a small knife, and started opening the oysters with easy, skilled hands. The sandy brown shells were like a fold of metal in his father's hands to the child as she searched for a treasure within.

    Maedhros retrieved his own knife, and started copying her motions. He blinked when she scooped the meat from the oysters who were empty of pearls, eating them right then and there, humming happily as she did so. He looked down at the pearl-less oyster in his hands, dubious. He had not had raw seafood in many years, not since the last time he was a favorable guest in Olwë's court. Distantly, he remembered Eärwen smiling as he put too much of one green sauce on the raw fish – to disguise the taste, he had refused to admit – and choked on the spice. Arafinwë had only been one year his senior, and his aunt and uncle had been more of his peers than his elders – leaving Eärwen no qualms as she laughed in delight at the face he made before passing him water. He had learned to enjoy the fruits of the sea since then, but not since . . .

    It had simply been a long time, he reflected, and cut that trail of thought off there.

    Nemmírië watched him, and nodded when he copied her, pleased. “Do you know how pearls are formed?” she asked as she sliced into the next oyster. The iridescent shell within glimmered, catching on the light.

    He did. A part of him remembered Fëanor speaking at length about the process, giving long names for the substance the oyster secreted and coated its growing treasure in. And yet, “Tell me,” he said.

    “Oysters have no fingers,” she started to explain, her voice bright and easy as she said so. “So, when something gets stuck inside of the shell – like a piece of rock or fish bone – that piece of something itches, and it irritates the oyster. So, the oyster secretes this . . . this stuff, and that stuff hardens around the rock or fish bone in hundreds of tiny layers until a pearl is formed. It turns something irritating into something beautiful, something smooth and easy to the touch.”

    Fëanor had not quite explained it that way, Maedhros thought in bemusement, and yet, he found that he much preferred her words. He placed his empty shell aside, and then opened the next oyster to a small round shape in the fleshly membrane. He cut the membrane away, and saw -

    “A pearl!” Nemmírië exclaimed, leaning over him to the see the treasure he had in hand. She peered at the small pearl he uncovered. It was a lopsided, oval shape, irregular and imperfect, and yet beautiful for its dancing color. It would carry no worth past a pretty trinket, and yet Nemmírië grinned, loving it as if he held a perfect pearl the size of a grape in his hand.

    “That it is,” he agreed, freeing the gem fully for her. He handed her the pearl, but she shook her head, closing his fingers over the trinket, and pushing it back to him.

    “Your payment for my trespassing,” he said, curious as to why she refused. “Do you not want it?”

    She simply shook her head. “No,” she said. “You found it. I want you to have it.”

    “What of your crown, child?” he asked, raising a red brow.

    She returned his look. “As if this poor, dented thing would be worthy of such a place,” she said, though he could see where her words teased with an exaggerated haughtiness. “And yet . . . something irritating in the beginning . . . something beautiful in the end . . . Yes, it is right for you to have it.”

    It took him a moment to follow her child's logic. And then: “Are you calling me irritating?” he could not help but ask.

    “When you were lounging on my dock, yes,” she shrugged. “But now you are my friend, so yes, I think the gift is appropriate.”

    He snorted, amused at her reasoning. “Well then, Nemmírië, I accept your most gracious gift.”

    “And you, Caracawë,” she smiled at him, “I thank you for yours.”

    They went through the rest of the oysters without finding anything, but she did not seem to mind as she gathered the shells together – not a part of the sea's gifts wasted by the Teleri.

    She stood then, tilting her head to the side when a voice further up the beach called for her. Maedhros looked, and saw where a tall figure was approaching, walking with quick, purposeful strides on the sand. Maedhros felt a whisper of warning, and, trusting that warning after thousands of years of such instincts, he went to put back on his boots and cloak as Nemmírië gathered her things.

    He placed the pearl safely aside, making sure that it rested deep within an inner pocket. He whistled, looking to where he had left his bay stallion grazing on the sparse grass growing further up on the dunes. The horse nickered, flicking his tail in irritation at the interruption, and Maedhros sighed.

    “My father comes,” Nemmírië said when she saw that he meant to leave. She was wringing the sea water from her braids with practiced hands. “You must stay and meet him now. We are not to be long here, for there is a large gathering of my family to the north in my grandfather's halls. We will be away by first light tomorrow.”

    Maedhros blinked, and the note of warning became a furious tattoo as it beat against his chest. “Your grandfather?” he asked slowly, making sense of a larger picture in his mind.

    “King Olwë of the Teleri,” she inclined her head. “My father is Airendil Olwion – he is Twice-born, like yourself.”

    Airendil was the youngest of Olwë's four children, Maedhros remembered as if through a haze. Airendil had been a brave lad with stubborn hands that had not known ease over the sword he had pointed at Fëanor's chest. The prince had refused to relinquish the king's ship to Fëanor, and he had stood proud and unyielding until -

    His father had not even blinked before running him through, Maedhros remembered. They had not been able to get rid of Airendil's body until they were well to sea and past the storms the ocean had called in lament for their deeds. Fëanor had been agitated and restless then, demanding that he see to the dead elf, and in a moment of rage and black, horrible self-loathing, he had snapped at his father, challenging Fëanor to see to the corpse he had felled. What kind of craftsman was he, if he could not see his fine work to the end? he had scathed, and only when Fëanor had threatened to send him over the side with Airendil had he turned away, leaving the unsavory task to his brothers.

    Now . . . now Airendil must have been released from Mandos' Halls to life anew. And recently, it would seem, if he had a daughter this young. Maedhros tried to remember, and distantly recalled Airendil having a sweetheart. How did she fare through the Kinslaying? Did she fall to a sword? Did she fade from her grief, as many couples did when one was torn from the other? Or, did she live and wait for him all of those years? Did -

    “Atar!” Nemmírië called, waving as Airendil came closer. “You must meet the friend I have met. This is Caracawë – a traveler, and he helped me hunt for pearls.”

    Maedhros stood frozen in place, unable to retreat as he may have wished as Airendil came closer. Airendil had always looked staggeringly like Olwë, with his lithe build and silver hair. His eyes were the same molting of grey and blue that Olwë bore – that Thingol bore, Maedhros remembered with another pang. Where he had not been able to tell Nemmírië apart from a common child (though the ease of command and simple haughtiness now made sense), he instantly knew Airendil for a prince for the silver circlet at his head, and the richness of his clothes, even when made for traveling. Traveling, which meant -

    “You were to be back hours ago,” Airendil said, ignoring his daughter's introductions for a moment. Maedhros looked, and did not have to wonder if Airendil recognized him. There were times when being one of so few with red hair amongst his kind was not the easiest of burdens to bear, he thought, the reflection grim within his mind. “Your mother is waiting for you.”

    “Oh . . . I am sorry,” Nemmírië said, looking curiously at her father. Her brow knit in question.

    Airendil's look softened. “She is not cross,” he amended his words. “Merely waiting. Do not keep her.”

    “I shall not,” Nemmírië said, smiling once again. Airendil leaned down to kiss his daughter's brow before sending her on her way. Nemmírië ran half way up the dune before looking back. She waved, her smile wide upon her face “I am pleased to have met you, Caracawë!” she exclaimed, and then was on her way.

    Airendil was watching him, rather than his daughter, and something flickered in his eyes at the endearment. “Russandol you are again,” he said, the timbre of his voice without infliction. “Strange are the ways of fate.”

    “It was by chance,” Maedhros said, inclining his head. “I truly was only passing through, and I did not know that the dock was spoken for. I am sorry for tarrying where I do not belong.”

    Airendil swallowed. Maedhros watched as his jaw tightened, as his hands made fists, and then: “You passed this way to avoid familiar faces, I take it.”

    “That is putting it simply,” Maedhros answered, not hiding from what was clear to see.

    “Four ages beneath the sun have passed, “Airendil said. For a moment, Maedhros could not tell if Airendil spoke so to him, or to himself.

    “And yet, that is time not long enough,” Maedhros replied, rolling his shoulders as he said so.

    “Námo thought it so,” Airendil returned.

    It was Maedhros' turn to raise a brow, unsure of where the Telerin prince was heading. “And yet . . . many have thought the Valar to be mistaken before. I doubt that this will be the last time their judgment is questioned.”

    Airendil let out a breath, which could have been amusement under any other set of circumstances but their own. Maedhros waited.

    “And yet,” Airendil spread his hands. “You found yourself returning to the sea.”

    Maedhros took in a breath. He hesitated. “I was trying to convince myself to journey all the way to your father's halls when your daughter found me. I . . . I had not yet made my mind to continue on, or turn around,” With his left hand, he found the pearl in his pocket, and could not let the smooth shape be. “I . . . I am sorry for how I wronged both you and your kin after the Darkening. I know more regret than words could say, or years could atone for. But, for what it is worth, I do wish to give my apologies, and make my peace if I may.”

    Airendil was silent for a moment. He looked to the horizon, and then back again, a muscle in his cheek moving with his thought. “You are not the only one who was slow to walk from Mandos' Halls,” Airendil said, his words thoughtful. “I would not have been allowed to return to life anew if I was not able to let go of my anger and forgive. Forgive . . . and forget. And I have, long before I heard an apology from you.”

    Something inside of Maedhros shifted at the words. He could feel a rise of feeling shudder in his chest. His knees felt weak in that moment. The fingers he held about the pearl trembled, unable as he was to still them. He swallowed, but found that he could not give sound to his voice.

    Airendil saw. He understood. “Try using the main road into the city next time, Fëanorian,” he said. “It seems as if you have forgotten of my father's hospitality, and yet, I know he would be glad to remind you, if you would but give him a chance.”

    “I . . . I would be glad to accept anything the Teleri would see fit to give,” Maedhros said, and knew the truth of the words as he spoke. They were an absolution, a stretch of healing in his bones. In the back of his mind, he thought that he could hear Námo laugh; the amusement of the Lord of Souls as a whisper.

    “Now,” Airendil waved a hand. “My daughter has made a friend, and a lone traveler is never as appealing to the soul as a group. You are welcome to travel to Olwë's halls with me and mine – it is a short journey, but a day's ride nonetheless, and you may spend it in good company if you would wish.”

    And . . . he did wish, he realized then. He truly did.

    “It would be my honor to accept the graciousness of your hospitality,” Maedhros inclined his head. He held out his hand – his right hand, and after a moment, Airendil accepted it. His grip was strong in return.

    They turned their back on the ocean and the horizon, and the sound of waves carried him back up the dune. This time, the sound of the sea reminded him not of blood, but hope, and it was that hope he left lead him on. This time, he did not look back.

    serendipityaey likes this.
  10. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Aug 31, 2004
    Super use of the prompts. I love seeing "Forgive" in one section and "Forget" in another section. =D= =D= Forgive was so poignant. The details rich and the emotions strong. @};- In Forget: your OCs fit right in. :) I admire the tone of true remorse and healing. [:D]
  11. serendipityaey

    serendipityaey Jedi Master star 4

    Jan 24, 2004
    You are such a sweetheart, you mean a lot to me [face_love] I will def give it a try Mira_Jade :D At the moment my 4 year old makes anything besides playing Candyland with her tough :p But it is going on my list! She has to go to school someday ;)

    I love you both! [:D]
    Nyota's Heart likes this.
  12. laurethiel1138

    laurethiel1138 Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Feb 6, 2003
    A wonderful duo of echoing ficlets.

    The first, showing how difficult it is to forgive and to ask for forgiveness, when unconscionable deeds have been done. It is not easy, to humble oneself so, even when it is necessary. It is hard also, to rise above the emotional response to see the bigger picture, and to accept that one person may not hold the responsibility (nor the blame) for the actions of others. And when such deed happen within family... the difficulty of such actions is only raised.

    The second, showing us that time is the greatest healer of all, allowing us to put events in perspective and lending solace where once was sorrow. I like to think that our Coppertop found some respite at the end, and this exploration is a great answer. I also find most fascinating the fact that a union such as the one between Maedhros and Nemmirie, Elves born in very different Ages, seems entirely acceptable when their real-life equivalent would raise more than one eyebrow in doubt...

    Lauré :)
    Nyota's Heart likes this.
  13. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Jun 29, 2004
    Nyota's Heart - Why, thank-you! I was trying to wrap up my feelings in one post, and then, well, my muse had quite another thing in mind completely. I did not have a word of that second one planned, believe it or not. :p I am glad you enjoyed the tone of these - every ill deed in the Silmarillion certainly leaves a lot of room for healing, so it was cathartic to play with that here. [face_love][:D]

    serendipityaey - [:D] You are such a sweetheart! The Silmarillion is *quite* the book to swallow with a wee one running underfoot, its true. [face_laugh] But someday, I promise you will enjoy it. :p ;) Until then, thank-you so much for stopping by. [face_love] [:D]

    laurethiel1138 - This. In the first ficlet, I can only imagine asking Olwë's forgiveness without the familial connection, let alone with that bond. That love only made things hurt all the more so - and made the need to have forgiveness all the more poignant. But the decision to forgive, and the catharsis that comes with moving on - those are the beautiful things that deepen those bonds, and it was interesting to explore that here. I could not resist giving Maedhros some peace in the end, and writing his dynamic with Nemmírië was just fascinating - she being born in the Fourth Age, and never knowing anything but the peace of Aman, and he being so much older and having seen nearly every horror under the sun. It was a story I did not know I needed until I wrote it, that's for sure. :p [face_love]

    As always, thank-you so very much for reading. You guys are the best. [:D]

    Author's Notes: For the life of me, I could not figure out what to write for my own prompt - which is a bit ironic, when you think about it like that. :p :oops: As a result, I came up with a bit of a word vomit character study for the NSWFF Prompt Thread, falling being the inspiration - which I kicked away from wildly and then came back to in the end. 8-}

    This is set during Beren and Lúthien's quest, while Lúthien was waylaid in Nargothrond by Celegorm and Curufin. This was mainly written as a way for me to flesh out my thoughts going into the next few ficlets, which are all related. So, enjoy! :) [:D]

    "given to the winter"

    CXXXVIII. Falling

    The river Narog bubbled gently as it wound to match the forest path. It's song was a bright, airy refrain against the grey sky above, whistling sweetly as the day rushed onwards for the night.

    For weeks, Lúthien had known nothing but the stone walls of her chambers in the hewn halls below ground. Darkness and lamplight had been her only companions, and now, to breathe in the fresh air and taste the last days of autumn . . . she could not help the contentment in her eyes then, the nearly there smile upon her mouth.

    Her smile drew her companion's eyes more often than not, she saw, though she proudly tilted her head and pretended not to notice. She did not have to pretend around Celegorm Fëanorian. She did not have be grace and wisdom incarnate in a reflection of her celestial mother and her royal father. and for this she knew a queer sort of satisfaction. She did not have to be demure or wise or lovely. She could speak her words freely and frankly, and expect his own as a mirror in reply. He would not shape his words any differently if she was a maiden who welcomed his courtship, she thought, rather than a captive dependent on his mercy. She had no reason to win the affection of this Kinslayer from across the sea, and so, she did not try. There was a certain amount of freedom in this, but that was something she did not let herself think on longer than need be.

    (Have you come to let me go? This she would ask first upon seeing him, skipping any polite words of greeting and etiquette of graciousness. Have you decided to marry me? he would reply just the same. Their words were honest between them, at the very least.

    I care not that you love me, he would say, and Love you I never shall, she would agree. And there, they understood each other.)

    He was an unfortunate companion, but his company was the price of her walking free from the underground halls. There was something harsh about him, turning him into hard angles and unmovable lines at her side. They walked arm and arm in a gross pantomime of a lover's stroll, and yet, he was like stone beneath her touch, destroying the illusion. She rested the fingers of her opposite hand against the back of his own, and it was as if she held a brand to his skin for the way he tensed. He rested his unoccupied hand on the hilt of his sword - as if she needed such a warning, she reflected wryly. She knew her place in their dynamic; she knew that she would make it but for steps if she tried to run. And so, she decided on patience, to search for her moment and wait.

    Yet, Celegorm ever saw a threat in her – in more ways than one - and so, she was the only one who enjoyed the last breath of warmth upon the autumn air.

    When she first met him, he had been all liquid ease and a grace that reminded her of a wolf in the wood. His white teeth had been quick to flash in a grin, while his eyes had burned with a memory of the light from across the sea.“Sun-shy,” he had teased, easy with good humor before plots and grievances had stretched ill between them. She had blinked then, unused to the sunlight, far as she was from the soft twilight of Doriath. “Such a strange doe Huan has brought to us, and yet, she is the fairest thing I have yet to snare on my hunts.”He had bowed low at the waist, and kissed the back of her hand – causing her to flush at the attentions of an impossibly beautiful man. Naïvely, stupidly, she had hoped that he and his shade sharp brother would be able to help her. She had hoped, and now . . .

    Now he was awkward and looming before her, the ease he had in the wild swallowed by the role of warden and suitor both. They ran out of things to say to each other past the routine and the expected only moments upon the path. She did not search her mind for further conversation, and he did not draw out her as such. She had grown used to the silence since coming to Nargothrond, she speaking to none but to Huan, and to Beren when she dreamed. She did not dream much as of late, and when she did she was awakened by the song of wolves, singing out from some dark corner of the world.

    She looked to the north, and knew that Beren was grappling with desperate fingers for survival, past where she could see. Those who walked tall with him would walk no more from where they were held by a dark being who bowed before an even crueler master. Finrod, she thought with a pang, whom had been dear to her for many years now. Galadriel's brother had touched her mind once to let her know that Beren was safe, that he was still determined as ever to reach Angband, and yet, she had not been able to feel his mind for many days. He was holding himself back from her, shielding her, and she felt a black sense of foreboding at the thought, her mother's power whispering to her until she could all but see the eerily yellow eyes of the unnatural wolves, she could feel their hot breath and their wet teeth as -

    She shivered, though the cold was not yet unbearable. Winter would be upon them within days. Already snowflakes flurried softly on the air around them, as if harkening the weather to come. It would be a cold season, she thought, bitter and cruel.

    Celegorm noticed her shiver, and stepped closer to her, mistaking her reason for doing so. The motion was thoughtless, second nature to him rather than another step in a courting dance. Ever did the Exiles from Aman give off warmth like a flame from a hearth, and the strange sons of Fëanor burned hotter than any of the Noldor she had yet to meet - even more so than bright Galadriel with her golden light . . . that was, if it was possible for one to compare the burning of a star to the light it gave.

    “Are you cold?” Celegorm asked, and for everything between them – rejection and alliances and losses darkening like bruises - she knew that he would give her his cloak if she but showed she needed it. A prince born of a prince he would ever be, no matter what else he was now.

    “No,” she answered, pressing her elbows in against her sides. He did not say anything else after that, and neither did she.

    Her breath frosted on the air when she sighed. Above them, the sun was setting early, turning the grey clouds aflame in streaks of red and orange. The color of flames caught in the white gold of her companion's hair, it glimmered on his father's crest, proud and etched in silver across the black of his breastplate. He wore full armor and ringed mail around her, as if she were a creature scaled and fanged instead of captive and bound.

    (Moriquendi, he would throw at her like a blow when their words came to crossing – she again insisting that her father would offer not one warrior to fight against Morgoth in the name of his Oath, even with she as his bride. Did he not know that he only moved to further deepen the divide? For great was her father's pride when insulted, and he would not cool the wrath of his rage in the face of such a slight. Pride indeed, Celegorm had agreed, all but snarling at the idea that Thingol had set her bride-price as that which was not his to give. And yet, he would always refute her arguments by saying that Thingol's love for her was greater than even she knew - as if baffled that he would need to say anything more than that. While the Fëanorians were many things, their bonds of innermost family were absolute, and in that manner alone Celegorm's mind was simple. He could not comprehend how Thingol's rage would not only hold, but intensify against him if she decided to accept his suit. It was unthinkable to him that Thingol would hate what his daughter had accepted as her own. He could not understand it.

    Even when their words grew heated, he was unable to use her father's name when speaking. Once, and only once, he had spoken of a woman in white, stolen by the shadows of Nan Elmoth and murdered by the hands of one of her father's Lords, unchecked by Thingol his king – which explained his hatred of her folk, but only in part. Taken and later slain, her choice ripped from her as her mate bound her spirit to his with enchantments and force . . . did he seek vengeance for this Aredhel's plight by forcing such a similar union upon her? She had glimpsed his thoughts once, seeing regret and old wounds long unhealed as thick scars upon his spirit – he hating that he had not been able to heal the rift between them before she died at her husband's hands. He had been a coward, shying away from her at Himlad when she sought him out to heal their once ancient friendship, and it had been that which had drawn Aredhel to searching the shadowed wood. He had been a coward, offering her horses and supplies after she escaped with her son, unaware that her husband followed in pursuit to Gondolin. Had he aided her further . . . had he asked her to stay . . . had he never turned away from her to begin with . . . His fault, it was all his fault, something small and childlike mourned within him. She doubted that he even realized that about himself, so deep had that whisper been hidden - tucked in close against his spirit as a seed of deep regret and grief rather than a consciously formed thought.

    It mattered not what their spirits chose, he would say whenever she tried to explain that her soul ached for Beren in a way that it never would for him. Duty and vows came before all else, and she would come to accept hers in time – for what could she give the world at Beren's side but for a fae tale of love and devotion? As his wife they would form a union that would pave the way to end Morgoth's reign in the north, uniting the Noldor and the hidden Sindar of Doriath, and that greater aim had to be worth more than the happiness of her heart.)

    And yet, her heart loved . . . she did not know what could possibly be greater than that. She did not know how he could resign himself to an eternal marriage without such a love at its core. Was his soul so barren that he could imagine no other fate for himself but for that? Was his spirit so very cold, to resign himself to such a hopeless eternity?

    The path began to double back to Nargothrond, she saw. She had not long before she was returned to her lonely room and her silent waiting for a gap in her captor's guard. Though she wished it not, she felt her heart clench inside of her chest, and she turned towards the north, wishing . . .

    Where the river turned, there was a rippling pool of calm water, and on the bank of the still shore, there was a pocket of white summer flowers, still blooming in the face of the cold settling upon the land. They seemed to turn as she passed, opening their tired petals as if she were the sun itself. She looked, though she meant not to, and Celegorm saw as she did.

    His next step was a heartbeat slower. He tilted her head, and she thought, for a horrified moment, that he meant to pick one for her.

    (Beren would have, she thought, trying to think with fondness rather than grief. He would have picked the flowers of white and gold that bloomed where she stepped, bending down on one knee to present his token and accept her gratitude in return in grand and exaggerated words until he drew first a smile from her, and then laughter as he would pull her down for a kiss. The world had smelled like spring and flowers and fresh green grass then, but now it was winter, and she did not have a warmth in her heart to accept what the man before her would try to give.)

    They walked onwards, passing the tired little blooms with a stride that was quicker than before. She picked up her pace, and he followed, matching her without conscious thought. His gloved hand flexed, as if imagining . . .

    (Meeting in a different time. Had the sons of Fëanor simply been descendants of her father's dear friend, come from across the sea out of curiosity and desire for new lands to explore . . . with no spilled blood between them, would her father have introduced Finwë's grandson with a twinkle of fondness in his eyes? Rather than slurring out Dark Elf in scorn, they would have called her father Elwë in respect and awe, he being a character now come to life from Finwë's oldest tales. Celegorm the Fair, Thingol would have smiled over how he, out of all his brethren, had Míriel's nearly white hair, reminiscing about friends long gone as he waved the two young ones on. Perhaps Fëanor's son would have brought her flowers then . . . perhaps, she would have accepted.)

    But the thought was as the warmth in the air, falling to the cold of the season and the frost that waited to come with the night. She did not try to summon it again.

    “The winter will not let them live much longer,” Celegorm said, more to himself than to her. He looked once over his shoulder, glancing to the flowers as they winked out of view with a turn in the path. “They will fall to the frost before long.”

    “Indeed,” she said softly. Something pressed oddly against her chest, almost like a pain. But she did not look back.

    Had she looked behind, she would have seen that the flowers bloomed on strong and new, as if spring were upon them, rather than waiting maw of the cold. Had she stayed, she would have found that they lived until the spring, unwilling to yield to the winter's might.

    (And yet, by then, she was already long gone.)

    Nyota's Heart likes this.
  14. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Aug 31, 2004
    Oh -- that was poignant and excellently written. =D= You evoke the deepest and truest emotions & you detail the amazing and complex Luthien with consummate, but not-surprising skill. =D= =D= =D= A superb! use of the prompt. :) I also love how the flowers in the path have to open as she passes. :D How there seems to be a presage of spring. @};-
  15. laurethiel1138

    laurethiel1138 Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Feb 6, 2003
    Oh, dear... As Eowyn would have said, even gilded, a cage is still a cage, and Luthien can feel the full truth of it in this vignette. I am glad that she never forgets the reality of her situation, searching for escape even when she knows she has but the smallest hope. For possesion is not love, and Beren lives still. (And my fancasting of Armitage as Beren all but makes my heart break when I think all that Tolkien's hero must endure, but it is such a perfect fit I dare not envision anyone else in the role.)

    Continuing my casting streak, reading this, I could not help but think that Jason Isaacs (in his guise of Lucius Malfoy) would be an excellent choice for Celegorm. He could pull off easily the uncanny mix of menace and vulnerability needed to first invite Luthien in his domain, and to then refuse to let her go. What say you?

    Lauré :)
  16. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Jun 29, 2004
    Nyota's Heart - Why thank-you! This was quite interesting to write, too, seeing as how my interest with Lúthien lies primarily with Beren, but it ended up being a fun character study to delve into. I am thrilled that you enjoyed it. Spring indeed! Her passing could be nothing else. [face_love]

    laurethiel1138 - Exactly! What Celegorm wanted from Lúthien would not have been fulfilling - for either of them, and of course she had to keet that at the front of her mind. Especially with Beren all but fighting from his life on Tol Sirion just to the north. Their story is just all the more beautiful for their tragedies, that is the truth. :( [face_love] Now, that said! Jason Isaacs. Let me take a moment of Lucius Malfoy appreciation. That definitely matches the look of Celegorm, and I bet he could pull off the personality to match. Funnily, you are not the first to suggest such a thing - there was a Tolkien forum I was reading a few years back that was throwing around casting ideas, and Isaacs was brought up for just the same role. Perfectly casted, I say - which is hard to find actors and actresses to match these rather ethereal characters. The powers that be have done a wonderful job with casting so far, that's for sure. [face_love]

    Author's Notes: These three ficlets together are a bit lengthy, but I could not break them up for how they were intertwined together, so, here we are! :p The Caranthir/Haleth one at the first is a continuation of my previous ficlet featuring them (and, that said, I have quite the story arc building up in my mind for them that we will eventually get to. [face_love]), and Celegorm and his characterization here is a continuation on the last post.

    I also have to take a moment to give a heads up that the last of these three ficlets is rather dark, dealing with the Second Kinslaying in Doriath. It kinda takes canon for a spin, at that, so I will have another note at the end to explain why I did what I did. I promise that I will write something mushy next. I promise. ;)

    Now, after a brief glossary of terms, we will be all set to go . . .

    Maitimo: Maedhros
    Findekáno: Fingon
    Tyelkormo: Celegorm
    Artanis: Galadriel
    Itarillë: Idril
    Nolofinwë: Fingolfin
    Arafinwë: Finarfin
    Nóm: The name Men gave to Finrod, meaning 'wisdom'.
    Moryo: Short for Morifinwë, meaning 'Dark Finwë', Caranthir's father-name.
    Engwar: A disrespectful term for mankind, meaning 'sickly ones' in Quenya.

    "my head is bloodied, but unbowed"

    CXXXIX. Aid

    They followed the river Gelion north, looking for the Haladin who had taken to the wood and wild places to escape the hand of Morgoth as it fell. Haldad had been thorough in banding his folk together, but there were still those who had preferred to take their chances on their own, living and surviving away from the whole of their kind. Now, with the shadow pushed back and the promise of a new beginning fresh upon them, it was time to gather together what remained of their people for the move to Estolad.

    For the most part, they were silent companions. Haleth would trust this task to none other, and yet, her people were still few and unprotected. She would not take her portion of fighting men with her for her own safety, not when those she left behind needed their shields more than she. And yet, Caranthir would not hear of her riding out alone. He instead offered up his services as her guide and companion (seeing as how her pride had smarted fiercely when he dared to offer his company for her safekeeping), and refused to take no for an answer. Haleth had stormed from the tent when he had dared to push the issue, leaving he and his men baffled in her wake. Though nearly two months had passed since he first aided her people, he still found himself confounded by the mortal woman on a regular basis. He seemed to constantly be causing offense where he intended none, and nearly every issue - no matter how trifle - was met by a stubbornness and pride that set his teeth on edge - and he was of the House of Fëanor, at that, and well used to dealing with fierce temperaments in all of their shapes.

    There were times when he saw what Haleth had to go through to keep the leadership of her people in her hands - for the Haladin had no lord or king, and they only followed Haldad her father out of respect and trust. She had to hold that same respect and trust in order to carry on in her father's position as chieftain, and for that only he understood why she had to respond so fiercely to even the smallest of slights that challenged that authority . . . and yet, the root of her needing to fight so fervently still baffled him. Woman though she may of been, Haleth nonetheless had the courage and fortitude of any man, and it was laughable to him to learn just how much the Atani judged one's strength by one's gender. He would dare these simple sons of men to call Artanis any less for her sex; to call Melian any less powerful, Itarillë any less wise. Nerdanel had been his father's equal in all things - she had been the cool force of a tide to sooth the rabid flame of her husband's spirit, slowing the downward spiral of his madness while she still could. He could not imagine calling her any less capable for Eru having fated her to be born a woman rather than a man.

    While he understood Haleth's fierce need to stand on her own two feet, he still did not understand her cause for offense at he offering his aid. These were lands that he himself was ill at ease to travel alone. He would have offered his sword in protection to a man of his own people, let alone a woman born of Men - for while they were equal in many ways, the simple allotments of nature made him stronger than her, and centuries of battle made him equal to a dozen of her fighting men. It made sense, and it was only the logic of his joining her that eventually cooled her pride enough to allow for his company.

    Well . . . his logic only cooled her pride in part. Haleth still had not spoken a word to him during the first two days of their journey, instead acting as if she traveled alone and he just so happened to share the path with her. Whenever he tried to rein his mount over to ride besides her, Haleth spurred her horse on faster, communicating her distaste with his presence louder than if she had shouted it. Eventually, Caranthir gave up and followed behind her in amusement, as content to follow as she was determined to lead. Unseen by her, he let himself smile, reminded as he was of the Ambarussa when they had protested Nerdanel's attempts to feed them mashed carrots as young children. He did not dare tell her of his observations, instead keeping to the silence she set – which only seemed to frustrate her more than any return of his words. He had always been an island in the swift current of his family, comfortable with his own company while the house of Fëanor was always chaos and confusion around him. He was immortal, he was patient, and so, he could wait her out.

    And so, wait her out he did.

    An arched brow and a comment on the weather were awarded to him on the fifth day for his patience. It was the first time she had acknowledged his presence in any way since leaving her people behind. On the sixth day, they found a family living in a hunter's cottage, hiding away from the scourge of black creatures that had fallen upon the land. Haleth called them forth in Haldad's memory, and sent the family south to join the slowly growing host of the Haladin gathering there. Her mood broke that eve – hope and the tantalizing idea of a life past siege settling into her bones and drawing the smallest of smiles from her mouth.

    Though the Haladin had denied a place on his lands – wishing not to dwell in the shadow of the mountains that had treated them so ill, and even more ill at ease to call an Elf either protector or lord - he still knew a flickering of joy for her happiness. These were a hard people, born of hard lives, and he had a grudging respect growing within him for their triumphing over the struggles of their few days.

    When they set up camp that night, she sat on the other side of the fire from him instead of immediately turning her back on him and pretending to sleep. The days before, he had always prepared enough for two to eat, and she had ignored him every time in favor of eating from her own dried rations. This time she offered him a portion of her meal, and did not turn away from him as she picked at the last few bites of her supper. She stared at him from over the tongues of the flames, her gaze open and frank upon him. Each time he turned away from her, he would look back to find her still watching – weighing, a part of him could not help but feel – and when he raised a brow in question, she was slow to reply.

    Any other woman would have flushed and looked away, embarrassed to have been caught, but she only narrowed her eyes further, refusing to be shamed.

    He had nearly decided to ask her if he had something on his face when, finally, she tilted her head as if coming to a decision. She said, “When my people came over the mountains, we came searching for a light in the west, eager as we were to be far away from the shadow of the Dark Lord, fallen over our birthplace in the east.”

    At first, Caranthir did not understand where she was heading with her saying so. In his time knowing her, Haleth had never before wasted her breath on words that were not necessary for the speaking, and so, there was a question hidden in her words. He leaned in closer to the fire, as if by doing so he could help further his comprehension.

    “We have since learned that the path across the sea is closed to us of mortal years, and yet, those of my kind who passed this way first have said that they have seen the light of the West in the eyes of the Elven-kind. I have seen this light in the eyes of the one we call Nóm - who taught the first house of my people your tongue and your ways of lore. I was little more than a child, and my meeting him was short, and yet, the memory of that light was enough for me to take to my final rest. He is family of yours, is he not?”

    Nóm, Caranthir thought, the name the Atani had given to Finrod. He felt his jaw set with an age old grievance with Arafinwë's children, and yet, he inclined his head. “We are half-cousins,” he answered carefully. “Finrod is the eldest son of my father's youngest half-brother.”

    Slowly, Haleth nodded, her eyes focusing on him as if she were solving a riddle. If she noticed the thin timbre of his voice at admitting the relation, she did not comment on it. “I only ask, because . . . your eyes are not the same. At least, not in whole. I still see that light, and yet, it is shadowed - as if someone has placed a cloud over the sun. I understand if you would call my observations forthright, and wish to let them rest - I simply found myself needing to say so, for it has been a thought my mind comes back to often.”

    He looked down at the campfire, as if by doing so he could hide his eyes for her. The difference was slight, he knew – subtle. She would have to be looking closely to notice it at all. He flexed his sword-hand, anxious for a blade in that moment – for movement rather than words. He was unsure of how to answer such an observation without telling a tale going back many years – a tale which he preferred not to think on himself whenever he could help it.

    He exhaled slowly, looking up only when he realized that she was still staring at him without blinking. He felt a twisting in his gut, admitting then that he had been glad to keep company with one who did not know his name and deeds. She did not know, and the slate between them was still unmarred – well, relatively speaking, of course, for their first meeting had not been the best of first impressions, so to say, but since then . . .

    He respected her, he knew. A part of him grudgingly even liked her, and to see her eyes darken and look away when he told her . . .

    . . . she would not hold his gaze so easily then.

    Nonetheless, he gathered himself, and pushed on anyway. He never believed in lies, not even when they painted himself in a less than flattering light. It was a trait that had earned him the reputation of being harsh at times, never mind that his frank manner heaped trail on his own shoulders as well as it cut through others to match. It was a double edged sword, his tongue, and now . . .

    “This Dark Lord,” he said slowly, answering her in the only way he knew how. “Do you remember Morgoth's visage?”

    “My father was not yet born when my people crossed the mountains,” Haleth answered, once again reminding him of the quick exhale of breath that was a mortal's life. “I was a child when my grandfather told me what his eyes had seen firsthand. Shadow the Dark Lord was; wrath and ruin given form. Terrible to look on, but beautiful for it – something more of the earth itself rather than flesh and bone. The only thing cutting his darkness were the stars – the three stars he wore upon his brow.”

    “Stars . . .” Caranthir said slowly. He felt a tightening in his bones, his Oath stirring as it swam through his blood with a now familiar might. “They are not stars, not quite, but rather three gems – which we call Silmarils. They were created by Fëanor, my father, and the Dark Lord spilled the blood of my grandfather in order to steal them and retreat across the sea to Middle-earth. This happened during the days before the Sun and the Moon; my kind were of the West, and forbidden by the Valar to give pursuit. Yet, that did not stop us. My father swore, and my brothers and I along with him, an Oath to return the Silmarils back to their maker's hands - no matter what fell deed we would have to commit in order to fulfill our vow. We swore by the Everlasting Darkness, taking our Oath to the feet of Eru himself – and thus, he is the only one who can free us from our vow. Yet, Eru's eyes have long been far from this world, and so, our swearing will not be released by any accord but out own.

    “In defying the Valar, we became Kinslayers, spilled the blood of the shipbuilders at the Swan Havens and stealing their craft to sail to Middle-earth. Many . . . many died, and yet, it was as if we were not ourselves then. We were but vessels for our Oath, and even the idea of doing otherwise . . . it was like fire over our bones, a burning in our hearts. It was as a physical pain to do anything other than fulfill our vow, and then . . . when the deed was done, and the horror of what we did was before us . . .” He swallowed, gathering himself.

    “My eyes are shadowed, reminding me of my Oath and the Darkness that awaits our souls for failure. My father was slain by Morgoth's filth shortly upon reaching this land, and now our Oath is left to us to fulfill. For now, our Oath sleeps for so long as the Silmarils are worn upon Morgoth's crown. Our vow will be complete when Morgoth is destroyed, and I am . . . I am grateful that the path we must walk is a path that runs parallel with the aid of all . . . with the good of all . . . When those paths again stray from each other . . . it is this fear, more than anything else that darkens my eyes. No matter how I try, it is a dimming that I cannot will away.”

    It felt odd to speak of this . . . to give a voice to his fears, his innermost thought. Fëanor's fourth son he was; as sharp as a blade, and as dark as shadow, others would say. If Maedhros had inherited Fëanor's strength in both mind and hand; Maglor his power with words; Curufin his cruelty and the inferno of his artist's mind; Celegorm his temper and his way with the wild and open places; the Ambarussa his strange understanding of the makeup and marrow of their world, then Caranthir bore Fëanor's sharp lines – the jagged pieces that cut into his own skin as well as others . . . insecurities and doubts hiding deep beneath bone and the wicked lines of temperament he used to hide those parts of himself away. Normally, he would do his best to keep those points covered, and yet, he felt an edge dull as he gave his words to her - dull as a stone being smoothed down by the current of the river above. He wanted to tell her all that weighed upon his mind. He wanted to share this part of himself with her, and that realization was a curious truth to his thoughts indeed.

    “I fear that a day will come when our Oath no longer coincides with the good of these lands,” he found the words spilling out, where earlier he would have done anything to keep them silent. “I fear . . .”

    Blood on the water. Ships burning on the horizon. Sea salt and pine ash and the metallic taste of blood all mingling together and overpowering to his senses . . . Yes, he feared this more than anything else - more than the Everlasting Darkness, even, its black arms waiting to embrace him every time he closed is eyes; confident and sure as it was of his fall, confident and expectant as it was of his failure.

    A long moment passed. The only sound between them was the cheerful crackling of the fire in its place. Somewhere past them, an owl sang in the wood, welcoming the moon to the sky as it took its hunt, and still, he waited.

    He finally found the courage to look up, expecting to see Haleth turned away and unable to meet his gaze. He looked, and yet, she still stared at him without blinking. The flames caught in the blue of her eyes, granting them an almost unearthly light as they found his own.

    “Some would say that right and wrong are black and white,” Haleth said after a moment. Her mortal years – her child's wisdom – drew him short of breath as he waited for her verdict. A prince of the Eldar he was, and yet, he was all but anxious for her words – he was nervous with expectation for her judgments. A small part of him felt as if he were a boy before his father's gaze again, waiting, hoping – please do not find me wanting. “And yet . . . ” she shaped her words carefully, giving each one weight and shape before she spoke them, “All too often life is the grey between the white and the black. If such a creation was left of my father's hands – a creation stolen by a foul being, at the cost of the blood of my kin, at that . . . there would then be no force in this world that would be able to stop me from seizing it back. Yes . . . I can understand your oath in the smallest of ways.”

    She exhaled, the motion too faint to be a sigh. She seemed older to him in that moment, weary in a way he could not understand. He waited for her to find her words.

    “And yet . . . I would also have you remember that life is made of choices. You made a choice to swear this vow, and now you can choose how you go about fulfilling it. You can recover your father's Silmarils while still keeping your honor and your pride intact. You are stronger than such mindless slaughter, that much I know true of you.”

    He looked, and saw as she smiled. It was the smallest of things, but it was something he did not know that he searched for until he found it. His mouth opened and closed as he swallowed away his words. Relief was an odd, weightless feeling about his shoulders. It was the same breathless, boneless feeling that came at the end of a battle when he still stood where others had fallen. It was the same feeling that came when he felt at the bonds upon his soul, feeling each part of his thinly stretched family still alive and surviving in this land of shadow and swords. He made a fist of his hands, but found that he could not hide his relief away.

    “Do not look at me like that,” Haleth said after a moment, her cheeks flushing. “I offer you no absolution - I am simply not one to judge what I do not understand. This world is violent and dark – and what your kind would call kinslaying is all too common amongst my own people, especially east of the mountains. Men have never hesitated from turning upon each other when murder would more easily grant to them either vengeance or gain. All I know now, and will continue to know, is that you have helped my people without hope of reward or gratitude in return. In those deeds there has been honor and nobleness . . . kindness, even. Whatever your past deeds are, it is what you do now that I choose to see . . . what I will always continue to see.”

    He was silent in the wake of her words. He could not think of what to say in reply – and that, more than anything else, seemed to amuse her. There was satisfaction in the thin line of her mouth, ghosting over her smile.

    “Now get some sleep, elf,” she said, closing their conversation as she leaned back against her bedroll. She laid on her back, folding her arms beneath her head so that she could stare up at the stars. “The ride is long tomorrow, and I will not wish to stop when you tire.”

    “As the lady commands,” Caranthir said after a heartbeat, amused. He glanced at her, trying to unravel an answer beyond his reach as he looked to where the firelight fought with the silver light from above across her features. She did not close her eyes, and yet, she seemed as content with the silence as he.

    After a moment, he too laid back, and let his eyes find the stars.

    CXL. Kinship

    It was the first time the seven had been together as one in centuries.

    Caranthir had been restless since reaching Himring, and in that restlessness he reached the council chamber first. He took the seat furthest from the entrance, leaning back so that he could watch the room as a whole. He did not have long to wait before his brothers filed into the room – first Maedhros with his eyes like sunlight glinting off of steel, all but burning for the events they had gathered to discuss. Maglor was only steps behind their first, ever in Maedhros' shadow for the closeness of their years. Maglor took his seat while Maedhros remained standing, humming absently and tapping his fingers against the maps that covered the table before him. His eyes were soft with a gentleness that all too many confused with a weakness of heart, and yet, the smile he gave upon seeing him was warm in shape. He was as a hearth fire in a family of stars, and always had Caranthir been grateful for him.

    The twins entered next with silent steps, their motions seemingly synchronized between them as they pulled their chairs out and took their seats at exactly the same time; their movements eerily fluid with their seamless execution. Caranthir looked, and saw where the Ambarussa blinked as one, where they tilted their heads in the same way and folded their hands to match, each one in perfect unison with the other. The years had been long since last they were together, and Caranthir found himself struggling to tell Amrod from Amras - and he had known them since infancy.

    Amrod – or was it Amras? - met his gaze and raised a brow, as if guessing his thoughts. He looked away from the odd brightness of his eyes, trying to remember if it was Amras who had that freckle so close to the right side of his nose, or was it -

    His musings were cut short by the last of his brothers arriving. Celegorm and Curufin came in together, as was their wont. Though Caranthir was born fourth, and Curufin fifth, Celegorm found more in common with their younger brother than with he. Caranthir had been pushed aside as a playmate for the younger child all of those years ago, and their bonds had continued to strengthen and grow as such as the centuries passed. Celegorm wore a hunting look upon his face, and Curufin bore a sharpness about his features that thrived on the promise of violence in the maps and charts of troops before him. The years had turned Curufin's eyes to blades, the hollow lines of his face pointed with hardness and foul temper. Curufin had always been mercurial in emotion, but now he seemed to cling to that one high rather than waver between those feelings hot and cold. He reminded Caranthir all too much of Fëanor in his last days – even in his face, he was a nearly exact copy of their father - and it was not a remembrance he cared much to reflect on. He kept his expression carefully blank when Curufin glanced to him, as if guessing the thoughts that turned upon the surface of his mind .

    Celegorm was alone, Caranthir realized after a heartbeat. He was so used to seeing Huan in his brother's shadow that it took him a moment to realize what was missing. The wolfhound had been Celegorm's dearest companion since Caranthir himself was small, and to see Huan absent (dead for aiding another, the thought hurt) when he was apart of their family as much as any of they . . .

    He looked, and saw where his brother's eyes were more grey than green, darkened as if from smoke. The white gold of his braids were hastily plaited, and the healthily tanned shade of his skin was pale . . . pallid and drawn. His eyes sat as bruises upon his face, sunken and shadowed. He did not look . . . right to Caranthir's eyes, all but rippling within his own skin as he sat down at the table and forced himself to stillness.

    “Clearly, we are here to plan our assault,” Celegorm was the first one to speak over the greetings and polite well wishes. Eyes turned to him, but no one spoke in reply. “The witch's ring of enchantment around Doriath presents a challenge, and yet -”

    “ - we are here to plan our attack, but not in the way you think,” Maedhros interrupted from where he was still standing at the head of the table. Where Celegorm spoke as an arrow striking its target, Maedhros' voice was a quiet strength, like the wind through the mountain ways. Ever since Thangorodrim, Maedhros had been thinner and harsher than Caranthir remembered him being in Aman. Gone was the gentle confidant and proud tutor of many, and in his place was a quiet simmer of a flame and an almost calculating caution. Even though many years had passed, Caranthir could still see the telling silver of scars flash in the torchlight, each whispering a tale of wounds survived rather than torments suffered. From his youngest days, Caranthir had known nothing but a solemn awe and respect for his oldest brother, and he felt a wrongness in that awe being challenged now, even by one of his brethren.

    . . . for he looked, and saw that Celegorm was all but seething in reply to Maedhros' words. Caranthir sat up straighter, feeling as the air turned charged, like the sky before lightning struck .

    “What . . . do you mean? ” Celegorm enunciated his words carefully, each syllable lined with teeth.

    “I mean as I said,” Maedhros did not blink in the face of Celegorm's temper. "Lúthien has given to these lands a gift greater than she may ever know – she has given these people hope. She has shown to all that Morgoth is not as invincible as he would have us believe. He has shown weakness, and we will move now, strike now, while that weakness is at its most vulnerable point.”

    “An all out attack on Morgoth?” Curufin surmised, his tone dubious. He raised a sharply arched brow, the look as a wound upon his face. “Why would we do so, when to take the Silmaril from Lúthien's hands, we need only go through two mortal lives? They are weak right now, they are defenseless -

    “ - I have written to Thingol, expressing our claim to the jewel and requesting that he relinquish his right,” Maedhros said, his voice thin. “And because of my having to do so, Thingol has replied to me - calling me despicable and ungracious for even daring to mention our claim. He accuses me of having no honor or fellow feeling in the face of what his daughter had to go through in order to win the Silmaril. And, as a result, Thingol will give not of men to aid our cause. By striking at Morgoth, not only shall we fight for the good of these lands, but we shall also reclaim two of the Silmarils rather than one. Perhaps, when our day is won and our forces are proven victorious, we can again ask Thingol to see reason, and present our case to a softened heart.”

    “So that is it, then? You would simply bow before this Moriquendi king, rather than fight for what is rightfully ours?” Curufin scorned.

    “A son of Fëanor would beg for Thingol's favor like a dog beneath the table?” Celegorm carried on his brother's words. “A son of Fëanor would kneel, when instead, he should answer in force, and show to this Dark Elf who truly holds the power in these lands - ”

    “ - my bowing, my begging, is what you have pushed me to do,” Maedhros snapped in reply, his voice a low, dangerous sound from his mouth. Caranthir could feel his presence rise to fill the air around them, a smothering heat of spirit that reminded him of the flames waiting just beneath the crust of the earth. “You have dealt dishonorably with Lúthien Thingoliel with your actions at Nargothrond, and for that, we all must pay the price for your arrogance and stupidity.”

    “Arrogance . . . stupidity, you would call it? At least I actively sought for a way to force Thingol's cooperation with our Oath,” Celegorm returned, his every word trembling with suppressed rage. The small chamber seemed even smaller then, Fëanor's flame filling the enclosed space and consuming it. “With Doriath behind us, I would not question your decision to take the fight to Morgoth's door. At least I acted as a prince, and sought to fix to me my equal with Lúthien as my bride. Instead you would bow before Thingol, just as you bowed to Nolofinwë, casting aside our father's crown as if it were rubbish you could not wait to be rid of . . . ”

    “Tell me, brother,” Curufin turned to Maedhros, his words silky with an oiled cruelty. In anger, his voice was a match for Fëanor's rage, filling the conversation with his ghost. “Does Fingon look on this plan of yours with pride? Does he look on you with love for the gracious and generous ways of your heart? Who do you serve - your kindred in both Oath and blood, or him?”

    Maedhros' face fixed darkly. At his side, Maglor stood, placing a gentle hand on his arm. Caranthir could feel a cool presence rise alongside the miasma of wrath and flame, and knew that Maglor tried to cool the tempers in the room as Nerdanel so often had before him. Even so, his eyes too were hard with disapproval as he looked at his younger brothers.

    Silent until then, Caranthir leaned forward, turning his own words in defense of their first. He said, “You speak of honor, Celegorm, and yet, Atar would have known shame for the way his sons dealt with Lúthien. Force and trickery . . . guile and blows? Do you not have charms enough to woo your maid with honey, instead of having to resort to such vinegar? To have to take Beren from the world by force when your own courtship proved to be for naught . . . Even Fëanor would have acknowledged you as no sons of his for your actions.”

    Celegorm surged to his feet, and the room turned hot around him. His eyes were as embers, bright within the dark shade of his face. His hand came to rest upon the blade at his belt, the threat in his every tense muscle clearer than any spoken word.

    Curufin stood as well, nearly liquid in his motions. He placed a hand on his brother's arm, holding him back as he said, “Yes, Moryo, we all know of your taste for Engwar maids. It is a shame that Beren was not of like persuasion, else you could
    have done us quite the favor indeed.”

    Maiden, not maids," Caranthir returned, seeing no reason to hide his feeling so. He rose slowly, placing no hurry in his movements as he unstrapped his dagger from his side and placed it on the table before him. He looked Celegorm in the eye, not blinking at the wildfire he saw raging within. “I loved one of the Atani, it is true, and for the blinking of an eye I was blessed to have her love in return. You have only regret and black deeds to your heart, and for that I pity you. It is that pity that would have me say that you look for your fight in the wrong place - Doriath is not your enemy; Morgoth is and there is wisdom in Maitimo's words.”

    “Wisdom?” Celegorm barked out a hoarse sound, what may once have been a laugh. “In what manner? Maitimo is nothing but a soft heart; craven to the black truth of what must be done, and taken in all too easily by Findekáno's romanticized notions of valiance and chivalry. He is not worthy of our father's name, or to lead us in - ”

    Faster than Caranthir could follow, Maedhros surged forward. He pushed Celegorm back until the broad line of his shoulders hit the wall with a bone rattling thud. Celegorm struggled against his hold, but he was not able to keep the other from pinning his arms to his side and forcing him to stillness. Flipping the blade from his brother's hand, Maedhros turned Celegorm's own dagger on him, pressing it down in warning against his neck when he continued to struggle against him.

    Curufin turned to aid his brother, but Maglor held him back, he too having stepped forward faster than Caranthir would have thought him capable of moving. Maglor looked on Curufin in warning, preventing him from moving forward. Curufin glared darkly, but was still.

    Maedhros was the only one of the brothers who matched Celegorm in height. Celegorm was broader, more heavily muscled, but even he could not move underneath the iron of Maedhros' grasp. Maedhros' face was a pale mask of fey anger in that moment, all sharp teeth flashing beneath thin lips as his eyes burned with a fire that was all Fëanor rekindled and Angband survived. He pressed the blade down as Celegorm continued to fight his hold, turning the edge until it took a thin line of red as its token.

    “Question my right to lead again, Tyelkormo, and I will send you to join Atar in Mandos' halls - do not think me incapable of that.” Celegorm spluttered, but Maedhros was unyielding. The blade bit deeper into his skin. “I gave my crown to our uncle for the sake of peace, and peace only. Without that peace we would not be able to even begin contemplating an assault against Morgoth now. You are a fool indeed if you think it weakness on my part to cast the kingship aside, rather than cold rationale and strategy for the longer road to come. And yet, you have never been able to see the bigger picture, else your doings at Nargothrond would have gone much differently indeed, would they have not? Perhaps, it would be better for all if you kept solely to your hunts, and left the playing of this game to those better equipped to win it. ”

    Celegorm's eyes narrowed, all defiance and spitting sparks as he glared. A burning red light seemed to cling to Maedhros then, his fëa swimming close to the surface of his skin with the force of his anger. Only then did Celegorm seem to still, realizing the precarious position he had landed himself in. “Challenge me again, and I will not hesitate to grant to you the kinslaying that you are all too eager to stain your hands with,” Maedhros all but growled the threat into Celegorm's ear, satisfied with the silence he received in reply. “Consider that my oath and solemn vow, brother.”

    Maedhros pressed the flat of the blade down once more, only drawing away when the other at last struggled for breath. He shoved Celegorm away, letting him breathe, and the hunter stumbled only a step before catching himself. He coughed, trying to regain his breath as he rubbed at the raw skin of his neck.

    “Fine then,” Celegorm all but spat his words, glaring at his brother with mulish eyes. “We will do it your way. We will play your game, we will fight when Fingon says fight, but know that when our banner falls for victory or defeat, I will march on Doriath with a sword if the Silmaril is not released to our hands. And you will then follow me, brother, for your Oath and Fëanor's blood within you will allow you to do nothing else. Remember the words that you too spoke? 'Neither law, nor love ,'” he hissed that one word out, the single syllable an awful sound from his mouth, “'nor league of swords will keep the Silmarils from Fëanáro and Fëanáro's kin.' This you too vowed, and this you too are sworn to uphold.”

    “You need not remind me of my oaths,” Maedhros said, and for the first, his words sounded weary, “for they haunt me all but daily . . . more than you would know or think.”

    “On that day then,” Celegorm vowed, showing his teeth. “On that day . . . Doriath shall fall.”

    “And yet, until that day,” the hardness once again returned to Maedhros' voice, “you will heed me on this. Not a hand will be raised to Lúthien or her kin in violence until either her father sees reason, or she finds her fate in mortal death - upon which we will address this matter again. Do I make myself clear, Tyelkormo?”

    A moment passed. For a heartbeat, Caranthir thought that Celegorm would challenge Maedhros again. And yet . . . “Perfectly,” at long last, the one word rumbled from Celegorm's chest. He gave a shallow, mocking bow to his first before straightening. The green was completely gone from his eyes, Caranthir saw. He did not think it would ever return again.

    “Excellent,” Maedhros drew the single word out in irritation. He took his seat after a long moment, only breaking Celegorm's gaze to turn to the maps that had been laid out earlier. “If that is now settled, this is what Findekáno and I have planned, and decided . . .”

    CXLI. Falter

    Of course, they could only resist for so long before their Oath turned them towards Doriath.

    Their assault on the Morgoth failed, and the battle's end showed so many of their number claimed by death that they were beyond the counting of grief. With their league broken, Morgoth now walked freely through the lands and their own people were broken and scattered, lost to the wild and desolate places as they did anything and everything to distract themselves from the vow they had so long ago sworn.

    It was as those first days with their Oath all over again, Caranthir thought. The tugging on their bones had not been this strong since they had struggled to find their way from Aman. Their Oath was as a whip's lash upon a thrall, striking their souls and driving them ever forward. The Darkness all but laughed at them with every day they spent in defiance of fulfilling their vow. It became as an obsession in their hearts, filling them more than blood and tender tissue, more than any bright light of soul. It was a burning that licked at their hearts and filled their spirits, until, at long last . . .

    After many days, grey with her years and satisfied with life, Lúthien laid down in the ever-sleep of men, and her Silmaril fell to the keeping of her son. This time, when Celegorm spoke his angry words, and Curufin gave his own arguments in support, Maedhros had no choice but to agree. The righteous fire that he had fueled himself on since recovering from Angband had bled out in the wake of the Nírnaeth Arnoediad. His veins were now dry of feeling, and his heart was even more barren still. The bright lines and fight of spirit in their first's eyes had faded to ash and ember. The scarred flesh he had built up over his jagged lines was drawn away again with Fingon's death, and Maedhros had no care to now hide his bones away. He was curt and cutting, his eyes pale with apathy as they prepared their host to march on Doriath - an easy siege now with Melian departed to Valinor and the Doriathrim weakened by the attack of the Naugrim just those few decades prior. Dior was a young king, a foolish king, and his meager attempts at protecting his people would amount to naught.

    Arrogant child, Caranthir could not help but think. For trying to keep true to the haughty power of Thingol's crown and the sweeping epic of Beren and Lúthien's trials and tragedies, Dior would give up the Silmaril not, and his people would suffer for it.

    Caranthir thought now of the blood that was his to spill, and felt his stomach turn with a hunger that was more than a thirst of flesh. It was a hunger that had taken him once before, and yet, sating that beast then had soothed him not, nor had it drawn their Oath to a fulfillment.

    . . . and this time? Would this time be different? How could this time be any different, even if they were successful in their quest? He wondered, but could not be sure.

    He was not able to sleep the night before, remembering only Alqualondë and the slaughter there. He thought of the massacre on the quays, he remembered the red on the waves and the screams. They had tried truly to aid this land whilst fulfilling their Oath, disguising their need for vengeance and petty ownership with righteousness, and the Valar had doomed their actions for their core. For every lie they had told themselves, they had a dozen truths revealed, and now, he did not care for the reflection the mirror returned.

    She would be ashamed of you, he could not help but think as he strapped his armor on. For every hard and unyielding line she herself bore, Haleth would have been ashamed of the choice he made today.

    . . . the care and opinion of one mortal woman, centuries dead now, weighed upon him more than he had ever cared for his father's opinion, even. It was almost enough to turn the suffocating shroud of his Oath from his shoulders. It was enough to make him question, at the very least, where he had so blindly followed before.

    While marching to Doriath, Maglor sought him out at the head of their host, touching his shoulder in an empty encouragement. Where Maedhros was all blank, deadened eyes, and Celegorm and Curufin all but sparking to the touch for the fight to come, Maglor was quiet and withdrawn. His eyes held the same disillusionment that Caranthir bore, and yet he would not turn away from the words that bound them with such a fell force. He wondered if Maglor thought of his wife, back beyond the sea. He wondered if his brother remembered Nyarissë in Aman, and knew shame for the dishonor he brought to her – his name and deeds now made her own through their spirit's bond.

    And yet . . . such thoughts did not matter for long. They fell upon the twilit wood in the cold of a winter storm, stealing through the trees with their weeping veils of white and then forcing their way into the stone halls of Menegroth to take what was theirs by force.

    Caranthir looked on the melee as it started with sickened eyes. Up was down and down was up as swords flashed and the blood of kindred spilled once again. He did not know which was worse, the rolling of loathing and self-hatred in his stomach or the burning in his bones ever urging him forward. His Oath pushed him, all but pulling at his stride and forcing his sword-arm to action. He felt his vow rise within him – neither law, nor love, nor league of swords – and yet, he could not . . .

    He could not draw his sword.

    At his side, his siblings and the men following them waded into the wave of Sindarin soldiers. He looked, but saw where Celegorm had little care for the ranks trying to stop him. He moved with deadly assurance and hardly constrained rage throughout the halls, his destination already clear in mind – a destination which Caranthir understood with a sudden coldness of clarity that broke upon him like a wave upon the shore.

    The children, he understood then. Dior's children. Lúthien's grandchildren . . . young ones with Beren's strong brow and Lúthien's twilit eyes . . . their's was a heritage that Celegorm considered to be a theft even greater than the Silmarils. Children . . . grandchildren . . . a heritage of heirs and familial bonds that Celegorm considered unfairly denied to him. He . . .

    His brother was not in his right mind, Caranthir finally admitted the truth, even if only to himself. Celegorm had not been himself for much too long, and now . . . He saw the rush of madness in his brother's eyes as he followed him through the halls. He saw the same cruel light that had taken Fëanor burn, he saw it consume, and he -

    No, he thought when he heard the children scream – discovered and torn from their hiding place. There was a fey gleam in Celegorm's eyes, murder and violence sparking from his skin as his men laughed along with him, and then -

    Caranthir did not think, he only reacted. He rushed at his brother, knocking the stronger elf away from the young ones with a ferocity that surprised even him. He had a brief moment of seeing the twins' human shaped eyes turn wide with fear in their elvish faces, and the combination struck him like a lance, greater than the Oath screaming through his veins, demanding that he fulfill his vow of tongue, that he finish it.

    For the first, a son of Fëanor turned his back on the Oath of his father. He accepted the Darkness as payment in return, he held his arms open to the Void and thought only: let it come. He was willing to pay for the consequences of his words and actions. And he was willing to pay that price alone.

    He had only a moment in which Celegorm was surprised, stunned by the attack from his own blood, and Caranthir had only that heartbeat in which to unsheathe his dagger and sink it in deep between the lacings of the other's armor, holding it in and twisting, ignoring the bonds of kith and kin between them in order to do what had to be done. Beyond him, the children ran, and he hoped that they would find a safe place amidst the confusion and the violence. He hoped, and yet . . .

    He looked, and saw shock warring with the pain in his brother's eyes. But nothing escaped Celegorm's mouth but for a gurgling of blood, a broken exhale of air. One of the last he had left within him, now.

    Caranthir caught Celegorm as he slumped forward, still holding the dagger in tight. Even so, he soothed the other, brushing his hair from his face and leaning in to hold him as close as he could. He rocked him as if he were a small child, comforting him as pain bloomed in his eyes, agony and acceptance and rage mingling all at once . . . and a childish fear and denial beneath it all, twisting inside of Caranthir's heart with a pain to match.

    “I could not let you damn yourself this way,” he whispered into the other's ear. “Please forgive me, Tyelko, but I could not . . .”

    Celegorm blinked. Caranthir felt his hands make fists in his sleeves - whether to push him away, or to cling to him for support, he did not know.

    “Shh, brother,” he whispered. “Everything will be better soon.”

    You have a choice, he could still hear her voice whisper in his ear. Soft and strong, she remained a cherished memory, even after these long years past. You chose to swear your Oath, and you can choose how to fulfill it with honor and pride. He remembered her words, and he wondered, that when he gave his last breath . . . would he, perhaps . . .

    He held his brother, uncaring as the hall filled with Sindarin soldiers. Dior himself rushed into his son's rooms, his eyes wild with a parent's fear and the bloodlust that came with the battle. Caranthir did not rise to the violence in the Elven-king's gaze. His sword laid untouched at his side, his bow at rest upon his back. He simply patted down his brother's hair, and held him close. He felt a moment of regret for those he would leave behind – knowing that Maedhros would see his sheathed weapons, and know . . . Maglor would have one more verse to add to his song in lament, he thought. For the first, Caranthir could give him something noble to include - something that was more than death and pain, something that was honorable, something that was penance.

    Celegorm's fingers clutched at his arms. The grey of his eyes was glazed, far away. Caranthir wondered if the Darkness truly waited for them, or something else. Perhaps, Eru would see, and Námo would look down on them and know pity . . .

    “Moryo?” finally, Celegorm forced the two syllables out. His teeth were wet and red when he spoke, his voice a pained exhale of sound. The name was one that Caranthir had not heard in much too long, Moryo, so dark and strange, his brothers would laugh and tease – in Aman, there had been humor to the name. It had been an endearment. But in Endórë where all was stained with shadow and blood . . . “Moryo . . . it is dark now . . . I cannot see you.”

    Perhaps . . . it was more fitting an appellation than first they had known.

    “Close your eyes, brother,” he whispered into the other's hair. “It will all be over soon, and I . . . I will follow you.”

    He exhaled, closing his eyes as he caught sight of Dior with his sword raised high . . . and accepted the end.


    Sooooo . . . the end there was not quite canon, I know. I kept to Dior killing Celegorm (technically) - just Dior dying in return I rather fudged. Perhaps Curufin was right behind his brothers, and they took the other life for life there. Either way, I have such a tale built up for Caranthir in my mind, and dying a Kinslayer once again did not figure in. So! Here we are as a result. :p

    Now . . . I need to go work on something completely fluffy. ;)

    ~MJ @};-
    Anedon likes this.
  17. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Aug 31, 2004
    Excellent! Vivid and fits well with character/nature of the ones involved. The picture I derive of Haleth is one of insightfulness and compassion: rather like Luke of Mara. And just like Mara did at the end of TTT, ;) it was a source of relief and surprise: Do I deserve such clemency? [face_thinking] It's not so much a letting off the hook as much as it is of starting over from now. @};- @};- And looking forward to your mush [face_dancing]
  18. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Jun 29, 2004
    Nyota's Heart: Why thank-you! There are definitely some Luke and Mara vibes going on with these two when it comes to past deeds and redemption. That is something I adore about their dynamic - they both have hard edges and stern temperaments, but they mesh. [face_love] I am glad you enjoyed that drivel. [:D]

    Author's Notes: Now, for the mush! There is definitely a line of bittersweet-ness here, but it is romance in the truest sense, plain and simple. Next up, I am almost done with my reply to the latest NSWFF prompt, and it is pretty much just fluff and banter. This thread looked like it could use some. ;)

    For my notes, I do not have much, just a few brush ups . . .

    Anairë: Wife of Fingolfin, mother of Fingon, Turgon, Aredhel, and Argon. Absolutely nothing of her character or backstory is known besides her refusing to go to Middle-earth, so I had a blank slate to work with here. I am on a kick with rembodiment fics, so I had to have a reunion of soul-mates creep in here somewhere. ;) [face_love]

    Fingolfin: Finwë's second son, with his wife Indis. He was the King of the Noldor in exile after Maedhros handed over his father's crown. After the Battle of Sudden Flame, seeing the losses of his people and the hopelessness of their plight, he challenged Melkor to a one on one duel. While he lost the fight - for a Vala could not be killed - he actually caused Melkor to tremble in fear. He took seven wounds from Melkor, and from that battle, Melkor walked with a limp ever after. Rather than leave his body to Melkor, the Eagles swept in and flew his corpse to Gondolin, where Turgon buried his father. Eventually, we can assume he was returned to life anew in Aman, which is where we are here. :)

    Nolofinwë: Fingolfin
    Arafinwë: Finarfin
    Findaráto: Finrod
    Fëanáro: Fëanor
    Maitimo: Maedhros
    Findekáno: Fingon
    Arakáno: Argon
    Turukáno: Turgon
    Itarillë: Idril
    Irissë: Aredhel
    Lómion: Maeglin
    Endórë: Middle-earth

    And now, enjoy! :)

    "so beats the heart"

    CXLII. Heart

    The gardens of Lórien were all the hues of a never ending dusk and the teasing dance of silver mists. Weeping willows swayed upon the shores of Lake Lorellin, the dark blue waters exuding peace and calm as they sloshed gently against the confines of their cradle. Beyond the willow trees grew tall, silver-blue evergreens and elegant cedar trees, each drowsy with their fragrance as they danced to the far off sound of singing voices within Irmo's halls. Anairë breathed, and inhaled the delicate scent of the silver night-flowers, and the more spicy note of the red poppies that glowed in the ever lingering mist. Just above her, she could hear the haunting song of the nightingales as they filled the half-light with their melody. The waves whispered against the shore, hypnotic and murmuring as they played in time with the pulse of her heart.

    For all of its beauty and healing, Lórien was a realm that Anairë did not often visit. She had seen the realm of Irmo once before as a child, so long ago. She had still been small behind her mother's skirts then, timid and hiding, even as she was encouraged to dip her hand in the lake by one of the silvery Maiar who walked the gardens like specters in the mist. She had returned as a woman grown to experience that same peace again after the Darkening of Valinor – leaving Tirion only after her good-brother was secure upon the throne and her people were once again building for the future with zeal and hope in their hearts. Anairë had not found what she had been looking for then. Peace was then beyond her reach, searching as she had been for a way to fill the emptiness of her home and heart with the enchanted garden's song of healing. While many said that the gardens gave them a weightlessness of spirit and a heartfelt peace . . . she had not found such a balm for her soul then. How could she, when she was alone . . . alone and . . .

    Anairë breathed in deep, and let the breath out slow.

    Now she was summoned to Lórien by Irmo himself. She stood where the grove of willow trees made a natural curtain to Irmo's halls. Within the Vala's keeping, there was an old soul just returned to life anew; his lungs given breath and a his heart a beat once more. Before, she had hidden the part of her fëa that was his in a far off corner of her spirit, unable to bear the gaping chasm it had became after his fall. And yet, that small ember was now fanned into being once more, growing to again take root and flower, deep within her soul. What had once been empty was now filling with a familiar light, spilling over the edges of her spirit to warm what had been cold for far too long.

    Filled . . . full . . . for centuries, such a thing had been nothing more than a hazy theory, a half formed idea in the deep places of her mind. It had been something so painfully lovely that she had feared shattering the thought if she all but whispered it too loudly. Slowly, the lands of Aman would fill with the Twice-born, and she had resigned herself to patiently waiting for her turn to welcome her family to life anew . Waiting . . . waiting she had been, ever resigned and dutiful . . . waiting for what felt like an eternity, ageless though she was.

    Arafinwë and Eärwen had both been called forth by Námo to witness the rebirth of their son – for Findaráto had been the first of the Twice-born welcomed back to Valinor, and the Lord of Souls would have those who gave him life first there to witness his gift of life anew. Anairë was glad that she had not been called to Mandos' grey halls to see her husband's soul called forth and crafted into being once more before her eyes. It wasn't so much the process of rebirth that unsettled her, but to see those black curtains, and know that somewhere beyond, each of her children laid still in death . . . children she had brought into the world; children she had held, and raised, and loved . . . Anairë had exhausted her share of strength over the centuries, and she would not have been strong enough to stand so close, but still so far away, even to see the one she loved as her other half brought to life again.

    She had known jealousy, at first, as shameful as it was for the blessing given to her friend. She tried to swallow it away for Eärwen's sake - for she was happy for her good-sister, truly she was. And yet, she had lost a son . . . a daughter . . . a husband . . . long before Findaráto had drawn his last breath. While Arafinwë and Eärwen deserved every blessing allotted to them, she had looked on, and she had known envy. Envy and yearning.

    She understood why, of course. She understood Námo's decision in a logical way - for Findaráto gave his life for another, for a mortal man and his hopeless love. There was beauty in that sacrifice, she knew, and such beauty deserved to be rewarded. Ever was Anairë patient, and she could wait. Ever was she dutiful, whether it be to her father, her husband, or the Valar themselves. She would question them not, and hold her silent yearning in close to her heart. She would be faithful, and give her hope a fresh breath with each passing day.

    Now, at long last, her hope was realized and real before her. She stood upon the shores of the lake, her posture straight and her shoulders squared to match the ground beneath her. Her robes were pristine; pressed to fall about her without a wrinkle, and cut to fit her just so. The pale blue color emphasized her ivory white skin and night black hair, while the front of the dress was elegantly embroidered with the wine red and blue-violet colors her husband had favored in life. The pile of braids atop her head was perfectly pinned in place, each coil and artful plait oiled until they gleamed, with not a hair daring to move from its place. Her face was a serene mask, elegant and grave in countenance as befit a high lady - a princess - of the Noldor. She would let herself be seen as nothing else, especially within the dwelling of a Vala and his wife. She would not let anything take that dignity from her, not even . . .

    Her pulse raced beneath her skin, betraying the calm she was so desperately trying to hold on to and grasp as her own. She could feel her heartbeat pound against her wrists; she could feel as it thundered against her chest, as if looking for an escape. She tried to breathe in deep, but she could not get her pulse to slow, no matter how she tried.

    Frustrated, Anairë clasped her hands together. The long fabric draped down from her sleeves to hide the way they trembled, and, for that, she was grateful.

    She inhaled, but no matter how deep a breath she took, her breath still came quick and eager from her lungs. She was as giddy as a child with her excitement, as eager as she was for an old grief to scar over and heal. A part of her was surprised by the fervency of her emotions, while another part of her knew better – had always known better. While many in Tirion and beyond called her marriage to her husband a marriage of convenience, a match made for political ties and bonds, she knew as well as he that that was not so, and for so long, that had been all that had mattered.

    The rumors were true, in the smallest of ways. She and Nolofinwë were not the nearly tangible flame that had followed Fëanáro and Nerdanel – for everything that Fëanáro touched burned, and his love was no exception. The restless tongues and immortal eyes of her kind would find no tale to whisper for their public dealings with each other, for ill or for well, and that was the way she preferred it. Their marriage was not even the warm and gentle grace that followed Arafinwë and Eärwen like sunlight on the water. They were something soft – cold, Fëanáro had thrown at his brother more than once – and yet, she could imagine no better compliment to her soul than he.

    “A strong match,” her father had praised, his hand cool upon her cheek, when he learned that she had accepted the prince's proposal. Anairë had only nodded in reply then, agreeing. For really, that was how they had started, and most assumed that to be the whole of their relationship.

    She had allowed Nolofinwë's courtship, not out of a great and soul binding attraction formed at first sight – as so many of their kind did - but rather, because it was what her father wanted. Her father had been Finwë's closest adviser and dear friend since the days of the Awakening, and it was the wish of both to bind their children together in marriage if their hearts were so inclined. Anairë was nothing if not a dutiful daughter, and she had followed her father's wishes. In those days, she had simply been grateful that her father had turned from Finwë's heir as a possibility for her hand to his secondborn son instead, wisely foreseeing where she would have been smothered beneath Fëanáro's flame.

    She had not protested the choice of her father – for it had not been hard to love Nolofinwë, but rather, natural and easy. He was Fëanáro's beauty and wisdom without his ferocity and his untamable edges. He was polite and courteous, even if he kept so much of himself hidden deep beneath the surface. Like she did, Anairë had thought at the time. He matched her spirit in shape, she discovered over time. They fit, was the easiest way for her to explain their soul's bond. Even though Fëanáro had often scathed at his brother in scorn for his cool marriage and unpassionate bride, she knew the shape of her relationship with her husband, and knew that their easy affection suited both of them. Fëanáro did not know, and she had never deemed him worthy of explaining.

    Now, child, Irmo had a soft, lulling voice that was all starlight on the water and a warm wind through the swaying trees. The Valar were spirit creatures, created of Ilúvatar's thoughts, and yet they found their voices in order to speak to the children of Arda with words to match their own. He whispered into her mind, soft and gentle, He comes to you.

    Move slowly, Námo spoke alongside his brother, sounding like heartbeats and rumbling drums to her inner ear. Souls who died violent deaths tend to carry those memories with them into their waking days. He has recovered strength enough, but the rest of his awakening will have to happen away from my Halls. The spirit is only so much itself as it belongs to others, and his has always found its home in you.

    Anairë nodded, bowing her head in respect to the Fëanturi as they spoke. Their words touched something deep inside of her, humbling her with both their notice and the proof of her husband's affection for her. In reply, she rang her hands together, wrinkling the heavy material of her sleeves. She bit her lip – a habit that her mother had forced away from her as a young woman, now returned in force as she gave into the urge she had to pace in small circles on the shore. Another ungenteel habit, she knew, and yet . . .

    She took a deep breath, telling herself that she would be composed. She would be graceful; she would be dignified and calm. She was Anairë, born of Araton and Lissië, a princess of the Noldor, the wife and then mother to the King in Exile, and good-sister to the High-king in Aman, and she would act with the dignity inherent to her name and title.

    And yet, all of her carefully thought out speeches and perfectly poised greetings fell from her like rain from the sky as her husband appeared though a parting in the trees. She blinked, taking in the once familiar sight of him – the tall and strong frame, the long black hair and the eyes that were more silver than grey. Her own eyes were thirsty then, parched and famished as they lingered on each part of his face in turn - from the almost confused furrow of his brow to the chiseled line of his jaw and the full shape of his mouth. He was dressed in the simple grey robes that all in Lórien wore; no circle adorned his brow, and he was anointed by no finery . . . and yet, he looked more beautiful to her then than he had on the day when they had wed. He looked at her, recognition sparking deep within his eyes, lightening them from within, and . . .

    She tried to say his name, but her words were stuck in her throat. She could not give them sound. All of her careful preparations were for naught - for her husband was now whole and real before her, blinking as if the light was too bright, and stepping towards her as if just remembering how to walk again. Anairë could not help it - she sucked in a strangled noise, a sob of joy and grief, and it took her a moment to realize that the sound had come from her. The strange sound came again – and yes, it was her, she realized, mortification coloring her cheeks red.
    A lady did not run – her gown was not made for it, at that. And yet, it took one step, then two, and three before she was able to throw her arms about her husband's shoulders for the first time in centuries. Walking would have doubled that time, she reasoned, and she would not have been able to bear those extra seconds away from him.

    It took him a moment to return her embrace, but return it he did. His arms wrapped around her, almost hesitantly, before tightening with a near painfully desperation. His hands traced the shape of her spine, the dip of her waist, beneath the formal robes she wore. Even through so many layers his touch burned, and she felt happiness and relief and desire flood through her veins as they had not in nearly an age of the world.
    He was warm, so very warm, she thought. Always did the sons of Finwë give off heat like a furnace, and yet, she had not realized just how much so until he was gone. In the days after his leaving, she had filled skins with hot water to warm the sheets next to her, placing them within the pillows that still bore his scent in a childish need to keep him close to her. And yet, it had not been enough. The emptiness of her spirit once she had felt him go beyond where she could follow him was even worse, a chill of heart and soul that she could never completely warm away – until now.

    If she worried about his coolness upon seeing her - for it had been she who had refused to follow him, and he had been driven forth by duty, unable to stay in Aman when their people would only have Fëanáro and his madness to turn to upon crossing the sea – those worries disappeared like the rain as it was claimed by the greedy earth. She could not remember why she had felt such a worry to begin with as she buried her head against his chest, feeling his lungs rise and fall with his every breath. Breath . . . life . . . her husband was alive.
    She was crying, Anairë realized then - ugly, hiccupping sounds that she was ashamed to release from her mouth. She tried to remember, but could not recall ever letting go of her grief in such a way. The death of the Trees brought only anger to her heart and a solemn sorrow to her brow. Her husband's leaving drew nothing more than a stern face and a pressed line from her mouth as she took her sorrow and held it close to her heart. With each child claimed by Námo in death, she had gathered together her grief and pressed it in alongside her bones until it became the very thing keeping her upright. Even when she felt Nolofinwë's death, she had held her pain and anger deep inside, unwilling as she was to let it fell her like a tree in a storm. Her grief, her missing . . . it was always with her, but she never allowed it to consume her. She was stronger than that, she had been determined to prove. She would not weep over what she could not change; instead she stood strong and saw to what had to be done. And yet . . .

    Perhaps . . . perhaps she had simply not thought about what she had lost until now. In that moment, she seemed to relive his death anew. She remembered feeling the part of her soul that was his leap in fear and determination. She had been able to see though his eyes – see the mountain of malice and black might that was Melkor as he swung his war-hammer, and brought his mailed boot down . . . Quickly, she pushed that thought away, feeling where Nolofinwë flinched at the memory. She remembered Námo's words, and found them to be true in that moment. Her spirit was open and raw before her husband as it had not been since their bond was new and they were each just learning to navigate the halls of each others minds. Their bond. For too long had that piece of her fëa been empty and wanting, and now . . .

    Her face was red and swollen, and her eyes burned as if set aflame. No doubt she was a sight to look on, she thought. This was not the poised and lovely wife she wanted him to return to, and yet, she could not seem to keep the sounds of her grief in. Her grief . . .

    . . . and her joy. She laughed with a bubbling, giddy relief, and soon enough, she could not tell which of her tears were from what emotion.

    His hands rose to tangle in her hair as he followed her thoughts with his own, sinking his fingers into her braids and cradling the back of her head as he moved his thumbs in soothing circles where her jaw met the bottom of her ears. Strange, she thought then, that it was he offering her comfort, when -

    He had died, the knowledge hit her like a blow, fully setting in for the first. He had died, and she . . .

    “You foolish, foolish man,” Anairë cried into his shoulder when she at last found her words. “What were you thinking, charging forward like that? Where was your sense, where was your control?”

    For it was never that he felt less than Fëanáro, so much as he knew how to hide the flame of his spirit away. He knew how to keep it hidden and deep, letting it shine through as wisdom and a guiding light. Fëanáro both brought pride and shame to Finwë's name in equal measures, and always, her husband had endeavored to spare his father grief at his expense. How could he do any differently, with Fëanáro as such a brother? He had been calm, he had been poised, the perfect prince and the perfect son while inside of him a fire to match burned.

    It had been something that she had empathized with when first they had courted. It was something that she had eventually loved him for. And, when his anger and his grief at last ran over, and he challenged Melkor to a one on one match, facing the mightiest of the Valar in an unprecedented duel . . . it had been the suppression of centuries at last failing him, the fire of his spirit breaking free and consuming him in its wake.

    “I could no longer stand aside and watch,” Nolofinwë answered against the top of her hair. His voice gained strength with every syllable, remembering how to give shape to words once more. His voice, low and deep and sending shivers up and down her spine as she heard him speak for the first time in centuries. “The Sudden Flame . . . to see our siege broken . . . two of Arafinwë's sons fell in the fires from Angband, and Findaráto would not have escaped with his life if he was not aided by Barahir the mortal man. Over a hundred thousand of our people fell . . . along with nearly ten thousand of the sons of Men . . . and they fell underneath my command. So many centuries of work, of toiling, were swept away in a blink of an eye . . . it was not to be borne. I saw no end to our fight, and in that moment . . . I felt strong enough to take on Melkor alone, or, at the very least, give something to inspire our broken people once again. I was not of the flesh during that battle, but of light, it seemed, and . . .”

    He sighed against her hair; his hold on her tightened. He clung to her, both remembering and trying to forget all at once. “It was a moment of madness,” he admitted wryly. “One that seems to run in the family – or so I am told.”

    She gave an unpleasant snort, meaning for it to come out as laughter. “And yet,” she let herself return ruefully. “The songs say that you took seven wounds from the Vala, even as fallen in might as he was. There is something to be said for that.”

    “They were seven wounds that made the whole of the battle worth it,” Nolofinwë sighed. “And yet, they are seven wounds I would not like to think on for some time again.”

    He and her both, she thought. She could hold him no tighter than she already did, and so she traced the tips of her fingers over the thin material of his robe, drawing her touch up the path of his spine to the base of his neck. His hair was unbraided and unadorned, falling in a heavy curtain of spilled ink over his shoulders. The strands were as cool and smooth as silk, at odds with the heat of his skin. She let out a contented sigh at the contrast of textures, relearned once more after so many years apart.

    “Our children?” she asked next. She had to try twice to force the two words out, suddenly speaking as if around a stone. He would have seen them within the Halls, she thought. He would have seen the light of their souls, and known . . . “Do they . . .?” She could not finish her sentence, but it did not matter. He understood.

    “They will come to Námo when they are ready to return to life anew,” he answered her. He had to work to find his speech, much as she did. “Arakáno has learned much amongst the Maiar of Námo, and he has found a purpose in the Halls that he long searched for in life. Irissë will not leave until her son may also rise to life anew – and her son's soul is slow in healing, bitter with many wounds. Lómion many not ever forgive himself – or find forgiveness - for his sins in the time that Arda has, and yet, she is determined to wait for him. Turukáno will not be long behind me – he found his wife again in death, and together they will return to life in order to welcome Itarillë and her mortal husband to these shores – yes,” he rumbled in amusement at her surprise. “That is a tale long in telling, and one that I will share with you later.”

    Anairë shook her head, her curiosity piqued. Tales of her granddaughter's odd choices in love had reached Aman from Ulmo's mouth, and yet, there was so much she did not know. She hesitated for a moment before asking, “And . . . Findekáno? How fares he?” Her eldest son, she allowed his memory to surface in her mind with pain and fondness both. Her eldest son, who was ever such a light and strength in life . . . she swallowed, trying to align the child she had held and helped walk for the first time with the man who had been so eager to see the world away from their golden and safe shores . . . She could not imagine him without breath and life. She could not imagine him as an incorporeal soul, waiting to walk again.

    Nolofinwë hesitated. His answer pained him, she understood before he even spoke. She braced herself, preparing for the worst. “Findekáno . . . he waits, as he ever does. He will continue to wait until he is joined by him. And then . . . only the future will tell what Námo intends.”

    For him, she thought, her brow darkening. As a young woman she had known pity for Fëanáro and the source of his rage, and yet, that pity had hardened into an indignant ire and fierce urge to protect her husband from Fëanáro's mad jealousies and petty resentment. It was a jealousy and resentment that her husband shared, for he was as much Finwë's son as Fëanáro was, and the time and effort that Finwë put into soothing the son of his first wife often put his second family to the wayside. Though Nolofinwë pretended not to be affected, she knew his mind and thoughts as well as her own, and the same insecurities and fears that plagued Fëanáro were shared by his brother. They cut him to the bone just the same; only their handling of that pain was different.

    And now, for Fëanáro's eldest to take what was dearest to her . . . When her son was still a child, she had encouraged the friendship between Maitimo and Findekáno, even over her husband's reservations. Maitimo had been more Nerdanel's son than Fëanáro's then, holding wisdom and a sage tongue over the fervor of his father's fire. She had such hopes then . . . hopes that had since come to naught. Even beyond death, Fëanáro was still taking from her family, and in that moment, she hated him for it.

    Once, she had thought their friendship to be the bridge that would sooth the bonds between their fathers - for her husband's sake and peace of soul more than anything else . . . for he did love his brother, loved him dearly and desperately despite all else, and his resentment was as much wounded pride as it was true dislike. Míriel had left her son, had chosen death, but Nolofinwë was ready and eager to love the blood of his blood - and even now he still did not understand why that love was forsaken and cast aside. She sighed, feeling only a black disappointment and bitter resignation rise within her for her son's choice. Ever were their fates bound, even now, and there was little she could do.

    “Each soul in Námo's keeping needs to find their peace . . . their peace and their reason to return to life anew,” Nolofinwë said, following her thoughts as they spun together with the ease of long intimacy. “Findekáno will find his reason, and we will have eternity to wait for him to do so.”

    Eternity . . . she was patient . . . she was dutiful, she reminded herself, and this was just one more hurdle to leap before having her family whole and together again. For this too, she could wait, and find the strength to endure. “And you?” she asked, hating the way her jaw still trembled with her words. “What reason did you have to return?”

    “I had that which I should never have left behind to begin with,” he answered, and she felt warmth rise between them, filling their bond with an old, easy love. She grounded herself against the feeling; she let it fill her until she felt almost buoyant with it, her cage of flesh the only thing keeping her spirit from soaring.

    They said no more than that – they did not need to, not with their spirits whole and holding each other once more. The memory of Melkor and the continuing toils of Endórë were in the background now, and though his body still tensed with remembered pains, the memories no longer consumed him. Instead he focused on the texture of her hair, the shape of her body. The top of her head fit just underneath his chin, as if they were made to hold each other so. He was warm, so very warm, in her arms once more, filling her with a peace and contentment to match the haunting song of the nightingales and the silver mist dancing all around them.

    She turned her head so that her cheek rested against his chest, indulging in the urge she had to feel the rise and fall of his lungs. She could feel his heartbeat; slow and steady beneath her cheek, alive and beating once more. Alive . . . and for the first time since his leaving, she felt as if she herself lived once more.

    Anairë exhaled a shaky breath, and listened to her husband breathe.

  19. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Aug 31, 2004
    Mira, this is beautiful - simply & unmitigatedly wonderful. Not just for the romance, which is exquisite, but it touches a deeply-held and longed for spiritual belief that I hold and you have given it shape and tangibility. [face_love] [face_love] !!!!! =D= =D=
  20. laurethiel1138

    laurethiel1138 Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Feb 6, 2003
    Two wonderful chapters of your tale, in which characters contemplate the full cost of their actions.

    The first, where Feanor's sons explore the far-reaching consequences of their fell Oath, with varying degrees of blindness and stubbornness, some able to see the greater picture and seeking appeasement where possible, while others are unabel to shake the need for vengeance, even at the cost of innocent lives. Heartwrenching, to see bright souls being so torn apart.

    The second, where one left behind finds peace at last with the blessed return of the one who went away, giving them a second chance at happiness. Perhaps now, after all this time, they maybe wiser in their rapports with one another and with the world at large, eventually finding the strength within themselves to open their arms to those broken souls who still need to wait before crossing back into Aman.

    And keeping up with my fancasting, your first offering inspired me yet other choices. For Caranthir, Tom Hiddleston in his best Loki mode, an ideal blend of sheer strength and vulnerability, able to reflect on his deeds even as he commits them. For Maedhros, Ewan McGregor in his Negociator persona, like finest silk hiding chiseled steel, unafraid to unsheathe his claws and make his opinions crystal clear when needed. And for Feanor himself, Daniel Day-Lewis in his Last of the Mohicans guise, all dark will and tragic intent as he swears to find the Silmarils, the obsession of his Quest obliterating all else in his mind.

    Lauré :)
    Nyota's Heart likes this.
  21. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Jun 29, 2004
    Nyota's Heart - As always, your words just make me never want to stop writing! Thank-you, once again, for the kind review - I am glad that this struck so close to home for you. I can think of no higher praise for a writer! [:D][face_love]

    laurethiel1138 - I have to thank you too for your kind words! They really do mean the world to me. [:D] And your fancasting! [face_love] I only have nothing but love for Daniel Day-Lewis as Fëanor - I actually thought that the last time watching that film, he would make a wonderful elf, and now here we are, with the ultimate Elf to cast. :p Ewan McGregor can play anyone and everyone and I will love him - and he could bring such a strength and beauty to Maedhros. Tom Hiddleston is an actor apart in my eyes - and if you want to see him Elf-I-fied, an artist on tumblr actually had him cast as her Celebrimbor, and drew him so [link=]here[/link] . . . Isn't that just perfect? [face_love] All I know is that I would want to see Jonathon Rhys Meyers as one of Fëanor's sons. Curufin, maybe? He can do the beautiful and cruel most excellently, that's for sure. [face_thinking]

    Now, for the next ficlet. :D

    Author's Notes: This is my response to the NSWFF prompt: the teacher becomes the student. In my notebook, it was a thousand word drivel with a few lines of banter, but then I started typing, and it got . . . well, long. Long and very character-study-ish. I wanted to post it on its own, but seeing as how it is related to a few previous ficlets, I decided to post it here, length and all.

    This is the next ficlet in my Caranthir/Haleth arc, and it continues directly on the wings of the last one - though it is not nearly as doom and gloom as that last offering was. ;) There are many names in this ficlet, but they are explained as the prose goes, so, these are the only ones I will mention first . . .

    Anor and Ithil: The Sun and the Moon.

    Ered Luin: Blue mountains.

    Balan: Balan was Bëor's original name. Bëor was the patriarch of the first House of Men, a forefather of Beren, and a great friend of Finrod.

    Dwarf Names: Rathsvith and Regin and Nýr and Nýrath were all taken from the Völuspá - one of the Lays in Norse Mythology that details the creation of the world. Tolkien took most of his dwarf names from this poem - from Durin, the firstborn of the Dwarrows, to Thorin and Oakenshield, even. Ironically enough, Rathsvith translates to 'swift in counsel', which I thought fitting for this vignette. :p

    Now, here we go . . .

    "should we teach eyes to blink, bones to disappear"


    It was just approaching the evening hour. Anor had tipped from her high cradle in the sky, casting her rich light over the black glass of Lake Helevorn below as she steered towards the night. The sunlight danced as it was reflected, creating dazzling patters of gold upon the lazy waves. On the eastern shore of the lake, Caranthir sat with his guest where great brown-grey formations of rock rose from the water to form its shore and the beginnings of the Blue Mountains. Even with their slightly elevated altitude, the summer day had been hot and humid, and both he and his human companion were enjoying their brief respite from the heat. There was a gentle breeze coming off of the lake, teasing the grass and playing with their hair; singing a sweet song as it echoed through the cliffs just beyond.

    They had just concluded a month's time of searching the lands of Thargelion for the rest of Haleth's people. During their travels, they had found many of her folk in the woods and wild places, and each of the straggling Haladin were welcomed to join the ever growing host of their people in the south. Their search had followed the river Gelion to its source at the lake, and the settlement of his people that was built there, coincidentally. Upon reaching the great falls where the river was birthed, Caranthir had invited her to travel just a bit further north, to stay and find her rest before embarking on her journey home. She had accepted the offer of his hospitality, and since then, three days had passed – three days in which he was able to learn about Haleth the woman rather than Haleth the Chieftess, and he was delighting in the knowing those days of peace had afforded him.

    During their travels, to pass the long hours on horseback and all too restless nights when neither of them could sleep, Haleth taught to him the language of her people. It was a simple and rather primitive tongue, but one with a strong foundation. In the centuries to come, as it adopted more Elven patterns and phrases - and Mankind themselves evolved and grew, it would be a strong language indeed. And yet, for now, it was easy to learn - very easy when compared to how Haleth struggled with his own native Quenya. The High-tongue was laden and long, a language that even the Sindarin struggled to master before speaking it fluently. And yet, all of their languages had but a single origin with the One, and Haleth's determination was ten times more than her clumsy tongue. She was learning – slowly, but faster than first he would have thought.

    Alongside a mentor's pride for her progress, he also knew a secret sort of thrill for teaching her his forbidden language; one that he tried to hide away more often than not, but with little success. And yet, he telling her of Thingol's ban on the language of his childhood was the very thing that had first prompted Haleth's curiosity in learning. Which language do you dream in? she had asked when he said that they communicated well enough in Sindarin, surprising him with her moment of romantic thinking – at odds with the logical and pragmatic woman he had known her to be. And now, here they were.

    Atani,” she rolled the word off of her tongue, leaning forward on the rock as if she were advancing on a foe. “Atani, which means 'second people' . . . and Fírimar, which means 'mortal' - ”

    “ - The first 'i' is as the 'ea' in fear, not the 'i' as in fire,” Caranthir corrected. “Fí -ri-mar,” he stressed the syllables for her. Haleth nodded, storing what he said away with determined eyes.
    “I am clumsy with your tongue, but I am learning,” she said - more to herself than to him. While she grimaced, it was a strong look, stubbornly set on her face.

    “And you are learning quickly, at that,” he agreed.

    Haleth gave a snort of laughter. “Do you mock me?” she asked.

    “Indeed, I would not dare,” he raised his hands in mock surrender. “You are learning as fast as it is possible for you to learn – and that is faster than first I would have thought. It is a credit to you, my lady.”

    She did not quite know how to respond to that, Caranthir noticed, pleased. Better was Haleth with strong words, or even those cross and cutting. She did not know what to do with softness, and even the simplest of compliments often had her looking away from him, her cheeks flushing pink. It was a reaction he enjoyed provoking, if he was honest with himself - it amused him nearly much as stroking the embers of her temper did, a task of which he was proving to be equally adept.

    “Now,” he waved his hand, allowing her a retreat. “Again.”

    Atani, which means 'second people',” she dropped the word from her tongue as she would give a blow, “and -ri-mar, which means 'mortal'.” Her eyes flashed triumphantly when he inclined his head in approval at her pronunciation. “Those are your names for Men.”

    “The two most primarily used, at least,” he gave in a rueful voice. “I am sure that you have noticed that it is an elvish tendency to give many names to things – and yet, it passes the years for us.”

    “I was not going to say so if you were not,” she said, amused by his observation. “Engwar is a term I hear often, as well. What does that name translate to?”

    He blinked, taken aback by the unexpected question. He felt as his face settled into a dark look, even as he asked, “Where have you heard that?”

    Haleth easily spied the change in his mood. She gave pause then, reevaluating her words. “Here and there,” she answered carefully. “I have met many of your folk since coming here, and I could not tell you which or whom.”

    His jaw set at her answer. He looked out to the lake, swallowing back the heat that had risen within him, snapping up to rise with his breath. His fëa itched just beneath the surface of his skin, and he had to take a moment to compose himself in reply - unsure as to why he was suddenly so incensed on her behalf. It was a term even he had used before aiding the Haladin, and he did not . . .

    “What does it mean?” Haleth asked, more slowly than before. Her voice was soft, as if she spoke around a bear within his winter-sleep, waiting for but an ill placed sound to awaken.

    Caranthir swallowed away the flame of his father's temper, and exhaled slowly. “Engwar means 'sickly ones',” he answered in a calm voice. “It is used as a slur.”

    He watched her reaction, expecting to see offense bloom on her features; but she only snorted in amusement. “Forgive me, Lord-elf, but your kind must spend more time with the Engwar in order to learn how to better phrase their insults.” Bemusement colored her voice as she shook her head. “We have worse terms for our fellow men in our own tongue, at that.”

    “And yet, you are a guest here,” he returned, not sharing her easy humor. “An insult to you is an insult to me. You are a leader of your people, worthy of the same respect my people would give to a Noldor lord. I will not see you slighted underneath my roof.”

    She shrugged. “I have thick skin – I have to, out of necessity. Long ago I learned to bear through worse names than sickly.” She set her mouth in a thin line, looking away from him. He watched, and wondered what memory took her as her eyes focused once more. She gathered herself. “I am not slighted in the least," she assured him, "and you throwing a fit on my behalf will do nothing more than enforce the image of a child, dependent on the help of others, that your people already hold of me.”

    Caranthir still squared his jaw, but he saw the wisdom in her words. He laid his anger aside – for the moment, at least.

    Haleth looked back to him, and the blue of her eyes was alight as with deep thought. Her eyes narrowed in consideration, looking at him as if weighing him on a scale.

    Caranthir,” she said his name slowly, slurring out the syllables with a careful tongue. Her voice was warmer, deeper, than most of the elven women he knew, and he blinked for a moment, taken aback by the way the timbre seemed to settle deep within him, next to his bones. “Yours is a Sindarin name, is it not?”

    . . . ah.

    He swallowed, wary of answering her when he knew the question she would next ask. “Yes, it is,” he answered though, unable to say anything else.

    “And yet, Sindarin is not your mother-tongue,” she reasoned out loud. “And so, I have to ask – what was your name before? What were you called in the land of your birth?”

    Her eyes were almost eager, he thought. There was true curiosity there, and yet, he hesitated. There was a story to share with every name, and as much as he had told her as of late, he did not think . . .

    Thankfully, he was saved from having to answer by a shadow coming over their place on the shore – cast by a page, just arrived from the path that led back to the fortress. Caranthir raised a brow at the young elf, who bowed in apology for his interruption before saying, “My lord, the delegation from Ered Luin has arrived earlier than expected.”

    “Rathsvith?” Caranthir asked, surprised. “They were not to be here until after the new moon.” He glanced at the sky, even though the sun still hid Ithil's light.

    “The Naugrim said that they were met with clear roads, which hurried their travels along,” the page explained. “Rathsvith apologizes for any inconvenience he has caused you, and says that he waits upon your graciousness as a host.”

    Caranthir snorted. “So the dwarf says.” He sighed, running a hand though his hair. There were a hundred and one ways to insult a Dwarf, and playing a poor host – no matter how unexpected – was highest upon that list. He did not need one more thing going wrong with these talks – not after the strained note their last time meeting had ended on,

    He was, he thought in annoyance, being tested. Rathsvith was becoming wily in his elder years, Caranthir thought. Wily indeed.

    “Tell him I come forthwith,” Caranthir gave the only answer he could. The page bowed in reply, and turned back the way he had came.

    Caranthir glanced to Haleth, and saw where she had watched the exchange with curious eyes.

    “Part of my settlement here is not just for my place in the leaguer,” Caranthir explained as he got to his feet. He climbed down the rocks to the path below with ease, but when he turned to give Haleth a hand, she had already taken another path down, needing not of his help. He raised a brow as she passed him by. “Here I protect the dwarf-roads from Ered Luin. This far North, Morgoth's creatures try to be clever by sneaking into Beleriand through the mountain ways, and the Naugrim's trade suffers for it. So, both Belegost and Nogrod look to us for supplies, food, and protection, while we gain both gold and gifts of arms enough to fund and build our defenses and armies all across the north – along with the promise of men to fight if ever this stalemate shall escalate into outright war. Dwarves are highly territorial, and fearsome to behold when protecting their own - Maedhros is counting upon their support when the time comes.”

    Haleth nodded as he spoke, listening carefully to his every word. She had a mind made for the moving of pieces on a board, and her insights grew wise and wiser still the longer she learned to bear her mantle of leadership. Opun first arriving at the fortress, she had been wide eyed and amazed to see the maps that graced the walls and tables of his council-rooms - shocked, even, to see the scope and breadth of the land her people her people had stumbled into. He had promised to have her copies made in the future, and already his scribes were hard at work reproducing them. For a mind of so few years, she was all too eager to learn all she could in the time she had, and there was something . . . refreshing about the insatiable minds of Men . . . something refreshing indeed.

    Naugrim, I heard you say?” Haleth puzzled out the Sindarin term. “Stunted ones?”

    “Yes,” he answered. “Dwarves, as you would call them.”

    Her brow furrowed as they turned to head back down the path. To the east of the lake were the first peaks of the Blue Mountains, the tallest of which was Renir - where they had built their fortress into the mountainside. “Naugrim,” she shaped the name. “ . . . do the Dwarves mind you calling them stunted?”

    “They have never told me otherwise,” he answered, unsure of where she was going with her words. “And it is the truth, at that.”

    She raised a brow, coming to a halt on the path so as to treat him with a piercing glance. “And yet, Engwar is an insult to your ears?”

    He stopped and looked back at her, curious as to how he had unwittingly sparked her ire. “I do not understand what you are trying to say,” he admitted frankly.

    Engwar is as true a name as Naugrim,” she reasoned, holding first one, and then two hands out and level with each other - as if she held each name in her palms, and was weighing them. “I am as prone to sickness and death as a Dwarf is small in stature – and both are through design of the One himself. How is one name an insult while the other is not?”

    He blinked at her words, caught. He . . . he had never thought about it like that before. He felt his face flush at her words, snared as he was.

    “I do not mean to give counsel,” she amended upon seeing his look. She started down the path again, waiting until he came to walk at her side to pick up her pace. “I simply wanted to give you something to think on.”

    Caranthir was silent for a moment, his thoughts swimming as they continued on towards the fortress. It was just different, he wanted to protest. The Naugrim were coarse; ill-tempered and ill-mannered, unlovely to the eye and unfortunately necessary for the Noldor's hold on the mountains. Mankind was . . .

    Did not he too think the sons of Men weak and sickly before aiding Haleth and her people? Plain of face and wanting for strength in arms, multiplying like insects and dying much the same - taken all too easily by too many toils to name. Had not his opinions of mortal-kind been both arrogant and far from the truth?

    Still . . . this was different, he wanted to protest. It was not the same, and yet . . .

    Gonnhirrim, they are also called,” he said at long last, forcing the little used title from his tongue as one would expunge an unpleasant taste. “Or, the Dwarves call themselves Khazad in their own tongue.”

    “Masters of stone,” Haleth translated the Sindarin with a pleased nod of her head. “Yes, I find that much more agreeable.”

    “And they are, at that,” he had to give, his every word grudging from his tongue. “I almost wish that my father had survived the Battle under Stars to meet their kind - he would have been fascinated by their ways. For all of the unlovliness of their appearance and the crudeness of their manners, they are truly Aulë's children, and blessed in their craft and works of hand.”

    A moment passed as she appraised his words. “Do not speak as if it pains you so,” she said wryly, amusement sparking in her eyes – as if he was a young boy, earning her fondness for the childish shape of his thoughts.

    He set his jaw, suddenly frustrated. “We have a mutually benefiting relationship, and we leave it at that. The Dwarves have as little love for my kind as I do for theirs, and we do not hide behind false pretenses.”

    Her brow rose higher on her face, but she did not comment on his annoyance. Instead, a small, soft smile touched her mouth – a young woman's smile, sparkling and full of joy, so much so that he nearly missed a stride upon seeing it.

    “I am excited to meet their kind,” she said in a small voice, as if hesitant to make the admittance. She seemed younger to him then, nearly child-like in her excitement. “My grandfather knew the aid of a scouting party of Dwarves when my people crossed the mountains, and he had such tales . . . They were of great help to my people,” Haleth explained as they walked through the gates, into the courtyard beyond, where dozens of Elves passed to and fro on a dozen different tasks. “We were struggling to find our way, and would have wandered lost in the peaks if not for their guidance. They showed to us our path, and raised our spirits with silly, heartfelt songs. My grandfather spoke at length about their ease of laughter, their love for food and drink and craft.”

    Caranthir was still silent, setting his jaw as she spoke. Though her words were meant to soften his face, they only seemed to harden something within him - a curiously green sensation, growing all the more so as she spoke of another aiding her kindred with softness in her eyes and fondness in her words.

    “Better did the Dwarves help us than your folk in Ossiriand,” she pointed out. “The Green-elves wanted nothing to do with my people, watching us only to ensure that we crossed not into their lands. It was not until we met those from Balan's house that we learned that the Elves were to be our allies – once we passed from the river-lands, that was. It was not until I encountered your aid that I believed their words to be true, however - for I was never given reason to believe otherwise.”

    He was silent, unable to say anything when her words were true. He set his mouth, unable to do anything else.

    “I am sorry if my words trouble you,” Haleth said, speaking almost carefully – an odd occurrence, he thought, he having long become used to her speech both sharp and cutting.

    “Never fear speaking frankly to me,” he waved her concerns away, forcing his own ire to soften. “You have never cared about my pride before, good lady. Why start now?”

    “I have never cared about your pride, it is true,” she said. She bit her lip, looking down before looking up again, meeting his eyes almost anxiously. “And yet . . .” she faltered, unsure of how to shape her thoughts. She sighed, running a hand to smooth back the loose strands that had fallen from her braid. A shadow fell over her face as they turned indoors, hiding her away from the sun. “I do not care about your pride, but you . . . you are an ally and a . . . the word friend sounds wrong, but it is true. I would not speak ill of you or yours if I could help it.”

    That quickly, the wound inflicted by her words healed over. He smiled again, assuaged.

    “I understand,” he said, freeing her from her discomfort. They had come to an intersection in the halls, her rooms laying down one path and his down the other. She stopped, looking up at him as if to make sure he spoke the truth, before nodding - satisfied. “And you will be able to form your own opinions soon enough. I will meet you here when you are ready, and we will go down together.”

    Haleth gave her assent to his words, and after giving him a half smile in reply, she turned down the hall. She did not look back at him, and he in turn watched her until he could no more.

    Though he would have wished not to, he thought about what she said the whole of the time he readied himself to greet his guests. After so many days on the road, it was odd to deck himself in ornate dress once more – donning robes in a rich brocade of midnight blue and black, and placing a heavy cloak of silver and black about his shoulders. The cloak was fastened by a large clasp, shaped like the star of Fëanor, settling large and eye-catching on his chest. The crest was Curufin's work; dazzling for its elegant simplicity, as most of his brother's wares were. He braided his hair more elaborately than the sensible styles he had been favoring the last few months, and set his silver circlet about his brow with a careful hand. When he glanced at himself in the looking glass, a stranger seemed to look back at him - one glowing with the light of Fëanorian gems, all gifts from his father before Fëanor had ever thought to make his Silmarils. In those early days, Fëanor had delighted in crafting for his family and the elves of Aman rather than for selfish gain. Fëanor had been eager to create wares that matched each of his children in unique settings, always trying to outdo himself with one piece after another.

    Caranthir sighed with old memories and turned away, caring little for the rings he wore but for the impact they would have on the Dwarves he sought to entertain. He had given many of his father's treasures away already, all for the awe of the Dwarf-smiths as they sought to unravel Fëanor's secrets. It was an awe he shared but for little, for each seemingly magical jewel from his father's hand was worth the same to him as a smooth stone from the bottom of the riverbed. The Silmarils too would be, were it not for his vow of tongue - but that was something he refused to think about then.

    His thoughts were settling in a dark place, he knew. At the realization, he struggled to pick himself up. Normally, when such thoughts plagued him, he would sit alone with a skin of wine and brood until the sun rose with a new day - but he had not of that luxury that night. Instead, he forced him thoughts to turn to lighter things - elsewise his thin mood would do but little to cover over his temper when he needed to present himself as a calm and gracious host. Mentally gathering himself, he prepared for the hours to come, and stepped into the corridor beyond.

    An hour after he parted from Haleth, he was ready to join her again. He only waited for a minute or so before she appeared – impressive, he thought, remembering both Curufin and Maglor complaining over how long it took their wives to ready themselves for any sort of formal occasion. Nerdanel had carried no such silly habits about her, he remembered. She was normally as rushed as her husband when she threw down whatever project she had been working on for too long to gather her family into some semblance of presentablity before stumbling out into the public eye. For a moment, he had to do a double-take, certain that the woman he had left earlier was not the same who walked towards him now.

    He had never seen Haleth in anything other than rough spun tunics and practical leggings. Better did he know how armor set upon her shoulders rather than the trappings of noble-woman. Helevorn had only a small number of elven women living there – for the land was hard and the days were long, at that – but the women who had taken Haleth under their wing found her a dress in a delicate, gauzy weave in a shade of dark forest green and the palest of greys. The dress brought out the undertones of green in her blue eyes, bright next to the tanned skin of her face. Instead of tightly braided and pulled back from her face, her hair was bushed out and fell in long curls over her shoulders. The wheat colored tresses waved like a field before the harvest, content and ripe in the breeze. He blinked for a moment, taken aback.

    “Do I look presentable?” she asked uncertainly, catching his stare. She bit her lip, her hands fidgeting with the fine fabric of her draping sleeves as they never would have with a sword. At the unfamiliar hesitance from her, he felt something inside of him give a twisting that he could not name. “I would not have dressed so, but the lady – Lanwen, I believe her name was – tutted at me, and would not let me join you until she had her way with me.”

    “You look as you always do,” he said, though his attempt at levity was a lie in the truest sense of the word. “And I daresay the Dwarves will not notice one way or the other.”
    If her sleeves would have allowed her to do so without tangling, he believed that she would have struck him. As it was, the sweeping neckline of her gown (which he had not been staring at) revealed where her blush swept down from her face - in annoyance, rather than discomfort, he was pleased to see - and her breathing quickened with her ire. From experience, he took a step away from her, amused all the more so for the quick spark of her temper.

    She rolled her eyes, but he saw where his words had worked to put her at ease. “You do not look terrible yourself,” she said, her eyes falling over his formal robes - for she too had only ever seen him dressed for the road, or clad in armor. The pink on her cheeks deepened as she said so – more flustered in acknowledging his appearance than she was with him commenting on her own.

    He felt something warm fill him at her frank appraisal, and hesitated to call the emotion pride. He was aware of his own beauty, but it was . . . different, being thought so by her. “Dwarves tend to take insult when you are not dressed to your best to receive them,” he said dryly, trying to lighten the suddenly heavy air around him. “And a Dwarf taken to insult tends to keep account of the injury - you can believe me that.”

    “Never be it that you would give a true reason for injury,” Haleth drawled.

    “Indeed not,” he gave with a smirk, holding his arm out to her. “Never that.”

    She snorted in amusement, but nonetheless wound her arm through his own, allowing him to lead her down the corridor. Her fingers were cool on his arm, and at her touch, his black mood from earlier seemed to calm. It brightened at the edges, like the night giving way to the dawn.

    Curious and curiouser still, he thought, but had no further time to think on his rather mercurial state of mind as they came to the main halls of the fortress, where his people were already gathering, ready to greet their dwarven guests.

    He could feel Haleth's gaze between his shoulder-blades as he turned away from her, coming forward to greet the two Dwarf-lords who walked towards him, their retinue staying a polite pace behind as their leaders gave their greetings.

    “Welcome Rathsvith, welcome Nýr,” Caranthir gave a shallow bow, which was returned by each Dwarf in turn. “I must apologize for making you wait - I had not thought your arrival to be until the next moon, and we were unprepared.”

    “The road was kind to us,” the first Dwarf said – Rathsvith, who had a mane of thick, dark brown hair, shot through with long locks of silver-grey. His beard was braided all the way down the front of his chest, the plaits studded by green emeralds and yellow sapphires. He was tall for a dwarf, his head nearly reaching Caranthir's elbow, and yet, whatever bearing he may have lost in height, he more than made up for with the sharpness of his gaze and the wicked cut of his tongue – that Caranthir knew from experience.

    “Our quick travel was testament to the efforts of your own in clearing the mountain ways, Fëanorian,” the second Dwarf added. “Surely such a journey was an omen for good for our talks to come.” This dwarf was Nýr, who, as a son of Nogrod, had a thick, fiery orange beard, studded with copper and dark red garnets until he looked to be part of a flame himself. His head was shaven, and the back of his skull was adorned by a cap of copper links, stringing together great fire opals and gems of orange quartz. The crest of his skull was marked by runes tattooed onto his skin, each proclaiming his place amongst Nogrod's noble-dwarrows. As the mark of a Firebeard, his eyes were a pale shade of amber brown, nearly gold in colour, and at Caranthir's side, Haleth stepped forward in curiosity at seeing so. He could tell where she fought not to stare, not in rudeness, but in simple wonderment - what was so taken for granted by so many now a new and novel sight to her mortal years.

    “There is no insult in being slow to welcome an unannounced guest,” Rathsvith said, sounding thoughtful as he spoke. Caranthir looked, and saw where he was studying Haleth with the same interest that she watched them with. “The true insult would be in not introducing us to the guest you already host. A daughter of Men, do I espy, or do my eyes too give way with my age? ”

    “Your eyes do you credit, Lord-dwarf,” Caranthir took a step back, allowing the Dwarf-lords to better look at the human woman. “My lady Haleth, may I present to you Rathsvith, son of Regin, of the Broadbeams of Belegost. With him is Nýr, son of Nýrath, of the Firebeards of Nogrod. My lords, this is the Lady Haleth, daughter of Haldad, Chieftess of the Haladin.”

    “My opinion of you has risen, Lord-elf, if such a maiden agrees to keep company with you,” Rathsvith stepped forward to boldly greet Haleth with a kiss to the back of her hand, smiling up at her from underneath his beard. “Greetings, my lady. It is an honor to meet the Chieftess of the Haladin.”

    “The honor is mine, lord Gonnhirrim,” Haleth dipped in a careful courtesy, so practiced that only Caranthir could see the awkwardness in the motion for her.

    “Gonnhirrim?” Rathsvith gave with a laugh, delighted at the term. “Indeed, it is a woman with a silver tongue that the elf has found! You honor me, good lady, with your regard.”

    “Be careful,” Caranthir warned, speaking in a stage voice to Haleth – which only amused Rathsvith all the more. “This one could charm a dragon from its horde.”

    “I shall remember that,” Haleth said, a smile tugging upwards at her mouth.

    “And happy should the dragon be, to bow before a son of Belegost!” Rathsvith gave with a warm rumble of laughter.

    “And yet, dragon fire and other threats from the pits of the north are why we meet now,” Caranthir inclined his head, his voice dipping gravely with the true reason for their alliance. “My council was caught unaware, and yet, they could be ready to receive you within the hour if you wish to begin our talks. If you would rather prefer to rest from the road, it would be my honor to receive you in the great hall for supper, and then our talks could start upon the morrow.”

    “Only an elf would suggest business before one is properly fed and settled,” Rathsvith waved a hand. “Your advisers may breathe easy – we will not make them scramble together on such a short notice. Tomorrow will be sufficient enough for tomorrow's dues.”

    Caranthir inclined his head, and fought to relax his jaw, doing his best not to let his irritation show. Each generation of ambassadors from Ered Luin seemed to grow more and more bold with their words - and it was not always the best of things to mix with his temper. He bit his tongue, and gave another low bow, hiding the dark flashing in his eyes.

    “If you would care to follow me, then,” he gestured to the corridor leading to the great hall, where the house staff had been quickly preparing to receive their guests – there was no greater force to eat one out of house and home than a delegation of Dwarves, after all, and they were prepared.

    He was about to offer his arm to Haleth when the Broadbeam beat him to it. Flashing a charming smile, Rathsvith stepped to her side, and said, “And would the lady bless me with the honor of her company?”

    Haleth looked to him, raising a brow in amusement at the gentleman's gesture from the dwarf. She gave a half bow this time, rather than curtseying – the movement natural to her - and accepted Rathsvith's invitation. “The honor would me mine, Lord-dwarf.”

    “Indeed, Mahal has already smiled upon these talks, then!” Rathsvith said in delight. He was not tall enough to walk arm in arm with her; instead, he lifted his arm and Haleth rested her hand on the bracer that covered his forearm. It was awkward, but she seemed only to be all the more amused for the dwarf's ease and charisma as he met their difference head-on.

    Caranthir fell into step behind them as they all turned to follow the steward to the great hall, and kept his thoughts to himself.

    Dinner was a lavish affair. Ever loud in both their tempers and their praises, the Dwarves complimented each round of the feast as it came. If Aulë was their Maker, then his bride was their provider, and they toasted Yavanna loudly and gratefully with the start of each course, raising their goblets in a sloppy cheer, each dwarf clicking glasses with the other before starting in again. Haleth, long used to rations and simple fare, had been done after the first course, and she watched the vivacious chatter and indulgence around her with barely restrained amusement and fascination both.

    While Rathsvith was sat at his right, Nýr was sat at his left, and Haleth next to him. The Firebeard turned every charm on the human woman, and even though Haleth was normally quite solemn and grave, he made her laugh more than once – a full, bright laughter that Caranthir looked over upon hearing. He . . . he had never heard her laugh, he could only think - not like that, at least. Not breathless and easy, like the girl she never had a chance to be.

    When the last course at last passed, and even the Dwarves declared that they could eat no more, Nýr rose to his feet and formally asked Haleth to dance with him. The minstrels, who had been playing softly throughout the meal, saw their intention, and picked up a lively reel in reply – inviting any and all to come and pick up their feet. All finished some time ago, Caranthir's people were quick to stand and join in as the dancing begun. The Dwarves, having no women amongst their party, stood and paired off with each other – caring not for the gender of their partner so much for the joy of dancing, used as they were to the uneven stack of the sexes between them.

    Haleth was not graceful, not in the traditional sense of the word. There was no delicate sway to her movements, but rather, a strength and surity of motion that he had witnessed her use with a sword and bow both. She picked up her skirts and spun, and the torchlight turned her hair to a shade of warm amber as it flew around her in an unrestrained wave. She had to crouch awkwardly to allow Nýr to lead her through the dance, but she did so with a smile and not a care as to the rather silly picture they presented. She looked happy, Caranthir could not help but think – and she was transformed for it.

    Nýr stared up at Haleth the whole time, laughing with his deep, booming voice as he boasted aloud of having the most enchanting maiden in the room as his partner. Haleth flushed at the words, and that flush more than anything had Caranthir brooding in his seat. He refused the welcoming eyes of the few elven women there – as he always did, for the headache that came from an unwed prince of the Noldor choosing a partner to dance with was not worth the dance itself – content to keep to his place and watch. He let his eyes follow the flash of gold and copper in her hair . . . the play of the firelight on her skin . . . the way her dress spun about her body as Nýr led her through the reel, and found that he was . . .

    . . . he was jealous.

    He was . . . jealous, he realized with a shock.


    So unfamiliar was the emotion that he had to take a moment to stop and examine it. He turned the feeling over to deign its shape and form, as novel as it was to him – snaring at his skin and stiffening his every bone as he watched her and the Dwarf with eyes that were increasingly dark and darker still.
    He was . . . jealous of the Dwarf in his place. Nýr was smiling with her, dancing with her, and Caranthir had an uncomfortable moment where he realized that he wanted her to smile like that for him. He wanted to hold her hand and lead her though the reel, spinning and breathless and trusting him to show her the unfamiliar steps until a slower song began and he could -

    “You, Master-elf, are quite smitten.”

    Caranthir blinked, startled from his thoughts by the voice speaking from next to him. Rathsvith had not stood to join the revelries, instead sitting with a goblet of wine in his hand and observing with a jovial smile. Caranthir looked, and found himself noticing the thick strands of grey in his beard, the etched wrinkles about his brow, and realized then that Rathsvith danced less and less with each visit. He frowned as he tried to recall how long Rathsvith had been the spokesman of his people, but he found his memory hazy – for constantly moving was the line of death and birth before him, so much so that he had ceased to pay it much attention over the centuries.

    And Rathsvith had the years of a dwarf, at that . . . which were almost double the years of mankind. Double, which meant . . .

    Caranthir squared his jaw, and pushed those thoughts away, liking them but little.

    “I know naught of what you speak, Rathsvith, ” Caranthir said before taking a swallow of his own wine, welcoming the bite that came with the dark vintage.

    “Of course you do not,” Rathsvith waved a hand. There was something pointed about his gaze then – sharp, even - and Caranthir looked on him in warning, silently demanding that he keep his place.

    Of course, he was ignored. “I do not see why you ignore what is before your eyes,” Rathsvith shrugged. “It is a strong match. A good match.”

    “You are forward, Dwarf,” Caranthir let his voice harden, looking at his guest pointedly as he did so. The problem with Dwarves as one's neighbors was also a blessing – they were honest and straight-forward in all things, even when it pertained to things one would rather keep in silence. “You speak when it is not your place to say.”

    “Do I?” Rathsvith returned, tilting his head as if he could not understand why his words were wrongly placed. “Ah yes, I forgot – the silly games that are played by those with too many years! I should have known better.”

    Caranthir's eyes narrowed, the annoyance that had been flickering underneath his mask of host and ally for the night rising like a flame in his gaze. It mixed with the jealousy that had been turning in his stomach as his jaw fixed in distaste.

    And yet, Rathsvith held up a hand, preventing him from speaking. “A moment, before you let your tongue get away from you, and I will then reconsider my generous words. It is not the way of your kind to speak of the obvious, and yet, I am feeling gracious tonight - so I will give you my wisdom, free of coin, even!”

    “Free of coin?” Caranthir repeated, stunned by the audacity of the Dwarf before him.

    “Indeed,” Rathsvith inclined his head. “We do not often speak of the ways of our kind beyond our own halls, but it seems as if you are in want of counsel, so I will speak. You see, for every woman Mahal sees fit to bless us with, there are three men to match. Our woman-folk are honored for this reason – revered, even – for they are the givers of life, and yet, they are few and far between. As they are few in number, even the lowest born dwarrowdam will have her pick of suitors – suitors who will bend over backwards to prove themselves worthy of being both husband and father when the time comes.”

    Rathsvith paused, making sure that he held his attention as he spoke. “I am not married simply because I did not try hard enough with the woman I had thought myself to love. Only time, and her choosing another, more worthy suitor, showed to me both the error of my ways and the depths of my affections. It is a hard lesson to learn, a bitter potion to swallow – and this I can say with experience on my side, as a warning to others. ”

    “As touching as that is,” Caranthir said carefully, “I see not the relevance in you passing this tale on to me.”

    “Do you not?” Rathsvith returned. “I am saying, Lord-elf, that your lady will not come to you. You must go to her, and prove yourself worthy of your suit.”

    Caranthir snorted at the thought of Haleth accepting a courtship – any courtship. The idea of her being wooed with gifts and flowered words . . . it was something that he could not wrap his mind around, no matter how hard he tried.

    “She needs no one,” he replied, his voice softer than he would have wished it to be – the wrong answer, he knew a moment after giving it. For rather than dismissing the Dwarf and his unwanted counsel, he had accepted it through failing to demand Rathsvith's silence on the subject – the only way the dwarf would have honored his wish not to speak of the matter.

    “Does she not?” Rathsvith questioned. “She is a strong one, it is true.”

    “And stronger still for the lack of a man at her side,” Caranthir said dryly. “You do not know her, but let me state the fact of that, at the very least.”

    The train of conversation had caused an unsettled feeling to drop in the pit of his stomach. It was silly to even think about this – for his interest in the human woman was as an ally and tentative friend, that was all. It would not have been fair to her for him to look at her in any other way. It would have been dishonorable, even – for the last thing he wanted her to think was that he aided her out of any sort of deeper interest on his part. Even that was impossible, he thought next - for his people did not indulge in frivolous dalliances as some Men were known to do, and she was in no way equipped to handle the forever he would demand of a life's partner. She would be unable to return it, constrained by both her mortality and her place in leading her people, at that.

    Forever, he thought, and the single word seemed to be as a lance through the deep places of his being. It was a silly thought, he gave as he brushed it aside. He had known Haleth for a mere handful of days. She was but a child to him – a determined child who simply needed his help to find her own feet underneath her. And then she would be gone – gone due to the hands of time and her own strength, and he would still be there . . . there as he always was.

    A child, and yet . . .

    He found his eyes slipping to her from across the dancing couples. She was still smiling – laughing at something Nýr said, and the warm light from the torches caught in her eyes, making them shine. Though she was plain in comparison to the fair elvish faces around her, he found something almost . . . pretty about her then, something novel about the freckles on her skin and the mortal glow burning in her eyes, brightening them more than the torchlight ever could.

    Something uncomfortable slipped through him, unwanted and unlooked for. In frustration, he pushed those feelings aside.

    “Perhaps she needs no one, it is true,” Rathsvith gave, following the path his eyes had taken with something considering in his gaze. His words were almost gentle - as gentle as a dwarf could be, at least. “And yet, is it the same as you need no one?” He let his question settle before saying, “Simply think on my words, Fëanorian. I will let them lay, and say no more on the matter. Besides,” Rathsvith reached over the clap him on the back, “she is not quite to my taste, anyway. There is not nearly enough hair about her chin, and she is much too thin at her waist. And that unnatural height! Whatever was the One thinking with that?!” He laughed, full and jovial with his saying so, and as hard as Caranthir tried to hold onto his ire, he could not quite find it within him.

    Instead, he sat there and brooded about the dwarf's words, as much as he would have liked to pretend that they meant nothing to him.

    The feasting lasted long into the night – as it often did with dwarvish company. After dancing, Haleth played both dice and cards with his guests, and somewhere along the line a drinking game was started. He escorted her back to her guest's rooms early in the morning, she stumbling and still smiling – but proud of the fact that the Dwarves she faced were faring little better than she.

    Haleth let him offer her an arm to lean on, unsteady as she was on her feet. Her weight was slight against him, and it was easy to hold her up.

    He left her, and saw her but little the next day when he had the meetings with the Dwarves to see to. The day after, he found her where she was readying to return to her people. Haleth had been gone for too long already, and was growing restless the longer she stayed still in once place. She had rested and regained her strength, and now it was time for her to return home.

    The height of the summer was already upon them, and soon it would be time for the fall and the harvest season. She would have her people moved before the weather turned cold; settled and building before the snows hit with the full brunt of winter's might. There was sense in her plan, and yet he felt an odd pang in her chest as he watched her prepare her horse for the journey. He had spent nearly every day for the past four months either traveling alongside her, or in her company and counsel and he would . . . he would miss her.

    His talks with the Dwarves would prevent him from accompanying her personally, but she did allow him to appoint a pair of his men to act as a guide for her. This time, she did not try to argue with him, and he was grateful for the small blessing in that.
    Already, he was calculating when he could get away again to visit her. The Dwarves would keep him busy until the end of the summer, upon which the autumn would be upon him with the harvest and preparing their stores for the winter. The winter itself would make the mountains treacherous to pass, but after . . .

    Perhaps, in the spring, he thought. He could visit Estolad with goods and supplies for the newly founded settlement - in the interest of friendship and continuing the positive relations between all who were toiling underneath Morgoth's yoke. Estolad was not so deep into the Ambrussa's lands that he could not do so underneath the guise of visiting kin; or hunting, even, and . . .

    He was placing too much thought into this, a part of him warned as he stepped into the stables. Much too much thought, and yet . . .

    Haleth was humming as she worked, soothing her chestnut gelding with easy, nonsense sounds that dipped into the tongue of Men when she used any at all. He spent a moment in silence, content with just watching her from outside the stall. She once again wore a cream colored tunic and dark brown leggings, and her hair was pulled back from her face in a single, thick braid. She wore neither vest or jerkin, there were no bracers about her forearms - only a simple leather belt to hold her tunic against her waist in deference to the heat that was building upon the air. The summer heat pressed stray strands of her braid against her neck and temples with the humidity, but her eyes were bright with the warmth of the stables. As bright as . . .

    A flash of silver caught his eye as she ran a comb through the gelding's tail. She wore a ring upon her hand, he saw - a band made by three knotted strands of silver, with an elegantly set blue stone within the face. He blinked when he realized what he was seeing – an instant respect for the craftsmanship of the ring thrumming inside of him, long left over from his father's lessons of old.

    “Be careful to keep that trinket hidden on your journey,” Caranthir said into the silence. “You wear a prince's ransom upon your finger.”

    Haleth looked up at his voice, not having noticed his arrival until then. While she did not smile in greeting, something about her face softened upon seeing him. “This?” she asked, flexing her hand to better display the ring. “It is rather pretty, I will grant you that.”

    “It is more than that,” Caranthir came into the stall to stand next to her, reaching into the bucket to pick out a curry comb. He started to work on grooming the horse's coat with the ease of many years, watching as the gelding's ears flickered back in greeting. While he did not have Celegorm's gift with the beasts of the earth, he could feel the warmth of the animal's soul - content and happy as he was tended to. “The band you wear is made of ever-silver. Mithril, we call it, one of the most precious metals the Dwarves have in their possession to give. It is an ore mined by their kin in the mountains far to the east, and very hard to come by - you must have made quite the impression to earn such a token of their regard.”

    Haleth looked down at the band again, blinking as she reevaluated the gift. Her mouth pursed in thought, suddenly wary of the richness of the gift as she moved to take the ring off.

    “No,” he said, reaching out to close her hand over the ring, stilling her. “Such a gift is made to be worn – and you would give insult to your gifter if you did not do so. Dwarves appreciate the process of craft itself over the richness of the wares they create, and their gifts are meant to be worn.” He released her hand, and turned towards the horse again. Her fingers were very cool, he thought, even in the warmth of the stables around them.

    “It should merely be hidden on the road, then?” Haleth remarked wryly, twisting the band on her finger almost thoughtfully.

    “Indeed,” Caranthir gave with a smile. “Wear it openly amongst your people. Who knows - perhaps, one day, it will be an heirloom of your house, and your descendants will tell the tale of how Haleth Haldad's daughter charmed even the Dwarf-lords into surrendering their treasures.”

    “They are a good folk,” Haleth said, looking down to hide the flush of her cheeks, “Coarse but sturdy . . . honest, with their own sort of wisdom . . . I enjoyed meeting them very much.”

    “You did me quite the favor,” Caranthir admitted ruefully. “The Gonnhirrim are never too eager to meet with me, nor I with they, and this is the lightest spirits have been between our kinds in decades. The talks will go well for both sides, I foresee, and I have you to thank for that . . . To think that I once had such arrogance to think that I only had wisdoms to impart to you - and nothing to learn in return.”

    Her smile was pleased, even as she ducked down to hide it. She shrugged her shoulders, trading her comb for a hoof-pick next. She paid the horse more attention than him, making a soothing sound in the back of her throat as she ran her hands down the animal's hind leg, coaxing the gelding into lifting his hoof for her. “I treat all equally whenever I can,” she said simply, even as she concentrated on her work. “Sometimes it creates a friend . . . and other times, not so much.”

    “A human farmer . . . an Elf-lord . . . a Dwarf-smith? Yes, I have noticed your inability to rise to the hubris of others,” Caranthir admitted wryly.
    “What you must have thought of me during these months,” Haleth shook her head, a note of abashment coloring the end of her words. “I have treated you downright poorly at times.”

    He shrugged. “No less than I deserved . . .” he muttered, thoughtful as he ran the brush in absent circles over the horse's back. He felt a tightening in his chest – for she had been as a breath of fresh air over those last few months. She spoke freely and frankly with him, caring not of his name and even less of his words when they turned harsh. Instead, she merely matched him in kind.

    Caranthir paused in his motions, moving only when she waved him aside so that she could move on to the next hoof. In the silence that stretched between them, she started to hum again. Her voice was rough, not lovely, and yet . . . it was not unpleasant.

    “Carnistir,” he surprised himself, dropping the name onto the air between them. “My name . . . it is Carnistir.”
    Haleth looked up from her task, letting the gelding straighten his leg again. She blinked, taken aback. "Carnistir?" she repeated. Surprise brightened her voice, drawing it quick from her mouth, and yet, a part of him knew contentment in hearing his true name spoken - a name that had not been spoken by another mouth than his brothers' in centuries.

    “That was my mother-name, at least," he went on the explain. "It is not so grand a name - given as it was for my unfortunately red complexion, of all things. My mother had red hair and the skin to match. I inherited her complexion and my father's black hair – and the contrast is stark, I am told, when I am moved to any sort of feeling; temper, especially, which I inherited in spades from each.”

    Haleth snorted, amused. “I had noticed, a time or two, but I was not going to say anything,” she teased, looking at him in consideration as she did so. “A mother-name, you say? You are given two names, then?”

    “In Aman, yes, it was tradition to be named by both parents,” he confirmed. “Sometimes a third name is earned as one grows – normally, it is one gifted by others. And yet, a mother's name is normally given with insight for her child's future, and used first and foremost.”

    “Your mother saw your future for temper tantrums, then?” Haleth asked playfully, her eyes sparkling. “Your naming traditions are not particularly kind, in your case.”

    More than she knew, he thought. And yet, he resigned himself to pushing forward.

    “I believe that she sought to sooth the name my father gave me with a name of levity. There was a kindness in her doing so, believe it or not.” Caranthir was silent for a moment, discomfort prickling at his skin. He set his jaw, having reached the part of the conversation he had wished to avoid from the beginning. He was not as fortunate as his brothers in the names Nerdanel gave - Maitimo, named for his beautiful form; Makalaurë for his golden voice; Tyelkormo for his speed and agility – in both body and temper; Atarinkë, Curufin was named for his uncanny resemblance to their father in both face and talents. While he was not as unfortunate as the twins in their naming, at least, he . . .

    “What did your father name you?” Haleth asked, her voice tentative as she did so.

    “Morifinwë,” he said after a moment. “Each of us have Finwë worked into our father-name – it is an almost obnoxious trend in the names of Finwë's house, and the reason that none of my brothers but for Curufin prefer their father-names. And yet, he bears our father's own name - as he was the heir of Fëanor's heart, if not in birth. It is a mark of pride for him, even if many thought it to be disrespectful to my oldest brother – and yet, that is half of the appeal for Curufin.”

    He was silent for a moment, setting his jaw as his memories took him. He could still clearly picture the look on Maedhros' face when Fëanor gave his fifth son his own father-name – an honor which should have gone to his firstborn. Maedhros had gone white before carefully schooling his expression to stillness, giving none of his thoughts away. It was common knowledge to all that Maedhros was not the son of the forge Fëanor had wished for, and when Aulë himself had placed his hand to Nerdanel's pregnant stomach and declared that this one was the child that Fëanor had long waited for . . .

    Curufin's birth had left their mother exhausted in spirit, and many whispered that Fëanor's fifth son was so much like his father because Nerdanel had nothing left to give to a child's soul. The healers had cautioned against another child, and, as a result, the twins had almost killed her to bear. Such a thing was an unthinkable trial for any elven woman – and the trauma of bringing her youngest sons into the world left Nerdanel never quite the same. He could still remember that awful day if he but closed his eyes . . . he remembered the screams, and the furious efforts of the midwifes as they struggled to bring the twins into the world. He remembered his father praying – Fëanor, who saw the Valar's right to rule as laughable, praying as if it was his own soul he sought to deliver. Even then, the only name Fëanor would beseech was Námo – muttering underneath his breath and begging the Lord of Souls to spare his wife, to show mercy where he had already taken her – for this again would be his fault . . . always his fault.

    After Nerdanel's recovery, she had refused to give the twins separate names, calling them both Ambarussa for the shared soul between them . . . Fëanor had refused to acknowledge his wife's insights, and stubbornly named the twins separately – even as they blinked at him as one, refusing to cry or gurgle out nonsense words as babies would, instead just staring . . . Ever did they stare, silent and acknowledging none but the other in the world - and still was it so for Amrod and Amras.

    The memories turned at his stomach then. At that point in time, Maedhros practically lived at the court, and Maglor stayed all but permanently at the musician's schools in Alqualondë, courting his Lindar maid with stars in his eyes and a lovestruck song to his mouth. Celegorm had been apprenticing underneath Oromë as he learned the wild and its ways from the huntsman of the Valar himself. Curufin, both in jealousy over no longer being the youngest son and missing his favorite in Celegorm, refused to lift a finger to help him with the twins. Nerdanel was distant and lifeless for so long after the birth of the Ambarussa, and Fëanor ignored both his wife and his youngest sons, as if by doing so he could ignore that such chasms in his family existed. And so, he had . . .

    He breathed in deep, and let his breath out slow.

    Haleth was patient, easily espying the play of memory behind his eyes. He had told her enough of his family – more than he ever had any other - and he felt his jaw tremble as he felt the urge to spill even more to her . . . This, the shadows on the bright spirits of his family; the parts even they themselves did not speak of, as if giving their innermost doubts and fears words aloud would make them real . . . His family had never been quite right; even before the Darkening, even before their Oath. Yet, they were still his family, and he loved them dearly . . . loved them all to death and Valar defying deeds, and even the Everlasting Darkness beyond. He . . .

    “Morifinwë?” Haleth broke gently into his musings, seeing as his face darkened. She stood next to him, and while she did not touch him, she soothed down the horse's fur with a soft brush where his was still, as if ready to provide him comfort for that which even she did not understand. “The Finwë is explained to me, and yet . . .”

    “Moryo,” Caranthir dropped the name from his tongue, blurting it out as if by doing so he could rid its meaning as well. “It means dark . . . black . . . Those onlooking said that Fëanor named me after staring long and hard into my eyes . . . he did not blink, taken as he was by some vision of my future. He named me on a whisper before he came back to himself - but then, he could not pull the name away once given. Later, he would laugh and tell me that he did so for my hair, and yet, that is not so special a trait amongst my family . . . I could not help but wonder . . . what did he see? What insight did he glean about my soul to name me so . . . I have never received an explanation, and yet, I never pushed for one. I never wanted to know.”

    Haleth was silent for a long moment. Where, at first, the more fey ways of the elves had been an endless source of curiosity for her – and even dubious disbelief – now she accepted what he said without a word. Her eyes narrowed, and flashed with anger, even, before the emotion was tucked away. He did not see pity there, for which he was grateful . . . but there was something soft in her expression. Her hand on the horse stilled in its caress, stopping very near to his.

    “Carnistir,” she said after a moment . . . a long moment. “It suits you.”

    “My red face suits me?” he returned, raising a brow as he moved the curry comb again. She knocked her brush into his, scowling playfully. But even as she did so, there was something soft in her eyes – she understood what it had cost him to say those words aloud. She understood, and she accepted yet another edge of his.

    “Perfectly so,” she tilted her head as if in challenge. “I would not have you any other way.”

    He inhaled, and let the breath out slowly.

    “Carnistir,” she mused again, saying the name more to herself than to him. She nodded her head, as if making a decision before stepping away from him to finish grooming the horse. Once again, she started humming as she went about her task, carrying on as if nothing had been said – as if all was right and peaceful in the world. She hummed and tutted at the horse, and he simply stared after her, trying to define the curious sort of warmth that filled him in the wake of her acceptance.

    After a moment, he stopped trying to define the restless spin of his thoughts. He simply closed his eyes, and listened to her work.

    Anedon likes this.
  22. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Aug 31, 2004
    :) [face_sigh] Wonderfully detailed progression of feelings and knowing. [face_thinking] You are so excellent at the nuances of hearts coming to terms and grappling and character-study-ish things are among my favorites. @};- :D
  23. laurethiel1138

    laurethiel1138 Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Feb 6, 2003
    ... the sweeping neckline of her gown (which he had not been staring at) revealed where her blush swept down from her face...

    Of course, Caranthir, tell yourself that... When even your visitors notice your interest, then it means you have done a poor job of concealing it, indeed. On that note, I especially liked the words of wisdom from Rathsvith. He knows something of the flightiness of time in a way Caranthir doesn't, due to the specificities of their races, and is being a true friend in pointing that out.

    “Carnistir,” he surprised himself, dropped the name onto the air between them. “My name . . . it is Carnistir.”

    And so a choice is made, and a heart given. For the revealing of a name cannot be construed as anything else, as Galadriel's history shows... And woe betide any who challenges the safety of Haleth's people from now on, for once the blood of Feanor's line is stirred, their might brooks no compromise.

    Lauré :)
    Nyota's Heart likes this.
  24. serendipityaey

    serendipityaey Jedi Master star 4

    Jan 24, 2004
    On Falling: First of all I quite enjoy those chapters that become about sorting out thoughts - I like reading and writing them! A sign of a layered character I think and it's fun to go with them on that journey of figuring out their own heart. (The whole point of stories to me!)

    I love the interplay between the two. Ohh! You describe it so well. Full of all kinds of different tensions. It's palpable. And you write it beautifully. Tense, bittersweet and ripe with opportunity and challenge. I hardly even know who they are and within a few paragraphs I ache for them to connect in some way, like two magnets, part of the same whole but flipped the wrong way.

    And the winter air, I can feel it, so so heavy on all of them. Gah! Sad! Looking forward to how this ties in or plays out, if it does :) Great job!
    Nyota's Heart likes this.
  25. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Jun 29, 2004
    Nyota's Heart: Why thank-you! It's true, I love getting into these character's heads and fleshing them out - and Tolkien made it so easy by leaving the slate so wide open for us to do so. I am glad you enjoyed this one. :) [:D]

    laurethiel1138: The poor thing is already smitten, and he has no idea! :p It tickled me greatly to write that - especially with Rathsvith's counsel. The wisdom of the Dwarves may be different than that of the Elves, but he definitely had a point to make here, and he did. I'm glad that the name came across so well, also - there is such a weight given to names in this universe - in any 'verse, really - and the implications were fun to play with. [face_love] As always, thank-you so much for reading! [:D]

    serendipityaey: Thank-you so much for the thoughtful review! Two magnets, part of the same whole but flipped the wrong way - I think that that is the best way I have ever heard Celegorm and Lúthien's relationship phrased. There is such a wonderful note of bittersweet and what-if to their tale - for it does end in tragedy, with Lúthien already knowing her heart's match, and Celegorm taking out his vengeance for being passed over on her descendants. :( I am glad that the tone and the feel came across so well for you, it was a character-study that quite literally wrote itself - I planned not a word of it going in, and that kind of flow-of-thought writing is always interesting as a result. So, thank-you, again, for stopping by! [face_love][:D]

    Author's Notes: For this one, I wanted to go back to the origin of this thread with fixed-length ficlets. Eventually, I want to write some drabbles once more, but these prompts have inspired so many words that it has not been possible. :p For now, these are each 400 words a piece - which is a step in the right direction. ;)

    We are dealing with familiar characters here, so I have no notes. Enjoy. :) [:D]

    "rendering death and forever with each breath"

    CXLIV. Soul

    There were times when her memory of her grandparents was hazy. She remembered best their love and light; such a light that it made their green isle of ever-summer grow as if it were a stolen piece of Valinor beyond, agleam with deathless splendor. And yet, those who lived there were mortal, caught in the thrall of time and held servant to its indomitable will. Each summer gave way to fall, and death would not be thwarted twice when it was natural to those of mortal days, when it was the Gift to his children the One claimed it to be.

    Some would call Lúthien untouchable for her beauty; ethereal for her story and great her deeds of old. And yet, to Elwing, there was nothing more tangible than her grandmother and her love . . . There was nothing more solid than her grandfather and the rushing force of his life and living, like a tide beholden to the moon.

    “What is this?” she remembered being a child in Beren's arms. She remembered touching the lines carved into his brow; the bird's feet seemingly stamped into the flesh at the corners of his eyes. White peppered his dark hair like snow.

    “I am a Man, dear heart,” her grandfather's voice was deep; matching both the warmth in his eyes and the strange, prickly stubble blanketing his chin. “I am not of Elf-kind.”

    Her finger moved to curiously trace the curved shape of his ear, and knew his mortality in name only . . . Man . . . mortal . . . both were terms she heard often, and yet . . .

    “It means that I shall leave you someday,” Beren's voice was heavy. With a child's mind, she then assumed that time had done that also. “And yet, never shall I truly be gone, if you but remember me.”

    What a silly thing to say, Elwing had thought as she pressed a kiss to her grandfather's cheek. His coarse skin tickled her mouth, and she had giggled, his strange words forgotten . . . for a time.

    Later, Lúthien held her close, and answered her questions with a solemn weight to her eyes, matching the tired look of her husband. Did time touch her too? Elwing had wondered then. All of the stories said so, and yet, she could not tell . . .

    “The soul is not in the flesh,” Lúthien whispered, tracing a finger down to rest over her heart, “but rather, in the heart. Remember that, child, and never shall you then know death.”


    The sea was a salty, clean scent on the air as the waves splashed up against the rocky shore. Upon the tall rocks, Eärendil sat, his brow creased in thought and his blonde hair dancing in the swift breeze from the ocean. Though Elwing did not care for the open expanse of the sea, she climbed up to sit next to her intended; seeing the weight of his thoughts within his eyes, feeling as they tugged against her spirit with their shape and spin.

    She did not ask him what was wrong. She merely waited, until -

    “Today, I met my father at the ship-yards,” Eärendil said. The sea-wind dried his eyes, but could not hide the tremble from his voice, “I went into his office, and he . . . he did not know my name for a moment. He did not remember me.”

    She felt a weight sit upon her chest with his words, feeling his pain as her own. Tuor was mortal, and grew older still with each passing day. When first she had met the Ulmodil, he had been all golden hair and tanned skin, with clear blue-green eyes colored like tide pools and a heart to match an ocean storm . . . Now his hair was the colour of sand; his beard was peppered with white; and his eyes . . . they were milky, glazed, as if looking far away. There were times when she would see Idril when she thought she was alone; how she held her face in her hands and choked back silent sobs – for she took her love from stolen time, and soon . . .

    “He did not know me,” Eärendil said again, as if by repeating the words, he could make sense of them. “I was as a stranger to him.”

    Elwing swallowed as she imagined Eärendil turning old and grey; knowing her not in their old age, knowing their children not, and . . . It was a thought she could not fathom; she could not complete.

    Their's was a choice, and she so dearly wished . . .

    And yet, until then, she rested her head against his shoulder, and sighed. “The soul is in the heart . . . not the flesh,” she said, remembering Beren and his length of days . . . remembering Lúthien in the eve of mortality's might. “ . . . the same as your memory of him shall be.”

    He did not say anything – for what could he say? Instead, he let her hold him, and listened to the waves as they roared.


    There were times when she looked at her husband, and he would blink before recognizing her. He would hesitate before his heart told his eyes her name, and he would then hold his arms open to welcome her close.

    This eve was better than most evenings. Tuor greeted her without hesitating, and she sighed in contentment as she curled against her husband's side. Tuor's hands played absently in the long fall of her hair, his eyes lost where the sun died a glorious death of flames upon the horizon beyond.

    “I am not as young as I used to be,” he whispered; to her or the ocean, she could not tell.

    Her hand was resting on his chest. She poked the skin over his heart. “You are young here,” she said, forcing a levity to her voice that she did not feel.

    “Idril,” Tour sighed.

    “I married your heart, not your body,” Idril's mouth set, as if she were fighting a battle.

    Tuor caught her hand, stilling her. “You do me a wound, wife,” he teased, and yet his voice was strained. He wished to talk about this, she knew. And yet . . .

    “You are not so very old,” she whispered, her voice small.

    “Old enough,” he said. He had to work to find his voice. “And I . . . I do not want to linger here and waste away . . . I did not know my son's name today, and I cannot imagine turning as a ghost in my own home . . . with every ageless eye mourning me even as I breathe.”

    Her eyes closed against a pain. He looked west, seemingly taking strength from the sea-wind. “I . . . my heart pulls me with the tides,” he murmured. “They tease me with such promises . . .” he sighed. “Tell me again of Valinor again, dear one? I wish to hear . . . and hope.”

    She rested her hand flat against his heart as she shared her childhood's memories, watching as her husband grasped to them like one drowning. She knew of the wish of his heart, and as much a she wished to stay . . .

    Her husband's soul was still alive and strong, for the flesh surrounding it was but a shell. She would not give up her love until his last breath tore him from her, and not a moment before. This she vowed -

    “Perhaps we should sail, one last time.”

    - and let the sea take as a promise.

    ~MJ @};-