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Ashes  by Aldwen

Notes in the beginning of the story.

Another First Age piece, from the days when the Noldor returned to Middle-earth, with a long flashback to happier days in Valinor. This story is a gap-filler, consistent with the published “Silmarillion”. It is also consistent with the other stories I have published. Angsty. Be warned. :) 

Thousand thanks and hugs to Ellynn for beta-reading and suggestions!

The person names are in their Quenya forms. Aldanwë is my original character, all others belong to Tolkien.

Fëanáro - Fëanor

Nelyafinwë – Maedhros, his mother-name Maitimo and his epessë (after-name) Russandol are also used

Makalaurë – Maglor

Tyelkormo – Celegorm

Morifinwë - Caranthir

Curufinwë – Curufin

Telufinwë - Amras              

Pityafinwë - Amrod

Tyelperinquar - Celebrimbor

Moringotto - Morgoth

Valaraucar – Balrogs

Angamando – Angband

Amillë – mother

Essecilmë – name-choosing ceremony

Sarati is a system of writing, devised by Rúmil in Valinor. It was afterwards replaced by the script Fëanor made.


At first, the other shore is but a narrow, blurred line on the horizon, slightly darker than the overcast sky. But as the ships approach the coast of Endórë, the line slowly turns into a mountain range; the summits standing bare, and some highest places glistening with snow.

Feeling confined in the cabin, I have come up on the deck and now stand at the railing, peering into the shadows. The stretch of the land ahead appears bleak and unwelcoming. Almost all colours have faded from the world; there is merely grey and black and some white, and the too-close memory of red. I close my eyes and turn away from it and from the imminent future – towards the past, towards the days that already swiftly fade in the blur of crimson and black, in the clash of weapons and cries of anguish. Towards the days that now seem to be gone beyond recall. As so often lately, I turn towards more distant memories.

I have always known I want to be a healer. Nothing has ever seemed to me more worthy than to alleviate pain, to drive away distress and sadness; nothing has seemed more wonderful than to aid a new life coming into this world. I am not yet of age when my parents, seeing that I have indeed found my calling, send me to Lórien. There I learn much from lady Estë and her maidens and from Irmo Lórien himself, even things that seem to me strange and needless. Nonetheless I learn dutifully also about herbs that would counter poison, about infusions that would help to renew blood, about ways to stop heavy bleeding and to treat wounds caused by fire.

In my free time I roam the gardens or sit by the waters of lake Lorellin watching the Treelight upon the waves and upon the silver leaves of the willows. There are many glades along the shore. Each of them has its own loveliness, different flowers blossoming on the turf, different play of light and shadow, and I explore one after another, delighted by their beauty that never repeats.

One day, I discover a place very unlike the others. No clear path leads to it, and I have to pass through undergrowth and cross several streams winding their way towards the lake. At length I step out of the bushes into a meadow somewhat larger than the others I have yet visited. On its edge, close to the water, stands a white pavilion. Laurelin is in full glow now, and the walls of the small building shimmer golden. The tiny waves on the surface of the lake sparkle, the air is full of gentle fragrance of white flowers that blossom on the shore, and the wind rustles softly in the low-sweeping boughs of the trees. In wonder and delight, I enter the glade and approach the pavilion. Its entrance must be towards the lake so I go around slowly, but when I am on the other side, I halt. I am not alone.

A boy sits on the white stone steps before the door; hearing my approach he darts a swift glance at me, then looks away at the shimmering water of the lake. He is of my age, or maybe a little older, with raven hair and finely chiselled features. I have never seen anyone so strikingly beautiful before. Yet something is not right with him. His eyes now stare blankly in the distance, his shoulders are hunched, his hands - firmly locked together on his knees.

Loth to intrude, I half-turn to leave, but then halt in my step. Leaving suddenly seems cowardly. What healer would forsake one in apparent distress? Still, the boy does not look willing to speak to me, so I sit down on the grass some steps away from the white building and remain there until the light of the Golden Tree starts to wane. I rise only when my free time draws to its end. None of us has spoken, nor even looked much at one another, and he still sits in the same place, in the same despondent posture, his eyes towards the rippling water. But when I approach the edge of the glade, a barely audible ‘thank you’ reaches my ears.

When next I am free, drawn by sympathy but also by curiosity, I return to the glade and again find the strange boy there, walking slowly along the shore under the willow trees. Hearing my steps, he turns and smiles, faintly and uncertainly, but says nothing; the fingers of his right hand trace the elaborate patterns on his other sleeve.

“That is a beautiful embroidery,” I say to break the awkward silence but then blush in embarrassment. I am not good with words. I never know what to say when talking to someone for the first time. Besides, what I have just said seems to have upset him somehow; his smile fades, and he grips the cuff of his sleeve. I am about to apologize when he speaks.

Yes.” His voice is sad and quiet. “It is very beautiful. My mother made it for me when she… when she still…” He falls silent and bites his lip; his deep grey eyes shine treacherously bright in the twilight under the trees.

“Are you here to visit her?” I ask, for lack of better words.

“Yes. She is in there.” The boy points towards the pavilion. “She… sleeps.”

I nod. I have learned that there are times when people need a longer rest. Sometimes they come to Lórien for that.

“And you?” He looks at me with question. “Are you too here for someone?”

“No, I study with lady Estë. I will be a healer.”

His eyes become thoughtful. “It must be good to know what you want to become,” he then says, a little wistfully.

“Do you not know it yet?” I ask in wonder. “Surely there is something that brings you joy, something you are very good at?”

“Maybe.” He shrugs. “There are so many things. I do not yet know which one to choose.”

I find that a little strange. Surely, one cannot be very good at many things at once. Yet there is no boasting or arrogance in his voice as he says that. He sounds as if he merely states an obvious truth.

“What is your name?” I ask after another while of awkward silence. “I am Aldanwë.”

“Fëanáro,” he replies.

“That is a beautiful name.” I smile.

Fëanáro smiles in return, and this time the smile lingers a little longer on his lips.

“It is my mother-name. And I shall take it as my chosen name at essecilmë too,” he says. “That is not very far now.”

“Your mother will be very glad.”


But Fëanáro looks sad now. To turn his mind from whatever thoughts have grieved him, I speak again. I tell about the gardens, about the many fair places I have discovered on the lakeshore, about plants of whose virtues I have learned, and when I fall silent the shadow has lifted. Then we sit on the shore, talking, and he asks me more about my studies. He also talks about some of the things he has learned, and I am amazed by the shrewdness of his questions, by the depth of his knowledge. I have never had so exciting conversation with anyone; I get so carried away that I lose the track of time and I finally spring to my feet, realizing I will have to run not to miss a lesson.

“Come back soon!” Fëanáro calls after me as I rush towards the woodland.

During the following days the studies take up all my time, but as soon as I am free again, I go back to the glade. Fëanáro sits on the grass drawing something in a small notebook. Hearing me approach, he closes the book, puts it in his pocket and springs to his feet.

“Aldanwë! I am glad you are back!”

“I am glad too,” I reply. “I was busy studying, but I came as soon as I could. Were you here every day?”

Fëanáro nods, then looks at me closely. “Would you like to visit my mother?”

Startled, I look at him. “May I? I do not want to disturb her rest.”

“You will not,” he says resolutely, then takes me by the hand and pulls along towards the pavilion.

Soft twilight reigns there as we enter, curtains dimming the light from the outside. A woman lies upon a couch by the wall; her eyes are closed, her silver hair frames a beautiful, delicate face, very reminiscent of Fëanáro’s features. She seems deeply asleep. Fëanáro kneels beside her and kisses her on the cheek.

Amillë, I am here,” he says. “This is Aldanwë, a friend of mine.”

I bow before the sleeping woman and speak some halting words of greeting, but she neither wakes, nor stirs at the sound of our voices. Awkward as it is, yet I feel warmth settling in my heart when I realize that Fëanáro just called me his friend.

“I made something for you, Amillë.” He now pulls something from his pocket and holds it in his hand. “When you wake up…” His voice falters a little. “When you wake up, maybe you will look at it and maybe you will like it and wear it sometimes. And the other things too.”

I nearly gasp in astonishment when I see what he is holding – a silver hairpin in the likeness of a butterfly with wings made of mother-of-pearl, so lifelike and delicate that it seems ready to rise from his palm and flutter away any moment. Then Fëanáro sighs and sets the hairpin on a table in the corner, amid other things that already lie there: jewellery of incredible beauty, sheets of paper covered in strange, graceful signs, small paintings. I take a step towards the table and stare at all these things, and then I stare at Fëanáro.

“Did you… make all this yourself?”

“Yes,” he replies shortly and shrugs, as if it were nothing worth mentioning.

Now I see that one can indeed be very good at many things at once. Being no craftsman, I am still a Noldo and thus have sufficient knowledge to tell excellent work from merely a good one. Every single thing that litters the table is outstanding in its beauty and workmanship.

We stay yet awhile in the pavilion, as Fëanáro sits beside his mother and holds her hand speaking to her softly. Then he kisses her cheek again, rises, and we step outside into the light. Fëanáro is sad. He descends the stone steps, goes to the lakeside and stands there motionless, blinking swiftly, as if dazzled by the glittering water, but I see that he is blinking away tears.

“Every day I come here I hope to find her awake,” he whispers. “I hope she will sit there with her embroidery, like before. And hearing me approach, she will raise her head and smile to me. And then she will embrace me, and I shall tell her everything that has happened in her absence, and she will be glad, and she will laugh, and…” His voice breaks, and he falls silent.

“I am sorry,” I say quietly. “I am so very sorry.”

Hesitantly I take his hand and, as we stand there side by side, I attempt to silently give him some encouragement as I have been taught, some hope that would pass through the wall of overbearing grief that encloses him. After a while Fëanáro draws a shuddering breath.

“Thank you, Aldanwë.” He squeezes my palm ere releasing it. “Thank you, my friend.”

“I did nothing,” I mutter, embarrassed by the gratitude in his voice.

“No, you did much.” He shakes his raven-haired head. “You stayed. You spoke to me. And now you did something too; I felt it.”

“That was not much.”

“That was enough.”

Still, I feel that my aid has been scant and, as I ponder something else I could say to distract him, to make him think of something else beside his grief, a sudden thought occurs to me. A question that would hopefully draw him into conversation, as well as satisfy my own curiosity.

“Those sheets of paper, Fëanáro? The ones with the signs on them. What are they?”

He brushes away the last tears.

“Just some poems I wrote,” he then replies. “The signs are for recording of words. I devised them myself. I call them Tengwar.”

“These signs – are they like Sarati?” I ask in wonder. That someone so young could create an entire set of writing signs seems to me bewildering.

“Something like that, yes. Only better. Each sign represents a sound. Look here.”

He takes a small twig and draws on the wet sand of the shore, and when he has finished drawing and explaining, I must admit – his script is indeed much better than the one we use now. I speak my astonishment aloud.

“This is amazing, Fëanáro! You should show this to the loremasters!”

“Oh, I will, be assured!” Something like amusement flickers in his eyes. “After essecilmë. I very much doubt they are ready to accept instruction from someone they still consider a child.”

“You may well be right about that!”

I laugh, picturing the utter surprise on the solemn faces of Tirion’s loremasters, and then he laughs, too – uncertainly at first, as if mirth were unfitting for this place – but then louder, and I am glad his sorrow has somewhat lifted again.

So pass my days, between the studies and visits to the glade where there is little change – Fëanáro’s mother still sleeps, and he still brings her gifts he has crafted. Our friendship grows, and we spend long hours together, yet we never stray far from the white pavilion, as if Fëanáro was afraid that his mother might wake in his absence and not find him there. And often, when I return to my abode, I recall the table, littered with things my friend has made, and I wonder how much time his mother has already spent in Lórien and how long it will take for her to recover.

This thought does not leave me. At length I ask lady Estë, and when I learn that she has been there already for years, I long sit silent in wonder and disbelief.

“But surely, lady, there must be some cure?” I ask haltingly at last. “Something the Valar can do to help her?”

To that, Estë smiles sadly. “How do you help someone who does not want to be helped? Long already she abides in the Halls of Mandos. How do you call back someone who is unwilling to return?”

“Unwilling to return?” My voice trembles when I realize that Fëanáro’s mother is not asleep, that in the white pavilion near the lake lies merely the empty shell of her body. But then I clench my fists. “How can she be so cruel to her son? He misses her so!”

“She is not cruel, Aldanwë.” My teacher lays a gentle hand on my shoulder. “She is weary. Too weary for the cares of this world.”


Estë looks at me closely. “You are to become a healer, so I think you will understand,” she says slowly. “You know that parents impart much of their strength into their children, mothers more so than fathers. And Fëanáro’s mother… she gave him too much of herself.”

I look at her, wide-eyed. “Too much…? I did not know that was even possible.”

“None did.” She sighs. “And even had we known, there was little any of us could have done. It was her choice.  We are not to interfere with the decisions of the Children of Ilúvatar.”

I look away, overwhelmed by what I have just learned, but then a thought occurs to me.

“Does Fëanáro know this? For, if he does, then…” Shaken, I turn back to lady Estë, and on her sad face I see the answer.

“He does. And still he keeps coming here, even though it has long been known that lady Míriel has refused to come back. Even though King Finwë has long abandoned hope that his beloved wife might return to him.”

“King Finwë…?” My eyes widen again. “So Fëanáro is… I did not know.”

“What if you had known? Would that diminish your compassion towards him? Your care?”

“No.” I shake my head. “I do not think so.”

“I do not think so either. He is the son of the King and the most gifted of your people, that is true. But he is also little more than a child, struggling to cope with the loss of his mother in the way that seems least painful to him. Yet he will have to face that pain one day. When that day comes, will he have a friend beside him?”

I raise my head and firmly look into the timeless eyes of my teacher. “Yes. Yes, lady, he will.”

“I am glad.” She smiles. “Not all is revealed to the Valar, but that much we know – Finwë’s eldest son has a high destiny. Yet summits are often lonely, and the value of true friendship for those who find themselves there – immeasurable.”

“Yes, lady,” I repeat, but to myself I think that Fëanáro would surely choose his mother’s warm embrace over his many gifts and high destiny.

During the days to come I ponder all I have been told, and some time passes ere I finally return to the lakeshore. Fëanáro hastens towards me, apparently glad of our meeting.

“Aldanwë, were you completely lost in your studies?”

I have never been good at telling something that is not true, so I do not even try. “No. I just… I just had something to think about. I am sorry I was away so long.”

When I say nothing more, he looks at me with true concern. “I just hope all is well with you.”

“Yes.” I make an effort to smile. “All is well.”

Maybe my words are convincing enough, for Fëanáro smiles in return.

“I am glad. Look what I made for my mother!”

It is a small handheld mirror he now shows me, set in a frame of intertwined silver ornaments. I take it and admire the beauty of form, the subtlety of work. Another thing of wonder to be set on the table in the small pavilion to await something that will never happen. My fingers close about the handle, and I make a decision.

“It is beautiful, Fëanáro.” I raise my eyes and give him the mirror back. “But you should stop doing this.”

“Stop doing what?” He takes a step back, alarmed.

“Making things no one shall ever use.” I see his face growing pale. Compassion smites me, but I steel myself for the words that need to be said. “Your mother, Fëanáro… She will not return.”

“How would you know?” His eyes flash in sudden anger. “You are not a healer, merely an apprentice! You cannot know that!”

“I know that. And you know that too. You know she is not coming back.”

He flinches as if from a blow and takes another step back. Anger that had flared up has faded, and now his eyes are two deep wells of pain. “Why are you saying such things? Why? I thought you were my friend!”

“I am your friend, Fëanáro!” I am nearly choking on tears. “That is why. As your friend, I must tell you the truth. I do not want you to waste your life like this. And I think your mother would not have wanted it either. She would not wish you to linger beside her! She would wish you to adorn Arda with the marvels of your making, not pile them by her bed!”

“It is my fault.” Fëanáro’s face is pale, nearly white. “It is my fault she does not return. I am to blame.” His trembling hand grips the mirror with such force that the frame bends and twists, and the glass cuts his palm. A drop of blood falls in the grass but he stands motionless, unaware of the injury.

“You are not to blame! In no way is that your fault! You are not responsible for your mother’s choices, only for your own!”

I take the mirror from his hand and bandage the wound with my scarf, but Fëanáro stands still as a stone, staring past me with unseeing eyes. Now I am afraid for him, afraid of the depth of his grief, and I am also afraid that my words, true though they were, have shattered our friendship.

“Fëanáro?” My voice is hesitant when I at last speak his name.

As if suddenly awakened, he turns towards me and pierces me with his gaze. “She truly is not returning, is she?”

I wish I could take back everything I have said before. I wish I could keep pretending that one day everything would be well again, that one day his mother would indeed rise from her bed and sit under the golden light of Laurelin, looking with wonder and delight at the things of unequalled beauty her son has made. But it is too late for that. Tears burn in my eyes as I shake my head. “No. She is not.”

The fire in Fëanáro’s gaze dies. As if my words were the last grain in the burden of misery, he sinks to the ground and covers his face. In a short while wild sobs rack his body. I kneel beside him and speak meaningless words of comfort, and he holds on to me as if I were a lifeline.

A long time passes ere his tears run dry but when they do, he rises and goes to the pavilion. There, he first reaches for the handle but then draws his hand back and instead rests his brow and his palms against the door. “Farewell, Amillë,” he says quietly after a while of silence, then steps down on the grass and turns towards me resolutely. “You said there were many fair places along the shore. Will you show them to me?”

After that, Fëanáro no more travels to Lórien. But our friendship only grows stronger, and we see each other often. I am a guest at his naming ceremony and, some time later, he is a guest at mine. I marvel at the immensity of his talents – he excels at whatever he sets his hands to. I learn of his eagerness and generosity. But I also learn of his impatience and swift anger. I try to quell his fury at his father’s second wedding. I attempt to soften his bitterness towards lady Indis and her children. We speak to one another about our hopes and dreams, about our joys and disappointments. Later, when he already has sought apprenticeship with Mahtan, one of the most skilled smiths of the Noldor, I am the first one to whom he confesses his love towards Mahtan’s daughter. Our friendship is true and strong.

My memories are interrupted as the ship heaves violently, encountering a large wave, and I must grab the shrouds to remain on my feet. The land looms closer. The air is damp, the wind whistles in the rigging throwing into my face a drizzle of faint rain, and I peer into the dusk with a heavy foreboding.

Fëanáro’s three eldest sons stand some steps away, closer to the bow.

“I did not imagine our arrival thus.” Nelyafinwë’s posture is tense, his hands grip the railing.

“None of us imagined it so, I think, even father...” Makalaurë casts a swift glance over his shoulder and continues only when certain that their sire is nowhere to be seen,”…even father did not expect it to end like this.”

“End?” Nelyafinwë’s bitter laugh sends chills own my spine. “You are mistaken, brother. Nothing has ended yet. This is just the beginning.”

With these words, he turns and strides away. Makalaurë makes a step to follow his elder brother, but Tyelkormo restrains him.

“Let him go,” he quietly says. “Leave him be. There is nothing we can do, anyway.”

“I just… I…”

Makalaurë turns away to hide his grief from his younger brother who gets along with beasts so much better than with people, who sometimes appears harsh and impatient when confronted with weakness. But not this time. This time Tyelkormo sets his arm around Makalaurë’s shoulders.

“I know, brother. I know.” Helpless anger and grief rings in his voice. “But I cannot help. Neither him, nor Curufinwë. Nor you. I can only watch you all suffer. Maitimo, hiding his broken heart behind a shield of indifference. Curufinwë, lashing out at whoever happens to be close. You, repeating to the darkness the names of those you left behind. Morifinwë, lost in cold rage. The twins, sick with longing for home and for mother. I watch all this, and there is nothing I can do.”  

“That is not your fault.” Makalaurë covers his eyes with a trembling hand. The golden band of the wedding ring on his finger gleams faintly in the light of the swaying lamps that light the deck. “None of that.”

“Even so.” Tyelkormo draws him in embrace, and they stand in silence as the white ship, slicing the waves, brings us ever closer to the coast of Endórë.

“How long until the landing?”

That is Fëanáro’s commanding voice. He has emerged from the cabin and now strides towards us. His sons tense, hearing him, and swift anger arises in me suddenly. He has given so little consideration to his sons’ anguish, he has shown no compassion to them. Yet speaking my mind will not change anything for the better; on the contrary, it will only pour oil into the fire of Fëanáro’s wilful pride. So I push back my anger and approach him, to distract him with questions about Endórë, about his plans, so that his sons can have a short time for their grief without their father’s overwhelming presence and scorn.

We anchor the ships in a narrow firth, overshadowed on both sides by the shoulders of the mountain ridge. A good while passes until we unload the vessels, lead ashore the horses and carry everything else – provisions, tools, materials. Weapons. Meanwhile the rain abates, and stars appear overhead. They are veiled at first, but then a breeze drives away the last clouds, and the vast expanse of the sky is suddenly strewn with countless glittering dots of light. Many of us look up to admire their radiance. In Valinórë, the stars were always obscured by the greater glow of the Trees.

“I have never seen stars so bright!”

Tyelperinquar stands still beside me, eyes turned skywards, delight and wonder on his face, terror of the days past forgotten for a while. But then there are swift steps and Curufinwë’s impatient voice behind us.

“What are you staring at? The tools will not unload by themselves!”

Startled, Tyelperinquar turns and meets his father’s irritated gaze. Then he sighs, bows his head and follows Curufinwë back to the ships, to help carry ashore the remaining chests.

At last everything is unloaded. I stray some two hundred paces away, to the place where a forest of evergreen trees climbs down nearly to the high water. Their trunks are leaning away from the coast, due to the wind, as I guess, and the roots of those closest to the shore are partly bare, the sand and gravel washed away. Some trees have already fallen to the overwhelming power of the wind and the waves, and lie on the coast or partly in the shallows, like bare bones of great sea-animals.

I turn away from the gloomy sight, ascend the slope and take some steps into the forest. A faint scent of resin lingers in the air. The canopy overhead is dense, and there is a thick carpet of needles underfoot. I lay my hand on one of the stems, and sense a faint warmth beneath my palm and life coursing under the rough bark. I feel it, just like I felt the trees and plants back in Valinórë; I close my eyes and feel other trees around me also, as well as undergrowth, ferns, and mosses. This quiet place is full of life and, despite the dismal view on the seaside, the forest is not hostile at all. No, it is beautiful even, in a strange, solemn way, and suddenly a desire comes over me to wander under the dark crowns, to explore the growing things, to learn of their shapes, of their uses. I tarry in the woodland with eyes closed and hand resting against the coarse tree-bark until a sound of a breaking twig in the distance reminds me that I am in a strange land, alone, apart from the others, armed with only a knife.

I descend to the shore again. Some fires are lit, more for cheer than for warmth, but Fëanáro has not ordered to set up a permanent camp. I see his sons in the distance speaking together; then Nelyafinwë nods resolutely and approaches his father. I see him saying something, pointing with his hand towards the Sea, likely asking about the arrangements to ferry across Nolofinwë’s host. Fëanáro replies. They are too far for me to discern what they say, yet I see disbelief and horror dawning on Nelyafinwë’s face. Then Fëanáro laughs. His laughter, loud and full of contempt, silences the conversations around the fires and draws many gazes towards them. Nelyafinwë shakes his head furiously, he grabs his father’s sleeve and speaks on, swift pleading words, but Fëanáro pulls free from his son’s hold, turns his back on him and walks away. Nelyafinwë remains standing frozen on the waterline. Staring with narrowed eyes after his father, he clenches his fists, and dismay on his face turns into cold fury.

Shortly afterwards, Fëanáro calls us together and announces his decision not to return for Nolofinwë and his people.

“Why should we go back for those who think so little of our errand?” he cries. “Even as we marched, they complained and muttered behind our backs! Their desire for Endórë is half-hearted, as is their wish to avenge the wrongs we have suffered! We need them not; a useless baggage on the road! Let them remain! Let them crawl back to the thrones of the Valar and beg forgiveness! We need them not!”

He speaks and speaks, and his words once again set our hearts and minds aflame, so that even later, as we already hold burning torches and kindle arrowheads, this seems to us the right way. This seems to us the only way, and we put to use the torches and release the arrows. The rigging is the first to catch fire, then the furled sails and tall masts. Then the white hulls, too, are burning, and it looks like the Sea itself is ablaze, wasting away in a bonfire this world has not yet seen.

The fire is at its mightiest when my bewilderment passes. The bow that has released a flaming shaft falls from my suddenly numb fingers, and I sway, overwhelmed by the weight of realization and guilt. This is the worst we have done, it occurs to me. Not Alqualondë. This. The wanton destruction of the work of the hands and hearts of others. We have laid waste something that may never be made again. Regret and grief claw at me sharply at this thought, and I wonder if others feel the same. Perhaps not. Not yet. They are still under the sway of Fëanáro’s voice. Only Nelyafinwë has taken no part in what we have done. Arms folded on his chest, he still stands motionless on the shore, looking at the wide expanse of water, and the flickering light of flames is reflected on his pale face.

The burning is great and terrible, but also swift. The flames die and the water is dark again, its surface broken only by charred pieces of hulls. There are no more stars. Smoke has obscured them, and it still hangs in the air above our heads like an accusation.

Nelyafinwë does not turn when his father approaches him. Fury distorts Fëanáro’s face, his words are hot and angry, yet they break to shards against the wall of icy silence his son has set between them. At length he loses his patience entirely, seizes Nelyafinwë’s shoulder and turns him by force.

“How dare you disregard the orders of your father and King?”

Nelyafinwë wrenches himself free. He is but a little taller than his father, but in this moment he seems to be towering over Fëanáro.

“My father,” his voice is cold and sharp as a blade, “would never have demanded my obedience in matters that would so darken my heart and his! And there are orders I do not take even from a King!”

Fëanáro’s face is white in anger. His hand strays to the hilt of the sword at his belt. My heart misses a beat, but even as I make a step towards them, Fëanáro releases the weapon, turns on his heel and strides away, his cloak billowing behind like wings of a great black bird. Nelyafinwë looks after him with cold contempt, but his expression changes when he notices Tyelperinquar further on the shore staring at the charred remains of the ships in the shallows. The youth wipes away tears, but then swiftly draws his hand back, unwilling to show that he is weeping. Nelyafinwë draws a long, shuddering breath and goes to comfort his brother-son.

I look around and see bewilderment slowly falling away from people. There are frozen, rigid postures and pale, terrified faces. There are torches fallen to the ground or, still smouldering, gripped in trembling hands. There are quiet snatches of speech, ending as abruptly as they have started. And the smoke still burns in our eyes while ashes still fly in the air, settling on the water like a grey shroud.

Other Fëanáro’s sons are not far from the shore. Tyelkormo sits on the ground, knees drawn up, arm set around his great wolfhound, fingers firmly locked in Huan’s grey fur. Makalaurë holds the twins in embrace. Morifinwë has strayed some distance away and is now throwing stones at a withered tree that still stands nearby the shore. He does it with such force that the dry branches he hits break off and fall to the ground. Curufinwë stands watching him, arms folded, a fierce scowl on his face. They all have likely seen the exchange between their father and eldest brother, and a blood-freezing thought enters my mind unbidden. What would they have done if Fëanáro had drawn his sword on Nelyafinwë?

It seems to me suddenly that the ground beneath my feet is slipping away, that everything is collapsing, unravelling – everything that was once good, strong, and meaningful. Trust. Honour. Bonds of family. Friendship. I go to seek Fëanáro.

I find him near one of the fires. He sits there alone, sharpening his sword. The whistling sound makes me shiver, yet I must at least attempt to speak with him.

Fëanáro senses my presence and raises his head, his eyes glint in the firelight. “What do you want?”

His question is so sudden and fierce that I do not find words at once. Apparently he sees my silence as an accusation.

“So you too are one of those who know better what I should and should not do? Like my wife, like my wretched half-brothers and that brat Nelyafinwë?” He nearly spits out his eldest son’s name. “If I shall want your advice, Aldanwë, I shall ask for it! Do you understand?”

“I…” But then I fall silent. I am on your side, I wanted to say, but now I realize that this reply would not be honest. Not any longer. So I say something else, something that still is true. Something that will always be true. “I am not your enemy.”

“Are you not? Indeed?” Fëanáro regards me with narrowed eyes. “That remains to be seen.” There is not a sliver of warmth in his voice and his gaze. “Now, get away! Leave me!”

I followed you! We followed you! We took part in the madness you contrived!  How dare you treat us like this? I want to scream to his face, to shake him until some sense returns to his anger- and hate-clouded mind. Yet I do none of these things. Instead, I stagger back and do as he told me. I leave.

In bewilderment of anger and grief I stray far along the shore, and when the beach at last ends with black cliffs stepping into the Sea I sink down on a boulder and sit there, staring at the dark water. And likely, I deceive myself when I cling to a faint hope that maybe beneath the consuming flames of hatred still burns the warm fire of creation. That there is still some pity and care behind the hard, unyielding gaze. That maybe, just maybe, under the layers of anger, pride and arrogance, under the guise of the King of the Noldor, there is still that boy I met in the gardens of Lórien. That boy who was my friend.


The ferocity of the storm slowly lessens. Snow abates, and now at least we must struggle only against the snowdrifts on the ground. The sky clears partly, and some faint stars appear to guide us on our woeful road. The hastily made stretcher we bear in shifts is heavy, for the full armour of the one who lies upon it. I carry it now, together with Nelyafinwë who goes in front, so I cannot see his face. But I see the faces of Fëanáro’s other sons who walk close beside us and cast frequent glances, full of fear and grief, towards their father. There is little hope Fëanáro will live. His armour is broken and blackened by the fell fire of Moringotto’s servants, his breath comes in rasping, painful gasps.

“Stop!” We have reached the pass when voice comes from the stretcher, quiet and laboured, yet still commanding. “Put me down!”

“My lord, we should make all haste to the camp,” I say, wondering suddenly and unfittingly when did I start to call my best friend ‘my lord’ and whether he has even once objected to me doing so. “Only there we can give you the aid and care you need.”

But my words are empty. There is no aid and care that would be enough to heal his body, lacerated by the fire-whips of Valaraucar, and Fëanáro is aware of that.

“I am beyond any aid, Aldanwë, and you know that!” His eyes flash briefly, then the fire in them dies, and he sighs. “Do as I say. Put me down.”

We obey. None dares to go against the will of the Spirit of Fire even now. We set the stretcher on the ground. Fëanáro gasps in pain, but still struggles to sit up.

“Help me sit. I want to see.”

“Father…” Curufinwë’s voice trembles; he has been on the brink of tears since the battle. “Please, father, let us return to the camp!”

“I want to see!”

We raise him up so that he sits, resting against a boulder. His gaze strays around. What is there to see save the stony mountain pass, covered in a coat of snow? But then Fëanáro’s eyes remain bound on something. I follow his gaze, and my heart sinks when I see what he is staring at. Three hideously shaped peaks in the distance. The stronghold of Moringotto.

Rage and hatred flash in Fëanáro’s eyes. He raises a clenched fist towards Angamando and thrice curses Moringotto’s name. This takes most of his strength; his hand trembles, and he lets it fall. But he is not done with his enemy yet.

“My sons…” His voice is faint, yet still it holds a note of command. “Come here, all of you.”

They gather around him. There is silence for a while. And then…

“The… Oath…”

As he is about to bind them with this curse once more, I want to interfere. But I remain silent. My words will not change anything, and what right do I have to stand against the will of one who is dying? Still, when Tyelperinquar makes a hesitant step towards his grandfather, I pull him firmly back and shake my head sharply.

No! Do not!” My lips move without sound.

Whether he understands or simply is too distraught by grief to strive with my will, he remains beside me and repeats not the dreadful words along with his father and his uncles. But they all do it. Tyelkormo, Morifinwë and Tyelperinquar’s father speak loudly, assuredly. Makalaurë’s voice is hesitant. The twins speak quietly, sounding frightened. Nelyafinwë’s voice is flat, without any expression, and his face remains cold and impassive. Still, he speaks the words together with his brothers.

“Yes,” Fëanáro whispers when the last word of the Oath has been uttered. “No other purpose to guide you above this one, though the road be bitter and hopeless.”

His head falls back against the stone. His eyes close. Curufinwë kneels beside him, now weeping openly.

“Father! Father!”

There is no more reply. No more sound or movement. Fëanáro’s body starts to glow as if with a white fire. Light grows so bright that we must avert our eyes, and when we turn towards him again, a sudden gust of wind carries away a cloud of pale ashes. We look at one another in a silent horror. Where the King of the Noldor has lain, there is only his empty armour left. His body is gone.

“Father…” whispers Curufinwë amid tears. He raises a trembling hand and touches the breastplate; it crumbles beneath his fingers. He withdraws his hand abruptly, jumps to his feet and takes a step back. His eyes, full of terror, are still locked on the pieces of his father’s armour.

For a while there is no other sound, save the whistling of wind around boulders in the distance and our own sharply drawn breath.

“Make ready to leave. We return to the camp.” Nelyafinwë’s voice, shaken yet resolute, breaks the silence. He is clearly in command now.

“Father… We should…” Makalaurë speaks haltingly, in near-whisper. “We…” He points with a trembling hand to the place where Fëanáro has died.

“We should do what, Makalaurë?” Morifinwë’s voice is harsh with grief. “There is nothing we can do! There is even nothing left to bury!”

He speaks true. Even the armour has crumbled to dust now, and another gust blows it away in a grey cloud.

Nelyafinwë looks at them all in turn.

“We shall mark the place of his death,” he says.

He takes up a stone, of a size he can easily hold in both hands, and places it on the ground over the crumbled remains of his father’s armour. His brothers do the same. Then the others.

I am the last, and I long stare numbly at the pile of black stones that mark the place where the greatest of the Noldor has passed away. Tears sting my eyes. The memory of Fëanáro’s pride and arrogance, of his disastrous choices fade in the realization that I shall never hear his deep voice and compelling laughter again. I shall never again listen to his explanations of craft, far too complicated for me to understand, yet so exciting. I shall never see him again. Never. It feels so unreal, like an evil dream from which one can awake only when there is enough light. But here there are merely distant stars, and I know we shall remain in the shadows. We shall remain in a world where there will be no Spirit of Fire, in a world bereft of beauty and glory he could still have brought into it. Why did it have to end like this, Fëanáro?


We return to the camp in subdued silence and gather in one of the tents raised for healing. There I tend the injuries our people gained in the battle, none of them life-threatening, but some deep enough to cause concern, and some possibly poisoned.

Fëanáro’s sons are nearly unscathed; only Tyelkormo has a shallow cut on his arm. Yet, when I have bandaged that, none of the brothers leaves. The grief and horror of today still chains them, it chains us all, and it will be slow to wear off.

Makalaurë sits motionless in a chair, and silent tears flow over his face. The twins are sobbing. Tyelkormo sits frozen and pale; beside him, Curufinwë has buried his face in his hands. Morifinwë is pacing back and forth, halting occasionally, and in his eyes grief is mingled with helpless rage. Nelyafinwë stands in the corner, arms folded on his chest, face expressionless. Suddenly Curufinwë raises his head, and I see that he, too, has been weeping.

“What happened?” he whispers. “What happened on the mountain pass? Father’s body… What happened to it?”

At the sound of his voice, the others turn.

“A sorcery of Moringotto?” suggests Telufinwë in a trembling voice. “Perhaps his fire-demons claimed father’s body. They marked it first, and then…”

He falls silent at Morifinwë’s fierce glare. Makalaurë stirs. There is a shadow of fear in his eyes.

“Could it have been… a punishment from the Valar?” he asks hesitantly, looking at his elder brother.

Nelyafinwë turns away. Whatever he thinks, he keeps to himself. The others exchange glances; their pale faces and rigid postures give away their growing anxiety.

“The Valar have abandoned us,” whispers Pityafinwë. His hands are trembling slightly, and he folds them on his chest, gripping the edges of his coat.                                                                                           

“We have abandoned them, brother.” That is Nelyafinwë’s voice now, resigned and weary.

“It were them who left the Noldor to Moringotto’s treacherous designs!” Morifinwë’s eyes flash angrily. He halts in his pacing, yet the challenge with which he looks at his eldest brother is half-hearted.

“Maybe. But our road has been of our own choosing.”

With these words Nelyafinwë leaves the tent. A heavy silence falls, full of uncertainty. If they have hoped for words of encouragement from their eldest brother, they have received none.

“If Moringotto is indeed so powerful as to turn our father’s body to ashes even from a distance… What hope do we have in defeating him?” Tyelkormo softly asks.

“None, most likely.” Makalaurë bows his head. “What chance do we stand against the most powerful of the Valar? Or maybe…” His voice trembles. “Maybe even… against all of them. If that was not Moringotto, then… Remember the words of doom we heard ere crossing over.”

Fear in their eyes slowly turns into terror. I cannot watch this any longer.

“No!” I bring my palm flat down on the table. Startled, they all turn towards me. “No.” I repeat in a calmer voice, looking steadily at each of them in turn. “It was neither Moringotto, nor any of the other Valar! Not in vain was your father named the Spirit of Fire! The flight of his own fëa burned his body to ashes, nothing else! Like a flame he lived, and like a flame was his passing!”

They look at one another.

“Do you truly think so, Aldanwë?” Curufinwë’s question is hesitant, yet there is a note of cautious hope in it.

“No, I do not think so! I know so!”

I allow anger into my voice, for it leaves less room for uncertainty. I do not know. Fear is assailing me too, and a wave of grief threatens to wash me away, to pull me into the abyss from which there will be no returning. Still, I refuse to surrender to it; I desperately hold onto even the tiniest crevice I can find. And, whatever the truth, I will not permit the sons of my once-best friend to think that their father was conquered in his death – either by Moringotto or by anyone else.

“Yes, Aldanwë,” Tyelkormo replies respectfully. “Yes, certainly. You would know that.”

“Indeed. The Valar are powerful, yes, but they are not almighty. So do not question your resolve and strength either!” Even as I speak, they sit up straighter, exchange glances and nods of consent. “There is no way back, only forward. Remember how Moringotto’s creatures fled before you!”

With that, I leave the tent and let my words linger in the air behind me. Is it fair to give them encouragement in their hopeless quest? Likely not, but despair would be worse. Much worse.



I pass through the hastily arranged camp. Fires flicker amid the tents; the glow of the flames creates an eerie dance of light and shadow, reflecting on faces and forms of still busy people. I look for some work where I could add my strength, but do not find one immediately, so I stray away from the lights to the shore.

The sky is clear now, and the dark waters of the lake glitter faintly in the starlight. Snow is but a thin coat here, covering the ground in patches, and close to the water it disappears altogether. The waterside is rocky, strewn with shingles, scattered stones and larger boulders, some of them standing in the shallows and some on the coast. On one of those sits Fëanáro’s eldest son.

He sits there still as a stone himself, and the grating of rocks beneath my feet fails to draw his attention.

“My lord Nelyafinwë.”

Only when I speak does he turn towards me, and I notice with a start how weary he looks – the shadows lining his eyes, the sharply drawn lines of his face.

“So that is who I am now, Aldanwë?” he asks bitterly. “Your lord?”

“How I call you does not change my care and love for you and your brothers,” I reply. “But that you are now indeed, after your father’s passing. The lord of the Noldor who followed him.” Nelyafinwë says nothing. He looks away, and I see that his hands are clenched in fists. “If you want to be alone, I will go.”

After hesitating for a while he shakes his head. I sit on another boulder beside him, ready to share the silence or to listen to him speak – whatever support I can give. Soon the silence is broken.

“This must be how they looked over the Sea,” Nelyafinwë’s intent gaze is towards the dark water. “Watching, awaiting white sails to appear. But instead there was a red glow in the distance. Maybe even smoke was carried over, dark and acrid smoke.” He falls silent, then turns towards me abruptly. “Why did the Valar allow that to happen? How can it be that such things of Light and beauty end in flames and Darkness? Is Darkness then so much stronger than Light?”

Why, indeed? I have not the answer.

“The counsel of the Valar is their own and hidden from the Eldar,” I reply. “But I do not believe the Darkness could prevail, in the end. It is, after all, something that in truth does not exist in itself. An absence of Light.”

“It seemed a being of its own, in Formenos.” Nelyafinwë’s voice trembles with remembered dread. “A bewildering, terrifying presence, nothingness that would swallow everything on its way.”

“Still, the Light proved stronger. The wind drove away the shadows, and so it will be even now. The Darkness is but a cloud obscuring the sky, and once it passes, the stars will shine the brighter. Despite fear and weariness, we must go on.”

“I am not certain I can find in my heart anything that would make me go on.” His eyes are again bent towards the other shore. “Do I even have a heart still? It is as if...”

He falls silent, but I can easily guess what he has left unsaid. It is as if you left your heart in Valinórë, Maitimo. Still, you must go on. Somehow, you must find that strength. You have your brothers and your people to care for, and maybe to make right the mistakes your father made.

Nelyafinwë is aware of my thoughts. “I know I must,” he utters through clenched teeth. “But I do not know how! I cannot find even grief for my father’s death within me. I should mourn his passing, but I cannot! Listen and recoil at my words, Aldanwë! I hate him! Are you not terrified? Are you not?” he whispers bitterly, eyes feverishly bright in the dusk. I shake my head. “But you should be! I hate my father! And I hate myself the more, for I have no tears for him!”

He hides his face in his hands and sits there, swaying back and forth in silent misery, while I desperately and vainly search for some words of hope. Fëanáro, what have you done to your children? I have held Nelyafinwë and his brothers in my arms as little babes. I have healed their bruised knees and sprained ankles after their childhood pranks. I have tended their wounds after the first battles we have encountered. I have remedies for that. But I have no cure for a broken heart.

“I wish I could do something,” I quietly say, painfully aware of my uselessness. “I wish I could help you.”

Slowly Nelyafinwë raises his face towards me. “You are doing something to help, Aldanwë. You came to Endórë. You are here, with us. Even though… I do not fully understand. Why did you follow him? You, of all people, in your wisdom? Surely you saw that my father was mad long before we left Valinórë?”

“Yes,” I reply after a while of pondering. “Yes, I saw that.”

“Then… why?”

I sigh. “I do not know. Maybe I thought I could change his fey mood. Make him see reason. For the sake of our friendship.”

Nelyafinwë bows his head. “For the sake of friendship… Findekáno was my best friend… Yet I abandoned him. I betrayed him. I…”

“No, you did not!” I cut him short. “It was your father who abandoned and betrayed Nolofinwë’s people! That treachery was his doing, not yours! That was his decision, against which you had no power to stand, surely you understand this? So do not dare to blame yourself, Maitimo!”

Fëanáro’s eldest son looks at me for a few moments in silence, then turns away again.

“Do not call me that anymore, Aldanwë,” he says in a hollow voice. “Maitimo remained in Valinórë – a silent ghost roaming the plains, treading the soft grass amid little streamlets that mirror starlight and memories. Only Nelyafinwë followed Fëanáro, and Nelyafinwë is chained by the oath of vengeance, chained forever.”

He stares blankly into the darkness, and I fear that loss, grief and despair will crush him utterly, that he will break under the burden that now lies upon him. To lead his people. To care for his brothers. To fulfil his father’s insane Oath. But I refuse to acknowledge the irreversible ruin. I will do anything to awaken hope in Nelyafinwë’s heart and in the hearts of his brothers – even if that hope is vague and uncertain. Flame can start from a single spark, hidden in grey ashes.

“It needs not be forever.”

“You saw what happened in the mountains and before that.” Nelyafinwë’s voice is still lifeless. “I may hate my father, but I also acknowledge his strength and prowess. If he was overcome so easily…”

“That was far from easily.” I shake my head. “Your father’s death was caused by his own rashness and overconfidence. He stood with but a handful of followers against many. When we came with force, Moringotto’s beasts and fire-demons fled from us, did they not?” I fall silent for a while. His gaze grows sharp, and I see him pondering my words. “They all fled from us. Perhaps the Black Foe is not as strong as we thought, perhaps he can be defeated. And if that could be done, if you and your brothers overcame Moringotto, fulfilled the Oath and regained the Silmarils? Surely, the Valar would forgive you. Moringotto is their enemy as well! Surely they would allow you to return then.”

A faint spark of hope appears in Nelyafinwë’s eyes. “Maybe,” he whispers. “Maybe they would.” He turns his face towards the sky and watches the brilliance of stars for a long while. When he looks at me again, I see that the spark is growing into a steady flame. “You are right, Aldanwë. We must attempt to fulfil the Oath. We must defeat Moringotto, take back the jewels, return to Valinórë and beg Valar’s forgiveness. That is the only way. And we may be strong enough to do it! Our strength is in just cause and steadfast resolve. We shall do whatever it takes to win this war!” He rises and turns towards the encampment. His voice is firm, his expression determined. “Come, let us return. I gave my brothers little comfort before; I should amend that.”

I nod and follow him, relieved that his dark thoughts have departed. As we enter the ring of light amid the tents, Makalaurë hastens towards us. His face is pale, his eyes wide.

“Russandol, there are envoys requesting to speak with us,” he gasps. “From… Moringotto! They ask for a parley!”

Nelyafinwë looks at me briefly and nods, then turns towards his brother.

“Come, we shall speak with them.” His voice is calm and resolute. “This may be our chance to end this nightmare swiftly! Perhaps I was wrong to despair before time!”

Later, looking back on this day, I shall bitterly rue the false hope my words planted. I shall reproach myself for failing to consider Moringotto’s true strength and the webs of deceit he could weave. Oft I shall recall the all-encompassing dread that seized me at the sight of Nelyafinwë’s tall figure retreating in the shadows, and I shall wonder in vain whether I could have prevented the disaster, had I spoken of my foreboding. And even if my reason shall assert I could not have changed anything, in my heart there will always remain this uncertainty, and I shall still blame myself – for speaking, at first, and for remaining silent, later.


~ The End ~

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