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A/N This story is a one-off that I wrote a couple of years ago for a friend before I began ‘Flame Rekindled'. As can be seen, ‘Flame’ has developed out of ‘Redemption’. I am aware that some folk may not like this sort of tale, or would rather not read this one-shot as it contains some of the further developments that feature in the main story – but it does not contain them all, and some matters in this version are not picked up upon in ‘Flame’. I hope that I have not confused anyone!
(Disclaimer: The characters and world they inhabit all belong to Tolkien. Only the interpretation and any mistakes are mine.)
With thanks to Fëanor for being the first to read.
Many thanks also to Alassiel and to Nólemë for their invaluable help and advice.
“For the price could be no other.”
(Manwë: on considering the answer of Fëanor to his heralds. ‘Of the Sun and the Moon’. The Silmarillion. J. R. R. Tolkien. Ed C. Tolkien. )
And so the Ages passed. In a manner all was the same – time and no time – past, present and future were as one. But I knew then the unique graveness of my deeds amongst the Eldar; the pride that, while justified, had led me to accept lies without question, thinking them truth of my own device. I knew the greatness for which I had been intended. I knew so pointedly where I had erred, where I had become as a tool of the Marrrer. I, who thought to remain unbowed and unashamed, knew I had failed.
Such enlightenment pleased me not at all. That I, who would ever be master, had been mastered and used by the arch-deceiver; the murderer, the dark foe of Arda! Ai – such folly on my part – it was nigh unendurable.
Many matters had been nigh unendurable to me, but I was one who would never knowingly show weakness. I who was acclaimed as the mightiest of the Noldor would not add ‘craven’ to the list of my perceived character flaws.
Since being granted sight of the works of Vairë and of my mother; since being allowed those rare visits from my father, I had come to know so much more than anger, hatred and jealousy. Since knowing the role of Manwë and Mandos in keeping my fëa from the ensnarement intended by Morgoth I had become again one who paid heed to the Valar - one who knew them not to be his enemies.
The silence was no longer unbearable. Though there were instants when I was consumed with a longing to hear spoken word from warm and living flesh rather than thought or memory; to hear laughter, to hear the beauty of music again - that which I most longed to hear was clear in my mind, and freed from taint.
“Beloved,” she had called me.
Even after the grief and sorrow I had caused her – when I reached out to her at that moment I knew of Nelyafinwë’s death, and I realised she and I were not sundered in fëar as I had believed - she had that once called me “Finwion; meldanya!”
And we had a measure of understanding between us.
Even so, I never stopped yearning for restoration with my hröa; to be able to do, to be able to touch, to be able to talk and communicate again with other than Mandos and grey-cloaked Nienna; to be able to tell her face-to-face how wrong I had been.
For many Ages had Mandos striven with me. So much time I had wasted in resistance, then in powerless regret. And had I not been intended by Eru to do so very much? Was I not to bring forth those devices that would have held back a space the tide of darkness the mortals were wrecking upon Arda - to show them a better way forward? I had not fulfilled my purpose. In my arrogance, I had run before I could walk – thinking my strength and skill a true challenge to the might of the Valar. Would that I had done otherwise!
So I could do naught but come to terms with my failure – an understanding that would have been unthinkable when I walked the lands in hröa.
Thus it was that I endured in my jail – endured correction, healing, and learnt to embrace wisdom. But still could I not be freed. At times I pondered if I still wished it to be so. All had changed – all I dreamt of achieving had long been lost. All I loved – save her, save my mother, save Kanafinwë – were in the same place of awaiting as I. Mayhap I should have stilled my heart further – to accept that there would never be release for me – that even the needful action upon which I placed my hope for short-lived freedom – the breaking of the Silmarils – could be done by another? I was not needed amongst my people or kin – I was not wanted – save by a very few. And were they not better off without me? Yet my spirit would never be stilled, nor would I flinch from facing whatever my return would entail. There was one who wanted me – and for her sake as well as my own, I would not accept a final defeat.
In the place of my fëa’s confinement I wandered at will – the seemingly endless, crystal-lit corridors, the tapestries of life that decorated the walls; I wandered amongst them mayhap for two ages or more. But eventually the tapestries became fewer – became less colourful – as a greyness, a barrenness was taken up in the weave that spoke of a doom which Arda could not long survive. I saw the visions given me of the time of Morgoth’s return coming to be reality in both realms. Life in Aman – what I knew of it from the tapestries, had become nigh sterile, ever the same – day after day of unfaltering familiarity. Even those noble lords and ladies returned from the keeping of Mandos had not been able to stave off the growing ennui. Even my wise brother – even he of clearest vision and strength of character to see through the long years as esteemed king – he could do naught to prevent the slow withering of spirit amongst the Noldor.
The Valar themselves were tired – I knew! It was as if the foul and poisonous air from the Hither Lands had reached across the bridge of thought and light to weaken them. As if, with the passing of Ages - of the future of Arda becoming more firmly established - they were without purpose.
‘Wilt thou not send back my brother, at the least?’ I had questioned Mandos, mayhap several hundred years ago. ‘Wilt thou not have the foresight to act upon thy knowledge of Morgoth’s plans? Thou dost of certainty know the Music – thou dost know how he has ever brought discord to the Song thee and thy brethren gave forth before Eru. Send back Nolofinwë – that Arafinwë, Ingwë and Olwë make not this coming stand alone.’
But Mandos had given me no answer on that occasion. And it seemed as if there was sadness upon even the Doomsman that he said only that all was being done to thwart the dark enemy and his followers. That through defeat would come victory – and a greater music thereafter.
Foolish words, I once would have thought. But I understood that at times, victory could be wrenched from the edge of despair. That though existence in Arda Marred was ever a struggle against the long defeat - there were moments of hope sublime. Had I not been shown the power in hope; in a love sustained against all likelihood?
But I knew not if Nolofinwë had been restored? I spoke with him no more after that time we reconciled our past differences.
So it was that I dwelt oft in those memories that most gave me joy. Memories of the early days; of my parent’s delight in me; of my mother’s gentle touch, my father’s unfailing love for me - of the pleasure I had exploring with her on our journeys together; studying and working with her – loving her. I dwelt in memories of our sons about me, eager for life and adventure; riding with me across the wide expanse of Valinor to seek whatever knowledge we could. I thought on a house full of debate, enquiry and laughter – of the friends in Tirion who had never spoken me false – and of times alone in awe of the creation which surrounded me; which I would seek ever to understand – which challenged and inspired me to add to its glory.
I still thought of my Jewels. At times I wondered what, if aught, had further chanced them, but neither of the Valar spoke of them when they paid visit. Since I had come to the point of realising how I had allowed myself to walk unchallenging, unresisting into the dark night of my spirit, I found the call and love of the Silmarils to be a lesser thing to me.
Ai, but they were my heart! I wanted them back!
I wanted to look upon them again - to hold the three enchanted lights of undying gleam in the palm of my hand and know that all were in awe of them, and of me.
Yet a lesser thing were they become than the lives of my sons, so vainly discarded in pursuit of their oath; a lesser thing than the slaughter of my sire, trying to defend them from the thief and possessor; a lesser thing than to hold again in my arms the one whose company I desired in my solitude, and to know she wanted me still.
I still loved the works of my hands. The glory of the Silmarils was everlasting; but no longer was my heart in thrall to them. Or so, in my remaining folly I believed.
Since I had endured the purging of my guilt in what befell my people, in what befell the Teleri and others in the Hither Lands at the hands of my sons and followers, I found that resting in the shadow of my thoughts but rarely brought me pain. Mayhap, on occasion, the sea-like wail of the Teleri tormented my fëa; sometimes it was the memory of Nolofinwë’s face as he sought to follow me to doom. There were moments when I saw again the despair filled image of Nelyafinwë – a Silmaril clasped in his remaining hand, as he stood on the edge of a flaming chasm, and then stepped forward. At times I thought to see the Master Smith himself - Aulë, looking upon me with such disbelief that I would work against even him in my arrogance; and against that greatest of his servants, Urundil, her father. Aulë had never paid me visit – had never communed with me in any manner since I walked from his forge, believing him the liar whose words had taken from me my wife. Did he have any love yet for the one who so betrayed his trust, I wondered? At times I saw again the likeness of Manwë; sorrow filled at my decision to misunderstand his summons - that I had so stubbornly defied all his efforts to curb my hot-temper, that I could know of healing in Aman. And her; though I embraced the pain that accompanied any memory of her just to recall the love I lost and found - did I not sometimes hear her calling to me in that last of our encounters?
“Do not do this thing, Finwion! Even after such grief, after such an oath, thou canst find strength to recant. Even after speaking so vehemently against the Valar, of breaking the terms of thy exile, there may be the possibility of forgiveness. Few would be strong enough to realise their error, and turn from it. But thou art strong enough! And whatever exile, whatever punishment the Valar deem fitting for thee, will I not also endure, and willingly, at thy side. Come back to me, Finwion, as thou didst intend.”
In thought I reached forth to caress her tear stained face. I would not seek the union of our fëar that she knew more of the place in which I abode. I would keep her free from all touch with the seeming death.
Then was there the memory of he whom I once despised nigh as much as Moringotho, of Námo Mandos himself.
“For twelve years thou shalt leave Tirion where thy threat was uttered. In that time take council with thyself, and remember who and what thou art.”
I had thought him my enemy; that he sought only to humiliate me out of fear of my growing power. How wrong could I have been! And how long it had taken me to understand Mandos was giving me chance to avert what followed. “Remember who and what thou art”, had he said! Had I done so at Formenos then mayhap the future would have been that ‘other’ song which he showed me. Though my doom was ever to be slain in the Hither Lands, yet in that other future, which had been intended, would I have been slain amongst the forces under the Valar’s banners - and soon restored to be king in Tirion.
I, King of the Noldor, and accepted and acclaimed as such! What irony! But my freely made choices had shut all possibility of that path from my life, and from the lives of those I cared for.
Now there came a time in the place of awaiting when I realised I was no longer alone. Since my father’s visits, my reconciliation with Nolofinwë, and that occasion of gazing upon the still and slumbering forms of six of my sons and of my grandson, had I been without companion that I wondered, at first, if he were but an image Mandos wished me to consider?
A sense of familiarity there was about him, almost of kinship; a sense that, embodied, I would have known his face.
‘Do I know you; did I know or love you in life?’ said I, aware, oh, always so aware that great love was the only thing that bound solitary fëar.
It seemed he drew closer in intensity, for he, like I, would of needs be a fëa unhoused.
A pleasing, yet sorrowful nature did he put forth; an image of very much power, but in a manner self restrained. Though his features were unclear to me, dark of hair would he have been in life; fair of face and strong of arm. But that which I sensed the most was music, as if he were the source of a great music.
Ai, thought I with sudden hope and anguish! It is my son! For my second son had never lain at rest with the others, and Mandos had answered not my questions as to his whereabouts save to say, ‘He understands better than thou, spirit of Fëanáro, of the will of Eru.”
If I had physical form my heart would have pounded in eagerness, but as it was my thoughts reached out in desire to embrace the spirit of one I had thought long of; had loved, had missed.
‘Nay!’ the spirit replied, with a voice as rich and deep as my sons had been, and an understanding in that denial that his word would pain me further. ‘Kanafinwë is not in this place. I am not he, Fëanáro.’
After giving forth such an unguarded burst of vulnerability to one I knew not, I knew not what to say. But he was there. That spirit could ‘see’ me, had addressed me, and knew my name.
After so long without any other in reality, I, who was ever in life most eloquent, knew not what to say.
‘Why art thou in this place?’ my companion ventured to breach the awkwardness.
‘Do you not know? Which kindred of the Eldalië are you that you are drawn to me - speak my name, but know not my deeds?’
‘I know of thy deeds, Fëanáro. I have long heard of them. But that was not what I meant! Why art thou still in this darkness?’
I would have laughed at his question, but he was a companion - the first I had other than a Vala for a very long time. I would do naught to drive him from me.
‘I am not in darkness, and that due to the ministrations of the Doomsman of whom you must be aware. I am in this place of restraint, and not in hröa, because it is the will of Eru,’ said I. (I knew by then that Manwë would have loosed me if he could have so done. That he who was Lord of Arda would have overturned his own ordinances out of love for me.) ‘Manwë referred me to Eru for judgement because of my evil deeds. By my oath had I called down the doom of the Everlasting Darkness upon myself if I failed in my quest to reclaim my Jewels. I so failed. But Eru is not mine to command, to my good fortune and that of my sons. Though we are in this place of shadow, it is not the doom we expected.’
He seemed to ponder my words. Still was there a sense of sorrow about him, but like I, he seemed one to endure. I began to think that Mandos had made some oversight in his administering of spirits, for here was one of good company who brought me much to consider.
‘Truly dost thou say that Eru is not thine to command, nor is Eru anyone’s to so do. But neither is it the will of the All-Father that any remain in darkness. Think not that, most grave and solemn though thy oath was, and in no wise lightly revoked - it was utterly irredeemable. Thou didst speak most ill that day upon the heights of Tirion, and other days also, yet did thou speak from a heart filled with anguish and loss, and a mind burdened with guilt at not having been there to save thy father from the Destroyer. Fey hadst thou become, that thy foresight failed thee when most needed, that thou didst think only of vengeance and pride, and not of life! Was it not ever the intent of the fell Vala to bring about thy destruction? This thou didst know! Yet think thou that it is beyond Eru’s understanding?’
I wondered at his words with some annoyance, for none had ever spoken to me in such a manner. And I considered his being. Then it struck me – though he seemingly bore the semblance of a Noldo, the difference in fëa stuck me!
‘You are mortal - one of the Secondborn!’ said I. A statement of surety I made, though never had I actually beheld one of those whom I had once deemed to be so inferior; a cause for me to lead my people back to the Hither Lands. That was before I had seen the tapestries, had known of Beren, or of Tuor! ‘You are one of those Second Children of Eru, who inhabit the lands of the birth of my people even as the Quendi diminish.’
It seemed to me that he smiled; a smile of thoughtful concern at what I had said. Aye – he was mortal! I pondered that, young though he must of necessity be in years, yet was he one of the wise ones of his kind. For he carried with him a sense of great age, not bowed by weakness. I had understood the lifespan of the Secondborn to be a brief one in truth - as but several years. If that were so, then how did he get of such wisdom?
‘Tell me, are any of my people still in the Hither Lands or have your folk driven them all hence?’ I questioned him, Naught there was I could do, whatever his answer, but I would know. After so long of not wanting to see what transpired in the Hither Lands, I wanted to know!
‘The First Children of Eru are all gathered in the Blessed Realm, and there they dwell and abide yet in peace. Some few spirits of thy kind remain in that place thou dost call the Hither Lands for they will answer not the rightful summons of Mandos, but it is a land of the Second Children, and has been for many an Age.’
So ended yet another of my dreams! I felt no bitterness, for I had learnt that such a matter could be part of the will of Eru; and the reason for some things we may not know.
Ai! At that memory of words she had oft times spoke, I felt a sudden sense of her presence.
‘She would have liked to listen to you, visitor, for you remind me of the loremaster, Istyaro! Much was she, who in life was my lady, interested in the matters you speak of.’
‘In a manner she has oft listened to me’ he replied enigmatically. The sense put forth of his presence did not change. But something roundabout me was altering. I perceived not fully what it was.
‘You know of my lady?’
Now was I surprised! For a Secondborn to have heard of me was not beyond my comprehension. Surely tales of how dread I was, of ‘Fell Fëanáro’ if not of the skilled creator of the Silmarils survived in some manner throughout time. But the Secondborn could not know of her. Not of my wise and gentle wife who had never left Aman.
‘I know the Lady Nerdanel,’ he replied. ‘And stubborn and wilful she can be. Yet I know also of her long and steadfast vigil for those she loves.’
‘The vigil for her sons, and for Tyelpinquar,’ thought I with sorrow at what I had done to my family.
I could not answer my companion for a time. He seemed to withdraw from me, to let me ponder further. But still was his warm presence on the edge of my consciousness, as the cold presence of Námo Mandos oft was.
Strong had she been and undaunted by so much I had asked of her. Yet in the early days of my captivity I had thought to be summoned before Mandos, to be told she wished our union unmade. That she had lived alone in the unnatural state my father had not been able to endure and, at last, had found another even as he had, was ever a possibility. But when my mind cleared, and my memories of her cleared most swiftly, I knew she would never so do. I knew that for all my rashness, I had chosen a wife wisely. So foolish had I been to be angry at that ‘estrangement’. What were the five years she had withheld her company from me compared to the Ages I had caused myself to be parted from her?
‘Why am I here, you asked? Not through choice – but because Eru wills it! None of the Eldalië may be return to their hröa unless they are willing to take up again the life they left. What would that life mean to me? No more the high prince – of certainty not the king! No more exploration of lands unknown! Yet it is in my thoughts that I would be about creating things I have had long to ponder upon – that there are works of craft I would yet bring into existence. Aware am I that though my presence would be desired by few, yet does she still bear me love – that though to welcome me again as husband may be a challenge unto her, yet would she so do. Is it not the nature of love to put the beloved before ones own needs?’
He nodded agreement, as if he were one of the wisest of the wise. But a Secondborn was he, and a new thought came to me, that should have come first I realised he was no Elda.
‘You are of the Secondborn, visitor! This place, it is for the children of the Eldalië to remain in memory. The Jailer has been careless, for the spirits of your kind must depart from here and traverse the circles of Arda, to come unto the presence of Eru. I shall rattle the bars of this cage of mine a little, son of Men, that my keeper may know of his mistake and take you hence to the place of light appointed for you.’
‘Thy concern is most heartening, son of Finwë, but there is no need’ said he. ‘I am in the right place.’
We sat in the shadow of thought for longer, he and I. I knew he wanted something of me to remain, yet knew not what it could be.
‘I wonder still, why thou art in darkness, Fëanáro, son of Finwë; for thou art purged of the evil of thy deeds, art thou not?’
I was taken aback by his continued boldness. Who was he to command answer of me!
‘Should you not be concerned with finding your place amongst your own kind!’ I retorted. Never would I have taken such forthright questions from an Elda, or easily from a Vala. Who was this Secondborn to ask of one who had been a prince of the Noldor? Yet I found myself answering nonetheless.
‘The lies of Melkor I have unlearnt in great bitterness. I have taken council with myself, for far longer than twelve years, and I know who and what I am. Dear bought has been that knowledge. Though proud I still am, as is befitting one of my kind, I hold no grievance against any who now live, and am free of the possessiveness that possessed me.’
‘Thou speakest not truth, my friend!’ he chided.
‘How no? I have pondered long, and endured much to come to this point. That I have no love for Morgoth, is that my chain?’
‘There is one remaining trial for thee to endure; one thou hast sought to avoid in thy thoughts. A test of faith, if thou wilt, that thou wouldst do as thou dost say.’
His words were as a sudden fire that took hold in my spirit, a light and a flame that showed up the darkness in which I remained. Yet I stood not near the abyss, but bathed in a great and glorious light.
‘Thou art no mere mortal! Who art thou, stranger, that thou knowest me so well? No Maia nor even Vala could have such access to my heart and my thoughts.’
He answered not, but posed a question.
‘Another time of testing there was, and thou gave not over the Silmarils to the keeping of Yavanna, for the good of all. Though they were no longer thine, yet was thy heart hardened, and thy will set to add to the discord. Now I ask of thee - if thou didst hold in thy hands of this instant the Great Jewels of thy forging, the Silmarils themselves, wouldst thou give them over unto me, that I might break of them?’
I saw them; so bright a vision that I could indeed have reached out and touched them. My heart’s love, my creations of sublime beauty. Give them to him, he had said! Not even, ‘give them to Yavanna’? I considered his words. I had thought my Jewels were of small importance to me, but mayhap I was wrong? Mayhap this was all some further trick of the Valar?
But a fierce fire was again in me, a flame rekindled that would brook no untruth. I beheld my companion in the manner of fëar that I saw through his semblance and perceived in him no deceit - I saw no darkness at all. Light, he was – and Music! The thought was with me that he needed not even the Silmarils to so shine forth- indeed, was their light not truly his creation? Dawn broke on my long night, as I understood.
‘I am free!’ I said at last.
He smiled at me, for we both knew my unspoken answer.
‘Then claim thy freedom! None are there who will hold thee in this place. Neither do I hold thee here. It was decreed that Fëanáro should never leave the Halls of Awaiting, nor walk again amongst his kin. But I call forth Finwion, and he hears my voice! I call forth Curufinwë from the darkness into which he fell, that the fire I set in him fulfils its purpose.’
And about me, and within - there was light.
- - - - - - -
Nelyafinwë – Maedhros
Finwion – Son of Finwë. Fëanor’s childhood name, and a name I write of Nerdanel using at times.
Meldanya – My beloved.
Nolofinwë – Fingolfin
Arafinwë – Finarfin
Turukáno - Turgon
Kanafinwë – Maglor
Tyelpinquar - Celebrimbor
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