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[Written for the Leaf and Stone Yahoo Group's The Tolkien Tango Prompt #13: Courage]
Finrod turned the ring he had given to Barahir about in his fingers as a sudden flash of foresight followed hard upon the words that Beren spoke unto him, of the conditions that the ruler of Doriath had set ere the mortal and the fair Lúthien could be wed. When the images stopped, his voice was heavy with wisdom and sorrow. "It seems that Thingol doth desire thy death." He gazed upon the beryl and the flower-crowned snakes as he spoke of the Sindarin King's foolishness in thinking that he could keep the Silmarils uncontested.
He looked up again into the grey eyes of the Man and added, "Lo! Celegorm and Curufin here dwell within my realm, and although I am king, they have won much power and many of my people now follow their sway. They have been my friends in need for many long years, yet that will avail not once they know of this dreadful quest. They will show you no mercy."
Beren could but nod, his sword-calloused hands winding in the robe of fine material that Felagund had bestowed upon him, having insisted that the worn Man cleanse and refresh himself ere they conferred in private, away from the curious eyes and ears of the court. "Aye," he finally said, his shoulders drooping, thinking that the words presaged rejection of his request.
Finrod slipped the ring onto his finger and got to his feet. "Come, my friend, let us rouse my people and kin to win back from Morgoth that which he stole." The hope that flowered in Beren's eyes smote Finrod to the heart, and he prayed that the elves of Nargothrond would not let him down.
* * * * *
They stood in the anteroom of the vast hall where Beren had first approached Finrod, calling upon him to remember the oath made to Barahir, holding forth the ring. Silent servants surrounded Felagund, arranging his robes, and smoothing the bejeweled braids that hung down on each side of the Noldo's face. A grave-faced ellon stepped forward accompanied by an equally solemn elleth. They each bore an intricately carved coffer, and offered them to the king.
Finrod gently stroked the polished wood and opened that which the elleth bore. Beren gasped as he lifted out the most beautiful necklace the Man had ever seen. The King smiled at his companion and, placing the golden carcanet about his neck, said, "It is the Nauglamír, the Necklace of the Dwarves which they made for me when my kingdom was formed. It is my… second-most precious possession."
The uncounted gems which he had carried forth from Valinor flared with a glory that Beren had never before beheld and, awed, the Man asked, "How can such a thing not be your most precious possession?"
Turning to open the other casket, Finrod paused and held out his hand. The light of the Nauglamír's jewels and the lamps that lit the anteroom caught the beryl and made it flare greenly. "This is the most precious thing I own." He smiled then lifted his silver crown to his head, settling it upon his fair hair, as his attendants bowed to him.
* * * * *
The audience hall was filled to capacity, ellyn and ellith standing and whispering curiously about the Adan who stood at the side of Felagund's throne, the rich robe of the King's colours draped about him, his weathered face grim and stern. Finrod gazed out upon the throng, nodding to his nephew, before passing his eyes across the rank of senior lords who stood surrounded by those who supported them. The sons of Fëanor were apparently joking with each other, as Celegorm laughed and slapped his brother on the back, and the elves around them were also quietly mirthful.
He signaled his herald who called out, "Hear the words of your king this day." The babble of conversation swiftly faded, and Finrod rose to his feet.
He held up the Ring of Barahir, and spoke eloquently of the Dagor Bragollach when Beren's father saved his life, and of the oath that he, Finrod, had made to the scion of the House of Beor. Then he spoke of Beren's geas. "It is laid upon me to aid Beren Barahirion in anything he should ask of me, and I ask you, my captains, to arm yourselves to wrest the Silmarils from the crown of Morgoth, who should never have claimed them, and help my oath-brother fulfill his quest."
A cry of affirmation was followed swiftly by others, and Finrod could practically feel Beren relax at his side in relief.
Then, suddenly, Celegorm stood forth, drawing his sword, and cried out, silencing the others, "Be he friend or foe, whether demon of Morgoth, or Elf, or child of Men, or any other living thing in Arda, neither law, nor love, nor league of hell, nor might of the Valar, nor any power of wizardry, shall defend him from the pursuing hate of Fëanor's sons, if he take or find a Silmaril and keep it. For the Silmarils we alone claim, until the world ends."
Finrod sank down on his throne and closed his eyes as the fiery-spirited ellon continued in the same vein as Fëanor had long before roused the Noldor to rebellion in Tirion. There came protests from some of the captains but they were silenced as Curufin joined his brother, and in words more soft but with no less power, set fear into hearts that had only shortly before been courageous.
He felt Beren's intake of breath as the man's hope was crushed, and reached out to touch Beren's arm, wordlessly. He knew what he had to do, and as he heard his people murmur that their king was no Vala to command them to war, he rose again to his feet.
He reached up and pulled his silver crown from his head, and flung it at his feet, to clatter ringingly, piercing through all of the frightened and angry words that filled the hall and silencing everyone.
"Your oaths of faith to me you may break, but I must hold my bond. Yet if there be any on whom the shadow of our curse has not yet fallen, I should find at least a few to follow me, and should not go hence as a beggar that is thrust from the gates."
Finrod looked from one of his captains to another, and most of their eyes fell away, unable to meet the fell light in his. But one by one, ten out of the multitude stood forth before him.
"I will follow you, my king, wherever you oath takes you." The chief of them, Edrahil, pushed back the hands that would have held him back and ignored the voices that sought to dissuade him, and stooped before Finrod, picking up the crown and offering it back to him. "Yet do not relinquish your reign, but give to us a steward to rule in your stead until you return. For you remain my king, and theirs, whatever betide."
Finrod hesitated a moment then bowed his head before his friend, who placed the silver crown thereon again. The ten Eldar went to their knees before him, and he looked over their bowed heads to find his nephew, who stood near to the sons of Fëanor. "Orodreth," he summoned, and the pale-haired ellon came forwards to stand before his uncle.
"Brother-son, will you take my people into your keeping while I do that which I must do, holding them safe and secure, through prosperity and peril, until I return to take them back into my keeping?"
Orodreth swallowed visibly and went to his knees, raising his hands to his liege lord. Even as the younger ellon spoke the words that affirmed his willingness, Finrod could see a trace of shame in his eyes, and as the king again removed his crown, as he set it upon his nephew's head, Finrod touched Orodreth's mind. 'Be true to thine oath, brother-son, and understand the burden that thou has taken upon thyself. May it be for the right reasons.'
He withdrew from the osanwë before Orodreth could respond, and reached up to unclasp the Nauglamír from about his throat. "In memory of Valinor and of me wear this until I come again." Finrod hung the Necklace of the Dwarves about his nephew's neck, then raised him up and turned him to face the populace. "Here is my steward. The oaths that you have given me are now oaths to him until I take again my crown."
Finrod gave his people one last long look and went to Beren, who had stood speechless throughout the entire scene. "Come, my friend. Let us prepare all needful things to carry with us on this quest." He led the mortal from the hall, beckoning for Edrahil and the other nine to follow.
He did not see the expressions on the faces of Celegorm and Curufin as Orodreth hesitantly took his seat upon the throne, nor the smiles they gave as they departed by another way.
A/N: Some of the dialogue is taken verbatim from THE SILMARILLION in the chapter entitled "Beren and Lúthien," particularly Celegorm's words reactivating the Oath of Fëanor.
Also, I am going with Christopher Tolkien's correction in regards to the relationship between Finrod Felagund and Orodreth. Although, in the SIL, Orodreth is described as brother to Finrod, Christopher Tolkien admitted later that he had misunderstood the relationship and that, in fact, Orodreth was the son of Finrod's brother, Angrod. Orodreth was the father of Gil-galad and Finduilas.
Many, many thanks to Fiondil for the beta read, and encouragement!
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