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Resist Not Evil  by perelleth

Resist Not Evil.

A piece of parchment, a wooden box and a ray of hope.  Ereinion receives Fingon’s legacy…and Círdan’s support.

Isle of Balar. First Age, Autumn 488.  

With his back to the wind, Círdan stretched out the parchment and began to read.

Given in Barad Eithel on the First day of Spring, Year 472 of the Sun.  

Resist Not Evil; Fear Not Defeat.

What a legacy for a father to pass on to his son!

I was not there when Fingolfin did on his silver arms, and took his white helm, and his sword Ringil, and his blue shield set with a star of crystal, and rode away with brave Rochallor -prey to a black despair, I thought back then- to find death as Finwë did: in single combat against the Morgoth.

Those six words scrabbled in haste on a piece of parchment and a box of inlaid Valinorean beech and walnut, containing a jewelled crown that once was the seed of dissent among our people, was all I found after he left. The one time that my father overestimated my brains cost me almost fifteen sun-rounds of drowning in remorse and grief, until I deciphered the hope buried beneath those ominous words!

It was not guilt because of the dragon -which I should have killed when I had the chance- what ate at me then; nor shame for the burden of a Doom that sets a heavy price upon all our deeds, expenses I am only too willing to meet; not even regret for being alive every time I thought I glimpsed my father’s ghost riding on the fields as I awaited dawn on the ramparts, telling myself that he would soon be back from a visit to the settlements…

What tasted sour and stale in my mouth was silence; and stillness.



Which had caused Fingolfin to succumb to despair and throw his life away in a hopeless fight, I told myself bitterly every day.

‘In Cuiviénen sweet ran the waters under unclouded stars, and wide lands lay about, where a free people might walk. There they lie still and await us.’ Ah, Ereinion, how those fiery words inflamed my heart and clouded my wits that night in sweet Tirion under the stars as Fëanor harangued our people in the cusp of his grief and madness; stirring my imagination, filling it with dreams of new lands to explore and wide realms for us to order and make grow!

Where are those dreams now? Drowned in blood in Alqualondë, frozen in the ice of the Helcaraxë, choked in the vapours of Thangorodrim as I nocked my bow for another kinslaying –one brought about by love and compassion- scorched by the fires of the dragon that laid waste the plains of Ard Galen…

Fair shall be the end though long and hard shall be the road! Say farewell to bondage! But say farewell also to ease. After Morgoth to the ends of the Earth! War shall he have and hatred undying … What did we know about war back then? Against this enemy we are powerless. This we knew only too well when we left Aman and the protection of the Valar, drunk in visions of great deeds of valour and faraway lands for us to rule and ordain. Yet we chose to ignore it, and forth we marched; full of arrogance and pride through blood and fire and ice, until the dragon dried up tears unnumbered, and Morgoth smote down my father’s star, and the sealed fate that haunts us was finally made clear even to those so blind who would not see it.

We do know now: that this war will never end and that we are utterly trapped in a fix of our own making; and dearly have we paid for this knowledge.

So I despaired, my son, weighed down by senseless slaughter and endless grief and irrevocable fate.

Despairing, I balked from my duty, fearing the toll of pushing my people to futile death in fighting an enemy that was beyond our power to defeat.

Thus I, who once charged foolishly in Alqualondë and then led so many to their cold deaths in the Helcaraxë, now just sat idly, craven in a tall tower, hostage to guilt and ghosts, tied of hands and weak of mind, refusing to act for fear that I would yet again commit a terrible mistake; resisting, while Morgoth’s filth took over our strongholds, invaded our lands, and mocked our endurance.

'A king is he that can hold his own, or eke his title is vain.’ Thus Maedhros about Thingol when we were still young and full of confidence. How does that leave me now, king of ghosts in a stone keep, a prisoner of my own mistakes and with Morgoth’s orcs for neighbours?

I, the Valiant, feared failure, which I carried along across the Ice. I was guilty of leading my people to this hopeless situation, and yet it was our king who had paid the price… How could I lead them to battle -I wondered, loathing myself- when they all knew we could not win? How could I wear that crown, when they all knew I was marked by kinslaying and Doom?

So I lay low and watched and waited, nursing my fears and telling myself that I was protecting the passes, that my people were sick of grief, done with fighting and dying… And I could not see that I was forcing them to live like caged beasts, as Fëanor had once claimed we did in Valinor, hiding in caves, cowering in fear of the day when we would be again harvested by darkness…

I was wrong then, Ereinion, and I did not come to realize the extent of my mistake for several years; not until I found myself in the plains of Hithlum, outnumbered and overwhelmed by Morgoth’s host and surrounded by a mixed army of Exiles, Grey Elves and Edain who would have stoutly died by my side had the Falathrim, the kin of those I slew in Alqualondë, failed to arrive in time to deliver us. They, too, were committed to war against the Dark Enemy, with or without my involvement.

Only then did I understand what Fingolfin meant.

Death is unnatural for a Firstborn, the brutal, unwilling  separation of body and soul made to last together while Arda does. But more so is this living in fear of darkness and slavery, oppressed by an evil that would despoil us of our freedom and our gift. Dying is not the worst fate a Firstborn can face, my father would say.

And so he charged.

To remind us that we came here not to win but to wage war; not to conquer but to contend; not to resist but to repel the Dark Enemy of the World, with all our strength and all our hope until whatever is in store in the Music comes into fruition…lest we lull ourselves into false safety, as we did during the siege, and slowly become accepting of that which we came to oppose.

Resist Not Evil; Fear Not Defeat.

Thus Fingolfin, and the hope beneath his words. His Estel, which is also ours.

Against an enemy like the one we face there is little hope for us, but there is always Estel, my son, the truth of our own being and the promise that no one, neither Mandos nor Morgoth can take from us: that we are the Children of Eru and that we are bound to Arda while it lasts. So we have no right to despair, even in the bleakest moments, knowing that light shines because of darkness, and that just because we carry darkness within, we strive more doggedly for the light. We are ready to die for that which we need in order to live.

And so I march forth too, Ereinion.

Not just because of a thoughtless oath others made, or because of a Silmaril the Sindarin King now wields foolishly in his hidden forest, or as a price to pay for the death of the best of us, Finrod the Faithful, who kept his oath with his life and thus showed us that even our Doom can be defeated. No. I march forth because it is my duty; not to resist but to fight, relentlessly, the power that ensnares us, enslaves us, that defies the Music and seeks to turn all Arda into a cage, that would erase the promise that Eru made, our Estel, and would turn us into faithless, hopeless creatures of darkness and despair, as he tried with the Secondborn…

And so I march forth; not in despair but in hope that we may yet achieve something, that our struggle will serve a larger purpose. Hope that at least, while fighting Morgoth, the Oath and the Doom will lay asleep and never again will evil befall the Quendi at the hands of their kin…

So think not that your Atar set out to seek death in battle because he could not bear guilt and despair.

Were I to fall in the upcoming battle –and if you are reading this I surely have- rest assured that it will be no failure, my son. Failure would be surrendering to Morgoth’s tyranny, allowing him to subject this whole world to his foul will. 

Failure, too, would be looking away while the Oath again drenches Beleriand in elven blood. Sometimes there are no good choices, Ereinion, but a choice between two evils.

So there is only one way left to us.

Resist not Evil; Fear not Defeat.

What a legacy for a father to pass on to his son!

And yet there are far more than six words on this parchment, my child, so you are saved the anguish of puzzling out my meaning. The wooden box is still the same one Fëanor carried across Belegaer in the white ships of the Teleri and it still keeps Finwë’s crown, which he forged himself when the Eldar were young. But I want you to look carefully at the twelve-rayed star of our House craftily embossed on its lid. For it is not by the crown that you will be acknowledged and respected when your time comes, my son, but by how staunchly you live by the hope and the promise that star has come to represent: a House pledged to fight forever the gathering darkness. You must learn to draw comfort from the knowledge that while serving our people, and the peoples of Middle-earth, you are building hope for yourself as well.

It is a heavy responsibility that I am laying on your shoulders, and a grim fate I have condemned you to, Ereinion: son of a kinslayer tied to Mandos’ Doom, besieged king of an outcast people… It is because of this shameful heritage that I was so reluctant to bring a son of mine into this life of harshness, and to burden him with the weight of my mistakes.

And yet your Ammë was right, as always, in saying that there is also hope left, even for us who once forsook the Blessed Realm.

You were born at dawn, after a long night of toil and labour, while the last stars lingered and Arien’s first rays peeked in curiosity into our rooms. Outside, Fingolfin fretted and the rest of the household tried to cope with him. Inside our chambers your Ammë and I softly, patiently coaxed your into this world. For that long day as I held you two in my arms, I felt that nothing in Arda would ever give me such joy and contentment, and that the memory of that one single day of complete happiness would warm me even in Mandos.

If I, a doomed kinslayer, was allowed such glimpse of utter joy in my banishment, I have no doubt that you will be granted much more in your life, my child, even if presently the chances look grim to you.  So despair not, I beg of you, for I -who once watched the Two Trees in their glory and sang with the Valar and the Maiar in the bliss of Valinor- tell you that there is also beauty in Middle-earth, Ereinion, and hope, and echoes of the Music that still thrum deeply here, reminding us of what Arda was meant to be and what it will yet become. A beauty that is fragile and short-lived, like the echo of a mighty chord announcing a greater melody that is just about to unwind, and a hope that blazes bright and fiery as the fleeting lives of the Secondborn, and yet remains forever in our enduring memories.

A beauty and a hope that are worth fighting for, even if we know we cannot win on our own. It is in fighting darkness relentlessly that we fulfil our fate, and redeem our misdeeds, and build the way for the promise of Arda unmarred to come into being in its appointed time.

Resist Not Evil; Fear Not Defeat.  

A piece of parchment, a wooden box and a ray of hope. This is my legacy then, the one I must pass on to you as I received it from my father.

Let not your life be ruled by victory or defeat, my son, but by the grace with which you endure the certainty of your ultimate helplessness. And keep this in mind, Ereinion: You are neither a hostage nor a ransom for my mistakes. Yet you are a son of the house of Finwë, born and raised to serve and protect your people, and to fight darkness while you draw breathe. That is your fate, as well as your responsibility, as sure as they have been mine, and my sires’ before me. May these words give you the strength to find joy and contentment in fulfilling your duty as befits one of such descent. And yet, first and foremost, no matter what else you become, never doubt that you are forever my light and my star, and a ray of hope I never expected to know in exile.

May hope –Estel- lighten up your days too, until we meet again under the stars, my dearest son.

Your loving,



With a deep sigh Círdan rolled up the parchment Ereinion had handed to him wordlessly and put it away in one of the hidden pockets in his tunic. What on Arda possessed me to choose this day to give him that parcel? he berated himself angrily, studying the hunched, forlorn shape before him.

Well, obviously he had been thoroughly wrong, he thought with remorse while he searched furiously for some words of comfort. But the youngster beat him at that.

“Why did you go help my father back then?”

The leaden silence stretched again between them. At last Círdan chose the less compromising answer. “Ulmo sent word that the High King was in trouble…and we managed to reach them in time.”

Dark locks escaped from a loose ceremonial braid whipped around. He had expected the hard, steely look on those storm-grey eyes and did not flinch.

Why did you go, Master Shipwright?” the young prince insisted in a low, hoarse growl. “He was a kinslayer…”

“That he was. And also one who since then fought so hard to redeem his misdeeds… And we all fought the same enemy, that’s what mattered in the end.”

“Ulmo told you that, too? Does he tell you everything, always?”

Círdan resented the scathing, scornful tone. “It was my own reasoning. And Thingol’s as well, if you remember your history…” he snapped crossly, then reined in his short temper. “And to your question… No, Ulmo does not tell me everything,” he continued in a softer voice. “He never told me about the joys of parenthood, for instance…”

It worked. The tense shoulders sagged and the boy folded down like a sail released from its knots in a deep calm, all tension abandoning him. The proud head came to rest on long calloused hands supported on pointy knees and a deep sigh escaped him. Only then did Círdan risk to take seat on the sharp rock beside his foster son, with the wooden box between them.

“When we were left behind, I stood on a cliff for a long time; raging, pleading, cajoling…much like yourself,” he admitted in a surprised voice, “except that I looked west, instead of north…”

“That was when you grew that beard of yours?” the boy grunted after a while without lifting his head. The sad, tired voice tugged at Círdan’s heart.

“So the tale goes,” he chuckled, catching wild strands of dark hair that lashed around freely and forcing them back into his ward’s loose braid. “Ulmo came to me and showed me many things that had been and that would come to pass…and others that might be prevented, perhaps…all mingled and indistinct to my eye. Little made sense to me then…But, above all, he showed me how to listen to the constant thrum of the Music that runs through the veins of Arda, and deep in each and every course we may choose.”

The boy shook his head in despair and finally lifted grief-filled eyes to Círdan.

“I cannot do this, Círdan,” he whispered in a broken sob. “I just can’t…”

Carefully, Círdan passed an arm over bony shoulders and pressed down comfortingly, while the young prince struggled with his fears and his longing and his grief. Words, he knew, would be of little use presently.

“You need do nothing right now, lad,” he whispered anyway into the dark head when the half-strangled sobs subsided and were mercilessly wrestled into ragged breathing. “You need do nothing.” 

Red-rimmed eyes fixed him in a stern glare as the boy sat back. “I will not. I will not lead your people to another bloodbath. How can he ask me to do that? How can he ask me to find hope in hopeless fighting? Look where that led us!”

Círdan shook his head at the pleading tone underlying that fierce statement. Ereinion was frightened and confused, and no wonder, he berated himself. It was a heavy weight indeed that he had inadvertently thrown upon his shoulders today. He needed to tread carefully now if he wanted to help his charge make peace with his father’s legacy and his duty.

“No one will force you to fight, Ereinion. You can always stay with the rearguard. You already know how hard and difficult it is,” he said in a soothing tone he knew would irritate his charge to no end. As it did.

“I am not a coward!” the boy said hotly, jumping to his feet and glowering down to the amused Shipwright.

“I am not saying that you are. You say you cannot or will not lead our people to hopeless war and slaughter, and that is a noble feeling. But we have been fighting the dark enemy since before your people came from beyond the sea, lad, and trust me, we need no Noldolordling to lead us to battle, as Fingon wisely pointed out in his letter. Good that he finally grasped that one,” he chuckled fondly, tapping the rolled parchment inside his tunic and deliberately ignoring the angry scowl with which his charge attempted to scorch him before turning his back on him and fixing his attention on the sea.

Aware that the angry boy needed time to sort out his feelings, Círdan just sat there in silence, waiting, idly studying the tall frame before him. The boy had grown indeed, he noticed with surprise, remembering with sad fondness the skinny, lively, chirping sack of bones tah had been delivered to his care thirty something sun rounds ago. Since time had little effect on grown up elves, the changes brought in the short span of fifty years, from childhood to their coming of age, made of it a fascinating period in the life of every elf, a period not to be lost by parents, Círdan thought bitterly, for it was a joy to see them grow and change into what they were meant.

He sighed; the boy was tall and lanky, and though he still had a lot of filling in to do he promised to be broad and strong and graceful as his father had been. But the bright, talkative and cheerful elfling had disappeared, leaving behind a serious, solemn youth, with big, grey, sad eyes which more often than not strayed north; a boy who usually took to himself, who was courteous but quiet, dutiful but downcast, a far cry from the lively elfling who had managed to carve a place for himself in the heart of the grumpy Shipwright, he admitted openly.

A deep sigh released all anger, and the tightly closed fists became skilled, nimble hands, and with a twirl of long limbs the boy alighted again by the Shipwright and looked up for reassurance.

“I am sorry I lost my temper,” he muttered, and there was honest regret in the grey eyes.

“You are forgiven. It was understandable, given the circumstances, but still unfortunate.”

The boy nodded and turned his sad gaze again to the sea, and beyond to Beleriand, and further north to Hithlum, and even further, to the green mound in Anfauglith where the remains of the fallen had been piled and left to rot.

“Look, Ereinion,” Círdan finally said, unable to stand the unhappiness that oozed from his young ward. He pointed to the sea, where a flock of seagulls danced in the wind streams and a pack of dolphins played among the waves. “What do you see?”

“A graveyard. A wasteland. A charred battlefield. Our abandoned homeland…”

Stubborn obtuseness was his charge’s usual, not-so-subtle way of letting him know that he was not ready to be dragged out from sullen contemplation through patronizing words, Círdan remembered just before succumbing to the impulse of pushing the High-King-to-be down the cliff and deferring to Ossë to take care of his moodiness. For lack of better use, he redirected an already raised hand to rake at his tangled beard, which whipped happily in the wind. Would it be kingslaying? He wondered idly while he reined in his temper. He is already of age, and Fingon’s rightful heir… With brief regret he discarded the idea of throwing his charge to the sea, and also let go of seagulls and dolphins, from which he intended to draw an inspiring, reassuring speech about fate and the music. I must outshine myself, the wretch is baiting me! he groaned inwardly, catching the fleeting, expectant, challenging sidelong glance his charge had cast him.

His murderous hand had slid to tap restlessly on the wooden box while he looked around in search for inspiration, his fingers returning again and again to rub on a small flaw that suddenly caught his sharp carpenter’s eye. Studying the lid carefully, he grinned broadly and lifted the box to his lap.

“Look here, lad!” he demanded. “This box is an inlay work of beech and walnut. The tassel I was fingering was carved from a piece of trunk that grew in a year of drought. See how the fibres are arranged to cope with the lack of water? And here you can see the barest hint of a knot: a bud tried to sprout on an early spring dawn, but the night frost cracked it…There, do you see?” Círdan smiled proudly because, despite of himself, the boy had turned his attention to the box and followed his explanations with a look of mild interest in his sad face. “See this larger pore that spoils the square? …Surely a larva, but not of a woodworm: it would have dug deeper as soon as it had been born, totally damaging the wood… rather a bud moth that fed on the leaves… This imperfection surely caused the beech to be singled out for cutting… And look here, this edge was made by Finwë with his gouge, so it would fit with the next square, which sticks out a bit…”

Now Ereinion looked positively overwhelmed by the amount of things that could be read in a bare piece of wood. Encouraged, Círdan launched into a description of leafy groves under the light of the two trees, and the merry birds that sang there, and the foresters, who would live in wooden huts and know their trees by heart, and the comforting songs they would sing to the trees as they cut them down, and the carts and oxen that had dragged the trees to Tirion, and the carpenters that had worked them, and how the stars shone and the elves sung while Finwë carefully carved that precious box out of a damaged trunk, a box that would in the end travel so far carrying with it the memories of the first king of the Noldor…” The boy interrupted just when he was about to crown his inspired speech with an obvious conclusion about the many turns that each life’s path might follow to reach the appointed end, no matter the difficulties and flaws that mark its progress.

“I see. So I am rotten inside, like the beech, is that what you mean?”  the boy said bleakly, lifting sad, listless eyes to his. “Or else you are trying to imply that I am some kind of grub?”

Catching a faint glimpse of amusement in the otherwise dull eyes, Círdan growled menacingly. Making his mind up with sudden decision, he stood up briskly. “A grub?” he grunted, pulling the boy up by the neck of his tunic. “You are too skinny for that! Come, lad, pick up your toys and follow me, and you better oblige, lest I feel the need to drag you down this cliff!”

Ereinion let escape a shaky laugh that still sounded as precious as Ulmo’s horns to Círdan’s worried ears, and obliged indeed, though complaining sullenly. “You are going too fast! I can fall!”

“Good,” Círdan retorted. “Then you would stop sulking! We are almost there.”

Without more words he led their way down the cliff and to the cabin that he used as headquarters, where Erestor, Merenel, Miluin, and some others already awaited him with the wine and the wooden bowls. At their raised brows and puzzled looks, he shook his head impatiently. “He is of age, isn’t he?” he snapped.

It had all been their fault, after all, he decided, since it had been Merenel and Erestor’s idea to hold a coming-of-age celebration in Balar. It was a long-standing tradition, a ceremony the young Teleri performed after reaching their majority, a passage to their full rights and responsibilities as Falathrim, and also a day of feasting and rejoicing. Not such an event had been held since the Fall of the Havens, and Círdan had given them leeway.

But he had not expected to see his fosterling at the end of the painfully short line of young Teleri waiting to pledge their faith to the lord of the Falathrim. The boy had reached his majority earlier that year, but as it was customary with his begetting days, it had been an unremarked date. And there he was now, alone, wearing the ceremonial braid and the grey and white of Círdan’s mariners, the colours of his fostering, bending his knee before his foster father and saying the words in a steady, beautiful voice.

“I, Ereinion, request to be admitted as one of the Falathrim, to support and protect our people in calm and storm, in rain and wind, in tide and tow with what strength and skill I possess, if I am considered worthy.”

“I welcome you among the Falathrim, Ereinion son of Fingon, and of Círdan,” he had managed the ritual reply in a voice distinctly less steady than the youth’s, short before pulling him into a tight embrace. And then he had remembered the box and the parchment, which had reached him with the last plans for the Fifth battle and a short note from Fingon, and which he had buried  deep in one of his chests and forgot all about until that day. The boy had looked at him with panic clearly written in his large grey eyes, and then had disappeared to his favourite haunting... Well, it had all been a big mistake, so it was only fair that Erestor and Merenel helped redress it, he decided, picking up two wooden bowls and offering one to the puzzled youth, who still held the box and the parchment against his chest. "Wine," he commanded.

Silently, Erestor filled their bowls wit the sparkling white that came from Vinyamar’s vines.

“To this day,” Círdan said huskily, and they all raised their bowls and drank to it.

Only then did Ereinion dare speak. “What is this?” he asked with an uncertain frown, following the contest of glares between Erestor and Círdan. It was short, though, for Erestor really knew how to win those games.

“Today is the anniversary of the day of your arrival in Eglarest, lad,” Círdan began gruffly.

“Thirty-second,” Erestor supplied with an amused grin.

“And we celebrate the date whenever we have the occasion or the mood strikes…”  Círdan continued, almost sheepishly, “because you really made a change in our lives, child.”

“A change for the better, of course, and despite what you may have heard along the years, lad,” Merenel pointed out merrily, and they all laughed at Círdan´s annoyed growl. Before Ereinion could gather his wits to say something sensible, Erestor picked up the thread.

“We are not family by blood, Ereinion, but rest assured that we are by choice, and those ties are at least as strong. We will stand by your side whatever the tides. You are not alone, child, and you will never be!”

And all of a sudden, as spring blossoms on a given day where before there was only frost, fear and grief cracked before Círdan’s eyes, and his foster son’s courage and generous nature strengthened his resolve. Ereinion straightened up and raised his bowl to his friends.

“I am blessed by your love and your support, my friends,” he said with endearing sincerity. “I will do my best to honour your trust, with what strength I have, to the bitter end,” he said, and there was such humility and yet firm decision in his stance that they all again raised their bowls and drank to the boy they had helped raise into such a fine prince.

You know not everything, Lord of Waters! Círdan thought fiercely as they cheered and drank again to Ereinion’s health, pushing back visions of a tall mountain, an ashen sky, a dark shadow that darkened the dull sun and a sudden fire that smothered the light of a bright star.

The End


The first paragraph ( he did on his silver arms..) is taken from The Grey Annals, in HoME vol 11.

The italics quoted by Fingon are from the Silmarillion.

Other sources: Philip Larkin’s sonnet “To Failure”, Rebecca West’s “Grey Falcon and Black Lamb” Italo Calvino’s “Invisible Cities”




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