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As soon as I stepped over the threshold, my way and my sight were barred by Aldanwë, the one most skilled in healing in our camp. He wore a frown upon his face, and his voice was tense.
"You should not be here."
He did not move, and I saw that his patience was hanging by a thread.
"Young lord, but a short while ago I asked your father and his brothers to leave this place. I ask you the same. Please, go."
"He is right, Tyelperinquar." Makalaurë's voice was strained. "It were better if you left."
I very nearly obeyed them. But then my temper flared, and I shoved aside the healer, with little effort, for he had not expected this.
"I want to see my uncle!"
With a few quick strides I was in the middle of the tent. And there I halted, frozen.
The tent was lit with lamps and candles. Further back in the shadows Findekáno stood, his arms crossed on his chest, a shadow of helpless anger and grief on his face. Makalaurë was kneeling beside a low bed. As I rushed forward, they both turned and stared at me. And I stared at the one who lay on the bed. There was silence.
I stood and stared, and a violent whirlwind of feelings swept over me. What did I feel? Horror, pity and mad rage intermingled, threatening to send me flying out of here, away from here, anywhere where there was open sky and clean water running. For what now lay before me… Yet I did not stir. I stood there, frozen, and stared at the one whom I remembered tall and strong, and beautiful.
There was no more strength. All flesh seemed to have melted away from him, leaving but a frame, withered and frail, pale skin stretched over the bones; and his hair seemed flame-red against the white brow. They had not marred his face, and the sharp lines and angles now were a reminder and a mockery of its former beauty. But the rest…! I had fought battles before, I had seen injuries before, caused by arrow, sword and spear, and many of these injuries had been grievous or deadly. But the wounds that covered the body of my uncle, they were not given to kill. The wounds I now saw before my eyes, left by blade, whip and fire, these were inflicted to cause pain beyond imagination, to humiliate, to break will and spirit, and his face that bore none of these marks made for even more terrifying contrast. His right arm lay at an awkward angle, and where his right hand should have been there was only a stump, covered in bloody bandages. I felt myself shaking. How could anyone endure this and yet live? But Nelyafinwë lived, his chest heaved with slow and shallow breath.
"Whence… Where did you find him?" At last I tore my gaze away from the figure on the bed and turned towards Findekáno. My voice was shrill.
"Thangorodrim." Our kinsman quietly replied. "Moringotto had chained him to the cliff. By… by the wrist of his right hand."
My eyes widened in realization, and Findekáno confirmed my guess. "I could not undo that bond. Think not that I did not try. But I could not. So I… severed his hand."
He turned away. Aldanwë now took me firmly by the arm, to guide me out.
"You have seen your uncle, as was your wish, young lord." There was a strong undercurrent of anger in his voice. "And now, please, leave. His wounds need attention."
I do not know what kept me from running, from fleeing the horror or Moringotto's atrocities, but whatever it was, it was strong, stronger than revulsion or fear.
"Allow me to remain. Please." I heard my own voice as if it was someone other speaking. "I can help. I will not faint and I will not be sick. I promise. Please, allow me to stay."
Aldanwë's grip on my arm tightened, but then suddenly Findekáno came forward. He looked at me closely for a good while, as if measuring my resolve with his piercing blue eyes.
"Tyelperinquar could indeed stay. He spoke true, he will not faint." My uncle turned towards him to object, but ere he had said anything, Findekáno went on." We need help here. You are overwrought, Makalaurë, and I am weary. Besides, I have done enough harm already," he bitterly added, and then Makalaurë merely nodded his consent.
"Very well." Aldanwë released my arm, yet displeasure was still apparent on his face. "As you said – we do need help."
"Thank you. I regret that I pushed you on my way in." I bowed my head in apology.
Aldanwë shrugged his shoulders, but then nodded.
And so I drew a deep breath, steadied my trembling hands and remained.
"What must I do?"
I fetched water. I washed away blood. I stitched wounds. I had treated injuries before, but never before had I been so afraid, so afraid to cause even more anguish. Aldanwë noticed this. He looked at me and shook his head.
"He does not feel our touch, Tyelperinquar," he said softly. "He is beyond pain now."
He spoke true. As we set his broken and dislocated shoulder, as we cleaned and bandaged his countless wounds, Nelyafinwë lay still and silent, with eyes closed, and only his shallow breath still revealed the faint spark of life that flickered in him. He remained still and silent even when Aldanwë seared his severed wrist with hot iron, when even the steadfast Findekáno blanched and turned away.
"Now all we can do is wait," said the healer after what seemed to me a very long time.
"Will he… recover?" Makalaurë turned towards him with whispered question, his eyes feverish, pleading.
"How would I know?" Aldanwë sadly replied. "I have never seen anything like this. Not even close to this. He has endured torment for years."
"For years…" My uncle echoed hoarsely. He had been calm enough while tending his brother, but all that time silent tears had been flowing over his face, and whatever composure he had had, that was now breaking, like cracks on too thin ice.
Findekáno noticed it as well.
"Makalaurë, you need rest," he said firmly. "You should go and sleep now."
"No, I cannot… I… I must remain here." He was again kneeling beside Nelyafinwë. "I must remain with my brother."
Findekáno pulled him to his feet.
"Go and rest. You are of no use to your brother like this. Nor to your people."
A bitter smile appeared on Makalaurë's lips.
"Yes, indeed," he quietly replied. "Of even less use than before."
"Your self-pity is misplaced!" Findekáno's eyes flashed.
My uncle flinched, as if stricken. His lips trembled, as if to say something, but he remained silent and bowed his head. The gaze of our kinsman softened.
"From what I saw in your camp, you lead your people with care and honour," he said. "Please, go, cousin. I shall remain with Russandol, together with Aldanwë, if you will grant me the hospitality of your dwelling. We shall send for you if he wakes."
"Let us hope he does not, yet," whispered Aldanwë, but so quietly that only I who stood beside him heard it.
"I certainly grant you our hospitality, Findekáno." Makalaurë nodded. "For as long as you wish to remain. I will ask that some food is brought you here."
"Do not bother with food," replied Findekáno quietly. "I will have none. I can stay until the morning; then I must return and face the wrath of my lord father."
"Are you saying that you went without his consent?" My uncle's eyes widened.
"How else?" Our kinsman laughed bitterly at his words. "Certainly, I went without his consent and without his knowledge. He would have set me in bonds if he knew that I intend to approach Moringotto's lair to seek one of Fëanáro's sons."
"I… understand." My uncle stood silent for a while. Then he bowed low before his cousin. "I have not yet thanked you for bringing him back. You have been his brother more than all of us together. But then… Russandol is probably the only one of us who merits your forgiveness. When the ships…"
"The ships?" Findekáno interrupted him sharply, swift anger flared up in his gaze. "What of them? Why do you speak of that now?"
There was no reply. Makalaurë stared at him awhile in dismay.
"You… you do not know…" he whispered at length, turned abruptly and hastened from the tent.
Alarmed, Findekáno made a step to follow him, but then halted and turned towards me. His eyes narrowed.
"What of the ships, Tyelperinquar? What is it I do not know?" His voice was low, but sharp. I hesitated, but he seized me by the shoulders and shook. "What of the ships? Speak!"
And I told him.
"He spoke to grandfather of returning for you. He… begged him to do it. But Fëanáro… he was not in his right mind anymore. He refused. He laughed as one fey and he ordered the ships to be burned. But Nelyafinwë, he kindled no torch. He stood aside, the only one of us. He stood aside, defying his father, bringing his wrath upon himself." I shuddered, remembering Fëanáro's cold rage at his eldest son afterwards.
Findekáno released my shoulders, took a step back and closed his eyes for a while. Then he passed his hand over his face and looked at me with true regret.
"Forgive me for shaking you." I nodded. He regarded me closely then. "I think you too should go and rest, Tyelperinquar. And…" he frowned slightly, "before that you should find your father. He may need you."
I nodded my consent and turned to leave, but at the door I turned back.
"Thank you. For bringing him back."
Findekáno smiled sadly. "I wonder whether your uncle will thank me or curse me for bringing him back if… when he wakes," he softly said as he sat down on a chair by the bedside.
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