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I knew I should return to the healers' tent and finish the writing I had started in the morning. But halfway through the camp I met Makalaurë, and he looked so distressed that I halted and spoke to him.
"Uncle, is something amiss?" I asked uneasily.
He looked at me, and I saw that he was not merely despondent but enraged as well.
"Findekáno," he replied at length, and suppressed anger quivered in his voice. "He came to see Nelyafinwë. But he did not stay for long. My brother… he was furious. He spoke unkindly, and… In the end, he told Findekáno to leave!" He then turned and strode towards the stables, and a short while later I saw him upon his horse galloping over the plain towards the woodland.
At a loss, heavy of heart, I stood amid the camp. Chill wind now blew from the West; it carried low, grey clouds that promised rain this evening. The overcast sky matched well with my mood, and, unwilling to speak to anyone, I took a path that led away from the tents, towards the lake. There, after passing through a thicket of tangled, gnarled trees, now covered in the first green of the spring, I came out on the shore. And there, some hundred paces away, was Findekáno.
He sat upon a tree-trunk close to the waterline, washed ashore and bleached white by the Sun. His gaze was turned towards the other coast, to the barely visible camp of his father, and he was throwing pebbles in the water, adding ripples to the already disturbed surface of the lake, stirred to sharp, angry waves by the wind.
At first I thought of turning back, but then changed my mind and went closer. At the sound of the gravel grating beneath my feet Findekáno looked at me, acknowledged my presence with a slight nod, and then turned towards the lake again. I sat down on the other end of the log. For a while none of us spoke, the only sound was that of the wind, of the waves washing against the shore and of the stones falling in the water. At length I broke the silence.
"Your father… was he very angry with you when you returned last autumn?" I asked hesitantly.
Findekáno looked at me with apparent surprise. He had probably expected me to speak of something else.
"No," he slowly replied. "He was not angry. He was… relieved. Overjoyed that I was alive. He had thought…" He did not finish. We both knew exactly what Nolofinwë had thought, with the knowledge of his half-brother's son taken captive. "He said – it was a noble deed I did," Findekáno added, somewhat bitterly.
"And such it was!"
"Indeed?" He frowned. "I am not certain of that. Not at all certain. And my cousin does not seem to think so too."
"My uncle did ill if he reproached you!" I exclaimed heatedly. Our kinsman merely shook his head in reply. I looked at him closely. "You… you are not angry," I said in surprise, half-asking, half-stating what I clearly saw.
"No, I am not. And neither should you be."
"He spoke unkindly to you! After all you had done to save him!"
"After all I had done, indeed…" Findekáno sighed. He then looked at me gravely. "None of us can fully comprehend the anguish and suffering your uncle has endured, Tyelperinquar," he said. "The pain he still bears and maybe will always bear. The accursed Oath and all that came after that. The torment in Angamando. And if we cannot understand it, what right do we have to judge his bearing?"
He turned his face towards the water again and sat silent, unmoving, holding in his hand a round black stone, smoothed by water. When he spoke again, his voice was quiet, and the words came slow.
"I searched for days amid the black cliffs for some entrance into Enemy's fortress. There was none to hinder me, for Moringotto's creatures were hiding underground, still dismayed by the Day-star, but there was thick mist and sickening fumes. I was bewildered, yet I did not relent. But there was no way to enter that mountain. At length I realized that my errand was hopeless. Caught in a maze of rocks, exhausted by days of futile search, I sank to the ground and lay there in despair.
"But then suddenly anger stirred in my heart, anger like a keen, white flame, and I sprang to my feet and sang. I sang aloud in defiance of Darkness, challenging the shadows around me, heedless of any danger my voice could draw. And my song was answered, by a voice faint and far above my head. I thought at first it to be some strange echo of the mountains and fell silent, but that other voice, it did not. I looked up. I had found what I had been searching for.
"He was chained to the mountain side by a single iron band around the wrist of his right hand. I desperately looked for a way to scale that mountain, but it was a sheer and smooth wall, without any crevice to hold to. I realized I cannot reach him, but even from below I clearly saw the pain he was in, the marks of cruel torture upon his body. I clearly saw the wild hope kindled in his eyes when he perceived and knew me. Not a hope of rescue. A hope of death." Findekáno fell silent; his fingers were gripping the black stone. When he spoke again, his voice was hoarse.
"He asked me to slay him. And I knew that I must do it, for there was no other way to end his suffering. I wiped away tears and strung my bow. I fitted the arrow. And, taking aim, I cried to the Lord of the Winds, begging him to guide my shaft and to have pity. Then came the eagle. Thorondor stayed my hand and bore me up.
"I tried everything to free him, but I could not. I could neither undo the shackle, nor loosen it, nor draw it from the stone wall. Each my attempt only made his anguish more unbearable; half-senseless, he would again and again beg for death, but I did not listen to his pleading. The coming of the eagle clearly was a sign from the Valar; there had to be a way to save my cousin! And when, at length overcome by pain, he passed into forgetfulness, I severed his hand at the wrist."
Findekáno raised his hand, the stone flew high through the air and landed in the water far from the shore. He then looked at me; his blue eyes were bright with tears.
"I failed him, Tyelperinquar," he said quietly. "He asked for a swift and clean death. But I, fulfilling the will of the Valar, guided by a false hope, I gave him life that would only prolong his anguish. I betrayed the one who has always been like elder brother to me. I betrayed him. Loss of friendship seems like a fair reward."
"No, I do not believe your hope was false! And the Valar cannot be so cruel!" I shook my head fiercely. "I do not believe it either! My uncle will get well, and he will understand…, and…" My voice trailed away. Findekáno smiled without mirth, rose, briefly laid his hand on my shoulder, then turned and with slow steps walked away, towards his father's camp. It was a long way to walk. Rain started, large scattered drops at first that soon turned into a downpour, but I still sat there and watched the solitary figure of my kinsman slowly fading amid the sheets of rain.
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