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Nelyafinwë now took over the leadership of the Noldor from his younger brother who was glad of this but concerned also. Yet Makalaurë's concern proved false. My eldest uncle's strength now returned swiftly; indeed, it seemed that the responsibilities he had resumed aided him. He went about the camp, spoke to the people, and took counsel with them. He questioned his brothers about the events of the years when he had been absent, about the lands of Endórë and its dwellers, and he studied closely the maps that the twins had drawn from what they had seen on their own travels and learned from the journeys of other Noldor, or even of the Sindar, the Elves of this land. He also learned their tongue from Tyelkormo, who had the most dealings with the Grey Elves and something akin to a cautious friendship with them, and in less than a month Nelyafinwë too spoke Sindarin freely, with but a slight ringing note to his speech. In two months, he took up arms and started practicing swordfight, against Aldanwë's counsel at first, yet this time he did not allow the healer's restraints to overrule him.
Hope was indeed returned to the Noldor. Yet there was a cost to that hope. Even as my uncle had said, not everything was healed and forgotten. Despite all things he busied himself with, he would at whiles stray into dark thought, fall silent suddenly or halt in his step, his eyes darkened, turned inward. Some time passed ere he would draw a deep breath and shake his head sharply, returning back to the present. There was anger in him now that had not been there before, even though he never turned that towards anyone, yet we saw it smouldering within him, and, as the days passed, we noted a change of a different kind too. Nelyafinwë had always been resolute in his nature, yet now his determination was far more than before; now it was like a sharp sword, it burned like a bright flame within him, and none of his brothers, not even Morifinwë, dared to cross him.
The thought of the rift between the Noldor weighed heavily on Nelyafinwë's mind. Several times I saw him standing on the lakeshore with arms crossed on his chest, eyes turned towards the camp on the other side, face sad and thoughtful, but with each next time it seemed to me that his determination had grown keener, sharper. In this matter, however, he long took counsel only with himself and revealed his mind to none. It was the end of the summer when he called his brothers together and disclosed the thought that had been shaping itself in his heart.
It was an overcast and rainy morning when all his brothers gathered in Nelyafinwë's tent. I was there too, having come together with my father, and, as my uncle had not objected to my presence when we entered, I had remained. Ere speaking, Nelyafinwë measured everyone with a steady gaze in silence for a good while.
"My brothers, I have asked you today to take counsel with me," he said at length, but then shook his head and sighed. "No, this is not true. I have asked you to come and hear of the decision I have already taken." They looked at him with question, their eyes wary, but he went on, his voice resolute. "I intend to ask Nolofinwë to meet with me."
"Yes!" My father sprang to his feet; his eyes shone in excitement. "That is what you should do indeed, brother! At last! Make him see reason, let him know who rightfully is the High King of the Noldor!"
Morifinwë's dark eyes glinted at my father's words, and Tyelkormo nodded eagerly, but Makalaurë and Ambarussa looked uncertain. My eldest uncle regarded Curufinwë with unreadable gaze.
"So that is what I should do?" he asked at length. "Claim kingship?"
"Certainly!" my father replied, still in the same elated mood.
"I hear what you think, Curufinwë." Nelyafinwë then nodded slowly, but the tone of his voice was strange.
Silence fell, as his brothers eyed him and one another uneasily. Morifinwë was the first to break the silence.
"One would think you should do it," he quietly said, his eyes narrowed. "Yet it is not your intent."
"No. It is not."
"What… what do you have in mind?" asked Tyelkormo, his voice quivering slightly.
"I will waive the claim to the kingship over all Noldor on behalf of Nolofinwë."
Dead silence fell at these Nelyafinwë's words, then his brothers started speaking over one another.
"This cannot be your decision!" Anger bristled in Tyelkormo's voice. "How can you even consider something like this?"
"I do not believe my own ears!" My father's face had blanched. "Are you now saying that you will cast away what is yours by right, brother?"
"By what right is the claim to the kingship mine, Curufinwë?" my uncle asked, his voice dangerously, deceptively calm.
"It is our father's heritage we speak of now!" My father's composure broke completely; he was shouting. "It is the claim our father made, and you are his heir, by the Valar!"
Suddenly Nelyafinwë brought his palm flat down on the table with such force that books and other things that stood there jumped up.
"I am an heir to our father's Oath as well! That too is our heritage!" His brothers recoiled at the sound of his voice, cold, hard and bitter. "And do you want to know what I think of father's claim? I think our father forfeited all rights to the kingship at Losgar!"
"How… how dare you!" My father's hands were clenched in fists, his eyes glinted in wrath.
Nelyafinwë met his gaze.
"Oh yes, I dare! Look me in the eyes, brother, and say that it was a just and honourable deed! A deed worthy of a king! Can you say that? Can you?"
My father made a step towards him, but now Tyelkormo sprang to his feet and restrained him.
"Calm yourself, Curufinwë," he said, his voice shaken. "Calm yourself and sit down."
My father sank back in his chair, his eyes still smouldering, bent on his eldest brother's face.
"How dare you!" he repeated. "How dare you betray our father's memory, betray us, betray the Noldor? How?"
Nelyafinwë withstood his gaze, and only when my father averted his eyes, did he too turn away. For a while it was so quiet in the tent that our breath and heartbeats sounded like wind and thunder in my ears.
"In Angamando…" Nelyafinwë's soft voice then sliced the silence like a blade. "In Angamando, I saw our people being tortured and killed by Moringotto's servants while he watched and laughed. I saw them being mutilated. Ravished. Dying in terrible anguish. I will do all in my power to put an end to this. Everything in my power. I will do whatever it takes, hear me, my brothers, whatever it takes! My war is with the Black Enemy, not with Nolofinwë! We must stand together against the evil in the north, not against one another! Two thirds of our people dwell on the far side of this lake! Do you indeed have the slightest hope that even one of them would follow my lead? No, they will stand with Nolofinwë, and rightly so! They will stand with the one who led them over the Grinding Ice! Meanwhile, allow me to remind you, I walked right into a trap and allowed Moringotto to capture me! Nolofinwë already now is a far better king than I can ever hope to become! No, I will lay aside this claim without regret! And I will beg their forgiveness for the evil we have done!"
He looked at us all in turn; white flame burned in his eyes. In a brief while Makalaurë rose and stood beside his elder brother.
"Yes! I am with you in this, Russandol!" His clear voice rang loud and confident. "Will you not see reason, brothers? He is right, right in every word! It is our chance to do justice by our people whom we have so cruelly wronged! Will you deny this in your pride?"
The twins looked at one another, then slowly nodded.
"We agree. We are with you too."
Tyelkormo sighed and drew his hand over his face.
"Very well," he then quietly said. "If that is your decision, I will not stand against it. And… I must say…" He frowned and shifted uneasily in his chair. "I must admit that I too regret much of what we did. There are things I am not proud of. It will be a relief to lay aside that burden of guilt."
Nelyafinwë nodded; now his gaze shifted from my father to Morifinwë and back with silent question. Morifinwë sat gripping the armrests of the chair, anger burning in his eyes, and when he spoke, he was nearly gritting his teeth.
"I am furious," he said, and his low voice indeed quivered with rage. "I am furious, and yet… and yet I see wisdom in what you intend to do. My mind sees wisdom in this, but my heart… my heart is against it. Still, I will not thwart your intentions, for your decision is wise. You spoke true; we need allies, and Nolofinwë holds the greater power."
"And you, Curufinwë?" My uncle now turned towards my father who still sat with his head bowed.
Slowly Curufinwë raised his eyes, the expression therein anger, mingled with grief.
"I will not even pretend that I agree," he replied bitterly. "For I do not, neither in my heart, nor in my mind. With this deed of yours the house of Fëanáro will be made dispossessed of what is rightly ours. Yet I also will not oppose you – because you are my brother whom I respect and love."
"I am grateful for that too," Nelyafinwë quietly replied.
Their elder brother's decision made known to them, my uncles now left, and we were already at the door when Nelyafinwë called my father back.
"I regret that I have failed your trust and expectations, brother." He had the ornate sword in his hand and he now held it out to Curufinwë. "I return this gift. You said that it is fit for the High King of the Noldor. I will never be that."
My father frowned and regarded the weapon in his brother's hand for a while, then raised his eyes and shook his head.
"You have failed neither," he softly replied. "I may hate your choice, yet too well I also see the wisdom in it. And for me, you already are the High King. That will not change, regardless of what you will do. I said I will not stand against your decisions. I will not. But neither will I acknowledge any other authority over myself, save yours, my lord brother."
With these words my father bowed before Nelyafinwë, swiftly turned and left the tent. I followed him.
Messengers were sent to the other camp swiftly. Nolofinwë agreed to meet, the day was set, but the closer it came, the more darkly my father brooded, and his seething discontent was plain for everyone to see, even though, as he had promised, he spoke no word against his eldest brother. A day before the intended meeting Nelyafinwë called his brothers to him.
"None needs to come with me who wishes it not," he said. "I know that not all of you in your hearts agree with what I have decided. My mind I will not change, for I believe that this is the only way our hope lies. Yet you need not come."
"Nay, brother, you will stand alone no longer." Makalaurë shook his head. "Neither facing friends, nor enemies. Henceforth, where you go, I will go also."
The twins nodded their consent, and Tyelkormo as well. Morifinwë exchanged looks with my father.
"Me and Curufinwë, we are coming too, even though we do not like your decision. But you are not merely our brother, but also lord of our people. It is our duty to protect you, should the need arise," he added darkly.
"I will bring no strife with me," he replied. "If that is your intent – remain behind. I will not have our chance of reconciliation undermined by offence and disdain."
"Why, my brother, we shall give no offence," my father said in a calm voice, yet there was something perilous in it. "We shall draw no blade. Unless they do it first."
"There will be no blades, Curufinwë," my eldest uncle replied. "We shall go thither unarmed."
Silence fell, as his brothers regarded him in disbelief. Even Makalaurë looked uncertain.
"Did Nolofinwë demand this from you?" asked Morifinwë, his eyes glinting dangerously.
"No, he did not. That is how I myself have decided." Unwavering he met their eyes. "I will go bearing no weapon, and any who comes with me also. Our armed guards will remain outside Nolofinwë's camp."
"So be it," after a while of heavy silence Morifinwë replied in a hollow voice. "We will then fight with our bare hands, if the need arises."
"There will be no such need, unless we shall call it forth," Nelyafinwë shook his head. "Therefore, I say to you again – come not if you cannot keep your temper restrained. Otherwise you will do more harm than good."
"We will do as you say, brother," slowly replied Tyelkormo. "And yet, I think, you are reckless in this. To walk unarmed into the camp of unfriends…"
"It is us who unfriended them, Tyelkormo, and it is us, only us, who can mend that breach! Do you not know who our true enemy is? I, for one, am reminded of that every day!" Nelyafinwë's eyes glinted and his voice now quivered with anger, as he raised his right arm before his brothers. "What else needs to happen ere you understand?"
"Peace, brother." Makalaurë laid a placating hand on his shoulder. "We do understand, and we will do as you bid. Is that not so?" His gaze, clear and sharp, now lingered on the faces of his younger brothers. "Is that not so?" he repeated, a note of warning in his fair voice, and I recalled his anger after the meeting with the envoys of the Black Enemy.
His brothers likely remembered the same. One by one they voiced their consent.
"I will not remain behind." My father was the last to speak. "And my bearing will not thwart your intentions, be assured of that."
"Uncle, may I come as well?" Suddenly I heard my own voice ringing loud in the tent.
They all turned towards me. My father's eyes darkened.
"Are you so eager to see the house of Fëanáro being bereft of its honour and dignity?" he sharply asked.
"No!" I heatedly replied. "I have never known that admitting and repenting an ill deed would bereave anyone of honour and dignity!"
For a while my father looked at me closely, his will striving with mine, but I did not relent.
"Do as you will!" he then bitterly said with a shrug of his shoulders. "If my brother consents. His authority surpasses mine."
"Your son is of age, Curufinwë, and the decision is his," said my eldest uncle. "If he wants to accompany us, I will not forbid that."
"Do as you will," my father repeated. "I care not."
With these words he rose and stormed out of the tent, upturning a chair on his way. In a while, the others departed in embarrassed silence, and I too was about to take my leave, but Nelyafinwë still had something to say to me.
"Are you certain you want to ride with us tomorrow, Tyelperinquar?" he asked with concern. "I would not wish this to be a cause of strife between you and your father."
"I am fully certain," I replied resolutely. "It is better that I quarrel with him over some cause, not without one, and this cause seems good to me. Be not troubled, uncle," I added, seeing him frown. "I am used to his anger. It flares up swiftly and swiftly is again quenched."
Nelyafinwë looked at me long and closely.
"I wish it were so," he said. "Yet this time, I fear, it may be otherwise."
"Be not troubled for me," I repeated reassuringly. "I will be well."
"Yes," he replied with a faint smile. "Yes, I believe you will be."
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