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The Silence  by Aldwen

We sat down in the appointed places, at the large table set by the wall. After a short while food and drink was brought to us, and we shared a light meal, and we spoke with Nolofinwë, or, rather, my eldest uncle spoke with him, exchanging news, some of his brothers adding a word here and there, most often Makalaurë and Tyelkormo as could be expected, but also Ambarussa, surprisingly, for their knowledge of the land appeared to be great, and our kinsman was clearly impressed by that. Morifinwë and my father were silent nearly all the time, yet their faces betrayed not the displeasure they likely felt. I was silent too, being the youngest and feeling shy and out of place in their company.

"Long has my heart been heavy as I looked over the waters of Mithrim," later said the High King. "Yet for this I dared not even hope. I am grateful to you, brother-son, for taking the first step."

"No, lord." Nelyafinwë shook his head at his words. "Your gratitude is misplaced. We should thank another that we are here now and look ahead with some hope. We should thank the one who went into darkness, heedless of peril." With these words he looked towards his cousin who had not joined us but stood further away in a conversation with some other Elves. "It is he who made the first step."

"My son's deed has been praised and will be remembered, be assured of that," Nolofinwë replied with a smile.

In a while their conversation was interrupted as Nolofinwë was called away by one of the guards who came and spoke to him quietly. He rose and left, promising to return swiftly, and we remained at the table on our own, suddenly feeling exposed, pierced by many eyes. It seemed to me that it had grown cold in the room without the King's sheltering presence, and a shadow of unease settled in my heart. I saw that several of my uncles felt the same. Morifinwë frowned, my father and Tyelkormo tensed. The voices seemed to dim; it was as if a wall of chilly silence was building around us. Findekáno seemed to sense this too; with a look of concern on his face he made a step towards us, attempting to catch Nelyafinwë's gaze, but he halted as he failed at that. I turned towards my eldest uncle. He sat still as stone, looking down at his clenched fist upon the table, seemingly lost in thought, unaware of anything around him, but it seemed to me that he had strayed into one of his whiles of darkness again. Dismayed, I was about to speak to him, but then door to the hall was thrust open, and silence was broken.

Írissë hastened inside, gleaming like a snowflake in her white garment, but there was a smile on her lips, and she came to us with light steps and greeted us warmly, embracing my uncles, her friends from the times now past, and kissing me on the cheek. She then took a step back and regarded me with a mischievous glint in her eyes.

"Why, you have grown, Tyelperinquar!" she exclaimed. "Since when are you a head taller than I am?"

I blushed fiercely and found no words of reply, but her gaze was kind, and laughter rang in her voice, and I found myself smiling in return. My father laughed as well.

"Sit down with us, Írissë, little sister, then there will be no need for you to look skywards," he said and pulled a chair for her beside him.

She accepted that and sat down among us, and her easy bearing, her very presence seemed to lighten the mood around the table and elsewhere in the hall. Soon even my father and Morifinwë were at ease, and we spoke and we laughed almost as we had done before, before the Light had failed, before the blood had been shed, before the smoke of the burning ships had obscured the sky. But the shadow had merely slipped further away, not departed entirely, and we were reminded of that soon enough.

We spoke of building, and my father's gaze strayed to the wall paintings.

"Is it Turukáno's work?" he asked with a note of appreciation. There was little friendship between my father and the youngest son of Nolofinwë, but there was respect of one master of craft towards another.

"Yes." Írissë nodded. "Turukáno painted the walls and Findaráto made the carven pillars and sculptures."

"Yet none of them is here today." Noted Tyelkormo looking at her with question.

"No." Írissë shifted uneasily. "Findaráto went hunting, and Turukáno, he… he too went afield and took Itarillë with him. They wander around often like this, now. They are each other's support and consolation," she added quietly.

"Did Elenwë remain in Valinórë then?" Tyelkormo asked, frowning. "I would not have thought that…" He fell silent perceiving the glint of anger in Írissë's eyes.

"Not in Valinórë, Tyelkormo!" she replied sharply. "She remained in Helcaraxë! She and Itarillë, they fell in a crevice, in the dark, ice-cold water. Turukáno saved his daughter, but he nearly perished in the attempt to save Elenwë. Had he dived after her one more time, had my father and Findekáno not restrained him, he would have remained there, with her, and Itarillë would have lost both mother and father!"

Pale and shaken we stared at Írissë. Only now did we better comprehend the terror that our people had endured during their journey, the terror that was of our making. I recalled the golden-haired, ever-laughing Elenwë who had with her joyfulness dispelled the often-sombre mood of her husband. To think that she was no more… To think that my young cousin was now bereft of her mother… I felt a keen stab of grief in my heart, mingled with regret and shame. My father and uncles likely felt the same.

"I am sorry! I am sorry, Írissë," Tyelkormo whispered. "I… I will speak with him when he returns, and…"

"He does not wish to see any of you, Tyelkormo," she quietly replied. "In truth, he asked father's leave to be absent today and was granted that."

"I… understand…" Tyelkormo bowed his head; I saw tears in his eyes.

"Little sister…" My father's voice was hoarse. "Little sister, we thought that you would turn back. We were certain that you would return to Tirion. If we had known that you would venture that desperate road… we would not have… we…" He too fell silent and turned away.

Nelyafinwë had been sitting stone-still at this exchange, but now he looked at her.

"I do not know what we can do to make amends, Írissë," he said softly. "I do not know whether that is possible at all. I do not know what else to say."

"You cannot undo what has been done, Nelyafinwë." King's voice rang out suddenly; he had returned and took his seat again. "These are the wounds you yourself spoke of. But they will heal, with time, even if they will leave scars. People are weary of enmity. I think that you have said and done enough, for now."

"Done, lord?" my uncle asked bitterly. "I have done little after I rushed blindly into Moringotto's trap. And before that…" He fell silent, then shook his head. "No, I have not done anything of worth."

"Indeed?" asked Nolofinwë thoughtfully. "I do not agree, for I know otherwise. You stood aside when the swan-ships burned."

"Should that be praised?" Nelyafinwë frowned. "I did not prevent evil! I merely… I stood aside, even as you said."

Nolofinwë regarded him calmly for a while.

"You stood aside when the others did not. Could you have prevented it?" he then asked. "Could you have changed your father's counsel?"

Nelyafinwë laughed shortly, bitterly.

"No."

"And… if all seven of you had stood against Fëanáro?" The King had not done questioning. He held Nelyafinwë's gaze.

"No." My uncle answered at length, quietly, yet firmly. "My father was fey, and his mood was perilous. He heeded none, and most of our people then were still swayed by the power of his words. Even if we all had confronted him… that would have been to no avail. And maybe… maybe he would have turned against us. After Losgar… I was not certain of my own life, for a while."

His words made me cold inside. That my grandfather had been furious at his eldest son who had disobeyed his commands, that had been plain for all to see, but I had not realized the full danger of his wrath. I now recalled seeing them both on the shore, my uncle still gazing across the dark water, Fëanáro throwing insults at him, face twisted in rage. For a long while Nelyafinwë had seemingly not heeded him, but at length he had turned towards his father and said a few quiet words, his face frozen. I had been too far to discern what either of them said, but now I recalled that at his son's reply Fëanáro's hand had strayed to the hilt of his sword. But Nelyafinwë had stood there still and silent, with cold contempt in his eyes, and then Fëanáro had released the weapon, turned away abruptly and left, his cloak streaming behind him. Shortly after that, my uncle had come to speak with me and to comfort me.

"I believe you." Nolofinwë nodded sadly. "Well enough did I know my brother. Had you resisted him you may well have paid for that with your lives. You defied him in the only way you could."

"Perhaps I did." Nelyafinwë shrugged his shoulders. "But my defiance was to no avail. How do you even know of it?"

"The stories travel," replied the King. "My son learned that in your camp. He thought that others should know too."

At these words, a shadow passed Nelyafinwë's face, yet he said naught.

The conversation then turned to other matters. After some time, when the counsels were taken and the next meetings decided, we made ready to return to our camp. We took our leave from the King and departed from the hall, and it seemed to me that the looks that followed us now were somewhat less cold and less hostile than before.

We stepped out in the daylight, and, as we halted for a while in the yard looking at the sky where the clouds were now breaking, Makalaurë turned to my eldest uncle.

"Will you not speak to Findekáno?" he asked.

Nelyafinwë merely shook his head.

"Why not?"

My eldest uncle sighed.

"For I do not know what I should say," he then quietly replied. "I have been a blind fool. The dangers he dared… But I… In my selfish pride I did not see that courage and sacrifice. My words to him… I could say other words now, but would they erase the ones said before?"

"Will you then allow the memory of rash words spoken in anguish to stand between you? I do not believe that something as strong as your friendship could unravel so easily!" Makalaurë's eyes glinted; he was clearly annoyed.

"What has been said cannot be unsaid, Makalaurë," replied my uncle. Sadness veiled his gaze now. "There is a price for everything. Maybe, with time, he will forgive me. But I do not think I have any right to ask that now. Let us go."

He turned to leave, and we followed him, but we had taken but a few steps ere our departure was interrupted.

"Nelyafinwë, wait!"

We turned back; Findekáno had followed us, he now stood in the doorway, his face determined. Then he stepped down the porch and came towards us.

"I want no words from you, for I have none myself," he then said firmly to his cousin. "What you said to me then - it was all true. I disregarded your request. I denied you the choice that you had made." His eyes strayed to Nelyafinwë 's right arm, remorse darkening his gaze. "This deed of mine I too cannot erase," he added quietly, "and to your suffering I have added manifold, so speak not of your guilt. I have maybe wronged you more than you have wronged me.”

"Findekáno…" Taken aback, at a loss for words, my uncle stared at him.

"Forgive me!" Anxiety flickered in the deep blue eyes of the son of the High King.

"Certainly, I forgive you!"

"I… I am grateful." Relief dawned in Findekáno's gaze. "However, you must know… I do not regret what I did, not fully!" he then said with a note of defiance. "Your anguish breaks my heart, but you live, and for that I am glad! And the Noldor have hope now! Therefore, I do not regret!"

"Rightly so. You are too wise to dwell on vain regrets, Findekáno," my uncle replied. "Forgive me too. My words were cruel and arrogant. Despite everything, I had no right to speak to you like that."

"Does this mean…" Findekáno asked with an uncertain smile. "Does this mean that I have two brothers again?"

My uncle laughed.

"So it seems. And I am back with seven," he replied, drawing his friend in embrace. "And a nephew who refuses to let go of hope even in the darkest night," he added, casting a sidelong glance at me.

"Indeed! That I well believe from what I have seen of him lately!" Findekáno too laughed.

Our return journey was pleasant. The clouds broke altogether, the wind quieted, and the evening Sun shone on our faces, as we rounded the bay. Our mood was lightened, and even my father and Morifinwë did not seem to be brooding anymore. Makalaurë, Tyelkormo and the twins rode together, and a sudden laughter would break out now and then from someone in their company. Nelyafinwë rode alone, and his face was thoughtful. After a while he turned and spoke to me.

"Well, did you see the honour and dignity of the house of Fëanáro diminished today, brother-son?" he asked with a wry smile.

I was silent for a while, but then looked him right in the eyes.

"No, uncle," I replied with confidence. "Today, I saw them restored!"





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