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Ashes  by Aldwen

Notes in the beginning of the story.

Another First Age piece, from the days when the Noldor returned to Middle-earth, with a long flashback to happier days in Valinor. This story is a gap-filler, consistent with the published “Silmarillion”. It is also consistent with the other stories I have published. Angsty. Be warned. :) 

Thousand thanks and hugs to Ellynn for beta-reading and suggestions!

The person names are in their Quenya forms. Aldanwë is my original character, all others belong to Tolkien.

Fëanáro - Fëanor

Nelyafinwë – Maedhros, his mother-name Maitimo and his epessë (after-name) Russandol are also used

Makalaurë – Maglor

Tyelkormo – Celegorm

Morifinwë - Caranthir

Curufinwë – Curufin

Telufinwë - Amras              

Pityafinwë - Amrod

Tyelperinquar - Celebrimbor

Moringotto - Morgoth

Valaraucar – Balrogs

Angamando – Angband

Amillë – mother

Essecilmë – name-choosing ceremony

Sarati is a system of writing, devised by Rúmil in Valinor. It was afterwards replaced by the script Fëanor made.


At first, the other shore is but a narrow, blurred line on the horizon, slightly darker than the overcast sky. But as the ships approach the coast of Endórë, the line slowly turns into a mountain range; the summits standing bare, and some highest places glistening with snow.

Feeling confined in the cabin, I have come up on the deck and now stand at the railing, peering into the shadows. The stretch of the land ahead appears bleak and unwelcoming. Almost all colours have faded from the world; there is merely grey and black and some white, and the too-close memory of red. I close my eyes and turn away from it and from the imminent future – towards the past, towards the days that already swiftly fade in the blur of crimson and black, in the clash of weapons and cries of anguish. Towards the days that now seem to be gone beyond recall. As so often lately, I turn towards more distant memories.

I have always known I want to be a healer. Nothing has ever seemed to me more worthy than to alleviate pain, to drive away distress and sadness; nothing has seemed more wonderful than to aid a new life coming into this world. I am not yet of age when my parents, seeing that I have indeed found my calling, send me to Lórien. There I learn much from lady Estë and her maidens and from Irmo Lórien himself, even things that seem to me strange and needless. Nonetheless I learn dutifully also about herbs that would counter poison, about infusions that would help to renew blood, about ways to stop heavy bleeding and to treat wounds caused by fire.

In my free time I roam the gardens or sit by the waters of lake Lorellin watching the Treelight upon the waves and upon the silver leaves of the willows. There are many glades along the shore. Each of them has its own loveliness, different flowers blossoming on the turf, different play of light and shadow, and I explore one after another, delighted by their beauty that never repeats.

One day, I discover a place very unlike the others. No clear path leads to it, and I have to pass through undergrowth and cross several streams winding their way towards the lake. At length I step out of the bushes into a meadow somewhat larger than the others I have yet visited. On its edge, close to the water, stands a white pavilion. Laurelin is in full glow now, and the walls of the small building shimmer golden. The tiny waves on the surface of the lake sparkle, the air is full of gentle fragrance of white flowers that blossom on the shore, and the wind rustles softly in the low-sweeping boughs of the trees. In wonder and delight, I enter the glade and approach the pavilion. Its entrance must be towards the lake so I go around slowly, but when I am on the other side, I halt. I am not alone.

A boy sits on the white stone steps before the door; hearing my approach he darts a swift glance at me, then looks away at the shimmering water of the lake. He is of my age, or maybe a little older, with raven hair and finely chiselled features. I have never seen anyone so strikingly beautiful before. Yet something is not right with him. His eyes now stare blankly in the distance, his shoulders are hunched, his hands - firmly locked together on his knees.

Loth to intrude, I half-turn to leave, but then halt in my step. Leaving suddenly seems cowardly. What healer would forsake one in apparent distress? Still, the boy does not look willing to speak to me, so I sit down on the grass some steps away from the white building and remain there until the light of the Golden Tree starts to wane. I rise only when my free time draws to its end. None of us has spoken, nor even looked much at one another, and he still sits in the same place, in the same despondent posture, his eyes towards the rippling water. But when I approach the edge of the glade, a barely audible ‘thank you’ reaches my ears.

When next I am free, drawn by sympathy but also by curiosity, I return to the glade and again find the strange boy there, walking slowly along the shore under the willow trees. Hearing my steps, he turns and smiles, faintly and uncertainly, but says nothing; the fingers of his right hand trace the elaborate patterns on his other sleeve.

“That is a beautiful embroidery,” I say to break the awkward silence but then blush in embarrassment. I am not good with words. I never know what to say when talking to someone for the first time. Besides, what I have just said seems to have upset him somehow; his smile fades, and he grips the cuff of his sleeve. I am about to apologize when he speaks.

Yes.” His voice is sad and quiet. “It is very beautiful. My mother made it for me when she… when she still…” He falls silent and bites his lip; his deep grey eyes shine treacherously bright in the twilight under the trees.

“Are you here to visit her?” I ask, for lack of better words.

“Yes. She is in there.” The boy points towards the pavilion. “She… sleeps.”

I nod. I have learned that there are times when people need a longer rest. Sometimes they come to Lórien for that.

“And you?” He looks at me with question. “Are you too here for someone?”

“No, I study with lady Estë. I will be a healer.”

His eyes become thoughtful. “It must be good to know what you want to become,” he then says, a little wistfully.

“Do you not know it yet?” I ask in wonder. “Surely there is something that brings you joy, something you are very good at?”

“Maybe.” He shrugs. “There are so many things. I do not yet know which one to choose.”

I find that a little strange. Surely, one cannot be very good at many things at once. Yet there is no boasting or arrogance in his voice as he says that. He sounds as if he merely states an obvious truth.

“What is your name?” I ask after another while of awkward silence. “I am Aldanwë.”

“Fëanáro,” he replies.

“That is a beautiful name.” I smile.

Fëanáro smiles in return, and this time the smile lingers a little longer on his lips.

“It is my mother-name. And I shall take it as my chosen name at essecilmë too,” he says. “That is not very far now.”

“Your mother will be very glad.”


But Fëanáro looks sad now. To turn his mind from whatever thoughts have grieved him, I speak again. I tell about the gardens, about the many fair places I have discovered on the lakeshore, about plants of whose virtues I have learned, and when I fall silent the shadow has lifted. Then we sit on the shore, talking, and he asks me more about my studies. He also talks about some of the things he has learned, and I am amazed by the shrewdness of his questions, by the depth of his knowledge. I have never had so exciting conversation with anyone; I get so carried away that I lose the track of time and I finally spring to my feet, realizing I will have to run not to miss a lesson.

“Come back soon!” Fëanáro calls after me as I rush towards the woodland.

During the following days the studies take up all my time, but as soon as I am free again, I go back to the glade. Fëanáro sits on the grass drawing something in a small notebook. Hearing me approach, he closes the book, puts it in his pocket and springs to his feet.

“Aldanwë! I am glad you are back!”

“I am glad too,” I reply. “I was busy studying, but I came as soon as I could. Were you here every day?”

Fëanáro nods, then looks at me closely. “Would you like to visit my mother?”

Startled, I look at him. “May I? I do not want to disturb her rest.”

“You will not,” he says resolutely, then takes me by the hand and pulls along towards the pavilion.

Soft twilight reigns there as we enter, curtains dimming the light from the outside. A woman lies upon a couch by the wall; her eyes are closed, her silver hair frames a beautiful, delicate face, very reminiscent of Fëanáro’s features. She seems deeply asleep. Fëanáro kneels beside her and kisses her on the cheek.

Amillë, I am here,” he says. “This is Aldanwë, a friend of mine.”

I bow before the sleeping woman and speak some halting words of greeting, but she neither wakes, nor stirs at the sound of our voices. Awkward as it is, yet I feel warmth settling in my heart when I realize that Fëanáro just called me his friend.

“I made something for you, Amillë.” He now pulls something from his pocket and holds it in his hand. “When you wake up…” His voice falters a little. “When you wake up, maybe you will look at it and maybe you will like it and wear it sometimes. And the other things too.”

I nearly gasp in astonishment when I see what he is holding – a silver hairpin in the likeness of a butterfly with wings made of mother-of-pearl, so lifelike and delicate that it seems ready to rise from his palm and flutter away any moment. Then Fëanáro sighs and sets the hairpin on a table in the corner, amid other things that already lie there: jewellery of incredible beauty, sheets of paper covered in strange, graceful signs, small paintings. I take a step towards the table and stare at all these things, and then I stare at Fëanáro.

“Did you… make all this yourself?”

“Yes,” he replies shortly and shrugs, as if it were nothing worth mentioning.

Now I see that one can indeed be very good at many things at once. Being no craftsman, I am still a Noldo and thus have sufficient knowledge to tell excellent work from merely a good one. Every single thing that litters the table is outstanding in its beauty and workmanship.

We stay yet awhile in the pavilion, as Fëanáro sits beside his mother and holds her hand speaking to her softly. Then he kisses her cheek again, rises, and we step outside into the light. Fëanáro is sad. He descends the stone steps, goes to the lakeside and stands there motionless, blinking swiftly, as if dazzled by the glittering water, but I see that he is blinking away tears.

“Every day I come here I hope to find her awake,” he whispers. “I hope she will sit there with her embroidery, like before. And hearing me approach, she will raise her head and smile to me. And then she will embrace me, and I shall tell her everything that has happened in her absence, and she will be glad, and she will laugh, and…” His voice breaks, and he falls silent.

“I am sorry,” I say quietly. “I am so very sorry.”

Hesitantly I take his hand and, as we stand there side by side, I attempt to silently give him some encouragement as I have been taught, some hope that would pass through the wall of overbearing grief that encloses him. After a while Fëanáro draws a shuddering breath.

“Thank you, Aldanwë.” He squeezes my palm ere releasing it. “Thank you, my friend.”

“I did nothing,” I mutter, embarrassed by the gratitude in his voice.

“No, you did much.” He shakes his raven-haired head. “You stayed. You spoke to me. And now you did something too; I felt it.”

“That was not much.”

“That was enough.”

Still, I feel that my aid has been scant and, as I ponder something else I could say to distract him, to make him think of something else beside his grief, a sudden thought occurs to me. A question that would hopefully draw him into conversation, as well as satisfy my own curiosity.

“Those sheets of paper, Fëanáro? The ones with the signs on them. What are they?”

He brushes away the last tears.

“Just some poems I wrote,” he then replies. “The signs are for recording of words. I devised them myself. I call them Tengwar.”

“These signs – are they like Sarati?” I ask in wonder. That someone so young could create an entire set of writing signs seems to me bewildering.

“Something like that, yes. Only better. Each sign represents a sound. Look here.”

He takes a small twig and draws on the wet sand of the shore, and when he has finished drawing and explaining, I must admit – his script is indeed much better than the one we use now. I speak my astonishment aloud.

“This is amazing, Fëanáro! You should show this to the loremasters!”

“Oh, I will, be assured!” Something like amusement flickers in his eyes. “After essecilmë. I very much doubt they are ready to accept instruction from someone they still consider a child.”

“You may well be right about that!”

I laugh, picturing the utter surprise on the solemn faces of Tirion’s loremasters, and then he laughs, too – uncertainly at first, as if mirth were unfitting for this place – but then louder, and I am glad his sorrow has somewhat lifted again.

So pass my days, between the studies and visits to the glade where there is little change – Fëanáro’s mother still sleeps, and he still brings her gifts he has crafted. Our friendship grows, and we spend long hours together, yet we never stray far from the white pavilion, as if Fëanáro was afraid that his mother might wake in his absence and not find him there. And often, when I return to my abode, I recall the table, littered with things my friend has made, and I wonder how much time his mother has already spent in Lórien and how long it will take for her to recover.

This thought does not leave me. At length I ask lady Estë, and when I learn that she has been there already for years, I long sit silent in wonder and disbelief.

“But surely, lady, there must be some cure?” I ask haltingly at last. “Something the Valar can do to help her?”

To that, Estë smiles sadly. “How do you help someone who does not want to be helped? Long already she abides in the Halls of Mandos. How do you call back someone who is unwilling to return?”

“Unwilling to return?” My voice trembles when I realize that Fëanáro’s mother is not asleep, that in the white pavilion near the lake lies merely the empty shell of her body. But then I clench my fists. “How can she be so cruel to her son? He misses her so!”

“She is not cruel, Aldanwë.” My teacher lays a gentle hand on my shoulder. “She is weary. Too weary for the cares of this world.”


Estë looks at me closely. “You are to become a healer, so I think you will understand,” she says slowly. “You know that parents impart much of their strength into their children, mothers more so than fathers. And Fëanáro’s mother… she gave him too much of herself.”

I look at her, wide-eyed. “Too much…? I did not know that was even possible.”

“None did.” She sighs. “And even had we known, there was little any of us could have done. It was her choice.  We are not to interfere with the decisions of the Children of Ilúvatar.”

I look away, overwhelmed by what I have just learned, but then a thought occurs to me.

“Does Fëanáro know this? For, if he does, then…” Shaken, I turn back to lady Estë, and on her sad face I see the answer.

“He does. And still he keeps coming here, even though it has long been known that lady Míriel has refused to come back. Even though King Finwë has long abandoned hope that his beloved wife might return to him.”

“King Finwë…?” My eyes widen again. “So Fëanáro is… I did not know.”

“What if you had known? Would that diminish your compassion towards him? Your care?”

“No.” I shake my head. “I do not think so.”

“I do not think so either. He is the son of the King and the most gifted of your people, that is true. But he is also little more than a child, struggling to cope with the loss of his mother in the way that seems least painful to him. Yet he will have to face that pain one day. When that day comes, will he have a friend beside him?”

I raise my head and firmly look into the timeless eyes of my teacher. “Yes. Yes, lady, he will.”

“I am glad.” She smiles. “Not all is revealed to the Valar, but that much we know – Finwë’s eldest son has a high destiny. Yet summits are often lonely, and the value of true friendship for those who find themselves there – immeasurable.”

“Yes, lady,” I repeat, but to myself I think that Fëanáro would surely choose his mother’s warm embrace over his many gifts and high destiny.

During the days to come I ponder all I have been told, and some time passes ere I finally return to the lakeshore. Fëanáro hastens towards me, apparently glad of our meeting.

“Aldanwë, were you completely lost in your studies?”

I have never been good at telling something that is not true, so I do not even try. “No. I just… I just had something to think about. I am sorry I was away so long.”

When I say nothing more, he looks at me with true concern. “I just hope all is well with you.”

“Yes.” I make an effort to smile. “All is well.”

Maybe my words are convincing enough, for Fëanáro smiles in return.

“I am glad. Look what I made for my mother!”

It is a small handheld mirror he now shows me, set in a frame of intertwined silver ornaments. I take it and admire the beauty of form, the subtlety of work. Another thing of wonder to be set on the table in the small pavilion to await something that will never happen. My fingers close about the handle, and I make a decision.

“It is beautiful, Fëanáro.” I raise my eyes and give him the mirror back. “But you should stop doing this.”

“Stop doing what?” He takes a step back, alarmed.

“Making things no one shall ever use.” I see his face growing pale. Compassion smites me, but I steel myself for the words that need to be said. “Your mother, Fëanáro… She will not return.”

“How would you know?” His eyes flash in sudden anger. “You are not a healer, merely an apprentice! You cannot know that!”

“I know that. And you know that too. You know she is not coming back.”

He flinches as if from a blow and takes another step back. Anger that had flared up has faded, and now his eyes are two deep wells of pain. “Why are you saying such things? Why? I thought you were my friend!”

“I am your friend, Fëanáro!” I am nearly choking on tears. “That is why. As your friend, I must tell you the truth. I do not want you to waste your life like this. And I think your mother would not have wanted it either. She would not wish you to linger beside her! She would wish you to adorn Arda with the marvels of your making, not pile them by her bed!”

“It is my fault.” Fëanáro’s face is pale, nearly white. “It is my fault she does not return. I am to blame.” His trembling hand grips the mirror with such force that the frame bends and twists, and the glass cuts his palm. A drop of blood falls in the grass but he stands motionless, unaware of the injury.

“You are not to blame! In no way is that your fault! You are not responsible for your mother’s choices, only for your own!”

I take the mirror from his hand and bandage the wound with my scarf, but Fëanáro stands still as a stone, staring past me with unseeing eyes. Now I am afraid for him, afraid of the depth of his grief, and I am also afraid that my words, true though they were, have shattered our friendship.

“Fëanáro?” My voice is hesitant when I at last speak his name.

As if suddenly awakened, he turns towards me and pierces me with his gaze. “She truly is not returning, is she?”

I wish I could take back everything I have said before. I wish I could keep pretending that one day everything would be well again, that one day his mother would indeed rise from her bed and sit under the golden light of Laurelin, looking with wonder and delight at the things of unequalled beauty her son has made. But it is too late for that. Tears burn in my eyes as I shake my head. “No. She is not.”

The fire in Fëanáro’s gaze dies. As if my words were the last grain in the burden of misery, he sinks to the ground and covers his face. In a short while wild sobs rack his body. I kneel beside him and speak meaningless words of comfort, and he holds on to me as if I were a lifeline.

A long time passes ere his tears run dry but when they do, he rises and goes to the pavilion. There, he first reaches for the handle but then draws his hand back and instead rests his brow and his palms against the door. “Farewell, Amillë,” he says quietly after a while of silence, then steps down on the grass and turns towards me resolutely. “You said there were many fair places along the shore. Will you show them to me?”

After that, Fëanáro no more travels to Lórien. But our friendship only grows stronger, and we see each other often. I am a guest at his naming ceremony and, some time later, he is a guest at mine. I marvel at the immensity of his talents – he excels at whatever he sets his hands to. I learn of his eagerness and generosity. But I also learn of his impatience and swift anger. I try to quell his fury at his father’s second wedding. I attempt to soften his bitterness towards lady Indis and her children. We speak to one another about our hopes and dreams, about our joys and disappointments. Later, when he already has sought apprenticeship with Mahtan, one of the most skilled smiths of the Noldor, I am the first one to whom he confesses his love towards Mahtan’s daughter. Our friendship is true and strong.

My memories are interrupted as the ship heaves violently, encountering a large wave, and I must grab the shrouds to remain on my feet. The land looms closer. The air is damp, the wind whistles in the rigging throwing into my face a drizzle of faint rain, and I peer into the dusk with a heavy foreboding.

Fëanáro’s three eldest sons stand some steps away, closer to the bow.

“I did not imagine our arrival thus.” Nelyafinwë’s posture is tense, his hands grip the railing.

“None of us imagined it so, I think, even father...” Makalaurë casts a swift glance over his shoulder and continues only when certain that their sire is nowhere to be seen,”…even father did not expect it to end like this.”

“End?” Nelyafinwë’s bitter laugh sends chills own my spine. “You are mistaken, brother. Nothing has ended yet. This is just the beginning.”

With these words, he turns and strides away. Makalaurë makes a step to follow his elder brother, but Tyelkormo restrains him.

“Let him go,” he quietly says. “Leave him be. There is nothing we can do, anyway.”

“I just… I…”

Makalaurë turns away to hide his grief from his younger brother who gets along with beasts so much better than with people, who sometimes appears harsh and impatient when confronted with weakness. But not this time. This time Tyelkormo sets his arm around Makalaurë’s shoulders.

“I know, brother. I know.” Helpless anger and grief rings in his voice. “But I cannot help. Neither him, nor Curufinwë. Nor you. I can only watch you all suffer. Maitimo, hiding his broken heart behind a shield of indifference. Curufinwë, lashing out at whoever happens to be close. You, repeating to the darkness the names of those you left behind. Morifinwë, lost in cold rage. The twins, sick with longing for home and for mother. I watch all this, and there is nothing I can do.”  

“That is not your fault.” Makalaurë covers his eyes with a trembling hand. The golden band of the wedding ring on his finger gleams faintly in the light of the swaying lamps that light the deck. “None of that.”

“Even so.” Tyelkormo draws him in embrace, and they stand in silence as the white ship, slicing the waves, brings us ever closer to the coast of Endórë.

“How long until the landing?”

That is Fëanáro’s commanding voice. He has emerged from the cabin and now strides towards us. His sons tense, hearing him, and swift anger arises in me suddenly. He has given so little consideration to his sons’ anguish, he has shown no compassion to them. Yet speaking my mind will not change anything for the better; on the contrary, it will only pour oil into the fire of Fëanáro’s wilful pride. So I push back my anger and approach him, to distract him with questions about Endórë, about his plans, so that his sons can have a short time for their grief without their father’s overwhelming presence and scorn.


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