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I. Findis

Later, they will say: there was Darkness. The light of the Two Trees was sucked from them. . The Unlight of Ungoliant cloaked Melkor, and he smote the Trees and destroyed them.

Now, there is simply panic, and an absence of light Findis cannot understand.

 

~

 

In those first terrible moments, Findis thinks, the world has ended. Then, I am dead. Both are thoughts she has never contemplated before, not even in passing, but now—

Dead, she thinks, or destroyed, because there is no light. Which is strange, because she can still feel a chill upon her skin, and now slowly shapes emerge from the darkness, coalescing into lighter shades of black. The Halls are not supposed to be like this.

But there are voices, now (after the initial shock, she will think later), and hooves and thunder beating across the land, and a cry of rage, and then people talking, talking, talking, and Findis is frozen in place. Death is strange, she thinks wildly. Unless it is the end of the world. Which is stranger.

Someone says, “Findis?” and grips her hand tightly.

“Írimë?”

She had been standing next to her sister, before, and now she says, “Have you died with me?” Her voice is odd in the darkness (disembodied. They will learn new meanings for words in the coming days, but not yet. It is still too soon).

“I—” Írimë sounds puzzled. “I do not think so.” Then, “What is happening?”

“I do not know,” Findis says.

Again, louder, “What is happening?

“I do not know,” Findis repeats. She cannot think. The darkness presses against her eyes. She is not sure, yet, that they are not all dead. But there are many voices, now, and people calling out to loved ones, bodies pressing against each other as first, fumbling steps are taken, all of them newborns in a strange world.

“I—” Írimë stops. Her hand clenches tighter around Findis'. Then, “We need light.”

“Light?”

“This—somehow, if there is more light—” Írimë stops. Findis comprehends her confusion—they cannot understand why there would be no light, and how to give light. And yet something primal, something deep within her urges her to find light.

“Light,” she agrees, but there is no light, yet, and Elemmírë would find something poetic about that, but—

Elemmírë. Findis cannot stifle her gasp, and Írimë asks, concerned, “Findis?”

“Elemmírë,” Findis whispers. She had not even thought of her lover, in those first few moments, and now Findis is fairly sure they are not dead, but in this unlight, there is no telling what may have happened to her.

“What?” Írimë is bewildered, and Findis wonders why she does not worry, not only for Elemmírë, but now, thinking, their family, too, all of them scattered about this place, all of them lost in the darkness.

“Mother,” Findis says. “Ñolofinwë. Arafinwë. The children. And—Fëanáro. And Father.”

She does not need to say more; Írimë tenses against Findis, and, her palm still brushing against Írimë's, Findis wonders whether they are the last of their family, here. There were no death-noises (the books always said deaths were loud and gruesome), but in the darkness—

“Light,” Írimë says again, firmly. “We need light.”

“I—” Findis stops. She cannot say anything, does not know what to say. The darkness has leached thought out of her, leaving panic and fear in its stead. “I—”

“The lamps,” Írimë says.

Findis remembers, dimly, the lamps surrounding the area, Fëanáro's lamps that were meant to be purely decoration. It is a good idea, if they will light up. She tells Írimë as much.

Írimë exhales. “We need to find them—” She takes a step forward, and her hand is ripped from Findis'. She is gone, in an instant, not caught up in the throngs of people so much as the darkness, and Findis stays and looks and looks and even cries “Írimë!” but cannot find her and now hysteria is building, and Findis needs to find Elemmírë and her family. She plunges into the darkness, and hopes.

 

~

 

There are pinpricks of light, now, various people taking up Írimë's idea or coming to that conclusion on their own, but they simply highlight the darkness instead of banishing it, casting pale, flickering shadows where gold and silver light is supposed to be.

“Findis!”

Findis hears the voice calling her name, and turns towards it. She cannot see who it is. Of course she cannot. But it must be someone she knows, and that is enough.  “Who is it?”

“Findis,” the voice says again, and suddenly, there is a warm body embracing her, and Findis would know those curves anywhere, how they fit so well against her—

“Elemmírë,” Findis whispers. “Elemmírë.”

Elemmírë still smells of Elemmírë, when Findis presses her nose against her lover's neck, and this, more than anything else, is what will give Findis the strength to go on, the next few days. Now, she does not know this. Now, she inhales Elemmírë and thinks she is glad to be alive.

“What has happened?” It is Findis, now, who asks the question.

“It will be alright,” Elemmírë whispers, pressing her lips to Findis'.

And that is not a reply. “I know,” Findis says, and that, too, is not a reply.

 

~

 

Some of the Valar have shown themselves; something is happening. Maybe there will be answers. Whether or not there are answers, Findis has a duty to go and ask. She is a Princess of the Ñoldor, though she does not feel much like one right now.

Findis cannot bring herself to move away from Elemmírë, but she needs to find her family, needs to know they are alright. “Elemmírë. I need to—could you come with me?”

“Of course,” Elemmírë says, and it is only when they are halfway to where Findis needs to go, guided by the light of others' lamps, that Findis realizes she has not asked whether Elemmírë has things she needs to do, people she needs to find. “Your parents—”

“They are at home,” Elemmírë says.

Findis falls silent. Home could mean safe. Home could also mean not-safe. They do not know anymore.

 

~

 

At length, the crowds settle. There is not enough light to see by, even with the lamps, and, in an unspoken deference to the darkness, they are silent. A knot of Finwions and their lovers and spouses have gathered near the Ring of Doom. They are as silent as the Valar, waiting. Hands clutch each other, heads press against breasts and shoulders, forming a chain of living flesh. They cannot bear to be apart from each other, not even Fëanáro, for who know what lies in store outside their circle?

The Trees have been destroyed, and Darkness has fallen.

They wait.

~

Later, people will talk of Fëanáro's grief and his cursing of Morgoth, but not the family of Finwë. None will recall the words spoken, only the shock and the numbness. Next to Findis, Ñolofinwë stands stiff. Findis herself does not know how she is still upright.

Even the lovers draw away, now. Fëanáro flees, and then the children turn to their own tight groups, and at last, there are five of them left: Indis, Ñolofinwë, Írimë, Arafinwë, Findis.

None of them speak. None of them can speak. Maybe, if there were more light, they would see the signs of grief on each other's faces and understand, but now, they stand in silent numbness, in a void apart from the rest of the world.

 

~

 

At length, Ñolofinwë stirs himself. “We cannot stay here,” he says, and his voice is hoarse, as if he had spent hours screaming. “We must take the Ñoldor down to the city.”

Findis knows the others, knows that they will have nodded in agreement.

“And—we must go after Fëanáro,” Ñolofinwë adds. “We must send someone.” He stops, and Findis can hear him sigh.

“And Formenos,” Írimë adds. “But I do not—”

“I will go,” Findis hears herself offer.

“Findis—”

“I will go,” she says, again. “I can take Findekáno with me, and Artanis. We cannot send messengers, not for this.”

Ñolofinwë agrees, begins dividing up other tasks, and Indis steps in, too, and Arafinwë and Írimë, but Findis cannot hear them. She closes her eyes, and there is darkness; she opens them, and the darkness has dimmed only a little.

 


 

Elemmírë

Elemmírë leaves for Taniquetil, for her parents' home, after Findis rides off with Findekáno and Artanis. The Vanyar are all returning to their homes; there is nothing for her to do in the city. Not now, at least; Findis' grief must be terrible, overpowering. To lose her father—Elemmírë cannot imagine. Even the thought makes her shudder, makes her fuss over her parents, a strange dread tight in her throat.

As for herself, she waits.

There is little else to do but wait; messengers come and go from the Valar, and they keep time from the ticking of once-superfluous clocks, ornaments now lifelines. There is no light, no glow of the Trees. The shadows keep thoughts of Melkor and death at the forefront of their minds.

There are lamps, but they are mere pinpricks, throwing the darkness into sharp relief instead of hiding it away. There is fire, but glows orange and paints the world surreal colours. Elemmírë longs for the Light of the Trees, and waits.

 

~

 

They are not told of what has happened in Tirion until days afterwards.

It is understandable, of course; the Valar have more important things to worry about. The messengers do not come for two turns of the clock, and it is only then that they begin to realize that something is wrong.

Hours later, Eönwë comes to them and tells them of the Oath of Fëanáro and of the Ñoldor leaving Valinor.

Elemmírë thinks: oh.

 

~

 

She insists on going to Tirion, and she is not alone; a group of people, who have lovers and spouses and siblings and children who are Ñoldor or live among the Ñoldor insist on going down to Tirion, no matter how dangerous it is.

It is a long march, although Eönwë's assistance and the horses Oromë had provided for them speed up the journey, and Elemmírë has plenty of time to worry. She and Findis parted that night in a whirlwind, and Elemmírë has no idea how Findis is taking her father's death. She might have gone with Fëanáro. Nine-tenths of the Ñoldor left; it is a distinct possibility.

 

~

 

If Findis is still in Tirion, Elemmírë thinks, she will either be at the Palace or at what has come to be called the House of Indis, a place of shelter for the women of the Ñoldor. Those would be the best places to start looking.

Elemmírë snatches up a lamp and hurries down the street, trying to ignore how empty it is, the unnatural darkness only compounding the lack of light. Her footsteps echo against the cobblestones, but she forces herself to ignore the noise. Her efforts are successful; so successful, in fact, that she does not hear another person approaching until she bumps into a warm body.

“Are you hurt?” Elemmírë asks hastily. “I apologize; I am looking for someone, and I got...” Her voice trails off as she sees the woman she had unceremoniously walked into. “Findis.”

“Elemmírë?” Findis' oh-so-familiar voice is bewildered. “Why are you here?”

“To see you,” Elemmírë says, and, as if to provide proof of her words, lifts her lamp to Findis' face. What she sees there, well...Findis is pale, haggard, and there are dark circles around her eyes as if she has not slept properly (but then, in the darkness, none of them have. It is hard to find proper rhythms in the absence of light).

Elemmírë takes a deep breath. “I thought you left, Findis. I thought you went with Fëanáro and—”

“I did not,” Findis interrupts. “I am here, Elemmírë. I have gone nowhere.”

Elemmírë almost laughs, the joy suddenly coming upon her, but instead she embraces Findis fiercely. They stand in the middle of the street, wrapped in each other, for a long time.

 

~

 

The Ñoldor are not in complete, utter chaos.

This comes as a surprise to Elemmírë, who imagined that the removal of the majority of their population at the same time as the death of their leader would result in confusion, at the very least. But Indis is steady and capable, and she has gathered what remains of her people (and that feels strange, her people, for Indis was a Vanya, before, but seeing her here, now, Elemmírë knows, unquestionably, that she is now one of the Ñoldor) and guided them to a kind of calm Elemmírë finds slightly eerie. Food is limited, down in Tirion (Elemmírë had not realized, back on Taniquetil, how lucky the Vanyar were), where they have a season's worth of stores, but no more. Indis rations it carefully, rations everything carefully, and soothes her people when, inevitably, they are overcome with grief.

“I worry for her,” Findis tells Elemmírë, later, in the crowded wing of the Palace where the remanent of the royal family has taken up residence. “She works herself hard, and will not allow herself grief. She is not coping well, all appearances to the contrary.”

Elemmírë hums in understanding. There is nothing to say that will not sound clumsy and heavy-handed; Elemmírë cannot even begin to understand what Indis and Findis and all the Ñoldor have lost.

“I worry for her,” Findis says again, her hand tightening where it clutches Elemmírë's thigh. (Findis has grown more tactile since the coming of the dark, Elemmírë has noticed.)

“And you?” Elemmírë asks quietly. “How are you?

“I...” Findis stops, sighs. “Better, now that you are here. But not.” She stops, again. “Elemmírë.”

“Yes?”

“Kiss me.”

Elemmírë does. It is not passionate; the kiss is for comfort and to soothe pain, and Elemmírë holds Findis tightly, as if to shield her from the rest of the world.

“I love you,” Findis says, after they break away. That is another difference—Findis is liberal with her affection, now, where she was once shy.

“I love you too,” Elemmírë says.

 

~

 

They are standing in the gardens of the Palace of the Ñoldor, Elemmírë's arm around Findis' waist, and Findis' head pressed against Elemmírë's shoulder. Findis had pulled her out of the comfort of the sturdy walls (“It is dangerous, Findis.” “I will go mad if I stay here one more minute.” Then, “Please?” Elemmírë acquiesced—she can never say no to Findis.), and, taking a lamp with them, they had outside.

“It is beautiful, is it not?” Findis murmurs against Elemmírë's neck.

Elemmírë nods in agreement. “It is.”

They gaze at the heavens in silence, Elemmírë's finger tracing circles on the cloth covering Findis' hip. It is Findis, eventually, who breaks the silence. “I almost understand why he left, you know.”

“Who?” Elemmírë asks, but she knows who already. Fëanáro.

As if hearing Elemmírë's thoughts, Findis says, “Fëanáro. The Oath was terrible, of course, but I wanted to avenge Father, wanted to make Morgoth pay for what he did—I still do.”

Elemmírë's throat clenches involuntarily at the thought of losing Findis, but she says, “Why did you not go with him?”

Findis smiles; Elemmírë knows this because she feels Findis' lips curving against her shoulder. “You are here; Mother will not leave. I loved—love—Father, but how could I go?”

Elemmírë wants to say something, anything, but what words will suffice after what Findis has said? “I...thank you.”

“I love you,” Findis says quietly. “I love you so very much.”

“And I love you,” Elemmírë replies. There is nothing more to say; they stand and watch the stars in silence.

 

~

 

Arafinwë returns.

Elemmírë does not know what to think of this. Arafinwë and those who come with him are tightlipped and silent; clearly, something has happened, but they do not know what. They will not tell anyone, not even family, and Findis is even paler, even more worried. Indis throws herself into her work with renewed fervour. Arafinwë himself will not speak of anything related to his siblings who stayed behind.

Until he does.

Elemmírë will not know, until much later, of the Kinslaying. All she knows, now, is that Findis came back to her after a long conversation with her brother, half-angry and half-sad in a way that makes Elemmírë's heart break.

“I am glad,” Findis says, at length, “That I did not go.”

Elemmírë stays silent.

“I wish—” Findis stops. Then, “I do not know what will happen to us now.”

 

~

 

She learns of what happens in dribs and drabs, whispered rumors and speculations. There is not much movement in Aman, even now, and the Maiar who come and go rarely speak to them, although the disturbances to the geography of the land are enough to convince Elemmírë of something even worse than the death of the Trees, even if Findis' grief were not enough. Findis finally tells her the full story the day after Arafinwë has officially been crowned High King.

Elemmírë does not understand. She does not understand how it happened, how it came down to this, to kinslaying. The Ñoldor might know better than her, but she does not understand. Everything was perfectly fine before the Darkening (for that is what they have come to call the defiling of the Trees), but now—

Elemmírë cannot remember how many times she has been rendered speechless. She holds tightly to Findis, and does not let go.

 

~

 

The first rays of Tilion touch them; Elemmírë knows what the light is, but still shivers; it is so different from the silver glow of Telperion.

Until this moment, Elemmírë had thought, subconsciously, that everything would work out, that things would go back to normal, in the end. But now—

“Nothing will be the same again,” she says, and feels the truth of the words.

“Except that I still love you.” Findis kisses Elemmírë, hard but still oddly gentle, and Elemmírë whispers against her lips, “I still love you too.”

 

~

 


Anar rises, and, that day, Elemmírë begins to scribble notes, notes that will, eventually, form a song.