“Of course I have GPS tracking on the Silmarils” Fëanáro says tersely. “I have GPS tracking for everything and everyone I value. The Silmarils, my external hard drives, the boys, their wives, A-Atar…”
His voice breaks on our father’s name, and so I almost forgive him my conspicuous exclusion from the list of “everyone I value”.
I have never seen Fëanáro in pain before, and I cannot take my eyes off of him. It does not make him weak; it makes him terrifying. Wounded animals are far more dangerous than healthy ones. My half-brother, of course, is sufficiently dangerous when he’s not half-mad with grief.
(There is still a small patch of discoloured skin on my neck where he held the lightsaber a little too close. I have not forgotten the reason that, strictly speaking, he isn’t even supposed to be in Tirion right now).
“If the Valar want to start enforcing the peace in this land,” Fëanáro said grimly when I reminded him of the terms of his exile, “they can go right ahead.”
Fëanáro does not have GPS tracking on the Valar – some things are beyond even him – but we both know that they have not stirred from Taniquetil.
Which is the reason my half-brother currently stands in my study (in the King of the Noldor’s study, and strictly speaking I would be well within my rights to kick him out), his hands flying across the keyboard (he designed it, of course, for optimal typing speeds) as he positions our intercontinental ballistic missile systems.
“Target is stationary,” he says out loud, and he is talking not to me but to posterity, which will doubtless be breathless in recounting the heroism and decisiveness and clarity of purpose which guided the King’s eldest son in avenging him.
Posterity will never see the fevered light in his eyes, and so it will never be recorded in the history books that the King’s eldest son is most definitely insane right now.
There’s a quick, assertive tap on the door – Maitimo, presumably, because the younger ones would barge right in without knocking.
I do not like the idea of being outnumbered. “We’re handling a classified situation, please remain outside until the all-clear has been issued. My apologies -”
“Come in,” says Fëanáro, and the door opens while I grind my teeth.
My eldest nephew usually at least manages an apologetic smile in my direction before he blindly obeys his father. Today he does not even attempt one.
“Satellite imagery?” asks Fëanáro.
“All light in the world was just extinguished,” I object.
“No satellite imagery.” Maitimo says apologetically. “In any event, we can set orbital trajectories from the GPS data alone –”
“Already done. You’re late –”
“I was holding counsel with your lords. Arafinwë thinks we should wait.”
“Of course he does. Launch protocols complete. Nolofinwë, go to the secondary console and enter the launch code.”
I could refuse. It is possible he would knock me out of the way and have Maitimo do it; it is possible he would deign to attempt to persuade me; it is likely he designed the system with a back door so he can do launches without proper authorization anyway. But he is not the only man here who lost a father in Formenos, who has lost all patience with the Valar’s prevaricating, who is in the mood to show Morgoth precisely what the Noldor are capable of.
I enter the launch codes.
“t-minus 10 seconds,” says Fëanáro, and grim satisfaction is beginning to replace the haze of rage in his eyes. We all turn towards the window: Elvish eyes are keen, and the launch site ought to be – just barely – visible from here.
“t-minus 5 seconds.”
I cannot breathe.
“3…. 2…. 1…”
The missiles move at extraordinary rates of speed, but my first thought as the tail of fire curls its way upward from the foothills is, “How slow!”
And now the door crashes open and my brother is there with his children, and my sons (Findekano looks to Maitimo before he looks to me, but I will pretend that is because Maitimo’s height and hair are striking) and the rest of Fëanáro’s brood. There is half a second of awed silence as the rockets, blazing against the night sky, soar eastward; but half a second is the longest any silence lasts in this family before the shouting and recriminations break out.
Fëanáro does not participate; he lets his children and nephews shout themselves hoarse while he plays with the keyboard, almost idly. Only when Carnistir and Aikanáro are about to come to blows and Artanis is very close to throttling Tyelkormo does he speak, and all he says is “Look.”
He has somehow rigged the projector to display on the ceiling; it is a clever move, because everyone tilts their head up to look, which simultaneously makes us all look like gaping birds and makes it very difficult to continue arguing.
The satellite images, as I anticipated and Maitimo confirmed, are black.
“That’s Angband,” says Fëanáro, fanaticism gleaming in his eyes. No one dares to challenge him.
And then a comet blazes across the ceiling, tailed closely by two others, in a formation so perfect that it is impossible to doubt that this is Fëanáro’s work.
And my work. I had a hand in this.
They do not land; my half-brother says that the destructive power of the bombs is greatest if they detonate in mid-air. The intensity of their fire, though, lights the ground beneath them; I see vague outlines of walls, towers. A fortress. Did Morgoth truly think that walls could stand against us?
The bombs detonate.
It is only a video feed, of course. But in the darkness, in the sudden hush, as we watch an explosion shake the earth half a world away, what we have done seems terribly, sickeningly, shockingly real.
The world is fire. Morgoth’s fortress is illuminated for a second by the intensity of the blast; then it is gone, vaporized, vanished instantly, the particles that made it up rising on the currents of flaming air as the bombs curdle into a shape like a mushroom, blazing golden fire like some sickening parody of Laurelin.
Laurelin is dead. This is vengeance, I remind myself, but it is not any easier to breathe.
“Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds,” whispers Fëanáro behind me.
Artanis slaps him.
The runways are not equipped for takeoffs in darkness; Fëanáro has his minions scurrying about placing lampstones at a regular distance, and Macalaure is arguing politely with the pilot. This is Air Force One, Atar’s plane. I think Fëanáro expected me to argue with his requisitioning it. I did not.
All of Fëanáro’s sons and most of his supporters are going with him. Air Force Two and Three and Four have been requisitioned as well. The Silmarils are indestructible, but it will take a long time to dig them out of the slag heap that was once Angband.
They will have to wear absurd-looking radiation suits the entire time. I will confess that this thought brings me no small amount of vindictive pleasure.
“You are certain that you wish to remain behind?” asks Fëanáro suddenly, and it takes me just a split second too long to realize that he’s talking to me.
“Yes, neon orange looks hideous on me,” I say smoothly. It is an absurd answer, carefully phrased to be too silly even to earn his scorn. It is my last interaction with my half-brother before the runways are declared satisfactory and the jets, one by one, set off into the night sky.
The stars are remarkably beautiful without Telperion clouding them, I think absently. It is a rebellious thought; once I would have flinched from it. But what we have done today goes far beyond rebellion.
As does what I am about to do now.
“Remove the lampstones from the runways,” I say. Turukano is the first to understand, and he smiles broadly; Findekano is next, and he gasps.
“We’ll restore them eventually, if the Valar don’t come up with a solution to the light problem first. But I think it will do my half-brother good to spend a little time cleaning up the disasters he creates.”
“The ground is poisoned,” says Artanis. Her tone is carefully neutral. “Nothing will grow there for a thousand years; even the dust will make them sick and kill them, if they breathe too much.”
“Is that so? Well, Fëanáro is a remarkably innovative person; I am certain that, once he sets his brilliant mind to it, he’ll be able to surmount that challenge as easily as he surmounts all others. And perhaps then he can begin making amends to any peoples of Beleriand whose croplands we have poisoned for a thousand years.”
I am smirking. It is a decidedly Fëanorian smirk; Curufinwë (the younger) is credited with perfecting it, but all of them are remarkably good. I can tell by the expression on my brother’s face that he is a little concerned for me.
“Are you well, Nolofinwë?”
“You know, I am.” I say, and realize to my own astonishment that it is true.