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The Silmarillion Rewrite

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What is  the Silmarillion, exactly? This is a slightly more complicated question than it seems.  The Silmarillion  is a book published in 1977, four years after Tolkien's death. The Silmarillion is a collection of stories chronicling the history of the world of which Middle Earth is only a part, written down by Tolkien and edited by Christopher Tolkien and fantasy author Guy Gavriel Kay. The  Quenta Silmarillion  is the story of First Age and the war of the Silmarils. (0) Confused yet? Of course you are. Don't worry, we're just getting started; you'll be much more confused before we're done.

The Silmarillion is not one story; it's a collection of various things, in different writing styles told with differing levels of detail. There's a sense in which it's reasonable to call it the Bible of Middle Earth: the stories it tells are very old, there are lots of inconsistencies, and no one's sure how much of it to take as Gospel. Tolkien was a tinkerer(1); he was never 100% finished with anything he wrote, even after it was published(2), and the stories that make up The Silmarillion were never finished to his own satisfaction. Fortunately, he also never threw anything away. After his death, when Lord of the Rings was a genuine phenomenon and people were clamoring for more, Tolkien's son Christopher gathered together his father's papers and published the book that Tolkien had started writing decades before but was, honestly, never going to finish.

Many of these stories exist in multiple versions, and it's sometimes hard to tell which version Tolkien actually preferred.(3) He changed names, backgrounds, and genealogies so frequently that some people (okay, some Elves) end up with personal histories that Tolkien almost definitely did not intend, just because we're trying to make sense of the stories we have.(4) You can take this in one of two ways: either you can try to figure out which version is "right" and defend your stance against all comers, or you can treat all of this as part of the glorious mythological history of Middle Earth. No one knows who Gil-galad's father is? That's okay! It's been lost to history, and Elrond's not telling. I like the second strategy.

So you've got a weird mish-mash of things in this book. You've got the creation of the world, which was informed by Tolkien's own Catholicism as well as Nordic myth and his general sense of the aesthetics of the universe. You've got detailed stories like Beren and Luthien or The Children of Húrin which tell important events in the lives of specific people; you've got whole millennia that go by in the space of five pages of migration patterns; you've got genealogies out the wazoo. There are chapters in The Silmarillion that would make lovely animated short film pieces, and there are chapters that would make five-hour epic miniseries plots. We're covering around ten thousand years of history, here.(5)

If you're a completist, you should know that this is by no means all of Tolkien's Legendarium writings. Once you've got the Silmarillion under your belt, your next stop should be Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle Earth, which expands on some of the stories in The Silmarillion and offers some other delightful background bits and deleted scenes, like the story where Gandalf tries to make a moral argument out of Thorin Oakenshield being killed by an army of Orcs and Frodo's not having any of it.(6) After that you can dig into the History of Middle Earth wherever seems most interesting to you. Want to see how Tolkien kept track of the phases of the moon throughout The Lord of the Rings? You want Volume 8, The War of the Ring. Love epic poetry? Volume 3, The Lays of Beleriand. And so forth.(7)

So what am doing here? I am not a Tolkien scholar. I'm not even a particularly qualified Tolkien nerd. But I am the one of my group of friends who's read the most of this auxiliary material, and on the way home from a midnight viewing of The Return of the King, I started explaining the history of Númenor to the rest of the party. They found it entertaining, I found it enjoyable, and here I am, eight years later, still doing it. I hope that you also find it entertaining, and perhaps educational. 

 


 

 


(0)Generally people don't italicize it unless they're talking specifically about the book itself, and for the most part "The Silmarillion" will refer to the Quenta Silmarillion stories of the First Age, which is also the largest part of the book. If someone wants to talk about stories in the Akallabêth, which is a section of The Silmarillion, they'll generally use "Akallabêth."

(2)For instance, The Hobbit has been published in two distinct versions, and he considered completely re-writing the thing at least once

(3)The drafts, notes, and deprecated versions, for the most part, have been published as The Book of Lost Tales 1 and 2

(4)See: Glorfindel, Gil-galad

(5)And Galadriel is there for pretty much all of it. There's a reason even Gandalf is a little scared of her.

(6)This should also make clear a great many of Peter Jackson's directorial choices. Those that aren't already made clear by a viewing of The Frighteners, that is.

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In the beginning God Eru created the heaven and earth.

Or, rather, he meant to. Surely he'd get around to it someday. The heavens were no trouble, really - lots of empty space in the heavens. It was the earth bit he was procrastinating about.

So Eru created the Ainur. And Eru spake unto the Ainur, and he did say: "Thou shalt make the music of the spheres, and it shall be beautiful."

And for a great time they did make the music of the spheres (even though there really weren't any yet), and it was beautiful. And then Melkor, the wisest of the Ainur, did think to himself, "That note would be much better if it were a sharp." And thus Melkor did alter the music of the spheres, and he deemed it good.

The other Ainur stood amazed at his audacity. Some shunned him, but many were caught up in his new melody, and soon Melkor and his followers were a band to rival Duke Ellington himself.

And then Eru, who did prefer classical music to jazz, lifted his hand and brought forth a storm of music to counter that of Melkor, but the Ainu was not swayed, and he partied on. Eru, who was by now getting just a little bit miffed at his prodigal son, did raise his hand again and brought forth the most beautiful, sorrowful music ever heard, and while Melkor could not drown it out, neither did it sound particularly nice with his racket carrying on behind it.

And so Eru, most patient and most wise, rose again from his mighty throne, and he did cry out to his wayward children, "Turn that crap down!"

The music ceased.

And Eru said to them, "I shall show you the thing that you have wrought." And revealed to them the earth, and Melkor said, "So you finally got around to it, eh?" But of course he had not, for what he showed them was but a vision, and they saw the created world and those beings that Eru would create to live upon it, both Men and Elves. And Melkor did go off and pout, for he was already jealous of his younger siblings. And like all angsty teenagers, he found himself a leather jacket and a really cool lighter and carried on playing music that his father hated.

But the other Ainur were pleased with their lot; Ulmo took to the waters, and Manwë to the airs, and they did create wonderful things together (not bloody well like that, get your minds out of the gutter), such as rain, and snow. And Aulë did take to the earth, and he delighted much in the making of things.

But the Ainur were troubled, for the world that they wished to delight in was not yet created; it was still only a dream. And so, at long last, Eru got off his arse and created Eä, the World that Is. And Ulmo, and Manwë, and Melkor, and all those other Ainur who lived in this World were called Valar, just to be confusing and unneccessarily complex (get used to it, it's a long myth).

Upon reaching the World, the Valar were dismayed, for it seemed that their Illustrious Father had neglected his duties once again, and the wonderful things they had seen in their vision still did not yet exist. And so they all set to populating the world, save for Melkor. He, still furious at his father for quashing his artistic spirit, raised a flag and planted it in the ground. "I claim this land in the name of Me!" he declared.

Manwë, who had appointed himself peacekeeper and leader of the Valar for no apparent reason, called down the winds from the sky to knock down Melkor's flag, saying, "Oh, don't be ridiculous." And Melkor went off again to sulk.

And then the Valar did discover the joy of bodies. Some did take male forms, and some did take female forms, and beyond that...the Elves tend not to say. And Melkor, jealous of the others' beautiful forms, did make a body for himself, but being rather unskilled at such things, it did not turn out well. And then, in his petulance, Melkor did attempt to destroy everything that the other Valar created, but because he was Bad and they were Good, he failed rather miserably.

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Of those Valar left after Melkor's departure (and sulk), there were seven lords and seven ladies, proving once and for all Melkor's inherent good sense in getting out of there and leaving behind a nice, round number. They are named here in the Elvish of Valinor, not to be confused with the Elvish of Middle-Earth or the Elvish of various squealing Orlando Bloom fangirls. 

Manwë Súlimo, lord of the airs, is the king among equals of the Valar. (To be quite frank, he was probably Eru's second choice, but don't mention that to him.) His delight is in the winds, and the clouds, and swift birds, strong of wing; he really doesn't give a damn about anything else unless he has to.

With him is Varda, lady of the stars, called Elbereth by no less than half a dozen poems in The Lord of the Rings alone. Varda and Melkor are old enemies, for she rejected him even before that whole Miles Davis episode. (Precognitive, or just a bitch? You decide.) She is very likely the only one of the Valier who outshines her husband.

Ulmo, lord of the seas, dwells alone, and he likes it that way. As far as he is concerned, the rest of the Valar can go bugger themselves. He is slightly more fond of Elves and Men, but he doesn't exactly seek them out, either. He's been known to play the odd practical joke, wandering inland through rivers and streams and invoking the sea-longing in Elves who would otherwise never have seen the place.

Aulë is lord of the earth, and he is both smith and artist. He delights in making things, but doesn't much care for what happens to them later. He and Melkor are also old enemies (are we seeing a pattern here?), for Melkor, who could not create but only twist that which had already been made, was jealous of Aulë's skill. (Sort of like Hitler and the German Expressionists.)

You can probably blame most of the coming story on Aulë.

With Aulë is Yavanna Kémentari, Queen of the Earth and Giver of Fruits. Without her, Aulë would probably spend all of eternity in his workshop. You know the type. Yavanna is the keeper of all plants and trees, and is also quite fond of shiny things.

Next there is Námo, called Mandos - hence the Halls of Mandos, where the spirits of the Elves go after they die. This is not the happy, perky Death of a more enlightened age. This is the Grim Reaper - or rather, he would be if he ever bothered to leave his halls. He is more akin to Destiny, for he knows all things that are and that will be.

Viarë is his wife - the weaver, who might have been Arachne in another lifetime. She spends her days weaving her husband's knowledge into tapestries to cover his halls. Hey, no one ever said Tolkien was a feminist.

Irmo is the Dream you've come to know and be exasperated by. His realm is Lórien, the gardens of the Valar. His wife is Estë, who is for all intents and purposes the same person in female form. Unless there is something Irmo's not telling us.

Nienna is sister to Námo and Irmo, and the only one of the Valier to live alone. This is probably because Nienna is angst personified. When the Valar sang the world into being, Nienna's song was sorrowful. (You can, then, perhaps blame the rest of the coming story on her.) Nienna likes to hang about the Halls of Mandos and weep.

Tulkas Astaldo is the warrior of the Valar - he came last to the world, and then only to battle Melkor. The other Valar treat him something like a particularly enthusiastic Golden Retriever, which is just as well, because he doesn't care about their schemes and prophecies and loads of bloody angst.

His wife is Nessa, who is as physical as he is. (Ahem.) Her joy is in dancing, and she often entertained the Valar. (Ahem.)

Oromë Aldaron of all the Valar most loved Middle-Earth, rather than the sanctuary of Valinor that was created for the Valar themselves. After they had all withdrawn to Valinor, he was forever sneaking back out to wander the forests of the world. He is a hunter, and trained his hounds to track all of Melkor's creatures. 

With Oromë is Vána, the Ever-young. (As if the rest of the Valar are otherwise?)

**

Now the Valar were not the only beings lording it over the world at this time - there were also the Maiar, who were like the Valar but lesser. They were angels to the Valar's Archangels; apprentices to their mastery; Robin to their Batman, but without the homosexual subtext. The Maiar are, on the whole, less inclined to appear to lesser beings than are the Valar, though there are exceptions.

No one knows their number, and few are named at all. Among them are Ilmare, the handmaiden of Varda, and Eonwë, the herald of Manwë. They are told of most often in the tales of the First Age, and seem to have pretty much buggered off by the time Men enter the picture.

Ossë was a vassal of Ulmo, and rather fond of the Elves; Círdan the Shipwright owes his craft to him. For a time, Melkor drew Ossë's alliegiance, but fortunately Ossë's wife Uinen was around to smack some sense back into him. Uinen was the calmer and more pragmatic of the two, but she was also the protectress of the Númenóreans, so she could hardly be called the more successful.

Melian lived in Lórien and served both Vána and Estë; nightingales sang wherever she went. Eventually she got herself into a spot of trouble with one of the High Elven Kings, thus spawning the most complicated circular family tree in the history of Middle-Earth.

The wisest of the Maiar was Olórin, or Sir Not-Appearing-In-This-Text, who also dwelt in Lórien when he had nowhere else to be. He was possibly the only being in Valinor who could tolerate Nienna long enough to keep her company, and from her he learned both melodrama and pity. He is not spoken of in this tale, for in the First Age he walked among both Elves and Men disguised, so that they would not know him. (Apparently he tired of such anonymity, for by the end of the Second Age he was a right old meddling bastard who wouldn't even stay dead when he'd been properly killed.) 

Finally, we return to Melkor, later called Morgoth, and his hordes of unsavory creatures. He had many of the Maiar under his sway, though we shan't bother to name most of them now; you will know them when you see them. The one who follwed him most closely was Gorthaur the Cruel, much feared in the later ages of the world, who was later called Sauron because that went better with the name of his ally, Saruman.

Most dreadful of all his servants were the Balrogs, spirits of fire and demons of terror, who may or may not have wings.

Next: the Quenta Silmarillion begins, with the creation of Valinor and Melkor's Batcave.

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Quenta Silmarillion
Chapter the First: In Which the Valar Light Things Up, and Melkor is a Pain in the Ass

And so the Valar, whom you should all go look up again if you've forgotten since our last installment, set to creating the rest of the World that Eru hadn't gotten around to when he dropped them there. Ulmo took over the seas, and Manwë the air, and Aulë the earth, and Melkor showed up again and tried to take it all for himself. This heralded the arrival of Tulkas, who soundly kicked Melkor's ass and then decided to hang about for a bit, possibly on account of meeting Nessa. Yavanna planted her seeds, and green things began to grow.

Then the Valar realized they had a bit of a problem on their hands. After all, photosynthesis doesn't work without light, and Eru really had just created the World - nothing else to help it along. So, with a bit of nagging from his wife, Aulë created two great lamps. One they called Illuin and planted in the north. The other they named Ormal and raised it in the south. The two lamps of the Valar shone out brightly, and it was always day, which probably pissed off some of the local inhabitants, but at least the plants were growing.

Of course, whilst all this was going on, Melkor cowered in a corner growing ever more angry with his brethren. 

And on the seventh day they rested, but because the Valar are a bit more enthusiastic than God Eru, they also partied. They all did some drinking, and Nessa did some dancing, and sometime that evening Tulkas and Nessa were wed (and the sequence of events is still unclear to this very day). 

Finally, when all the Valar had passed out, Melkor crept out from the corner he'd been lurking in and, taking advantage of the intoxication of his siblings, began to plot. He settled in the north of Middle-Earth where he built his fortress of Utumno deep beneath the earth, and he began to poison it. Green things became black; lakes became swamps; forests became deep and dark and home to all manner of evil things. Kittens became hyenas, great fluffy wooly mammoths became war elephants, and even harmless fruitflies turned into mosquitoes. 

Sooner or later, as one would expect, the Valar noticed that something was marring their perfect Spring. Unfortunately for them, it was later, and before the could prepare, Melkor had thrown down the lamps Illuin and Ormal, and they had not only ravaged the earth with their fire, they were put out as well, leaving them all back in the dark.

The Valar, finally realizing discretion as the better part of valor, left their destroyed home in Middle-Earth and went to the furthest reaches of the Western sea, where they raised the mountains of Pelóri, and the highest of these, where Manwë and Varda made their dwelling, was called Taniquetil; Amon Ulios to the Sindar. From the heights of Taniquetil one could see the whole of the World, across Middle-Earth and beyond.

There, behind the Pelóri and at the foothills of Taniquetil, the Valar built their stronghold of Valinor, a great country of even greater beauty than Middle-Earth had ever beheld. There they built Valmar, the city of bells, and at its western gate was a lovely green hill. When the Valar assembled at the Ring of Doom, their council chambers within the city's gates, they sat and listened and watched in awe as Yavanna sat upon the hill, singing. At her song grew two slender shoots, which grew and grew until they formed the Two Trees of Valinor, which shaped the history of the First Age. 

The first had leaves of dark green and silver, and his blossoms dripped silver light onto the earth beneath him, and the Valar named him Telperion. The second had leaves of bright spring green and gold, and her blossoms radiated warm, golden light, and she was called Laurelin. Unlike the great lamps, Telperion and Laurelin waxed and waned, in cycles of seven hours, and so the Valar were introduced to the concept of twilight, of which they approved. And so, with some regularity at last in the world, began the counting of time.

And so for a great span of time Melkor walked to and fro in the earth, and up and down in it, and generally wreaked havoc wherever he went, whilst the Valar stayed safely holed up in Valinor and ignored him. But they had all forgotten something.

Chapter Text

And so it came one day that Aulë, the Maker, was bored. Middle Earth, he decided, was all well and good, but without any peoples to inhabit it, it was...well...boring. And so Aulë listened to the Music a bit, to determine what sorts of creatures were best fit to live in this world they had created, and when he thought he had some idea, he took up his hammer (which was not at all named Mjollnir), and he created the Dwarves.

"Very nice," said Aulë to himself, "I'll bet even Eru couldn't make creatures half as strong and clever as these," and since the Dwarves probably overheard him, this may explain something of the later animosity of the Elves and the Dwarves.

And so, while Aulë was busy teaching language to the Dwarves (starting with all the filthy words, of course), Eru, having heard his name being taken in vain, woke up and looked around a bit, and He saw that there were now creatures in the world that He had not made. And so Eru spoke unto Aulë, saying, "Excuse me, young man, just who do you think is the boss of this creation?"

And Aulë answered, "I only wanted something to do. What do you expect? After all, it's you who made me so I want to make things. But hey, they're pretty harmless."

Eru gave him a Look.

Aulë sighed and snivelled and whined, and very reluctantly, with the petulance of a four year old, he took up his hammer to smash the Dwarves to bits. But when he did so, they flinched away. Eru sighed.

"Look, you can't do that now. They've gone all sentient. You're going to have to keep them -- as long as you can take good care of them."

"Hurrah!" shouted Aulë. "Thanks, Dad. They'll be good, I swear."

"But," said Eru, and Aulë wilted a bit, "I'm making some creatures of my own for this world, and they have to be first."

"Why?"

"Because I said so. I already have a name for them and everything. So yours will just have to wait." 

Then Aulë took the Seven Fathers of the Dwarves whom he had made, and buried them all around Middle Earth (because what else are you going to do with Dwarves in suspended animation?), and went back to Valinor to wait in boredom until Eru should see fit to let his Dwarves awaken again.

(Now don't all Gimli's Dwarf jokes make more sense? Told you the Silmarillion was worthwhile.)

Nonetheless, the Dwarves are fond of Aulë, whom they call Mahal, for no real reason except that's what Aulë means in their Dwarf language, which Aulë made up, so let's not go there. They say that when they die (which is not early or often, because Aulë is a master craftsman, after all, and well-made things don't break easily), he sets aside a special place for them, and when the world is broken at last, it will be their job to help Aulë rebuild it. The caves and caverns and fjords of the next world are likely to be very impressive indeed.

After all this had come to pass, Aulë, presumably out of boredom, told his wife Yavanna, who made the birds and beasts and growing things in the world, all about it.

"Well, that's lovely," Yavanna snapped at him. "You break the rules, go making sentient things on your own, without permission, and you not only don't get in trouble, you get to *keep* them! And they'll probably be horrible little things, too, coming in and destroying all the lovely things that *I* created -- and created with Eru's blessing, I might add."

"It wasn't like that!" said Aulë defensively. "Besides, you don't think the Children of Eru will destroy the things you've made, too? And they will most certainly have Eru's blessing."

This thought upset Yavanna, and so she went to Manwë and asked him if it were true.

"Absolutely," answered Manwë, "it's all part of the Great Song. Out of curiosity, why do you ask?"

Yavanna sighed. "Melkor has destroyed so many of my lovely things already, and now I find that the children who are to come will do the same! Shall nothing that I have devised be free from the dominion of others?"

"Well," said Manwë thoughtfully, "which of all your creations is your favorite?"

Yavanna thought for a long time, because no one likes being asked to choose a favorite child, and finally answered, "The trees. They take so long to grow, but they can be cut down so quickly. Yes, the trees should be able to speak on behalf of all things that grow, and to punish those who damage them!"

"Weird," said Manwë.

But as Manwë sat in thought, pondering whatever imponderable thoughts come to the Lord of the Valar, Eru sent him a vision, and he went to go apologize to Yavanna.

"I'm sorry," he said, "Eru says you're right. The Shepherds of the Trees will protect all your growing things, once the Children come."

"Hurrah!" shouted Yavanna. "They will grow tall, so that your Eagles can make their homes in them."

"Nonsense," said Manwë, "my Eagles will live in the mountains. But I'm glad you're pleased."

"Very," answered Yavanna. "I've been thinking of what to call them. What do you think of 'Ents'?"

"Weird," said Manwë.

That evening, Yavanna went back to Aulë, who was making amusing trinkets to plant in the ground for his Dwarves to dig up when the time came.

"Hah," she said to him, "Eru says that I shall have Shepherds of the Trees, whom I am thinking of calling Ents, though I haven't decided yet, to protect the trees from your vile little children!"

"Nevertheless they will have need of wood," said Aulë, and he went on with his smith-work.

The ancient and hallowed manuscripts do not say, but Aulë probably slept on the couch for a couple of hundred years.

Next up: The Coming of the Elves (or, Elvish Geneaology 101)

Chapter Text

And so it came to pass that, for quite a long time, nothing much happened. Since Middle Earth was not yet as shining and beautiful as they had expected it to be, the Valar ignored it (except for Yavanna, who did a lot of lamenting). Meantimes, Melkor, who after all had nothing better with which to occupy his time, carried on making all manner of twisted and evil things. But unlike the Valar, who seemed to have forgotten all about him, Melkor was ever watchful of attack, and so he built the fortress of Angband. It faced toward the dwelling of the Valar, and to command it he set his lieutenant, some insignificant guy called Sauron.


But not all of the Valar were entirely oblivious, for as it turns out, all of Yavanna's lamenting had done some good after all: she had been around to see Melkor building his stronghold. She, and Oromë, who also sometimes still wandered in Middle Earth, spoke unto the other Valar, saying, "You know, Middle Earth right now is a pretty terrible place to start a civilization. Should we not *do* something about it?"

"War!" cried Tulkas excitedly. "War! Death! Destruction!"

"No," said Manwë. "It is all part of the Great Song, you see," he explained to the other Valar. "'The Children of Eru awake in the darkness and look to the stars.' Really, it's all in there."

"The what?" asked Varda.

"Stars," replied Manwë. "You'd better get to work on those, hadn't you?"

"Shit," Varda muttered under her breath, as she contemplated how best to go about creating the inspiration of the Children of Eru. First she took the silver dew from Telperion, the first Tree, and she cast it into many constellations which carry Elvish names and very Greek backstories. She finished, as it were, in the nick of time, muttering still about assignments and deadlines and how much better she could have done if she'd had more time.

In the very hour that Varda hung the Valacirca, the seven-starred Sickle of the Valar, the Firstborn awoke at Cuiviénen, the unimaginatively named Waters of Awakening. Unimpressed by their watery birthplace, the Elves instead looked to the stars, and they have loved Varda ever since.

Somewhere back in Valinor, Varda heaved a sigh of relief.


The Elves, uncertain of what to do with themselves, wandered about Cuiviénen and the nearby realms, gazing in wonder at everything and proceeding to make up names for all that they saw (because what this story really needs is more names for things). They called themselves the Quendi, meaning 'those who speak,' because even then the Elves loved nothing more than the sound of their own voices.

This was, however, to their own advantage, for if Oromë had not overheard their singing whilst he rode across the mountains of Middle Earth for no real aparent reason, they might well have lived out the whole of the First Age by Cuiviénen, naming things and boring one another to death.

But find them he did, and when Oromë first looked upon the Elves, he was awestruck by their beauty. He named them in their own tongue Eldar, 'people of the stars,' for apparently the urge to name everything in sight is contagious. But the Elves were not so impressed by him -- they had seen many shadows of Melkor in the woods and, being not completely stupid, they feared that Oromë might be one of them. Many fled when they saw him coming, and it is said that they were captured by Melkor, and the things he would have done to them are not nice at all. Let's just say there's a reason the Orcs have pointy ears, and leave it at that, hm?


Eventually Oromë remembered his responsibilities, stopped playing with the Elves, and returned to Valinor with the news. The Valar felt guilty for having left Middle Earth to their fallen brother for so long, so they decided to end Melkor's reign once and for all, hopefully before Eru noticed what they'd let go on for so long, and what Melkor had done to some of His precious Elves.

They struck at him in the north-west of Middle Earth, and Melkor was so shocked that his brethren had finally decided to get off their collective arse and do something that he was quickly driven back to the dark fortress of Utumno. There he recovered his composure, and the Siege of Utumno was long and grevious, and the face of Middle-Earth was remade entire, but the Elves knew nothing of it, for the Valar politely covered their eyes and told them they'd explain when they were older. Finally, Utumno was overtrhown. Tulkas got to expend his remaining battle-lust by wrestling with Melkor, and when Melkor was defeated, Aulë made a great chain called Angainor, and Melkor was bound in it and taken away. No doubt he laughed as he went, for the Valar, so intent on his capture, did not discover all the caverns beneath Utumno, and there his lieutenant Sauron lurked in wait with a great host of things to go bump in the nights to come.


Then the Valar held yet another great council, for like the Elves, there is nothing they like so much as talking. Their first order of business was Melkor. Though he sued for pardon, they cast him into the prisons of Mandos, there to abide for three ages of the world (with no time off for good behaviour) until his case should be tried again.

Then they considered the case of the Elves. Although the Elves had suffered no ill effects from the recent war, having been so well protected; and although the knew of no great threat to the Elves, now that Melkor had been captured; still, they decided that it would be best if the Elves were brought to Valinor, for their own protection. It was a decision that was to cause them all great pain and tragedy. (Perhaps the Valar truly did feel that they were protecting the First Children. Perhaps they merely wanted them around because they were beautiful to look at. Or perhaps they had simply spent so long with no company but one another that they were al going a bit mad. If so, this can be seen as an object lesson in cabin fever.)


Having thus decided, the Valar returned en masse to Cuiviénen, still full of all their battle glory, to invite the Elves to join them in Valinor. The Elves, not unreasonably, ran and hid.

Realizing their error, the Valar withdrew and sent Oromë alone to speak with them. He begged and pleaded and wheedled, and eventually three of the Elves agreed to come with him. It was thus that Ingwë, Finwë, and Elwë became the first of the Children to see the light of the Trees of Valinor.

Then the all three returned to Cuiviénen and advised their followers to move west to Valinor. This was not as straightforward as it sounded. For one thing, it involved a lot more naming of things. Most of the Elves were convinced by ther leaders' impassioned speeches, and they went west and were known as the Eldar, the name Oromë had given them from the first. But some of the Elves dug their heels in and returned to leave, reasoning that now that Melkor was out of the way, what the hell was wrong with staying where they were? They were called the Avari, the Unwilling, and soon enough everyone just forgot about them.

So the Eldar packed up all their belongings, made a few sandwiches for the road, and hied it off to Valinor. The first on the road were the followers of Ingwë, who were called the Vanyar, or the Fair Elves. They were a bit self-righteous and annoying, so it's just as well they stayed forever in Valinor and Men never had to put up with them. Next came the Noldor, the people of Finwë, the Deep Elves. They were friends of Aulë (though of course they would still detest the Dwarves -- there's logic for you), and they worked hard and fought well. The Vanyar tended to treat them like working-class scum. Last was the largest crowd, the people of Elwë Singollo, who were called the Teleri, or the Undecided, because they were still uncertain as to whether or not they wanted to go. A great many of the Teleri were lost by the wayside and never saw Valinor at all.


But even the Elves who did reach Valinor did not do so for a very long time, because the road was long, and Middle-Earth was full of shiny things, and the Elves were easily distracted. Since Oromë had other things to be doing, he often left them, and every time he did, the Elves wandered slowly to a stop and sat around aimlessly until he returned like lemmings without a cliff to jump off of. It was many years before they came to a great forest, and the largest river they had ever seen (though granted they hadn't seen much, just the path from Cuiviénen to here). It was thus that the Teleri fetched up against the banks of the Anduin, wavering undecided for a little while longer, while the Vanyar and the Noldor went on.

The Teleri waited there alone, leaderless and afraid to go forward, but still too stubborn to turn back. At last, one of the Teleri stood forward. He was Lenwë, one of the stragglers of the group. He gathered to him many followers, and they set out bravely on a march -- to the south, along the eastern bank of the river. They, too, were entirely forgotten, until Denethor (no relation), son of Lenwë, led them at last to Valinor many years later.


Eventually, though, Elwë got his act together and led his people west, for he had great friendship with Finwë *cough* and did not wish to be parted from him for long. *cough* As it turned out, the delay of the Teleri was hardly important, for when they reached the Bay of Balar, they found the Vanyar and the Noldor still there, afraid to go on themselves and cross the great, wide sea. The Teleri took a great deal of pleasure then in mocking the ones who had once mocked their own trepidation. And there they all stayed, waiting for Oromë to return and guide them west on the last leg of their journey.

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Once upon a time, before the world was made, when the Valar had nothing better to do than hang around and be gorgeous and perfect at each other, there lived one of the Maiar called Melian, and she was even more gorgeous and perfect than the rest of them. Her beauty outshone the stars (which didn't exist yet), her grace surpassed that of the great cats (which also didn't exist yet), and she sang with a voice so pure that it put the nightengales to shame (ditto). So really it should have surprised no one that, when the world finally was created, she went down into it to live among the many things she could be favorably compared to (instead of among the Valar, where she was just "akin to Yavanna".)

Now, as you will remember, at this point in our narrative most of the Elves are wandering in a vaguely westward direction. The Vanyar (your upper-class, snooty and obnoxious) (well, more than usual) Elves) and the Noldor (your lower-class, living-in-spidery-forests-and-throwing-keggers Elves) were well on their way to Valinor, but the largest group, the Teleri (your indecisive and procrastinating Elves) were still kind of poking along, unsure whether or not they wanted to go to Valinor at all. And their leader, Elwë, was the most indecisive of all. Hell, the only reason he had got this far was because he was forever following Finwë, the leader of the Noldor. *cough*

One day, as nothing else interesting was really going on, Elwë and Finwë had arranged to meet in the woods (*coug -- okay, look, do I even need a suggestive cough here? I'm sure by now you're all thinking what I'm thinking.), and as Elwë ambled along toward his destination, he came across Melian, standing in a glade and singing, with nightengales around her, silent with awe. Alas for Finwë, for Elwë fell instantly so much under her spell that he could do nothing but stand and stare, and this he did for so long that not only did Finwë go back to the camps in disgust, perhaps to find someone less indecisive to have secret trysts in the woods with, but the Teleri actually got sick of waiting for him to come back, elected his brother Olwë their new leader, and kept going west.

And thus Elwë never returned to Valinor, but what did he care, because he married Melian of the Maiar and lived with her in a cave under the woods of Doriath, where they ruled over the Sindar, a race of Elves who thought they were so damn special they invented their own language. In this language they called him Elu Thingol, which he shall be known as henceforth, except when he isn't. And Thingol and Melian lived happily ever after, raising many extremely attractive, if somewhat foolhardy, children.

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And so it came to pass that, after their long wander west, the Vanyar and the Noldor finally reached the western coast of Middle Earth, at the mouth of the river which you will find on your standard Third Age maps labelled as Beleriand, facing the sea-crossing, the last stage of their journey. (Oromë had thought about taking them the easy way, across the ice bridge to the north, but that was Melkor's territory, and he had heard the rumors about what Melkor was doing to the random wandering elves, so he opted for the long route.) Once they got to the sea, looking out at all that deep, black, storm-tossed water, they were too afraid to continue, so Ulmo in his exasperation came to them and turned their fear into longing, which is pretty twisted, really. But it solved the problem at hand; the Vanyar and the Noldor wanted nothing more than to get going. So Ulmo built them a small floating island as transportation and pulled them over. (The Teleri, of course, were still wandering around looking for their king Elwë, who was still staring at Melian. These kinds of delays are part of the reason this story gets so complicated.)

When the Vanyar and the Noldor finally reached Valinor, they were quite impressed, and they made polite conversation with the Valar about how they really did like it very much, but they missed the Teleri awfully, and so Ulmo sent word back over the sea to his vassal Össe to send the Teleri on over straight away so that the rest of them would stop moping about and spoiling the perfect happiness of Valinor. But Össe, who was having a fine time hanging out with the Teleri and teaching them things like singing and shipbuilding and other entertaining things, whined and wheedled and finally convinced Ulmo to take his little floating island and stick it in place, where it was colled Tol Eresseä, the Lonely Isle, for no good reason at all. And there the Teleri stayed, looking for Elwë or hanging out with Össe, even though everyone in Valinor was very unhappy about it (especially Finwë, who was apparently not bitter about being dumped in such an inglorious way) (or maybe he was; it doesn't say why he wanted so badly to see Elwë again).

Now, in Valinor the Elves lived in the city of Tirion upon the hill of Tuna, which was raised up so they could see the stars, which they still had quite a bit of affection for, those being the first things they had ever seen. And here everyone was very happy and very much in love with Valinor, and their favorite thing of all was Telperion the Silver Tree, so they made a copy of it and called it Galathilion, from which was descended (from a long and complicated tree genealogy about which you almost certainly do not care at all) the White Tree of Numenor. The Vanyar hung about with Manwë and Arda, and so were really quite boring, but the Noldor hung about with Aulë, who taught them many things, such as mining and gemcraft. He also indulged their obscene love of naming things, so there's yet another reason to blame the length and complexity of this story on Aulë.

Since the Noldor are the ones who eventually get back to Middle Earth, it is apparently considered important for us to know their genealogies, and so we digress for some begetting. I'm sorry. It may help to draw a chart.

Finwë, King of the Noldor, apparently got over Elwë enough to get married and procreate, and his sons were Fingolfin, Finarfin, and Fëanor, who is the important one. (Observe how all the important people in this story have umlauts, possibly because Tolkein hated typesetters.) Fingolfin's sons were Fingon, who was king of the Noldor for bloody ages; Turgon, who did nothing much at all; and Aradhel, who was not actually a son but a daughter and who was called the White Lady of the Noldor. 

Finarfin married Eärwen (actually a relation; I believe she's Arwen's great-great-aunt, but don't quote me on that), Olwë's daughter (though not yet, of course, as Olwë hasn't even decided to come to Valinor yet), and their children were Finrod Felagund, Orodreth, Angrod, Aegnor, and Galadriel, whom you ought to recognize.

Fëanor's sons, whom you will all meet again under more interesting circumstances, so don't bother trying to memorize them now, were Maedhros, Maglor, Celegorm, Caranthir, Curufin, and the twins Amrod and Amras. 

There may be an exam.

Back in Middle Earth, then, the Teleri finally gave in to peer pressure and decided they wanted to see this Valinor everybody kept talking about after all. So they summoned up Ulmo to take them across the sea to Valinor, but he just threw up his hands and muttered about the technical difficulties of unsticking a stuck-down floating island, really, do you people know nothing about tectonic shift, so instead they took the skills that Össe had taught them and built a fleet of ships, and to show they really weren't bitter about it, they built them tall and graceful in the shape of swans. And when they reached Valinor, Olwë built himself an ostentatious city to go with his ostentatious fleet of ships, and it was called Alqualondë, the Port of Swans.

So there everyone all was at last, with Olwë of the Teleri ruling over the city of Alqualondë, and Finwë of the Noldor ruling over the city of Tirion, and Ingwë of the Vanyar ruling as High King over the Elves even though the rest of the Vanyar had left the cities and gone off to commune with nature or something. And Fëanor and his sons never stayed in one place for long, but they did frequently stay in the caves of Aulë, who really should have been stopped long before this.

So there they all were, finally, except the ones who'd got lost on the way, and the ones who'd decided not to come after all, and probably a couple who'd fallen overboard on the trip (there's always a couple), living happily in Valinor the way it was always meant to be. You can see where this is going, can't you? Yep. BOOM.

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When we left our story, everyone (and we do mean everyone, except for Aulë's dwarves, who are still in suspended animation) was living cheerfully and with immense, obnoxious serentiy in Valinor, with the obviously implied threat of impending doom hanging over them which, of course, nobody noticed. It was a golden age, etcetera, etcetera; among many other wonders, Rúmil of Tirion invented the art of writing, and so everyone began setting down all the lists of begetting in Elvish cuneiform, which is why we have such complete genealogies. (Aren't you thrilled.)

And in this Golden Age, Finwë, who had apparently finally written off Elwë as a lost cause, married Míriel of the Noldor, and she bore him his eldest son, whom she called Fëanor, meaning Spirit of Fire. Not that she was precognitive or anything; it was just that that the pregnancy was rough and the birth rougher, and the little bastard kicked the whole way out, and when it was all over Míriel told her husband that there was no way in hell she was ever doing that again.

But Finwë, in the fine tradition of husbands without a fucking clue everywhere, assured her that in Valinor she would be able to find rest sufficient to regain her strength. He petitioned Manwë to find someplace for her to recover, and Manwë sent her to Imo in Lórien, where she was allowed to die in peace. Finwë, thus deprived of his wife to lavish his obsessions upon, proceeded to spoil his son rotten, and Fëanor grew to be handsome, talented, conceited and arrogant. His first great achievement was to create a new system of letters to replace the ones that Rúmil had made, which gives you some idea of what a dick he was. But his real forté was lapidary, and so Fëanor set off on a long run of inventing man-made (or rather, elf-made) gems: clear gems, scrying gems, gems for all occasions and price ranges! He shortly became quite famous and married Nerdanel, the daughter of a smith, which lasted all of a year before she took the dog and moved to a big house in the country and refused to ever see him again. (As to where all those sons came from then, well, your guess is as good as mine.)

Mean while Finwë (who does seem to get over the loss of romantic partners quite quickly, doesn't he?) took as his second wife Indis, a Vanya, and as unlike Míriel as could be. Fëanor, being apparently familiar with the conventions of these types of stories, resented his stepmother and half-brothers immensely, and isolated himself from his father's new family, a thing that was (rather like second marriages) completely unheard of in Elvendom, but everybody blamed it on Finwë for being selfish enough to remarry and for not being satisfied with one, admittedly quite remarkable, son. (Told you it was a soap opera.)

And meanwhile, in other realms of Valinor (cue ominous music), Melkor still languished in prison after that incident at Utumno, but lo, his parole was coming up. Although he still hated the rest of the Valar and their perfect, pretentious little world with all of his black little heart, he was still a very good liar; and anyway, Nienna, who had entirely too much sympathy for anyone's good, spoke in his favor. Manwë decided to give Melkor the freedom of Valmar, the city of the Valar in Valinor (Linguists: spot the root word!), and he did so well with that that soon they decided that his evil was cured, and he was given leave to travel anywhere in Valinor that he pleased. (Manwë always did have a little trouble with this "evil" concept.) 

In order to igratiate himself with the Valar further, Melkor even tried to make friends with the Elves, but the tree-hugging Vanyar didn't want much to do with him, and he got too exasperated with the flighty Teleri to hang around them for long. The Noldor, on the other hand, were much more receptive, and over time he taught them many things. Melkor even claimed, in later years, that he had taught Fëanor all he knew, which was a bald-faced lie, because Fëanor hated Melkor (and us) so much that he named him Morgoth, or "big black nasty evil thing" in Quenya. And anyway, Fëanor always took advice from exactly no one.

Next time: Of the Silmarils and the Unrest of the Noldor, or, Civil War Comes to Valinor and Why It's Called the Silmarillion Anyway

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So it came to pass that Fëanor, being both intelligent and of a somewhat morbid turn of mind, realized that the glory of Valinor could not last forever, but realizing this he decided to create something that would (or would, at least, outlast the Hippie Utopia they currently resided in). He labored long and hard, and in secret, and at the end of a long but indeterminate period of time, he produced the Silmarils.

They took the form of three great gems, made of a substance unknown to any but Fëanor himself, clear as diamond but strong as adamant, and they contained within them the light of the Two Trees, and so they burned inside with the fire of life. Basically, he made some really shiny rocks, and everyone was very impressed.

Varda liked the Silmarils so much that she gave them the power to resist evil, a quite effective built-in security system, so that if any evil thing (ie, Melkor) would touch them, it would wither away. Mandos foretold that the fate of the entire world was bound up in them, which would have been quite the overstatement in any other kind of story; but even if he was right in the long run, all it did in the short term was to further inflate Fëanor's already enormous ego.

Fëanor was, at this point, completely obsessed with his greatest creation, but he was not the only one -- Melkor also coveted the Silmarils (possibly because they had been forbidden to him; you know what restrictions like that do to people like him), so he concoted an evil and extremely elaborate plan to get ahold of them. (Also, he was bored. And who can blame him? Perfection is bound to get pretty boring after a while.) 

Melkor began to spread rumors throughout the Elves -- The Valar don't really like you all that much, you know. They only brought you here so that they could have Middle Earth all to themselves. They're replacing you, you see, with inferior creatures that get sick and wither and die and don't even have pointy ears. The Valar can use Men as their minions, but you're too clever for that, so they hid you away here and now they're all laughing behind your backs. And why stop there? Anticipating Rennaisance Italy, Melkor also told Fëanor that Fingolfin, his elder brother, was trying to usurp his position as daddy's favorite, and told Fingolfin that Fëanor was trying to kick out his younger brothers entirely. 

So the Elves, who are apparently entirely gullible in every way, started to invent things like swords and shields and really, really shiny heraldry systems with lots of silver gilt and little squiggly bits. And then everybody wandered around with their shiny new toys wondering who was going to be the first to get their head lopped off. Because the tension wasn't high enough already, Fëanor started talking rebellion, egged on by Melkor who was, undoubtedly, giggling behind a curtain somewhere. 

It's the sibling rivalry that brings it to a head, as usual -- Fingolfin finally threw his hands up in disgust and went to Finwë, asking him to please do something about his idiot eldest son. Said idiot eldest son threw an entirely predictable tantrum and chased his half-brother out of the city, making Melkor look downright precognizant and himself look like an ass. 

The Valar were not terribly pleased.

It all came out in the trial, of course -- the lies, the paranoia, the overly-elaborate heraldric system -- but Fëanor got the brunt of it anyway (possibly the Valar had decided that Melkor was just plain evil and couldn't help it, or possibly they'd realized that punishing him was entirely pointless and frequently counterproductive), and was banished from the city for twelve years, which is not all that long in Elf Time, really. Still, Fëanor was so self-righteous that he wouldn't even accept his brother's apology and the pardon that was offered with it, and he stormed out of the city, trailed by his seven sons and his somewhat bemused father.

When the Valar finally looked around to see what kind of slap on the wrist they could bestow upon their evil sibling this time, he was nowhere to be found. That would be because he was trailing Fëanor's every step, talking with him, pleading with him, and trying to wheedle some kind of help out of him. "You and me," he would say, "we know what bastards the Valar are. They just don't understand us, right? So we'll ditch this place completely, never mind the city, we'll leave the whole damn continent behind. You and me and your shiny, shiny Silmarils..." Which mention caused Fëanor's jealous streak to kick in, causing Fëanor to have yet another of his raging fits and Melkor to bugger off in search of slightly less dangerous company. Finwë, to be sure, warned the Valar where Melkor had gone, but they weren't quick enough for him, and Melkor escaped to the north, where he Loomed Evilly In the Distance for a while.

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After Melkor escaped from Valinor, the Hunt searched for him all across the northern lands, whilst Melkor did double back to the south, proving once again that while evil might be evil, good is dumb, because when they couldn't find him they all gave up and went back home. Of course, Melkor had entirely changed his appearance by that point (as the Valar can apparently do; you learn something new every day), but they should have expected something like that, so really there's no excuse.

Not content with escaping the Valar and the prison of Valinor, you see, Melkor was now intent on vengeance. But for that, he needed help of a most insidious kind. Melkor changed his appearance once again -- not much, really, just tidying up a bit, got to fix the hair, you know, the whole Dread Dark Lord of Utumno thing -- and headed south to the Bay of Eldamar, to the lair of Ungoliant.

Now, no-one knows exactly where Ungoliant came from, though rumor has it that she was one of the very first creatures that Melkor corrupted when he took over the role of Middle Earth's First Evil. Eventually she left him, though, because she Needed Some Space, It's Not You, It's Me, and she did better than he did with that anyway because she was never captured by the Valar; and at the time of our story she was living as a spider, choosing to make her metaphors a little more literal as she collected small creatures with which to sustain herself.

So although the breakup had been pretty final, it hadn't been all that messy, and Melkor went to Ungoliant's lair to convince her to help him out, carefully straightening his pointy helm before entering so he would appear to his best advantage.

Ungoliant received him graciously enough, and so he explained to her his evil plot in detail, how he -- or rather, they -- would sneak into Valinor and strike a blow against the Valar that they would never forget. Ungoliant listened politely, and when he was finished she said, "Are you completely insane? I'm not going anywhere near that place, and if you had two brain cells left to rub together, you wouldn't either."

"Please?" said Melkor, looking as truly desperate as a dread and dark Lord can manage to look. "I'll give you anything you ask for -- a nice new lair of your own, much bigger than this one, with lots of tasty flies to catch in your webs. You know I'm good for it, baby. And then maybe we could talk about getting back together sometime, who knows?" And thusly weakened by Melkor's false promises, Ungoliant agreed to help him.

Since Melkor was apparently incapable of doing anything actually useful on his own, Ungoliant wove a darkness thicker than darkness, an Unlight (sic) around them to hide them, and proceeded to haul them up the mountains with vast strong webs that would have made Spiderman weep with envy. They climbed Ungoliant's webs to the heights of the Hyarmentir, the highest peak to the south of Valinor (which the Valar did not, apparently, bother to aim a security camera at) and from there she made more webs, stretching from the peak to the hills of Valinor, and down these webs Ungoliant and Melkor slid undetected.

Undetected because, of course, everyone was paying all their attention to the party Manwë was throwing to distract them all from how much their lives had sucked lately. (His excuse was that it was harvest time, but since Valinor was a Land of Plenty, it was a pretty thin excuse.) The Vanyar and the Noldor were all in attendance, but the Teleri, who had not yet been bothered by Melkor's evil and so saw no reason to celebrate that it was gone, stayed in Alqualondë, singing their Emo Songs of the Sea.

Fëanor, who was not much of a party type even under good circumstances, would have stayed away as well, but Manwë, in the interests of improving family relations, ordered him to attend, which he should have known is always a bad idea. And Finwë, who had declared that he would not return to the city so long as his son was forbidden from entering, refused to go to the party even as said son was being forced to go. These people have issues.

So Fëanor showed up at the party (sans Silmarils, just to make everyone even more unhappy with him), and Fingolfin groveled and apologized in a way that was probably excessive but it did make Fëanor apologize, for whatever that's worth. And just as the two were sharing a brotherly (if somewhat chilly) hug, Melkor (who has a wonderful sense of melodrama) swept down out of the sky and slew the Trees, which as you will recall were made of silver light and golden light and were the most beautiful things in the history of ever. Melkor split them open, and Ungoliant drank their sap like blood, and grew bloated upon it, and Melkor ditched her again because that's just gross. Still to this day the Elves have many songs about that horrible event, because being Elves they don't have a lot of experience with horrible things and being emo they like to dwell on it. 

Manwë, genius of deduction that he was, figured out what had happened right quick and sent Tulkas and Oromë to chase after Melkor and Ungoliant, but alas, it was too late. All the light in Valinor went out and was replaced by a Darkness that seemed to have a presence of its own. (Noes!)

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Previously On: Melkor just crashed the party and killed the trees, once again plunging the land into darkness. Chaos ensues.

So once everyone stopped panicking and running around like decapitated chickens, they gathered around the Ring of Doom. No, not that ring, that one doesn't exist yet - it's like a council chamber, okay? The council chamber of doom. So everyone gathered at the council chamber of doom and looked at the ruin of the Trees and despaired. But Yavanna, who you will recall made the Trees in the first place, said, "I have good news and I have bad news. The bad news is that I can't grow new trees, and I can't repair the ones we have unless I have some of their light to do it with. The good news is, someone had the foresight to make something using that light."

Everyone looked at Fëanor.

Fëanor looked back.

There was a long, awkward silence. "Well?" muttered Tulkas, and Aulë said, "Shhh."

Fëanor wavered a little longer, saying that it would kill him to break the Silmarils, the greatest thing he ever had or ever could make, to release their light; it would kill him and he would die, the very first Elf to ever die, it would be awful.

"Not the first," said Mandos, and that was a little creepy.

And that might have had something to do with Fëanor's eventual decision, which was, "You can pry the Silmarils from my cold, dead fingers. And if you try, that just proves you're just as bad as Melkor, who always told me you were awful anyway."

And while everyone was sitting around, glaring at Fëanor or weeping or just generally trying to get used to the idea of sitting around in the dark for the rest of eternity, a party of Elves from Formenos, Fëanor's fortress, came scurrying up and said, "We've got bad news and - no, really just bad news."

According to the Elves, a Darkness had come up to Formenos (how they noticed it in the generalized darkness of not having any light is anyone's guess, but it had a capital letter, maybe they noticed that first) and all the Elves fled from it except for Finwë, who had apparently dealt with enough shit already that even a capital-D Darkness was not going to put him off. Unfortunately, inside that Darkness was Melkor, who promptly killed Finwë and stole the Silmarils before disappearing with his Darkness back into the generalized darkness leaving these poor bastards to deliver the bad news.

Nobody mentioned Mandos's creepy prophecy-thing about Fëanor not being the first Elf to die, so we'll just leave that there.

Fëanor, in a really quite touching display of filial devotion, cursed Melkor and named him Morgoth (apparently when Elves are in a state of emotional disturbance they name things), which means Black Foe of the World, so fair enough. Then he cursed Manwë for good measure for taking him away from Formenos while it was being attacked, and then Fëanor also disappeared into the generalized darkness, which one must admit is really quite useful for that kind of thing.

So you see, it didn't really matter that Fëanor told them all to fuck off when they asked for the Silmarils, since he wouldn't have been able to hand them over anyway. (Some people would have you believe that it did matter because he should have said yes, that's why. Whether or not this qualifies as victim-blaming will be left as an exercise for the reader.)

Meanwhile Morgoth (out of respect for Fëanor's really shitty day we'll go ahead and adopt that name for him from now on) and Ungoliant were fleeing back to Middle-Earth via the northern ice bridge. Because of course the Darkness was really Ungoliant's magical black spider-fog. What, fog is totally a spider thing.

"I see you trying to run off," Ungoliant told Morgoth. "Where's the reward I was promised?"

"What, here?" Morgoth said, looking sideways at her spider-form and probably wondering if he could get her to transform into something more comfortable. "I suppose I could -"

"Hell no," said Ungoliant, "I was talking about those gems I saw you steal."

"Oh," said Morgoth, relieved, and opened his left hand. "You mean these?" His palm was full of many of the shining jewels of Fëanor's invention, which Ungoliant cheerfully swallowed in payment for her part in the raid. Because eating gemstones is totally a spider thing.

"And in your right hand?" she suggested when she was done with those, because Ungoliant was kind of the personification of gluttony, after all.

"Nothing in my right hand," Morgoth said quickly, hiding it behind his back, partly so she wouldn't look and partly so the stench of burning from where the Silmarils were scorching his flesh would be less noticable.

Ungoliant, not being a moron, could tell he was lying to her and wrapped Morgoth up in her spider-web and spider-fog and whatever else she had available, and Morgoth shrieked like a little girl in abject terror. Luckly for him, the Balrogs were still lurking around underneath Angband, playing dice or something to pass the time, and when they heard their master's ridiculous scream they came up to see what was the matter. Finding Ungoliant, they figured, what the hell, and tore up her webs with their flame whips (Balrogs get all the cool toys) and ran her off.

(Since she doesn't come up again but you might have heard of one of her children: Ungoliant's fate is to lurk in dark valleys somewhere, mating with anything else of an appropriate spider-shape and size, spawning all kinds of horrific spider-children and devouring her mates. Rumor has it that eventually she ran out of mates to devour and devoured herself. Try not to think too hard about that one.)

So at least the Silmarils are safe from Ungoliant and in the hands of someone who respects them, right? Right. Morgoth respected them so much he went and made them into a crown, which he made for himself to celebrate his new title as King of the World (I shit you not, like a goddamn five-year-old), and just like a five-year-old he refused to take the crown off, even though it was loaded down with jewels that, thanks to Varda's blessing, burned him continuously. And he built a new fortress, Thangorodrim, over the ruins of Angband, and bred whole great armies of orcs and demons, and settled in for a good long spell of evil.


Meanwhile, back in Valinor, everyone was kind of stumbling around trying to figure out what to do with themselves in the dark. Everyone but Fëanor, that is, who lit himself a goddamn torch and climbed up to the top of the hill of Túna (yes, like the fish, try to keep up) and made a speech. And by speech, I mean rant. It would have been a Two-Minute Hate if it had only lasted that long. It started out reasonable enough, Melkor/Morgoth is a bastard, what does he think he's doing, stuff like that. And then, once he'd really got going, he started to tear into the Valar, too. They were, he pointed out, basically the same kind of beings as Morgoth. And their city kind of sucked. For one thing, it was all dark. Also, by the way, they're planning on replacing us with Men, did y'all know that? (The Elves did not. They were kind of pissed.) Obviously, Fëanor explained, the best thing to do was to follow him. He would take the Silmarils back from Morgoth and then they would live happily ever after as rulers of Middle Earth, no Valar or Men or giant evil fog monsters allowed.

And then Fëanor stood up there on top of that hill and swore, in front of God and Ilúvatar and the Eternal Dark and Manwë and Varda and all the Elves and trees and little fishes, that he would kill anyone, and I mean anyone, who got between him and a Silmaril. And then, just for good measure, all seven of his sons stood up and swore the same oath, too.

From there on out it's pretty much just pure chaos. I mean, here's Fëanor calling himself King of the Noldor (which makes sense, right, his father was king and his father is dead, ergo) and swearing ridiculous oaths that are obviously a bad idea. And on the other side there's a bunch of Elves going, look, maybe it isn't that bad. And even if it is, maybe it isn't everyone's fault? And on the first side there's Fëanor drawing his sword and saying, "Say that again." But eventually most of the Noldor ended up on Fëanor's side, either because he was such a great speaker or because they were afraid he'd slit their throats if they didn't agree with him. (Well, Galadriel wasn't worried about that. She was pretty sure she'd make a good Queen of the Elves, and she was all set to give it a try.) So they packed up their bags and marched north, to take that ice bridge back over to Middle Earth, where they wouldn't have to deal with the Valar any more. Yes, right away. Twenty minutes to pack, let's go.

(Where is Manwë, he who is supposed to be in charge, during all this? Why, he's sitting on his thumbs, quite sure that Fëanor won't be able to hold anyone's attention for very long.

Manwë, if you haven't noticed, is an ass.)

Of course, there's nothing Elves like better than petty factionalism. Although almost all of the Elves followed Fëanor on his march north, most of them were actually following Fingolfin, who they liked better for King anyway. (Fëanor settled this for himself by taking his party out first, so technically they were all following him, even if they said they weren't.) Fingolfin didn't want to go in the first place, but all his people wanted to go, and he was too responsible a leader to just leave them to Fëanor, which was probably wise.

So while they were getting under way, Manwë finally got off his ass and sent a messenger out to the expedition, and the messenger told them, "Go if you want to, I won't stop you, but don't think you'll get any help either. You can always come back here when you fail miserably. Oh, except for you, Fëanor, and your idiot sons. You can go hang."

And Fëanor turned to all the Elves behind him and said, "Can you believe this shit? We're not going to put up with any of that, right?" And before anyone could answer him, he turned back to the messenger and told him, "I would tell Manwë to go to hell, but since I'm going there first, you can tell him instead that he's a coward and he's welcome to follow me if he wants to man up." And he stormed off, never looking back.

The direction Fëanor stormed off in was north, because Morgoth had gone that way, and also the land bridge, but as he stormed he slowly cooled off, and as he cooled off he realized that there was no way in hell all these Elves were just going to follow him all the way north across the land bridge. It was cold, for one thing, and a long way off. Obviously the thing to do was to get ships and sail across the sea to Middle Earth. Fëanor didn't have ships. But you know who did have ships? The Teleri, in Alqualdondë! So Fëanor set off to do the same thing there that he'd done in Tirion.

The Teleri, though, weren't having it. They liked Alqualdondë, and they liked their prince Olwë (who had taken over from his brother Elwë who, you will recall, is still back in Middle Earth with Melian, going at it like rabbits), and they thought, quite frankly, that Fëanor was a little nuts.

"If it weren't for the Noldor building your city you'd still be living in huts on the beach," Fëanor told Olwë, "and this is how you repay us?"

"This is me staging an intervention," Olwë said. "Friends don't let friends do stupid shit like this. You cannot have our ships, they are the best thing we make, we feel about them the way you feel about your Silmarils. We get it. But we will not let you make it worse."

You can guess how well Fëanor took this. He took it so well that he took his host back up into the mountains to sulk, and come nightfall they came down to the piers to sneak away with the ships in the night. But Olwë was not kidding when he said they were kind of attached to their ships, and the Teleri weren't about to give them up without a fight. And fight they did: although they were armed with bows and the Noldor with swords, the Teleri drove them off three times, but the Noldor just would not quit. So eventually, having slaughtered a large proportion of the population of Alqualdondë, the Noldor sailed off in their stolen ships.

Of course the first thing they ran into was a storm which sank a whole bunch of their ships. I mean, it obviously wasn't the Valar trying to slow them down, of course they would never do that, Manwë had decreed that they were not to be stopped by force, but it was a nice convenient storm and it did kill a bunch of Kinslayers, is all I'm saying.

So the ships sailed north, and Fëanor led everyone who wouldn't fit on the ships north on foot. And when Fëanor's band reached the wasteland of Araman they were stopped by a gigantic, dark figure, which loomed ominously as it pronounced a prophecy that we will call, simply because it sounds cool, the Doom of the Noldor.

"That," said the dark figure, "was Not Cool. In case you were wondering, no, you are never allowed back. That oath you swore is going to eat you up, and the Valar are not going to do a damn thing to stop it. Also, that thing about you not dying? We meant by old age and sickness. You can be killed, and you will be killed, because you are horrible people and you deserve it. And if you aren't killed, you will live in Middle Earth and waste away into sad, pathetic shadows of what you once were. So think about that as you carry on."

"We've thought about it," Fëanor said. "Are we done here?" And the dark figure conceded that they were.

(This is the point where Finarfin and a few others finally realize that what they did at Alqualondë was murder and start to feel badly about it, so they pack up and go home to Tirion, for which they receive a pardon. Even Finarfin's sons were sticking with Fëanor, though, so it's honestly hardly even enough Elves to mention. Except you'll never have to worry about Finarfin ever again, so that's good.)

After some more marching, Fëanor and his never-terribly-loyal-but-by-now-getting-pretty-fed-up followers reached a land of ice which broke up slowly into a narrow strait of water, and they knew they had come to Helcaraxë, where only the Valar had ever been before. And then, while everyone sat around getting frostbite and growing more and more fed up with Fëanor, they argued over how to go on. They could cross the straits, apparently hopping from ice floe to ice floe or something, which most of them deemed stupid and suicidal. They could take the ships across, but there weren't enough ships to take everyone, and no one was willing to be the person waiting for the ships to come back for them, largely because they were pretty sure no one would bother.

Finally Fëanor just said fuck it and took his sons and a few of those Elves he considered most loyal and they sailed across to Middle Earth in the middle of the night, leaving everyone else behind, and making landfall on Dor-lómin, which you might recognize as being the land somewhat to the north and west of the Shire on your standard Third Age Middle-Earth maps.

"When are we going back for Fingon?" asked Maedhros, eldest of Fëanor's sons. "And everyone else. I mean. Mostly Fingon."

In response, Fëanor laughed like a mad thing, which you would think would have maybe had some impact on the others, except they were his sons and maybe they were getting used to him by now. "Fingon?" he said, "Everyone else? They've been useless so far, I'm sure they'd only be useless some more, why bother?" And then he set fire to the beautiful white swan ships of Alqualondë, proving once and for all that he was an asshole who didn't care about anyone but himself.

From across the straits, Fingolfin saw the flames and knew what had happened. He considered his options. They could stay here and die in the snow. They could go back to Tirion and admit that Fëanor had tricked them all. Or they could find a way to Middle-Earth anyway, hunt Fëanor down, and punch him in the face. Fingolfin decided that option three was the best of his lot, and so with no other way across, he led his people up across Helcaraxë, one ice floe at a time, and into Middle-Earth, firmly established himself and his (surviving) followers as The Most Badass Elves Currently Going.

Chapter Text

Meanwhile, back in Middle Earth, there's Elwë. You remember Elwë, he's the one who ditched Finwë to hang out with Melian in the woods. He's probably regretting that now. Or maybe not: his kingdom of Beleriand stretches from the coasts to the Ered Luin, his wife is a divine being, and his daughter Lúthien is, like, really hot. Still, he missed his boyfriend's funeral. Not cool.

(He also has a new name, since the Elves hanging out peacefully in Middle Earth instead of all tangled up in the disasters going on over in Valinor have invented a new language. They themselves are the Sindar, meaning grey-elves, because they live under the stars; their language is Sindarin, which makes sense, and Elwë is Elu Thingol, King Greymantle. Which. I dunno, man, Elves.)

So it was round about this time that the Dwarves, who were born in the mountains in the east, moved west into the Ered Luin and built the cities of Gabilgathol (which the Elves called Belegost) and Tumunzahar (which the elves called Nogrod, why they are renaming other people's cities I do not know, it's like the British Empire up in here). For the first time, too, the Elves started to hear about the great Dwarven city of Khazad-dûm, which was called Moria in later years after it fell, but for now it was just a city of incredible badassery which the Elves were not invited to visit.

And as Dwarves started to come out of their cities in Ered Luin, the Elves were completely fucking bowled over, because as far as they knew they were the only things alive that actually had, y'know, brains. They called these new creatures Naugrim, the Stunted People, because they didn't understand their language and also Elves are super rude. (They also called them Gonnhirrim, Masters of Stone, which might be more complimentary if it didn't sound so much like gonorrhea.) Elves were, in fact, so bad at learning Khudzul (despite their amazing felicity for making up languages of their own) that the Dwarves threw up their hands in disgust and learned Sindarin. Actually, Dwarves built a great road down from Mount Dolmed all the way across the River Gelion, Dwarves set up trade relationships that benefited everyone, and Elves continued to be kind of racist douchebags. (Seriously, the text continues to call them Naugrim. Dwarves call themselves Khazâd, for what it's worth. Not that Elves care.)

But if Elu Thingol was not blessed with the intelligence to make friends with his neighbors, he was at least blessed with a wife who either had mystical knowledge of the future or was, at the very least, not a complete idiot. Melian advised him that the peace that currently reigned would not last forever, and that he might want to build a fortress, just in case. Thingol agreed that this was not a terrible idea, and he sent up to Gabilgathol, since face it, Dwarves are the best. And the Dwarves were all, sure, why not; we've never built an Elf fortress before. Might be fun. So Thingol paid them in information (well, Melian did, anyway) and in pearls he got from Círdan, and the Dwarves built for him Menegroth, the Thousand Caves.

In actual fact, the Elves and the Dwarves worked together to build Menegroth, under the art direction of Melian, who was not prepared to live in just any old system of caves. The columns were carved as beech trees, the walls were carved with birds and animals, the floors were laid in glorious mosaics, and Melian and her ladies wove tapestries depicting all the history of the world. So Menegroth was not only an impenetrable fortress, it was also the most beautiful dwelling ever built by living hands. And there was peace, for a while.

You know what that means. Eventually the Dwarves who traded in Beleriand started passing on messages to Thingol, and these messages went something along the lines of, "You guys are great and all, and we know you did a great job driving all the evil things out of the North, but...you missed a bit. Seriously. Also, there are still Elves in the east, did you know that? Or there were. They're trying to hide with us. You can have them back now."

Sure enough, before long there were wolves and werewolves and Orcs and all kinds of nasty things wandering around, and although there weren't many just yet, there were more every day, and Thingol called up the Dwarves again and put in an order for some weapons. Being rather Scottish in temperament (ie, will fight anything you put in front of them), the Dwarves were more than happy to oblige. Their greatest armorer was Telchar, of Tumunzahar. Sure enough the Elves learned some of this craft from the Dwarves, but they never learned it so well they were better at it. And now you know: Elf-made weaponry is second-rate, if you need a sword or a suit of chainmail, buy it direct from the Dwarves. It'll cost you, but it'll be worth it.

So that's what Elwë/Thingol has been doing while Fëanor has been off ruining the Undying Lands for everyone. There's another pack of Elves still wandering around Middle Earth, led by Lenwë, who wandered off while Olwë's tribe was camped on the Anduin. These guys had wandered so far off they ended up east of the Misty Mountains, which is actually east of your First Age maps of Beleriand entirely, we're talking real wilderness here. They never ran into Dwarves, so they had no weapons, and when the Orcs and werewolves and things started coming out of the east they panicked and ran back to Beleriand, where Thingol let them live in Ossiriand, which is that region just to the west of the Ered Luin and just south of the Dwarf Road.

There's not much else to say about this stretch of time, actually, it was pretty good. Between the Dwarves and Thingol's massive armory of badassery the Orcs and things were pretty much under control, nightingales sang in the woods, Melian's beauty was as the noon and Lúthien's beauty was as a spring morning, etc. etc. Oh, Daeron the Minstrel invented the Cirth, those blocky runes you see carved into stone, which the Elves were not very impressed by but which the Dwarves thought were fucking awesome. Life was good in Beleriand, which makes you wonder what the big deal about Valinor is, anyway.

Especially as this is when all that shit you've been reading about went down, Morgoth destroyed the Trees and Ungoliant moved into the mountains north of Thingol's lands (which were thereafter called Ered Gorgoroth, the Mountains of Terror, which fair enough) and Morgoth rebuild his fortress of Angband not fifty leagues from Menegroth, which is not exactly next door but is still far too close for comfort.

And yet Thingol was still surprised when an army of Orcs came swarming down out of Angband, cutting him off from Círdan and the port cities entirely and wreaking all kinds of havoc on those Elves who had decided to continue living in the forest. Okay, to be fair, an Orc army was kind of unprecedented at the time, but still. He was supposed to be one of the Wise. The Elves who lived in Ossiriand were absolutely massacred; their king, Denethor (no relation), was killed and although Thingol did pull through for them and many of them did survive, they swore to never take a king again and took to calling themselves the Laiquendi, the Green-elves, and living in little forest communes.

Just when Thingol thought it was all over he learned that the Orcs had won the western front and driven Círdan all the way to the sea, and rather than going and helping a bro out he had Melian set up a kind of magical force-field around the central part of his kingdom. This little patch of land was called Doriath, and no one could enter or leave it without the permission of Thingol or Melian, unless they were more powerful than Melian, which is kind of a joke but not entirely because there are people out there more powerful than her *cough*Morgoth*cough*.

And that brings us up to date with Fëanor burning the ships at Losgar (which will be the Gray Havens in Ages to come, how's that for irony for you?), although of course Thingol knew nothing about that.

Yet.

Chapter Text

So, y'know, Melkor escaped, he destroyed the Trees, he corrupted Fëanor (or Fëanor allowed himself to be corrupted, whatever), and the Valar sat around in shock for a while. They weren't doing nothing, of course not, that was just Fëanor leaping to conclusions like the whiny asshole that he is. They were thinking, that's what they were doing. And when Manwë's messenger came back and told him what Fëanor had said, Manwë wept a tragic tear or two, and said, "Well shit, if that's how it has to be, I guess that's how it has to be. I suppose we'll never see him again."

"I will see Fëanor soon," said Mandos, out of nowhere and nice and creepy like usual. And like usual, everyone ignored him. (You'd think they'd learn someday, but really they never do.)

So they all sat around at waited until they were sure all the Elves had gone that were going, either to make sure they were safely out of the way or because they didn't want Fëanor knowing what they were doing, and then Nienna and Yavanna got to work on those dying Trees. And nothing happened. Nothing continued to happen for a really long time, until they were both about to give up, at which point whatever magic was left in the two Trees kind of coughed pitifully, and Telperion bore a great silver flower, and Laurelin bore a golden fruit.

"Well," said Yavanna, "better than nothing."

She took these things and gave them to Aulë, who made vessels to hold them, and he gave those to Varda, who carefully designed a pair of orbits and hung them in the sky like lamps. She even set them to illuminate Middle-Earth, since somebody happened to think of all those Elves hanging out over there, not only the newly departed Noldor in Fëanor's camp but also Elwë and his people and all the other Elves who'd never come to Valinor in the first place, and besides there were Men about to show up (how and when, no one was really sure, but it was a thing that was going to happen), and also Melkor was hanging out over there, so possibly everyone would like to see what was going on.

(Wondering why the Valar didn't go, Hey, there's a new race of beings over there about to wake up and start wandering around the world, and these ones are mortal, remember what the immortal ones were like when they first woke up? Maybe we shouldn't leave them to face Melkor alone? Well, they decided that, being mortal and fragile and all, the resulting war would just be too terrible for them to cope with. So the Valar left Men to face Melkor alone, or with the help of whatever Elves and Dwarves they could befriend on their own, which was clearly the best choice for everyone involved.) (I wish I knew how much sarcasm I meant to put in that sentence. The Valar aren't very good at dealing with Melkor, it's true.)

Anyway, the Sun and the Moon, you thought they'd just stick them up in the sky? Of course not. After naming them like five different times (all completely irrelevant, so we'll skip that for now), they assigned a pair of Maiar to do the steering. Arien, who had been a gardener back in the good old days before Melkor blew everything to shit, was responsible for the sun, and Tilion, one of Oromë's hunters, took the moon. Tilion was kind of dippy, to be honest; back when the trees were blooming he used to spend his afternoons basking in the light of Telperion, and he begged so much to be allowed to care for that tree's last flower that eventually the Valar just let him. Arien was a total boss, though. She was a fire-spirit, too bright for even the Valar to meet her eyes, and she watered the flowers in Vána's gardens with Laurelin's burning dew. So she was a pretty badass gardener. You like to think of her and Sam Gamgee hanging out one day, talking about badass gardening techniques.

Since Telperion was the first tree, they launched the Moon first, and you can just guess how much the Elves liked that. I mean, you remember how much they liked stars, right? The Moon? They were fainting in excitement. (Except for Fingolfin, who was still mightily pissed at Fëanor; he took advantage of the moonlight to lead his company over the Helcaraxë, casting dark shadows before them. If Fëanor's not running scared yet he should be.) A week later they rose the Sun, and just think about that for a second, the very first sunrise ever, clouds turning red and gold on the horizon. Fuck only knows what the Elves were doing with this. Melkor was not so impressed; he hissed, and hid underground, and started spawning horrible black clouds to hide his lands from the Daystar.

Now Varda had a plan, when she set this up; the Sun and the Moon were supposed to trade off, each in the sky one at a time, nice and regular, like the Trees had been. Arien was fine with this. Tilion was not. He kept chasing after Arien like a cat after a laser pointer, throwing off the nice regular schedule and generally being unpredictable. Eventually Varda just threw up her hands and said, "Fine, do what you want," and they reckoned the days by the sun alone and let the moon do its own thing.

Morgoth, of course, hated both of them. He'd have attacked Arien and the sun if he could; he and his creatures couldn't stand the light of it (maybe it was the remnant of Laurelin, or maybe it was the fact that Arien was a fire-spirit just like Morgoth and would never stand for any of his shit). Instead, he attacked Tilion and the moon, which you have to admit is pretty weak for the spirit of evil, especially since Tilion drove him off anyway.

(Unless you believe Tolkien's 1966 edits to The Hobbit, in which case the sun and the moon have always existed and none of this happened at all.)

So while Morgoth went to lick his wounds and feel sorry for himself, the Valar looked at the battle from afar and went, "Shit, is this what we have to expect from him?" (Still having difficulty with that "evil" concept, remember.) Apparently they decided that the time for coping with Morgoth was over, because what they did next was to raise up the mountains surrounding Valinor until they were smooth, sheer Cliffs (possibly of Insanity). They left only one pass open, at Calacyria, because after all these Elves had families out there, who knows, they might want to see them again some day. But they did put a guard on the pass, and when the Valar guard something, you can bet it stays guarded. (I mean, unless the embodiment of evil talks his way through. But they damn sure know he's coming!)

But of course that was not enough, if you're going to hide something, you might as well hide it from everyone. The Valar built a kind of archipelago-portcullis, a string of islands called The Enchanted Isles, all pointy rocks and unexpected shallows and dark, dangerous seas. If you tried to sail through them, you'd get depressed and start to hate everything to do with the ocean; if you tried to land on one of the islands, you'd fall dead asleep and stay that way until the world changed. So you can see why no one ever went back to Valinor (except for that one dude, Bilbo wrote a poem about him once, we'll get to him later).

Chapter Text

Currently on Arda: Morgoth is chillin' in the north, the Noldor are waving swords in his general direction, the Valar are hanging out behind their walls, Thingol is hanging out inside his wife's girdle, Dwarves are doing Dwarf things, and the Humans just woke up.

Oh right, them.

As usual for new races in Middle Earth, the first Men woke up in the East and wandered West, and sooner or later they ran into Elves, and what did the Elves do? They named them, of course. And if you thought the Elves were insulting when they named Dwarves, wait'll you hear this. The Second People (because Elves can't count), the Followers (er, okay), the After-Born (ew), the Sickly (what??), the Usurpers (okay them's fightin' words), the Strangers (dickheads), the Self-Cursed (fuck yooooou), the Heavy-Handed (I'm not sure what that means but I don't like it), the Night-Fearers (fffff) and seriously, there are more, I don't even know what to tell you. Fuckin' Elves.

Men aren't super-important in the Silmarillion, which is why this is the shortest chapter in the book. I mean, there's only Túrin Turambar. And Tuor. And Beren. You know. No one important. Humans suck anyway, they never met the Valar so they don't worship them properly, they don't understand how things really are, they're not as pretty or smart or hardy as Elves. No one even knows what happens to them when they die since they never come back afterwards (except that one time, but he still didn't tell anyone anything). Pfff. Humans.

(We all do remember that the Quenta Silmarillion is an Elvish history, written by Elves, right? Good, because you might have forgotten there for a minute.)

I mean, okay, eventually the Elves do diminish and/or go into the West and Humans take over the world, that is a thing that happens. And yes, in the early days Men and Elves were bros and they did great things together (up to and including awesome children, see: Elrond and Elros, sons of Eärendil). Still. Elves rule, Humans drool. Obviously.

Chapter Text

Back to Fëanor. Who is, you will recall, currently standing on the beach burning the swan ships of Alqualondë and lauging like a maniac. Turns out that was possibly not the best plan, since not only did Fingolfin see that, so did a bunch of Orcs, who reported back to Morgoth. Morgoth, who was not at this point terribly impressed by Fëanor, rolled his eyes and went to go kick Fëanor's skinny Elf ass back across the Sundering Sea.

Fëanor, of course, had no idea, and even if he had he wouldn't have given a shit, because he's Fëanor. He led his people (which, you will remember, consist of basically his sons and two or three other dudes he felt like he trusted) up the river and through the mountains to the mountains to the lake of Mithrim, where he planned to make his camp. I say planned, because before he got anything much of a camp established he was attacked by Orcs.

It was the second battle of the Wars of Beleriand, and it was pretty damn impressive. They called it Dagor-nuin-Giliath, or "Battle Under Stars," because the Sun and the Moon were still being hammered together and Elves are pretty literal sometimes. But whatever, they had a right to be proud, they were ambushed by Orcs and the Noldor kicked their asses all the way over the mountains and down to the plain of Ard-galen. Then the Orcs who'd been harassing Círdan came up to help a bro out, but Celegorm (who is one of Fëanor's multitude of sons, you will remember) came out with a party of Elves and kicked their asses. It was not a good day to be Morgoth.

Fëanor being Fëanor, though, was not gonna just let this go. He chased those Orcs all the way up to Dor Daedeloth, outside the gates of Angband, where he soon discovered that Morgoth had not just been sitting twiddling his thumbs all this time. Not that it would have mattered to Fëanor. It didn't even matter to Fëanor when he was surrounded by Balrogs and nearly killed. His sons had to drag him away, wounded and nearly dead, muttering under his breath that he was gonna kill Morgoth, just let him back at him, what kind of asshole sends Balrogs to fight his battles anyway?

But he was not going to kill Morgoth, and eventually even Fëanor knew it. As they approached the pass over the mountains he told his sons to give it up for a lost cause, and he laid dying on the ground, glaring at the towers of Thangorodrim and cursing Morgoth's name. And he made all his sons swear to avenge their father's death, like they hadn't all already sworn to destroy Morgoth, how many times does Fëanor really think the guy is going to be able to die anyway? Fëanor, at any rate, only died once, and when he did his body spontaneously combusted and drifted away into ash blown by the winds over the mountains. To the best of my knowledge, none of his sons reported choking on him, but I wouldn't be surprised.

They'd barely gotten back to camp when an emissary came from Morgoth to the Noldor, offering terms of surrender up to and including a Silmaril. Maedhros, the eldest and thus now kind of in charge of these shenanigans, was not stupid enough to think this wasn't a trap, but hey, a Silmaril. So he led a party to meet with Morgoth's people, but Morgoth's people included more Balrogs, who captured Maedhros and killed everyone else.

Aware that they were not, statistically speaking, doing very well at this point, Fëanor's remaining sons withdrew to their heavily-fortified camp. Morgoth sent another messenger, saying that he would hold Maedhros hostage until such time as the Noldor gave up their war against him and went back to Valinor. Well, they couldn't go back to Valinor, and they'd sworn multiple oaths, and Morgoth was a lying liar anyway, so the only conceivable response was, "Fuck you," and that was what they sent back. Morgoth, in response, chained Maedhros to a cliff by means of a steel shackle around one arm, and left him there.

Round about this time the Moon rose, and not long after it the Sun, and just as the Sun rose over Beleriand Fingolfin led his people into Mithrim. If you have never seen an Elven army marching in the light of the first sunrise of the world, it cannot possibly be described, so just go ahead and fall in love with Fingolfin now and know that he deserves it. Orcs, as you all know, hate the sunlight, so Fingolfin took advantage of this fact and marched all the way up to the gates of Angband, where he knocked on the door and his heralds blew their trumpets and nothing at all happened. Well, Maedhros yelled for help, but no one heard him. Trumpets and all.

Direct challenge having done him no good, Fingolfin set out to find the sons of Fëanor, and also possibly someplace to take a nap that was not on top of a glacier, so he led his people back to Mithrim. Now, as you can imagine, Fingolfin's people are not a little bit pissed at Fëanor's people, what with the whole burning of ships and forcing them to hike across an arctic wasteland thing. Likewise Fëanor's people, who were for the most part not as insane as Fëanor himself, were more than a little embarrassed by the whole situation and couldn't bring themselves to actually look Fingolfin's people in the face. So Fëanor's sons and their followers moved their camp to the southern shore of the lake, and Fingolfin's people set up on the northern end, and there they sat, not talking to each other and accomplishing jack shit while Morgoth was in retreat and the Orcs were still trying to figure out what to do with this whole Sun business. Doom of the Noldor, right there.

Eventually Morgoth realized what was going on, that his enemies were being too petty and ridiculous to properly band together against him, and he laughed his evil mad villain laugh and built what could only possibly be described as a smoke machine. A smoke machine that made evil, poisonous smoke. Enough of it that when the winds came out of the east the smoke covered the valley of Hithlum, blotting out the Sun and generally making the Noldor camps a miserable place to be.

In the middle of all this is Fingon, Fingolfin's son, who was determined to bring the two camps of the Noldor back together before Morgoth came up with something really nasty. Also, and I am not even going to wink-wink-nudge-nudge this, he loved Maedhros. Back in the day they had been close, and it killed him that they were divided now, and that Maedhros has been with Fëanor when he burned the ships. But Fingon didn't hold a grudge, and he went out, alone, to Angband, to see if he could find his old friend. He climbed the mountain of Thangorodrim but he could find no way in. And then, because while he does have some common sense he is still an Elf, he took out his harp and sang a song of the elder days, back when their whole family had been a family and he had been happy.

Fingon soon found that he was not singing alone. High above him, chained to the side of the cliff, Maedhros had heard his song and joined him, because goddammit he too is still an Elf and if an Elf cannot sing tragic songs of the past while hanging from one arm from the side of a cliff he isn't deserving of the name. So Fingon climbed as far as he could and got nowhere near Maedhros, but he could see what had been done to him, and he wept. Whether he would have asked just anyone or whether seeing Fingon so close to rescuing him but so far just kind of pushed him over the edge, Maedhros called down to Fingon and begged him to shoot him, so at the very least he wouldn't have to be hanging on this wall for eternity. Fingon, in the fine tradition of doomed lovers everywhere, put an arrow to the string and said a prayer to Manwë before he loosed.

Lucky for everyone involved, Manwë actually did kind of like these Elves, so he had set some of his Eagles to keep an eye on Thangorodrim. Seeing what was about to go down, one of these Eagles swept in and, before he could loose the arrow, carried Fingon up to Maedhros's incredibly uncomfortable prison on the rock. Fingon spent probably way too long trying to figure out how to unlock the shackle, because before long Maedhros was begging for death again, but the giant flying plot device had given Fingon enough time to come to his senses. He drew his sword and cut Maedhros's hand off at the wrist, freeing him from the shackle and avoiding murdering his boyfriend while simultaneously proving that not all the Noldor go to pieces under pressure.

So the Eagle took them back to camp, and everyone could not say enough about how incredibly awesome Fingon was (Maedhros included), and Maedhros fell all over himself apologizing for the burning of the ships and everything else that had happened, and he offered the kingship of the Noldor to Fingolfin, who was at this point the eldest of the House of Finwë , and also he was not a complete jackass. So that was good. Fingolfin set up a watch on Angband, and he sent out messengers to whoever might be living in Beleriand, figuring that they might as well make nice with the neighbors.

Chapter Text

Elu Thingol, down in Doriath, did not particularly want to make nice with the Noldor. He had, after all, been the most important Elf in Middle-Earth for a good long time at this point, and Fingolfin and Maedhros and all the rest were challenging his position. Also, his enchantments kept his realm safe from Morgoth, and he was not prepared to sacrifice an inch of that safety just to play nice with a bunch of people he didn't particularly like in the first place. But, to be fair, Finarfin had married Thingol's niece, which made his house family, so technically they had to be allowed to visit.

The first one to come to Doriath was Angrod, on behalf of his brother Finrod (you can tell he's the important one, his name starts with an F), and he told Thingol all about the Noldor and all the badassery they had accomplished in the north, slaying Orcs, annoying Morgoth, all that. Being a friendly sort, and not wanting Thingol to be unduly biased against anyone, Angrod said nothing about the whole "making war on Alqualondë to steal their ships" thing, or about the "undying oath to retrieve the Silmarils and avenge Fëanor's death" thing.

So, marginally but totally not completely informed about the doings of the Noldor, Thingol said, "Fair enough. Tell your people they can make camp where they've already made camp, and in Dorthonion (but only in the highlands) and to the east of here, no one lives there as far as I can tell, maybe some Dwarves but whatever. But everywhere else they can just fuck off out of, I have been king of this place while you lot were still farting around in Valinor doing nothing with your lives, and you gotta do what I say."

Angrod came back and told all this to the Noldor, and you can guess how well Fëanor's sons reacted to this. Well, most of them. Maedhros thought it was hilarious, seeing as how Thingol was actually living in a cave protected by his wife's power and was king of pretty much that and nothing else. "Fine," Maedhros said, "Let him be King of Doriath, and we'll do whatever we want (as usual), and he'll be glad that it's us and not Orcs."

Nobody could argue with that, but Maedhros's brother Caranthir is a bitchy one, so he bitched about something else instead. "Who sent this pipsqueak son of Finarfin to be our messenger, anyway? Did I tell him he could speak for me, because I don't think I did. You know his mother's not even a Noldor, right?" At which point Angrod kind of proved Caranthir's point by taking the smart way out and storming out of the meeting instead of just punching Caranthir in his smug fucking Noldor face. Maedhros got Caranthir calmed down, but the encounter unsettled everyone by reminding them that these are Fëanor's sons, guys, Fëanor the godforsaken lunatic, do we really want to put them in charge of anything more important than a tea party?

But it was too late, they were already used to taking charge. Maedhros led his brothers eastward where they settled anew, along with a handful of people who were stupid enough to be willing to live with them, and they had precious little contact with their distant relations to the west. Probably because Maedhros was concerned about one of his brothers accidentally murdering his boyfriend in a random rage, which you have to admit looks more likely by the day.

But Caranthir took Thingol at his word, and led his people the furthest out into Beleriand, and sooner or later they came to the untamed wilds of the Blue Mountains, where he learned that a) the untamed wilds of the Blue Mountains were actually not all that untamed, and b) Dwarves are apparently smart enough to stay the fuck away from Noldor, because they'd cut their trade routes when all this shit started going down. You wouldn't say that Caranthir and the Dwarves got along well (the Dwarves were, naturally enough, a little paranoid about the son of this lunatic Fëanor they'd kept hearing about, and Caranthir didn't like beards), but they did make an alliance, so that when the Dwarves did start trading again it all went through Caranthir first. Which is a pretty slick setup for Caranthir, all things considered.

So twenty years passed, and Fingolfin decided that that was plenty of time for everyone to cool off, so he threw a party. It was, in fact, such an epic party that it had a name - Mereth Aderthad, the Feast of Reuniting, which sounds a hell of a lot classier than the Night of the Chipmunk we had in college. And everyone was invited to this party, Fingolfin's and Finrod's generals were there, Maedhros and his little brother Maglor came, and a whole bunch of Grey-elves, Círdan and some of his dudes who came in all the way from the Havens, some of those weird hippie Green-elves (remember them?) from Ossiriand, and wonder of wonders, two messengers from Doriath, Mablung and Daeron.

Everybody hung out and got drunk on Fingolfin's booze and gossiped and swore oaths and probably danced like embarrassing fools and all that other stuff you do at a really good party. (They spoke Sindarin, because the Grey-elves sucked at learning Quenya, and let's face it, the Noldor were probably as snobby about their language as the Académie Française.) It was a pretty sweet time. The Noldor were starting to think that Fëanor, crazy as he had been, had also been right in convincing them to come to Beleriand. Ah, false sense of security.

Another thirty years go by, and Fingolfin's second son Turgon and his cousin Finrod get bored of hanging out in picturesque mountains and go on a road trip down the river Sirion. Which is great and all, but the first night they make camp under the stars on the banks of the river, Ulmo comes up and gives them both unsettling dreams, vague premonitions of bad things about to happen, nothing helpful, but enough to make them both cranky. Because Ulmo hates fun. Anyway, this encouraged both of them to wander about mostly-unoccupied places looking for a good place to build a stronghold, just in case.

Some time after this Finrod and his sister Galadriel were guests in Doriath, and Finrod looked around at the whole elaborate system of caverns and thought, Talk about strongholds. So Finrod told the whole story to Thingol, the unsettling yet obnoxiously non-specific dreams, the pointless searching, the (admittedly very likely) chance that Morgoth was going to come and destroy them all. And Thingol, being actually helpful for once, told Finrod about these caves up on the River Narog that he knew about, and sent guides to show Finrod the way.

Reader, Finrod fell in love with those fucking caves. Just like Thingol, he made friends with the Dwarves and set to building the biggest, most badass fortress of caves ever known to Elfkind. It was called Nargothrond, and it was epic. And the Dwarves were impressed with his dedication, for they named him Felagund, "Hewer of Caves," and also made for him the Nauglamír, a glorious necklace of gold from Beleriand and jewels from Valinor that was the single most beautiful thing ever made by Dwarven hands. (You can just tell that this is going to be a problem later, can't you? Good for you, you're learning how this story works.)

Galadriel did not move into Nargothrond with her brother. Galadriel was still hanging out in Doriath, because in Doriath there was Celeborn. Melian, seeing that here was another powerful young woman falling in love with an Elf she was probably going to spend the rest of her life looking after, took Galadriel under her wing and taught her oh, all kinds of things. So now you know another reason why Galadriel is such a badass.

Turgon, meanwhile, was still pining away for Tirion, the city on a hill that he had left back in Valinor. He pined his way all the way back to the seashore, where Ulmo, who was getting frustrated by now, gave him another vision. Turgon followed this vision back into the Vale of Sirion, into the Encircling Mountains, where he came across the valley of Tumladen, which did indeed feature a hill of just the sort one could build a city upon. Turgon marched straight back home and set up a drafting board, and started making plans.

Is Morgoth just sitting there doing nothing while all this partying and stronghold-founding is going on? Of course not! Morgoth is thinking that it isn't fair that they're just ignoring him up here, and he starts with earthquakes and then goes right into volcanoes and hordes of Orcs. They called it Dagor Aglareb, the Glorious Battle, when the Orcs poured through the pass between Maedhros's lands and the Blue Mountains and Fingolfin and Maedhros drove them all the way back to the gates of Angband and crushed them there. The Elves called it that, anyway. The Orcs don't seem as inclined to name battles, particularly as they're all spectacular routs from the Orcs' point of view.

As Glorious as it was, though, it was also becoming obvious that killing Orcs one by one as Morgoth got bored and sent out random raiding parties was not really going to be a viable strategy forever. Fingolfin and Maedhros, therefore, put their heads together and established the Siege of Angband, which lasted four hundred years and was at least 90% successful at preventing Orcs from rampaging through Beleriand. A siege isn't victory, though, and Morgoth was still wearing those Silmarils in his ridiculous "King of the World" crown, not to mention the spies he managed to sneak out through the back ways where the Elves couldn't get to to guard. (And by "spies," we mean "bands of Orcs who kidnapped Elves and brought them into Angband where they were so terrorized that they served Morgoth for the rest of their days." What, that's totally what spies do, isn't it?)

A hundred years of this and Morgoth was getting bored, so he looked at his enemies, decided that of the two of them Maedhros was the scarier, and sent an army north and west and back east again, over the Helcaraxë to attack Fingolfin. And Fingon saw them coming and drove them back into the sea, so easily that they didn't even bother to name the battle, it was that pathetic. Morgoth pouted and went to Plan B.

Plan B arrived a hundred years on in the form of Glaurung the Urulóki, which is a fancy word for "giant fire-breathing flying lizard-thing," better known as OHSHIT DRAGON. The besieging army ran for the hills, and Fingon led a band of archers against the dragon and drove him back to Angband, where Glaurung (who was, after all, barely a teenager in dragon years) licked his wounds and Morgoth went to work on Plan C. Meanwhile, Fingon basked in the praise of all the Elves of northern Beleriand.

Chapter Text

Okay, I tried to write this chapter about five different times, and it turns out this is the best translation I can make. I mean, unless you really, really care about geography and climate patterns in Old Beleriand. If you do, you're just going to have to read the damn chapter yourself. But if not, here's a handy map for when we move on into the wars.

There. Thank god that's over.

Chapter Text

Now we know where everyone is, right? Go back and take a look at the map to give yourself a quick refresher. What do you suppose they've been doing there? If you guessed "naming things and failing at emotions," congratulations, you've been paying attention.

Apparently it has been written how Ulmo showed Turgon the way to Tumlauden, a valley so isolated by mountains that only the eagles ever went there, but the only thing I can find is "there was a tunnel, Turgon went through it, he was super impressed but did nothing and instead went home to think about it for a while." See, in the valley of Tumlauden there was a hill standing all alone, and it reminded him of the hill of Túna back in Valinor, and Turgon was pining. Then there was the Dagor Aglareb that kicked off the Siege of Angband, and while Fingolfin was bragging that they were squishing every spider that came out of the place, never mind the Orcs, Turgon went back to the valley and started building.

Okay, he brought his minions to the valley and told them to start building, and then went back home and lived in his castle until they were done. Fifty-two years later. At which point he named his new city Ondolindë, but for reasons which will shortly become clear it was always called by its Sindarin name of Gondolin.

And as Turgon was packing up all his shit to move to Gondolin at last, Ulmo floated up out of the waves (as you do when you're a sea-god angel) and said, "Hey, bro, good luck, and I'll keep anyone from following you to your new giant secret city in the mountains that no one is supposed to know exists. Which, by the way, will be the city that holds out the longest against Morgoth, for whatever that's worth. Which isn't a lot, given that whole curse thing you're under. You should probably expect to be betrayed to death and doom and ruin at some point. Just a friendly reminder. Oh, and for when you do get betrayed, leave a sword and armor here so that the dude who comes to warn you has some protection on the way. Ulmo out," he added, sinking back beneath the waves.

Turgon figured what the hell, so he followed Ulmo's instructions and left a sword and armor in his palace and then led his followers - a third of Fingolfin's people and even more of the Sindarin Elves - to Gondolin, where he shut the doors behind him and no one came in (okay, except for Húrin and Huor, whatever, they hardly count) or out for three hundred and fifty years, leaving everyone else standing around wondering where all those hundreds of Elves had gone. In the middle of a war. Not cool, Turgon.

(At one point when Gondolin was finished but Turgon hadn't moved there yet, Turgon's cousins threw a party there. And Galadriel came up from Doriath to hang out with her brothers, and started needling Finrod about the fact that he wasn't married yet. Finrod at this point got very defensive and there was some noise about an oath and darkness and ruin, but there is also the fact that he was in love with an Elvish lady called Amarië, who had stayed back in Valinor. There's your daily dose of the Never-Ending Noldor Soap Opera: Tragic Love Edition.)

But whatever, Gondolin was fantastic, it was so fantastic it was almost like being back in Valinor. Turgon even had built two Trees, one of gold and one of silver, in an echo of the Trees that Morgoth destroyed, which sounds a little tacky to me but I'll take the text's word for it it was awesome. And even more awesome than everything else in Gondolin was Turgon's daughter Idril, who of course had two names and her other name was Celebrindal, and she was described in exactly the same way that the towers and the tacky metal trees were and look, no one ever said this was a feminist text, okay? Gondolin. Beautiful. And well-decorated.

 

While Turgon was building Gondolin and having beautiful daughters, and Finrod was hanging out with Dwarves building caves, back in Doriath, Melian and Galadriel were busy very nearly passing the Beschdel Test. This was a thing they did a lot - hanging out, talking about good times back in Valinor. But Galadriel would never talk about anything that happened after the Trees were destroyed, and eventually Melian said to her, "Look, you clearly have some serious shit going on, I can see you're depressed, why won't you tell me about it?"

"I don't want to talk about it," Galadriel said.

"Uh-huh," said Melian. "Let's be honest with each other. The Noldor said they came here as messengers from the Valar, but that's clearly a lie, because there have been exactly zero messages, from the Valar or from anyone else. On the other hand, Fëanor and his sons are assholes. This is all about them, isn't it?"

"...Kind of." And Galadriel told the whole story, about the Silmarils and Finwë's death, but she may have a little bit skipped over the part about the curse and the Kinslaying and the burning of the ships and all.

Melian was not an idiot, though, and she told Galadriel, "If you don't want to tell me everything, fine, but if there's anything bad coming, Thingol really ought to know about it."

"Not from me," Galadriel said, and that was all she had to say.

Then Melian went to Thingol with what she did know, and told him about the Silmarils and all, reminding him that they were not just shiny jewelry but irreplaceable troves of power, which would probably never be recovered from Morgoth, and which had already killed his ex-boyfriend.

So Thingol sat there for a little while with his shame and, okay, some sadness, and finally he said, "Should've known they didn't give a shit about anyone but themselves. On the plus side, at least now I know not to worry about them joining forces with Morgoth."

"True," said Melian, "but that doesn't mean you should trust them. I know they've done something awful, I just can't prove it yet."

"So what?" said Thingol.

"So be careful," said Melian.

And ~mysteriously~ not long after all this the Sindar started hearing all these rumors about the Noldor and why they came to Beleriand, many of them very nasty, although probably not actually nastier than the truth. Some people assumed that Morgoth was spreading rumors for his own purposes, but Círdan assumed that it was Fëanor's sons turning against each other, so he forwarded everything he heard to Thingol. I don't know what he thought Thingol was going to do about it, but hey, at least he did something.

Picture the scene: Thingol at dinner, with his wife and Galadriel, and Finrod and Angrod there visiting their sister, when one of these messengers shows up. And despite having heard something at least a little bit like this before, Thingol flips his shit. "How dare you lie to me me about the godawful things you people have done!" etcetera, etcetera.

"I would just like to point out," Finrod said, "that while we have been here we have done absolutely nothing wrong."

"You show up here having murdered your mother's kin and tell me you've done nothing wrong?"

Now of course Thingol has gotten some things wrong here - not least that Finrod and everyone else who came over the ice bridge instead of on the ships didn't have much to do with the whole kinslaying business - but Finrod can't say anything without tattling on someone else, which is dishonorable or something. Angrod, on the other hand, doesn't care about dishonoring the sons of Fëanor, particularly Caranthir, who has after all already called him a traitor just for going to Doriath in the first place. So Angrod tells the entire story, the kinslaying, the Doom, the totally gratuitous burning of the ships. Angrod, basically, is done with this shit.

"You can't exactly call yourselves innocents," Melian pointed out, but Thingol was not interested in the fine points of blame.

"Get out before I throw something," Thingol said. "But I'll grant you were not the bastards I thought you were, so you can come back. And Fingolfin, he's not bad either. But all the rest of the Noldor are fucking assholes, and I will not hear their language spoken again. Ever. Anywhere. On pain of terrible, ostracizing slander." And that, boys and girls, is why Sindarin is almost always what you mean when you say "Elvish," even though technically Quenya still exists. Even if it is spoken only by kinslayers and traitors.

Chapter Text

Here we are in Gondolin, the most glorious city in Beleriand. Here's Turgon, holed up in his mountain fortress and feeling pretty smug about things. And here's Aredhel, his sister, the White Lady of the Noldor. Thing is, Aredhel is not interested in being the White Lady of the Noldor. Aredhel likes actually being able to leave her house sometimes. Aredhel, quite frankly, is going crazy cooped up in here.

So one day Aredhel goes to her brother and says, "Look, brother, if I have to stay in here for one more day I am going to lose my shit and start killing people. I'm going out riding in the forest."

And Turgon, who after all built Gondolin as a fortress because there's a lot of nasty shit out there in the forests, said, "I suppose, since you're my sister, that I will give you permission to leave the city. As long as you only go to visit our brother Fingon, and the guards I send with you come back as soon as they see you safely there."

To which Aredhel said, "Excuse you, I didn't ask for your permission. I'm going riding wherever I want to go, and if you don't want to send guards, then I'll go alone."

"I didn't say I wouldn't send guards," said Turgon, "I said they have to come back. I don't want anyone out there knowing the way back into my Secret Fortress. I trust you," he said in a hurry before Aredhel could tear into him again. "The guards, maybe not so much."

So Turgon summoned three lords of his household and told them to go with his sister, and to take her to Fingon if they could manage it, and generally to try to keep her from getting killed, and he sent them all on their way with a pretty woeful-sounding "Good luck."

They got as far as the River Sirion when Aredhel announced that she was no way going to Fingon, which tragically did not really surprise her guards in the slightest. She was going, she declared, to visit her friends the sons of Fëanor. The four of them set off on the shortest path they knew, which took them through Doriath. Or it would have, except Thingol's own guard stopped them at the borders.

"No Noldor in Doriath," they said, "King's orders. We've got standards to uphold here. But we hear that Curufin and Celegorm live over that-a-way, if you want to circle around."

Well, there was nothing for them to do but circle around, north of Doriath, through places with names like "The Mountains of Terror" and "The Valley of Dreadful Death." Somewhere along the way Aredhel "got lost" and her guards were chased all the way back home by creepy crawly spawn of Ungoliant, and when they returned to Gondolin they explained to Turgon how they had lost his sister in some of the nastiest territory in Middle Earth, and that kind of cast a pall over the whole city for a while.

Aredhel, on the other hand, was doing just fine. She'd made her way through the Valley of Dreadful Death and past the Hill of Himring up to the place where Thingol's guards had told them they would find Curufin and Celegorm. They weren't there, but everyone else invited Aredhel to stay and wait for them, which she did for about a year before getting bored again. This time, when she went riding out in the forest, she did get lost, in Nan Elmoth.

Nan Elmoth was pretty dark and creepy as the forests of Beleriand went at this point - think Mirkwood more than Lothlorien - and it was the home of Eöl, the Dark Elf. Eöl was some kind of distant relation to Thingol, but he was just as claustrophobic as Aredhel was, because when Melian drew up her wall of protection around Doriath, Eöl crept out and went to live in Nan Elmoth all by himself. Which is not to say he and Thingol wouldn't have gotten along - Eöl hated the Noldor just as much as Thingol, if not more - but generally Eöl seemed to be happier in the company of Dwarves than anywhere else.

See, one of the Dwarvish trade routes out of the Blue Mountains ran just past Nan Elmoth, and Eöl used to go and meet with their camps. They got to talking, as you do, and soon enough Eöl was being invited back to the Dwarvish cities for tea or something. And of course they got to talking shop, and next thing you know Eöl is working in Dwarvish forges, inventing metals and making himself armor and generally hanging out having a grand old time. He was practically an honorary Dwarf. A Teleri-Dwarf. If that's a thing.

Anyway, Aredhel went wandering in Nan Elmoth, and Eöl saw her and thought to himself, "Nice," and he set little enchantments around the forest to draw her in toward his home, and when she got there he was waiting for her, and long story short they got married. The other Elves seem to think that Eöl kidnapped her or something, but frankly it sounds more like Aredhel ran into a tall dark mysterious person living out in the woods who shared her dislike for living in Elvish cities and also was not her cousin or anything, and she decided she was never going to have a better opportunity to get laid.

So Aredhel and Eöl live happily ever after in the forest for a while. Eöl has this thing about sunlight, so they became nocturnal, wandering around the forest in the starlight, which is all romantic and shit. And Eöl has that thing against the Noldor, so he wouldn't let his wife speak their language or try to contact them in any way, but she seemed kind of okay with that. And, because this is what happens when two unrelated hot people are left alone in a forest for too long, eventually they had a son. Eöl kind of ignored the kid until he was twelve years old, at which point he gave him the name Maeglin, which means Sharp Glance, because Maeglin apparently shares his father's slightly creepy ability to see into people's hearts. Metaphorically, I mean. I can't imagine the insides of ventricles are particularly enlightening.

Maeglin grew up tall, dark, and handsome just like his father (okay actually Eöl is not especially tall, given all the time he spends hunched over forges, but whatever), and also kind of bad-tempered and fond of Dwarves. But he liked his mother better, and listened to all her stories about her crazy family, how Fingolfin led all his people across the ice-bridge, and how Fëanor's sons all swore stupid oaths, and how Turgon ruled this big impressive city with no wife and only one daughter. She would not, though, tell Maeglin where Turgon lived - he'd made her promise, after all - and Maeglin, who wanted to meet all these crazy relatives of his, got frustrated and went to tell his father that he was going out to look for the sons of Fëanor at least, because he was pretty sure he could find them.

Eöl - remember how much he hates the Noldor - flipped his shit. "No way, no how," he told his son, "are you going to spend time with those filthy, nasty, imperialist, kin-slaying bastards. You belong out here in the woods with me, not in some self-important secret city somewhere. And if you try to leave against my will, I will tie you up and leave you in the basement." So that was the end of father-and-son bonding trips.

But not long after that it was time for the Dwarvish Midsummer festival, and Eöl went off, leaving his wife and son at home alone. He was barely out of the forest when Maeglin turned to his mother and said, "Let's blow this popsicle stand. I want to see Gondolin, and besides, if I stay in this stupid forest for one more day, I'm going to lose my shit and start killing people." And Aredhel looked fondly at her son, who was growing up just like her after all, and agreed. They told the servants -- wait, Eöl has servants? I guess Eöl has servants. Anyway, they told the servants that they were going to meet the sons of Fëanor, and they were gone before anybody remembered that they were supposed to tie up Maeglin and leave him in the basement if he tried that.

Eöl came home two days later and promptly flipped his shit again. He was so angry he even chased after them in the daylight. (Is Eöl like a proto-Orc? Is a Teleri-Dwarf halfway to being an Orc? I find this suspicious, Tolkien.) But he was also too angry to be careful, and he found himself in Curufin's territory, and so did Curufin's guards. They took him to their lord, who was not best pleased.

"What the hell are you doing out in the daylight, creeper?" was how Curufin greeted Eöl.

"I heard my wife and son were out visiting you," Eöl said with an astounding amount of restraint, "and I thought it would be rude of me not to join them."

Curufin just laughed in his face and said, "It would have been rude of you to come with them, because I wouldn't have let them in if you had. But they aren't here - they went west two days ago. Either you're lying to me, or somebody lied to you."

"Well then will you let me go so I can find out who's lying to whom?" asked Eöl, who was after all an Elf and could maintain good grammar even under the worst of provocations.

"Yeah, sure, fuck off," said Curufin, "Don't let the door hit you on the way out."

"It's so nice to have family who will help you when you need it," said Eöl.

"I'm sorry, I didn't realize that kidnapping my cousin made you a relative of mine," said Curufin. And with that bitchiness, Eöl rode off, even more full of hatred for the Noldor than he had been before, and frankly who can blame him.

Eöl had figured out by now that they were going to Gondolin, which was unfortunate because he didn't know exactly where that was, but he was at least a good tracker. He tracked Aredhel and Maeglin, in fact, all the way to the mountain pass, where he wasn't able to catch up with them but did manage to see them slip through the hidden entrance.

(Up in the city, Turgon is overjoyed that his sister isn't dead after all, and is in fact the opposite of dead, having multiplied since he saw her last, and has declared all kinds of feasting and celebration in honor of her return. Maeglin mostly stands around being kind of overwhelmed by everything, since after all he grew up in the forest where his father disapproved of even sunlight as an extravagance, but he also does a lot of standing around staring at Turgon's daughter Idril, since Maeglin never had anyone to teach him not to be a creeper.)

So Eöl crept in through the secret gate, where sure enough the guards grab him on account of him being a person coming in through the secret gate who's never been out of the secret gate, and this is precisely the kind of thing that guards are there to prevent. He told them Aredhel was his wife, though, so they figured that this was a problem above their pay grade and sent a messenger straight up to Turgon to say they'd captured a creepy guy who said that he was married to Turgon's sister.

Aredhel was impressed, since she hadn't noticed him following them at all, and she said, "Yup, that's my husband, please don't kill him." So the guards sent Eöl up to the great hall.

Like Maeglin, Eöl was impressed, but unlike Maeglin, Eöl was in no way going to show it. He still hated all the Noldor and everything they stood for, after all. But Turgon was still pretty pleased at the return of his sister, and also willing to make an effort for her sake, so he went to shake Eöl's hand and greet him as a brother and also break the news that, by the way, now that you're here you can't ever leave. Welcome to the Hotel Gondolin.

Eöl, once again, flipped his shit. "I hate to tell you this, Noldor, but the Teleri were here first, this is Teleri land and you have no right to make laws on it. I get how you're clearly an insane paranoid freak, but I didn't come here to spy on you, I came here to get what's mine. I suppose you have a claim on your sister, so you can keep her, until she runs away again, but my son is coming home with me." At which point he turned on his son. "Maeglin! You are coming home right now and you are going to be grounded for eternity!"

Maeglin did nothing.

Turgon, on the other hand, had run out of whatever patience he'd started with. "If it weren't for the Noldor up here fighting off Melkor you'd have been enslaved a long time ago," he said, "so yes, I think I can make laws here. And my law is you can live here or die here. Pick one."

"Fine," said Eöl, "I'll take the second choice, for me and my son," and he pulled a javelin out from under his really very impressively full cloak and threw it at Maeglin. Aredhel, being familiar with Eöl and thus somewhat prepared for this, leapt in front of it and was hit in the shoulder. Panic, disarray, and the arrest of Eöl all followed shortly on, while Maeglin still stood there, either in shock or with a really weird idea about what being a badass entailed.

Aredhel and Idril begged for mercy for Eöl, Aredhel because he was her husband and Idril who knows but possibly because he was tall, dark, handsome, and also not her cousin, but Aredhel died in the night so Turgon was not inclined to be generous. In the morning they threw Eöl off the top of the walls of the city, which everyone agreed was fair. Before he went down, though, Eöl spent some more time flipping his shit, shouting curses at his son and swearing that since Maeglin didn't come to his father's aid then he would die the very same death. I mean, way to set up a self-fulfilling prophecy, am I right?

But at least he was gone, and if Maeglin was the only one of the family left in Gondolin, at least everybody liked him. Well, everybody but Idril, but that was probably because he still kept staring at her like a creeper. He taught them all the smithcraft he'd learned from his father, and made the best damn armor that Elves ever wore (aside from the stuff they bought from the Dwarves), and he even went out fighting Orcs, which made everybody proud of the little jackass. Everything seemed great.

Everything was not great. Idril was right, Maeglin was a creeper. He was obsessed with her, but she was his first cousin, which was a little weird, and also she didn't like him. So the more he creeped, the less she liked him, and the less she liked him, the more he creeped. And apparently nobody else noticed this little blight on the happiness of their perfect city, which is why rape culture is bad and you should always pay close attention to creepers, because if they don't respect one person's dignity you sure as hell can't trust them with an entire secret fortified city's.

Chapter Text

Some three hundred years after the whole Kinslaying-ice bridge-Fëanorian bullshit went down, Finrod Felagund - you remember him, Turgon's cousin, the guy who's bros with the Dwarves and built an epic cave kingdom and occasionally is allowed to visit Thingol but otherwise hasn't been doing very much - anyway, he was out hunting with Maglor and Maedhros, because that's what you do when you've finally got an hour or two in which people are not trying to kill you. He got sick of it pretty fast, though, and took the Dwarf-road out to Ossiriand.

(I'd like you to take a moment and check this on a map, please. When Finrod decides to go wandering, he doesn't fuck around.)

And as he was riding, Finrod saw fires in the distance, and heard singing. And he thought, "But all those good little Green Elves that live down here are all in bed by sundown, they don't light fires and sing. And that does not sound like Dwarves. Must be Orcs." Never one to waste an opportunity, he snuck up on their camp to see what he could see.

Not Orcs, as it turned out. No, what he saw were a bunch of people rather like Elves, but shorter and hairier and less pretty, but also taller and less hairy and prettier than Dwarves. Finrod was enraptured. He stood, actually, and stared at them until they all fell asleep. Which was not creepy at all. Then he snuck into their camp and picked up a harp and played them a song, which was also super not-creepy. At least everyone liked it, although they did kind of wonder if they were just dreaming about some strange dude with pointy ears singing songs at them in the middle of the night or if that was a thing that actually happened. Also they had visions about the things he was singing about, even though they didn't speak his language.

So that's how humans met the Eldar for the first time: a vaguely creepy dude playing vaguely creepy telepathic music in the middle of the night for no apparent reason. The humans had met other Elves, the Dark Elves who never went west and had been hanging out alone in Middle Earth for waaaay too long, but Finrod was something else entirely. They thought he was a Valar at first, actually, and you can tell Finrod is a stand-up dude because he did not encourage this at all.

At least the pseudo-telepathy was useful, because it meant that Finrod picked up the language pretty quickly, so he was able to talk to their leader Balan about who they were and where they had come from. Or he would have been able to, if Balan had been willing to say anything. Mostly he just said, when Finrod asked where they had come from and why, "We don't want to talk about it." So they didn't.

(The Elves always kind of assumed that it had something to do with Melkor, which to be honest is not actually a bad assumption, he was always looking to recruit and hey! A whole race of people who have NEVER MET MANWË and might not completely hate him! It doesn't seem to have worked for him, but then, most things don't.)

Balan did explain, though, that his people were not the only people on their way; some of his kinsfolk were following behind, plus some people who spoke a weird language, plus some other people who spoke a slightly less weird language but were traveling in a much larger, slower group.

Now all these humans were, after all, tromping through inhabited territory, and not only that but territory inhabited by the Green Elves who are not really the most sociable creatures to start with. The Green Elves were, shall we say, not happy with this, so when they heard there was an actual Elf with authority in the area, they started sending him messages. "O great lord Finrod Felagund," they said, "can you please get these fucking humans out of our gardens so we can go back to being left alone? Because they've been cutting down trees and scaring the wildlife, and if they don't get a move on some shit's gonna go down."

Well, Finrod was all too happy to agree; he gathered up Balan and his people and got them settled down in that big empty space between Gelion and Celon, right next to Doriath and in the territory of Amrod and Amras. And then, after just a year, he fucked off back home, where his people were probably wondering what the fuck had happened to him anyway. But Balan so loved Finrod (please feel free to take that however you wish) that he insisted on coming along, and he even changed his name to Bëor, which means 'Vassal,' and handed off rulership of his people to his son. I gotta say, for a human, this guy is gonna fit right in with the Kings of the Noldor.

Not long after Finrod and Balan/Bëor fucked off, the rest of those humans showed up. First were the Haladin, who walked straight into a whole bunch of Green Elves who were Completely Done With This Shit, and hurried on to Thargelion, which was Caranthir's land, and Caranthir and his people pretty much ignored them, so that was fine. Soon after that were the people of Marach, that big group Bëor mentioned. They were not only big but organized, and militaristic enough that the Green Elves didn't want to mess with them, so Marach's people went straight down the Dwarf Road and settled next-door by Bëor's people, since they were bros already anyway.

Finrod kept coming to visit; apparently Finrod thinks humans are awesome. And he'd come back to Nargothrond with a Man going "Hey, guys! Look what I found!" so lots of other Elves came by as well. You think Bilbo had it bad with Dwarves? That was what those early settlements of Men had with Elves, but for years. These three groups of humans were called the Edain, which is a kind of mispronunciation of "Atani," which was what the Valar would have called Men when talking about them before they actually existed.

Thing is, though, all these people had been going west, and as far as they were concerned, they hadn't gotten there yet. There was still more west to go, after all. But in the way there was Doriath, and the fens of the Sirion, and they were a little bit stuck. That was when word came down from the three kings of the Noldor (that would be Fingolfin, Finrod, and Finarfin, for those of you who are having trouble keeping track) that any Men who felt like moving up into their territory was more than welcome. (Whether or not the Noldor were just looking for more cannon fodder for the war against Melkor is left as an exercise to the reader.) There's a lot of migration and moving around and frankly the details aren't super relevant, so let's just leave it at: Humans. Everywhere.

And through this whole thing, Finrod was probably the only person to actually stop by and knock on Thingol's door and mention that hey, there's some new people in town, and they've kind of got you surrounded. Thingol, as you might expect, was a little cranky about this. Of course, he was also cranky about the whole idea of Men (I guess he'd had some prophetic dreams or something), but still. He declared that no Men would ever enter Doriath, even Finrod's favorite people, and after all he liked Finrod. Melian just kind of rolled her eyes at him and told Galadriel, "Yeah, that's what he thinks." (Spoiler: There will totally be Men. Or at least one Man. And Thingol is still going to be cranky.)

Anyway, lots of humans were moving out all over Beleriand, but there were still some hanging out where they'd originally settled, in Estolad, near Doriath. Some of 'em were old, some of 'em were tired of walking, and some of 'em thought Elves were a little creepy, what with the fact that any Elf who'd ever been to Valinor had the Two Trees in their eyes. But not all the humans left in Estolad were entirely happy - in fact, there was a little counter-culture brewing.

The leaders of the opposition (as it were) were Bereg of the house of Bëor and Amlach, a grandson of Malach. They started complaining to pretty much everyone, saying, "Look, we came West because they told us there was some kind of mystical Light here, which was better than the darkness we started out in. Now we get to the West and find out the Light is even further West and they won't let us go there and meet the gods. If we really wanted to I guess we could go meet Melkor, who seems to be a god, but fuck it, we're not that stupid."

So they did what humans do best, and they called a meeting. The Elf-friends, all those folks who'd gone to serve in the courts of the Noldor, said, "At least you can see that Melkor is evil. You know he's trying to take over the world, right? And the Elves are the only thing stopping him? Obviously we were brought here to help the Elves fight Melkor. Obviously."

To which Bereg said, "That's great for them, they're immortal. We're gonna die soon enough anyway without throwing ourselves in front of a rampaging army of Orcs."

And then apparently Amlach said, "Are you all so stupid you can't see you've been lied to? There is no Light in the West. There is nothing on the other side of the sea. And the only ones trying to take over the world are the Elves, who are clearly greedy and selfish and horrible. If they'd just fuck off and let us alone we'd be fine."

Everyone kind of sat in shock, the way you do when a person you've previously considered to be intelligent comes out with some kind of tinfoil-hattery that makes the Lone Gunmen seem normal. And then after the meeting, when people started asking Amlach what the hell was up with him, he had no idea what they were talking about. The Elf-friends said, "See? See? We told you Melkor was trouble, he's sowing discord, look," but the others basically just took this as a sign that it was time to get the hell out of Dodge. Bereg led a whole group down south where they fucked off to become Haradrim or Southrons or something. Amlach, on the other hand, took it kind of personally that Melkor had decided to impersonate him, and he went off to join Maedhros's court, the better to punch Melkor in the face at the earliest opportunity. (Some of his people fucked off back East over the mountains, who knows what happened to them.)

All this time the Haladin - that other group of humans, the ones who went running from the Green Elves - are living in Thargelion, quiet and peaceful-like, pretty happy with how things have been going. Unfortunately for them, Melkor is not happy with how things have been going. His clever plan with Amlach having been foiled, he threw a temper-tantrum and sent an Orc-raid after the Haladin.

Unlike the others, the Haladin were not a super highly organized people. Everybody kind of lived in his own homestead and kept himself to himself, which as you can imagine is not the most defensible position when you're being swarmed by Orcs. But there was this dude Haldad, who was kind of a badass, and he got everyone together to build an encampment at the fork of two rivers, which was a little easier to defend.

The Haladin were besieged there by Orcs for long enough that they ran out of food. You can imagine how much fun this is: a whole bunch of men, women, and children crammed into a much smaller space than they're used to, probably living under tents or something, probably wet and muddy, running out of food, and oh yeah, being attacked by Orcs. Then Haldad was killed in a battle, and Haldar his son went running out to make sure the Orcs didn't do anything nasty to his body, and then Haldar got killed too. This left Haleth, Haldar's twin sister, in kind of unofficial command of the camp. Some people decided that they were now entirely doomed, and drowned themselves in the rivers rather than be captured by Orcs. But a week later, as the Orcs were in the process of breaking through the stockade, Caranthir came riding over the hills with the fucking cavalry. Great timing there, Caranthir. They've been under siege now for how long? You're not the Americans in a World War II movie, you know.

Since he'd just won a battle in a particularly dramatic manner, Caranthir was inclined to be generous, and he offered the Haladin some free and protected lands of their own, further to the North, where they wouldn't be attacked by Orcs so often. He also offered Haleth compensation for her father and brother. To which Haleth, who turns out to be a stone cold badass just like her dad, told him thanks but no thanks, but they'd take care of themselves. Then she gathered up what was left of her people, and what was left of their belongings from their homesteads, and they went down to Estolad.

Not too long after that Haleth got sick of Estolad and decided to pack up and move again. Most of her people were actually ready to be done with all the moving, but when Haleth tells you to go somewhere, you go. They had to take the north way around Doriath, of course, close by the Mountains of Terror, which was a place that most Elves would avoid if they had the option, but Haleth just dragged her people through it by sheer force of will. She kind of started shedding people once they got back into his hospitable territory, but plenty of them followed her all the way to the Forest of Brethil, across the river Sirion.

Now, here's the thing: Even though it was outside the Girdle of Melian (you know, the angelic shield of protection that keeps Doriath safe from Orcs and Fëanorians), Thingol considered Brethil to be his. And no way was he going to let humans move in. Finrod, who will go down in history as the Elf who is as fond of humans as if he'd invented them himself, eventually talked him around. Thingol agreed to let Haleth and her people live in Brethil as long as they promised to keep the Orcs out. Haleth was a little offended ("Orcs literally ate my father and brother, fuck you") but she did live in Brethil until the end of her days, and you can bet there were no Orcs anywhere nearby. When she died her people raised a great mound for her grave, and it was called Tûr Haretha, but it's probably gone now.

So that's how humans came to live pretty much everywhere in Beleriand. Eventually the Elf-kings decided it was not great to have humans and Elves living together (I don't know why they decided this, maybe they were starting to get worried about what to do with all those little Half-Elven babies) and they gave the humans territory of their own where they could live under their own lords. But plenty of young men still went into service in Elven courts anyway.

Then there's another page of begetting, here, I drew you a chart (click to embiggen):

(You'll notice there is no Dior on this chart, and this is because Dior is for some reason not important enough to be mentioned in this chapter, and therefore I forgot about him. Ooops.)

Now here's a funny story: it's true that humans lived longer in Beleriand than they did wherever they'd lived before, but eventually good old Bëor up and died at the age of ninety-three, after forty-four years of service to King Finrod Felagund. And while the humans all stood around shaking their heads and saying, "Well, at least he had a good run," the Elves stood around absolutely horrified. He just died? Of nothing? They'd never seen anything like it, and they did not approve.* Meanwhile, the humans who hung out with the Elves continued to get more and more awesome, while those who lived elsewhere (either because they'd never gotten to Beleriand in the first place or because they'd gotten there and left) carried on being kind of boring. Moral of the story: spend time with all the Elves you can. Awesome is contagious.

*A friend of mine points out an amusing implication of this: While Dwarves do live to a terribly old age, they aren't immortal either. Then again, Elves never re-use the same name for a different person, and Dwarves do it all the time. Did the Elves just not notice? Did someone come back from a trade meeting one day saying, "Durin's started dyeing his beard red again, I guess he got tired of being grey"?

One can only hope.

Chapter Text

So we've all been having a good time, right? Elves and Men (and the occasional woman, and sometimes some Dwarves), hangin' out, makin' friends, killin' some Orcs once in a while just for fun. It's a great day in sunny Beleriand.

Unless you're Fingolfin, a.k.a. the only one who gives a shit about the fact that Angband is RIGHT THERE, guys, Morgoth is still there and STILL EVIL, does anyone else think that maybe leaving him alone for several centuries was not the smartest move we ever made?

Fingolfin should know better than to ask that question by now. Because as soon as he asked it, out of nowhere, Morgoth fucking exploded.

Well, not Morgoth per se. Turns out his mountain stronghold of Thangorodrim was a volcano. (You kind of have to imagine the Balrogs using its innards as a hot tub, really.) This was, of course, Bad News for those Elves who were hanging out in the vicinity, keeping an eye on the place. The Elves who survived quite reasonably considered this sort of thing an act of war, and the ensuing battle was named Dagor Bragollach, the Battle of Sudden Flame.

So that lasted until spring, but alas this doesn't mean that the war is anything like over. In fact, get ready for a lot of war, because it doesn't stop until this whole half of the continent just kind of breaks off and sinks into the sea, like we keep hoping will happen to California.

I recommend a map for this next bit; shit's about to get complicated.

So much for the Siege of Angband. The survivors scattered, the ones who could went down to Doriath and the ones Thingol wouldn't piss on if they were on fire (which they might have been, all things considered) basically went to ground anywhere they could find that was as far away from Angband as possible. The House of Finarfin was fucked, Angrod and Aegnor were killed (if you remember who they are, you might care; if not, I can't blame you), and so was Bregolas, the current head of the House of Bëor.

Bregolas's brother, on the other hand, not only made it out alive but changed the entire fucking fate of Middle Earth in the process. Barahir was fighting in the Pass of Sirion when Finrod Felagund was cut off and surrounded, but Barahir saved his life and Finrod declared his everlasting love and gratitude by giving Barahir his ring and promising to help out any of Barahir's descendants, possibly on the reasonable assumption that humans go through generations so fast that owing your life to any particular human is not actually terribly pressing. (Keep an eye on that ring, fyi.)

Meanwhile Hithlium is getting fucking slaughtered, so in case you were wondering where Fingolfin and Fingon were, they were trying very hard not to die. Maedhros was helpful, here; after the whole chained-by-one-arm-to-the-mountain thing he had a particular dislike of Orcs, and in fact for the most part they felt the same way about him. He (and some backup, but mostly just him) managed to hold the Pass of Aglon, but Glaurung the Dragon led the way through Maglor's Gap, and he was an even scarier motherfucker than Maedhros, so the bad guys made it through there. Where they proceeded to fuck up Celegorm's kingdom (he's already given it up for a loss and joined Finrod) and lay seige to East Beleriand.

So now, ladies and gentlehobbits, I would like you to imagine that you are Fingolfin, High King of the Noldor. You have just watched your direst predictions come horribly true, your kin slaughtered, their kingdoms thrown down, their pet humans fallen before their all-to-brief time. Do you despair? Do you tear your hair in grief? Do you give up the war for lost? Fuck no. You suit up in your shiniest suit of armor and you go to challenge the embodiment of all evil to single combat.

And the embodiment of all evil agrees to fight you.

(It's entirely too easy to think of Fingolfin as the nice one, just because he's not a complete dickhead. But he's a son of Finwë just as much as Fëanor was, and he's got a temper on him.)

It wasn't what you'd call a fair fight under any circumstances - a Valar, albeit an evil and slightly weakened one, versus an Elf, albeit a noble one who had lived in Valinor under the light of the Trees. Morgoth had his war-mace Grond, for one thing, while Fingolfin had his sword Ringil. Sword vs. mace is never going to be pretty. And indeed Morgoth eventually basically beat Fingolfin to death with his foot on the Elven-king's neck, although Fingolfin managed to get him a good few times before that and a good one on the foot as he lay dying. Still.

Nobody brags about that fight, Orcs because it's kind of embarrassing that Morgoth didn't do better than he did, and Elves because Fingolfin was too good to die like that, without even an I-told-you-so to all his slack-ass relatives. The only reason anybody knew about it at all was because Thorondor, King of the Eagles, saw what was going down. Now eagles, as you know, don't like to stick their beaks into other people's business, so Thorondor didn't actually interfere until Morgoth was getting ready to throw Fingolfin's body to his wolves. Even an eagle was not going to stand for that kind of bullshit, and Thorondor dove right down into Morgoth's face and stole Fingolfin's body, which he brought back to Gondolin. Turgon built his father a tomb in the mountains around that city, and nobody ever fucked with Fingolfin's tomb.

At this point Fingon realized that he'd become High King of the Noldor, and although he was for the most part pretty chill about this, he was feeling understandably protective of his remaining family. So he may or may not have sent his son Ereinion, who may or may not have later been referred to as Gil-galad, to live at the Grey Havens with Círdan the Seriously-Way-Too-Good-For-This-Shit.*

But in the end Morgoth was still alive, and he took over Dorthonion pretty much completely. Barahir was the one in charge of this particular retreat, and retreat was not a thing he was interested in. Like, at all. Eventually he talked his wife Emeldir into getting what people she could out safely, even though she had every intention of staying with him and kicking Orc ass. Barahir's army, meanwhile, was slaughtered down to a baker's dozen, which included Barahir's son Beren, whom you may have heard of; Baragund and Belegund, his nephews; and nine other guys whose names are doubtless important but which I will not make you learn at this time. Barahir and his army of twelve set themselves up as a kind of Robin Hood-like guerilla ecampment, chipping away at Morgoth's new borders.

The Elves held the island of Tol Sirion for about two more years, but it turns out that Morgoth had a general to throw at them, and you may have heard of him. His name was Sauron, and he was a badass sorcerer. Torturer. Same thing, right? Yeah, close enough. Anyway, he managed to overthrow the last defenders in the North, at which point he renamed the island at the mouth of the Sirion "Island of Werewolves," which you do have to admit is kind of great in a metal kind of way. Of course, this does mean that Morgoth basically has control of the whole northern part of Beleriand and all the passes down into the south. Which by definition pretty much sucks for everyone else.

Now Morgoth's favorite creepy evil thing to do was to kidnap Elves and bring them to be slaves in Thangorodrim and tell them horrible lies about what the Noldor are doing, except, let's face it, you'd believe just about anything of the Noldor at this point, wouldn't you? And likewise the Noldor are getting pretty paranoid themselves. So all at once Morgoth gets everyone paranoid and backstabby, plus whatever poor bastard he enslaved is pretty much fucked, because even if he gets to go home again no one's ever going to trust him. This happened so often there aren't even any specific stories about it, which given the level of tragedy Tolkien is generally interested in shows you the scale of the thing.

(Morgoth tried suborning humans, too, but most of them told him right where to stick it and he had to settle for slaughtering them instead.)

Also...*sigh* Fair warning, Tolkien's about to get super racist here. Round about this time the "Swarthy Men" arrived in Beleriand, possibly because Morgoth was recruiting them specifically, but also possibly because, well, everyone else was going to Beleriand and it sounded like a great place. Whatever, some people who are not white dudes have finally arrived. (From the description they sound kinda Polynesian maybe?) And they liked Dwarves better than Elves, so obviously they were intelligent types. Maedhros looked at the new arrivals and basically went, "Hey! More soldiers!" and made friends right away with two of their leaders, Bór and Ulfang. Somehow this was Morgoth's evil plan all along.

Those humans who were already in Beleriand were not super thrilled to have newbies showing up ruining their party, although you have to admit that it wasn't much of a party at this point. Haleth's people, for instance, were hunkered down in their forest slaughtering any Orc that came near. Indeed, when the Orcs took Tol Sirion and were coming down the river, Halmir Haleth's descendant sent word to Thingol, who didn't like Haleth's people but liked the Orcs even less, so he sent Beleg Strongbow, the most awesome Elf at his command. And Beleg brought a whole troop of Elves armed with axes and he met up with Halmir and together they did so much damage that the Orcs gave up the whole idea of invading down the Sirion and left the forest the fuck alone.

Also at this particular battle were Húrin and Huor, who were actually princes of Dor-lómin but were being fostered by their uncle, because fostering is an excellent practice if you are trying to avoid having neighbors who grow up to want to kill you all the time. They were both teenagers, which maybe explains some of the following.

So thirteen-year-old Huor insisted on going off to fight Orcs. You kind of have to assume at this point that Húrin went along to keep his little brother out of trouble, which is setting a precedent that Húrin is going to come to regret one of these days. In the course of the battle, the two brothers were cut off from the rest of the army, and only escaped being massacred by Orcs because there was a fog. But of course they got lost in the fog, and after they'd been wandering around aimlessly for a while, Thorondor King of the Eagles decided to interfere for once (in possibly the least helpful way imaginable) and rescued them from being lost in the forest and took them instead to Gondolin. Not quite a frying-pan-to-fire transition, but not great either. Because you remember that whole thing Turgon has about no one being allowed to leave the city? Yeah.

It didn't really come up immediately, because Turgon had had another one of his visions from Ulmo (does it strike anybody else as weird that the only person Ulmo talks to any more is a weird isolationist Elf king? No? Okay) and was totally prepared for two random humans dropping in. And they all got along pretty well, until the point where Húrin said, "Look, it's been great and all, but we really ought to get back to the war. And you shouldn't be too worried about letting us leave, becuase a) we're human and we're going to die pretty soon anyway, and b) we didn't exactly get here on our own and couldn't give anyone directions if we tried." And Turgon agreed that he had a point, and that if the Eagles were willing to take them home the same way they'd brought them to Gondolin in the first place, they were free to leave.

And then Maeglin, who you must admit does have a legitimate reason to be cranky about this decision, took to standing around in corners wearing dark clothes with his arms folded and his hair obscuring his face and muttering about how apparently the laws have been changed, or maybe they're just different for some people.

Húrin eventually got sick of this and said, "Look, the King has already said it's okay, but if that's not enough for you we'll swear oaths that we'll never tell anyone what we've seen here." And Maeglin was so not used to people listening to him when he stood in corners and sulked that he agreed.

So the Eagles took Húrin and Huor back to their people where, true to their word to Maeglin, they didn't tell anyone where they'd been for the past year. And their dad said, "Honestly, you have to tell me where you were lost in the woods for a year where you come home well-fed and wearing much better clothes than I ever bought you," but Húrin told him there was an oath involved and everybody had to be okay with that. But, y'know, Galdor isn't stupid, and he had a good idea where his sons had been.

(Did Turgon send his armies along to help in the war? Of course he didn't, because he had a Feeling that It Was Not Yet Time. He did, however, send ships to Valinor. Ships which never came back. Very useful, Turgon.)

Meanwhile, Morgoth was getting nervous. He knew that Turgon and Finrod were both out there somewhere, but he had no idea where either Gondolin or Norgothrond actually was, or how big the armies housed there might be, or anything else. So he kept sending out spies, but the main part of his army withdrew, because Morgoth could see that shit was far from over and he was, if nothing else, a halfway-decent tactician.

Seven years later he decided that enough was enough and attacked Hithlum again, Círdan saved the day again, and long story short, congratulations to King Húrin. He married Morwen Eledhwen, who had been one of the badass ladies traveling with Barahir's wife Emeldir back at the beginning of this particular stage of the war, so please go ahead and imagine all the delightful ladies' nights they must have had when they weren't too busy slaughtering Orcs to stop for a glass of wine. I hope she enjoyed it, because pretty soon her life is gonna suck.

*If this equivocation is obscure to you, I encourage you, as always, to read the Wikipedia Talk Page for Gil-galad.

Chapter Text

And now, a quick diversion from the endless war for a story most of you have probably heard of before, even if you haven't actually heard the whole thing. Take a moment to orient yourself, because all of the major players should be familiar to you by now. Lúthien is of course the daughter of Elu Thingol and Melian, the Elf and Maiar combo who rule the isolated, isolationist kingdom of Doriath. Beren is the son of Barahir, the human who saved Finrod Felagund's life in battle and therefore has a promise of loyalty from him in exchange. (Finrod being both the eldest son of Finarfin, Fëanor's youngest brother, and the brother of Galadriel.) And I know you haven't forgotten Morgoth up there playing King of the World in Angband, and his favorite minion Sauron, Master of Werewolves.

(A pop quiz to make sure you've been paying attention: If someone who does not already live in Doriath comes to Thingol and asks for anything at all, will he:

A. Cheerfully offer his help with no conditions;

B. Suggest the traveler find another source for whatever it is he wants;

C. Go into a random rage and swear he doesn't care if Orcs kill everyone and desecrate their bodies so long as people will just leave him the fuck alone

If you picked C, you're ready to continue.)

 

In our last installment, Morgoth has gotten over this wait-and-see attitude he'd had for a while and basically threw everything he had at Elvendom all at once. Lava, dragon, war everywhere; it was bad. Barahir, after saving Finrod's life, escaped into the wilds with his twelve companions. One of those companions was named Gorlim, and he was kind of a mess, because in the retreat he'd stopped home for his wife and she wasn't there. This was obviously distressing news, given the overall state of chaos, but then again they didn't find a body either, so Gorlim was convinced there was a chance she wasn't dead, and while the rest of the camp of outlaws-slash-refugee-warriors was sleeping, he would creep back into town to hang around their old house in hopes that she'd show up eventually.

So of course Morgoth's captain Sauron found this out, and captured him and tortured him to find out where Barahir was, and eventually promised him that he'd be reunited with his wife if he told, and Gorlim caved. And of course his wife was dead and he told them where Barahir was and then Sauron killed poor Gorlim and he was reunited with his wife and this is why you should not make deals with villains, they are tremendously unimaginative and they like bad puns way too much. But anyway, that is how Barahir was eventually killed, despite being fairly good at this whole hiding-in-the-forest business.

The only survivor of that particular slaughter, then, was Beren, Barahir's son, who was off spying at the time and only knew what happened because the ghost of Gorlim, who was probably feeling like a real asshole by now, appeared to let him know that his father's company had been betrayed and murdered. So Beren went back to the camp, buried his father (and presumably the rest of the company, but maybe not, it doesn't say), and swore an oath of vengeance, as you do.

(It's probaby not relevant except in the way that all of Middle Earth is a little circular at times, but: the way Beren got his father's ring which he'd got from Finrod Felgaund in honor of the life-debt was by hunting down all the Orcs in the area, looking for the one bragging about the human hand with an Elvish ring he was carrying around as a trophy. Beren took it back.)

At this point everyone Beren knew was either dead or long since moved elsewhere, so he took to living in the forest like a Disney princess, making friends with birds and becoming vegan. And killing Orcs. He killed so many Orcs that Morgoth put a price on his head equal to that of the High King of the Noldor and Sauron sent an army of werewolves after him. (Werewolves here being "fell beasts inhabited by dreadful spirits that he had imprisoned in their bodies," which sounds a lot less like Larry Talbot than I'm really comfortable with.)

Eventually the flood of fortune-hunters got so bad that Beren had to leave the forest where he was living, and when he'd climbed the Mountains of Terror, he spotted Doriath, and he thought to himself, "That looks like a nice patch of forest to move into." At this point the guy is probably half-feral, talking to furry creatures and murdering Orcs right and left; hell, family trees aside he probably resembles Radagast more than Aragorn, so I think we can forgive him not really thinking that particular decision through very well.

You will remember, of course, that Melian has built a kind of magical wall around Doriath that ought to be keeping everyone out. "Everyone" in this case doesn't include Beren, either because he has a Destiny or because he came through by the north, which is where Sauron's magic and Melian's get all mixed together and really weird shit happens. Bad weird shit, such that Beren never talked about it ever again and by the time he came through it he looked about ninety years old, but when he did come into Doriath he walked straight into that Destiny of his: he saw Lúthien dancing in a grove. And she was so beautiful he was struck dumb, etc. etc. you know how this kind of story goes.

He spent all fall and winter pining after her, either struck dumb by her beauty or trying to remember how to converse with things that will answer back when you talk to them, and in spring when he heard her singing he finally got up the courage to talk to her. Well, not talk. To shout her name. Well, not her name. He didn't know her name. He was mentally calling her "Tinúviel," which means Nightingale, because he didn't actually know anything about her. So he shouted "Nightingale" at her and she stopped singing and turned around and BAM she fell in love with this weird unkempt aged-looking human. Destiny.

They met in secret all summer long, and were deleriously happy, and presumably learned one another's actual names and everything. But unfortunately Lúthien had a stalker. His name was Daeron, a minstrel in Thingol's court, and he was in love with Lúthien and told Elu Thingol that his daughter had spent the summer having an affair with a smelly forest-dwelling human.

Remember the quiz at the beginning of this chapter? It's about to become very relevant.

Thingol called his daughter to him and gave her the "I'm very disappointed in you" lecture (if you have a dad, you know the one), and insisted to meet this...this...human that she'd been carrying on with, but Lúthien knew her dad and she refused to let him meet Beren until he promised that he wouldn't have the poor guy killed or imprisoned or anything. Which Thingol promised, but he also sent out guards to have Beren captured and brought to him. Lúthien was still on top of this shit, though; she met them at the gates and escorted Beren into the throne room herself.

At which point Thingol looked down at him and said, "Who exactly do you think you are, sneaking into my throne room all uninvited?"

Beren, quite reasonably, had no response, but Lúthien was prepared. "You know who he is, Dad, you've been bitching about him for months. He's Beren, son of Barahir, and he's killed a ton of Orcs."

"Let the man speak for himself," Thingol said, not even a little bit ashamed of himself. "Now, Beren. Give me one good reason why I shouldn't kick your ass from here to Valinor for hanging out in my forest and flirting with my daughter."

And then Beren looked at Melian, who kind of winked at him, and he knew how to answer the old blowhard. "At first I was only trying to save myself from horrible, slow death at the hands of the Orcs who killed my father," he said, which should have earned him some points but probably didn't, "but now I think it was fate, because your daughter is the most beautiful creature in all the world and I love her and you cannot keep us apart."

Thingol narrowed his eyes at Beren and said, "If I hadn't just promised my daughter that I wouldn't kill you, you would be dead already. Which is more than you deserve, seeing as how you're probably a spy from Morgoth anyhow."

"You can kill me if you want, but you cannot call me a spy from Morgoth," Beren answered him. "My family has earned better than that." And he showed Finrod's ring, which looked - well, exactly like this:



barahir-3.jpg

So well done Weta.

At this point Melian decided to intervene, telling her husband, "You are not going to kill Beren, and he has important shit to do, so quit being such a dick." But Beren had touched his little girl, and as far as Thingol was concerned, that called for some maiming at the very least.

Aloud he said, "Frankly I don't care what your father may or may not have done. Let's say you do something for me. Bring me by your own hand one of the Silmarils from Morgoth's crown, and then you can marry my daughter." Which is really one of those heads-I-win-tails-you-lose kind of deals: more than likely Beren will die, and if not, well, Thingol gets a Silmaril. Except of course that the Silmarils are a curse to pretty much everyone who even thinks about them. Maybe Thingol thought that because he wasn't a Noldor he'd be fine. Probably he wasn't thinking at all.

Everyone else in court was thinking about how centuries of war and all the sons of the Noldor hadn't gotten them anywhere near the Silmarils, but Beren just laughed. "You'll sell your daughter for gemstones? That's cheap. But fine: next time you see me, I'll have a Silmaril in my hand and then I'll marry your daughter, and there's nothing you can do about it." He bowed farewell to Melian, kissed Lúthien goodbye, and swept out of the court without waiting for the guards.

"Thingol," Melian said, "you dipshit."

 

**

 

Beren's dramatic exit took him all the way out of Doriath and up to the Guarded Plain (Yep, "Guarded Plain," that's really its name. Look, there's a war on, we don't have time to be naming everything creatively) that was the beginning of the road to Morgoth's palace of Thangorodrim. There he slowed down a little, because the Guarded Plain was, well, heavily guarded, and it wouldn't help his plans at all to be shot down by paranoid Elves at this juncture. Instead he held up his father's ring and shouted his name and relationship to Finrod until the guards put down their bows and brought him to the King.

Finrod recognized him, which was a good sign, and was sympathetic to his story, which was even better. On the other hand, Finrod had a bad feeling about this.

"Look," he said to Beren, "it's clear that Thingol wants you to die, probably painfully. But his stupidity is not the only one at work here. There's that curse on the Silmarils, for one. And then there's the sons of Fëanor (talk about stupid), two of whom are actually living here right now, who swore an oath that they'd burn down the entire world before letting anyone other than them possess a Silmaril. But I swore an oath, too. So it looks like we're all screwed."

"So you won't help me?" Beren asked.

"I'll help you," Finrod said. "I swore an oath, didn't I? I'm just saying it's going to suck."

And it did suck. As soon as he announced his plans to assist Beren on his quest, Fëanor's son Celegorm stood up and gave a barn-raiser of a speech about who had a right to the Silmarils (no one but his family) and what they would do to anyone else who had a Silmaril (very bad things). And then his brother Curufin stood up and gave a creepier but no less persuasive speech about exactly how horrible an idea it would be to attack Thangorodrim, a speech that was so effective that no one who was there that day ever again went into battle. (I mean, they still snuck around killing things with poison and wizardry, and by "things" I mean literally any stranger who wandered by, but they wouldn't actually look an Orc in the face.) And then between the two of them they started thinking, well, we are sons of the eldest line of the Noldor, maybe we should just let him go off and get killed with this human, and then we could be kings of Nargothrond instead.

Finrod reacted to this as only a Noldo could: he threw his crown at their feet and declared that if they wanted to break their oaths they were welcome to it, but he was not going to be so pathetic. In the end, ten Elves joined him, and Finrod mitigated the dramatic gesture a little by giving his crown to his brother Orodreth to hold onto until he got back.

It must have been a hell of an adventure: Finrod Felagund, Beren son of Barahir, and ten Elves of Nargothrond marching up toward Thangorodrim in the middle of the night. Of course, to get there they had to pass by Sauron's stronghold on the island of Tol-in-Gaurhoth. There they killed a band of Orcs and, "by the arts of Felagund," disguised themselves as Orcs instead, which I really hope means some kind of inexplicable magic and not, like, wearing Orc-skin suits or something. Their disguise would have worked better if any of them were capable of acting like Orcs, but they came right through the gates without stopping to brag about how many Elves they'd killed, so Sauron was suspicious and had them brought to him.

And then there was a sing-off. Magic singing, I'm assuming, but basically Finrod and Sauron sang at each other until one of them collapsed. (Get used to it, there's a lot of magic singing in this story.) Finrod did his people proud, but Sauron is, y'know, Sauron, so eventually Finrod's voice gave out and Sauron had them thrown into the dungeons. He promised to murder them all horribly if they didn't tell him who they were and what they were doing, in fact he even put a werewolf down there with them to eat them one by one, but Elves are stubborn, and not one of them talked. They just sat down there in the pitch black dungeon, silently being eaten by werewolves.

Meanwhile, back in Doriath, Lúthien had A Bad Feeling About This so she went to her mother for advice, who let her know that Beren had been thrown into a black pit full of werewolves. Lúthien was not the kind of girl who would just take that kind of news lying down. She put together a rescue team, but unfortunately for her she included that douchebag Daeron, who tattled to her father. Thingol then found himself with a dilemma. He knew that if he locked his daughter away in a dungeon in his cave kingdom, she'd slowly wither away and die, and also hate him forever. But he wasn't about to let her go charging off to get herself captured by Sauron, either. So instead he built what amounted to a tree-house with no access ladders, stuck her up in there, and posted guards around the base of the tree. She might hate him forever, but at least she wouldn't be dead doing it.

Great idea; unfortunately, it did Thingol no good, because Lúthien took after her mother in more than just unearthly beauty. She whispered a spell that caused her hair to grow into a long cape filled with shadows, and she braided the rest of her hair into a rope that also had a sleeping spell in it, and she enchanted the guards to sleep and escaped from her tree-house prison without too much trouble at all, because Lúthien is an amazing badass, that's why.

While all this was going on, Celegorm and Curufin were hunting out on the Guarded Plain, both because they kind of wanted to see if there was any news of Finrod and his party and also because Sauron, seeing as how there were random Elves wandering around being suspicious, had sent packs of wolves out into the nearest Elven territory. And they were hunting with a pack of wolfhounds, chief of which was Huan, who was actually a dog from Valinor, and therefore as much better than ordinary dogs as Elves who'd been to Valinor were than ordinary Elves. Best dog in the entire universe, basically. He caught Lúthien, who was sailing across the Guarded Plain in a silent shadow in much the same manner as Marceline the Vampire Queen, while the brothers were having a mid-afternoon nap.

Lúthien was not too terribly distressed; after all, she knew Celegorm and Curufin were enemies of Morgoth as much as she was, and figured they might help her. In fact, when she'd told them the story (which they both pretended they didn't already know), Celegorm promised exactly that, as long as she'd come back with them to Nargothrond immediately. Unfortunately she believed them, and they took her magic hair-cloak and hid her away and didn't let her speak to anyone, because Celegorm's plan was to let Finrod die and take over his kingdom, and then marry Lúthien and take over her father's kingdom, and basically take over all of Elvendom before they ever even started thinking about attacking Thangorodrim and taking back the Silmarils. Let it never be said that the sons of Fëanor failed to think big.

Of course, even Celegorm's dog could tell that this was a shitty thing to do. Huan slept outside Lúthien's door at night, and she talked to him, as you'll do when you're locked away for the second time in a week, and he listened, because he was a Valinor-dog, right, not some ordinary dog who just loves squirrels and chasing things. So he hatched an escape plan. Huan stole Lúthien's cloak back and led her out of Nargothrond by secret passageways, and let her ride him like a small pony to make better time, and they headed off to Thangorodrim.

By this time the prisoners in the dungeon were down to just Finrod and Beren. Sauron was leaving Finrod for last, since he was the one who'd had the sing-off and all, but when the werewolf came to eat Beren, Finrod jumped up and ripped its throat out with his teeth in a move that probably no one was aware he was capable of, but of course it killed him too because nothing good comes of ripping out a werewolf's throat with your teeth. So he saved Barahir's son, as he'd sworn to do, which was great, but he was still dead in Sauron's dungeons. (Which were actually once Finrod's dungeons, seeing as how he'd built the place before the bad guys came and took it over. There's irony for you.)

While Beren was lying in despair (and probably some werewolf blood) in the dungeon alone, Lúthien finally arrived at the tower gates, and like all Elves in distress, she sang a song. Beren, who was picking up on the cultural mores, heard her and sang a song of his own in return, and then passed out from the strain of all this unbearable weirdness. But Lúthien had heard him, too, and continued singing. And, since singing on the drawbridge of the evil palace is not the most subtle thing to do, Sauron heard her and recognized her voice (how I don't know, but it's probably creepy) and sent more werewolves down to capture her, but Huan killed them all, even though one of them managed to crawl his way back to the throne room and let Sauron know who had killed him before he died.

Now there was a prophecy that the only thing that could kill Huan was the greatest werewolf that ever lived, so Sauron thought to himself, great, I can do that. So he turned himself into the greatest werewolf that ever lived and went down to the drawbridge himself. He was in fact so horrible that Huan leapt away when he approached, and Lúthien actually passed out from his halitosis. But she was no ordinary fainting maiden; as she collapsed she tossed a corner of her cloak over his face, and Huan took his opportunity to attack.

Huan got Sauron by the throat, and although Sauron pulled all the shape-shifting tricks he knew, he couldn't get away without giving up on his body completely, which is a thing he can do because he's actually a Maia, remember. But Lúthien was back on her feet by this point, and she promised him that if he did that, she'd send his ghost back to Morgoth in disgrace, where he'd probably be stuck on an ethereal pike and left as a hall decoration. Left with no real alternative, Sauron surrendered to Lúthien, and Huan let him go, at which point he immediately turned into a vampire and flew away into the forest to sulk.

And then Lúthien did some kind of magical Elf thing and the entire castle came crumbling down, and all the nasty things that lived there went scuttling back into the mountains like cockroaches when you turn the kitchen light on, because that's basically what they were. They had to go hunting for Beren, though, because he was still mourning by Finrod's body, nearly dead and so miserable he hadn't even noticed the surrounding collapse. At first Lúthien actually thought he was dead - but when she collapsed next to him he finally woke up, and the two of them limped out of the ruins with Finrod's body, which they buried on a hill on the island which he had once ruled.

Chapter Text

So Lúthien has rescued Beren from durance vile, they have an adorable and frankly amazing dog, Sauron has gone off to sulk for a while: surely we can all live happily ever after now? Of course not! They still don't have a Silmaril, and don't think for a second that Thingol's going to forget that shit.

Not to mention Nargothrond was a mess - not only was the king dead and a bunch of Fëanorians trying to usurp the place, but now there were a bunch of Elves who'd been held captive by Sauron coming home reeling with PTSD. Oh, and telling stories about how a girl was able to do what the great sons of Fëanor wouldn't even try. Between that and the fact that some of them had figured out that Celegorm and Curufin didn't exactly have their best interests at heart, the usurpation was pretty well stopped before it could really begin. Orodreth, Finrod's brother and now king, kicked the two of them out of Nargothrond before the general atmosphere in the place turned toward lynching, and they rode off alone - even Curufin's son Celebrimbor wouldn't go with them. (Well, Huan went. Because dog.) So Celegorm and Curufin rode pretty well directly to the north-east, hoping to make their way to their brother Maedhros's domain without running into an actual lynching party.

Meanwhile Beren had remembered that he'd sworn an oath to Thingol, something about a Silmaril, and although life lately had been pretty rough, he hadn't actually gotten anywhere near fulfilling his oath. He did his best to leave Lúthien in Doriath, but she kind of smacked him upside the head and said, "Look, you can spend the rest of your life wandering in the forest, or you can go storm Thangorodrim and steal a Silmaril, and I really don't care which it is, but I'm staying with you either way." And Beren had to admit that that was pretty much everything he'd ever wanted in life, but he had sworn an oath, so they were going to go steal a Silmaril.

Except that, wouldn't you know it, just at this point their path intersected that of the fleeing Fëanorians, who were not made any more friendly by their current situation. Celegorm tried to ride Beren down while Curufin snatched up Lúthien onto his galloping horse, for all the world like a villain in a spaghetti Western; but Beren not only leapt out of the way of Celegorm's horse, he actually went all the way over Curufin and got him by the throat onto the ground, which you do have to admit is probably the most impressive thing he's done so far.

While Beren was throttling Curufin, Celegorm went after him with a spear, and this was the absolute last straw for Huan, who attacked his former master, and good riddance. By this point Lúthien was back on her feet and swearing at everyone, forbidding Beren to kill anybody, thank you very much, so Beren had to settle for taking Curufin's horse and his armor and knife, which was a Telchar knife and therefore better than like 90% of swords wandering around out there.

So Curufin had to ride off on the back of his brother's horse, shooting a "Fuck off and die" behind him as they went. And a couple of arrows aimed at Lúthien, because Curufin is that kind of an asshole. But Beren was prepared for that shit, and jumped in the way so that he got skewered instead. The problem with this plan is now Beren was stuck full of arrows, and Lúthien had to heal him and drag him back to Doriath. And then, once he was mildly recovered and she was sleeping off the stress of the morning, he left her there and snuck off to Thangorodrim on his own, leaving behind the single most useful person he could possibly have brought along, because chivalry or something, I don't know.

He rode all the way north past Sauron's ruined tower, at which point he set Curufin's horse free because that poor horse had been through enough already, and then, a true sign he'd been spending too much time with Elves, he sang a sad song as he started his walk toward Morgoth's stronghold. You'd think by now he would have realized that it's impossible to be stealthy while singing a lament, but nope, he just kept on singing and didn't even notice that Huan and Lúthien were coming up behind him. To be fair, he might not have recognized them, because they'd made a stop at Sauron's island, and Huan had disguised himself as a werewolf, and Lúthien as a giant vampire/bat thing, and I'm sorry to say that this time they absolutely were skin-suit disguises.

Beren was understandably a little concerned, but then Lúthien threw off her disguise and tackled him to the ground and he stopped worrying about being attacked by a giant vampire-bat and werewolf combo. He did, however, bemoan the horrible fate that he had somehow gotten himself into by swearing that oath to Thingol about the Silmaril. "He should have just killed me back in Menegroth," Beren moped, "and then you wouldn't be in any danger."

"Suck it up," Huan told him. (I told you there'd be a talking dog.) "Guess what, she loves you so much that getting out of this mortality thing is no longer an option, so either you give up now and Lúthien dies alone of a broken heart or the two of you go on and either get killed by Morgoth together or come out of the whole mess covered in glory. Either way, this is as far as I go with you. I might be loyal, but I'm not stupid." And with that Huan headed back to Doriath.

So Beren took up Huan's werewolf disguise (convenient disguise, werewolf, it works for both a dog and a man), and Lúthien put back on her vampire disguise, and together the two of them, looking very much like locals, struck out into the wasteland of Morgoth's territory.

Let me set the scene for you. Angband: Fortress of Morgoth, Home of Evil. The path to the gate is surrounded by deep black chasms filled with shadowy things that may or may not resemble eldricht horrors from the depths of time. Beyond those are cliffs, too high to see the top of, but you can still hear the carrion birds screaming as you pass beneath them. At the end of this tunnel, a thousand feet worth of mountain, to be entered only by a single massive Gate, and this guarded by the greatest werewolf who ever lived.

Because, you see, Sauron was being a little bit egotistical when he figured it'd be easy to transform into the greatest werewolf who ever lived to fight Huan. The greatest werewolf who ever lived was actually Carcharoth, whom Morgoth had bred from Sauron's most fearsome wolves, and then raised by hand on fresh meat, and then kept him around as a pet until the beast had no real choice but to be filled with the darkest, most evil spirits around. It's not Carcharoth's fault he's evil; he was raised that way.

And Carcharoth was confused. Because he recognized the werewolf coming up the path; that was Draugluin, Sauron's favorite hellhound, and probably some kind of cousin of his. But Draugluin was supposed to be dead, killed by some kind of weird failed sneak-Elf-attack. Besides, they smelled funny. So rather than just let them in, he stopped them. Fortunately, Lúthien was getting pretty good at this sleep-spell business, and she put him out cold. So then the two of them did the single most badass thing that anyone, Elf or Man, had ever tried: they walked right into Morgoth's throne room.

While Beren slunk under the throne, still disguised as a werewolf, Lúthien stood right in front of the embodiment of all evil in Arda and introduced herself, volunteering her services. As a minstrel, get your minds out of the gutter. But fortunately for everyone Morgoth's mind was entirely in the gutter, and while he was distracted thinking filthy thoughts about the daughter of Melian, Lúthien disappeared into the shadows, where she began to sing.

I know, I know, Elves, right? But this was seriously impressive singing. Morgoth was literally blinded by its awesomeness, and the rest of his court fell right over asleep, and all the fires in the hall went out so that the only light was from the Silmarils on Morgoth's crown, which was pretty creepy. And then Lúthien threw one of her outstanding sleep spells on Morgoth and he toppled over and the crown crashed to the ground right there in the middle of the floor.

Beren was still cowering under Morgoth's throne, so Lúthien got him up, and good thing he had taken Curufin's knife, because he was able to use that to pry a Silmaril out of the crown, just like he'd promised Thingol he would. Actually, he thought, this is pretty great, why not take all three Silmarils? But the knife was having none of that; when he went to pry out the second one the knife snapped, which is saying something for a Dwarvish-forged blade, and hit Melkor in the cheek, which both woke him up and made him cranky.

They ran for it. Luckily for them, they were out of the throne room by the time Melkor properly woke up; unluckily for them, Carcharoth the werewolf was awake again, and had absolutely no intention of letting them out of the castle. Lúthien was completely exhausted, and Beren kind of had his hands full, so in their defense, he held up the Silmaril and hoped really hard that it was as toxic to evil creatures as it was supposed to be.

Carcharoth might have been stupid, or he might not have given a shit, but he didn't even slow down. He just jumped forward and bit off Beren's right hand, Silmaril and all. And then he ran off screaming, because Beren was right, and the Silmarils are pretty damn nasty to evil creatures.

So Beren and Lúthien had successfully stolen a Silmaril from Morgoth's crown and escaped, only now Morgoth's pet werewolf had - kind of - stolen it right back, and was rampaging through the surrounding countryside, so terrifying that even the Orcs and vampires and all the other nasty things out there were running from him. Oh, and Beren was dying at the gates of Morgoth's palace, because, again, werewolf bites.

But look! It's the world's most convenient deus ex machina - the Eagles are coming! As they always seem to when there's no other way out of a tight spot. You have to wonder how much time they spend hanging around, waiting for things to get just bad enough. Anyway, the Eagles rescued Beren and Lúthien and brought them all the way back to that glade at the edge of Doriath where Beren had decided to sneak off and do something heroic while Lúthien was asleep. (Hopefully by this point he's figured out that Lúthien is by far the most useful member of this party.)

It was touch and go there for a while, dealing with that werewolf bite, but sooner or later Beren came back to himself out of sheer stubbornness, and the two of them went back to wandering happily in the forest together. But Beren was still bothered by that oath. He'd gotten the Silmaril, he just hadn't had a chance to bring it to Thingol, and although Lúthien didn't give a good goddamn whether her father approved of what she was doing or not, Beren was obnoxiously old-fashioned, and eventually he convinced her to go back to Menegroth and face the music.

It was a depressing place, Menegroth, since Lúthien had gone. Everyone assumed she was dead, or worse. Her stalker Daeron had gone wandering one day and never come back, and good riddance. Melian wasn't talking to Thingol, on account of him being such a dipshit. And Celegorm was sending all kinds of lies, saying that Finrod was dead, and Beren was dead, and Celegorm was all set to marry Lúthien any day now. (Which gave Thingol the opportunity he'd been looking for for centuries, and he was all set to attack Nargothrond and get back at those Fëanorians once and for all, until he found out that Celegorm and Curufin had been kicked out of that city a long time ago. So much for Thingol's war.)

With no war to amuse himself with, Thingol sent scouts out to hunt for Lúthien, and unfortunately they were close enough to end up right in the path of Carcharoth, who was completely insane with pain and fate and all the other delightful things that happen to you when you swallow a Silmaril, and the only one of the scouts who survived was Thingol's captain, Mablung. So that was the atmosphere that Beren and Lúthien walked into when they returned. It wasn't making Thingol any less cranky, to be sure.

So Beren walked right up to Thingol and said, "I told you I'd be back."

"Great," said Thingol, who did not think this was great at all. "But where's the Silmaril?"

"Like I said," he answered, "in my hand." And he showed Thingol the stump where his hand used to be.

And even Thingol had to admit that was pretty badass, so he let them tell the whole story of everything that had happened. And by the end of it, Thingol also had to admit that Beren wasn't quite as useless as he'd always assumed, and he gave his consent for the couple to marry.

The bad news, of course, was that now they knew why there was an insane werewolf running all over the place. The Elves of Doriath were actually more afraid of the Silmaril than of the insane werewolf, which is fair. So they made up a hunting party: Thingol and Beren, and Mablung and Beleg Strongbow, and Huan, because you should always bring a dog from Valinor with you when you hunt werewolves. Once again, they left Lúthien behind; once again, that was a stupid idea.

The hunting party cornered the Carcharoth near a picturesque waterfall, which is of course exactly the kind of place you would expect one of these kinds of dramatic stand-offs to take place. Huan went into the greenery to flush him out, and the wolf leapt at Thingol, but Beren, possibly because he'd gotten in the habit of taking bullets for this family, got in his way and was bitten. Again. (He's just lucky that these aren't bite-transfer werewolves, although you have to admit that would make the whole history of Middle-earth substantially more interesting.) Then Huan got at Carcharoth's neck, and the two of them fought to the death while Thingol apparently fretted uselessly over Beren, who was kind of lying on the ground dying of werewolf bite. Agan. Even Huan was more useful to him, because after killing Carcharoth, the best dog in the world went and lay down by Beren's side to comfort him. And then died, for whatever comfort that's worth, but still.

Mablung at least had the presence of mind to gut the wolf. In its belly he found the Silmaril, and it was indeed still clutched in Beren's hand, which is a little disturbing. But when he touched it the hand dissolved, which is actually no less creepy, and then Mablung gave the Silmaril to Beren, so that he could give it to Thingol himself.

And then Beren died.

And you know what, I don't think Thingol even apologized.

Beren's spirit went to the Halls of Mandos - and stayed there, which it was not supposed to do. Men, after all, are supposed to go on to some unknown other place which has nothing to do with Elves or Valar or any of the rest of them. But Beren was stubborn, and he wasn't going anywhere until he got to see Lúthien again, even if that meant waiting until the end of the world when all the Elves returned to Valinor.

Lucky him, he didn't have to wait that long, because when they brought his body back to Menegroth, Lúthien got right back to Getting Shit Done even under the most egregious of circumstances. She put herself into a goddamn coma and petitioned Mandos to reunite them. Her song was so beautiful and so heartbreaking that Mandos was more than happy to do it, but he actually had no authority over the souls of Men, even ones stubborn enough to hang about in his Halls when they weren't supposed to, so the three of them took their petition to Manwë, possibly hoping that he'd show some goddamn sense for once.

So Manwë prayed about it for a while, and when he came back he offered Lúthien two choices: either she could go to Valmar right now, live in Valinor for the rest of eternity, and forget all about the shitty things that had happened to her and everyone she knew; or she could go back to Middle-earth and take Beren with her, but she'd be mortal, no more of this ageless endless deathless life of the Elves business.

Guess which one she chose.

 

 

Chapter Text

(Why this isn't in the end of the last chapter I'll never know, but: Beren and Luthien stopped off in Menegroth to reassure everyone they weren't dead, or at least not permanently, and cured the mopey SAD problem they were having there. Then Melian was so upset at everything that had happened that she refused to speak to her daughter ever again, so there wasn't much point in sticking around. They retired to Ossiriand, where they had a son, Dior, and then disappeared. Presumably they died just like Manwë said they would, but no one really knows.)

So the plus side of all of this is that it became obvious that Morgoth wasn't completely untouchable, and if a mortal and an Elf-maiden could steal one of the Silmarils from him, then surely all of Elvendom's greatest warriors ought to be able to do *some* damage. That was Maedhros's reasoning, anyway, and he started calling up the armies of Middle-earth to attack Morgoth again.

From here things progress a little bit like a children's book, except instead of looking for friends, Maedhros was looking for allies in a war that would most likely leave them all bloody and dismembered in a field somewhere.

 

Maedhros: Will you fight Morgoth with me?

Orodreth: Well, your brothers just tried to overthrow my kingdom, and also spread really nasty rumors about my brother Finrod while he was being eaten by werewolves in Sauron's dungeons, so, no.

Maedhros: Aw, dammit.

Gwindor: But I'm still really pissed that Orcs captured my brother in the last ill-fated war, so I'll go!

Maedhros: Well, I guess that's better than nothing.

***

Maedhros: Will you fight Morgoth with me?

Thingol: Fucking Fëanoreans and your fucking oaths! You know your fucking brothers have already sworn to fucking kill me? Just because I have a fucking Silmaril? Which, by the way, we wouldn't even be fighting this fucking war over if your stupid fucking father hadn't created them in the first place? Fuck you!

Maedhros: ...

Mablung and Beleg: We really like killing Orcs, so we're gonna go to war, but we're not allowed to go with you.

Maedhros: ...all right then.

***

Maedhros: Will you fight Morgoth with me?

Ulfang and sons: Of course! We'd love to fight Morgoth! Nothing we'd like better! And we absolutely will not betray you to him in exchange for ambiguous and uncertain favors in the future! We'd never do anything like that! Heh. Heh. Heh.

Maedhros: ... Great!

***

Maedhros: Will you fight Morgoth with me?

Dwarves: Sure, why not? We're not doing anything else this week.

***

Maedhros: Will you fight Morgoth with me?

Fingon: Seriously? We've been sleeping together for the past thousand years and I'm the last person you ask?

Maedhros: I was sure you'd say yes?

Fingon: Of course I will, that's not the point.

***

Turgon: {lives alone in a secret city, which makes it a little difficult to ask him if he'd like to help out, even though he totally would if anyone would ask him}

 

The plan was this: Maedhros's armies, Elves and Men and Dwarves and all, would attack from the east, and when they were engaged, they'd set off a rocket in Dorthonion and Fingon's army would come in out of the west, and boom, they'd crush Morgoth's armies between them.

At least, that was the plan.

The battle was planned for midsummer morning, because Elves and light and symbolism. Fingon (who was by now High King of the Noldor, in case you've lost track of that crown, I know I have) got up that morning and spent a little while admiring his armies, or at least admiring the idea of them, since they were all trying to stay out of sight of the Enemy for the time being. Then he spent a while glaring at Thangorodrim, which had the kind of black smoke rising from it that makes people in Hawai'i nervous about their long-term property values. He tried very hard to admire Maedhros's armies - all the way halfway across the known world, apparently Elvish eyesight is just that good - but he couldn't actually see them, and he tried to convince himself this was because they were so far away and not that they weren't there or something. Ridiculous! That was a ridiculous thing to worry about.

Then he heard shouting from the assembled armies, and he panicked for just a second before realizing that 1) that was joyful shouting, and 2) it was accompanied by the appearance of ten thousand warriors from Gondolin and his brother, Turgon. Then there was lots of shouting all around, and probably manly Elvish warrior hugs, because nobody had actually expected Turgon to come out of his secret city and join the party.

This was, of course, the point at which Morgoth's army attacked. I suppose it must mean that Morgoth's eyesight is also that good, to attack just as two brothers were reunited for the first time in probably centuries, because that's exactly the kind of dick move he would make. He'd sent his orcs in desert camo with their swords blackened so they didn't glint in the sun and everything, so they got pretty damn close before Fingon's armies even realized they were there.

Down on the front lines, Húrin of Dor-lómin (you remember, the one who actually got to visit Gondolin and then leave again) was refusing to let his troops attack. They were supposed to wait for Maedhros's signal, and there was no signal, so they were going to stand here and let the Orcs make nasty faces at them from a distance, and that was that.

The Orcs, on the other hand, were under orders to get someone to attack them as soon as possible, and being Orcs, they were pretty creative about it. Their captain led them all the way up to the banks of the river, whites-of-their-eyes range from Fingon's fortress, and then sent out some riders to chat. And, in case no one wanted to chat politely, they brought with them a captured Elf-lord of Nargothrond, Gelmir, who just so happened to be the brother of Gwindor, who had brought the only battalion out of Nargothrond to the war.

Gelmir had already been blinded at some point during his captivity, but that was insufficiently intimidating, as far as the Orcs were concerned. "We have lots more like him at home," they said, "but if you want them back you're going to have to come get them, because this is what we're doing for fun while you wait." And they cut off his hands, and then his feet, and then his head, and left him there on the banks of the river.

Yeah.

Of course Gwindor happened to be stationed right there while all this happened, and of course he lost his fucking mind. He went right after the Orc heralds and killed them, and then went right on into the main force and kept right on killing, and his battalion went with him, and at that stage there wasn't really much point in hanging back so Fingon called the charge. And you know what, turns out that impassioned rage is sometimes a viable military tactic, because they made it all the way to the gates of Angband, Gwindor in the lead the whole way. In actual fact Gwindor and his battalion from Nargothrond made it through the gates of Angband, and they managed to kill the gatekeepers before being slaughtered in the courtyard, which is exactly what castle gates are designed to do, so I guess that's where impassioned rage falls apart as a plan. Gwindor was captured, which seems outrageously unfair but which the Orcs probably thought was hilariously ironic, and Fingon was at last driven back from the walls by the outpouring of Morgoth's armies.

The battle that happened then on the plain in front of Angband is called Nirnaeth Arnoediad, the Battle of Unnumbered Tears, which honestly seems a little melodramatic to me but maybe that's just because Fingolfin and Finrod are already dead and life already has lost all joy and meaning.

Fingon's armies fought through the night, fairly convinced they were going to die horribly, but when morning dawned Turgon's army had come up from the south to join them, and maybe they weren't going to die all that horribly after all. Turgon fought his way to his brother, and there he was surprised to run into Húrin, who was no longer an awkward kid but a hero leading armies into battle and all, and they took a moment for a touching reunion.

And then finally, finally, Maedhros's armies came in from the east. He'd been held back, as it turned out, on the advice of Uldor son of Ulfang, one of the armies of Men who had answered his call to arms. Or, well, kind of. Because it turned out Uldor had been working for Morgoth all along, for whatever he thought he'd get out of the deal, and as Morgoth's armies of werewolves and Balrogs and dragons and all that nasty shit attacked Maedhros's army from the front, Uldor turned on them and attacked from the rear. (You bet Tolkien calls them "Easterlings" through all this, and you bet I'm gonna ignore the shit out of the weird racial subtext, there is no reason for this to be anything other than one dude made a bad decision and convinced some people to follow him, happens all the time.)

Well, whatever Uldor thought he was going to get out of allying himself with Morgoth, instead he got Maglor's sword to the throat. That didn't stop the rest of his army, of course, but it was probably pretty damn satisfying for Maglor. And as luck would have it - what kind of luck is up to you, dear reader - none of the sons of Fëanor were killed, but they gathered up a handful of surviving Elves and Dwarves and beat a hasty retreat back to the east to get the hell out of the way of all this craziness. Thanks, Maedhros, for setting all this up and then failing spectacularly in the follow-through.

Here's your Amazing Badass Dwarf Story of the day, though: the last of the eastern armies to hold their ground were the Dwarves of Gabilgathol. They wore these armored masks into battle, you see, and those helped them a lot when they ended up walking straight into dragon-fire. The Dwarves surrounded Glaurung, Father of Dragons - the huge one, the one who actually predates wings - and went at him with their axes. And when Glaurung turned on Azaghâl, Lord of Gabilgathol, to squash him flat, Azaghâl put a knife through the dragon's belly, and Glaurung slunk away miserably and all the other nasty things were so distraught by Glaurung's retreat that they followed him right off the battlefield. Then the Dwarves raised the body of their king on their shoulders and marched slowly off singing a funeral dirge, completely ignoring anyone trying to attack them, and this was so badass that everyone just kind of let them go.

Which leaves Fingon and Turgon in the west, getting their asses kicked. Fingon was separated from Húrin and Turgon by the attack of Gothmog, Lord of Balrogs. (What makes him Lord of Balrogs as opposed to just any old ordinary Balrog I do not know, but I really hope there was an election.) Fingon actually managed to hold his own for a while, until a second Balrog came up from behind and caught him in one of those flame-whip things they have. Gothmog took this opportunity to kill Fingon while he was distracted, which does not sound like the kind of behavior you'd expect from a Lord of Balrogs to me. And then the two of them beat Fingon into a slurry, possibly because they were getting tired of the Noldor habit of using their dead kings as boundary-markers.

And then there were two. Húrin turned to Turgon and said, "Look, it's been great seeing you again, but I'm pretty sure you just became High King, and also you have the only city that Morgoth can't attack, on account of he doesn't know where it is, so you should probably get out of here while you can."

"It's only a matter of time now before Morgoth finds us and Gondolin falls," Turgon answered, and if that sounds a little bleak you can hardly blame him for being less than optimistic under the circumstances.

At this point Huor, Húrin's brother, chimed in, "A little while longer is better than no time at all. Also, I'm about to die, and instead of my life flashing before my eyes apparently I get to see the future, and I have a moderately cryptic prophecy: from you and from me a new star shall rise."

And Turgon said, "Well, you can't argue with deathbed prophecy."

(Turgon's nephew Maeglin overheard this prophecy, too. And if you don't have anything better to do than to creep on other people's private conversations in the middle of a battle that is literally called "Unnumbered Tears," well, Maeglin, I just don't know what else to say to you.)

So Turgon sounded the retreat, and Húrin and Huor and the Men of Dor-lómin held the rearguard, because they lived in these lands, dammit, and they would much rather be killed defending them than have to pick up and move again. They made their last stand at the Fen of Serech (check a map and be momentarily impressed at just how much of the north they were unwilling to give up) with the river in front of them, but the Orcs made a bridge out of dead Orcs, and killed all the Men they could get their hands on and piled up their heads into a pyramid, showing remarkable facility with geometry for Orcs.

Huor took an arrow to the eye. Húrin literally went down in a pile of Orcs - and covered in disembodied Orc hands, since he was cutting off limbs as they grabbed him but for some reason Orc hands don't let go when they're removed from the rest of the Orc, and isn't that a lovely image - but they took him alive, possibly because even Orcs get a little testy when you cut off their limbs.

And that was Nirnaeth Arnoediad. Morgoth was pretty pleased, all together: he'd lost a dragon and probably countless interchangable Orcs, but he'd done pretty well. He'd gotten Men to betray Elves, which was bound to have long-lasting repercussions, given how good Elves are at holding a grudge. The sons of Fëanor looked like useless idiots yet again. Fingon was dead and his kingdom broken - and Morgoth sent his human servants to live there and harrass the civillians left behind when the men went to war.

The Orcs and the wolves came south, now that there was nothing else in their way, as far as Ossiriand, which is pretty goddamn far south. Doriath and Nargothrond still stood, but Morgoth ignored them, either because he wasn't ready to deal with them yet or because he'd forgotten they were there. Gondolin, of course, was still a secret. So any Elves left to run ran to Círdan's stronghold on the coast. That lasted less than a year, because of course Morgoth sent down armies and forges and siege towers. The Elves (the ones who weren't slaughtered or enslaved, that is) escaped to the Isle of Balar and staked out some ground down at the Mouths of Sirion to help them shuttle refugees to the only safe place left for unaffiliated Elves in Beleriand.

Turgon, possibly somewhat intimidated by Huor's weird prophecy, possibly just sick and tired of watching his relatives be beaten into a pulp by Orcs, wanted to get some non-evil Valar input into the situation here, so he had Círdan build him some ships. Six of them just kind of disappeared into the western ocean and were never heard from again. The seventh foundered within sight of shore, and only one sailor survived. Sounds like the Valar don't care about your problems, Turgon.

Morgoth was not content with his victory, though. Aside from the sons of Fëanor, who fall into a category all their own, he'd killed or captured all the leaders of the armies that stood against him at Nirnaeth Arnoediad, except for one: Turgon. Even worse, Turgon was now the High King of the Noldor, not to mention the son of Fingolfin, who had actually wounded Morgoth once, and you bet your ass Morgoth was still pissed about that.

But Morgoth also knew that Húrin had some connection to Turgon, and he had Húrin right there. Húrin, on the other hand, was not especially interested in talking about Turgon with Morgoth, and instead spent his time making up increasingly creative insults. Sooner or later Morgoth lost his patience with this and cursed Húrin's children, and then sat him in a stone chair and cast a spell on him so that he would see and hear everything that happened to his family, creating what was basically a nightmare of a neverending marathon of the world's worst home movies.

Chapter Text

So: Nirneath Arnoenidad, right? Awful for everyone, and not just the people who died there. Let's not forget their wives, like poor Huor's wife Rían, who only got to be married to him for two months before he up and died, who only lasted long enough to have her baby and die herself. Or Morwen, Húrin's wife, who didn't die but had to live with all this bullshit.

Morwen and Húrin had a son, Túrin, who was born the same year that Beren became obsessed with Lúthien, for whatever that's worth. And at the time of the Nirnaeth, Túrin was eight and Morwen was pregnant again, which would have sucked at the best of times but sucked even more given that her husband had been captured by Morgoth and their lands had been overrun by the enemy. I mean, they were kind of scared of Morwen, so they didn't actually hurt her, but she wasn't queen anymore or anything.

Times were hard, and Morwen worried that they were going to take Túrin away from her, which made sense because he was technically the next person in line to actually rule the country they'd invaded, so she decided to send him off to Thingol, who'd always liked Húrin and might be expected to look kindly on his son. And about the same time Túrin and his escort reached Doriath, Morwen had her baby - another daughter, who she named Nienor (after Nienna, you know, the Valar who cries all the time? This is either foreshadowing or dramatic irony, I'm not sure which).

Well guess what, fandom is right, Elves LOVE kids. At least, that's the only explanation I can imagine for why notorious grouchy hermit Thingol not only adopted Túrin right away but sent messengers up to Dor-lómin to bring Morwen back to live with her son. She refused - she didn't want to leave the home where she'd lived with her husband - but she did send them back with the Dragon-helm of Dor-lómin, an heirloom of their house, and probably Túrin's favorite object in the world, if I know anything about eight-year-old boys.

Time passed, Túrin grew up, or at least turned fifteen, which is not entirely the same thing but close enough for government work. That was the year he started to get antsy, not only because he was a fifteen-year-old boy but also because the messengers that Thingol sent to Dor-lómin didn't come back, and Thingol (who was still, after all, a notoriously grumpy hermit) refused to send any more. So Túrin reacted in exactly the same way you'd expect a fifteen-year-old to do: he ran away from home. He didn't go far - he hung out in outer Doriath with Beleg, who you'll remember as the guy who was so determined to go to war against Morgoth that he went even though Thingol nearly gave himself a stroke with screaming at Maedhros - but as always with these things, it's the thought that counts.

After three years of this, seventeen-year-old Túrin finally sucked it up enough to come back to Menegroth at least for a visit. Unfortunately he ran into this dude Saeros, one of Thingol's councillors, who had always kind of disliked Túrin. And when Túrin came in all gross and bedraggled and shaggy from a) being seventeen and b) living in the woods, Saeros made some snide remark about how if the men of Dor-lómin looked like that, the women were probably running naked in the forest like animals. At which point Túrin threw a mug at Saeros's head. And Túrin had been training with the best archer in Doriath, so you bet he got Saeros good.

Well the next day, as Túrin was leaving the palace to go back into the woods, Saeros popped up with some kind of sneaky plan in mind, but Túrin was not going to be surprised by some asshole Elf. He grabbed Saeros before he could do any harm, and then because, and I cannot emphasize this fact enough, dude is seventeen and therefore kind of a moron, he made Saeros run naked through the forest like an animal. Which was hilarious and all until Saeros tripped and fell into a ravine and died.

The witness to all of this was Mablung, the other guy who went to war against Morgoth despite Thingol's loathing of all things Fëanorean, and he told Túrin, "It was a stupid accident, but it was an accident, go back to Menegroth and tell Thingol what happened and everything will be fine." But Túrin (SEVENTEEN) was convinced his life was over, so instead he left Doriath entirely and joined up with a band of outlaws in the forest next door.

Well, around this time Beleg came back to Menegroth wondering where in the seven hells Túrin had gotten to, and Thingol sighed and said, "Stupid kid's run off. You'd think by now he'd know that I love him like the son I never had, and I wouldn't have his head cut off even if he did kill that dickhead Saeros on purpose." And Beleg wisely had no opinion on this state of affairs, but promised to go find Túrin and bring him back to Menegroth so somebody could slap some sense into the boy.

Túrin was doing so well among the outlaws (where he told them his name was Neithan, which means Wronged, SEVENTEEN, GUYS) that he eventually became their leader. It took a year for Beleg to find them, and when he did, Túrin was out killing dinner or whatever so the other outlaws, assuming Beleg was a spy from King Thingol, tied him up and poked him with sticks until Túrin came back and recognized his old friend. Then there was lots of weeping and hugging and promises that Túrin would stop being a teenage dirtbag, no, really.

So Beleg told Túrin, "Look, Thingol pardoned you literally the moment he heard about what happened, I know he's a hardass but he's not as much of a dick as he pretends to be. Also, there are Orcs coming south out of Taur-nu-Fuin, come with me and kill them, it'll be fun, just like old times."

But Túrin was not actually ready to leave his outrageous outlaw lifestyle, so he made a counteroffer: why not Beleg stay with him, hang out with the outlaws, become outlaws for righteousness, killing Orcs and shit right here?

But Beleg just shook his head, and said, "I'm going back to Dimbar. If you want me, you know where to find me." And when he was seeing Beleg off the next day (seriously it took him all night to come up with this zinger), Túrin answered, "You'll be in Dimbar and I'll be on Amon Rûdh! Come look me up, bro." So Beleg went back to Menegroth alone.

"Seriously, what the fuck does he want me to do?" Thingol asked when Beleg told him the whole story.

Beleg kind of shrugged and said, "There's no reasoning with humans. But if you want, I'll go keep an eye on him, make sure he doesn't do anything too stupid."

"Beleg," Thingol said, "you are my favorite marchwarden. You want something for a parting gift? Seriously, anything."

"Just give me a good sword," Beleg said, "it's hell trying to kill Orcs with a bow when they're standing right in front of you."

So Beleg took the sword Anglachel, which was a pretty damned good sword, having been made from meteor-iron by Eöl, who might have been an asshole in his personal life but was an excellent smith. (Eöl actually made two meteor-iron swords, and his son Maeglin has the other one, so you bet your ass we're gonna hear about it sooner or later.)

Melian looked at the thing as Thingol handed it to Beleg, and said, "You know the guy who made that's an asshole, right? Guess what, this sword is an asshole too. Keep an eye on it."

"Yeah, sure," Beleg said, sincerely.

"Anyway, take this too, that kid's gonna be starving when you find him," Melian said, and gave him a stash of lembas. (Turns out it's only queens who can give lembas, and it had never been given to humans before, so clearly even Melian had a soft spot for Túrin.) And Beleg went back to Dimbar like he said he would, and killed Orcs all through the summer and fall with his friends.

Meanwhile Túrin and his merry band of outlaws took off out of the vale of Sirion right after Beleg left, on account of not wanting to be interrupted by any more messengers from Thingol. While they were out looking for greener pastures they stumbled across three Dwarves, and for shits and giggles, they decided to capture them. They only managed to get ahold of one (don't worry, they shot arrows after the other ones), who begged for his life. The Dwarf's name was Mîm, and he promised that if they didn't kill him, he'd lead them back to his house which was filled with treasure, as Dwarf houses will tend to be.

"Ugh, fine," Túrin said. "Where is your house anyway?"

"It's up there on that hill," Mîm said, "they call it Amon Rûdh now that the Elves changed the names of everything around here. It's hell trying to get directions from people any more, I tell you what."

But Túrin didn't care about Dwarves' direction problems; he was only thinking about how the world seemed to be working on his side for once after all. He ordered Mîm to take them there, and the next morning he did.

("There's blood on that hill," one of the outlaws said as they approached Amon Rûdh.

"Don't be an idiot, that's a flowering shrub," said Túrin, who really does not know what kind of story he's in.)

Mîm led them into a door in the hill, where they were met by another Dwarf. They spoke in Dwarvish for a minute, and then Mîm and the other Dwarf hurried down the corridor, leaving the humans to fend for themselves. Túrin followed them, and found Mîm kneeling by a stone couch, wailing and tearing his beard.

"Can I help?" Túrin asked.

"No you can't help," Mîm said, "my son Khîm is dead. He was shot by an arrow and died at sunset; my other son, Ibun, told me."

"Shit," Túrin said. "Sorry about that, man. If I had any money - but I don't - if I ever get any money I'll pay you a ransom for your son's life. That was not cool of us."

Then Mîm stood up and dusted himself off, and looked at Túrin in a new light. "That's very Dwarvish of you," he said at last. "I accept. Make yourself at home here; I owe you a debt and I will pay it." Mîm's house was not actually full of treasure, but hell, at least he could give them dinner.

So for a while Túrin lived with Mîm the Dwarf, swapping stories about their interesting childhoods. Mîm, it turned out, came from the line of Dwarves that had been banished from the great Dwarven cities of the east a long time ago, before Morgoth came to Middle-earth, and had been living in Beleriand ever since. It was a shitty life, because before the Elves ever met the city Dwarves and established trade, they had assumed these Beleriand Dwarves were some kind of forest animal, and hunted them. Oh, and they called them Noegyth Nibin, "Petty-Dwarves," because Elves are rude. But these Dwarves had done the first construction of Nargothrond, long before Finrod ever decided that caves would be a cool place to live, and had dug lots of other caverns besides. They hated Elves almost as much as they hated Orcs, and who can blame them.

But Mîm was ancient, even by Dwarvish standards, so somewhere upwards of three hundred years old at least; and he and his sons were pretty well the last of the Beleriand Dwarves. Possibly if the Elves hadn't been hunting them like foxes they wouldn't have been, but.

It was a bad winter that year. The talk was that winters got worse as Morgoth grew stronger, which, sure, that seems reasonable. Túrin and the outlaws took to hanging around the fire, trying to be cheerful but probably just making each other more and more depressed. And then one day they were all sitting there, grumpy and cold, when a dark figure came up to their fire. Half the men jumped up with swords in hand, ready to defend themselves, but the figure started just laughing at them, because there's nothing funnier to an Elf than scaring the shit out of a bunch of humans, I guess.

Beleg had come back after all, and he'd brought the Dragon-helm of Dor-lómin, hoping that his favorite shiny toy would help convince Túrin that there were better things to be doing than hanging around playing King of the Criminals. But Túrin wouldn't go, so Beleg stuck around, giving them Melian's lembas, healing the men as much as he could. Which was great for Túrin, who had his old friend back, and great for the men, who thought Beleg was a stand-up guy even if he did work for Thingol, but not so great for Mîm, who had to put up with an Elf living in his house all winter. You can hardly blame him for spending the winter sulking in his room, not talking to anyone. (To be totally fair to Mîm, I do the same thing even without my ancient enemies living in my house.)

Túrin, on the other hand, took the Dragon-helm (and at least half of Beleg's advice) and went out doing heroic deeds and shit. Which was not the smartest thing he could have done, since as soon as he did it Morgoth knew exactly where he was again, but at least it's a step up from outlawry. Not that Morgoth was just sitting around waiting for Túrin to show up again. His armies had come south, all the way to Dimbar and the northern reaches of Doriath and close enough to be within sight of Amon Rûdh. An evil overlord has to be able to multi-task. But Túrin and Beleg made a pretty good team against him: people called them the Two Captains, and their reach the Land of the Bow and Helm, which is, if not the best superhero duo name, at least not too shabby.

It was coming on to winter again when Mîm and his surviving son went out gathering roots and things for their winter stores and were once again captured, only this time by Orcs. Mîm tried the same trick again, promising the Orcs all kinds of treasure from his house if only they would let him live, only this time he asked them to please not kill the human who was living there. (Túrin was calling himself Gorthol at this point, which means "Dread Helm," and I don't know why he thought that was going to be an effective secret identity but he's still only like nineteen so maybe that's it.)

Now for the Orcs this was something of a coup; they'd probably only captured the Dwarves for fun, after all, and now here they were going to lead them right to one of the people on Morgoth's Most Wanted list. So the Orc-captain laughed and said no, they had no plans to kill Túrin, calling him by name, which just goes to show exactly how shitty Túrin's secret identity really was.

Middle of the night, Orcs attack, everyone killed, etc. etc. And of course there really was blood on the hilltop, though I highly doubt Túrin bothered to notice the dramatic irony, on account of he was caught in a net and taken away by the Orcs.

In the morning Mîm came out to look at the carnage, and what did he see but that one of the bodies was not quite dead yet. And isn't it just Mîm's luck, the still-breathing one is Beleg, the one person Mîm had spent all year murdering in his imagination. Not one to abandon this kind of opportunity, Mîm grabbed one of the fallen swords and was all set to put an end to the Elf once and for all, but Beleg too the sword back from him before he had a chance, and Mîm ran for it.

Beleg was lucky; not only was he an Elf and therefore harder to kill than a human, but he was also a healer of some renown, so he managed to put himself back together enough to make a thorough search for Túrin. When he didn't find his friend among the bodies, he figured that Túrin must have been captured.

Is Beleg going to just let that shit stand? Of course not. Limping and bloody and not especially cheerful, he set to tracking the Orcs northward. He didn't stop, he didn't sleep - Beleg was an Elf on a mission. He followed them all the way up into Taur-nu-Fuin, where he finally stopped, however briefly, when he stumbled across the one thing he least expected: a mostly-dead Elf sleeping under a very dead tree.

Well, Beleg might have been an Elf on a mission, but he wasn't an asshole. He stopped and gave the Elf some lembas and asked him what the hell he was doing sleeping under a dead tree in one of the worst places in the world.

"My name is Gwindor," the mostly-dead Elf said, "and believe me, this is not one of the worst places I have ever seen." Gwindor, you will remember, was taken captive in the Nirnaeth Arnoeidad after charging all the way into Angband itself. After that, he'd been enslaved in Morgoth's mines, but he'd managed to escape and make is way down to the forest, which probably did seem pretty luxurious by comparison. "Although there's still Orcs everywhere," Gwindor said sadly. "There was a huge pack of them went by not long ago, with a human and all."

So Beleg told Gwindor why he was out trekking through the forest that was, at least, one of the worst places Beleg had ever been, and Gwindor told him not to be stupid, no human was worth being captured by Morgoth. "And believe me," Gwindor said, "I know." But Beleg was determined. Hell, he even convinced Gwindor to haul himself back up and join Beleg in his search for Túrin.

The Orcs camped just outside the forest, and Beleg and Gwindor snuck up to spy on them as they settled down for the night, the peaks of Thangorodrim looming in the distance. (It's an impressive fucking mountain, it can loom from a distance, all right? It looms when you can't even see it.) When the Orcs had all fallen asleep, Beleg shot the guards one by one, and they crept into the camp. Túrin was tied to a tree and surrounded by knives, because apparently Orcs have aim like Stormtroopers and even when their target's tied to a tree they can't actually hit him. (I know Morgoth wants him alive, but do you think the Lord of All Evil cares about a little maiming? Evidence indicates that he does not.) Beleg and Gwindor untied him from the tree, although they couldn't get the ties around his wrists and ankles loose, and carried him out of the Orc camp and back into the forest. Poor guy was so exhausted he didn't even notice.

What he did notice was being stuck in the foot when Beleg tried to cut his bonds with his sword. (So much for the fabled Elven grace.) And so, having been attacked in the night, seeing all his men killed, captured by Orcs, hauled across half of Middle-earth, tied to a tree and used as target practice, and finally woken up in the middle of the night by a mysterious dude poking him in the foot with a sword, Túrin wrestled the sword away from said mysterious dude and killed him.

Ooops.

Because Manwë is a melodramatic son of a bitch, just then there was a lightning flash, and Túrin could see Beleg's face and realize what he had done. Then there was a torrential downpour and outrageous storm that lasted all night long, and Túrin spent the whole damn thing sitting by Beleg's side and weeping, while Gwindor tried half-heartedly to convince him that they should probably leave before the Orcs noticed he was gone, or at least come in out of the rain.

Turned out they didn't need to worry about the Orcs, because they'd figured no one would be stupid enough to just hang around in a storm after escaping, so when morning dawned clear the Orcs beat it for Angband without much of a search. Gwindor finally convinced Túrin to move by convincing him that they should bury Beleg, so they made a shallow grave and buried him with his bow, and that was the end of Beleg. He deserved better.

So Túrin was still pretty out of it, what with the shell shock and the grief, but Gwindor was feeling a hell of a lot better, so he led them out of the forest westward, across the Sirion to Eithel Ivrin, the source of the River Narog. "All right, Human," Gwindor said to Túrin when they got there, "if this won't help you, nothing will." So Túrin drank from the stream and was cured.

You could tell he was cured because he immediately wrote a song, which he called the Song of the Great Bow, about Beleg and how great he was. And Gwindor gave him Beleg's sword Anglachel, which was blackened and blunt, even though they knew perfectly well it was a Telchar sword and Telchar swords don't go blunt.

"Would you look at that," Gwindor said, "even his sword is mourning for him. Don't worry," he cooed, "I'll take you back to Nargothrond and make it all better."

"Hang on," said Túrin, "who the fuck are you?"

"Just a wandering ruin," Gwindor answered. "Once upon a time I was Gwindor, a lord of Nargothrond, before I was captured in battle and tortured in Angband."

This was terribly exciting to Túrin. "Have you seen Húrin of Dor-lómin? He was imprisoned there, too."

"Not really," Gwindor said, "but in Angband they say that he spends all day long swearing at Morgoth, and that Morgoth has cursed his family in return."

"No kidding," said Túrin.

Chapter Text

So Gwindor and Túrin struck out for Nargothrond, and they made it there eventually, even though they were taken prisoner by the guards on account of looking so disreputable. No one even recognized Gwindor, who had been, well, an Elf-lord when he left, and who was now something a little more closely resembling... well, a human. Which is a bit of a step down, for an Elf. One person recognized him, though - Findulias, daughter of Orodreth, who had loved him before the war, and who was good enough to love him still, even though he did look like a sickly human who was, like, thirty or something. So they accepted Gwindor back, and they accepted Túrin on the strength of showing up with Gwindor, although when Gwindor went to introduce him Túrin called himself Agarwen son of Úmarth, which means he just called himself "Bloodstained son of Bad Luck," which I suppose is accurate if not technically true.

Túrin lived reasonably happily in Nargothrond for a while. Orodreth liked the kid, which was definitely a plus, and also he was twenty (so like normal-looking for an Elf) and hot and he had a Doriath accent, which was super exotic and sexy, and basically all the young Elf-maidens and Elf-lords were all over him. They started calling him Adanedhel, which means Elf-Man but sounds much sexier in Sindarin. Beleg's sword was reforged for him, but it still had a black blade, even though it glowed a little, and Túrin renamed it Gurthang, Iron of Death. He was also, of course, impressive in battle, but the Elves couldn't stand to see him hurt, so they gave him Dwarf-mail and he picked out a creepy Dwarven war-mask to top off the whole creepy ensemble.

He was, basically, so fantastic that Findulias suddenly realized one day that she had a bigger crush on Túrin than she did on her actual boyfriend. So that was awkward. Túrin, being a twenty-year-old boy, didn't notice a damn thing. Findulias moped around so much that eventually Gwindor sat her down and said, "Look, honey, I love you and I don't want you to be miserable. If you want to pursue this thing with Túrin, I'll give you my blessing. But think about this first: he's mortal, and he's going to die. Sure, it sounds romantic, but this kid is no Beren, and he's going to get himself into some seriously deep shit before this is all over. He might well be agarwen, but his real name is Túrin, son of Húrin, whom Morgoth has cursed. And if you have any doubts about how effective Morgoth's curses are...." And then he gestured to all of himself.

Findulias thought about all this for a while, but what she eventually said was, "He doesn't love me, and he never will." Which, I mean, doesn't mean she didn't love him, but at least she was moderately sensible about it.

But she did later ask Túrin if what Gwindor had told her was true, and Túrin got super pissed. "How dare you go around telling people my name?" he asked Gwindor. "The last thing I need is for my curse to catch up to me here."

"Please," Gwindor said. "Your curse is going to follow you no matter what goth metal nicknames you make up for yourself."

Really Túrin was the only one who cared about it at all, because when Orodreth found out he threw a giant party for the son of the hero of the Nirnaeth. But Túrin was also getting a little full of himself and his own ideas. He didn't like the preference they had in Nargothrond for sneaking around and shooting Orcs from a distance, so he convinced them to turn to open warfare, and even engineered a bridge from their gates across the river, the better to move out armies. And, for a while, they cleared out a huge part of the surrounding region. I mean, they got so big and influential that Morgoth for sure started to think about them as an actual problem for the first time ever. So no matter how much Gwindor tried to convince people that maaaaybe it was not the best idea to be drawing so much of Morgoth's attention, nobody listened to him. I mean, he wouldn't even fight on the front lines any more, and who wants to listen to a guy like that?

What with all this ass-kicking going on it was pretty quiet in the north, so Morwen figured she might as well take the opportunity to get the hell out of Dor-lómin. She and her daughter made the long journey south to Doriath, but of course Túrin wasn't there. They stayed in Menegroth anyway, and I want you to take a moment to think about just how awesome it must have been to have Melian and Morwen and Nienor all hanging out together. Just think about it.

Also that year (which was 495 years since the rising of the moon, in case you had completely lost track of the passage of time; it's been an eventful half-millennium here in Arda) two Elves came to Nargothrond who had once been part of the court of Fëanor's son Amras, but who had been living in the south with Círdan ever since the Dagor Bragollach. They brought news of Orc troop movements, but more importantly, they also brought news from the only Valar who actually seems to give a shit about what's going on over here.

"Ulmo dropped by," they told Orodreth, "he says the rivers are evil now. But he also says to stop drawing attention to yourself, because they're coming for you."

Orodreth thought this was a pretty clear sign, but Túrin had gotten used to people doing what he told them, and not the other way around, so he kept leading raiding parties anyway. And sure enough, later that year all the poor bastards in between Angband and Nargothrond got their lands taken away and their heads cut off, and by fall Nargothrond was facing down Glaurung the dragon on the plain between them and Doriath.

Well, you can't just let that kind of thing go. The armies of Nargothrond rode out, Orodreth at their head and Túrin at his side. Túrin was still wearing the Dwarf-mask, which was a good plan because that meant he was the only one who could get anywhere near the damn dragon. (Seriously, are Elves too good for fire protection gear?) But one guy versus a dragon is never going to work, unless that guy is the long-removed descendant of a slain king of a ruined kingdom, and Túrin is just not that good. The army was driven back, Orodreth was killed, Gwindor was deathly wounded, everything was awful.

Túrin had enough decency to get Gwindor off the battlefield, and as he was dying Gwindor said, "It's starting to occur to me that I should never have saved you from the Orcs. You stole my girlfriend and got me killed. Now get back and make sure she's all right, because I swear to you, if she's not, I am gonna come back from the dead and kill you myself." And then he died.

Well, fair enough; Túrin beat it back to Nargothrond to look for Findulias. But you didn't think he'd actually be able to do something right for once, did you? The Orcs and the dragon beat him there, taking the bridge Túrin had built across the river and right through the gates. The city was destroyed by the time he got there.

Orcs had killed whatever soldiers had been left behind and were rounding up the women to be taken as captives (please don't think too hard about what that means) when Túrin came hacking his way across the bridge in a fury. He only paused when he came face-to-face with the dragon, or rather face-to-entire-body with the dragon's head.

"Nice to meet you, Túrin, son of Húrin," said Glaurung the Dragon.

Túrin's manners had clearly suffered from all those years in the wilderness, because rather than answering he hauled back with his sword and got ready to belt the dragon a good one. Glaurung, however, just stared down at him. Túrin stared back, which was a terrible idea, because any two-year-old knows that dragons can hypnotize you with their eyes, I mean come on, that's like Dragons 101. So they stood there on the bridge staring at each other for a while, Túrin immobilized and Glaurung, well, gloating.

"I'm pretty impressed, really," Glaurung said, while Túrin stood there awkwardly frozen and angry. "Abandoning your foster-father, killing your friends, practically doing all the overthrowing of Nargothrond for us - it's been a hell of a career. Not to mention that while you live here in luxury, your mother and sister are slaves in their homeland. Your father would be proud of you, I'm sure." And Túrin had an unusual moment of self-awareness, and was ashamed.

Just then the Orcs were passing over the bridge with their captives, right on by this little tableau, and of course Findulias was with them. She begged for Túrin to help her, but he was still stuck in dragon-hypnosis and couldn't do a damn thing. Glaurung only set Túrin free once the party of captives had disappeared in the distance.

Túrin took a minute to get his shit together and then leapt at the dragon like his whole dragon-slaying plan hadn't been interrupted at all. But Glaurung was about as bothered by all this as you would be by a toddler threatening you with a wooden sword. "If you really want to die, I'll be glad to help," he said, "but won't you think about that poor Elf-maiden who wants your help? Not to mention your mother and sister." Glaurung is kind of a meddling bastard, isn't he? And seriously unimpressed by Túrin. Túrin stabbed at Glaurung's eyes, and all he said was, "Seriously, take your chance and go. If you leave now I won't kill you. It's more than I've done for anyone else." Which was actually true.

So finally Túrin got it through his head that he needed to leave before he was flambéed, and he took off down the road after the captive Elves. "Wait, I forgot," Glaurung said, "you should know that if you stop to help Findulias, you'll never see your mother and sister again.

"My work here is done," Glaurung said to himself once Túrin had disappeared, and he set to doing his favorite thing in the world, which was burning this whole motherfucker down and then finding the largest pile of treasure he could and sleeping on top of it.

Túrin, who was just assuming that the dragon wasn't lying to him, headed north right into a nasty winter. He felt terrible about Findulias, but he couldn't shake the mental image of his mother and sister being slaughtered by Orcs, and I can't say I blame him for making the choice that he made. Gwindor's ghost was super pissed, though.

He passed the stream where Gwindor had brought him to be healed, but it was frozen over, so he had to haul his ass up to Dor-lómin on his own strength, and you know what he found when he got there? Of course you do, you're still thinking about how great it is down in Doriath with Melian and Morwen hanging out together being BAMFs. Someone told Túrin that Aerin, a cousin of his, might know where she went, and Aerin was now married to Brodda, one of the invaders.

Túrin, displaying all that tact and restraint we've come to know and love from him, walked into Brodda's house waving his sword around and demanding to know what had happened to Morwen.

"She went down to Doriath, looking for her son," Aerin told him. "She thought it was safe enough, since some hero or other was down there wiping out the Orc raiders."

 

This was admittedly embarrassing, and you have to admit that it's rotten luck for Findulias and the other captives of Nargothrond, but it does seem like killing Brodda and all his guests might be a little bit of an overreaction to this reasonably good news. Of course, that's exactly what Túrin did. Then, running for his life as an outlaw and a murderer for at least the third time, he headed back south.

"At least I did open the way for my family to travel safely," he told himself, trudging along the same goddamn road again. "So really, I was doing good the whole time. And could I have helped them any more if I'd been there? I could not. In fact, could I help them any more if I went to them now? They're in Doriath, which is protected by a goddamn Maiar. There's nothing else I could do. Really it's best if I just leave them alone."

He wasn't just walking and talking to himself, of course; he was also killing Orcs whenever he came across them. Once he rescued a whole group of men in Brethil from a pack of Orcs, and they asked him to live with them (and kill any other Orcs who came by), but Túrin said he had something to do first, he had to find Findulias, daughter of Orodreth.

"Funny story," said their leader. "We kind of tried to rescue a bunch of prisoners last year, only the Orcs killed them all before we could do anything. Findulias died pinned to a tree by a spear. She said, 'Tell the Mormegil that Findulias is here,' if that means anything to you." (You can probably guess, but yes, that is one of Túrin's many aliases.) "She's not, actually, we buried her," the man added. "I mean, we couldn't just leave her there."

Túrin had them take him to her grave, and he fell into another one of his grief-fugues, where he lies around half-dead and hating himself for getting yet another one of his friends killed. It didn't take the men long to figure out that Túrin was the famous hero, who by the way everyone also knew was the son of Húrin, so way to go with the secret identities there, buddy.

Rather than try to get him up, they just picked up Túrin and carried him back to their village. Their leader Brandir (a descendant of Haleth, so you know he's great) had a childhood injury or a birth defect or something, and so was more of the intellectual than the warrior type, and he was pretty concerned with this whole "bringing a famous cursed war hero into our village" business. Someone was bound to come looking for him. But then again, the guy was half-dead, he couldn't just throw him out into the woods. So Brandir nursed Túrin back to health, and by spring Túrin was up and about again.

The Forest of Brethil seemed like a nice enough place, so Túrin thought he might try AGAIN to start over from scratch (because that's worked so well all the other times, you know), so he took YET ANOTHER name and started calling himself Turambar, which means "Master of Doom." And although he tried very hard to disappear into the local culture, he still couldn't stand their hide-and-wait attitude toward Orcs and went out killing them whenever he could. At least he gave up on the damn distinctive black sword.

 

Over in Doriath, they were starting to get refugees from Nargothrond trickling in, those few who had escaped the city and survived the winter. They all had different rumors: the enemy had all retreated; no, Glaurung was still sleeping on the treasure-horde; the Mormegil was dead; no, he was turned to stone by the dragon - but everyone agreed that the Mormegil was Gorthol was Agarwen was Túrin, son of Húrin.

Morwen, quite reasonably, got entirely fed up with all the disparate rumors of her son's death or enstatuement or survival or whatever and went out looking for him. Thingol threw up his hands in disgust at these impetuous humans, but he did send Mablung and some other soldiers out to keep an eye on her. Nienor was ordered to stay behind, but hell if she was going to do that - she disguised herself as one of Thingol's soldiers and joined the party.

Well, Mablung's party caught up with Morwen before too long, but she refused to go back. And then they discovered that Nienor had snuck out with them, and she refused to go back too. So they all went on until they came to the watchtower that Finrod had built, a league or so outside the gates of Nargothrond, where Mablung insisted that the women stay there, goddammit, he had scouts to do this kind of thing, and sent a couple of Elves up the river to Nargothrond to see what they could see.

What they could see was a GIANT FUCKING DRAGON, who actually saw them first and turned the entire river into steam before fucking right off. The soldiers that had stayed with the women decided that this was a good time for a retreat but the fog - which was actually part river-steam and part dragon-breath and therefore really appallingly nasty - reached them first and drove their horses mad. Like, running headfirst into trees mad. In the confusion Morwen disappeared and was never heard from again, but Nienor managed to get back to the top of the hill, above the fog, in hopes of finding Mablung and any surviving Elves.

Guess what she found there? Yep, it's the dragon again! Glaurung took this opportunity to brainwash her, wiping out most of her memory and leaving her in a dead faint on the hill before heading back to Nargothrond. Never trust a dragon, folks. They're assholes.

Mablung, who had been trying to assess the damage to the city while the dragon was gone, headed back to the hilltop when the dragon started coming back. Of course he found no one there but Nienor, who was basically a zombie at this point. She didn't really react to anything, but she would take orders, so he led her away from all the carnage even though he figured they were both probably going to die in the next couple of days anyway. Mablung's nice like that.

They were doing just fine until they were ambushed by Orcs one night and Nienor, quite reasonably really, panicked and ran off while the Mablung was busy dealing with the Orcs. So Mablung had to go back to Thingol and tell him that they'd not only failed to find Túrin, they'd lost a whole battalion of Elves and also Morwen and Nienor into the bargain.

 

Nienor was in fact running naked through the forest like a wild animal, and if the ghost of Saeros has anything to say about this he can keep his fucking trap shut. Eventually she collapsed in exhaustion, and she woke up the next morning to a beautiful sunlit morning and absolutely no idea who she was, where she was, what had happened to her, or indeed what all these tall green leafy things were all around her. She wandered into the forest of Brethil because it seemed safer than the alternative. But later a storm came up and she was terrified, and ended up huddled in the shadow of what she had no way of knowing was Findulias's grave.

There Túrin found her, either because he was hunting Orcs in the area or because he came to self-flagellate at Findulias's grave all the time, or possibly both. He wrapped her in his cloak and brought her back to camp with him. Nienor attached herself to him like a limpet, although she didn't know why, because this is that kind of amnesia story, and when she couldn't tell him her name Túrin named her Níniel, which would be creepily close to the truth if not for the fact that she really was crying all the time. (And who can blame her.)

Well, they brought her all the way back to Brandir's little city in the woods, where the women took care of her and nursed her back to health and taught her language and manners and why we wear clothes in public, that kind of thing. She still couldn't remember anything of her past, though. Over time Brandir fell in love with her, but she was still obsessed with Túrin. And Túrin must have gotten a little bit obsessed with her, because he asked her to marry him. Brandir, totally aside from the fact that he had a thing for Níniel himself, had A Bad Feeling About This and told her who Túrin was, but she still didn't remember anything before Brethil so it didn't mean anything to her. So three years after the sack of Nargothrond, Túrin Turambar married his sister.

By the end of that year the Orcs were attacking again, but for once Túrin was not out there attacking them right back, because he'd promised his new wife he wouldn't go out Orc-killing unless their home was attacked. Or rather, he spent about a day sitting around at home, and then the other men started giving him shit about not going to war, and then he dug his old black sword out of the closet and went out a-slaying. So much for love, honor, and obey.

The next spring two things happened: Níniel fell pregnant, and rumor said that Glaurung was coming out of Nargothrond. Túrin (who had once again basically usurped a kingdom by being charismatic and refusing to take orders from anyone, you'd think he'd know by now what a bad idea this is) sent out scouts. Sure enough, Glaurung was expanding his territory into the woodlands. The locals all turned to Túrin for advice, and he told them that while it was useless to send an army after a dragon, he would be happy to go and kill the thing in single combat, never mind that no one had ever actually done this before in the history of Middle-earth and also Glaurung was the size of a reasonably large building.

So Túrin went out to slay the dragon with two companions: Dorlas, the dude who had buried Findulias; and Hunthor, Brandir's cousin, on account of Brandir not being in any kind of physical shape to go dragon-slaying. And it wasn't long before Níniel, who despite being a doomed pregnant amnesiac still has more spunk in her than most of the men of Brethil, went after them. Brandir tried to convince her not to go, but you can guess how well that went, so eventually he gave up. "It's not like anyone ever listens to me anymore," he said, which was true after all, so he renounced his position as lord of the Haladin and went after Níniel, because he was starting to feel like a chump for being left behind all the time.

Túrin and his party, meanwhile, had found the dragon sleeping in a gorge, and Túrin concocted a rather elaborate plan to climb down the cliff, cross the river, and attack the dragon from the far cliff, for reasons that had something to do with the element of surprise, or possibly with Túrin being a Big Damn Hero.

Dorlas wanted nothing to do with this plan, but Túrin and Hunthor made it across safely. And then the dragon rolled over in his sleep and knocked a rock off the ledge which hit Hunthor in the head and tossed him into the river. Less one minor character, Túrin carried on and eventually came up at the opportune place where he could stick his sword right into the dragon's soft underbelly. So he did.

Glaurung did not take well to this, as you might imagine. There was some thrashing and some burning and some hideous screaming. Túrin lost hold of his sword in all the chaos, and when the dragon stopped thrashing around he climbed up onto the corpse to get it back. Túrin stood there on Glaurung's upturned belly and gave a little speech which in high fantasy langage goes on for a few lines but which can be basically summarized as: "Suck it, dragon-breath."

Then Túrin pulled out his sword from the dragon's belly. Black blood gushed out of the wound and burned Túrin's hand, and also Glaurung opened up his eyes and glared at him, because you should never just assume a dragon is dead until it's been properly dismembered. Between the venomous blood and the hypnotic effect of dragon-glare, Túrin did what any reasonable person would do and fainted.

Off in the distance, everyone who'd been following behind heard the thrashing and screaming and saw the flames, and they (understandably) assumed that the dragon had killed Túrin and his companions and was busy stomping them into the ground and setting them on fire.

Níniel recognized something in the dragon's voice, and huddled up under a rock beside the waterfall, more terrified than anyone knew what to do with. Brandir found her there and he led her back onto the path toward home, figuring that Túrin might be dead but that was no reason for them to stick around and get stomped and set on fire, too.

After a little while she said, "Is this the right way?"

"What way?" Brandir asked. "This is the opposite way from the dragon, which is the only thing I care about right now."

"Seriously?" Níniel said. "I was going after my husband, you dipshit." And she left him behind, because he clearly wasn't doing her any good.

Brandir was still far behind her when she found the giant pile of dragon blocking the river, so he couldn't do anything about the fact that she was running toward it instead of away from it. She'd spotted Túrin, unconscious on the ground, and she went to him, bandaging his burned hand and weeping as befits every one of her names.

But a good pain in the ass like Glaurung isn't going to go out without causing at least one more problem. "Hey, Nienor," he said, all breathless and dying-like. "Nice to see you again. What's it like being married to your brother and having his baby?" And then he finally died, and Nienor remembered everything.

"Son of a bitch," she said, and threw herself off the nearby cliff.

Finding himself useless once again, Brandir trudged back to camp, stopping along the way to kill Dorlas for no apparent reason the way frustrated people will sometimes do. And when he got back to camp, everyone was frantic with worry, because Níenel had disappeared.

"She won't be coming back," Brandir told them all. "Also the dragon is dead, and Túrin is dead, and good riddance to both of them." And then he told them the whole story, accidental incest and all.

He'd barely finished when Túrin came stumbling into the camp. Because of course he hadn't been dead, only unconscious, and when he woke up he saw that the dragon was dead and his hand had been bandaged but for some reason he was still sleeping on the riverbank, and he'd come to see if anyone could tell him what the fuck was going on.

"Don't worry, I killed the dragon, and I'm fine" he told them. "But what are you all doing here? Don't tell me Níniel came with you, I was afraid she'd do something stupid like that."

"But she did come," said Brandir, "and now she's dead."

"No she's not!" said Dorlas's wife, who apparently also refused to let her man go off into danger without staging some kind of intervention. "He was just telling us that you were dead, and that that was good news, don't believe anything he says."

"Still trying to steal my wife, Club-foot?" Túrin said to Brandir, as mature and understanding as ever.

So Brandir told the story yet again, everything he'd heard from the dragon, not letting up on the accidental incest part, and ended with accusing Túrin of being a curse on his family and everyone he met. Which is... almost true, actually.

Túrin kept his head and reacted in a calm and reasonable - no, of course he didn't. Túrin killed Brandir and ran off into the woods. There wasn't anyone left in the woods for him to kill by now, though, so eventually he calmed down a little, and he came back to Findulias's grave and sat there, thinking about his life and his choices. It was becoming pretty obvious that they were all bad. He was trying to decide whether it would be better - or, more to the point, if it would be worse - to go to Doriath and see if any of his family was still alive, or to just go die gloriously in battle somewhere.

While he was sitting there thinking, a company of Elves came up the road, led by Mablung. He recognized Túrin, and was happy to see him alive, and told him so, and that they were on their way to see what they could do about the dragon.

"Too late," Túrin said. "I killed it."

The Elves were thrilled with this news, and tried to congratulate him, but all Túrin wanted to know was if the story he'd heard in Dor-lómin was true, and his mother and sister had come down to Doriath.

"Er," said Mablung, and then he had to tell Túrin that yes, Morwen and Nienor had been in Doriath, but since then Morwen had disappeared and Nienor had some kind of amnesia-spell put on her and then disappeared. So Brandir had been telling the truth after all.

This was - finally - too much for Túrin to cope with, and he just snapped. He laughed like a crazy person and, cursing Mablung, ran off into the forest for the last time. He ran all the way back to the cliff where Nienor had jumped, and then he drew his sword.

"Well," he said to the sword, "you've killed plenty in your time. Will you kill me now?"

"Of course I will, and then maybe I'll forget killing Beleg, and Brandir, and everyone else you shouldn't have killed, you dumbass," the sword answered. Or it didn't, because Túrin was a little crazy by this point, it might have been a hallucination. And then Túrin threw himself on his sword and died.

Between the lot of them, Mablung's company and the people of Brethil built a bonfire to burn the dragon's body, and they built a bier for Túrin there on the cliff, as close to Nienor as they could manage since no one knew where her body had ended up.

And Húrin watched all of it from his prison in Angband.

 

Chapter Text

So believe it or not, after that whole mess he'd made of Túrin's and Nienor's lives Morgoth still wasn't satisfied with how miserable he'd made that family. He made sure that Húrin heard all the worst of the story and none of the good parts, and he made sure that Thingol and Melian looked like the villains the whole way through, even though really all they'd done was try and fail to stop people from being stupid. (I mean, Thingol's definitely done some stupid shit of his own, but none of it had anything to do with Húrin's family.) And then, when he'd got everyone good and miserable, Morgoth let Húrin go.

"Only because I feel sorry for you," Morgoth said as he released Húrin from his bonds. "Besides, you're so pathetic you're bringing down the tone of the place."

Húrin was pretty sure that was a lie, but whatever, he was free. His children were dead and his wife was missing, but you know. Oh, and his people wouldn't take him back because he'd been living with Morgoth for twenty-eight years, and Morgoth's armies wouldn't even kill him because they'd been ordered to leave him alone. But he was free.

Since he wasn't welcome at home, Húrin thought he might go back to Gondolin, visit his old friend Turgon again. He'd sworn he didn't know how to get back there, but he did know generally where it was, so he went back to where he and his brother had been picked up by the eagles all those years ago. It was deserted now, and pretty miserable besides, but so was he, so he sat there and waited.

While he sat there, Húrin couldn't see the eagles but the eagles could see him, and they brought news to Turgon right away.

"And next you'll be telling me that Morgoth has gone on vacation to the Helcaraxë to give us all a few centuries off," Turgon said. "It can't be Húrin, you must have seen someone else."

"Seriously?" they answered. "We're eagles. Eyesight is kind of our thing."

And then Turgon got really depressed, because the only way he could imagine Húrin having escaped was if he'd decided to join Morgoth. But the more he thought about it, the more he couldn't convince himself that the Húrin he'd known would have done such a shitty thing. He sent the eagles out to bring Húrin back, but Húrin had given up and moved on, and they couldn't find him.

Húrin, who was pretty damn tired of being abandoned and ignored by everyone he'd ever known, had spent some time shouting in the general direction of Gondolin. (The only person who heard him was Morgoth, who finally knew where Gondolin was. You'd be more pissed at Húrin if you didn't know that this kind of thing was the whole reason Morgoth had let him go in the first place.) When it got dark, Húrin had curled up to sleep on the bare rocks and dreamt he heard Morwen calling him from the Forest of Brethil, so in the morning he hauled himself off in that direction. He came to the stone on the cliff near Glaurung's bier, but he didn't stop to read it, because he already knew what it said. Besides, there was a woman there, weeping at the base of the stone. He drew back her hood and lifted her chin and looked into his wife's eyes.

"You're too late," she told him, "They're dead."

"You're not."

"Soon enough," she said. Then she asked him, "What the hell happened to our kids?" but Húrin didn't answer, and she died as the sun went down.

He sat there all night next to her body, listening to the river fall off the cliff and the wind blow the rain around, until suddenly he was overcome with rage and the need to make someone else hurt as badly as he was. He buried Morwen on the western side of the stone and carved her name there, and then he set off for Nargothrond.

 

The dragon was gone but the city was still in ruins, and its only inhabitant now was Mîm, Túrin's one-time host. There was still plenty of treasure, after all, and Mîm wasn't all that interested in going back to his house that was now a grave for a pack of outlaws. And no one had bothered him until now.

"Who the hell are you?" asked Húrin when Mîm met him at the gates, despite the fact that he knew perfectly well who Mîm was.

"Look, buddy," said Mîm, who did not know who Húrin was and didn't care. "This was Dwarven Nulukkizdîn long before those pointy-eared bastards ever came over the sea, and now they're gone and I am the last of my people, so this is my city now."

"Well my son slew the dragon that kicked the pointy-eared bastards out of the city," said Húrin, "and don't think I don't know who betrayed him to the Enemy, either." And Mîm had to admit that Húrin had a point. He went into his usual take-my-treasure-spare-my-life routine, but Húrin had seen that one before, and he killed Mîm there at the gates of Nargothrond.

He stayed there for a few days, rummaging through the treasure-horde until he found what he was looking for, and then he headed east.

 

Húrin let himself be taken by the guards on the borders of Doriath, and from there he was brought before the king. Thingol was frankly astounded to see him, not only because he'd been captured by Morgoth but also because he now looked an awful lot like a walking skeleton, but he was as polite as he could manage to be. (This is Thingol, so that's probably not a lot, but he did make an effort.) But Húrin wasn't interested in polite. He threw on the floor before Thingol the one thing he'd brought from Nargothrond: the Nauglamír, the Necklace of the Dwarves, which had been made for Finrod years before and was famous as the most beautiful - and valuable - work of the Dwarves.

"In payment for all the good you've done my family," Húrin said, "I've brought you the Nauglamír from Finrod's halls. Hey, wasn't he also killed while he was out running errands for you? Funny how that keeps happening."

Thingol, who knew all too well what Húrin had been dealing with, sucked it up and took it, but Melian shook her head and said, "You know that Morgoth lies, don't you? We cared for Túrin as if he were our own son, and no one sent him out on any errands. We did everything we could to protect your wife and daughter. But if you want to stand there and spew Morgoth's insults, be my guest."

And that snapped him out of it at last (being yelled at by a Maiar will do that to you), and Húrin was ashamed of what a dick he'd been. He picked the necklace up off the floor and offered it to Thingol properly, saying, "Take this as a gift, then, in memory of Húrin of Dor-lómin." And no one stopped him as he walked out of Menegroth, out of Doriath, and west all the way to the point where he threw himself into the sea.

 

Thingol's had a good long stretch of not being a dick to anyone, don't you think? He's about run out of it, too. While Húrin was throwing himself into the sea, Thingol was sitting in his throne room, contemplating the Nauglamír. It was pretty spectacular, he thought. But it could be more spectacular. It could have a Silmaril in it. Which would also solve a small practical problem he'd been having, since he'd got to the point where he wouldn't let the Silmaril out of his sight. Putting it on a necklace would make it easy to keep around, even when he didn't have pockets. This was probably, Thingol thought, the best idea he'd ever had.

(Spoiler: it was so very much not.)

Now at this time the trade between Doriath and the Dwarven cities was still going strong, although instead of dropping by in small parties of two or three, the Dwarves always traveled in large, well-armed parties, which is just good sense given how exciting it is in this part of the world. And traveling in large, well-armed parties is a pain in the ass, so they'd sometimes come and stay in Menegroth for a while, and Thingol had quarters set aside for the Dwarven smiths. So he called out a few of them to tell them about his brilliant idea, and the Dwarves agreed that, as spectacular as the Silmaril and the Nauglamír were separately, they'd be even better together, and they agreed to get to work.

Thingol hung around and watched them working like the worst client you've ever had, but Dwarves are professionals, they got the job done anyway. And when they were done, everyone had to sit around and admire the thing for a while: the greatest thing ever created by Elves and the greatest thing ever created by Dwarves. "Priceless" doesn't even begin to cover it.

Thingol went to put it around his neck, but the Dwarves stopped him. "Hang on a second," they said, "we agree this was a great idea and a damn fine commission, but we've been talking. What right do you have to the Nauglamír, anyway? Our people made it, and they made it for Finrod Felagund, who's dead, and not really any relation of yours."

Now Elu Thingol, King of Doriath, was not really used to being called on his shit. He couldn't quite imagine why anyone would even attempt to contradict him. So he decided to assume that the Dwarves really wanted the Silmaril for themselves, and were just lying to cover their greed. "How dare you challenge me, who awoke at Cuiviénen untold centuries before the first of the stunted people rose from the earth?" he asked. I mean, I'm sure he said "Naugrim," but who calls a Dwarf "Naugrim" to his face anyway? No one who wants to keep on living. Which, actually, Thingol didn't; the Dwarven smiths killed him right there. So much for all those untold centuries, huh?

And then the Dwarves looked around at each other and realized that, having killed the king, their welcome in Menegroth was likely to be limited from here on out, and they took the Nauglamír and ran. They couldn't outrun the marchwardens of Doriath, though, and most of them were killed before they reached the borders, and the Nauglamír brought back to Melian, who was honestly too busy grieving her dead husband to give a shit about a pretty necklace and a fancy rock.

Two of the Dwarves made it all the way to Tumunzahar in the Blue Mountains, where they told a story about Dwarves being killed by the Elvenking's guards in Doriath, and how much more of that story they told is very much in question, because quite frankly I have to assume that Durin would not put up with this kind of bullshit. Or then again maybe they did, because they sent to Gabilgathol for backup, and the Dwarves there tried to tell them not to be idiots. But it wasn't long before a Dwarven army was coming out of Tumunzahar and heading straight for Doriath.

 

Doriath was not exactly preparing for war. After all, its greatest protection for centuries had been the Girdle of Melian, and Melian was in no shape to be worrying about little things like girdles and forests right now. She was an immortal, endless being of starlight, goddammit, and she'd taken mortal form to marry Thingol, and now Thingol was dead. She didn't much see the point of sticking around any longer. She told Mablung to keep an eye out for the Silmaril and to send word to her daughter and son-in-law, and then she went back to Valinor.

Which leaves the marchwardens of Doriath in a really awkward position when the army from Tumunzahar comes marching right in unchallenged. There were really not enough of them to stop an entire Dwarven army in their tracks, since they'd been relying on Melian's protection for things like that, so they didn't even try, and the Dwarves marched right on in to Menegroth and started slaughtering. I mean at that point it's really no contest, is it, an army of angry Dwarves versus a city that's used to being protected? They killed Mablung in front of the gates of the treasury and took the Nauglamír, Silmaril and all.

 

Over in Tol Galen, Beren and Lúthien were blissfully unaware of everything that was falling apart in Lúthien's hometown. They had a son, Dior, who was married to Nimloth, a relation to a prince of Doriath called Celeborn, whom you may have heard of. And Dior had two sons, Eluréd and Elurín, who I hope were twins with names like that, and a daughter, Elwing.

But their idyllic family life was interrupted first by rumors that a huge Dwarven army had been seen coming down the Dwarf Road to Doriath, and then by a messenger with all the horrible details. So Beren and his son gathered up all the Green Elves they could convince to join them, and went to stake out a defensible position on the road.

The Dwarves might have been able to walk right in to Menegroth, but they were stopped on the way home by a rain of arrows, which they cannot have been expecting at all. Most of them were killed on the road, and the ones that weren't were herded into the forest by Ents, where they were never heard from again. I'm not really sure if the Ents really liked Thingol or if they'd just take any excuse to get back at a Dwarf, but the secondary lesson of this story is that Ents are fucking scary.

Beren killed the Lord of Tumunzahar, whoever that might have been he apparently doesn't warrant a name, who cursed all the treasure taken from Thingol's halls with his dying breath. That seems a little redundant, given that the main point of that treasure was a freakin' Silmaril, but okay. They dumped most of the treasure into the river, but Beren brought the Nauglamír back for his wife, who was then the most beautiful creature who ever lived wearing the two most beautiful works of art which had ever been made, and was honestly probably radiant enough to blind everyone in a two hundred mile radius by now. Beren had to settle for being insufferably smug about his hot wife.

Dior, not interested in being blinded or putting up with his father's insufferable smugness, took his wife and children over to Doriath. It seemed a shame, after all, to let the oldest Elven kingdom in Middle-earth just go down without a fight. So he wasn't there when Beren and Lúthien both died of being entirely too awesome for this world, although he did inherit the damn Silmaril-necklace.

And now there's a problem: there's a Silmaril in Doriath again, and the person wearing it isn't a Fëanorean. I mean, no one was going to fuck with Lúthien while she had it, but Dior? Dior was nobody, and the sons of Fëanor were not going to put up with him. They wrote him a strongly worded letter, and when they got no reply, armed themselves to storm Doriath. Again.

That was the Second Kinslaying, the perpetrators being mostly the same as those of the First Kinslaying, only with Celegorm instead of Fëanor as their leader this time. The body count: Celegorm, Curufin, Caranthir; Dior and Nimloth; Dior's sons who were not actually directly killed but abandoned in the forest and left to starve. (Maedhros actually drew the line here and tried to find them again, but too late, they'd disappeared, never to be heard from again. You really gotta wonder about those Ents.) But Elwing escaped, and she took the Silmaril with her, so once again the sons of Fëanor just killed a whole bunch of people for no good goddamn reason and still didn't get what they wanted.

Chapter Text

Got all caught up on Húrin and his children? Good, now for the other half of the family. It's not as horrible, thank goodness, but it's still bad enough.

Húrin's brother Huor (thank god, no diacriticals) was killed at the Nirnaeth, and his wife Rían died in childbirth, and their son Tuor was fostered by Annael, a Grey-elf who lived in Mithrim, where Rían had died. When Tuor was sixteen (round about the time Túrin was accidentally usurping Nargothrond), the Grey-elves were driven out of Mithrim by Orcs and whatnot (which is probably Túrin's fault, actually, he was always agitating the Orcs) and in the retreat Tuor was captured by Lorgan, Chief of the Easterlings who'd invaded Hithlum (which, if you will remember, is the place Túrin would have been king of if the Nirnaeth had gone a little differently).

Tuor was a thrall, then, for about three years, at which point he escaped and lived as an outlaw, harrassing the invading settlers so much that Lorgan put a price on his head. And he probably would have lived out his days doing just that if not for the fact that Ulmo had decided that Tuor was going to be useful. In terms of which of the Valar you want paying attention to you, Ulmo is probably one of the least traumatizing, but that's never going to be a fun gig.

So one day, for no reason he could understand, Tuor traveled west across Dor-lómin until he reached the Gate of the Noldor, which Turgon's people had built when he still lived there before he'd decided on his whole Gondolin plan. The Gate was actually a tunnel that led under the mountains and out to the sea, so between that and a little bit of luck Tuor managed to make it all the way to the ocean without Sauron or any other unsavory creatures figuring out where he'd gone.

Tuor had never seen the sea before and he was damn impressed. He liked it so well he set up a little beachfront property and lived there until fall. Then he realized that, nice as the beach was in the summer, this was not the kind of climate where it would be a pleasant place to live all winter long. He followed a flock of migrating swans south until he came to the empty city of Vinyamar, and there he found the sword and armor that Ulmo had told Turgon to leave there when the city had been abandoned. (You'd forgotten all about that, hadn't you? Well, Ulmo hadn't.)

These were way better than any arms Tuor had, so obviously he took them. I mean, no one else was using them, and it's not really grave-robbing. Then he went out to the shore, where a huge storm was blowing up out of the west, and in that storm was Ulmo. Middle-earth's own Manannan appeared to Tuor, telling him to go to Gondolin and giving him a handy cloak of near-invisibility. And then he blew back into the west. Ulmo always has the best exits.

How Tuor was supposed to find Gondolin, the most secret place in all of Middle-earth, Ulmo didn't say. This was a point of some consternation to Tuor, but in the morning he found that he was no longer alone on the beach: there was an Elf there as well. That Elf was Voronwë, who had sailed on one of those ships Turgon had sent out in search of Ulmo. Rather than answering Turgon's message like a normal person, Ulmo had sunk the ships, saved only Voronwë, lured a random human down to meet him, and pushed them both in the general direction of Gondolin. Still, he's more helpful than most of the Valar.

(Missed Connections, Middle-earth: At one point in their travels they passed an angry human dressed in black and carrying a black sword, but they didn't know who he was and they ignored him and he ignored them and no one thought anything of it.)

But in the end they reached Gondolin without incident, and Voronwë led Tuor through the secret gate, where they were taken as prisoners, because no one ever said Turgon didn't take security procedures seriously. They were brought to Ecthelion of the Fountain, warden of the gate, and then Tuor took off his cloak and showed off the swag he'd picked up from Vinyamar, which proved he'd been sent by Ulmo and so could be considered to be an okay guy.

So with that Ecthelion sent Tuor (and presumably Voronwë as well, now that his guide duties are over he disappears from the narrative, which seems harsh given all he's been through) off to the actual city of Gondolin, which lay across a wide green plain. (This is a much larger hidden city complex than you've previously been imagining.) Anyway, at last Tuor met Turgon. Kind of. Tuor stood in front of Turgon and spoke for Ulmo, possibly via some kind of eerie possession deal I didn't know the Valar could do. He warned Turgon that the Curse of Mandos - you remember, the one that goes "the Noldor all suck and you're going down" - was going to be fulfilled soon, and it was probably time to abandon Gondolin and go down the river Sirion to the sea. Which is, really, what you'd expect Ulmo to say.

Well, Turgon wasn't just going to ignore one of the Valar actually delivering a human puppet to give him this speech, but on the other hand, life was pretty good in Gondolin. The last time anyone had left had been for the Nirnaeth Arnoediad, and look how that had turned out. But here they were safe, Morgoth didn't know where they were, and they had some pretty badass architecture. Oh, and Maeglin kept telling him it was a bad idea. So Turgon decided not to leave.

He did remember Ulmo's warning, though (which was, and I quote myself, "You should probably expect to be betrayed to death and doom and ruin at some point. Just a friendly reminder"), and as a precaution against treason he had all the gates to Gondolin blocked up. I mean, the only people who knew where they were were already inside, but better safe than sorry, right? They got news from the Eagles - Nargothrond's destruction, Thingol's death, Dior's death - but Turgon was not interested in bad news, and that was the only kind they had. He just reiterated the ban against a) going outside and b) ever so much as looking at one of Fëanor's sons. Which would, admittedly, be pretty difficult to do without going outside.

So Tuor stayed in Gondolin, since he didn't have any other choice, and sooner or later, as is bound to happen, he fell in love with Turgon's daughter Idril, and she with him. Maeglin the creeper, who was still creepily obsessed with Idril, just hated Tuor more and more with every passing day. Turgon actually kind of liked Tuor; sure, he hadn't listened to the message from Ulmo that Tuor had brought, but he appreciated the guy for bringing it. So after seven years Tuor became only the second mortal to marry an Elf, and there was much rejoicing. Unless you were Maeglin, in which there was much standing around in corners glowering like Keanu Reeves in Ken Branagh's Much Ado About Nothing.

In the spring of the next year Idril had a son, who was Eärendil Halfelven, and goddammit we're back to the diacriticals again. Eärendil was pretty much the best of both parents: as beautiful as the Elves, as strong and hardy as a Man, oh and also with some kind of psychic bond with the sea thanks to his father's history with Ulmo. It was a great time to live in Gondolin, particularly because, since they'd completely walled themselves off from the outside world, they had no idea that Húrin was standing outside begging for help and also alerting Morgoth to their location. Morgoth set all his spies to finding a way into the valley, and although the Eagles did a pretty good job keeping all the nasties away, Morgoth was not giving up.

Idril, who was not as over-confident as her father, began to have A Bad Feeling About This. But she knew what had happened to her aunt when she'd tried to argue with Turgon, not to mention for some reason Turgon still cared what Maeglin thought about things, so she worked in secret, assembling a small group of co-conspirators who created an escape tunnel out of the city which neither Turgon or Maeglin knew anything about.

Now here's the thing about Maeglin. Maeglin's particular fascination was with mining - a little odd for an Elf, maybe, but given his father it kind of makes sense, right? He was always digging around in piles of rock looking for new and interesting metals and minerals to work with. But their little valley was really not enough to satisfy Maeglin's fascination with rocks, so sometimes he would sneak out into the wider world without letting Turgon or anyone else know about it. And sooner or later, on one of these mineralogical expeditions, he was captured by Orcs and taken to Angband.

(Really, it's a miracle that there's anyone who wasn't captured by Orcs and taken to Angband at this point.)

So Morgoth offered Eöl's son a choice: either he could reveal the location of Gondolin and, after its sack, be given lordship over the city and Idril as his wife; or he could refuse to tell, and be tortured until the end of time. Morgoth is really good at constructing these not-choices for people, isn't he?

After Maeglin betrayed Gondolin, Morgoth sent him back home, so that no one would suspect anything. And, since no one knew Maeglin had been captured in the first place (either this whole capture-and-threaten process didn't take very long, or people were so relieved not to have to deal with him for a couple of days that they didn't question it), no one did suspect anything.

Until Morgoth threw everything he had at Gondolin. Orcs, wolves, Balrogs, dragons - the whole shebang. It was the dawn of a festival called the Gates of Summer (I'm thinking something like Beltane, and you know what that means) and everyone was hanging out waiting for the sun to come up so they could celebrate in the best way Elves knew how. By singing, dammit, get your minds out of the gutter. Anyway, instead of a sunrise in the East there was a red fire in the North, and instead of having singing and having sex in the gardens they got slaughtered. It was all very heroic, Tuor did some cool shit, Turgon's household defended his tower to the last man, Ecthelion of the Fountain and Gothmog Lord of the Balrogs killed each other in the courtyard. Tuor went to rescue Idril before she could be captured by Orcs or some other horrible shit, but Maeglin had her already, and her kid, too, so Tuor fought Maeglin and eventually tossed him over the walls, just like what happened to Eol all those years ago. There's a family tradition for you.

So Tuor and Idril and Eärendil and as many of the people of Gondolin as they could get to follow them all escaped through Idril's secret tunnel. On the one hand they were pretty safe, because none of Morgoth's generals knew the tunnel even existed, and also because it led north, closer to Angband, and who in their right mind would escape that way? On the other hand, they were heading north, closer to Angband, and they were climbing through the mountains, which is not exactly comfortable territory for women, children, and refugees.

And then they were attacked by Orcs, of course they were, because although the Orcs didn't know they were coming they were still approaching Angband, and the place was just lousy with Orcs. Oh, and a Balrog. The survivors of Gondolin were at least saved from being murdered by a Balrog by Glorfindel, Lord of the House of the Golden Flower. Glorfindel killed the Balrog (and it killed him, because that's how Balrogs roll), some convenient eagles drove away the Orcs, and Tuor led them all into Nan-tathren, the Land of Willows.

Being a marshy sort of place, Nan-tathren was under Ulmo's protection, so they felt safe enough there to settle down and sing some mourning songs for Glorfindel and all the other warriors and innocents who had died and for the city of Gondolin itself. Tuor also sang a song to his son, this one about Ulmo, because religious instruction of the young is very important. It made him want to see the sea again, so they kept going down the river until they met the exiles of Doriath and settled there together. Oh, and they let Círdan know that Turgon was dead, so the High Kingship of the Noldor passed to Ereinion Gil-galad, no matter who his father was.

Morgoth was now pretty pleased with himself. He still had two Silmarils and he'd destroyed all the kingdoms of the Elves in Middle-earth, which does seem pretty good for half a millenium's work. If he knew about the settlement of refugees from Doriath and Gondolin, he didn't do anything about it. Round about this time Ulmo also went to the rest of the Valar to try to convince them that maybe, <i>maybe</i>, the Elves had learned their lesson and someone should step in and give them a hand, maybe retrieve the Silmarils from MORGOTH, YOU REMEMBER HIM, OUR EVIL SIBLING, but Manwë ignored him for whatever reason, and we all know that the rest of them won't do anything without Manwë's approval, so that was that.

Anyway, time passed, Tuor got old, and he still loved the sea more than anything, except for his family. So he built a ship and named her Sea-Wing, and he and Idril sailed into the West. Now you might remember that Turgon had tried sending people westward and had failed miserably, so the fact that no one ever heard from them again might just mean that the Valar are still dicks and sank their ship somewhere out in the middle of the ocean. Or it might be true, the other story they tell, that Tuor loved the Elves so much, and they him, that he got to count as one of them, and he and Idril made it to Valinor after all.

 

Chapter Text

So all the major Elvish cities have been destroyed, and what's left of civilization is all clustered down at the mouth of the river Sirion. Which happens to be a really bad place for them to be, but they'll figure that out soon enough. Eärendil was king of everybody who wasn't Noldor, and he married Dior's daughter Elwing, and they had twin sons who were Elrond and Elros. They were called half-elven, even though if you do the math they're really more like five-eighths Elven.

But Eärendil had two obsessions, neither of which were his sons. He longed to sail West after Idril and Tuor, to find out what happened to them; and he thought it might be a good idea to drop by Valinor and see if the Valar could be convinced to lend a fucking hand already. (After all, he had no way of knowing that Ulmo had already tried that.) So Eärendil made friends with Círdan the shipwright, who built him a ship called Vingilot which Eärendil used to sail all over the place, leaving his wife and kids at home.

He didn't find Idril and Tuor. He didn't reach Valinor. But one day, sailing in the far western sea, he developed a Bad Feeling About This and decided that it was time to get home, stat.

Eärendil's instincts were good. When had Maedhros first discovered that Elwing had survived the sack of Doriath, he was inclined to let her be. That whole "Second Kinslaying" thing was weighing on his conscience, maybe. But as time passed he couldn't stop thinking about that damn Silmaril, and about how it was bad enough that Luthien had managed to get it away from Morgoth, but were they really expected to live with the fact that her granddaughter still had it? Hell, she might even be wearing it to parties.

You can guess where all this is going. The sons of Fëanor asked as nicely as they could manage for the Silmaril to be returned; Elwing said no; the sons of Fëanor descended upon the settlements at the mouths of the Sirion and destroyed them all. Amrod and Amras were killed in the process, leaving Maedhros and Maglor the only surviving Fëanoreans.

By the time Gil-galad's ships arrived from Balar, the slaughter was over and Elwing and her sons were missing. The twins had been taken captive, the survivors told them; Elwing, rather than be taken captive, threw herself into the sea. With the Silmaril, of course. Not good news for Maedhros and Maglor, and not great for Elwing either, except that Ulmo (who has apparently decided that enough is enough already) turned her into a swan, still wearing the Silmaril, and pushed her off in the general direction of her husband.

One night, then, Eärendil was out on the deck of his ship, and he saw a white cloud, or possibly a shooting star, or possibly something even more unlikely. What it was, of course, was a swan wearing a Silmaril which collapsed exhausted on the deck at his feet, and in the morning it was Elwing again, and so the two were reunited. They were pretty unhappy about the destruction of their home, though, and they were terribly afraid that their children would be killed. Given the sons of Fëanor, you really can't blame them. (Although in this particular instance, Maglor developed a soft spot for the kids, so actually they were fine.)

But okay, as far as Eärendil and Elwing were concerned, there was no point in going back to Middle-Earth, because everyone they knew was dead, so they carried on looking for Valinor. (Apparently rescuing or even attempting to rescue their children from the dread Fëanoreans was not an option for whatever reason.) Eärendil, so the story goes, stood at the prow of his ship wearing the Silmaril on his brow, so I guess he was wearing the Nauglamir on his head? And then on account of said Silmaril the Valar actually did not sink his ship but let him get all the way to Valinor.

When they arrived, they anchored in the bay and tried to figure out what to do. After all, the Elves weren't supposed to come back to Valinor, but then again, Eärendil wasn't entirely technically an Elf, either.

"Okay, this is what we'll do," Eärendil said to Elwing and his crew. "I'll go ashore and see what's up, and you all will stay here, in case that curse strikes you down dead as soon as you set foot on the land or something."

"Bitch, please," said Elwing, "do you know nothing about the women of my family? I'm coming with you."

"But at least let me go bring the Silmaril back by myself, come on, can't I be just a little dramatic?"

To that Elwing agreed, so Eärendil went into the city of Tirion alone.

And continued to be there alone, because there was no one there. Which was more than a little creepy. He was becoming convinced that something Really Bad had happened while the rest of them were in Middle-earth when up popped Eönwë, herald of Manwë, calling out after him, "Hey, sorry, we didn't expect you so soon! Everyone's up at this party in Valimar, come on up and meet the guys."

So up they went to Valmar, where all the Valar were gathered, plus all the Elves still in Valinor, because it's always nice to have an audience for these things. And Eärendil gave a nice, impassioned speech, asking for a little goddamned help here, after all a ridiculous number of Elves have died and Humans are dropping like flies and Morgoth is well on his way to taking over the whole damn world and doesn't anybody care?

And the Valar admitted that they did care, at least a little bit, so okay, maybe they could help. A little.

But once Eärendil went to tell Elwing the good news, Mandos took a moment to bring up a professional point. "So," he said, "we're just letting humans walk around here now like it's not a thing?"

"Please," said Ulmo, "this is the entire point of Eärendil, to come here and yell at you. Us. I mean us. Besides," he added, "he's only half human at best."

"Right," agreed Mandos. "The other half is Noldor. Who we also don't allow to set foot here."

"Yeah well you're a butthead," Ulmo muttered.

"Shut up, both of you," Manwë declared. "He didn't come for himself but for all Elves and Men, and that's worth something. And Elwing didn't come for herself but for him. So we'll waive the whole curse business this one time, but we won't let them go back home, can we all live with that? And as for whether they're Elves or Men, we'll let them and their children decide that for themselves. Might as well, this genealogy's a mess anyway."

While Eärendil was up talking with the Valar, Elwing was busy making friends in Alqualondë, telling them stories of everything that had happened to those bastards who'd stolen their ships and all. But before long she and her husband were summoned back to Valmar to hear Manwë's judgement, such as it was.

"It's up to you, dear," Eärendil said, when they'd heard the whole thing. "I'm too tired to think."

Well, Elwing had been half brought up by her grandmother Lúthien, so she chose the Elves, and even though he felt more on the human side Eärendil didn't want to be separated from her so he did, too, which meant they got to live forever, hooray. So Eönwë went down to the shore and dumped the rest of the crew on a boat back to Middle-earth so they could keep Vingilot.

The Valar blessed Eärendil's ship and let him keep the Simaril, and so he went sailing into the starless voids (which are presumably not the same starless voids inhabited by Lovecraft's nightmares, or we probably would have heard by now), and he can still often be seen there at sunrise or sunset. Elwing was not so fond of the starless voids, so she lived in a tower on the shores of the Sundering Sea, where she could hang out with her new friends the Teleri and also talk to the birds. Not in a Disney Princess kind of way, in an "occasionally turns into a bird and flies out to meet her husband's ship" kind of way.

Back in Middle-earth, most of the Elves saw Vinglilot in the sky and declared it a new star, which they called the Star of High Hope. But Maedhros, who after all would know, turned to his one remaining brother and said, "Does that glow look familiar to you?"

"You know what," said Maglor, "if Morgoth can't touch it and everyone can appreciate it, I am willing, this one time, to let it go."

And so Maedhros and Maglor did not invent space travel.

 

Morgoth was a little unsettled by the whole "new star" business, probably worried that this meant Varda was taking an interest again. But he never suspected that the Valar were actually starting to soften their position on the Noldor, and after all no one had ever been able to seriously damage him so far, so he really didn't expect anything big.

In Valinor, all the Elves who hadn't left - or rather, the Noldor and the Vanyar, the Teleri were still a little sensitive about the whole ship-burning and kin-slaying business - were forming up an army, and "big" was kind of an understatement. They took the northern route, as Fingolfin had done centuries before, and what happened when they reached Morgoth's armies in the North was called the War of Wrath.

And thus did the hosts of Valinor kick ass. Really embarrassingly easily, given that everyone else has been at war for a thousand years or so. They all but wiped out the Balrogs; there were too many Orcs for them to wipe out but they sure as hell tried. Humans were by this point divided so that some fought with the Elves and some with the Orcs, so there was definitely no wiping out of Humans but there was the forming of some really long-standing grudges. Morgoth took one look at the chaos and decided there was no way he was going out into that, so instead he sent out his new surprise weapon: dragons, but with wings.

You gotta admit, giant lizards raining down fire and death from the sky is pretty intimidating even if you've seen it before. As a surprise attack the dragons were very effective. On the other hand, Eärendil's just been given free rein over the sky. He led armies of birds into the battle (yes, even including the Eagles) and slew Ancalagon the Black, who crushed the towers of Thangorodrim when he fell.

Which was convenient, because it created a nice open path into the depths of the mountain, where Morgoth was hiding. He ran into his deepest mines, and when they found him there anyway, he surrendered. Unfortunately for him surrender only counts if your enemy accepts it. They cut his feet out from under him instead, and bound him in chains, and took away his Silmarils (which was probably the thing that hurt him the worst).

All the slaves and captives still in Morgoth's dungeons came out into the light, where they were goddamn blinded because being imprisoned in a cave does not do good things to your vision, and anyway some of them had been there since before the Sun. And if they wanted to get home, they were gonna have to get directions, because the war had torn up mountains and filled valleys, wiped out whole rivers, and otherwise completely rearranged the landscape. Given how well everyone treated former captives of Morgoth, things did not really look good for them.

So now Morgoth was dealt with and Middle-earth was all torn up anyway, so Eönwë called everyone together to head back to Valinor where they could all pretend that none of this had ever happened. Maedhros and Maglor - you didn't think these guys were done, did you? - anyway, the last two remaining sons of Fëanor sent a message to the Herald of the Valar saying, hey, we understand you've got our Silmarils, and if you don't give them back, we'll fight you for them.

And Eönwë said to them, "Seriously? You two versus me and this army that just destroyed an evil empire and rearranged the geography of an entire continent?"

And the sons of Fëanor said, "Yup."

"Goddamn," said Eönwë, "you really are crazy. And for that, and also the whole multiple kinslayings business, not to mention all the other shady shit you and your brothers did in pursuit of these gems, means that you have forsaken your right to the Silmarils, oath or no oath. You're gonna come back to Valinor and face judgement for everything that you've done.

"And also you're gonna stay the hell away from me. Goddamn lunatics."

Maglor would have gone; he was starting to feel bad about all the murdering and pillaging, and he told his brother, "It's not like the oath says we have to get them back right now. We could wait, and see what happens. Maybe we'll go back to Valinor and they'll forgive us for everything and it won't be an issue any more, who knows?"

"Or," said Maedhros, "maybe we'll go back to Valinor and they'll still say we can't have the Silmarils and then we'll have to fight all the Valar for them."

"Okay, but Manwë and Varda and everyone were there when we swore the oath," Maglor argued. "And now they're saying it's null and void. If anyone has the right to do that, I think they do."

"I don't think they do," Maedhros said.

"So our options are try to keep our oath and be doomed for all the murder and war, or break it and be doomed for breaking an oath," Maglor said. "Honestly I think breaking it would do less damage all around."

But Maedhros was the eldest, and Maglor was used to doing what he said, so in the end he agreed with Maedhros's latest Silmaril-theft plan. They snuck into Eönwë's camp in the middle of the night, killed the guards, and took the jewels. And then the whole camp woke up and it was the two of them ready to fight to the death over the same goddamn rocks versus, well, an army that just rearranged the geography of an entire continent. And Eönwë said, "Oh my god, what did I say about staying away from me? Just go, I cannot with you any more." So they went.

Each one of them took a Silmaril; it seemed fitting, after all, that there were two of them left and two Silmarils left. Maedhros discovered, when he picked it up, that it burned him as badly as it had Morgoth. "So Eönwë was right," he said to himself, "the oath is void after all." And he thought about everything he and his brothers had done to get these jewels back only to find out he'd become as evil as the person who stole them, and then he threw himself into a volcano.

And then there was one. Maglor, too, was burned, and he threw the Silmaril into the sea, and then he was so consumed with guilt that he spent the rest of his days - which are, after all, eternal - singing and grieving on the beach. (He was a famous singer, after all, which was so important it's never mentioned until now.)

So there you go: Fëanor made three Silmarils, and in the end one of them lived in the sky, one in the sea, and one in the earth. Fëanor also had seven sons and only one of them lived at all, but pshaw, obviously the Silmarils are more important.

 

While all this was happening there was a fleet of ships being built on the western shores of Middle-earth. In addition to the Host of Valinor heading home, a whole lot of other people who were frankly sick of all the bullshit around Middle-earth were planning on going with them. Sure, Morgoth was gone, but there was still a Fëanorean or two around somewhere, and who knew what else would happen? So they moved to Tol Eressëa, and the Teleri forgave everyone for the whole ship-burning business, and they were reasonably content.

Of course, there were a bunch of people who weren't willing to leave Middle-earth after all they'd been through for it. Círdan the Shipwright stayed, and Galadriel (the only one of the surviving original Noldor leaders to stick around) and her husband Celeborn. Gil-galad, the current High King of the Noldor, stayed in Middle-earth, and Elrond with him, in a sentence structure which parallels the relationship between Galadriel and her husband and that's all I'm saying about that.

(Remember the way the Valar just threw up their hands and said they weren't going to try to decide whether Eärendil and Elwing and their children are Elves or Men, they can decide for themselves? Well, Elrond chose Elves and Elros chose Men, and oh my god I really hope they mutually decided upon that split because anything else is just too horrible to think about.)

Morgoth, on the other hand, was imprisoned in the Timeless Void, wherever that is. Not in this Universe, but apparently there's a chance he might come back, because Eärendil is guarding the gates. Think of that next time you see the evening star in the sky.

 

Chapter Text

Part the First: In Which Númenor Is Founded

Quick recap: when humans first appeared Melkor had already taken over huge parts of Middle-earth, so therefore a lot of 'em ended up working for Melkor just because he was there. Some of them, though, decided to see if there was anything less depressing further West, and lo and behold, further West they found Elves. These humans made friends with the Elves and were thereafter known as the Edain. Friends became more than friends and in the end there was Eärendil, who was part human and part Elf, who was called the Blessed because he set out to sail for Valinor and actually made it there, unlike everyone else who ever tried it.

In the battle where Melkor was defeated at last, the Edain fought for the Valar, a bunch of other humans fought for Melkor, and a whole bunch of everyone else fucked off and refused to have anything to do with epic powers from before the dawn of time having a war. Of course, after Melkor was defeated, the humans who had fought for him went off to go oppress the humans who just wanted to be damn well left alone, which is hardly fair but is how the world usually works.

So now Melkor was imprisoned in the Nameless Void, but you know, all those Orcs and minions and things were still wandering around free, not to mention all the work he'd done making various peoples hate and distrust one another, so it's not like his work was wiped from the face of the earth or anything. The Valar knew this but did not, apparently, care. They held a committee meeting.

The committee's decision was this: the Elves would leave Middle-earth and live in the West. And not even in Valinor proper, but on the island of Tol Eressëa, just off the shore of Valinor. They sent a teacher to the Edain and built them their own island, a little further away from Valinor but still closer to the West than to Middle-earth, and they called it Andor, the Land of the Gift, and set Eärendil to shining in the West like a lighthouse to point everyone in the right direction, which seems a little undignified all things considered but there you go.

So the Edain set sail, and the Valar made the waves calm and the wind brisk and they could always see Eärendil shining in the West, showing them the right way to go, and sooner or later they wound up on the island that had been made for them. They called it by a truly unholy number of names (these are the Elf-Friends, after all), but you know it best as Númenor.

The humans who lived there were called the Dúnedain, or the Númenóreans, and although they were still mortal they lived a hell of a lot longer than humans normally do and they never got sick. Therefore - I'm not sure why this follows, but the text says so - therefore they grew wise, and they were more like Elves than humans in most ways, including the way that they didn't have many children, which makes sense if you want to avoid a serious overpopulation problem. They are on an island, after all.

Basic Númenórean geography: the largest city was Andúnië, on the western coast. At the center of the island was a mountain called Meneltarma, and on top of the mountain the only temple (to Ilúvatar of course). At the foot of the mountain were the tombs of the Númenórean kings, and in the foothills nearby the city of Armenelos, where Elros built his citadel.

(Elros and his twin Elrond, you will remember, were descended from humans and Elves and even Valar, so Ilúvatar threw up his hands and said they could decide for themselves whether they were mortal or not. Elrond decided he wasn't, and Elros decided he was, but he still lived for five hundred years, and was King of Númenor for four hundred and ten, so really that's not bad.)

So there's Middle-earth, with all the humans nobody liked well enough to give their own island (and the few Elves who didn't want to go back to Valinor), and there's Númenor, where the aristocrats at least still speak Sindarin and keep in touch with what Elves they can get ahold of. You know what this means, right? It means that everything in Númenor has both a Númenórean name and an Elvish name. Why break with tradition, right?

Even more than languages, though, the thing the Númenóreans liked best was boats. Sailing and sea-faring and sea chanties and all that good shit. Of course, there was a problem - they weren't allowed to sail west, at least not out of sight of the shore of Númenor. And the Númenóreans, for the most part, shrugged at this prohibition and said, "Okay, fine," and sailed off in every other direction and were reasonably happy.

(The reason for this prohibition was of course that if they sailed far enough west they'd hit Valinor, and Manwë didn't want mortality cooties in the Blessed Realm.)

People knew perfectly well that Valinor was out there, and that they weren't allowed. They could see it, some of them, on a clear day with the wind from the right direction. (Well, they could see Eressëa, which was close enough.) And Elves came from the West sometimes and traded things, like birds and flowers and trees descended from Telperion. (I would just like to point out that this is the second place in this book where a tree genealogy appears, and the second time I will edit it out for you. You're welcome.)

Time passed. Lots of time, even in Númenórean generations. And for all this time the Númenóreans were sailing around to the east and north and south, and sooner or later they did notice this big continent hanging out just to the east of them, and landed there, and did a pretty fine Europeans-in-the-New-World act, except of course this was the old world in an interesting way, and to the best of my knowledge there were no cargo cults. But the folks who had been living in Middle-earth for all these generations were reasonably impressed by these strange tall half-Elvish sailors who showed up and bestowed whatever wisdom they saw fit to bestow and then sailed away again. Tolkien says they were worshipped as gods by the natives, and I will take that with the giant grain of salt it so obviously deserves.

But look, we all know what happens when you put something down and then tell people they're never allowed to touch it. All they wanna do is touch the thing. Plus in this case, the thing involves immortality.

"Hang on, does anyone else think this is unfair?" they started saying to one another. "I mean, Valar don't die, obviously. Elves don't die. Not even Fëanoreans! Unless someone kills them, I mean. But they don't just get old and die and then disappear to some mysterious place no one knows anything about, which is what happens to us and is really, really unfair."

And at last some dude said, "Look, I'm gonna go west and say hi to some Elves, who's with me?"

And of course some other dude said, "Why stop there; why not go all the way to Valinor?"

Some Elves apparently overheard this conversation and reported it to Manwë, so Manwë sent a messenger to Númenor to tell them not to do the thing, and also to explain the whole immortality business.

"But my multiple-greats-grandfather Eärendil lives in Valinor, and he's not dead," said the King of Númenor (whose name was Tar-Atanamir, if you're curious).

Manwë's messenger sighed, and put his head in his hands, and said, "That is a really complicated situation and we have explained this before, I know you know it. Basically it comes down to this: you cannot become immortal. This is not because Elves are better than you; it's just how things are. The sky is blue, water is wet, Elves are immortal, humans die. Seriously, some of them envy you for not having to put up with this shit for millennia."

(I hope, for his sake, that this isn't poor Eonwë again. But I gotta say that it sounds like him.)

To which Tar-Atanamir responded with a seriously dirty look, because no one really believes that immortality is a burden.

"Look," Manwë's messenger said, getting a little desperate at this point, "I know you don't remember this but we do. The first humans didn't think that mortality was a punishment, or anything to be feared. They only feared death because the world was so shitty that they couldn't imagine anything that wasn't tainted by darkness. The world isn't so bad any more, so if humans fear death again, it must be that the darkness is returning even though Morgoth is long gone so really it's not pointless quests for immortality you should be obsessing over, it's whatever's going on here."

Tar-Atanamir was not buying it. "We're afraid of dying because we're...evil? This is a new low, even for you guys." And so he flat-out refused to die, living until he was a withered, obnoxious old man, miserable himself and making everyone around him miserable, just out of spite.

But he did die eventually, and his son Tar-Ancalimon became king, although it wasn't much of an improvement because spite is inherited through the male line. During his reign there was a bit of a schism building. There were those Númenóreans who were big on immortality and spite, and they were called the King's Men, and on the other hand there were those Númenóreans who figured that the Valar probably had some reason even if they couldn't explain it, and being spiteful at Elves is really not terribly productive. These folks were called the Elendili, the Elf-Friends (and now you know something about the last King of a united Gondor), although they were still not huge fans of the whole getting old and dying business.

Chapter Text

Part the Second: In Which Númenor Descends Into Barbarity and Colonialism

 

So Númenor was more wealthy and beautiful than ever before, and also increasingly filled with spite, envy, and a general obsession with death, in the way you get obsessed with the thing you're trying to avoid. They started building really impressive tombs, they started learning medicine, they started working on mummification (which is really pretty impressive given that an island is pretty much the worst climate to be doing that in, although I guess they may have had bogs or something). They started giving up on the temple to Illuvatar and eventually kind of forgot it existed.

Eventually Númenor itself got so full of tombs that they started building settlements in Middle-earth again. I mean, sure, they would have preferred Valinor, but if they couldn't have Valinor they could at least have some territory that wasn't completely full of mummies.

They went full-on colonialist this time, showing up and declaring themselves to be lord and master of whatever they could stick a flag in and sending home gold and spices and you know the drill. In case you've forgotten, picture this guy:

 

 

but with more white trees on everything.

(The Elf-friends, on the other hand, quietly sent a few ships to Gil-galad's kingdom and tried to pretend they weren't related to those jackasses over there.)

And while alllllll this was going on in Númenor, there was someone everyone, from the Valar on down, had forgotten about. It was Morgoth's favorite werewolf-whisperer, Sauron, who had somehow not gotten captured or imprisoned or apparently even scolded when Morgoth was defeated. He was getting bored, and without Morgoth around he was pretty much the most powerful being in Middle-earth, and definitely the evilest. He moved south, into Mordor, and built the Tower of Barad-dûr, which became the home base from which he attempted to conquer the world. Sauron wasn't big on Númenóreans, seeing as how they were traditionally allied with Elves and also descended from Eärendil and all, but he also wasn't ready to go to war with them, just in case that would draw the attention of the Valar again. He did, however, have some nice magic rings hanging around, which he figured would come in handy sooner or later.

Meanwhile the nineteenth King of Númenor was so sick of the Valar and the Elves and their fancy immortality that he forbade the use of the Elvish language (which would have been Sindarin, don't forget, we're on our second banned Elvish language now) and called himself Adûnakhor, Lord of the West, which does begin to smack of hubris. The twenty-first King of Númenor, Ar-Gimilzôr, banned Elves entirely, refusing to allow their ships to land. (They did anyway, in secret, partly because there are still Elf-friends around and partly because Elves have a hard time taking orders seriously from a guy who's just gonna die in a hundred years anyway.)

He also, however, started a political relocation movement, hunting down the Elf-friends and forcing them to move away from the west coast, i.e., further away from the Elves, in an attempt to cut off communications. This backfired in a rather spectacular way when the Elendili just started sailing east to meet up with Gil-galad, but Ar-Gimilzôr was willing to let it go, so long as those people left his kingdom and never came back. And you know in the long run it worked, because Manwë was paying attention to all this bullshit and he got so sick of it that the Valar cut off all contact with Númenor on behalf of the Elves. This would be an instance of "feeding the troll," Manwë.

The Lords of Andúnië were feeling very much squeezed by all of this politicking. They were always loyal counselors to the Kings of Númenor, being descended from Elros themselves through his great-great granddaughter Silmarien, even though that also gave them a strong connection with the Elves and the Valar. They were the house that tried to fix things from inside the system, advising the kings to maybe tone it down a little and learn some tolerance.

Ar-Gimilzôr married one of the ladies of this house, Inzilbêth, who was not particularly thrilled by this but Númenor had long since reached the point where you do what the king tells you to do and don't make a fuss. They had two sons, Inziladûn, who took after his mother, and Gimilkhâd, who was a jackass like his dad. Gimilzôr would happily have named his younger son his heir, but the rules don't work like that, so the next king was an Elf-friend after all.

When he took the throne, Inziladûn took an Elvish name, Tar-Palantir. He stopped beating up on the Elendili and started taking offerings back to the temple, and he's the one who made the prophecy about the White Tree and the line of kings that you might remember from another story. But, y'know, one halfway-decent guy is not enough to make up for generations of dickishness, especially when his brother is still running around being an asshole. Besides, you've seen how long it takes for the Valar to make decisions. The lifetime of a single mortal man, even a very long-lived one, is not going to be sufficient.

Said brother had a son, Pharazôn, who was twice the asshole his father was. And Tar-Palantir didn't have sons, only a daughter Míriel. Technically she should have been King, but Pharazôn did not care about technically, because he married her by force (which I hope does not mean what it means in medieval manuscripts but probably does) and named himself Ar-Pharazôn, proudest and mightiest king of Númenor, and named his wife Ar-Zimraphel, because nothing screams I am an asshole quite like raping a woman and stealing her name.

Before he was King Ar-Pharazôn had made a name for himself as a general, fighting colonizing bastard wars in Middle-earth, and after he was King he spent a lot of time sitting around and thinking about Sauron, who was doing a damn fine job of taking over Middle-earth and was starting to make noises about Númenor as well.

Besides, Sauron was calling himself King of Men, and Ar-Pharazôn thought that if anyone was going to be King of Men, it ought to be him.

So Ar-Pharazôn built him a fleet of ships and sailed them over to Umbar, which is actually well to the south of most of your standard Third Age maps, but which is also a nice natural harbor. Most of the locals knew well enough to get out of the way of a fleet like that, so when he landed, Ar-Pharazôn had nice, empty countryside to march through. He marched for seven days until he found a hill that he liked well enough, and then he climbed up to the top of it and sat his ass down there (in the middle of a really glorious tent and encampment, of course, the King of Númenor does not sit his ass down on the grass) and demanded that Sauron come to him and swear fealty.

And Sauron came. Maybe he was curious, maybe he had a Cunning Plan, maybe he just thought it'd be funny, but Sauron came all on his lonesome and swore fealty to Ar-Pharazôn. Most of the camp was a little surprised. Partly, of course, because they were not expecting a dude calling himself King of Men to swear fealty to anyone, never mind a dude who had also been a minion of Morgoth, but also because Sauron turned up looking, well, not so much like a dude who had been a minion of Morgoth. He seemed pretty much like a king.

Now whether Ar-Pharazôn realized he'd just got the proverbial tiger by his proverbial tail, or whether he just figured that everyone in the world was as willing to backstab someone as he was, he was not prepared to just take Sauron at his word and leave him alone in Middle-earth. So he took Sauron as a hostage, dragging him back to Númenor in chains. (Sauron, of course, was totally okay with this, both because he really wanted to go to Númenor and because, well, chains.)

Besides, it wasn't long before Sauron wasn't so much a hostage as the king's favorite advisor. He knew from taking over the world, after all, and he had plenty of experience sucking up to people with much nastier tempers. And of course the more the king liked Sauron, the more everyone else liked Sauron, or at least pretended to, because you want the ear of the guy who talks to the king. Everyone except the Elf-friends, of course, who were getting a little nervous at this whole "Melkor's minion as a trusted advisor" business, but the more they objected the more everyone else started to call them rebels and traitors.

And then there were the stories Sauron was telling to the king. Stories about the Valar being stuck-up oppressive dickheads (not entirely untrue) who were just hiding a whole bunch of perfectly welcoming new lands from the Númenóreans (kind of untrue) and who had been lying to everyone about who the actual creator of the universe was, namely, Melkor (very definitely untrue and kind of crazypants). But of course Ar-Pharazôn listened to him, and started worshipping Melkor and the Darkness. And all the Elf-friends who had been telling him the whole time that challenging Sauron was a bad idea were now vindicated, but also half-exiled and treated like traitors, so it didn't do them much good.

The leader of the Elf-friends at this time was a guy by the name of Amandil, who had a son called Elendil, who had two sons called Isildur and Anaríon, who would one day be remembered in the form of some very fine statuary. Amandil and Elendil were both ship-captains, and also descendants of Elros, although not the royal line, and how that works I don't know and don't particularly want to draw a genalogical chart to find out, although I'm sure you could if you so desired. Amandil and Pharazôn had been close once, but Sauron had Amandil exiled, probably because he was jealous.

So fine; Amandil moved to Rómenna and encouraged all the Elf-friends he knew to move with him, because he did not trust Sauron one tiny little bit and was sure shit was going to go down before long. And the shit that went down was this: Sauron told Ar-Pharazôn to cut down the White Tree.

Ar-Pharazôn didn't want to, because there had been that prophecy about the line of kings and the tree etc etc, but as soon as Amandil heard about it he started planning for the worst, because he knew that what Sauron wants, Sauron gets. So he told his son and grandson about the whole tree genealogy that was going on there, and Isildur went straight out and stole a fruit from the tree. This was slightly more impressive than it sounds, because while Sauron was working on Ar-Pharazôn he'd had guards put around the tree, presumably just in case this exact thing happened, and Isildur had to fight his way back out and in fact was pretty nearly dead when he came back, fruit in hand. It says that he was healed when the first leaf opened on the tree that grew from that fruit, but that's a long time to be almost dead, so frankly I'm a little skeptical. But hey, this is Epic History, weirder things have happened.

Anyway, pretty much right after Isildur's epic fruit theft, Ar-Pharazôn caved and had the tree cut down, so well done Isildur, good timing. And then Sauron had them build a temple, if you want the exact dimensions I can get them for you but basically it was fuckin huge and it had a silver dome, only the dome was over the chimney so pretty soon the dome was carbon-black, which I'm sure is just an ordinary chemical reaction and not symbolic in any way. The first sacrifice they put on the fire was the wood of the Tree, and it left a nasty smog in the air for a whole week, which was also definitely not symbolic at all.

So they gave up on the old temple to Illuvatar completely and went over to making sacrifices to Melkor to save them from the inevitability of death, and by "making sacrifices" I mean "killing everyone they didn't like and calling it religion." More direct than the usual way, but you have to admit it saves time.

You will, of course, be surprised to learn that in spite of all these sacrifices, people continued to grow old and die. Or, you know, piss off the wrong person and get their throat cut in the temple and die. Really there was more death than there had been before, but obviously the solution to that was more death, like there was a finite amount and sooner or later they'd run out or something. The people who didn't die were better off than ever, though, because there were fewer people to share the wealth, so they figured things were going great. I mean, they not only had the money to hire people to kill the people they didn't like, they had the money to build ships to sail to Middle-earth and kill people over there, too. (Of course they also brought the Good News of Melkor and built plenty more temples everywhere they conquered. It's only fair to share, after all.)

 

 

 

Chapter Text

So here's Ar-Pharazôn, making a pretty good name for himself as Morgoth's Heir, even though really it's Sauron controlling everything from behind the scenes. But soon enough nature started to take its toll, and Ar-Pharazôn got old and realized that, just like everyone else, he was going to die.

This was, of course, what Sauron had been waiting for. "You are the most powerful king ever to rule," he told Ar-Pharazôn. "Except for Melkor, of course. But definitely better than Manwë. You know, don't you, that he and the other Valar are hiding the deathless lands from you because they're afraid that you'll take over from them? Which you should do, obviously, being the best and most wonderful king ever, except for Melkor. I mean, fair enough, some humans should obviously have to die. But not you. Not when you could just...sail to Valinor and conquer it."

And Ar-Pharazôn, who by now was one of those old men who sits around waving his stick at everyone and complaining about Kids These Days, thought that Sauron had some pretty good ideas. Although he kept it as quiet as possible, he started drawing up plans. And Amandil, who was not a complete idiot, realized that now was the time for all good men to panic.

"Elendil," he said to his son, "The king is losing it. The last time things got this bad, our ancestor Eärendil sailed to Valinor and begged the Valar for help, and they gave him an army. I can only hope they'll do the same for us."

"You realize that's playing right into his hands, right?" Elendil replied. "They accuse us of being traitors, but it's been a lie up until now."

"Oh, please," Amandil answered. "The guy worships evil, commits human sacrifice, and listens to Sauron's advice. If there's any treachery involved, it's on his side."

"Okay, fine, I'm not being selfless," Elendil said. "What do you think is going to happen to us once you do this? Pharazôn has not been real nice to people who cross him."

"So he won't know. I'll sail east with the trading fleet and make my way west once no one's paying attention to me. It's not like the king is really gonna give a shit if I go away for a month or two. Or forever.

"You ought to do the same thing," he added. "Take your sons and as many people as you can without attracting attention to Rómenna and keep an eye on things while I'm gone. You'll probably have to go into exile sooner or later, east or west, depending on what the Valar say."

But Amandil wasn't done being depressing yet, because he still had to say goodbye to the rest of the household. He did not bother pretending that he was likely to come back. "Stay alert and pay attention," he told his grandsons. "I don't care if you grieve or not. This is the end of the world."

Amandil's plan worked just fine: he took three trusted servants and a little boat and sailed first east, and then west. And then they all disappeared from history forever, because a stunt like that really only works once, and "ongoing human sacrifice" is a little different from "one dude swore an oath we didn't like once." So much for Amandil and his plan, and so much for the Valar.

Okay, but Elendil got his shit together and packed up a handful of ships with the new Tree and a handfull of seeing-stones and all the allies he could find, and they sat tight and waited for word from Amandil that was just not going to come.

So, um, quick break for a little essay on morally-induced climate change. You see, once upon a time, the weather in Númenor was pretty good. Or at least, you know, predictable. Rain in the rainy season, sun the rest of the time, stuff like that. But ever since this whole worshipping-Evil thing kicked in, shit was getting real on the weather front. Thunderstorms, hurricanes - all those things people not blessed by the gods have to deal with all the time.

Oh, and every once in a while, a huge cloud shaped like an eagle would come out of the west, raining lightning, and a whole bunch of people would panic and swear to give up human sacrifice, the same way you swear to give up drinking when you wake up with god's own hangover, and with about the same results, too. Eventually the King made an official announcement that if the Valar were going to keep sending lightning-eagles at them, then Númenor was gonna send lightning-eagles back! Or something. As soon as they could figure out what that something was.

So people are getting struck by lighting right and left and there's Sauron, standing on top of the temple like a lunatic, but he's not getting struck by lightning so people were pretty impressed.

And then the ground started shaking and the mountain started smoking and you'd think even people who didn't understand volcanoes would figure it out already, but no, they all just kind of took Sauron's word for it that things were gonna be okay, and so you almost don't feel sorry for them when the inevitable happens. Almost.

Sauron eventually got tired of standing on top the temple cursing the gods and went back into the temple and cursed them secondhand by burning more sacrifices, and Ar-Pharazôn went onto his flagship and led the entire goddamn Númenórean fleet into the forbidden West. The wind was hardly in their favor, but they had oars and slaves, so they made do.

They made it to Eressëa, where they intimidated the fuck out of the Elves still living there, and from there to the actual coast of actual Valinor. And when Ar-Pharazôn saw Taniquetil rising over the horizon he almost had a bad feeling about this, and it was almost enough to make him turn back, but honestly, once you've raised a fleet against the gods and gone to steal immortality from them, you really wouldn't be able to hold up your head if you just turned around and went home, would you? Not if you were Ar-Pharazôn, that's for damn sure.

The Númenóreans camped around the foot of the Hill of Túna, and rather than talk to them, Manwë threw up his hands in disgust and called Illúvatar. Who, disgusted at being woken up and asked to deal with something as piddling as this, promptly sank Númenor and all her fleets and buried the invading Númenóreans under an avalanche, and then went back to sleep. (Illúvatar is not a morning person.)

And that was that. Númenor was destroyed, Valinor and Eressëa were completely out of reach of humans for the rest of time, and poor Tar-Míriel, who should have been Queen and saved everyone from all this bullshit, was drowned while trying to climb up to the temple at the top of the mountain.

Of the whole population of Númenor, the only people who survived were Earendil and his sons and the few folks who'd come along with them to wait for Amandil's return. They'd been hanging out on their ships, figuring it was safer there than on shore, and the storm that sunk Númenor swept them off to Middle-earth. Which was, actually, completely different from anything they'd been expecting, on account of a storm that big doesn't confine itself to one continent, which is why your standard Third Age maps and your standard First Age maps look so completely different.

(The line, for those of you who are curious, is at the Blue Mountains, which were pretty well the easternmost point of civilization in the First Age and which turned into the westernmost parts of Dwarvish civilization at least here toward the end of the Second. Yep, that means we've lost the graves of pretty much every Elf who's died up to now and the ruins of all their cities, not to mention Haleth's grave-mound, which is a goddamn shame. On the other hand, the Dwarves are good.)

So Elendil and his sons founded kingdoms, which you can read about in Appendix A of The Lord of the Rings, and Sauron dragged himself wet and bedgraggled as a cat out of the ruins of Númenor and came back to his camp in Mordor, where he continued to cause trouble.

It had gotten a little bit away from him, you see. Sauron had really only wanted to bring down the King of Númenor, to prove a point about humans and their uselessness. He'd been planning what he'd do when they were all gone at last, laughing his evil laugh and gloating, when he'd been unceremoniously dumped into the Sundering Sea. It destroyed his body - and his last chance at being hot by human standards - but it wasn't enough to kill him properly, alas, probably because nobody had actually stopped to wonder where Ar-Pharazôn had gotten all these crazy human-sacrifice ideas in the first place. So he made himself a new body in Mordor, all awful and gross and with a truly frightening death glare, and sulked.

Among the Exiles, those few humans who had managed to survive the drowning of Númenor, there was a rumor that the mountain Meneltarma was actually still around, being its own tiny little island out there somewhere, since it was a sacred place and Sauron had never managed to take over its temple. So they went out looking for it sometimes, when they had nothing better to do, or felt like being heroic or romantic. Even though it had just been proven, pretty emphatically, that there was nothing westward that would do humans any good, the Dúnedain (as they were now called) still felt pulled toward the west more than anything. So they kept going that way, even though now you could sail all the way around the world and not find anything but plain old ordinary places where people die, just like the places they'd come from. (I mean, presumably Ar-Pharazôn and his army died even though they were in the Deathless Lands, and frankly if they didn't I don't want to think about it, but to be fair the Dúnedain didn't know about that.)

So the world was round and you could never sail to Aman, unless you were an Elf, in which case you could, so naturally the Dúnedain were a little skeptical about the nature of reality and all, and they told all kinds of stories about what would happen if you actually managed to find whatever road it was the Elves took, even though most of them were probably nonsense and didn't even promise immortality, just a glimpse of the mountains of Valinor before you died. The Dúnedain really lowered their expectations in exile, I tell you what.

Which is probably for the best.

 

 

Chapter Text

So Sauron, right? Most trusted of Melkor's servants and also the most dangerous, because he had a habit of making himself sexy, and as we all know, sexy people are never evil. Also his name in Sindarin is Gorthaur, which you have never needed to know before and will never need to know again, but now you know it.

When Melkor was captured Sauron put on a pretty face and went and apologized profusely to poor Eönwë, and mabye he was even sincere about it, or as sincere as "please don't kill me now that my evil master has been overthrown" can ever be, but Eönwë was frankly grateful that this one was above his paygrade and told him to bring it to Manwë. Thing is, Sauron might be willing to apologize to another Maiar, but ain't no way he was apologizing to the Valar, so when Eönwë and the Elvish armies went back to Valinor, Sauron hid out in Middle-earth and became evil again, because why not.

Now the battle that had defeated Melkor had also kind of defeated Middle-earth, dropping a great big chunk of the western coast into the sea and sending the ocean flowing inward around the south of the Blue Mountains, creating a new gulf which they called the Gulf of Lhûn. The Noldor used to call that part of the world Lindon, and quite a few Elves still lived there, being unwilling to just give up on Beleriand given how much blood and sweat they'd poured into it over the past couple of thousand years. Their king, who may have been Fingon's son but may not have, was Gil-galad; and with him was Elrond, son of Eärendil and brother of Elros the text calls him, as if they were more famous than him. Anyway, the Elves built the Grey Havens at the Gulf of Lhûn, which place you may remember from another story, because while most of them still considered Beleriand worth fighting for, sometimes an Elf would get sick of the whole thing and decide to sail west to join their relations in Valinor, and this was the place they would leave from.

It's not just Noldor left in Middle-earth, thank goodness. The Teleri survivors of Doriath and Ossiriand moved inland, as far from the ocean as they could get, and set up kingdoms among the Silvan Elves. (As best as I can determine, this involves a Teleri showing up in a Silvan community, declaring himself king of this place, and the Silvan Elves shrugging and going on about their lives, which explains an awful lot about Mirkwood really.) In Eregion, near the western gate of Khazad-dûm, was the only other Noldor city. They set up a nice little trading relationship with the Dwarves, on account of the greatest gemsmiths since Fëanor lived there, including Fëanor's grandson Celebrimbor, who couldn't really help that he was Curufin's son.

It was a pretty peaceful time in Middle-earth, on account of the decimation of the population, the barrenness of the landscape, and the early days of Sauron's independent rule. I gotta hand it to him, this fallen angel just does not quit. Having recently failed at corrupting humans (see Númenor, Fall Of), he decided to focus on the big prize: corrupting Elves. He couldn't con his way into Lindon, on account of Gil-galad and Elrond may not have been able to tell who he was but they still didn't trust him, but everywhere else Elves welcomed this guy calling himself Annatar, Lord of Gifts. You know, like Santa Claus. Only evil.

And so Sauron - excuse me, Annatar - went around sowing discord, as you do. "It's sad, you know," he'd tell the Elves over a cup of Dorwinion wine, "how much Gil-galad doesn't like me. I'm only here to help you build the greatest Elven kingdoms in Middle-earth! I mean, he's a great king and all, but it's almost like he doesn't want your kingdoms to be as great as his. Ha ha, but that's silly, right?"

Right. And guess who fell for Annatar's line like Maedhros's non-existant space shuttle out of orbit? Please tell me that you've figured out by now it's gotta be the Noldor. It's always the fucking Noldor. They learned all kinds of nifty things from Sauron, but for whatever reason, the thing they liked making best was rings. They made the Rings of Power, buuuuuut Sauron made One Ring of his own, and their power was bound up in it, etc. etc. you know how this goes.

Thing is, Elves are not entirely stupid, and as soon as Sauron put on the One Ring, he could sense them, sure, but they could sense him back, and they realized that they'd fallen for the same damn trick Sauron has been using over and over again for centuries, and the Elves took their rings off again. At which point Sauron threw a hissy fit and demanded the rings be turned over to him, since he was the one who taught the Elves how to make them in the first place. Which is a shitty argument, but there you go. The Elves, having seen how this kind of thing goes, opted for running and hiding this time around, which was probably smart.

They saved three of the Rings of Power, in the end: Narya, the Ring of Fire, set with ruby; Nenya, the Ring of Water, set with adamant; and Vilya, the Ring of Air, set with sapphire. These were also the most powerful of the Elvish Rings, so of course Sauron wanted them the most. (They were also, it turns out, the only ones he hadn't been directly involved in making.) These Rings could, apparently, stop entropy. Which you have to admit is pretty damn good. But the folks who had them never used them while Sauron had his Ring, so he could never find them and sulked about it for ages.

So, yeah, war. Again. Eregion was pretty well wiped out at this point; also the Dwarves shut the gates of Moria, Elrond founded Rivendell, and Celebrimbor was killed, and look, the Silmarillion doesn't go into detail but you have to know what happened to Celebrimbor. Pardon this quick digression into the Unfinished Tales: Celebrimbor defended the smithies himself, and Sauron captured him there and tortured him to find out what had happened to the Rings of Power. Celebrimbor gave up the Seven which were eventually given to Dwarves, but he wouldn't give up the Elvish Three, so Sauron had him killed, and then tied his body to a pole, shot it full of Orc arrows, and used him as a banner. At least, we have to hope it happened in that order.

Anyway! Sauron started doling out Rings. Seven to the Dwarves, who mostly just took them and said thanks and were utterly uncorrupted, aside from a slightly enhanced tendency toward hoarding. (Not entirely coincidentally, there were seven great Dwarvish kingdoms not long after this, all of which were eventually taken by dragons.) Nine Rings to Men, whose reaction to them was...more unpleasant.

The Men who took the Rings (and I'm just gonna go with Men here, since they were) didn't die - in fact they couldn't die, even if they wanted to. They just went a little fuzzy around the edges. You wouldn't see one if he walked in front of you, but he could see you, and other things besides. (Sometimes those things were hallucinations Sauron made up to drive him crazy, but you know.) And eventually they all lost their minds and couldn't do anything but what the One Ring told them to, and they became Ringwraiths. Isn't that lovely? Now you know why you should not accept jewelry from strangers.

So Sauron went back to calling himself Lord of the Earth and trying to take over the world, and he scraped together all of the Orcs and werewolves and nasty flappy things left over from Morgoth's rule and this period is referred to by historians as the Black Years, because historians are cheerful like that. Elves called it the Days of Flight, because Elves apparently don't measure time in years. Also the majority of the Elves who weren't already in Lindon packed up their shit and moved there, and frequently kept going all the way to Valinor, because they were pretty much done with Sauron and his bullshit. (In Lindon, Gil-galad was thumbing his nose at Sauron and preparing for battle, because what's a Noldor king good for if not for desperate, hopeless war against an impossibly evil enemy?)

Then there was that whole Númenor incident, which delayed things a little. When Sauron returned to Middle-earth, he was not thrilled to find out that while he had been dicking around with human sacrifice and political corruption on a doomed island, Gil-galad had been cementing alliances and expanding his territory. In fact, Gil-galad now controlled pretty much the whole of the north and west part of the continent, leaving Sauron and his minions only their little corner.

And not only that, but with the destruction of Númenor, Elendil and his sons Isildur and Anárion moved to Middle-earth, and who did they make friends with but the Elves, of course. (I mean, technically they were family.) Elendil founded the city of Annúminas while Isildur and Anárion, being younger and a little more ambitious, sailed up the river Anduin and founded the kingdoms of Gondor and Arnor. There had always been Númenórean outposts on the Anduin, so most of the people around there (who were, remember, immortal Elves) knew who they were and were reasonably happy to see them.

The city they built in Gondor was Osgiliath, right on the Anduin, where they built a huge bridge across the river. (Don't think the Golden Gate Bridge, here, think Tower Bridge in the Middle Ages, all covered in little shacks and food vendors and, sooner or later, the decapitated heads of their enemies.) They also built a pair of towers, Minas Ithil where Isildur lived and Minas Anor where Anárion lived, to defend their new country from the Mordor and the locals, respectively. They also built a whole lot of other things you've heard of, like the Argonath (giant statues of themselves flanking the river, because the sons of Elendil were famously humble), and Orthanc, and a bunch of other towers and things as well. (Gil-galad, having seen how much they all liked towers, built some for them, too.)

Aside from themselves and their giant egos, the most powerful things the Númenóreans brought from home were the Seven Stones, which were basically magical walkie-talkies. They split these up (because what good would they do all clustered together in a box somewhere), to Minas Ithil and Minas Anor, Osgiliath, Orthanc, Annúminas, and a couple of watchtowers you ought to keep an eye on, Amon Sûl and Emyn Baraid. (They also brought that damn Tree that they're all obsessed with, but fair enough, Isildur did almost die for it.) And so they settled into their new kingdoms, and thanks to mortality, after a few generations no one really remembered it being any different.

Chapter Text

MEANWHILE, IN MORDOR, Sauron is busy brooding and building an empire. (I'm not kidding, the text actually says "brooding." Sauron is an edgelord, confirmed.) He couldn't be pretty any more, not after what went down in Númenor, so he built himself a new edgelord body to go with his all-powerful new One Ring, and then he abandoned all pretense of subtlety and just went to war.

(This is when Mount Doom got its name, btw; the Elves called it Orodruin, the Mountain of Red Flame, but Men weren't into that poetic shit, they figured, look, when the mountain smokes, everybody dies, let's just call it like it is. You have to respect that.)

Here's where we get kinda racist again, but also kinda not, look, the history of Middle-earth is complicated, I'm gonna blame Peter Jackson as much as Tolkien here. Because when the Númenóreans came east, some of them stayed loyal and some of them joined Sauron's forces, but because the Elves still lived in Beleriand and Gil-galad would not stand for that shit, they had to leave. Herumor and Fuinur in particular are named as Númenóreans who went to live with the Haradarim and gained followers there - so look, the corrupt leaders of the Easterlings are the exact same people, ethnically speaking, as the good guys in Gondor. On the other hand, the text does call the Haradarim "a great and cruel people," so it's not good overall. But. Númenóreans, also sometimes evil.

So Sauron attacked Gondor and destroys Minas Ithil and the White Tree (Sauron has inherited Morgoth's distaste for symbolic trees), but Isildur escaped, along with his wife and sons and a seedling of the White Tree, and sailed down the Anduin to find his father. Anárion, on the other hand, managed to hold on to Osgiliath, but it was a near thing and he knew he didn't have the men to keep it up for long. Elendil then went to Gil-galad and said, look, we're getting our asses kicked over here, and you know that when he steamrollers over us he's coming for you next, and Gil-galad agreed, so then there was the Last Alliance, the biggest and greatest goddamn army of Men and Elves and anyone else they could scrape up along the way since the siege of Thangorodrim.

The army wintered over at Imladris, which you know better as Rivendell, and that must have been a hell of a time. And from there they followed a route you will recognize, over the Misty Mountains and down the Anduin, to the Plain of Dagorlad, just in front of the Black Gates, where they met Sauron's army.

Now this I want to make very clear: aside from Elves, there are people of all the races of Middle-earth on both sides. Humans? Some good, some bad. Dwarves? Durin's folk of Moria with Gil-galad, but some on Sauron's side. Birds? Yes, there are some good birds. Orcs? Look, it says "some of every kind, even of beasts and birds, were found in either host," I gotta assume that means Orcs, too.

Long story very short, the good guys won and laid siege to Sauron's castle for seven years. (You should really know by now that everything takes much longer than Peter Jackson made it look.) During the siege Anárion was killed, and then Sauron got fed up with being besieged and came out to fight himself, and then Gil-galad and Elendil were killed, and then Isildur cut the Ring from Sauron's hand with the shards of his father's sword, and then Sauron became a disembodied wraith hiding in the wastes. And that was the end of the Second Age.

***

Did you know the first two Ages of the World have names? They're the Eldest Days and the Black Years. The Third Age doesn't seem to have a name, but it was an okay time. Gondor still exists, and they've set up a watchtower against Mordor, to keep an eye on the place, because Sauron's armies might have dispersed but they haven't been destroyed. Elves and Men don't really hang out any more, but for the most part they don't hate each other. The Ring's disappeared, though, because Elrond and Círdan told Isildur to throw it into Mount Doom and Isildur was a contrary bastard, and also felt that he was owed a trophy for killing the monster that had killed his father and brother, and you can't really blame him for that. So Isildur gave over the ruling of Minas Anor to his brother's son Meneldil and went north, fully intending to take over his father's kingdom in Eriador, as far away from Mordor as he could reasonably get.

He was attacked and killed, though, along with the rest of his party, near the Gladden Fields (which is way the fuck up by Mirkwood, just across the mountains from Rivendell), and the Ring slipped off his finger and disappeared into the Anduin. His three oldest sons were with him and were killed, but his youngest son, Valandil, and his wife were still in Rivendell.

His squire had the Shards of Narsil, in case you're wondering how those turned up again. He brought them to Valandil, and then Elrond made his prophecy about the Shards not being re-forged until the Ring was found and Sauron returned but hopefully that would never happen, which honestly sounds less like a prophecy and more like a "yeah, sure, kid, I'll get around to it."

So Valandil decided to settle in the northern kingdom of Annúminas, but to be honest there wasn't a whole lot of kingdom left, and it was only seven generations before the northern kingdom fell apart completely and it was only in Elrond's little enclave that anyone knew who the Dúnedain used to be. (Only seven generations, he says, like that's not a perfectly respectable long time, especially given that they're Númenórean generations. Having all these Elves around really gives people some unrealistic expectations.)

The southern kingdom of Gondor lasted longer, of course, and did pretty well for itself for a while. But people got a bit complacent, as you do (and here there's some stuff about "blood mingling with lesser men" that I'm not going to repeat because frankly I find it repellant), and then in the reign of Telemnar, the twenty-third king after Meneldil, there was a plague. What with the population collapse and all, Minas Ithil, the guard city at the border of Mordor, was abandoned, and that's when the Ringwraiths decided to come back. They took over Minas Ithil, which people started calling Minas Morgul, the Tower of Sorcery, and began to wage creepy and unsettling war on Gondor. Osgiliath was abandoned (some 380 years before Denethor was so determined not to lose it he sent his least-favorite son out to get killed over it), and Minas Anor was renamed Minas Tirith, the Tower of Guard, since they were now in a state of perpetual war against the nasty things seeping out of Mordor.

After Telemnar died in the plague there was his son Eärnil, who built the Tower of Ecthelion but lost Osgiliath, and after him was Eärnur, who was the last King of Gondor for a good long while. He decided to take a page from Fingolfin's book and fight the Morgul-lord (you know, the King of the Ringwraiths) in single combat, but was instead captured by the Nazgûl and never seen again. I'm sure he lived out his days peacefully and in great comfort.

Eärnil had no children, so that was that: the rule of Gondor went to its steward, Mardil the Faithful. Around that time the Rohirrim moved into the plains in the north, which had until then been a part of Gondor, but Mardil's got a lot on his plate and anyway the Rohirrim are okay dudes, I don't think we should hold it against him. Besides, the north has its own defenses, which the text is very ominous about but which basically boil down to "a bunch of Elves who remember the First Age," so it's not like Gondor has to maintain control of the whole damn continent.

***

Speaking of Elrond, what's he doing these days? Oh, not much, just running a refugee shelter/library/archive and fostering the Heirs of Isildur, nbd. (That last is totally not because he misses his twin brother, absolutely not, no way, maybe just a little.) Most of the High Elves (which, remember, just means the descendants of the Big Three and does not include all or even most of the Elves in Middle-earth at this point) lived with Elrond, but there were a handful at the Grey Havens with Círdan, where they spent most of their time building ships for the Elves who just couldn't take this shit any more and wanted to go to Valinor. Both groups kept to themselves, for the most part.

Elrond also had custody of one of the three Rings that the Elves had kept back from Sauron, the Ring of Sapphire. The Ring of Adamant was with Galadriel, who was after all undeniably the biggest badass of all the Elves left in Middle-earth. And all the Elves knew where those two rings were, but only the two of them and Círdan knew what had happened to the Ring of Fire. The Rings had enough power to keep those two little kingdoms, Imladris and Lothlórien, safe and flourishing, but that didn't stop people from being nervous. After all, if Sauron came back, either he'd find the One Ring and everyone would be doomed, or they'd find the One Ring and destroy it and that would break the power of the Elven Rings (why that would be the case when they went to so much trouble to keep them separate I don't know, but okay), so either way they were going to have to give up on Middle-earth sooner or later.

And as I'm sure you know that's more or less exactly what happened. A third of the way into the Third Age of the world, Sauron, all disembodied and discouraged, crept north into Greenwood the Great, realm of King Thranduil, and made it so creepy and gross that people started calling it Mirkwood instead, which I'm sure pissed off Thranduil to no end. But Thranduil's seat was in the northern end of the forest, and Sauron was in the south, and also he had no idea it was actually Sauron and not just an unusually high concentration of the creepy things that were basically everywhere at this point, and so long story short Thranduil did not exactly throw everything he had at the problem and wound up essentially ceding control of the southern part of the forest to the Sorcerer of Dol Guldur.

Enter a new set of players: the Istari, who Men just called Wizards. They came from over the sea, though only Círdan and Elrond and Galadriel knew that. They looked like old men, but they didn't get older and they also had too much energy for old men, and they had great powers but mostly they just wandered around and talked to people. They never told anyone their true names, so (of course) they accumulated lots of them. The two most well-known were Curumír, aka Saruman, who showed up first; and Mithrandir, aka Gandalf, and also there was Radagast and a couple others who don't come into this story at all. Saruman (the text likes their Elvish names but I'm gonna stick with the ones we all know) hung out a lot with Men, Gandalf with Elves and especially Elrond, and Radagast with animals because people suck. (Either Dwarves don't get a Wizard or it's one of the two who went East and disappeared out of the story, and either way I'm disappointed.) Gandalf never liked to settle down, but Saruman was into smithcraft and forges aren't known for their portability, so he moved into Orthanc, yet another abandoned Númenórean tower.

Now most people were of the opinion that whatever was living in Dol Guldur was Ringwraiths - not good by any means, but not an emergency, either. But Gandalf was suspicious, as only Gandalf can be, and he went snooping. Of course when he showed up he scared Sauron off for a little while, leading to a period of peace, which didn't help him make his case any. But eventually Sauron came back, and the White Council was formed: Elrond and Galadriel and Círdan, and a handful of other Elves not named, plus Gandalf, with Saruman as their chief. (Galadriel had wanted Gandalf to be the head of the Council, but he turned it down because he hates responsibility. And Saruman was always bitter that they hadn't asked him first, which tells you something important about Saruman.) So Saruman, who had already done quite a bit of research on Sauron, began to study the Rings of Power.

But this was moving too slow for Gandalf, who went back to Dol Guldur, surprised Sauron in his lair, escaped, and then came back to give Elrond the bad news.

"I'm not going to say I told you so," he told Elrond, "but I told you so."

"If Isildur had just destroyed that damn Ring when I told him to we wouldn't be having this problem," Elrond said.

"Yeah, but at least it's good and lost, which gives us some time," Gandalf replied. "Call up the Council; I have a plan."

But Saruman was having none of it. "What's the rush, the Ring is probably at the bottom of the ocean by now, even Sauron can't get it back from there." (I'm pretty sure Saruman is underestimating Sauron's willingness to invent submarines, but whatever.)

"Well," said Elrond, "I guess we all sit around and wait for the end of the world, then. Because it's a one-in-a-million chance we get anything else if we just sit around and let Sauron make the first move."

"What was that?" said Gandalf. "I'm sorry, I was busy inventing the lottery."

What they didn't know was that Saruman had by now spent so much time studying Sauron's ways that he was more impressed by him than appalled, and wanted to find the Ring for himself. (This, btw, is why overimpressionable kids shouldn't read Mein Kampf.) He set a watch on the river by the Gladden Fields, where Isildur had lost the thing, but the place was lousy with Orcs. Realizing that Sauron must have learned what had happened to the Ring, Saruman holed up in Orthanc and got Radagast to help him enlist birds as spies, ostensibly to keep an eye on Dol Guldur but really to look for the all-powerful shiny thing.

Meanwhile Sauron got stronger, and Mirkwood got nastier, and the Council continued to bicker amongst themselves. Finally Gandalf put his foot down. "Look, he may not have the One Ring, but he has the Nine and three of the Seven and that is more magic rings than I am comfortable with him having." And finally Saruman agreed, and ~*somehow*~ they all banded together and drove Sauron out of Dol Guldur, and at least Mirkwood stopped being so nasty and full of spiders.

But that was too little, too late: Sauron left Dol Guldur, all right, but only to go back to Barad-dûr in Mordor. The Council met one last time, but Saruman had retreated into Orthanc and stopped returning their calls.

Rumors of war were flying fast and thick, armies of Orcs and Men were building in the East and South, and sure enough the One Ring turned up again, and neither Sauron nor Saruman noticed, for all their spies. In actual fact it had been pulled out of the river by a fisherman back when there were still Kings in Gondor, and then the fisherman went to live under the mountains, and then, in the same year the Council drove Sauron out of Dol Guldur, a passerby on the run from some Orcs got the Ring from the fisherman and eventually brought it back home with him to western Eriador. He was one of the Periannath, also called Halflings, and up until this exact moment no one, not Sauron or Saruman or any of the Elves, had given them any thought at all.

Well. Except for Gandalf. It was pure luck that he found out about the Ring before Sauron, but it didn't feel to him like good luck, because he knew he shouldn't use it but the damn thing was right there, being so very useable. But he also didn't know how to destroy it, so he enlisted the Dúnedain to keep an eye on the Periannath while he thought about the problem. Of course, it wasn't long before Sauron heard the rumors and sent the Nazgûl out to get his ring back, and then the Third Age ended, as it had started, in war with Sauron. But that's a long story that's told elsewhere -- the Heir of Isildur, the fall of Saruman, the destruction of the Ring and Sauron's complete and final failure. Gondor and Arnor were reunited, and Gandalf found YET ANOTHER new seedling of the White Tree to herald the new Age.

None of these marvellous things would have happened without Gandalf, who absolutely did not write any of this record, no sirree. Oh, and the Ring of Fire? Gandalf had it, of course. Círdan had had it first, but when the Wizards turned up he handed it over without hesitation, saying, "You seem like you could do some good with this; frankly, I don't have the energy. I'll be on the last ship out of here. Don't be late." And it wasn't long after the crowning of King Elessar (Aragorn to you) that the Three Rings failed, and their keepers, the last of the High Elves, sailed west and out of the world forever.

The End.