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Tears of the Eldar

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Tears of the Eldar

 

Part One: The Flight of the Noldor

 

Chapter One: Oaths and Promises

 

Now when it was known that Morgoth had escaped from Valinor and pursuit was unavailing, the Valar remained long seated in darkness in the Ring of Doom, and the Maiar and the Vanyar stood beside them and wept; but the Noldor for the most part returned to Tirion and mourned for the darkening of their fair city. Through the dim ravine of the Calacirya fogs drifted in from the shadowy seas and mantled its towers, and the lamp of Mindon burned pale in the gloom.

- Of the Flight of the Noldor, Quenta Silmarillion, J.R.R. Tolkien

 

Out in the street, where his aunt had forbidden him to go, a cry went up. A few ran towards the gates, shouting to their fellows. Some were laughing, rushing forward on eager feet, hurrying to be the first to the gates, the first to see and be seen. He held back and clung to the corners, the doorways where the mist dulled his hair to a ghostly white and shadows stuck to the edges of his dark face. He was no longer a creature of straight lines but rather seemed to flow into the air without a limit around his limbs. Ahead in the strange half-light of the mist and torches the indistinct figures who had been clamouring in mist-garbled tongues fell silent. He edged forwards to listen. If there was sound it did not carry to him until at last, and far too late, his ears separated the thudding of his heart from the footsteps. Perhaps there was no difference, perhaps the figure made no sound as he approached. Although it was but a single figure, his foot-falls resounded with the strength of a hundred thousand marching in unison. With each step the very air shook, the houses along the street trembled, reviled by what was occurring in front of their bricks. He felt as helpless as the walls to stop what he saw marching towards him.

Fëanáro.

Traitor. King. The two could not exist with the same person. And yet. It was a King who approached, tall and with all the majesty of his father. No other could command the eyes of all, summoning them to him, calling out proudly that to look away was treason. The blood pounding in his ears would not scream at him were it not pulling to escape the presence of a traitor.

Torchlight glinted off metal, throwing its shine away to bounce off stone and wood. Armour. An uncovered sword. The mist was not enough to hide him, for he had been drawn to the very centre of the street. Some dark silhouette against the speckled outline of Túna behind him, damp tresses floating in the thick air. Afterwards, he would think that their eyes had met for a heartbeat, cold bright steel boring in to his before he had fled.

Still not fully grown and coltish he tore through the streets, one hand out in front to catch him should the looming figures in the fog be more than imaginary foes. The damp of the fog clogged his lungs and he gasped as one who was drowning. Up and up he ran, nearing the summit. It was only at the second flight of stone steps, wet a treacherous, that he paused in his flight. He clutched at the windowsill beside him, desperate for something solid beneath his hands.

The crowds, those sent to find others, newcomers, all were still below him for they did not have the speed that terror lends the feet. Therefore, he was alone in the street save for the blanket of fog that smothered the city. He pushed him upright with his back firmly against the wall and paused to think.

To run straight to the summit would serve no purpose. All were headed there anyway, and he could not outrun those who were already sent ahead of the crowd. Instead, he could easily be the first to reach his Uncle’s house. The first to warn, of what he was not yet sure. He took the stairs in three great bounds and ran again, with a clear purpose this time. Rather than straight up towards the summit he turned west onto the wide avenue that girdled the hill. Voices echoed around him, he could not place their origins. Jumping to catch a familiar branch he cleared the high wall beside the street and with the knowledge of a boy often in trouble he passed through the maze between avenues. Some parts were wide courtyards where pleasant fountains and benches lay, others were passages so close only a youth could pass with ease.

A cedar grove and gravel beneath his feet then at last he reached the door. Solid, carved with shapes once pleasing now distorted into the stuff of nightmares by the fog it stood unforgiving and barred. He knew the door, each carved head and flower. As easily as he had mounted the stairs he slipped his foot onto a horse’s back somewhere on the lower panel and launched himself upwards. Although he could not see it, beneath his hands lay his Uncle’s crest and he pushed against it, tumbling onto the balcony.

A rough fist caught him, bouncing him down with more power than his own legs could muster. Again the fist came, and he rolled against the low wall which marked the balcony’s edge. Without a thought he curled, knees shielding his ribs and organs, arms cupping his head. His hair was wrenched up, dragging him out of his protective ball to be thrown face-down onto the marble.

“Stop!” A woman’s voice rang out from the doorway behind them. “Stop, let him up! Can you not see who it is?”

He flinched away from the hand as it neared him, deceptively slowly. It took hold of his collar and pulled him up. Golden eyes met his, amber and flickering in the torchlight.

“I can see.” His father’s voice was calm as the fog around them. “Although why he shuns the door, that I cannot see.” The hand opened and released him, letting him land unevenly on the ground. He could taste blood seeping from somewhere, his lip perhaps or his nose he could not tell. His father moved a step away, allowing him to see his aunt in the doorway. Her hair piled in curls atop her head, splendid in deep mauve brocade she stood solid against the fog. Gently, drawing him out from the protective shell he still tried to create between his hunched shoulders, she smiled.

“Perhaps it was for haste? Come, Laurefindil, you must have run far for you are soaking from this cloud. Tell me what has brought you here in such a hurry.” Elenwë slid a hand between his shoulders, shepherding him inside. “Is it true?” she whispered as they continued down the gallery towards her solar.

“Fëanáro is here.” Her grip tightened ever so slightly. The warm air of the house chilled at the words.

Elenwë’s solar was a pleasing room, even with the curtains drawn against the fog. Before, long ago the golden and silver light would stream in, bouncing off the richly painted walls so that it became a nest of light and warmth. Later, in the darkness the stars would act as a ceiling tapestry. On the thick blue rug his cousin lay, her legs cross lazily in the air above her as she read aloud to the dark-haired elflings who had cozied up to her shoulders, one on each side.

“Laure-“ His uncle was across the room in a moment. Turukáno scowled, looking first at his bleeding nose then dripping hair and tunic. Carefully he placed a hand either side of his nephew’s face, as comfort yet also to retain control of the boy’s gaze.

“Fëanáro is here, Uncle. He is coming to Mindon.”

“You saw him?” Quaking, he nodded. At once Turukáno turned away with a burst of energy. “Itarillë, I will send Hendor up to you. Stay here.” He took the cloaks which had been waiting on the ottoman and threw one to his wife, another to Laurefindil’s father. “Better yet, go up to the library and keep quiet until we return. Tulcatyar, find a cloak for Laurefindil.” Itarillë sent him a tiny pout before scooping an elflings up in each arm, deftly catching the book as well. Bemused and sleepy, the children barely stirred.

“Uncle.” At the door Turukáno turned, willing to be detained only a moment. “He was armed.”

“Tulcatyar.” Laurefindil found himself shoved forwards by his father, towards the stairs his Aunt and Uncle had already descended. At the bottom, down another well-lit hallway towards the garden door. From one of the hooks along this homelier corridor his father snatched a grey cloak and hood and flung them at him. It was only then, half turned towards each other than Laurefindil saw the dark scabbard, a short sword hidden in the folds of his father’s coat. He pulled the cloak around him, as if that would do anything to keep of the wet which was already seeping towards his skin.

They passed through the gardens with a stern and speedy march. Into step behind them fell four more of his Uncle’s house-carls.  He did not look to see if they too carried blades. Around them the compound stirred, each house full of hurried whispers and impromptu councils. Out of one dark corner the scratching of metal on stone, a knife perhaps, or a newly fashioned sword, being sharpened. Laurefindil pulled the cloak tighter around himself, warding off the sickening noise.

Rather than the main gate, by which he could see some two dozen had gathered, Turukáno led them out onto the street. In the fog the great lamp of Mindon glowed rather than shone, a sallow light that did not make the way clearer. Now crowds had formed, some shouting some weeping, all waiting. They parted to let Turukáno through, a path between waves of brightly burning torches.

“Turukáno!” Above the crowd three dark heads rose. Arakáno to the left and towering above his siblings. Írissë strode towards them, flanked by her brothers.

“Do you expect a fight?” she asked Turukáno curtly, glancing towards the house-carls behind him.

“I am prepared to uphold the law.” The law which had banished Fëanáro from Tirion and his father’s court, the laws as decreed by the Lord and Ladies upon Taniquetil.

“Our Father bids us come at once.” Before she could answer Findekáno stepped between them and urged them all on up the hill. “To see what he is prepared to do.”

They reached the very edge of the courtyard below the lamp, the stairs around it so bursting with people even Arakáno’s figure could not cut a path any further. Whispers echoed into shouts and across from them on the northern side someone had begun to shout. Hemmed in between Arakáno’s broad frame and his father’s, Laurefindil hardly dared breathe.

Stiffly and with some effort in such cramped quarters, he felt Arakáno reach inside his cloak. A knife, perhaps, he thought. Instead a white handkerchief was produced. Wordlessly the Prince held it out, almost stuffing it into Laurefindil’s face they were so close.

“My thanks.” He blotted his bleeding nose on it, pinching hard. His words were lost in the uproar that suddenly begun around them. A single figure, dressed in a hammered breast plate and a rich crimson cloak and breeches stepped forward from the crowd. His long black hair had been swept back, as if ready for a helm to be placed upon it. At his side gleamed a naked sword. The moment all had seen him they fell silent, holing their breath and stilling their hearts, their ears waiting greedily for his words.

“Father!” Fëanáro screamed. Echoing, endlessly empty, he was answered only by himself.

“Gone.” The whisper thrust a knife as keenly as the scream. An insurmountable pain spilled out from the elf standing alone in the square. Laurefindil felt his father grip his elbow, in what he supposed was meant to be comfort.

“Your King is dead!” Behind Fëanáro, still at the very edge of the crowd, stood a line of stern, menacing faces. The seven sons, each with their hands firmly on their swords, formed a wall, a defence.

“Whilst I was summoned to their mountain, to discuss the terms of surrender of my most dearest creations, the Lords of Taniquetil allowed one of their own to slip unnoticed into their lands and steal from me that which was dearer than any jewel. Morgoth, I name him! An epessë fit for a Lord of the Valar! Upon the doorstep of my safe-house, where all treasures were guarded he tore open my Father’s body and spilled his blood upon the earth of Valinor! Whilst we were held in Manwë’s halls, to feast and become friends this foul creature, this thief robbed me of my Father, robbed you of your King!

They sit now, the Valar, your Lords, in darkness. In council. What have they to debate? They claim for themselves the kingship of the entire world, yet they can allow such a worm into their secret councils, let him enter their kingdom, the very heart of the realm and slay the noblest of the people they pretend to love so dearly! They do not weep for my Father’s life-blood! They do not mourn him. They let their servants stand idly by, making little pretence at giving chase! They care not for my murdered Father, rather they weep for the theft of the light.

Were it not enough that Morgoth has robbed me of my Father, of the hand that guided me, he also took my people’s hard-won treasures. But all other riches are but dull pebbles, baubles besides the Silmarilli. These the Valar coveted, ordered me to surrender and when that failed, one of their own sought to snatch them away regardless. They bade me give them up of my own free will, as if they did not know already that they had been plundered.

Such works I shall not make again, nor will any make for they alone contained a light now lost to Morgoth’s fell clutches, consumed by his evil creatures. Will he return for the treasures here? Our fair city, the lamp above us, the hoarded jewels and finery below?

The King upon the Mountain does not protect you, as he did not protect my Father in Formenos. Whilst my Father lived he was your King and led you across the Wilderness, to Túna. Will you now stand behind his son and heir? One who will rule with your own laws, shaking off the yolk the Valar!”

The torches had ceased their sputtering, their flames danced silently on statues. A fresco behind twisted glass, the Eldar did not move. Fëanáro’s gestures, his speech, the wild bouncing of his hair and tossing of his head held them in a trance.

“Here once was light, that the Valar begrudged to Middle-earth, but now dark levels all. Shall we mourn here deedless for ever, a shadow-folk, mist-haunting, dropping vain tears in the thankless sea?” The fog pressed against them, setting their bones in ice so that they could not tear their eyes away and flee. For flee they must, Laurefindil thought, away from the words ringing out across the square.

“Or shall we return to our home?” Home. He could not flee there, he feared the light that marched along the hallway to stop at his door. He feared the darkness which surrendered him all too easily.

“In Cuiviénen sweet ran the waters under unclouded starts, and wide lands lay about, where a free people might walk. There they lie still and await us who in our folly forsook them.” The stuff of myth, of legend, of the old and wise sitting together on balconies. Yet he wanted it, briefly, to taste the sweet water and run freely, to run as far as he could and never be called back.

“Come away! Let the cowards keep this city!”

The crowd stirred, if only a little. Hands clenched, a step forward, a few gripped their weapons. His Father held his arm a little tighter. Still they listened. Still Fëanáro spoke. A hiss, like an arrow, shot through them when he finished speaking of the Aftercomers.

“They mean to leave our fathers’ home for these new creatures, bred under Morgoth’s shadow to wilt like weeds. A barren waste the Valar would have our Middle-earth become! For only then will their realm be seen as a haven and a wonder. But fair shall the end be,” Fëanáro cried at last, raising his voice an offering a hand towards them, inviting them to seize it. “though long and hard shall be the road! Say farewell to bondage! But say farewell also to ease. Say farewell to the weak!” His Father’s hand slid away from his arm, casting him adrift.

“Say farewell to your treasures! More still shall we make. Journey light: but bring with you your swords! For we will go further than Oromë, endure longer than Tulkas: we will never turn back from pursuit. After Morgoth to the ends of the Earth! War shall he have and hatred undying. But when we have conquered and have regained the Silmarilli, then we and we alone shall be lords of the unsullied Light, and masters of the bliss and beauty of Arda. No other race shall oust us!”

On the beach, long ago they had built little forts of sand and crowned themselves queens and kings of them. Then one child would declare themselves the Sea God and crush all the castles into nothingness.

Fëanáro unsheathed his sword. He was no child playing at being gods.

“I hereby swear,” he said in a voice so terrible and low their ears begged them not to listen. “To regain the Silmarilli.”

As one seven swords were drawn, seven thin beams of brilliant blood-light raise. Seven steps forwards. Seven ringing echoes of Fëanáro’s words.

“Before Eru Ilúvatar, I swear. Let the Everlasting Dark fall upon me should I not keep it. Let Manwë stand witness, and Varda beside him, and the hallowed mound of Taniquetil, to my vow. I shall pursue with vengeance and hatred to the end of the World Vala, Demon, Elf of Man as yet unborn, or any creature, great or small, good or evil, that time should bring forth until the end of days, whoso should hold to take or keep a Silmaril from our possession.”

The Noldor shrunk back from Fëanáro and his sons, pressing against the stones of Tirion.

"This will never leave them, to the ends of the Earth and beyond, they shall know no rest until they have those jewels, and they drag us with them into this abyss,” whispered Arakáno. Beside him the crowd had parted, and his brother ran through, coming up short after a few steps. It was all that was needed for him to be left, an island alone in the square.

“This is madness!” Turukáno cried. “You know not what you do!” Carnistir’s sword was lowered from where it had joined in his brothers’ salute. It advanced upon Turukáno.

“You speak to your King!” At once Turukáno unsheathed his own sword, his siblings stepping out behind him. Laurefindil took half a step forwards with them only to be pushed aside by his father and the other house-carls. Anger boiled the mist around them, pushing the rolling clouds away.

“Enough!”

Even the brightest of the shining swords quavered. The tallest of the Princes shrunk, quailing into the crowd. Regally splendid, glistening with all the light of long ago Ñolofinwë stood in the doorway of Finwë’s house. He paused a moment to let them take him in, his braids heavy at his sides, his eyes firm and unforgiving. Then with a purpose which matched his brother’s ascent on the hill he crossed the square.

“Put your sword away, boy.” Admonished like a child Turukáno stepped back, eyes downcast in shame. His siblings retreated. Ñolofinwë approached his brother, hands outstretched as if to embrace him. Fëanáro stared him down.

“Brother, readily would I accept you as king and I share your grief for our Father. Recant, now, if that is still possible. No good will come of this. How can you bind yourself in the darkest of fetters and yet say it is to free your people from chains? Please, Fëanáro. Recant.”

“I cannot. I will not! Stay here in slavery, join your kin on the mount and weep until you are but a wraith! But do not claim to be Finwë’s son, for he could not sire cowards.”

Ignoring his father’s words Turukáno again drew his sword. He found himself alone, facing Fëanáro’s sons. For their father’s honour, only he had stepped forward. Behind him his cousin Findaráto appeared, his face flushed in anger.

“Our Father led us here, out of the darkness of Middle-earth!” Ñolofinwë threw his bare hands up in disgust. “I see now how readily you warp the words and deeds of the dead.”

“Morgoth murdered my Father! He stole the Silmarilli! I will have my revenge!” Fëanáro screamed at his brother, pushing his backwards roughly. “Stay, coward, and let your betters right the wrongs done to us.” He spat at Ñolofinwë’s feet, giving a condescending sneer to Turukáno.

It happened too fast for anyone to be sure who moved first. Carnistir or Turukáno. Their blades rose, glinting in the torchlight, but it was the dull thud of flesh and cloth that was heard, not that of ringing steel.

Turukáno rolled away, swiftly pulled up by Findaráto, standing and lunging again in one fluid motion but the figure who held Carnistir back caught his arm, twisting it until his sword fell with a clatter to the flagstones. It was kicked away, spinning harmlessly across the square.

“That will do,” Arafinwë said softly. “Put it away, Morifinwë.” Reluctantly Carnistir sheathed his sword. Still neither cousin was released.

“In haste, things which cannot be undone will come to pass.”

“Father, their oath cannot be undone,” Ambaráto called softly, his face ashen. He held out an arm to keep his siblings and cousins at bay. He alone seemed on the verge of tears.

“A mere token of what is to come,” answered Fëanáro. “Quake at my words if you will, you are the least of my concerns.”

After a moment Arafinwë released his nephews, moving instead between his brothers.

“Come, let reason guide us. Or we shall all loose sons tonight to the demands of honour. No, Fëanáro, do not speak with such haste. You will need us all if you are to escape the darkness you have brought upon yourself and you sons.”

For a long time Laurefindil found he had not taken a full breath, so fraught was the air in the square. He watched, detached as his father retrieved Turukáno’s sword. Around them the three Princes gathered their children, and with Arafinwë and Ambaráto as peacekeepers between them, they held a fiery council of sorts. About them a thousand voices rose at once, every elf breaking into arguments. The loudest were those whose minds Fëanáro had swayed, set ablaze by the desire for new things and strange countries to call their own.

Piercing black eyes met his across the square. Under an impassive brow they watched him, staring past the Princes to pierce the fog.

Well?  The eyes seemed to ask him. What will you choose? But he could not choose, he could not speak to the sons of Finwë. He had no voice.

What will you choose? He glanced away from those deep, questioning eyes to his Uncle. Findaráto had placed a hand on his cousin’s shoulder, perhaps to hold him back, or perhaps in support. Laurefindil was drawn again to the eyes, he could not make out the face beneath them, nor did he recognise the figure in among Fëanáro’s folk.

Is that your choice? He did not know what he was being asked to choose, nor how he had answered. So be it.

"Let us be away, Father!" Artanis called loudly, echoed by Findekáno. “Too long have we been shut in, let us walk free, though it be a hard path.” Fëanáro smirked, triumphant. As she turned to face her father, the light of the trees spilled out across her family’s faces. The Silmarilli were gone but Artanis carried their light. Her brothers beside her remained silent but did not protest.

“Ready yourselves!” Fëanáro cried. “Weapons, travelling cloaks and food, you have no need of finery nor keepsakes, for anything of beauty you are loath to abandon shall be made again tenfold in Middle-earth!”

“Fëanáro, wait! There is much to consider.” Arafinwë’s words were drowned out by the clamouring of the crowd.

“Nay!” The Noldor cried. “Let us be gone!”

“Nelyafinwë, form a staging ground at the western gate! Kanafinwë, find every cart, every wagon and sled. Turcafinwë.” Fëanáro began to issue orders to his sons and servants standing near. Confusion spread along the streets leading from the square as runners were sent, tripping over those still arguing with their fellows.

“Tulcatyar!” Turukáno strode towards them, his face red with anger. “Every member of my household will face this choice: come with me, into the darkness and the unknown, or remain. Go now and assembly those who will follow this path.” Gently he took Laurefindil’s arm. Elenwë, her face damp from fog and tears was at his side.

“This is madness,” Turukáno whispered. “But I will not be sundered from my Father and my family.”

“Nor I from you,” answered Elenwë. “I will take this road with you.” Something private passed between them then they looked to the youth in front of them.

“Laurefindil?” Is that your choice? The bodiless voice which had seeped into his mind as if shot from those strange dark eyes asked him again.

“I will follow you, my Lord,” he answered quietly. “Until the End of all things.” Turukáno sighed and wrapped his arms around him so that he was buried in soft blue satin and the musty smell of leather armour.

“Promise him it will not come to that,” Elenwë whispered. “He is but a child.”

“I cannot promise safety, nor comfort as if he were a child. He was never allowed to be but a child,” his Uncle answered grimly. “If he will come, then I will welcome him. As a son, a lieutenant. I promise that no force will rend him from me, not your sister, not the darkness, until he wills it.”

In the warm embrace, shielded from the commotion around them, Laurefindil wept. For some shadow in his mind had lengthened that day. Some fell thing had been awoken in the bowls of the Earth and he felt its breath chill his blood.