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The Cradle of a Curse

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Water splashes against the empty docks. Usually this is a place where fisher bring home their catches, hum under their breath while they mend their nets, sell fish and children's laugher ring through the air as they push each other into the water. Now the havens are empty, void of life. Not even the stars shine down at Alqualondë today. For the Valar do not wish to gaze upon what happened. In result only lamps installed along the port illuminate the abandoned battlefield in a ghostly blue light. What completes the desolate picture of a once thriving city are the corpses laying around. Many remain where they had fallen, horror still frozen onto their expression.

The harbor is silent. Only the wind and the waves occasionally form a sound that may have been a dying soul whose fëa hasn't let go yet. But the blood had dried, though it long ran over the once white stones, staining them forever. The new patterns would stay, for there is no one around to remove them.

The Noldor long fled the city.

Currently their King and his people are sizing the ships, leaving kin and homeland behind. Though the Doom now overshadows their thoughts, it serves more to strengthen their will. More frightening had been the ferocity the Falmari showed in defending the Swans. Only very few Noldor looked back, afraid of retribution from the rest of Olwë's folk.

Nolofinwë's gaze will turn north towards the Ice soon enough, too afraid to turn back. The Noldor of Tirion are less sensitive to the mood of the weather, the whims of streams and storms, but the events shook them enough that instinct tells them to throw a glance over their shoulders from time to time.

The dread clawing at their hearts does not come from a possible revenge from Olwë's House.

One truth that shall remain unknown to the Noldor for centuries and will have turned into myth by the time Finarfin will set foot onto Beleriand, is that no one lives in Alqualondë anymore.

The huts of the fisher folk are empty. The beautiful mansions at the shore and maze of the floating homes within the bay have been abandoned. Only death remains. Wind and weather will claim the buildings within a few decades, for the magic keeping the once beautiful city alive is gone.

With a mist rising from the sea Námo steps forth and brings the silence of his Halls with him.

His eyes wander over the square. The harbour is big and the battle covered entire districts.

Silent and endless Námo's eyes perceive more than other power in Arda. Ghost rise from the shadows of the Night and the Vala of the Dead watches the events unfold once again.

Just like the first time, he does not interfere. It has happened and the blood has gone into the sea already. Varië is already weaving a new tapestry. Huge, dark and fascinating. While the living might forget this one day, the first battle between the Eldar will mark history forever.

Wet sand shifts under Námo's feet as he walks along the beach, following the sounds of dying. It's not difficult to find them. With each and every single one, he kneels down and cradles their heads in his lap. A few require his mere presence, others need a comfort while the rest accept their fate soon enough on their own. It does not keep them from looking at him, vulnerable, afraid and yet happy to have him.

They surrender as he smiles, they give their last breath and allow to follow the hope of ease, safety and comfort to lead them away.

Námo raises his voice and the fëa accept his care, his love as they listen to the Song of Mandos.

Only the dead are able to perceive it and Námo's own doubts burn away as his tune guides the fëa to his halls. He waits until the last victim of todays battle has safely made it into his realm. The castle, his maia and the windows looking out into the world are waiting for them. The procession is not peaceful. There are enough, who are afraid. Those, who walk too fast and those who struggle to get on their feet at all. He marks those, who are still stuck in the moments of their death. He also takes note which Elves don't care if the person next to them fought with or against them. Most only see is the blood that stains their souls.

The procession takes a long time and Námo waits at the doors marking the entrance to his realm. It's not as horrible as everyone always imagined it to be. Some Elves might see fire flickering behind a window and it will be like coming across a homely hut in a snow storm. Others see a dark, dry place. A hole, where they can hide in until they are strong enough to face the world.

The soft melody ends, when the door close. Mandos has now claimed the fëa. His castle stands strong and no force in the world can bring down these walls. Breaking in is as impossible as finding it with a living heart. Confident that he can leave the new arrivals alone for a while, Námo's gaze wanders back towards the cold, dark see. The water is pitch black beneath his feet and he is aware of anger boiling under the surface.

"You cannot hide yourself from me, King Olwë," Námo finally speaks.

His eyes fixated on a unremarkable spot on the water. The horizon is dark and in the distance Námo sees the coming of a storm.

From the depth of the open sea arises a creature with white skin and colorless scales ending in a long tail. What used to be hands have transformed into claws. Red huge eyes belonging to a beast meet Námo serene gaze.

If it weren't for the famous and easy recognizable crown of the Sea King still has on his head there would be no way to distinguish him. The other cursed ones are waiting in the water, all with the same features and most are hiding beneath the surface, hiding their ugliness from the Vala. His judgement weights on them, keeps them within the sea and out of Mandos.

Since he no longer possesses legs, King Olwë climbs a sharp rock. He moves with great difficulty, his hands desperately clinging to the stone and pain runs through his body. With each moment he's not covered with sea water his skin burns. It's difficult how agonizing it is to be parted from the sea, yet he gather the last shred of his pride and he tries to make himself taller.

Olwë uses the seven foot long tail to prop himself in an upright position. Getting near Námo's eye level is impossible, but a few attempts lead to a result that no longer has him crawling at Lord Mandos' feet. In the end he has to cling to the edge of a cliff, but at least he's not falling over and sliding on the dry ground like a snake.

"You did thisss to usss," Olwë hisses between his long sharp teeth. "You cursssed us."

"On Mount Taniquentil we watched what happened down here. My brethren decided to judge the Noldor. They were punished for bloodying the shores of Aman. You on the other hand were too proud to share your ships. Neither it crossed your mind to teach the Noldor how to safely cross the sea. Highking Fëanáro is clever - he would not have bothered you for long."

Námo speaks quietly. His words still get picked up by ever single cursed Teleri, including those hiding at the bottom of the ocean.

No soul or power in the history of Arda will know what it takes for Námo to remain calm. He has felt the strings of fate beneath his hands. The war against his brother is already forming. Blood had been spilled and there's no going back. A few events had been unavoidable, no amount of grief shall change the fact. Yet the depth of the Noldor's suffering hadn't been set in stone. The death toll will only rise with each year that passes and those who survive the longest will live through greater torment than anything he cast upon the Sea Folk.

Olwë's eyes shimmer with hate and disgust, but Námo shows no pity. His punishment can be seen as harsh, but as Yavanna demanded retribution for the descration of her holy land, it's only just to punish the Teleri in equal measure.

His heart demands to leave Olwë questioning his fate. Yet he changed the Sea Folk in a single moment, a reaction of justified wrath and anger after the council decided on the spell that was to be woven around the Exiles. Where the Noldor linger in uncertainty, the same should be given to the Sea Folk. But future dealing with them demand that he has to express his satisfaction now or else his heart will harden against Olwë and his people too long. This will be a lesson, one that matches the punshiment placed upon the exiles.

With the slight, but important difference that Ulmo has already taken the cursed water spirits into his care.

Put them under his protection while the Noldor suffer death, ice and a horrible fate in the trenches of a long, endless war.

"The greatest crime you commit was asking the sea to seek vengeance on your behalf. We're not a tool for you to use. Our powers is not your to command and for the Noldor Uinen drowns this very moment on your behalf you and your people shall be restricted to the sea, never to walk on land again."

Námo's words carry over the sea and sink into every heart of the Teleri. They all react either with horror, though most hide it with anger and outrage. Waves rise high when they splash their tales and inhuman are their voices when their fury translates words into roars and lots of hissing.

They reject his message and dive, leaving the shore behind. Ulmo is calling them already and Námo lets them go. He does not have the heart to look upon the cursed souls, who had been bared entrance from Mandos and shall never walk on land again.

Soon they vanish from his gaze and withdrew into the depth of the sea.

One day he will have firm words with Ulmo, but for now he has witnessed enough sorrow.

For miles and miles away Uinen is still raging, dragging the souls of Maglor's people into her waiting arms and Námo is afraid that there's nothing what he can do in order to safe them. Certainly not their lives and perhaps not their fëa either.

An image of a stone-cold Nolofinwë flashes before his eyes and Námo wonders if Fëanáro's brother knows that he will fare better on the ice than he would have on sea.


 

Chapter Text



History has given him a place, but the truth is that Finarfin is no one special. Surrounded by glamorous and famous siblings, all accomplished scholars, craftsman and respected politicians long before he is born, Arafinwë learned early he will not find happiness by competing against them. It helped that he was the youngest of Finwë's children for a very long time and that Irimë married early, moving to Valmar with her Vanya husband as soon as Ingwë's laws allowed it.

To this day Finarfin doesn't know what possessed his mother to get pregnant again. Centuries later he guesses he had been an attempt to salvage her marriage, gifting her husband with a son that would be far too different to be drawn into the eternal conflict between Fëanáro and Nolofinwë. Though Finarfin remembers how his siblings all compromised in order to give him a proper childhood.

Finwë is a forever distant figure in his head, while his siblings all made sure to put their quarrels aside and focused on what was best for the youngest member of their family. Perhaps they all sensed that being born as youngest son of Finwë would require some intervention, especially since he's only a few years older than Findekáno. It should have been odd, watching Neylafinwë's turning into an adult and full member of society while he learned his letters at Guilin's side under his sister's watchful gaze.

Perhaps it's Irimë's influence and Indis willingness to send away from the toxic palace that lets him keep his sanity in the end.

Yet when he walks back towards Alqualondë, leaving his older brothers behind with a lot of doubts and shame in his heart, he wonders if it was foresight that he spend more time with the Vanya and the Teleri than with the Noldor. Through Irimë often opening her house for him during his childhood and his marriage with Eärwen there had been not much time and space to care for his father's people.

Seeing the corpses laying untended scattered around the harbour, lifeless and some already devoured by hungry animals Finarfin decides it doesn't matter.

When he first stumbles on the dead Falmari they left behind, he literally falls over them. The endless darkness that grew three times more horrible since he left his exiled kin, he even forgets the betrayed and angry expressions of his children. Suddenly their concerns don't rank as high anymore. Pity and grief washes it all away.

Finarfin sinks to the ground and buries his hands in his face to cry.

"What have we done?" He whispers. "What have we done?"

Thanks to the fact that he walked ahead, trying to be brave in an impossible situation Finarfin has actually little knowledge who else turned around with him. When he turns his head, he discovers the entourage is larger than he anticipated. It's a mixed collection of people, all doubters and outsiders like him. Young and old, men and women who parted from their determined families and Finarfin fears the path ahead is by no means easier than the fate they left behind.

In the end he takes a few deep breaths and then raises to his feet. The tears on his face are still glimmering in the corner of his eyes and his mind does not linger on who might see them.

"Gather the dead," he orders. His voice wavers for a moment, but it's clear enough to drown the sound of the waves. "We will give them a last rite, regardless whose side they fought on. The hröa of our kin are waiting for us. Their remains will be treated with respect and anyone who spreads dissent is free to join them."

Between his brothers marching for war, the piles of corpses ahead and faithless gods on a distant mountain the threat has less weight than it would have last week, but the disorganized host behind him scatters into small groups. For now they obey it's all Finarfin cares about beyond facing the gruesome and impossible task head.

Yet in a horrible, selfish way the hard labour of gathering the dead enforces his desicion that turning back was right. His children he might never see again, but they are all strong willed characters and have cousins who will look after them. Angaráto is one of Neylafinwë's most trusted friends and advisors. Ambaráto will fall in line and Findaráto he last saw clinging to Canafinwë. About Artanis he will not have to worry at all. He doubts she even remembers the name of her parents, for since the day Fëanáro raised his sword into the sky her eyes are fixed on the horizon.

Ambition burns in her.

I would be grateful for a fraction of my daughter's determination, Finarfin thinks as he picks up a spate.

He has tied a rag around his mouth, because the smell is so foul. So far they found no survivors, but no other Teler either. The houses and the boats had been abandoned. Due to the lack of shelter, he order his mismatched group of followers to size them. Of course, it will not make a good image if they steal their homes on top of the Swan Ships, but the lack of light, warmth and food makes him desperate enough not to care.



-



They never find survivors. At first Finarfin fears the extend of the battle got far worse, that both of his brothers slaughtered more of the Sea Folk than he thought possible, yet after a few days and the gruelling task of identifying the bodies proofs something else is at work. The sheer amount of people who have gone missing is daunting. The most common theory is that the Teleri fled their city. It does not match the food, the clothing and the animals they left behind. Sadly it's the only theory they have, even if there are no traces in which direction they could have run off. There are no food prints, no dropped items while panic drove wives and children to run in haste.

"What are we supposed to do?" comes the question. Finarfin hasn't bothered to ask for names yet.

He does not want to concern himself with knowing who betrayed their families as well.

Finarfin hesitates. Alqualondë is empty. Food and other useful items should not be left to waste in times, where they cannot be certain if the light is going to return. There are also books, art projects and music instruments that would be too expensive to loose. Especially in the startling realization how weak and vulnerable they truly are, how violence can destroy a life of centuries in just a few minutes, they should preserve what the Teleri left behind.



-



In a manner of a single week those who turned around with him have collected anything of value and safely stored it away. Finarfin isn't able to call them his people yet. It's too early, though the last weeks let them together instead of further apart. Regardless what comes next, they will always have the memories of collecting dead bodies and holding rites for people they didn't even know the names of.

Picking out where to store all the boxes and bundles is easy compared to it.

"Tomorrow we finally return to Tirion," Finarfin finally decides on evening. It feels like a relief.

No Maia bothered them in the last weeks. Finarfin suspects it's the scent of blood hanging in the air that keeps them away and the idea of having to face the Valar, judgemental and full of wrath, does not seem as horrible anymore. Not when he has felt the death clinging to his soul, heard the moans of the dying in his sleep and is now a traitor to his own family.



-



It would be a lie if he said that he did not look for Eärwen. But Finarfin understands if she did not wish to see him, even if she is still around. He can imagine her reaction. To his desicion to support his brother's in the first place and then to make it all void by turning back. Though in her mind, the first would be the greater crime. Out of the two of them, she had always the higher standing in court and in the past Finarfin had spend a lot of time with the Falmari.

Strange, how his heart showed it's true colors when the moment came. From the day his oldest brother and rightful King raised his sword into the air to the second the Doom settled upon them, his heart beat in sync with all the other Noldor around him. That he harboured fantasies of gaining outstanding praise from his brothers and earn himself the reputation of an invaluable ally, well no one has to know about that. It has always been an unrealistic outcome, especially since Finarfin knows his family appreciates him.

Appreciated.

He doubts either of his brother look favourably on his desicion to turn around.

Although Fëanáro officially dismissed him, when Finarfin went to ask for permission. His brother showed more understanding than Nolofinwë, when they finally parted and it breaks his heart thinking about how he will never see them again. Right now he has no time for it, but the day will come when shame and guilt will wreck him how his own children's opinions had absolute no chance to influence his desicion.

They will be fine. My children will be fine, they have two amazing uncles to look after them, Finarfin tells himself, too worn out to recognize the anxiety taking root in his soul as he marches towards Tirion.