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Not So Happy Returns

Chapter Text

Not So Happy Returns

by Soledad

Disclaimer: The characters, the context and the main plot belong to Professor Tolkien, whom I greatly admire. I'm only trying to fill in the gaps he so graciously left for us, fanfic writers, to have some fun. Only a few insignificant side characters belong to me.

Rating: Teens, for now.

Summary: A (most likely doomed) attempt of an Advent calendar, featuring predominantly First Age Elves. It is all Fiondil's fault, really. :) I was never interested in those people before.


This is a side product to my long story, "Elvenhome", but could be read independently. For those who do so, just a bit of background information: as opposed to Tolkien's later considerations regarding the family tree of the Finwëans, I follow the version offered in "The Silmarillion" when it comes to Gil-galad's parentage. Merilindë is actually Meril-i-Turinqi from "The Book of Lost Tales" – not canonically, of course, just in my little corner of the Ardaverse.

When I decided to try my hand on an Advent calendar again, after all those years, I originally wanted to write a drabble a day – something short, for a change, using some never-posted attempts as the starting point. After a while, however, I found the form too restricting and decided to turn them into short stories instead. I don't really hope to be able to produce a new story each day, no matter how short, but I will give my best effort and add new parts as inspiration hits until I reach the required number 24.

The stories don't follow any particular order, although sometimes two or even three belong together. And, as the title says, they are not very happy. My apologies. But it's almost impossible to write happy stories about First Age Elves.

Chapter Text

Not So Happy Returns

by Soledad

Disclaimer: see in the Foreword.

December 01 – Judgement

Finally, after two entire Ages of walking Ennorath alone, Macalaurë, Fëanáro's last remaining son, returned to Aman and was now standing in the Máhanaxar, awaiting his doom. The Valar were sitting upon their thrones with grim faces and a great crowd of Elves had gathered to witness justice being meted out.

Eönwë, the Herald of the Elder King, counted his deeds without judging them, for Judgement was yet to come. Once Eönwë had finished his task, Námo, the Lord of Mandos, rose from his throne and gazed at the crowd.

"Is there any-one who would speak in defence of Macalaurë Fëanárion?" he asked, yet only cold silence answered him. Even Macalaurë's wife, she who had waited for him through all those ages faithfully, remained silent.

Yet when Námo was about to speak again and to announce his doom, a clear voice cried out.

"I shall speak for him!" it said, and all recognized with great surprise Celebrían, the daughter of Nerwendë Artanis.

"I shall speak for him," she repeated. "For horrible some of his deeds may have been, yet he was as a father to my beloved; a better father than Eärendil who was never there when needed. Were my Lord Elrond here, he would speak for him. As he is still lingering in Middle-earth, 'tis my place to do so in his stead."

And she turned to Macalaurë and said with simple warmth, speaking in Sindarin.

"Welcome home, Adar Maglor. I am pleased to finally meet you."

And thus Macalaurë understood that he would be forgiven, and he wept with joy.


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December 02 – Atonement

The ship took her to Avallónë, where she was welcomed by her daughters, Erien and Ernis, who had remained in Aman, in their anammë Anairë's house, never having joined the rebellion of the Noldor. They were overjoyed to see her again after an entire Age – more so as they could not hope to be reunited with their atar and their brothers any time soon.

"Come with us to the Southern Fiefdoms," they asked her. "Anammë has been waiting anxiously for news about the fate of her children."

But Merilindë shook her head and said, "I cannot, my children. I am not allowed to go any further than Tol Eressëa; nor do I wish to. Aman is no longer my home, and I would not have Sailed at all, had my sons not been slain by the Enemy. This isle, which is as close to my true home as any place on this side of the Bent Sea can ever hope to be, shall be my refuge. This is where I shall wait for the return of your brothers."

"What about Atto?" her daughters asked.

Merilindë's face became cold and hard as the ice of the Helcaraxë that she had once crossed in the hope of a new beginning.

"Your atar has forfeited the right to be mourned and waited for," she declared. "From now on I shall lead my own life."

And she had a house built on Tol Eressëa and planted a great korin of elm trees around it, and there she lived forthwith in Kortirion, the Lady of Tol Eressëa as she was called, and her house stood open for everyone coming from Ennorath for the next two Ages.


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December 03 –
Reunion at the Endless Sea

He turned around, expecting to see his usual minder. Instead, he saw a Maia he had not met before. She was clad in a gown of soft grey, girdled with silver, over which she wore a sleeveless kirtle of pale blue, embroidered with a wavy silver pattern along the hem. The only vivid colour on her was her hair, shining like polished copper, braided with silver and wreathed around her head like a coronet.

"Greetings," she said brightly. "I am Erunyauvë, of the People of Lady Nienna. She sent me to take you to her mansion."

"Why?" he asked, hesitating between relief and bewilderment. "I thought I was to be released today."

The Maia nodded. "And you will be. However, there is someone in my Lady's care who refuses to leave without you, and frankly, we all would be relieved to see him gone. He is emanating an air of gloom that we all find hard to bear."

"Trust Turucáno to make even the lives of the Powers miserable," he grinned, but the Maia gave him a surprised look.

"Oh no, I was not speaking about your brother! Turucáno has long been released and happily reunited with his wife; the two of them are currently dwelling on Tol Eressëa, as lord and lady of Avallónë, and content with their lives."

"Aracáno then?" he asked, a bit baffled. Their youngest brother had never been particularly stubborn – well, never before.

"No," said the Maia. "Aracáno was the first of you to be re-embodied; and even your father has returned to Life already. Only Aredhel is not willing to leave, but she is a special case anyway."

"Then who…?" he tried fishing for facts, butt he Maia just shook her head again.

"'Tis not my right to tell. Come with me, and you shall see."

Seeing that there was no way to learn more, Fingon reluctantly followed the Maia to the outside.

"Take my hand," she instructed him. "As Lord Irmo has not officially released you from his care yet, we shall take the shortcut to my Lady's mansion. You may wish to close your eyes, though; unless, of course, you don't mind throwing up right upon your arrival. It can be a bit… disorienting for you Elves."

As throwing up all over Lady Nienna's doorstep was the last thing he wanted, Fingon hurriedly closed his eyes and clutched to the Maia's hand for dear life. There was a powerful lurch, making his stomach turn upside down for a moment, but it passed swiftly enough, followed by a feeling of disorientation, as the Maia had foretold. But that, too, passed soon, and he took a deep breath, trying to calm down his protesting insides.

Having a body again definitely brought problems with it. Problems he had long forgotten.

"You can open your eyes now," said the Maia, her voice gently amused. "It is over."

He obeyed and found himself on the shore of the Endless Sea, looking forward over the waves that rolled silently like snow-clad hills to the desolate shore – forwards, where, beyond the Sea, the Door of Night is said to be found, at the utmost edge of the Black Marshes. It was a majestic sight, but also a fairly disturbing one, moreover for the utter silence that engulfed them.

"Why are we here?" he asked with a frown. "I thought you were taking me to Lady Nienna's."

"I already have," the Maia replied. "This path above us leads directly to my Lady's gardens. We did not want anyone to see you, as, in theory, you should still be in Lórien. This way we can… well, simply sneak you in," she added with a grin.

She led him along the path into a beautiful garden. And there, setting under a weeping willow near a small pond, Fingon finally spotted the reason why he had been brought here.

Maitimo looked very much like he had before they would leave Aman for Ennorath. Before the death of Finwë. Before he would take that terrible Oath.

He had both hands again, and that was almost disturbing. For him, too, by the way he was looking at the hand the loss of which had so much determined his previous life.

Hearing their approaching footsteps he looked up – and recognized Fingon at once.

"Findecáno," he whispered. "You came."

"Do I not always?" asked Fingon. "How could I refuse now, that you have been finally released?"

"True," Maedhros gave him a tentative smile. "What are we going to do now?"

"What we must," replied Fingon simply. "We return to Life."

Maedhros shook his head glumly. "I do not wish to."

"You have no choice," intervened the Maia. "Besides, you are expected anxiously. Do you not think your Ammë deserves to get her firstborn back?"

Maedhros hesitated. "I fear to face her," he admitted. "I have left her without a second thought; that must have hurt."

"It has, but that was a very long time ago," Erunyauvë reminded him gently. "She has forgiven you. Now you must forgive yourself. Go to her – that is the first step to full healing."

"Come," Fingon extended his hand. "Let us go together."

After another moment of hesitation, Maedhros took the proffered hand and the two of them followed Erunyauvë back to Lórien, to head to the Gates of Return.


Chapter Text

December 04 – Back to Life I.

They reached the Gates of Return, still holding hands like at the time when they had been elflings and closer than any brothers by blood could hope to become. When they stepped over the threshold, still holding hands for support, there were two ellith and a single ellon waiting for them.

Upon seeing them, Maedhros tore himself loose and ran to the elleth with hair as luxurious and red as his own, all but throwing himself into her arms and crying tears of joy and regret, while Nerdanel was holding him in an almost-too-tight embrace as if she never wanted to let him go.

"Nana!" he cried in Sindarin, which Nerdanel did not understand but guessed the meaning anyway. "Nana, I am so sorry!"

At that, Nerdanel finally let go of him, taking both his hands (and was it not odd to have two hands again, after all that time?) and gazed into his face lovingly.

"'Tis all right, Maitimo, my dear," she said. "What matters is that you have returned to me – the first, as you always have been. Come now. Our family, such as we still have, is awaiting you."

And Maedhros, smiling tremulously through his tears, followed his Ammë away from the Gates. Fingon was left behind, temporarily forgotten.


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December 05 – Back to Life II.

Fingon eyed the two waiting for him warily. The elleth was clearly a Vanya, blue-eyed and golden-haired and stunningly beautiful, with the usual faint golden glow of the First Kindred about her. He wore a gown of heavy, brocaded white silk, embroidered with gold thread. She seemed eerily familiar, but at the moment Fingon cold not remember her name.

The ellon was a Noldo, grey-eyed, raven-haired, tall and willowy, though perhaps not quite as tall as Fingon himself. He was clad in royal blue with what was presumably his own device emblazoned on the breast of his velvet tunic: a winged sun in bright red and yellow upon a square of azure blue, its sixteen points touching the edge of the shield.

He, too, seemed familiar – as did his device, as if Fingon had borne it once himself – and there was great pity in his eyes as he looked at Fingon.

"I regret that no-one else has come to greet you, hanno," he said. "But Atto and Ammë must sit in council with the Noldóran right now, and your wife does not wish to reunite with you. So you shall have to make do with Elenwë and myself."

Fingon stared at the familiar stranger with detached curiosity.

"Turucáno?" he finally asked as a fragmented memory resurfaced.

The once King of Gondolin nodded. "Indeed, it is I, hanno. Come with us and be welcome in our new home. Questions can wait."

And Fingon followed his brother meekly, wondering why his wife would refuse to greet him at the Gates and what he was supposed to do with this new life, back in Aman where he never truly wanted to return.


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December 06 – The Offering

Aracáno returned from Tavrobel in a strangely subdued mood. After he had kept giving Meril odd looks for a few days, she decided that enough was enough and chose to confront him directly. For that purpose, she invited him for a walk in her gardens. Just the two of them – unless any of the Maiar were eavesdropping unclad, which she would not put beyond them. They were a meddlesome lot at the best of times.

"So Ara," she said. "Now that we are alone, would you tell me what is wrong? You have been acting strangely, ever since your return. What happened to you in Tavrobel?"

"N-nothing," he answered reluctantly. "Just something Uncle Arfin said…"

"And what would that be in particular?" asked Meril. "I am sure he told you a great many things. Which one troubles you?"

"That the Maiar said you are supposed to become the Queen of Tol Eressëa," said Aracáno. "And that you would not take Fin back. Is it true?"

"I have been the Queen of Tol Eressëa in all but crown and title since I returned from Ennorath, so there is nothing new in that," replied Meril calmly. "As for your brother: yea, it is true. The Valar may do with him as they please; keep him or release him, 'tis all the same to me. I no longer have need of him."

"But-but he is your husband!" reminded her Aracáno.

"My husband died in the Battle of Unnumbered Tears; and even before that, he was never truly mine," returned Meril sharply. "Our hröar were bound in marriage, that is true, but his fëa was always bound to Nelyafinwë's. Had I not been so young and inexperienced, had I not been so much in love with him, I would have seen it. I should never have married him in the first place. There were always three in our marriage: me, him and the ghost of Nelyafinwë."

"But surely he has changed in Mandos," said Aracáno. "We all have. You could begin your life anew."

"I do not want a new life," answered Meril. "I reshaped my life in his absence to my liking, and I am not changing back to what it used to be."

Aracáno stared at her in shocked disbelief. "You no longer love him?"

Meril shrugged. "Oh I still do... in a manner. Which is why I shall set him free. We will both do better without each other."

"That would mean a lonely life, though," he said softly.

"Which would be different from my current life how exactly?" she asked with a mirthless smile. "Or from my marriage, for that matter? When was I not lonely since marrying him? Did you know that he left me behind, pregnant with our fourth child, to go and search for Nelyafinwë?"

Aracáno shook his head in mute horror. Such a thing was sheer unimaginable among Elves. An elleth with child needed the constant support of her husband, weakened as she was through giving much of her life energy to the child growing inside her. That Findecáno would leave his wife alone with that burden…

"Well, he did," said Meril dryly. "And after your atar's death in the Bragollach, he sent me and our youngest to Círdan. For our protection, he said. My older sons were dead, and he sent me away, so that he could go to war with Nelyafinwë without having to worry about my safety."

"He meant well," Aracáno tried to defend his brother.

"Yea; and all paths leading to Mandos are paved with good intentions," Meril snorted derisively. "Nay; I can gladly let go of such a husband: one who never truly cared for me."

"Do you truly believe the Valar would allow you to dissolve your marriage as Anatar did?" he asked doubtfully. "Or that Findecáno would agree to remain in Mandos to set you free?"

Meril shrugged. "Probably not; but since I have no intentions to marry again, I am not planning to ask them, either. Findecáno will be free to pursue other interests, as far as I am concerned. And I vindicate the same right for myself."

"But if you do not wish to choose a new husband…" Aracáno began uncertainly.

"I can always choose a consort," she interrupted. "I do not want to bear further children – five were quite enough, thank you very much – so there will be no legal considerations."

"The Valar still would not like it," he warned.

Meril shrugged again. "So what? Are they sending me into exile? I already live in exile, so that would make no true difference."

"I am sure you would be allowed to return to Tirion if you wanted," he said.

Meril nodded with a grimace. "So am I. But that is not the exile I meant."

"You would wish to return to Endórë?" Aracáno realized.

He did not know why that surprised him so much. All former Exiles seemed to have a sheer irresistible longing for the Outer Lands, Reborn and returnees alike.

"I would go back in a moment," Meril confessed. "Despite the darkness and the danger that surrounded us, I never felt so free in my entire life. That is why I chose to remain here. I could never survive in the gilded cage of Tirion. Not after I have tasted true freedom."

"Why did you return then at all?" he asked. "You could have stayed in Endórë; in Lindon, where your son was King."

"That I could have," she agreed. "But my older sons were dead, and regardless of my feelings, or rather the lack of any true feelings towards their atar, I wanted to see them again. And I wanted to see my daughters, too, whom I had left behind at a tender age with their daernaneth. I did not truly have any other choice. I wish I had, but I did not."

"I wish I had lived long enough to at least see Endórë," said Aracáno wistfully. "It must have been a wondrous land, if all of you are yearning for it so much."

"It was," Meril nodded. "Beautiful and dangerous and amazing and deadly – and part of me will always remain in the lands that now lay under the Sea," she sighed and gave him a sad smile. "I would share my memories with you if you wanted. I would share everything with you."

Aracáno looked at her in surprise. "What do you mean with everything?"

"I mean: stay here with me," she replied. "Stay here and share with me my house, my work, my life – my bed if you want. Here, and here alone, we can be ourselves. Not Merilindë and Aracáno, the proper little wife and dismissed little brother of the great hero of Beleriand, but Meril and Argon; the Lady of the Isle and his consort."

"You want me to become your consort?" Aracáno could not quite trust his ears.

Meril shrugged. "I do. Why does it surprise you so much? Have you not always been the one to comfort me in my loneliness, when I sat alone at home while Findecáno was out a-hunting with his cousins? Have you not practically lived under our roof before we up and left for Endórë? Have you not loved me secretly for yéni, hoping that no-one will notice?"

"I did," he answered slowly, "and it was wrong. You were bound to my brother."

"I was," she agreed. "Yet now I am not. I shall not take him back, no matter what. If your feelings towards me have changed in Mandos, I respect that; in that case, I will find someone else to share my life, eventually. I would prefer it to be you, though, if you would still have me; for you have always been part of my life."

"I-I cannot give you an answer just yet," said Aracáno after a lengthy pause. "'Tis true that I have loved you since I grew out of childhood; and changed I may have in Mandos in many ways, that part of my heart has not changed. But this goes against everything I was taught in my previous life; and I have not spent yéni in Endórë where things are, I understand, handled differently. I am greatly confused and will have to think about this very carefully; for any mistake we may make will have consequences that would last to the end of Arda."

"That is all right," replied Meril gently. "Take your time. I am used to waiting; and whatever you decide, I will accept."


Chapter Text

December 07 – A Discussion in Valinor

"What shall we do about Merilindë and Aracáno?" mused Lord Námo, his visage clouded with concern.

His sister, the Lady Nienna, gave him a piercing look.

"Are we supposed to do anything?" she asked.

"I would say we are," replied the Lord of Mandos. "Their choice clearly violates the Laws and Customs of the Eldar. We cannot condone such a thing."

"The royal House of the Noldor has been echoing with the laments of wronged wives for Ages," returned the Lady Nienna sharply. "Indis, Nerdanel, Anairë, Helyanwë, Merilindë… what did we do to ease their pain when their husbands denied them their due of love, deprived them of their children or dragged them into exile? We could count Elenwë among them as well; after all, was her life not cut short because of Turucáno's choice?"

"Elenwë is not our concern at the moment," reminded her their brother, Lord Irmo. "Merilindë is. We cannot tolerate her casting out her husband and taking a new one."

"She did not take a new husband," corrected Lady Nienna. "She took a consort."

"Is there a difference?" asked Lord Námo dryly.

Lady Nienna nodded. "By the letter of the law the two of you seem so very fond of, yes, there is."

"Not if they lie together," argued Lord Irmo. "That binds them till the end of Arda."

"Tell that the Moriquendi," answered the Lady of Sorrows. "Ask them why do they choose to become houseless spirits when they die, rather than coming to Námo's Halls. They will tell you why: because they have lived with second and third spouses after having lost the first one for Ages, and do not wish to be parted from them in favour of someone they barely remember."

"That is different," said Lord Námo. "No-one bothered to tell the Moriquendi about the Laws and Customs, and Eru chose to be merciful with their failings."

"Exactly," replied Lady Nienna. "Eru is merciful. Can we afford to be anything else?"

To that, her brothers had no satisfying answer.


Chapter Text

December 08 – Refusal

He tumbled down the rock-side of Caragdûr – it was a long fall, but he barely felt any pain when he finally hit the bottom. He must have died immediately.

His hröa broke up like a ripe chestnut, setting his spirit free, and he felt… relief, actually. Living with the knowledge that he had killed his wife instead of his misbegotten son would have been unbearable in the long run. He would have faded sooner or later anyway. 'Twas better to be done with the dying part quickly – it was less painful this way.

That, of course, left the question what should he do with himself now.

"You have two choices," said a dark, melodious voice, and as he turned around, he saw a being as large as the hills, shrouded in the dark glory of one of the Powers. "You can come to my Halls, undergo Judgement, heal and be reborn into a new body in due time. Or you can haunt these shores as a houseless spirit 'til the end of Arda."

He shook his head… well, mentally, anyway.

"I shall not go with you," he replied. "My place is here, among my own people. And if I remain here, at least Írith can be free when she returns to Life."

"What if she does not want to be free?" asked the Lord Mandostô. What if her death does not break the enchantment your put on her and she wants to be with you? She did beg Turucáno to spare your life, after all."

He shook his head again. "Unlikely. But she is better off without me anyway. She will be reborn, eventually, and be reunited with her family, and I… I will be with mine. The one I should never have left."

"There is no place for dead Elves in Endórë," said the Lord Mandostô.

He laughed at that.

"It appears that not even the Powers know everything that happens on these shores, do they?" he said. "Worry not, Lord, for I do have a place in Middle-earth: the one where all our dead go. You never cared much for us, Faithful – why should you start now? Go and dote on your cherished Eldar; we of the Faithful take care of our own."

The Vala seemed to hesitate for a moment – and then he was gone. And he who had once been known as Kundû Endero of the Tatyai, Morwê's heir in the hidden city of Ramandur, and later called Eöl the Dark Elf by his estranged kindred, gave the mental equivalent of a relieved sigh and turned around, tried to think of a way to get home in his current, disembodied form.


Chapter Text

December 09 – Guidance

He who had once been known as Kundû Endero of the Tatyai, Morwê's heir in the hidden city of Ramandur, and later called Eöl the Dark Elf by his estranged kindred, turned around and tried to think of a way to get home in his current, disembodied form.

"I shall lead you the way," a heartbreakingly familiar voice said, speaking in the ancient dialect of the Faithful that he had not heard for yéni, and the slender shape of a raven-haired elleth took form before his very eyes, seemingly out of thin air.

"Erikwê?" he asked, stunned to meet his first bride after all those endless years. "But – but they said you were dead!"

She smiled at him as she had always done.

"I am… and so are you, beloved. I am the Herald of the Dead, entrusted with the task to take home with me those who refuse the summons of Lord Mandostô."

"I cannot go with you," he said, ashamed. "I have forsaken you and took a wife; one of the Amanians."

"Well, I was dead, and you were alive," she answered reasonably. "I never blamed you for doing so. And you are with me now."

"But I did not choose to remain here because of you," he confessed. "I wanted to set my wife free. 'Twas the least I could do for her, since she died by my own hand, however accidentally."

"And by that, he saved you from slaying your own son," she reminded him gently. "I still blame you not. I blame Mbelekôro and his evil for the fate of us all. You are still with me – that is all that counts."

"I cannot return to you," he said. "I formed a bond with my wife – though I suspect it might have been one-sided without the enchantment –, a bond that not even death can break, or so they say."

She smiled at him patiently.

"Endero," she said. "I have been dead since before the Sun first rose. This is not a true hröa you see – 'tis but an illusion we create when we talk to the living or the newly dead because it makes it easier for them. But by refusing to go to Mandostô, we forfeited the right to be reborn into a new body 'til the end of Arda – or beyond. We shan't be able to be together as spouses, even if we wanted. You shall have a place among us in the House of the Dead, though, like everyone else who chooses to remain on these shores."

"Everyone?" he asked, knowing that his son would also refuse Judgement. The last thing he wanted was to share eternity with that little traitor… for he was quite certain that Maeglin would meet a bad end, too, sooner or later.

"Everyone who is of our blood," Erikwê clarified. "Those not of the Faithful will have to see how to deal with being disembodied, should they not wish to face the Powers in Judgement. Come now. Your mother and Atar Morwê are anxious to have you back – even if only in spirit form."

"I do not know how to travel as a houseless spirit," he admitted reluctantly.

"Just take my hand," she said.

He reached out tentatively and was shocked how real ghost flesh felt to ghost flesh. Erikwê grabbed his hand, and then they were soaring in the upper airs together, flying eastward where, nestled and well-hidden among the mountain peaks, the city of the Faithful was waiting for them: Ramandur, the Stone Flower.


Chapter Text

December 10 – Exiled

He had once been the bond-mate of Morwêndî, the daughter of Lord Morwê, but got captured by the Enemy and toiled in the iron mines for yéni, 'til his eyes lost sight in the eternal darkness. His son had long sought for him in vain, 'til they both lost hope and he resigned to a fate in slavery.

When Róg and the others orchestrated an escape, they took him with them and he went with them willingly, for there was no way to return to Ramandur, not without betraying its location, and he would rather die than to do that.

In Gondolin, he found a place in the House of the Hammer of Wrath, found a friend in Laikwâlassê, and for a while he seemed content.

When Gondolin fell, he once again fled with the others, for they needed him to find a way of escape in Mbelekôro's darkness, and he was more than willing to help. The mortal Tuor and the Lady Itarildë had always been kind to him, and he wanted to repay their kindness as well as he could.

After the War of Wrath, when Beleriand crumbled into the Sea, he took the offer of the Powers and Sailed. He did not go any further than Tol Eressëa, where he settled in the then-modest town of Tavrobel, with the other survivors from Gondolin. In time, he became the Guild Master of the miners and ironsmiths and a valued member of the Town Council and again, he seemed content.

But in the heart of his hearts he knew he would never see his family and his own people again, mayhap not even in Arda Remade. For the Faithful, called the Avari or the Dark Elves by the Amanians, did not go to the Halls of Mandos when they died and could therefore not be reborn into new bodies. And for Gimli, the blind Elf, who had once been called Gimilî by his own kind, there was no way back to Ramandur, the Stone Flower, where the Faithful lived door by door with their dead.


Chapter Text

December 11 – The Longing

He had endured the Longing for over five hundred years of the Sun – ever since Celebrían had Sailed – and knew he had waited too long. But he was the last of Finarfin's House in Middle-earth; the last of the line of the High Kings, even without a crown to bear and a kingdom to rule. He could not afford to Sail before Sauron was defeated, no matter how much he had been ravaged by the Longing. He had been needed.

Now, however, he was free to leave these mortal shores, with all those whose work was done with Sauron's defeat. Mithrandir, before all else. The Lady Galadriel, who had passed the most difficult test of her long life and was now ready to go home. Gildor Inglorion, whose bitter oath, sworn among the smoking ruins of Ost-in-Edhil, back in the Second Age, was finally fulfilled.

And, of course, the Ringbearers, who needed healing as much as he did.

Erestor came with him, naturally, as faithful as ever; and young Lindir, whose innocence had been marred forever during the last attack on Imladris, when he had been forced to take a life to protect others, and who was now hoping to find healing in the Blessed Lands, too; and many others from his household.

Many others – just not his own children. For Arwen had made her Choice and was now lost for him 'til the end of Arda; and there were signs that Elladan, in whom the mortal blood had always been the strongest, might take Elros' choice as well, going wherever mortal Men go when they die – where no Elf could ever follow. And Elrohir had refused to leave as long as either of his siblings was still alive.

"We do not know if we shall meet again in Arda Remade," he had said. "You have no choice, Ada; you have to go. But I do not feel the call of the Sea yet, and I wish to stay with them a little longer."

"As long as he stays, I shall stay," Glorfindel had promised. "I swore to Elenwë's grandparents that I would protect their children and grandchildren as long as there still is someone to protect. Go in peace, mellon nîn. I shall remain here and watch over your children."

"One cannot wish for better protection," Elrond had answered. "Thank you, my friend."

But even though he knew that his children would be as safe as one could ever hope under the protection of the Balrog-slayer, he dreaded the moment of their arrival in Aman.

How was he supposed to explain to Celebrían why he had come without their children?


Chapter Text

December 12 – Bereft

She had been waiting anxiously ever since the fall of Sauron, and now, it seemed, the time of reunion had finally come. The word about it reached her during one of her rare visits to the Noldóran's court in Tirion, and Arafinwë and Eärwen spontaneously decided to join her, for they were eager to see their only daughter again.

Finrod and Amarië came, too, as well as their son Ingalaurë and his wife, Lintári of the Vanyar, who were hoping for a reunion with their son Gildor, whom they had not seen since the Second Age.

Now they were all standing in the haven of Avallónë, waiting for the grey ship to sail into the docks in a wide, elegant arch. The grey-clad sailors of the Falathrim were singing in their ancient tongue as the ship drew its perfect arch to line up with the long stone jetty. Celebrían recognized Galdor, holding the steering wheel with his own hands; this was the Alquarámë then, the same vessel that had brought her to the West half a millennium ago.

However, it took her a moment to realise that the tall figure shimmering in pearly white, standing at the prow of the ship, was, in fact, Mithrandir. She had always known who – or rather what – the old wizard truly was, but she had never seen him display his power so openly.

He was the first to leave the ship, as soon as the gangplanks were thrown over, riding a magnificent white horse, followed by two small figures, barely taller than very young elflings, on ponyback – presumably the Ringbearers.

The Lady Galadriel followed, still as imperious and stunningly beautiful as she had always been, and Celebrían's heart stopped for a moment, seeing that Lord Celeborn had not come with her. She was greeted joyously by the Noldóran, his Queen and their heir, while Gildor was immediately surrounded by his parents and grandmother, though their reunion seemed a lot less happy.

Then, finally, Elrond departed, too, and Celebrían's heart stopped again, seeing the damage the Longing had done to him. Someone else might not have noticed the marring of his beauty, or how weakened he truly was, but the two of them had been soul-bound for more than an Age, and the long separation had only heightened her awareness of him.

Overwhelmed by impatience, she showed people out of her way, ignoring the calls of her mother as she made a path to him to take him into her arms – an embrace that was more that of a mother than that of a wife, not for the first time in their marriage.

"At last you are here, beloved," she whispered, tears running down her face that she was able to hold him again. "At last we are together again. I have missed you so much!"

But he was trembling in her arms and she could feel sadness radiating from the very depths of his fëa.

"I am sorry, Celebrían," he murmured in despair. "I hoped to bring our children home to you, but they have made their Choice. We may be reunited with Elrohir one day, but I have my doubts about Elladan. And Arwen… our Evenstar is lost for us, forever."

She felt a strange coldness encroach her heart, as if she had been run through with a Morgul-blade. Them everything went dark around her as she fainted into Elrond's arms.

Eärwen, who had been watching them from the distance, shook her head in sad understanding.

"Nothing can wound a mother's heart like the loss of her children," she said.

She knew what she was speaking about. She had once lost all her children to the rebellion of the Noldor. But while she could hope for them to be eventually reborn – which had already happened to Finrod – Celebrían did not have that comfort.

Somebody touched Elrond's arm gently, and he recognized in surprise Galenbrethil, formerly a Master Healer of Imladris.

"Allow us to help," she said. "We have friends here, in Avallónë, in whose house you can both rest. It would be better for you to spend some time in each other's company ere continuing on to Aman proper."

Elrond looked at her, saw the gentle understanding in her eyes and nodded in agreement. 'Twas good to know that they were not without friends, not even beyond the Bent Sea.


Chapter Text

December 13 – Light

Dawn was barely breaking, clear and golden beyond the distant peaks of the Pelóri, when he woke up to the strange urge to go down to Lake Lorellin, in the middle of which Lady Estë was known to sleep on an enchanted isle. He wondered briefly why would he wish to go to the lake, as no-one of the dwellers of Lórien went there as a rule, unless expressly summoned. It was not forbidden to do so, not directly – they just felt too much respect for Lady Estë to disturb her rest.

Yet now it seemed to him as if he had heard a call from a great distance; a sheer irresistible one, and his feet were carrying him down the gentle slopes of the hills surrounding the lake, without him having made a conscious decision.

The first light of the new day had just been cast over the surface of the lake when he reached the shore. The water was smooth and gleaming like blue glass. Then, suddenly, the opaque smoothness was broken, and a slender figure emerged from the water, sending widening rings of tiny waves all around her.

In the new light she seemed like a water spirit at first, but then he realized that it was an elleth, a Vanya by her colouring, wearing a sleeveless undershift of some pearlescent fabric that left very little to imagination, so wet and clinging to her. Her great wealth of luscious golden hair was lying heavily on her back like an armful of wet, ripe wheat.

A memory, half-forgotten but strangely familiar, stirred deep within his heart by the sight.

"I know you… do I not?" he said hesitantly.

"I hope so," she replied with a mischievous glint in those incredibly blue eyes of hers.

She was so beautiful, so radiant it nearly broke his heart.

"We… we met like this for the very first time, did we not?" he asked as another memory surfaced. "You always liked to take swims in the early morning,"

"That is right," she smiled at him and waded to the shore, rivulets of water running down her hair and her clothing. He offered both hands to help her to the shore and she accepted; her hands were small and cold from having been in the water.

"I cannot remember your name," he admitted sadly. "Though I feel as if I should."

"That is all right, Turucáno," she replied, smiling. "Worry not; the memories will come back, eventually. I am Elenwë, and I went through the same, yéni ago. Come with me; I will help you to find them again."


Chapter Text

December 15 – Spring's End

When the destruction of the Great Lamps ended the Spring of Arda and the dwelling place of the Valar in Almaren lay in ruins, they departed from Middle-earth and went to the land of Aman, the westernmost of all lands upon the borders of the word. Yet at that time Yavanna had already planted many seeds in earth, and while the Lamps were shining, growth began there. Alas, now that all was dark again, that growth came to a halt.

But already, the oldest living things had arisen: in the Sea the great weeds and on earth the shadow of dark trees. And beneath the trees small things faint and silent walked, and in the valleys of the night-clad hills there were dark creatures, old and strong.

In those dark forests Oromë often hunted, for he loved Middle-earth and was the last to come to Aman. And with him sometimes Yavanna came, to sing in the darkness, and her heart mourned for all the budding life that was now stopped.

She was accompanied by Akairis, the youngest of the Great Valar, she who had come to Arda with her brothers last, even after Tulkas. And her brother Ómar went with them, singing songs of power no-one else would know or could evoke, to keep Arda remembering the Light.

But they were all concerned about the creatures of Melkor growing in strength under the veil of darkness, for they knew that the Children of Ilúvatar were supposed to awaken, soon – soon as they counted time. And they urged the other Valar to do something ere it would be too late.

And so Varda took from the remaining light of Silpion to make the stars as a sign of hope and defiance against Melkor upon the skies; yet the other Valar were still too shocked by the loss of the Lamps and that of their home, and they were more concerned with creating a new, safer dwelling place for themselves and abandoned Middle-earth for a while.

"What do we do now?" asked Salmar his sister in disappointment; for Akairis had always been the most fierce and determined among them.

"We wait... for now," she said, with a flash of anger in her aura. But if the others do not stir for too long, we shall take things into our own hands. We have been sent to Arda to protect it, after all."

Chapter Text

December 14 – Darkness

The worst thing in the Halls was the darkness. It was like Nan Elmoth all over again: she knew that light existed, she could even glimpse faint reflections of it in a great distance, but it never quite reached the place where she was kept. Making her yearn for the light and glory she could never reach.

It was rather oppressing, really. Why did the cursed Halls have to be so dark?

"They are not," a voice said and, turning around, she saw a tall, slender figure standing just beyond arm's reach.

He looked like an Elf – like a Noldo, in fact, with a pale, angular face and artfully braided dark hair, but she could feel that she was more than that. A Maia, most likely, though not one she had met before.

"The Halls are not dark," he repeated. "What you perceive is the very darkness you have brought here with you."

She gave him an unfriendly glare. "Who are you and what are you talking about?"

The… person inclined his head. "I am called Nornorë, and I am currently helping out in the Halls. We had many new arrivals lately, and my brethren have asked for help. And I merely said that you have brought your own darkness here. You shan't be able to see aught else 'til you undergo Judgement. Then you shall rest 'til your hröa is ready to be reborn into a new body and return to Life."

"I do not want to be reborn," she hissed. "If the Valar think they can force me to go back to my murderer, they are sorely mistaken!"

The Maia sighed. "The Valar do not intend to force you to do anything, child; you or anyone else. And you need not to worry about returning to Endero. He refused to come to the Halls and chose to continue his existence as a disembodied spirit."

Aredhel could not suppress a little evil satisfaction.

"Good," she said. "Becoming a wraith will suit him; and it is no more than what he deserves."

"He did it to set you free," said Nornorë gravely. "He told Lord Námo that this was his atonement for killing you, however unintentionally."

"And now I am supposed to be grateful?" demanded Aredhel. "After he had held me imprisoned in that gloomy forest of his, making me live in a peasant's hut, and then tried to murder my son?"

"Much pain may have been spared Endórë, had he succeeded," replied the Maia darkly. "But that is neither here nor there. What you are supposed to do is to forgive him. And, more importantly, to forgive yourself for falling under his enchantment. For as long as you cannot forgive yourself, you shan't be able to accept Forgiveness, either; and without that, you shall never find your way out of this darkness. Think about it, Lady Ar-Feiniel. Think about it very carefully."


Chapter Text

December 16 – The Great Divide

When the Valar decided to summon the newly awakened Quendi to Aman to keep them safe from Melkor and his creatures, the agreement about it was almost complete.

Almost. Ulmo clearly did have his doubts, although he chose not to oppose his brethren openly; and as he remained silent, Ossë could do naught else but growl quietly under his breath. He might not be one of the Valar but stood only a little behind them in actual power; the sea-storms in which his displeasure manifested were truly spectacular in those days.

Akairis and her brothers, however, saw no reason to remain silent. By right they were counted among the Aratari, despite their youth. And while Salmar followed Ulmo's example of quiet disagreement, Akairis was verbal enough for both of them.

"Is this what Ilúvatar truly wants?" she demanded from Manwë. "That we take His Children from the place where they were meant to dwell? Is Arda not supposed to be their home?"

"It was supposed to be our home as well," Aulë reminded her grimly. "Until Melkor destroyed it."

"And we have run and hid in Aman cowardly, allowing him to lay claim over the rest of Arda," returned Akairis bitterly. "And now we are about to encourage the Children to do the same, leaving him free reign. I cannot believe Ilúvatar would want this. Has He spoken to you, Manwë?"

"No," admitted the Elder King. "But we have an obligation towards the Children. We must protect them."

"And what about those who do not want to leave their home?" asked Akairis.

"'Tis their choice," replied Tulkas with a shrug. "We cannot be everywhere."

"So we shall just leave them behind, unprotected, to Melkior's tender mercies," said Ómar darkly, his beautiful voice brittle and cold.

Akairis' aura flashed in anger.

"Nay, brother," she said. "They may do so. We shall not," she looked at their brother, Salmar. "Are you with us in this?"

"I agree with you," Salmar replied. "Yet I shan't leave; not yet. I want to see first how all this plays out."

She nodded. "Very well. If you choose to follow us, we shall see that you find us."

"Where are you going?" asked Oromë with a frown.

"To fulfil the duty you chose to abandon," she answered, and in the next moment she and Ómar faded away.

The other Valar experienced a moment of agonizing loss as the connection between them was severed – and then they were gone, forever. No-one heard of them again... not until the end of the Third Age of Arda, when Sauron was defeated, and even then only from hearsay. Even their memory was wiped from the Music, together with their names and the very fact of their existence.


Chapter Text

December 17 – Alqualondë

When Elulindo returned from the Outer Seas, riding the hill-high waves of Ossë's wrath on the Tinwerîna, the slaughter at Alqualondë was long over. The long white quays of the Swanhaven were soiled with the blood of slain Elves – Lindar and Noldor alike –, the many-coloured lamps were broken, their shards scattered all over the blood-stained stone, the great stone arch, through which once the white swanships of his people came shimmering home had been splintered under the fist of the enraged Ossë, and the ships, the wonderful ships of the Lindar, built with the tutoring of Lord Ulmo and partially by his people, were gone.

His Tinwerîna was the last one left; and there would not be any more. The Ulmonildi would never help them build new ones. That had been the agreement at the beginning.

Elulindo, still wearing the rough grey garb of the sea-farers, climbed the flat stone steps that led from the harbour directly to his father's house, fearing greatly what he would find there. He knew his father was still alive, Lady Uinen had told him that much, but he also knew that the Lindaran had fought to protect the ships and the people of the harbour, killing other Elves in the process.

That must have been hard. Despite the perils of the Great Journey, Olwë was not a warrior, had never been one. And there had been no word about the fate of Elulindo's siblings. Eärwen, hopefully, had remained in Tirion – she was a sensible elleth – but their brothers...?

He found the front door of Olwë's house ajar, which was no surprise – the Lindaran's door was always open, in case his people needed him – but the fact that no guards stood left and right of it was. Seriously concerned now, he hurried into the large antechamber of the house, which also served as the Lindaran's audience hall (as Olwë adamantly refused to have a throne room), where he found his father at last, surrounded by his councillors... well, those who had survived the attack of the Noldor.

Olwë seemed remarkably collected for someone whose city had just been attacked and many of his people slain... only his silver hair had turned snow white from the deep shock they had all suffered. He excused himself and came to hug his firstborn in a gesture of comfort he probably needed more than Elulindo did.

"'Tis good that you have come so soon, my son," he said with deep sadness. "Your mother and I shall have need of you; for your brother has fallen, trying to protect our ships and our people, and I cannot deal with all our losses alone."

And Elulindo bent his head and wept: for the loss of their white ships, for the loss of lives cut short unnecessarily, for the loss of his brother – and for the loss of his freedom. For he knew it would take a long time till he would be able to roam the Outer Seas again.


Chapter Text

December 18 – Follow-Up

Salmar, who usually spent his time on Tol Eressëa among the Solosimpi – Teleri who refused to go on to Aman proper, even after Olwë had resettled to Alqualondë with his people – also arrived to the battered Swanhaven too late.

He had rushed back through the upper air in his true form when word reached Tol Eressëa, but all he found were the dead bodies scattered all over the quays –and the shards of the Great Arch that had once so beautifully echoed the songs of the Sea and the Sea-Elves alike.

"Why would Ossë destroy it?"(1) he asked from Uinen in helpless grief.

The Lady of the Sea had come to comfort the people of Alqualondë; her handmaidens, the long-tressed Wingildi(2), were even now tending to the mourning, swaying gently, half-risen from the waves.

"He is as fierce in his grief as he is in anger," she answered sadly. "Soiled by the blood of the slain, the Arch died as well; Ossë could not bear its muteness."

Salmar nodded in understanding."I cannot blame him; that was a grievous loss for us all. 'Tis still a shame for the Arch; it was so beautiful, and the Sea had worked at shaping it for so long."

"One day, when the first phase of grief has passed, the Sea-Elves shall remember the Singing Stone," said Uinen quietly. "They will come with their tools and turn it into a memento of marred beauty and lost innocence. My spouse and I shall do our best to support them."

"As you have always done," Salmar finished for her.

She nodded. "As we have always done," she agreed."What will you be doing, though? You have friends on both sides."

"What I should have done after the destruction of the Lamps," replied Salmar. "Follow my siblings to Middle-earth."

She looked at him in confusion. "Your siblings, lord?"

It was Salmar's turn to sigh now; which he did.

"You would not remember them; no-one would, save Ilúvatar himself and me, because of our shared origins. They broke the connection to our link willingly. sundering themselves from the Music, and have been forgotten ever since."

"How do you intend to find them, then?" she asked."Middle-earth is near endless, and full of deadly peril; and you must become incarnate if you want to live there permanently."

"Akairis – my sister," she added for Uinen's sake, "promised to leave me signs that would help me to track them down. "I believe not that it will be too hard. She can be very inspiring if she puts her mind to it."

She accepted that with a nod.

"We shall forget you, too, when you are gone, shan't we?" she then asked.

"I fear you will, he replied."

"Is there no other way?" she tried to change his mind.

"None that I can see," he said, and then faded out of her memory.


Chapter Text

December 19 – Failure

He was not the only one to fear leaving the safety of Lórien, but he doubted that the others would feel near the same dread he did. Few others could claim to be such a complete failure as he head been. His folly had brought dire consequences, not only for himself and his family but also for all the Elves entrusted to him.

And all that because he had been easily influenced – would he have joined the rebellion in the first place otherwise?

But it was not his to determine when to leave and so, despite his fears, he found himself at the Gates of Return at the appointed time. No delaying attempts did him any good. He was simply guided through the Gates by one of the Maia attendants and after a moment of disorientation, he was standing on the other side, facing his parents... and Findaráto.

Seeing his brother caused him to burst out in tears of shame and regret.

"I am sorry," he sobbed. "I lost your kingdom and got your people slaughtered, just because I listened to a Mortal. I all but destroyed Nargothrond!"

Findaráto shook his head in tolerant understanding.

"No, hanno," he said, taking his younger brother into a comforting hug. "It was Glaurung who destroyed Nargothrond and Morgoth's evil that got our people slaughtered… including you."

"And my son," Artanáro added bitterly. "Halmir warned me time and again not to listen to the son of Húrin but I was blind and deaf in my determination to grow into your boots. But I was still too small to wear them in the end, was I not?"

"We all make mistakes, Ada," somebody said, and he looked at the beautiful elleth accompanying his parents in confusion for a moment. At first he thought it would be his wife, but then he recognized his daughter, Finduilas.

"I, too, was blinded by Túrin and the force of his personality," the princess continued. "And I, too, paid the price. But that is all in the past now. You must leave the past behind and look forward to the future – now that we have one again."

"Come home to Tirion with us, yonya," said Arafinwë, speaking for the first time. "Adjusting to Life again is not an easy task, but we have enough practice in aiding Reborn by now."

"Am I the last?" asked Artanáro uncertainly. "Have all my brothers returned?"

Findaráto nodded. "Only Artanis dwells in Middle-earth still," he explained. "We hope that one day she, too, will be able to come home."

"What about my wife and my sons?" insisted Artanáro.

"Halmir and Orodhin have been released a long time ago," said Findaráto. "So has your wife who had faded from grief when she learned about your daughter's fate. They all live in Tirion with us and wait for you to join them."

"But they have not come to welcome me," said Artanáro dejectedly.

"They did not want to overwhelm you with such a large reception," explained Findaráto. "They chose to wait for you at home."

"I cannot face them, not yet," whispered Artanáro. "My folly bereft them of their future. I have failed as a husband… as a father… and as a King."

"Yea, you have," returned Findaráto bluntly. "So have I, in a manner of speaking. But what is done is done and wallowing in guilt and self-pity will help no-one. You can do so if you want to, of course – it is your prerogative. Or you can learn from your mistakes and be grateful that you are given a second chance. It is up to you."

"Now, now, Findaráto, do try to have a little more understanding for your brother," chided him Eärwen. "You have been out of the Halls for yéni; you have had ample time to earn how to deal with the past. Allow him to get there at his own pace. There is no need to hurry."

"Let us return home and give Artanáro time to get used to Life again," suggested Arafinwë. "We can discuss the past – and the future – once he has found his bearings again."

The others agreed and, at a sign from Arafinwë, horses were brought for them. Artanáro obediently mounted the one offered to him and followed his family homewards. But even as he rode flanked by his parents on one side and his brother and daughter on the other one, he wondered if he would ever be forgiven for being such a failure.

If he would ever be able to forgive himself.


Chapter Text

December 20 – Empty-Handed

Once he had been a Prince of Nargothrond and the warlord of its King, and even Morgoth trembled before his ire when he charged the hosts of Angband on the plains of Anfauglith, at the sight of his brother Gelmir's brutal murder at the hands of the Orcs. Yet in the end he was overwhelmed, captured and enslaved. Seventeen years of the Sun had he spent as a thrall of Angband, ere he could escape.

Escaping Angband cost him one of his hands, and he would have died in the wilderness, alone and in despair, had Beleg Cúthalion not found him and saved his fëa through friendship… just as he had saved hishröa through leechcraft. For a while, that friendship could rouse him from his despair.

Yet not much later Beleg was slain by his Mortal friend – the same one they had rescued from the Orcs – and Gwindor saw it as his duty to rouse the Man as Beleg had roused him… for his perished friend's sake.

Now, living in Nargothrond once again, he was wondering if he had done the right thing. For the Man he had brought with him had gained respect and great influence in Aran Orodreth's council, at Gwindor's expense, and his warnings were ignored in favour of the Man's counsel of open warfare upon Morgoth's forces.

Even Finduilas, the King's daughter, to whom he had been engaged before his capture, seemed to have lost her heart to the Mortal. He did not blame her; not truly. He was a broken Elf, both in body and spirit, and she was still young and as beautiful as always. Their hastily formed bond apparently could not hold the pressure caused by the damage captivity and slavery had inflicted upon him. 'Twas better to break up the engagement and set her free – even if it broke his heart,

He tried to warn her that the Man was cursed; but she was too enchanted to listen. Mayhap some evil magic was in play there, due to the curse laid upon the Man by Morgoth. Whatever the reason might be, she refused to listen, though it was obvious that the man did not return her love… her infatuation… whatever it truly was.

And Gwindor son of Guilin hated that he could do naught but watch her walk to her doom. Just as he had to watch Aran Orodreth lead Nargothrond to its doom by ignoring the warnings of Arminas and Gelmir, the ambassadors of Lord Círdan.

Gelmir! The name, the same one his murdered brother had borne, was still like a knife rammed into his very heart. On days like these he almost wished he had died in Angband. What did he have to live for? He had lost everything: his father, his brother, his beauty, his health, his bride, the respect of his King.

He was an empty shell, washed ashore. Life had long dried out of him.

His only hope was that – should Nargothrond fall, which seemed inevitable at this point – he would not survive to see the aftermath.


Chapter Text

December 21 – Prodigal Daughter

Her time in Lord Irmo's gardens had been like a dream: peaceful, quiet, and wholesome. She was loath to leave but she knew that all dreams had to end one day and one had to wake up and face Life again, inevitably. That had been a lesson impressed upon her most emphatically by her caretaker, Tindómerel.

It was Tindómerel who came now to escort her to the Gates of Return, which was encouraging, as she was not entirely certain about her welcome. Tindómerel, though, clearly found her concerns silly.

"Why would they not welcome you?" the Maia asked. "You did nothing wrong. 'Twas not your fault that you were captured and murdered by Orcs."

"Had I not broken my promise to Gwindor, things may have ended differently," she murmured.

"Or they may have ended exactly the same way… or worse," pointed out the Maia. "There is no use brooding over what ifs, Finduilas. What happened cannot be undone, but you are back to Life now; see that you make the best of your second chance."

"I wonder who will be waiting for me on the other side of the Gates," she murmured. "You would not happen to know, would you?"

The Maia gave her a merry look full of mischief. "Oh, but that would be telling! Do you truly expect me to spoil the surprise?"

"I would but I know you would not do so," she replied. "Well, since we cannot delay the moment forever, let us do it."

Tindómerel embraced her and kissed her on the brow. "Go on then, daughter of Orodreth and Nimbrethil. You are strong enough to do this. Go and build yourself a new life."

Having crossed the mists of the Gates, Finduilas (formerly of Nargothrond) looked around uncertainly, hoping to find a familiar face. But the only person waiting there was a slender, silver-haired elleth whom she definitely had never seen before. One of the royal clan of the Sindar, perchance from Thingol's own family, by her noble and delicate features.

Her raiment, though, was almost embarrassingly simple. She wore an unadorned gown of grey silk, girdled with silver, and a grey cloak that was fastened upon her throat with an enamelled silver broche shaped like a mallorn leaf. Her hair was braided with white pearls and wrapped around her head like a coronet.

She spotted Finduilas at once and with a warm smile, she hurried over to greet the Reborn princess.

"Do I know you?" asked Finduilas uncertainly.

"Not yet, though I hope we can change that," replied the elleth. "I am Celebrían, Artanis's daughter… your cousin, although I was born in the Second Age. Uncle Finrod got held up by official business or else he would have come in person. He sent me to take you home to Tirion."

"Why not my parents?" she asked, dreading the answer.

Celebrían gave her a compassionate smile. "I am afraid they have not been released from the Halls yet. Your brothers are already on the ship to get over from Tol Eressëa, but it will take time for them to get here. They will not arrive before tomorrow."

"What…" at first she hesitated to ask, but she really wanted, no, needed to know, so she gathered all her courage and asked anyway. "What about Gwindor?"

Celebrían smiled. "He has been reborn for some time and currently dwells on Tol Eressëa, in the House of the Hundred Chimneys."

Finduilas frowned. "An odd name for a house."

"Nonetheless, it is a wonderful place to rest, to heal, to make merry and listen to songs and tales told," replied Celebrían. "Many of the Reborn or those who have recently came from Middle-earth choose to dwell there for a while… or permanently."

"You too?" asked Finduilas, but Celebrían shook her head.

"Nay, I mainly live in Kortirion, in Lady Meril's house, unless I spend time with friends in Tavrobel."

"And Gwindor…" Finduilas hesitated again. "Is he well?"

Celebrían nodded. "He has been restored to his former self; and he has forgiven you long ago."

"Do you think we still could have a future together, after all that happened?" asked Finduilas in an almost child-like manner.

And Celebrían understood that despite being a whole Age younger, she was the more mature of them, due to her experience as the mother of three grown children and the mistress of a large household. Not to mention the time she had spent at Gil-galad's court, as her mother had insisted.

"I do not know," she answered honestly. "'Tis something the two of you have to work out between yourselves. Come now. I shall take you to Anatar Finarfin's house in Tirion. We will deal with the rest one day at a time."


Chapter Text

December 22 – The Dispossessed

When word about the horrible deeds of the Fëanorians at Alqualondë reached Tirion, tempers ran understandably high among the remaining Noldor. And since people – Elves and Mortals alike – had always been good at looking for scapegoats (and finding them), the wives left behind by Fëanáro and his sons suddenly found themselves in the very centre of hostility.

It had not gone beyond verbal attacks so far, but especially Helyanwë, bearing Macalaurë's unborn son, was understandably upset when people said hurtful things about her "evil spawn" and how she should get rid of it.

Vanyanis, Curufinwë's wife, was promptly shunned by her Vanyarin kinfolk and saw no other way than to flee to her mother-in-law with her little daughter, Lauriel. Nerdanel had been living in her father Mahtan's house in recent years, yet the great smith, one of the last Aulendili left, was worried that she may no longer be safe there.

"People are confused and desperate," he said, "That is not a good combination. They are looking for someone to went their fear and anger on; I do not wish you to become that person, my dearest daughter."

"I know," said Nerdanel tiredly. "But I have got a responsibility, Atto. My sons, in their madness, did not only abandon me; they left behind their wives and children, too. I must keep Helyanwë, Vanyanis and their children safe. They are all that is left of my family."

"I would be more than willing to take them in," replied Mahtan. "The house is big enough. I am concerned about their safety, though."

"They can come and live with me," said Tulkastor, his son. "My house is big enough, too."

"But they shan't be any safer in your house than in mine," pointed out Mahtan. "The way tempers are running high at the moment, they would need a fortress to be safe."

"Then I have the perfect solution," said Nerdanel grimly. "I happen to have the keys to the best stronghold in Aman; even if the neighbourhood is a bit empty."

Mahtan stared at her in shock. "You cannot be planning what I think you are planning!" he exclaimed.

Then he turned to Helyanwë pleadingly. "You cannot wish to give birth to your child in the very place where the first blood was spilled in Aman!"

Helyanwë sighed. "You are right, anatar: I do not wish to do so – but I hardly seem to have any other choice right now. The bad name of Formenos will ensure that people think thrice ere they would come to harass us."

Mahtan shook his head in despair. "Formenos is a bleak place, isolated from all other settlements; not the least suited for three lonely ellith with small elflings. You cannot live there on your own, all alone in the wilderness."

"They shan't be alone, Atto," said Tulkastor. "I shall go with them and take with me those of my household who are willing to come."

"But you have a family of your own," Nerdanel reminded him, touched by his brotherly love. "You cannot take them with you into exile, however voluntary it is."

"I shall not," he replied. "We have discussed this and agreed that Amaurëa will run things for me for the next yén or so; until the three of you can establish a working household. Do not fight me in this, sister. My mind is made up, and you cannot change it."

There was no other choice for Nerdanel than to give in gracefully. Which she did, glad that they would not have to dwell in Formenos on their own, unprotected. And thus in a few days' time once again a group of voluntary exiles from the House of Fëanáro left Tirion for Formenos, never to be seen again – until the Host of Valinor would set off for Middle-earth to fight the War of Wrath.


Chapter Text

December 23 – Sanctuary

Thingol and his Queen were observing the last phase of finishing their vast underground palace when Beleg Cúthalion, one of the Marchwardens, came running, looking terribly upset.

"My lord," he exclaimed. "The First City in the East has fallen! A small handful of survivors have just reached our eastern border."

Thingol froze in shock. Kôr, the First City of the Quendi, those who had chosen to remain in the East, was – or rather had been, apparently – the kingdom of his youngest brother Elmö, whom he had not seen since the First Sundering. News was woefully rare with the whole of Melkor's realm stretching between them. He had not even known that Kôr had been under siege.

"My brother?" he asked tonelessly.

Beleg shook his head in regret. "Neither he nor Queen Tindómerel are among the refugees. Only a few faithful servants… and their sons."

Their sons! Despite his grief, Thingol felt immeasurable relief that his brother's line had survived, at the very least.

"When are they due to arrive?" he asked.

"It might take a day… or more," replied the Marchwarden. "They have fled on foot through very dark places and are utterly exhausted; 'twas a long and evil road. We fed them on the eastern border and put them to sleep on our telain, even though their leader insisted on bringing the elflings to you as soon as possible. They needed rest."

"You did well," said Thingol. "They should not over-extend themselves, now that they are finally safe. We can wait."

In the end, it took the refugees four whole days to recover from their ordeal enough to make it to Menegroth. They were a ragtag band of mayhap a few dozen people, most of them Silvan folk from Nurwê's tribe – the northern Nelyar. Their leader, though, was clearly of the Tatyar, of Morwê's folk, as his black eyes revealed at once. His hair must also have been raven-black at first; yet it had turned snow white from the horrors he had clearly witnessed.

The two boys were still but elflings; and fairly young ones at that, silver-haired and hollow-faced, with haunted grey eyes that mirrored the horrors they had seen. Thingol had already been told that Kôr had been attacked by the fire-demons of Melkor that had slain Queen Tindómerel before the eyes of her young sons. Small wonder that the poor children were traumatised.

"Welcome to Doriath," he said. "I am Elu Thingol, older brother of your adar; you perchance heard of me as Elwë. This is my wife, the Lady Melian. What are your names?"

"I am called Oropher," said the slightly older boy. "At least that is what Ada used to call me. Nana gave me the name Galadhon. My brother is called Galathil."

A tree-name, then. It sounder appropriate for someone whose parents had refused to leave the forests of their birthplace. Well, their mother's birthplace in any case, for Elmö had first opened his eyes to the newborn stars at Cuiviénen.

"Welcome again, Oropher and Galathil," said Thingol. "You are family; our home shall be your home from now on. You will lack naught that we have to offer," he turned to the leader of the refugees. "As for you and all who have followed you: you are welcome to stay in Doriath with us as well. Would you give me your name?"

"I am Galion," replied the ellon. "I was King Elmö's seneschal and the tutor of his children. I have sworn a solemn oath to protect his House as long as I live, and I thank you, lord, for allowing me to continue doing so."

"The children will need familiar faces around them," said Queen Melian gravely. "We shall find you the others suitable places within our household."

She did not add that it would be an easy task. There were shockingly few of them that had survived, from a city that had housed thousands.

The older boy bowed formally. "Thank you, my lady," he answered courteously. "One day we shall return and reclaim our kingdom. Yet until we can do so, we shall be grateful to live under your protection."


Chapter Text

December 24 – Hope

Nerdanel had never liked Formenos. It had never been her home, just a place of exile – the exile that had marked the inevitable failure of her marriage. To return here against her will, where she had lost the battle against those cursed jewels of Fëanáro, was beyond humiliating. But she acknowledged her obligation towards Helyanwë and Vanyanis and their children. She had to keep them safe. If that meant to swallow her pride and return to the house that had separated her and Fëanáro, so be it.

She was concerned about her daughters-in-love. Vanyanis in particular had taken the shunning of her kinfolk very hard; and she was suffering from the loss of her son even more. Nerdanel did not know if she would ever be able to forgive Curufinwë for practically tearing Tyelpë from his mother's arms, dragging him away to unknown dangers. She had named him Atarincë with right; he turned out every bit as ruthless and obsessed as his father.

At least Macalaurë had shown the decency to leave his wife the free choice whether she wanted to go with him or not. Although leaving her behind, pregnant, for the sake of that horrible Oath had not been the best choice, either.

And now Helyanwë was lying in labour, struggling to give birth to her son the same way she had carried him to term: without the support of the father. Nerdanel only hoped that she would not suffer the same fate as Míriel; for she was much weakened from having to support the growing child within her alone.

After having borne seven children herself, Nerdanel knew all too well what a strain creating a new life was, both on body and spirit. But at least she had had the fiery spirit of her husband to strengthen her. Helyanwë had borne her burden alone.

Fortunately, there was steely strength in that seemingly fragile body of hers. And she was struggling with all that remarkable strength to bring that child into a world that would not welcome him… for the simple reason that he was of the blood of Fëanáro.

Night was about to fall outside, and through the large window Nerdanel could see Morwinyon, the bright, blaze above the edge of the world in the West, like a glint of hope in the dusk. And in the very moment as it became fully dark, the son of Macalaurë entered the world with a wail of loud protest. Yet as soon as the bright ray of the great star fell upon him through the open window, the child fell silent and stared at it with awe.

Nerdanel allowed Vanyanis and her daughter to clean the newborn and wrap him in soft, clean linens, while the healer and the maids tended to the exhausted mother, bathing her and helping her into a fresh night shift. When everything was done, she laid the babe onto Helyanwë's breast.

"You did well, daughter," she said gently. "You gave us new hope in the darkness. Do you have a name?"

"Morwinyon," she answered tiredly. "I shall call him Morwinyon; for he is the bright star in my night."