Túrin woke with the taste of blood in his mouth, thick and strong and bitter.
Someone saved me, was his first thought, and a scream rose unbidden to choke in his throat. Gods, did Mablung not know what a man meant when he fell on his sword? The elf would have done all he could to save him, no doubt.
But that was wrong. Something in Túrin, some hidden knowledge that stirred and stretched as he came fully awake, knew that he hadn’t survived Gurthang’s bite.
So how did he still draw breath?
He opened his eyes. Dim torchlight flickered on a ceiling of smooth black stone above his head, featureless and plain. The walls were similar, the flickering fire strangely weak and dimmed. He was lying on hard, cold stone - a slab or bed of some kind.
Was this Angband, then? Had Morgoth managed to claim his soul as well as his body?
“Fear not,” a deep voice said close by. It was not loud, but echoing; it shook right through Túrin’s being, shortening his breath and closing a clamp of fear around his chest. “You have returned.”
Túrin sat up slowly. On his left, someone stood, watching him; a tall figure, taller than any Elf or Man, and shrouded in great cloaks of shadow. Túrin’s fingers clenched, nails scraping the stone. He felt struck dumb; his throat too raw to speak, his breathing too fast to capture enough air.
“Do you know where you are?” Mandos asked. Túrin nodded. “Do you know why you’re here?”
“I- I do not,” Túrin rasped, finding his voice.
Mandos was silent for a moment - looking at him, perhaps. It was impossible to know; Túrin could not see his face. “I will show you,” he said, “If you are able to walk?”
It wasn’t as much of a struggle to get to his feet as Túrin had feared. He followed Mandos out of the small room with the stone bed and down several halls, each illuminated with the barest flickers of torchlight. It was cold, the stones under Túrin’s feet chilly against the soles of his feet, the cool air brushing his bare arms uncomfortably. In the weak light the shapes of eyes and bodies and faces leapt out at him from the walls; it took him a long moment to realize they were tapestries. Lady Varië’s weaving. The faces were incredibly lifelike, and the eyes seemed to glitter with intelligence, following him as he passed. Túrin turned his gaze away with a shiver and focused on the cold stone beneath his feet.
A minute or so of walking brought them to a huge room, drafty and just as badly illuminated as anywhere else. It took until they were halfway across the space for Túrin to see that one entire wall was taken up by a massive set of double doors, as tall as ten men or more, with spiral handles glittering with golden filigree.
For a moment he thought the Lady’s tapestries had been hung on the doors too; then he saw that the scenes had instead been painted onto the wood. Mandos led him to a particular spot on the bottom right of the doors, and indicated the scenes with one shadowy hand. “Have you heard the name Dagor Dagorath?” he asked.
Túrin had, once or twice in passing. “The end of the world?” he asked quietly.
“Yes,” Mandos said, and gesturing to the door added, “You are required.”
Túrin looked where he had indicated. A humanoid figure, wreathed in black shadow and red flame and tall as a mountain, stood in the midst of the carnage of a huge battle. A much smaller figure, picked out in white, stood tiny at the monster’s feet, the black sword in his hand only the width of Túrin’s smallest finger.
“That is me,” he whispered. “Fighting...Morgoth.” There was no one else the huge figure could be.
“Do not be afraid. This has been prophesized.”
Túrin swallowed. “You Saw this.”
“A long time ago. This has been pre-ordained since the beginning, though for long years I did not know your name.” Túrin turned to look at him, and found Mandos’ shadowy head had turned to look down at him too. “You eluded me for a long time, Túrin Turambar,” the Vala said, his voice full of something Túrin could not name. Frustration? But he did not sound angry, exactly.
“We are releasing elves from the Halls every day,” Mandos said. “You must go with the next group. It would not be well for you to linger here.”
“Where should I go, when I leave?” Túrin asked.
“Wheresoever you please. When the end comes, you will be in the right place.” Mandos was still staring at him; Túrin could not see his eyes, but he felt he could feel them, their gaze ghosting over his skin like cold wind. “Never yet have I predicted wrong, Túrin Turambar,” Mandos said.
And then with a swirl of shadow, he was gone.
Túrin waited by the door. He had no desire to venture back into Mandos’ foreboding Halls, and he reasoned that the elves returning to life must leave by this door. If he waited for them, they would come soon enough.
It was impossible to tell how long he waited, but it seemed perhaps a few hours passed before a soft light appeared in the distance. It soon coalesced into a human shape; a Maia, dressed in a long white robe and glowing ever so slightly, followed by a column of dark-haired elves.
The Maia didn’t seem surprised to see Túrin there. “Turambar,” she said, stopping in front of him. He could hear whispers begin among the elves after she said his name.
“I am to leave with these people,” Túrin told her, though she probably already knew. She simply nodded, and at her gesture a great creaking groan began. The huge doors of Mandos’ Halls slowly opened, letting in a cool breeze and the faint light of the stars overhead.
“Go well,” the Maia said, before turning and leaving them there.
Túrin stood for a moment on the threshold, looking out at the land beyond. Before him, a long flight of white steps led down to a paved road, which wound away quickly into the night. There was little but deep darkness beyond the flickering light of the torches.
One of the elves came and stood close by his side. “You are truly Túrin Turambar?”
“Truly,” Túrin said, turning to look at him. The elf was male, taller than him, with dark hair and dark silver eyes. There was something about his face that suggested great age and weariness. “Might I ask your name in return, friend?”
“Ellarion, formerly of Himring,” he replied. “You said you will travel with us?”
A Fëanorian. For a moment Túrin hesitated, remembering a long-ago, particularly harsh tirade of Thingol’s. The curses he’d rained on the heads of the Noldor, and the Fëanorians in particular, had been unrepeatable in any sort of company. He had grown up seeing them as, if not the enemy exactly, certainly not friends.
Still, he did not fancy wandering the roads of Valinor alone. “If you will have me. Lord Mandos simply told me I must leave the Halls. I know not where I am supposed to go.”
Ellarion inclined his head. “Very well. You will walk with us, then.” He turned and raised an arm, signalling the rest of the elves forward. Túrin fell into step beside him as they walked under the Halls’ huge portico, down the marble steps and out onto the road.
“Where is it that we are going?” he asked, as the road began a sharp descent into a rocky switchback path.
“We have been told the free peoples are gathering in camps on Yavanna’s pastures and in Oromë’s woods, south of the Gardens of Lórien. We seek Lord Fëanor or his sons.”
“They are all reborn?” Túrin asked.
“I believe so,” Ellarion said. He was looking out at the landscape; with his eyes, he could probably see a lot more than Túrin could. “My oath is to their house. I will serve whichever member of it I find first.”
“I almost...envy you the simplicity of that,” Túrin said quietly.
Ellarion’s expression when he looked at him was grave, and perhaps a little sad. “We all walk the path we must, Turambar,” he said. “But I will not deny that yours seems harder than most.”
Beleg had selected the bow yesterday, from a cache of weapons brought from the vaults in Tirion. It wasn’t Belthronding - how could any match that mightiest of weapons? - but it was an elven bow made by the Noldor with great care and skill, and it would serve well. He pulled back the string again and took aim, sending another arrow into the centre of the target with a dull thump.
“Sometimes I think you’ve been happier in the last few days than in all the years we’ve been here,” Mablung said from somewhere next to him.
Beleg glanced at his old friend. Mablung’s expression was unreadable, his mouth drawn into a tense line as he watched the arrows fly to the target.
He looked away. “It’s the promise of better things to come,” he said, drawing another arrow from the quiver.
Mablung narrowed his eyes, and Beleg cursed himself internally; of course Mablung could tell when he was lying. “So they say,” he said, his tone neutral.
“When has Mandos foretold falsely, Mablung?”
Thwack. Another arrow hit the target, dead centre.
“You’re hoping the prophecy is true in all aspects,” Mablung said softly.
Beleg knew exactly what he meant. “Aren’t you?”
Mablung said nothing; Beleg still couldn’t tell what he was thinking. They’d never talked about Túrin, not properly; the man had been a shade hanging between them ever since they’d reunited. Beleg had always been hesitant to broach the topic, knowing how Túrin’s life had ended, knowing that Mablung himself had been there. But now, so close to a possible reunification with the man in question, he thought it might finally be the time. “Do you hate him, Mablung?” Beleg asked.
Mablung raised an eyebrow at him, but Beleg did not retract the question. “No,” Mablung eventually sighed, “I simply worry for you, as always.”
“I doubt he intends to kill me,” Beleg said, a slight edge to his voice.
“He didn’t intend to kill you the first time.” Mablung looked at him with dark eyes. “He didn’t intend many of the ill things that happened, Beleg, but he was the cause of them. Do not mistake me; I love him dearly, as I ever have. But he is ill-fated.”
Beleg shook his head. “No longer, Mablung. You’ve heard the prophecy. Túrin will be redeemed, and revenged, and all Morgoth’s designs will come to naught.”
Mablung nodded, but his lips were still pressed tight together, and he didn’t look particularly convinced.
The archery butt was littered with feathered shafts, and Beleg had seen all he wanted to of his new bow. “I’m going to head back to my camp,” he told Mablung, walking forward to start pulling the arrows from the rough weave of the target. “Do you have pressing issues to attend to, or will you join me?”
Mablung shook his head. “Forgive me, Beleg, but I am supposed to be meeting with one of the quartermasters in a half hour. I will see you soon, I have no doubt.”
Beleg nodded. “Good evening, then.”
Beleg’s camp was a little way from Thingol’s main forces, off in the trees, above the plain where the larger army had congregated. Officially their role was that of scouts, but Thingol was really trying to spread his forces over a wider area, to minimize their impact on the land and alleviate the troubles large, crowded war camps always faced. Beleg had been named Commander of all the small groups of scouts camped on the hill, and accordingly had much to attend to when he arrived back.
Mablung’s words shifted to the back of his mind, stewing there and coming back to him whenever he didn’t have something immediate to fill his thoughts.
Ill-fated. Morgoth’s curse had haunted Túrin all his life. Beleg himself had been witness to it, and victim. It seemed, though, that he held out hope where Mablung did not.
Mandos has never predicted falsely. Beleg wasn’t sure he believed in worshipping the Vala, but he could certainly believe in his power. He resolved to put the issue out of his mind, and simply see what fate brought.
It was an easier thing to think than to achieve, however. That night when he finally laid down to rest, images of the young Man haunted his thoughts, seeped into his waking dreams as he slipped into reverie. Would the word of Mandos hold true, and truly return Túrin Turambar to this world?
Beleg simply had to hope.
It was three days before the summons from the main camp came. Beleg had occupied himself with organisation and training, supervising a variety of drills early in the morning, and spending the rest of the day on administration and allocation of resources. Making sure all the returned elves had arms and armour was an ongoing project, one that continued endlessly as more and more of them arrived in groups from the Halls and were siphoned off into the hillside camps. The phrase ‘every elf in existence’ had seemed a very abstract concept to Beleg, until he was responsible for arming and feeding half of them.
On the morning of the third day, while he was washing up after running the cross country course that had been set up in a wilder part of the woods, one of his men came to him with the message, “King Thingol requests your presence in his pavilion at noon, Lord Beleg.”
A curl of unease had flickered through Beleg. A direct summons from the King could mean things were moving ahead; that the end was finally approaching. He swung up onto his horse while still giving orders to his men, trying not to show the anxiety he felt inside.
The thought that everything and everyone would perish and be born anew was an interesting, perhaps exciting idea while it was far away, Beleg mused as he rode down the hill. But now, staring it in the face, he was reminded of how much he liked this world, and of how uncertain and frightening that future really was.
The great pavilion of Elu Thingol was not easy to miss; Beleg had been able to pick it out among the mass of other tents as he’d rode down the hill toward the main camp. Huge and square, it was made from a soft gold fabric embroidered with simple swirling patterns that glittered under the midday sun. It was large enough to house a full meeting of Thingol’s council, though it was nearly empty when a guard pulled back the heavy fabric door to let Beleg inside.
Thingol sat on his throne, his posture tense and unusually upright. Melian was seated on his right side, her face as inscrutable as ever; and on Thingol’s left stood Mablung and a few other elves whom he recognised with surprise as rangers who had once guarded Doriath’s wilder forests. Many of them he recognised from Dimbar, and they discreetly shared looks and gestures of greeting as they had all those years ago in the wild.
By Melian’s feet lay the great hound Huan, who grumbled a noise that was not quite a growl in the back of his throat, his amber eyes flicking around the tent. Lúthien was beside him, and Beleg thought she looked rather sorrowful. Beren was nowhere in sight.
“Beleg,” Thingol greeted, his warm tone unforced despite his obvious distraction. He smiled slightly when Beleg respectfully took a knee in front of the throne. “Thank you for coming.”
“Forgive me for my tardiness, your grace,” Beleg said, “The hillside camps are farther than you’d think, but negotiating my way into the main camp itself is perhaps the most hazardous part of the journey.”
“It seems the perimeter guards took my warning to be thorough in their checks rather seriously,” Thingol said, a hint of humour in his tone.
“That and the amount of people coming in and out, your grace, makes it very congested.” At a gesture from Thingol, Beleg rose. “Still, I imagine the overabundance of foot traffic through the quagmire around the main gate was not the reason you called me here.”
“No.” Suddenly Thingol looked grave again. Beleg stepped back to a respectful distance, and the other elves gathered in a rough circle around the throne; it seemed they truly had been waiting for him to start.
“I received a message last night from the Halls of Mandos,” Thingol started, looking around the circle and focusing on each of them in turn.
Beleg’s breath caught in his chest. Could it possibly be?
“The Maia told me Túrin son of Húrin has been returned to this world,” Thingol stated. A rush of quiet gasps brushed like a soft wind around the tent.
Beleg’s heart beat fast within his chest; he could barely believe the words Thingol had spoken. He had hoped, but somehow never quite expected his hope would come true.
“Túrin is my foster son, and though that bond has often been disagreeable to him, I would do my sworn duty. I would have someone go to him, and extend the hand of forgiveness once more.” Here he looked straight at Beleg, the obvious question in his eyes.
“I will go, lord, if you permit it,” Beleg said at once. He didn’t have to think about the words; they simply came out as if another voice spoke through him. He caught Mablung’s sharp look from the corner of his eye, but his gaze was fixed on Thingol.
The King inclined his head. “I had hoped you would, Beleg. It would be a great service to me, if you could convince Túrin to return to us.”
“I will do everything in my power, your grace,” Beleg said, bowing low. “Did the Maia mention where he was, or where he was going?”
“She said only that Túrin left the Halls with a group of returned elves who headed east along the road leading to the plains. Nothing else.”
“I see,” Beleg said. “If you will permit me, lord, I will leave without delay.”
Thingol nodded. “You have my leave. Someone will be appointed as a temporary replacement in your absence.”
“Thank you.” Beleg bowed again, and then Thingol stood and with a gesture, dismissed them from his presence.
Mablung fell into step beside him as they left the pavilion. “Be careful,” was all he said.
Beleg stopped him with a touch on the arm. “You need not worry, Mablung. I doubt I will encounter trouble.” He smiled. “But you could come with me - Thingol would give you leave, if you asked.”
“I do not doubt he would, but it would be unwise. I am needed here.” Mablung shook his head and stepped away. “I wish you luck, Beleg. May you return to us safely, with Túrin beside you.”
“I will, my friend. Do not doubt it.” They parted, and Beleg raised an arm as Mablung began to vanish in the flow of people walking the main thoroughfares. Mablung waved back, and was soon lost to sight among the crowds.
The group Túrin travelled with was relatively small for a war band - not more than a hundred - but they were dedicated, and Ellarion led them with strict military poise. Though they passed three different camps of elves, they stopped only for provisions and short rests before they set off again. All were committed to finding Lord Fëanor or his sons, wherever they may be.
Túrin rode often beside Ellarion at the head of the column, engaging him in brief conversation at times, but mostly lost in his own thoughts, looking out at the dark landscape. The light never changed; on the first day Ellarion had told him the sun and moon were gone, destroyed by some dark magic of the enemy. They had been stopped in a small patch of woodland, and Túrin had walked away from the main column for a while, wanting to be alone with his sudden grief. Arien and Tilion are no more. It is like the Darkening all over again; truly the end of days.
He had mastered himself and moved on, but the darkness around them still filled him with sorrow. “The stars still shine,” he’d said to Ellarion, “Will they too not go out?”
“The stars are eternal, I think,” Ellarion had replied.
Now their forward scouts had reported that they were nearing another camp. “It is only an outer camp,” one of the returning elves told Ellarion. “There are several large, loosely arranged rings of camps, which Finwë and his family govern from a camp in the centre. They say we should wait in the outer ring, and they will send you on to meet with Lord Maedhros.”
Ellarion looked questioningly at the scout. “Not Lord Fëanor?”
“They didn’t mention him, my lord.”
“Very well.” Ellarion raised his arm to signal the rest of the column forward. “Will you come with me, Turambar?” he asked. “I am sure you would be welcome among the lords.”
“Perhaps,” Túrin said. He had no idea what the lords of Noldor would make of him, and little wish to face Orodreth or, worse, Finduilas, re-embodied as they must be. But after they arrived in the crowded outer camps and battled their way through muddy thoroughfares and the confusing instructions given to them by one of the quartermasters, Túrin had little wish to stay there either, so he followed Ellarion in search of horses to take them inward.
Upon finding a makeshift stable and acquiring two steeds - with no small amount of argument, which Ellarion, Túrin observed, was adept at - they followed the rough road that led toward the innermost camp. “Are elven war camps usually set out like this?” Túrin asked.
“It depends how big they are,” Ellarion replied. “It seems to me this host has been gathering slowly for a few weeks, expanding outward as more elves arrived. The only time I have seen a host larger was at the Nírnaeth.”
Túrin turned to look at him. “You were there?”
“I died there, like so many others.” Ellarion looked straight ahead, as if he could see something in the distance that Túrin could not. “Before you ask, I never met your father, much to my disappointment. We were on opposite sides of the field, or close enough.” He sighed heavily. “I can remember it so clearly. I took a blow to stomach from an orc sword, glancing, not that deep, but it bled and bled. If we had not needed to flee the field so swiftly I might have held on, but a wound like that cannot be healed while running for your life. I made them leave me behind.”
“You died to save them,” Túrin said quietly.
“Aye, I suppose you could put it like that. I was dead weight - they could not have dragged me with them and lived. There were many like me, who had to be left behind.”
“A battle truly well named,” Túrin murmured.
“Truly. It was the end of my people.”
Túrin had no idea what to say to that. Thoughts of his own death had haunted his sleep, and he tried to put them from his mind in the waking hours. Remembering them brought nothing but pain.
They rode on in silence for a long time, more people joining them on the road as they went. They passed through another two rings of camps, battling their way through crowds on the congested main thoroughfares, before coming to the roughly thrown up wooden palisade that guarded the royal camp.
A string of guards and a simple wooden gate barred their way inside. “Names and business, please milords,” one of the guards asked. The end of his pike sank about two inches into the mud when he planted it squarely by his side, but he didn’t seem to notice.
“My name is Ellarion, son of Thuien, formerly Captain of Lord Maedhros’ household guard,” Ellarion announced, ignoring the way Túrin turned to look at him in surprise. “And this is Túrin Turambar, the son of Húrin Thalion. I come seeking Lord Maedhros.”
The guards looked at Túrin with wide eyes; he focused on his horse’s mane to avoid their stares. “Come right through, my lords,” their captain said after a moment, and the gate was drawn open.
“Captain of the household guard?” Túrin asked when they had gained a little distance from the gate. And they just left you behind? he thought, but did not say.
Ellarion nodded. “Formerly. I have most likely been replaced.”
This camp was markedly less crowded than the others, and the thoroughfares and tents seemed in better condition. Ellarion stopped a few passersby to ask for directions, and soon enough they were riding up to a large red pavilion that sat on top of a small rise in the land.
There was no need to state their names this time; the group of elves gathered outside recognised Ellarion as he rode toward them, and ran up calling to him joyously. He looked relieved, Túrin thought, to have finally found those he had been seeking. Túrin hung back, happy to see him enjoying the moment.
“And your friend, Ellarion?” someone finally asked.
At Ellarion’s expectant look, Túrin stepped forward. “My friends, may I introduce Túrin Turambar, son of Húrin,” Ellarion said rather grandly.
They greeted him graciously, though he sensed something wary in them. He got the feeling they had perhaps heard of his life, or his curse, and were not as eager to see him here as Ellarion.
He caught Ellarion’s arm when he made to lead the group into the pavilion. “Ellarion, perhaps I should not...impose on your lords.”
Ellarion tilted his head. “Turambar, they will not turn you away.”
“That is not the same as wanting me there, my friend.”
“Come Turambar, greet them,” one of the others said. “If anyone can understand being under a curse, the Noldor can.”
Ellarion gave him a sharp look, but Túrin couldn’t exactly say he was wrong. “Well, I suppose you are correct, sir,” he said, and followed them inside the pavilion.
A great many more people were gathered in the smoky dim space, lit only by small torches and braziers, clustered in groups and talking. The one who’d made the quip about curses pushed through the crowd, leading Ellarion and Túrin through the press toward a long table that had been set up in the centre.
Túrin had never seen Maedhros Fëanorian in person, but had heard enough tales to know that the elf sitting in the high-backed chair behind the table had to be him. He was dressed simply, hair braided back away from his face, wearing an expression that might most accurately be called bored. To Túrin’s eye, it seemed that he alone of Fëanor’s sons was anywhere in sight; no one else in the crowd matched either the descriptions he’d heard or the bearing he would associate with elven nobility.
“My lord.” The elf leading them stopped in front of the table and bowed quickly. “We are again blessed with visitors returning from Mandos’ Halls!”
Maedhros turned dark grey eyes to them. His whole face seemed to come alive when he spotted Ellarion. He opened his mouth to speak, but Ellarion beat him to it, stepping forward and going down on one knee. “My lord, I have returned to pledge myself once again into your service.”
Maedhros smiled, a small and subtle curve of his lips; Túrin had the feeling that if he bared his teeth it would look more like a snarl. “I accept, of course,” he said, standing and extending a hand towards Ellarion. “You were sorely missed, my friend,” he said, quieter.
Ellarion stood and clasped his lord’s forearm. “I would never wish to be anywhere else,” he said, his voice almost too soft to be heard.
There was a moment of silence, then Maedhros’ eyes flicked to Túrin. “And your friend?” he asked.
“My lord, this is Túrin Turambar, the son of Húrin.”
Maedhros’ eyes widened a little in surprise. “Túrin Turambar,” he repeated, a note of confusion in his voice.
Túrin stepped forward and gave him a deepest bow his pride could suffer, feeling unnatural and stiff. “Aye, my lord,” he said.
There was a beat of silence as Ellarion and his friend looked at him expectantly, waiting for him to say something else. When he did not, Ellarion said hurriedly, “Yes, Túrin travelled with our party from the Halls.”
Maedhros regarded him with curious eyes. “Interesting,” he said, almost to himself.
“I would ask the hospitality of your...your hospitality,” Túrin said awkwardly. “For a few days, at least.”
A moment passed where Maedhros just looked him, expression inscrutable. Then he said, “Indeed; be at your leisure.”
It took only three days before she came to him.
Túrin had stayed as a guest of the Fëanorian household - or ‘skulked about the camp’, as Ellarion had amusedly put it - since the evening in the pavilion, and had been rather surprised by the ease of it, all things considered. He wasn’t required to do anything, lead anyone, or be anywhere; he wasn’t even required to attend meals in the main pavilion. His hosts did not seem to mind where he went or what he did - most of the time they did not even seem to register his presence.
But he could not be called happy. Túrin felt numb, as if he were drifting through the days. The logical part of his brain told him he had not come to terms with being alive again, had not banished the lingering grief from his previous life, had not accepted the weight of the seeming miracle he was supposed to perform in the final battle. Indeed, he had been desperately trying not to think about any of it, pushing it all out of his thoughts with a vicious shove whenever it threatened to surface. The painting Mandos had shown him, of the tiny figure that was supposedly him confronting the huge mountain representing Morgoth, haunted his dreams.
What troubled him most, though, were the words of the prophecy. Mandos’ prediction was recited almost nightly by the bards and singers, and nowhere did it talk of Túrin’s fate after he righteously stabbed Morgoth through the heart. It foretold that he would kill Morgoth, and be revenged, but both those things could be achieved with no guarantee of his survival.
So it was that Túrin was in a downcast mood, sitting staring into a small fire and trying not to think despairing thoughts, when a familiar, beloved voice said, “Túrin,” just above his head.
A sick feeling formed in the pit of his stomach, but Túrin forced himself to look up anyway, to meet her gaze. “Finduilas,” he whispered.
She smiled at him, but it was a painfully sad smile. “My uncle sent word that you were here,” she said, her voice soft. “Did you not know I had returned, Túrin? Or…?”
That had been her futile hope; he could see it in her face. He hated to crush it. “No, Finduilas,” he said. “I knew you were here. I simply could not…After everything…”
Finduilas sat down across from him on one of the roughly saw wooden logs that served for seats. He smiled for a moment at the way she neatly arranged her skirts, the same way she always had. “I’ve had a lot of time to think, Túrin,” she said, lacing her fingers together and leaning forward to rest her elbows on her knees. “About everything that happened. About us, about your curse, about the attack on Nargothrond. But there are still some things I don’t understand.”
Túrin swallowed, trying to wet his dry throat. “I…I made a choice. I had to, I thought- no, the dragon-” He stopped, cleared his throat, and tried again. “The dragon made me think my sister and my mother were still in Dor-lómin, suffering at the hands of Morgoth’s servants. I had to make a choice between going to them and following you, and I chose them.” He hung his head. “I don’t know what madness took me. Some evil of the dragon, perhaps.”
“I don’t doubt it,” Finduilas said quietly. “When you looked into Glaurung’s eyes, his gaze held you fast. We called to you, but you could not hear us.”
Túrin’s heart twisted with pain. “Would that I had been strong enough to resist him.”
“You killed him, Túrin. Avenged me.”
“You never cared about vengeance.” He meant it to sound wry, blackly humorous, but his voice was flat and dead even to his own ears.
Finduilas sighed unhappily. “Aye, I don’t.”
“I am in the wrong here, my lady. You need not comfort me.”
“Morgoth and his evil were the root of it, Túrin. He who cursed you, he who cursed us all.”
And the Valar who sat and watched, Túrin thought, but he did not say it. Elves did not, as a rule, take kindly to such sentiments, and it would be even more foolish to voice them here, in the Valar’s own lands. “You said you had questions, my lady,” he said instead.
“I think you have answered half of them,” she said. “I wondered for a long time whether you followed me, if you could not reach me in time. Or whether your encounter with the dragon addled you, and you did not search for me at all.”
“And now you find it was the latter.” He looked at the ground again, then steeled himself to look up into her eyes. “I am sorry.”
She did not brush off his apology, simply nodded gracefully and accepted it. “As I said, I had considered the possibility that you were diverted from saving me for some other cause. It is…good to know you went in aid of your family.”
“That was my sentiment,” Túrin said darkly. “But Glaurung knew what he did. They were no longer in Dor-lómin, and had not been there for some time. In going there I brought more woe to my kin than if I had stayed away.”
Túrin could see the curiosity in her eyes, but she did not ask. She could sense he did not want to tell that tale. “There is little to forgive, Túrin,” she said, “Arrogance, perhaps, in thinking we could stand alone against Morgoth’s might. The folly the bridge turned out to be.”
“Not listening to good advice,” Túrin added, “My most persistent failing.”
“I will allow that criticism, I think. You are a man of your own mind and your own pride, and they serve you well as often as they serve you ill.”
“That’s a very gracious way of putting it, my lady,” Túrin said softly.
“Perhaps,” Finduilas gave a very slight shrug. “As I said, I have been in Valinor a very long time, and in that time I have come to see things with some measure of detachment. Your actions came from a desire to go good, Túrin, though the end result became twisted. Remembering that, I think, is more important than dwelling on our failures, as we go into this final battle.”
They sat silently for a long while, staring into the fire, both lost in their own thoughts. It was a long time before Túrin said, “My trouble, my lady, is that while you have had many centuries to ponder the events of our previous lives, to me it seems as if they happened only yesterday. The grief haunts my soul, not yet numbed by the passage of time. I cannot help but dwell on it, and fear the future.”
Finduilas inclined her head. “I understand. The prophecy weighs heavy on your mind.”
“Very heavy.” Túrin sighed and put his face in his hands. “How can a mere man kill a god? How could it be possible?”
Finduilas watched him, her eyes sharp as she examined him. “Perhaps all you need is hope,” she said eventually. “If there is one thing I have learnt about prophecy, it is that it is never as simple as it seems.”
He raised his head a little and looked at her. “What do you mean?”
“The prophecy states that Lord Tulkas will contend with Morgoth, but that you will strike the finishing blow. A number of things could happen between those two points.”
He could see what she meant. “Aye, my lady. That…I suppose that is what I must hope for.”
Finduilas smiled, and finally she looked somewhat happy. “Mandos would not have Seen you killing Morgoth if you had not the strength to do it, Túrin,” she said. “You alone were chosen. You are far more than you think.”
Tentatively, he smiled back at her. “If you say it, my lady,” he said softly, “how could it not be true?”
Beleg had started at the first camp along the road from Mandos’ Halls, and worked his way east. At each, reports of a host passing through from the Halls led him further and further towards the main camp of the Noldor. He could not be sure the group was the correct one, but enquiries after a tall, fair Man who looked as if he might actually be an elf yielded results often enough for him to be fairly sure of his course.
He followed Túrin all the way to the outer ring of the main Noldor camp, where a stable master confirmed that an elf and a man who seemed almost elven had passed through, heading toward the central camp and seek the head of the Fëanorian household.
That threw Beleg slightly. The Fëanorians were an odd choice of host, surely, for a Doriath fosterling?
He kept going, and found his name alone was sufficient to get him through the gates of every camp he encountered along the way. He was, it seemed, more famous than he had imagined.
At the gates of the royal camp they were more stringent. “Are you a messenger from King Thingol, Cúthalion?” the gate guards’ captain asked.
“Of a sort. He bid me seek out Túrin Turambar and give him a message of friendship and forgiveness. I am led to believe Túrin resides here, among the Fëanorian host.”
The guards nodded. “Aye, that he does.” They all looked at each other for a few moments, communicating without speech, and then the captain said, “Well, Cúthalion, we will let you pass, if that is your errand. Go swiftly.”
Beleg noted the standards displayed on long poles as he rode through the camp, and it was not long before he spotted a silver seven-pointed star on a black background. Some of the Noldor eyed him with curiosity as he rode in among them; there were not many who lacked dark hair in their number. When he reached a large red pavilion – the royal tent, he felt sure – he flagged down a passing swordsman and said, “By chance, friend, do you know the whereabouts Túrin, son of Húrin?”
The swordsman did; the tent he directed Beleg to was small and out of the way, with barely enough room to stand. Beleg knocked on the tent pole beside the entrance, and waited.
As he was hoping, it was Túrin who swiped the tent flap aside, his expression stormy. Any trace of irritation cleared when he saw Beleg standing there, replaced with pure shock. “Beleg,” he breathed.
“Aye, my friend,” Beleg said, smiling. “I have been looking almost a week for you, Túrin. It is good to finally see your face.”
“I- Yes.” Túrin glanced around behind Beleg, then lifted the tent flap higher and said, “Come in.”
Inside there was a rough pile of blankets on a bedroll, and a pack of sorts in a corner, with some clothes in heap next to them. “Forgive me, I have been alone in here, heedless of my own mess…”
“As usual,” Beleg said, amused.
“Aye, as usual.” Túrin stopped then and turned to look at him. They stood facing each other in the tiny space, and Beleg almost backed off under the strange intensity of Túrin’s gaze. “What is it?” he asked, uncomfortable.
“I never expected you to come back,” Túrin said in a whisper.
“Why not?” Beleg breathed; but he knew the answer. Suddenly it hung between them, that knowledge, that shade of the past. Beleg’s eyes darted into the corners of the room, as if he expected to see Gurthang hiding somewhere, gleaming in its menacing way. “It…it was a horrible mistake,” he whispered.
“Aye, I’m quite adept at making them,” Túrin said bitterly.
“It was fate,” Beleg said. “The worst kind of ill fate.”
“I killed you!” Túrin burst out. There was heavy silence for a few seconds. “I killed you,” he repeated, his breathing heavy. “Eru damn it, Beleg, I ended your life, murdered you by my own hand, and you blame fate?”
“What else can I blame? You?” Before Túrin could agree, Beleg kept speaking, “Did you murder me by choice, Túrin? Did you intend to strike me down that night?” When Túrin was silent, Beleg said in a calmer tone, “No. You struck me down mistakenly, Túrin, not through malice or ill intent. You grieved after, did you not?” Túrin did not have to tell him; Beleg could guess what kind of agony he had gone through. “You were cursed,” Beleg said, quieter.
“You cannot simply forgive me,” Túrin whispered.
“I decide whom I give my forgiveness to, Túrin Turambar,” Beleg said sharply. Then he reached out, stepping towards Túrin and touching his hand. “And I have already forgiven you a hundred times over.”
Túrin looked up and they locked eyes, staring at each other silently for long moments. Then, sudden and without warning, Túrin tugged Beleg closer by the hand and kissed him.
His lips were warm and soft, and Beleg forgot for a long moment who he was kissing, caught up in the unexpected gentleness of the feeling. Then he came back to himself and pulled away, stepping backward, though not pulling his hand from Túrin’s grip.
“Forgive me,” Túrin said. “Long have I wished to do that.”
“Túrin, I…” Beleg swallowed. “You know why I refused you before.”
“Because I was mortal. Because we were no Beren and Lúthien, you said.” For a moment Túrin grinned wolfishly. “That is what one might call irony, I believe.”
“Oh you do believe, do you?” Beleg smiled at him despite himself. “You have a point, though. This is the end of the world; I suppose whether you are mortal or not no longer makes a difference.”
“That was your only objection?” Túrin said, his voice low.
“Yes.” Beleg reached out and touched Túrin’s face softly. “There was never any objection to you.”
Túrin leaned into the touch of his hand. “This feels like a dream,” he breathed. “I had convinced myself you would hate me.”
“There are greater things at hand to worry about now,” Beleg whispered; and then he leant forward and kissed him gently.
For a long time only a handful more words were spoken, there inside that tiny tent. For a long time there was Beleg and Túrin only, in their little tent in the huge camp, secreted away in a world of their own making. There was the heat of skin on skin and the softness of sighs and gentle words in the darkness, the culmination of years of longing. For a few precious hours there existed a world whose bounds ended at the four corners of the tent, a world no darkness could touch.
Later, curled together under the blankets on the bedroll, Túrin asked, “You truly came just to find me?”
Beleg turned over and looked at him. “Aye. Well, Thingol asked me to seek you out and tell you that you are welcome among his people, but I would have come anyway.”
“Whether he gave you leave or not,” Túrin said with a small smile.
“You don’t have to look smug about it.”
“Smug? You wound me.”
Beleg laughed; he felt that had been Túrin’s aim, as the Man’s eyes sparkled in the darkness. “You have not changed, Túrin.”
“I have not had time,” Túrin said, a slight shadow coming over his face. When Beleg tilted his head inquisitively, he continued, “When I woke in the Halls, it was as if no time had passed since the moment of my death. I have missed everything; I know next to nothing about what happened after I passed on.”
“Ah. I did wonder why you were in the Fëanorian camp, after everything…” That certainly cleared that little mystery up.
“What do you mean?” Túrin asked him.
“It is a long story, and too dark for a night such as this.” And you would likely cause some kind of disturbance if I told you. “All the tales of Beleriand are, especially from later days.”
Túrin accepted that silently, and fell into a thoughtful quiet. Beleg could tell he hadn’t gone to sleep; they had known each other so long that they just knew things without having to think about it.
A lot later, when he knew Túrin was almost asleep, but he could not contain the question, Beleg asked, “Are you scared? Of the battle?”
Túrin shifted. “Aye. Terrified.” After a moment he said, “But less so, with you by my side.”
The wind shifted the tent above them, and whistled through the lines of all the tents surrounding them. Horses whickered somewhere nearby, and low voices spoke quietly close at hand, quiet enough that the words were unintelligible. It was, Beleg thought, all very familiar. It almost made him feel at home.
“You have me back, Túrin,” he whispered to the darkness, “And I will not be leaving again.”