Flame


Of the death of Fëanáro.

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Flame.

 

(Disclaimer: All characters and the world they inhabit are the wonderful creations of JRR Tolkien, or are inspired by reading his works. All mistakes are mine. All references are from The Silmarillion or HoME 1, 10, 11 and 12. )

 

“Long he (Fëanor) fought on, and undismayed, though he was wrapped in fire and wounded with many wounds; ---”

(‘Of the Return of the Noldor The Silmarillion. J.R.R. Tolkien. Ed C. Tolkien.)

 

 

The house or Sarmo Urundil. Seventh Age.

 

Is it now that I am dreaming? Is all the grief of the many ages past but some trick of my mind? Will I awake from what has seemed a long, lonely widowhood to find him still by my side?

I feel the touch of his fëa against mine; an exquisitely gentle touch, yet one that ever grows in demand of me, filling all of my senses with a fierce and joyful longing. I feel the touch of his hands, his strong, dexterous fingers - and his breath, warm against my skin. And I am enfolded in his arms - in the fire and the flame of his being ….

But now darkness has come; darkness has fallen. Another flame there is, enfolding him in death.

- - - - -

A dream of a vision it is that haunts me. For over an age have I rarely dreamt thus of Fëanáro; though dream of him - of them - I do. But that dream of events in the Hither Lands was with me again this last night. Since I have begun to record my memories of the early days it is an experience that occurs more frequently. Almost do I believe Moringotho wills me to have remembrance of that event to taunt me into despair, that I put down my pen and make no case for my lord of old. But I am an inconsequential opponent to a Vala. The Enemy would be concerned not one jot with my attempt to reclaim some of my lord’s honour through my writings. And Moringotho; he is bound behind the Door of Night, is he not?

Nay - the dream is of my own heart and mind. From my own sense of guilt and loss does it arise.

To my shame it is, that I was not with my husband in hröa when he died. Mayhap he would not have perished thus had I but striven longer to change his mind-mood? But he asked the impossible of me. At that time, impossible had it been that I should desert Aulë to follow one who had become so fell and rebellious. And Fëanáro was angry, so very angry with me that I chose loyalty to a Vala over loyalty to him.

Think not that I am unaware of my husband’s many faults, of his cruel deeds. I hated, I abhorred the folly into which he was led; into which he led our sons and others. But with the passing of years has come the clearing of my sight. Since that incident upon the cliffs beyond Alqualondë– that faintest mind-touch of regret - much better have I come to understand why my lord followed the path he did. Much better do I know my own part in the downfall of the Noldor, for I was deceived as much as any. ‘Nerdanel the wise’, they used to say: nay, Nerdanel the fool, to discern not the ends to which Moringotho’s deceptions would lead.

I hear your thoughts, reader – that Fëanáro and I parted before he left Valinor. That he could not expect she who had estranged herself from him to accompany him into the east. But that is another memory to record, and at another time. Of the memory of his death do I now feel constrained to write.

Now this is the history and manner of my dream.

Though I never had the gift of insight into minds that Artanis possesses yet, inherited from my mother and from the art of close and careful observation, I had more insight into hearts than many. After the birth of Maitimo there were a few occasions when I saw events as from afar, as if I were using a palantir. But an action of my own thoughts it was, with no availing of my husband’s creations.

With Fëanáro I had a close bond indeed. Of one heart and mind were we in the early years of our marriage. And so many sons did he give me, so many of his children did I bear that, each time I was with child, each time I mediated his fëa to those yet unborn, our union become but stronger. Now as all do know, the union of fëar between most couples is strongest when they abide in the same place, though many have the ability to reach out to the other over some distance. So it was with us. When my lord rode out with our sons on journeys of exploration, those times that I went not with them, we could still communicate, each with the other. On occasion did we communicate thus for some very many days. When they all rode out to seek the borders of the Dark they were gone for half of a year! So long to be parted it seemed to me at that time.

‘I miss thee!’ I would oft call to him.

Arrow sharp would his thought return. ‘And I thee, beloved.’

I did not know then what missing him truly was.

- - - - -

Now it was nigh two years after the departure of the hosts of the Noldor from Tirion that the vision came upon me. Almost two years of darkness that we who remained endured in Aman. For the light of the Trees was no more, and no moon was there; neither had the bright sun risen. Only the stars of Varda, our torches and candles and those gems that blazed with blue and silver fire did we have that it seemed we were returned to the Hither Lands.

I had been dwelling and working again in my father’s house. Though Aulë came not amongst us for a space, and the Teleri – understandably - shunned us, yet was there ever much to do, to try to repair some little of the harm done to all. With my father in his forge had I been when the warning came upon me. I had gasped and stumbled, that Tulcon had cried out for me to take care. My father had caught hold of me, taking me away from possible danger to sit in his workroom. No deep vision it was that I experienced, save a momentary sight of fire over the sea.

I called for my mother, for she who first had such intuition of flames and sea in relation to Fëanáro.

“What does it mean? What is happening to them?” I had asked; fearful that this would be another battle, another kinslaying. But no clearer were any of us as to what was taking place than before. Since the destruction of the Trees no message had gone forth to the Hither Lands. Neither had any message returned, save what we knew of sorrow from those Noldor who had accompanied the wise Arafinwë back to Eldamar.

My mother had knelt by my feet, holding fast to both my hands. My father, Tulcon and Tuon hovered close by with concern. Then it came to me, the voice I had longed, and yet not longed to hear.

‘Ai; Nerdanel!’

For the briefest of moments I was acutely aware of Fëanáro’s thoughts, sensing his great dismay. It came as a shock to me as I had experienced no directed thought from him since our last parting words. For that instant I felt the touch of his fëa again, reaching out to me in pain of loss. Then his anger flared, and his consuming hatred for Moringotho - his hate, it blocked out any further touch between us.

Thus I knew that one of our sons was dead in that fire, though I knew not then which one.

For a time my anger flare against my husband most strongly, (though only with the return of the exiles was I to know his part in that son’s death), and so was the bond between us doubly blocked. Such anguish was that for me, not to know clearly what had befallen.

Again did it happen, many days later, very many days. I was alone in my room, about to take rest, when the sharp arrow of his directed thought became fixed in my mind. The thought was wild, fey indeed, as he cried to me: ‘Vengeance now shall I have!’ But that was all. It was as if he wanted me to know he had been right to defy the Valar; that he would bring down Moringotho himself by the might of his wrath.

I sat up upon my bed, filled not with any awareness that Fëanáro was justified – not with any exaltation - but with a sense of dread. Something was very wrong!

Then it was that the vision unfolded, as a large map upon a tabletop. In the light of the crystal lamps the room about me was a silver-touched glow, but what lay before me was a half-wrought camp, movement in darkness, the flash of helms, swords under starlight and the red of blood. I could see very many foul and terrible creatures - to my eyes, deformed corruptions of life - which I took to be the ‘Orcs’ spoken of by those who had made the great march. Engaging them in battle with much will was the host of our House only. Of the blue and silver banners of Nolofinwë and his followers was there no sight. Outnumbered greatly were our people, yet they fought on with the fire of Aman burning in their eyes, their long swords slashing through their foe as easily as through air.

A confusion of colours and sounds, then a blurring of the vision came about, that I believed Fëanáro and our sons to be well occupied in the giving forth of battle. Nothing further did I perceive for some hours. I lay again upon my bed, wishing to ponder what had been shown me.

Failië came to call me for the early meal, but so held was I to what I knew perchanced with my family, that I asked that but water be brought me. She knew - my parents knew not to disturb me when I was in such a mood of reflection.

Many hours must have passed, mayhap even a day or two? I left not my room, but would have called in prayer upon the Valar for aid if I could. Then again was the vision upon me that I saw swift riders under cold stars - Fëanáro and six others, ahead of the main force. Riding fearlessly they were, in pursuit of a remnant of Orcs fleeing back to their dread master. Fëanáro’s sword was held aloft, and I heard him laughing - urging the others onwards so as to come upon Moringotho the sooner. That he intended to seek personal combat with the Vala who had slain his father I had no doubt. But though in my room in Aman, I was granted a greater field of vision than he in the Hither Lands. I saw the dreadful creatures of shadow and flame issue forth from the dark mountains. Seven of them there were. The host of fleeing Orcs turned at bay at that sight, preparing to make a stand. Orcs and Valaraukar there were, setting a trap.

“Fëanáro! Turn back! They lie in wait for thee! It is ensnarement that they plan!” I called aloud, rising to my feet; though my voice could carry no further than the confines of the room. Neither could he have heard me in his thoughts then, so clouded was his reason, so consumed was he by his battle fury.

The vision shimmered before my eyes, and I knew that, again, some time had passed in that land over the sea. I knew also that he had not turned back.

Sinking slowly to my knees upon the floor, my remaining anger against him faded away in that moment as mist in the light. No matter what he had done to cause grief, yet did I wish him many miles from that place – did I wish him not to be slain and in such a manner!

A circle of flame lit my view. The seven servants of Moringotho encompassed him as he fought on, undaunted by them. By his feet lay the crushed and burnt bodies of those loyal friends of his: of Tulcavaryar, Alcarin and four others. But Fëanáro could not be brought down. He was swift and agile and strong; his opponents could not match him for all their might. I saw with hope and near wonder that he moved around the fallen bodies of many of the Orcs; that he had wounded some of the Valaraukar, that two were lame, moving but stiffly in gait, and another bore the marks of Urrussë upon it’s form. But the moment when I thought he might yet prevail, even against such odds, was soon to pass. I beheld that, valiant though he fought, he bore many wounds himself, and burns from their swords and whips of flame.

It was as if I were watching him competing against others of the Noldor in the arena in Tirion. Five or six or more would he oft try himself against, and harder still did he train with our sons in those later days of swords and banners and lies. But those seven were not Eldar; they were Valaraukar - corrupted Maiar - demons of terror.

'He is nigh exhausted,’ thought I, with cold realisation that he could not prevail alone. As if in answer to my thought, Fëanáro stumbled - just a little - but it was enough. His shield was torn from his hand as he was wrapped in their flames once more. He did not cry out in pain or fear, even then.

In my room, sitting motionless upon the floor, silent tears were upon my face. I could not watch, could not know the unthinkable, that he was defeated. Was this to be the result of my failure to ‘care well’ for Míriel’s gift? Was it to be the end of his dreams, the outcome of his eloquent and impassioned speech upon the summit of Túna?

“Fair shall the end be, though long and hard shall be the road!” he had said.

Fair? Nay, it was not to be so for him!

I reached out in thought to our sons, though I had never any bond with them beyond usual for mother and child. While they had been young had I oft sensed their needs, but not once they reached maturity. Even less than I could reach Fëanáro could I reach any of them. But try I must.

‘Maitimo, be quick! Thy father is failing, even he. Makalaurë, Tyelkormo - he is near the end of his endurance’. As I called, I knew they heard me not and in part I was glad. I had no wish for them also to be wrapped in the flames. Yet I knew that, without our sons, Fëanáro was lost.

On the farthest edge of vision the tall, bright figure of Maitimo was fighting his way through those Orcs still standing, trading blow for blow with those hideous creatures. A fell warrior was he become, our firstborn, as he wrecked determined havoc upon all who stood in his way. With that son were many of our people, but none could breech the circle of flames to give aid to their king.

Fëanáro, they come - soon will they be with thee!’ I called in thought.

Alas, it was not to be. The ground rumbled, as out of the shadows loomed a shape greater and more terrible than the others. In his hand was a monstrous black axe. The very Lord of Valaraukar was being sent out against my husband. In full strength, aye, I believe Fëanáro could have defeated him - but not after fighting so many, so hard, and for so long.

Yet did my lord make to face that creature as an equal, and more! That most fell of Balrogs swung down his axe in an attempt to cleave Fëanáro asunder. Again was my husband swift of foot and, evading the blow, hewed mightily at the body of the Valarauko in return. They circled each other; though still in the midst of the other servants of Moringotho were they. Twice more they exchanged blows that Fëanáro, without a shield, was wounded again.

With pounding heart I watched as another of those creatures let fly its whip, wrenching Urrussë from Fëanáro’s grasp. Defenceless now was he, yet he tried to evade them, tried to take up a sword from the flaming hand of one of his enemies. The Lord of Balrogs struck at him again, with a blow to his chest that, while not cleaving him, brought him gasping to his knees. A clawed foot was placed upon he who had long been my love – my life, driving him into the dust of the ground. Numbly the realisation dawned on me that the Valaraukar intended not to kill him quickly.

‘Maitimo, be swift!’ My desperate thoughts winged forth to my eldest son. If I could reach any of my children – it would be him!

Those creatures of shadow and flame wrapped their whips of fire around Fëanáro’s body, dragging him behind them, moving fast for creatures so large, in a game like a thoughtless child might play with a toy. Dragged across the roughened ground and rocks was he until, for one moment, he was caught between two larger stones and would not easily be pulled free.

Finwion!’

With the love I had sought to bury within me I reached forth my fëa, seeking the slender thread of union that should still be between us. Although he could not have felt me in hröa, I fell upon him, throwing my arms around his neck as I covered his burnt and broken features with my tears. I wanted to wash away his hurt, as Nienna could, and make him whole. I wanted to bring him healing that he was again what he had once been.

Pain hazed eyes opened and he knew, aye, he knew that I was with him.

‘False wife and mother!’ he struggled to respond. ‘You who deserted me, keep now your tears. I need them not!’

The sharpness of his words caused me to recoil, that the tenuous link was broken. Never had I thought we who had once loved so well, would come to this.

Though he made to reject me, yet still was Fëanáro in my vision. And I would not leave him to perish alone. I would not leave him a third time. So I hovered close – as close as I could without adding to his anguish – that he knew I had not deserted him.

Then he reached slowly, determinedly to his neck, as if to touch something that was mayhap hung around it, under the hauberk. The Green Stone upon a chain it was, which he brought forth in his charred and blackened hand. Despite his harsh words, Laicasar, that was my wedding gift to him, was yet about his neck. There was a familiar tug upon my own fëa; one last bright flare of his commanding eyes as he seemed to search for me, his mood momentarily changed.

‘Nerdanel; shed not tears. Never did I leave thee, lady,’ his blood smeared fingers were upon the stone. ‘In memory art thou ever mine …’

He could not maintain his focus as the Valaraukar tugged his body helplessly from the rocks, setting him again in their midst, making to utterly crush his sensitive, creative hands. One wave of his agony I felt; then his thoughts were shielded from me.

I would have called unto the Valar, unto Eru himself in my anguish for my husband. Yet how was I any different to the wives and mothers of the Teleri? I believed that none would hearken to the plea of the wife of Fëanáro.

In silent helplessness I watched as the rest of the vision unfolded before me. Maitimo and Carnistir with a great host cut and hacked their way into that circle of flame. Ambarussa the elder approached his father’s still form from another direction. It seemed the Valaraukar retreated, though I wondered why? That they had dealt Fëanáro a mortal blow they must have known. Mayhap that was all their purpose at that time?

Our sons, they raised up their father between them, bearing him away, to an upward path to a mountain pass.

That he would soon die, both he and I knew - though with firmly spoken words of encouragement did Maitimo and then Curvo try to renew their father’s strength to live. A chill thought struck my heart. What if he were to be condemned to the Everlasting Darkness, as he had so made oath? What if Fëanáro would heed not the summons of Mandos at death? We still knew so little of death in Aman, though since the kinslaying did we know more than we had! That Mandos summoned the fëa of the slain, we knew well since the debate over the death of Míriel. But Fëanáro had defied Námo Mandos before. What would happen if he refused to return?

Our sons lay him down upon the ground, as gently as they might. And now they knew also what was to be.

With fading sight he looked to distant mountains, triple peaks that rose higher than any I had seen before the Pelóri had been raised. Then with pain bought breath he cursed them, and cursed also the name of Moringotho thrice.

“Treat not, neither parley with thy foe”, he instructed our sons. (If only Maitimo had taken that instruction to heart.)

About his neck was he still wearing the Green Stone. He signalled for Maitimo to take it from him.

“Keep this well. Avenge me and thy grandsire, and hold true to thy oath.”

With his final breath he again laid that accursed oath upon our sons. Why that? If only he had spoke otherwise! If only he had blessed them, or bid them pursue release from those terrible words of hatred. Yet the oath had been made freely before Manwë and Varda, and they had called upon Eru, each one in their madness. Such an oath was binding, reminder or no.

They bowed their heads, our sons. For now were they all there save for Ambarussa the younger. My suspicion that it had been he, it had been ‘Umbarto’ who had died earlier in the fire was confirmed.

Then the low-smouldering fire was out! Fëanáro died!

His spirit was so bright that his already burnt body was totally consumed as he sped forth.

‘Fëanáro - come thou home!’ I pleaded, as again I sent forth my own fëa, soaring upwards as a bird in flight.

I had thought to meet him above the clouds, that we might take wing together for a final time - that I might draw he who had turned his back upon Valinor, ‘home’. But there was no need. Freely did the spirit of Fëanáro hasten into the West.

The slightest of touches there was, of anger tinged with a dawning realisation of the depth of his loss, then no more. The Spirit of Fire had come to his journey’s end.

Much later it was that I wondered why I had not told him that I loved him - that I had forgiven him his ill deeds - that I partially understood! I should have told Fëanáro that I loved him.

Mayhap he already knew!

- - - - -

I must have lost consciousness. The next I knew was that I was lying upon my bed, my parents seated nearby.

“Rest, Nerdanel. We know what has happened.”

My father spoke in hushed tones, my mother looked most pained, understanding something of how I felt. Had she not held Fëanáro in great esteem until nigh the end?

I could not answer them. I could not find it in me to give forth words. No conversation had I then for anyone, or for very many a day.

“They found thee lying outside, under the apple tree.” my mother spoke in a broken voice “Tuon was looking for thee, to tell thee what he had seen in the sky.”

I did not remember walking into the orchard, but I doubted not that they had found me in that place where we had oft and passionately declared our love for each other, my lord and I.

“They saw a flame like unto a shooting star, burning brightly in the darkness as it headed from the east to the north-west shore of Valinor. No mere feature of the sky it was, Tuon informed us.” My father explained as gently as he could, knowing well what, or rather who, the speeding flame was.

My parents bowed their heads. That my father was furious with Fëanáro's deeds, with his disregard for Aulë, his misuse of power, of skill, and not the least, what he had led our people to do to the Teleri, was no secret. That my husband had taken all his grandsons from him and nigh broken my heart, my father could not forgive. Yet would he hold his peace. He would mourn the passing of one who had been intended for greatness.

Instinctively I reached out in fëa as I had always done when greatly troubled. But Fëanáro was not there. It was not as it had been in those days when I had called to him, but because of his mood, or because he was occupied with work he had chosen to answer me not. Neither was it as it had been those last years we had lived apart. Still, though no words had been exchanged, I had felt his presence. But Fëanáro was no longer there. With his death we were estranged indeed.

In silence I mourned my lord and our youngest son. I went about my work and duties with fixed purpose, and a determination to endure for my parents sake. But the gloom, and sense of immense grief would not depart me. A further two years it was before my heart had any lightness at all, before I was able to speak freely again with others. Despite the grievous woe he had caused us all, had Fëanáro ever been my bright flame. And at that time I greatly wished that I had died with him.

- - - - -

So now have I written of that which is a bitter memory to me. With the telling do I hope to lie to rest that particular dream and turn again to the task I have set myself. Mayhap, when the recording of my memories of the early days is complete, I will seek to join my family – to join him? It is said that the only thing that binds fëar in that place of Námo Mandos is great love! If that is so, as I believe, and he bears no grudge against me, has forgiven me even as I forgave him, then we will be united once more, my lord and I, that at last we shall both know of healing.

- - - - -

Time is in Years of the Trees.

Moringotho – Morgoth

Artanis - Galadriel

Valaraukar - Balrogs

Urrussë - ‘Flame blade’ (russë is the poetic word for blade – I think!.)

Maitimo - Maedhros

Tyelkormo - Celegorm

Carnistir – Caranthir

Finwion – Son of Finwë. A childhood name of Fëanor. I write Nerdanel using ‘Finwion’ on occasions.

Curvo - Curufin. I am using the shortened form of his father-name when Nerdanel speaks of him, as it says in HoME 12 that he alone of the sons preferred it to his mother-name.

‘Fair shall the end be,’ he cried, ‘though long and hard shall be the road! ..’ The Silmarillion. Of the Flight of the Noldor.

The Green Stone of Fëanor: This is mentioned in footnotes in HoME 11 ‘The War of the Jewels’. It implies that Tolkien was pondering the history of the Elessar, with it being given by Fëanor just before his death to Maedhros, who then gave it to Fingon. This does not agree with Tolkien’s later thoughts in ‘Unfinished Tales’.