The Fire and the Sea.


A one-part tale from the time of preparation for the War of Wrath.

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The Fire and the Sea

 

(Disclaimer: All characters, places, and the main story line belong to JRR Tolkien. Gaerion, Gilfanon and Gillondë are my characters, inspired by reading Tolkien’s wonderful works. All references are from The Silmarillion and HoME, Volumes 10 and 12.)

 

“But the hosts of the Valar prepared for battle; and beneath their white banners marched the Vanyar, the people of Ingwë, and those also of the Noldor who never departed from Valinor, whose leader was Finarfin the son of Finwë. Few of the Teleri were willing to go forth to war, for they remembered the slayings at the Swanhaven, ….and they sent mariners enough to sail the ships that bore the host of Valinor east over the sea.”

(‘Of the Voyage of Eärendil’ The Silmarillion. J.R.R Tolkien. Ed C. Tolkien. HarperCollins. p 301)

 

 

“There (The Halls of Mandos) long shall ye abide and yearn for your bodies, and find little pity though all whom ye have slain should entreat for you.”

(The Prophecy of the North ‘Of the Flight of the Noldor’ The Silmarillion. J.R.R. Tolkien. Ed C. Tolkien. HarperCollins p 95)

 

 

The Year of the Sun 544. First Age. A coastal path north of Alqualondë.

 

“She will have gone to that place just north of Alqualondë where the coastal trail comes to an end at the cliff’s edge. A sheer drop it is, onto the rocks and waves below. In her present mood I know not what she will do!”

Urundil was distraught. Silently he beseeched Aulë’s guidance, wishing that Tulcon, Narwasar or Artaro had been at the dwellings of the Aulenduri to accompany him on his urgent pursuit. He wished his wife were with him, rather than overseeing the making of mail hauberks in Aldëaosto. He wished Nolwen, the wife of Curvo were with him, that his daughter’s grief might be shared with one who truly understood. But Nolwen had determinedly busied herself amongst those in Tirion, in the drawing up of maps and charts of the Hither Lands from the Valar’s instructions. And even that other ‘daughter’, Enyalimë, Makalaurë’s wife, was in Tirion helping her grandfather and brother prepare for war.

Nay - he alone could give aid to his daughter in her current distress.

He knew where his beloved only child went when the pain of the past grew too great; that she loved the fierceness of that small stretch of coastland promontory with its wild winds and sometimes-wilder waters. He knew she looked from there to the east, and he understood why. But before sunrise she had left his house in a great hurry, seeming in far more anguish of fëa than he had observed in many a year. Grey cloaked, as if she wished to be away unnoticed, she had ridden her favoured dappled horse down through the Calacirya under the fading light of the moon and the stars.

Most times he would not have been concerned for her, for she was strong, determined, and well able to care for herself. But the Blessed Realm that changed but little was again changing most dramatically.

The mariner had come of late out of the east, with a message from the Exiles and from the Second People. Eärendil was he named - a descendent of Finwë through Turukáno. And the holy light, the Silmaril he had bound to his brow, (even as Fëanáro had once worn the three!), enabled him to pass the very shores of Aman unto the festival deserted streets of Tirion and of Valmar. There, before the Valar he had told of the trials, of the suffering of those in the Hither Lands. Mercy he had asked for the two kindred, and pardon for the Noldor that dwelt over the sea, that they might be sent aid - that they might return home.

Despite the words of Námo Mandos that: ‘no mortal man may tread upon the undying lands and yet live, neither any Noldo who left, return’, yet had Ulmo spoken in the mariner’s defence. And Manwë; he had granted the prayer of Eärendil.

Preparations were already well underway for the great battle, the war-to-come. Many of the Aulenduri were in Tirion or in Valmar, while others worked day and night at the forges near their dwellings. All were eager to obey the summons of King Arafinwë to craft weapons for the Noldor and Vanyar hosts. Urundil himself had overseen much of the weapon making on behalf of the king. He, who had been so angry at Fëanáro’s crafting of weapons now forged them with a will. Yet he wanted much more than to craft the means of destruction! He wanted to be part of the Valar’s retribution!

The master-smith had assumed that he, as almost all of the adult neri of the Noldor, would be voyaging forth under the Valar’s banners. He wanted to go – he wanted to take up sword and smite at anything of the Enemy who had darkened the Blessed Realm – who had blighted the life of his family. He wanted to bring his grandsons home!

But the king had decreed otherwise.

“You will be needed here, Lord Urundil,” Arafinwë had told him, when he had gone to discuss the making of the king’s own sword. “When we return will there be much re-building of dwellings, of our society, of lives to undertake. I cannot risk the loss of the most skilled of our smiths. Nay, I deem it better you serve the Noldor and Valar here, in the knowledge that I will do all I can for my brother’s remaining sons.”

Urundil had been bitter at those words, but he would not disobey his king. Not this king! His first thought – that his exclusion was because of his likeness to Maitimo in appearance, at least from a distance - was quickly put aside. The smith had wisdom enough to understand the situation. Arafinwë could have no reminder of the family of Fëanáro with his host. And the king had looked at him with insight into the pain of loss. Had he not lost much of his family – had he and his Teler wife not been told of the deaths of their own sons – that their daughter Artanis alone remained? Aye! Arafinwë understood much!

But at last the prayers of many for their lost children, their lost loves were to be answered; even the prayers of Nerdanel might be answered and the pardon of Manwë granted to three of those from whom she had been sundered.

Good news, indeed – until further word had come forth that many of bright Eärendil’s people in the Hither Lands had been slain and his twin sons taken captive. That most foul deed had been undertaken by Nerdanel’s sons, bound still by their oath: of Ambarussa the elder, (who also was slain in that encounter), of Maitimo and of Makalaurë.

“Ai!” Urundil drew the deepest of breaths at the thought of the deeds of his grandchildren - at the knowledge of what that cursed oath had driven them to do.

“What did you speak with her about? What did you say?” he rather harshly addressed his lone companion in the search. Only this one other had the Noldo found who could be spared at need - he also unnaturally low of spirit, and travelling east towards the sea. Not that Urundil had ever disliked the Teler who had of late paid more frequent calls to his house.

Gaerion knew not how to reply. How could he tell one he had long admired and respected, one of those who had done his best to heal the grievous wounds caused to the Teleri by his people that he, Nerdanel’s ‘everfriend’, had inadvertently spoken forth that which she could not bear to hear? That instead of offering her comfort he had caused her further sorrow.

“We talked as ever of her sons; that though Ambarussa is now slain, Maitimo and Makalaurë may yet be restored to her. I had thought that she would be uplifted in part by the possibility. Yet did she say to me she thought Makalaurë would not return. That though he would long most ardently to come home with those twins of Eärendil’s in his care, (for he who so loved children would surely have cared for them), it would not so happen.”

Urundil shook his head; copper-brown hair partially escaping from the single clasp that always held it from his eyes when he worked. “No; no!” he addressed himself more than the Teler. “She has come to terms with all of that. My daughter will not despair. She will wait upon the return of those ships to be sent - until King Arafinwë returns from this war-to-be. Until that time she cannot know for a certainty what has happened to either of her eldest.”

“And the white ships,” the silver-haired Elda added. He reluctantly slowed the pace of the lively, brown horse he rode to a trot, as the coastal path became steeper and narrower. “We spoke of the white ships. I had told her that if they yet lived, I would carry home her sons even if others of my kin would not. Even though her sons were responsible for the deaths of many of my people, (and Makalaurë slew my father upon the deck of the Uinenlindë’ was the unspoken thought), for her sake, and for yours, I would bring them home.”

Choosing not to comment for the moment on the reminder of his grandsons’ role in the first kinslaying, (or on the knowledge that Gilfanon had been slain by Makalaurë), Urundil focused upon the task in hand.

Throughout the years since the rebel Noldor had left the city of Tirion, intoxicated by the impassioned speech of his daughter’s husband, he and his wife, Taurlotë, had carefully watched over her.

They had watched Nerdanel’s initial numbness turn to acceptance - then again to grief at the awareness of the death of Fëanáro and of their youngest son. In time, over the space of further years she had taken up her life again, though never with the joy she had once possessed so abundantly. She had busied herself in her work, in her care for those of both Noldor and Teleri who remained, and in her devotion to the more distant Aulë. In so doing, and in the closeness of her friendship with Nolwen and Enyalimë, a measure of peace did it seem she had found. But his wise and thoughtful child had not sung her heart’s song into her crafting, nor laughed with delight, neither oft walked in the hills or by the shores as had once been her want. That she lived in silent hope that one at least of her children would eventually return to Valinor - to her - those closest to her had always known. Despite the doom proclaimed upon the House of Fëanáro and the knowledge that all who wilfully left Aman were not permitted to return, yet had she hoped.

Now all was changing, and the Lords of the West, the mighty Valar, looked to bring war upon Moringotho in the Hither Lands, that the Quendi of Beleriand be saved and those ‘rebel’ Noldor who so wished, be pardoned. It was even as Fëanáro had said:

‘Such hurt at the least will I do to the Foe of the Valar that even the mighty in the Ring of Doom shall wonder to hear it. Yea, in the end they shall follow me.” (1)

'Such hurt' pondered Urundil! Had not Moringotho’s servants rendered ‘such hurt’ upon his daughter’s husband, so also upon her? But again, had not the Silmarils, those creations of the hands of Fëanáro, been the very thing to burn the hands of the Enemy, to cause him never to be free of the pain of that burning and to put upon him such a deadly weariness that he ventured not forth, save once, from his abode? (And that to confront Nolofinwë in single combat!) And were the Valar not now following Fëanáro’s course, even as he had said they would?

Slowing the pace of his own mount to a walk, the master-smith again reflected upon that which had caused his daughter to take up her grief anew. Angry at his own lack of foresight was he, of not truly considering the influence that Eärendil’s message would have upon the mother of those who had brought ruin to the havens of Sirion. He thought on how Nerdanel had behaved when she knew Fëanáro had perished - on how she now felt with the knowledge that at least five of her sons were already slain. Alas, that was not all to grieve her; but also the knowledge brought them through Eärendil of her sons' actions, that not one, but three kinslayings there had been. How could he have believed she could bear to know that?

Now would Urundil have continued riding further up the steep and narrow slope of the coastal cliffs in his haste. Yet safety was also important. Neither he nor his companion could give of help to Nerdanel if they fell themselves. Reluctantly he swung himself down from the saddle, the Sea-Elf doing likewise. Swifter on foot would they be over such a treacherous stretch of ground.

Noticing the horse she had ridden, the dappled mare, grazing upon rich tufts of grass that grew in a spot that of old had been touched by the light over the mountains, Urundil knew his goal was close. He cupped his hands to his mouth, calling on his daughter to pay him heed. She could not be much further ahead. Although the roar of the nearing sea nigh drowned out his voice, the smith called anxiously:

“Yendë, do nothing of rashness! We know not the will of the Valar for certain, nor what yet may come to pass.”

In the far distance he could see her. Standing on the edge of a narrow ledge that jutted out from a grassy incline, was she. That place it was, overlooking the rebuilt Alqualondë, which held some special memory for her. (There it was, he believed, she had conceived Maitimo.) Her grey gown and cloak and her unbound hair were blown this way and that by the changing winds, almost as an outward reflection of the turmoil in her thoughts.

But she could not, or would not hear him.

- - - - -

Gaerion was distraught in spirit. He had so hoped his recently renewed acquaintance with his childhood friend would lead to an increase in both their happiness - to something more permanent. Not that the Teler was unaware of the feelings Nerdanel still held for he who had been in life her husband. But Fëanáro had left in a manner most grievous. In the Halls of Awaiting was he and unlike others, not to return it was said. So had Gaerion allowed hope to grow again, that this nís he had long admired would one day look upon him as more than a friend.

“Most dear art thou to me, Son of the Sea,” she had said the previous morning, as they had walked together in the first light of Vása to the herb gardens she intended to work in. “For thou hast stood by me and by my parents in these recent years, seeking only our joy and little for thyself. Though many of thy people have long shunned the company of the Noldor, and for good reason, thou hast sought reconciliation between our kindreds. Most generous of heart art thou, Gaerion. Yet is there something more I would ask of thee.” She had reached up and touched his face lightly with her small, elegant hand; after so long, that touch he desired above all others.

“Ask what thou wilt, and it is thine, my lady. For most pleasing are thy words, and thy tone of address. So long have I wished for thy favour again.” He had spoken heartfelt words, but without thought. Disarmed had he been from his usual caution by the familiarity and tenderness in her voice.

“My favour?” She had taken from him the basket of tools he had been carrying for her and turned to that area in which high, green and silvered fennel grew.

There was something she wanted of him, and was there not also something he wanted of her? So desperately had he wanted to ask her to seek a sundering of her marriage to Fëanáro. Surely, if she so willed, the Valar would grant her such? No fault of hers was her long widowhood, save that she had chosen the wrong nér to be her spouse. Gaerion had hesitated to be so bold. And yet his heart would be not restrained! Encouraged by her open gaze, her unreserved demeanour as she knelt upon the grass to better examine the plants, he had made to speak more intimately than the situation warranted.

“Aye, my heart’s-love. If I am truly dear to thee, then mayhap thou wilt allow me the privilege of being at thy side more often. For when I am away from thee my world is but dimly lit.” He had knelt close beside her, as if even that difference in stance was too great. But what a poor choice of words, he had suddenly thought. Fëanáro would not have fallen into that trap. Ever had he been most skilled in the use of words.

Nerdanel had made to raise her hand, to touch him again, but she had halted mid-gesture. Then was there a look of dismay upon her face, as she sat back upon her heels.

“Gaerion, my friend, you misunderstand!” As she shook her head, her loosely braided hair caught the light of the sun, setting its copper-red glints as a halo of flame. “Please, forgive me! For I should never have spoken to encourage you in such words.”

He had not understood! What had he done wrong? Surely she knew his intentions, had indeed suspected them for many a year? She must have known he loved her in his youth, before the son of Finwë had come upon her in the hills and taken her from him. She must have known that he had loved her; despite the atrocities he had born witness to, despite what her family had done to his.

He made to take up her hand. Though he noted she had not continued her use of the more affectionate term of address to him, he persevered. “If it is still too soon to so speak, I also am sorry. But know thou that I will wait upon thee. That though he who was in life thy husband, and those many of thy sons do not return; though hope for them is gone because of their deeds, always shall I be here for thee.” Comfort! He had meant to offer her comfort!

Abruptly had she withdrawn her hand from his and risen to her feet.

Still is Fëanáro my husband!” her words had been spoken pointedly. “And always is there hope!”

The day had seemed chill of a sudden, and Gaerion had realised how very silent the garden had become. No sound from those at the forge or the house was there, nor even that of birdsong or of crickets chirping in the grass.

He had hung his head in shame at having so distressed her. ‘Too soon,’ he had thought. ‘I have spoken too soon!’ But there was still her unasked request; still one chance to redeem himself.

“Lady Nerdanel; you said there was something you would ask of me. Then ask! For if it is within my power will I not do it?”

She seemed to ponder his words for a few moments, her frown softening as she made to smooth out the folds in her grey gown. He had slowly risen to his feet, stepping back a pace from her. Waiting! Always, he realised, had he waited for her.

“I know not if you will do it, Gaerion!” Her grey eyes held his as she looked up at him, and then deep into his heart, as she had never done before. “For what I would ask of you is forgiveness for my sons. I would ask for you to entreat Manwë on their behalf. Not for my sake, but for theirs; mayhap even for your own.”

He had been unable to answer immediately, but had sighed most deeply and broken from her gaze to stare at the ground. Anything would he have done for her, whether she would have him or no! He would carry her sons back upon his ship; he would do so willingly, but for her sake, never for them. What she asked; it was too much!

“Makalaurë slew my father,” he stated dully, as a well-rehearsed reply. Not that this knowledge had been new to her, for she had long known what details he could tell of the deeds at Alqualondë.

So she had turned away from him, pale of face, her own head lowered in disappointment. The sadness that enveloped her was so great that it almost broke his heart.

“I am sorry, Gaerion,” she had said, as she walked alone, back towards the house. “So sorry to have spoken of this matter to you, and reminded you of your pain.”

- - - - -

As they made the ridge, the most spectacular view of the bay of Eldamar and of the city and harbour of Alqualondë itself, greeted them. Gaerion slowed his pace to that of Urundil. As he walked side-by-side with the grandsire of the kinslayers, his thoughts turned back, unbidden, to that day of woe over five hundred years earlier.

“Forgive them,” Nerdanel had asked. How could he forgive?

The sea -- it was blood! Ai, the sea at Alqualondë, it was all blood!

- - - - -

Gaerion, as many of his people, had been distraught beyond words at that sudden and unexplained darkening of the sky. The Teleri had been about their business; on the shores, in their homes, sailing with carefree joy upon the waves of the sea when without warning they saw the light of the Trees was no more. The Sea-Elves had lived mostly under starlight in their city, but always had the glow of the primordial light been visible from the eastern end of the Calacirya and upon the mountaintops. Always were they free to visit the lands beyond the mountains and bathe in the fullness of the light if they wished. No more! Yet was it worse than the darkness of any sky ever known to them. That darkness ate into their minds and their hearts, as if to consume them. A wail had gone up, like unto the cold cry of gulls; of confusion, of distress - that sound must have carried from the silver shores up through what had been a cleft of light, to the place of the High Festival upon Taniquetil; to the feet of Manwë himself.

At the time of the darkening they had been returning to harbour upon the Uinenlindë - Gaerion, his father and his brother. Some of the crew had been as shocked as any upon the land, though they had not cried out.

“Whatever has happened,” Gilfanon had said, “trust in the Valar! We trust in the might and in the wisdom of Ulmo to prevail.”

Captain and crew had all bowed their heads then, and still hearing wails arising from the city, they had silently beseeched the Lord of Waters, Ossë and Uinen for their aid. Gaerion considered he would not be the only one to give thought to their Noldor friends who, from the location of the festival doubtlessly felt more keenly the darkness than they.

The air seemed cold and chill as the ship made harbour and downed anchor. A mist there was arising from the waters that slowly covered the land, even heading along the southern inlet of the Shadowmere that led to Tirion. Many of the mariners of Alqualondë were heading from their homes towards their ships, with families in tow and what provisions they could gather in their arms. A cacophony of sound had greeted the Uinenlindë’s landfall. For a moment those on-board sensed that fear had almost gripped the hearts of their free-spirited kin. Safer did they all feel at sea in this danger, this unexpected change in the stability of Aman. Yet within moments that mood of flight was halted.

Upon the harbour wall Eärtur and Ëarcáno, two of the sons of Olwë stood, bearing each aloft one of the blue and white lights gifted to them by the eldest son of Finwë so that all could behold them and that they did not fear.

“Do not so rush, noble folk! Do not give way to despair,” the calm voice of Eärtur cried out above the noise of departure. “I know you would seek the familiarity of the seas in this moment of confusion, but think upon Ulmo and on how he has never betrayed us. Think on his might! What is this that happens, that we should now have such lack of faith? “

Many halted their rush to the ships, a few gathering by the wall upon which the brothers stood. Their voices carried in the renewed silence along the jetties where the fleet was moored, and to those of Gaerion’s ship.

“We understand the sadness and confusion at this loss of the light,” a second voice stated “But my father bids us remind you that the Valar are able to redress any hurts that might have befallen this land, and that this ‘night’ will pass unto a new dawn.” Ëarcormo, always of a most reasoned voice, added to his brother’s comments.

“Return to your homes or to your ships, as you would do had naught come to pass. And ever beseech the Valar that they will overcome this darkness for us. That Aman will be again as it was.”

More words were said but with less force, and soon enough had much of the crowd dispersed. Many returned to their homes as bidden by their princes in calmer spirits. Though still was there some talk of darkness entering hearts, did most seem content to remain in their city.

It was reported to Gilfanon a short time later by those walking along the quayside, that King Olwë himself had come out of his mansion to walk amongst his people. He had walked and spoken comfort where he deemed it needed and assured all that he interceded with Ulmo and with Manwë, and that no great threat was there to any.

Gaerion had remained upon the Uinenlindë with his father. (For his younger brother, Gillondë, had gone ashore to find and reassure their mother and his wife, and many of their crew had also sought to reassure loved ones.) They had partaken of a small meal of fish and of bread, though neither had been in mood to eat. Neither felt in mood to leave the ship either! So some hours passed, and no change, no touch of light appeared behind the mountains.

“The Trees are dead!” a returning crewmember spoke forlornly, “else light there would be by now. Murmurs there are that this is the doing of Melkor!”

Hard was that to accept. The light of the Trees was part of what had drawn the Eldar of all three kindred to Aman. To gaze upon the beauty of Light was the reason many had made the westward march. And now it was gone? The darkness took on a new depth of oppression at that knowledge, although the stars of Varda still twinkled in the sky to the east and the white summit of Taniquetil was again visible.

The crewman, Falmarin, joined them for a goblet of warmed wine, but most sombre of expression was he. He but nodded when Gilfanon asked if his family on-shore were well. Again many hours passed, and the gentle rocking of the ship lulled the three almost into a false sense of calm.

“Go ashore, Gaerion,” Gilfanon had eventually said. “No good does it do us to be so confined when we know not how long this state of affairs will remain. Go ashore and visit with your mother. See if you can find aught else to inform us of what has transpired.”

Gaerion had at first protested that his father should go, but Gilfanon would still not leave his ship. Then came the first of the dread news! Rumours only to start with, passed from ship to ship by those who had remained in the harbour.

‘King Finwë is slain!’ the whispers of disbelief passed amongst those Teleri. “Melkor it was who destroyed the Trees and he has slain Finwë, king-in-exile at Formenos.” The message had passed, and information been added like a dreaded fire. But another fire there was coming - had they but known it.

Gilfanon had been most grieved at the news of the death of the Noldo king, though in truth was Nolofinwë then king; his father unwilling to meet with his people while his eldest son was banned from Tirion by the Valar. “Olwë will be greatly saddened at this news. They were friends from the earliest days, from the Hither Lands, he and King Finwë. Was it not the prayers of Finwë that drew Olwë and our people unto this place?”

Gaerion pondered his father’s words, though his mind was focused on another of the Noldor. Then Gillondë returned.

“Mother is content to remain on the shore and Elwen will keep her company. She has taken to heart King Olwë’s request for calm. But the Noldor are here. There is a group assembling outside the city walls even now. It is said in the streets that Prince Fëanáro, nay, King Fëanáro after the murder of his sire, is speaking with our lords and others about us all leaving these shores and returning to the Hither Lands.”

Gaerion’s thoughts had turned then to Nerdanel with a vengeance. Was she here, he had wondered? Was she even now outside the city walls, reconciled with her husband in what could only be his grief and madness at such a suggestion? He had known the daughter of Urundil was estranged from Fëanáro in recent years, but also he suspected that her love and understanding would draw her back to her husband in such a situation as the death of his father. But Fëanáro wished to leave Aman! And the enormity of what had befallen began to sink into Gaerion’s heart.

“What of Nolofinwë? Is he no longer king?” Gaerion asked of a sudden.

Gillondë shrugged his shoulders. “I know not! Only that Fëanáro is here, claiming kingship. He speaks on the concourse before King Olwë’s house for any and all to hear. With much passion and eloquence does he speak, and to encourage us to seek new lands to the east wherein we may govern at will. But none will go with him, I think. For though the leaving of the Noldor will be a sorrow, what need have we of other lands or lords? And still do we trust in the Valar, rather than in our own might.”

“Mayhap we should prepare to sail again, nonetheless?” Gaerion had jumped to his feet with an almost Noldo-like longing for action, and headed onto the deck. That something transpired near the king’s mansion was evident by the number of torches and lamps there assembled, but otherwise, all was as it had been. The stars to the east glittered in the sky, and the heavy darkness of the Calacirya remained.

“We will wait upon the king and upon Ulmo, my son,” Gilfanon had called after him. But Gilfanon had not Gaerion’s experience of Fëanáro.

That waiting; those hours of pacing the deck of the Uinenlindë while the glory of Alqualondë remained and the blood stained streets and harbour side were not yet reality, it lingered as a pain in Gaerion’s fëa from that time forth.

Then, just as he had returned to silent pondering with those others below deck, sound of shouts, of adamant protest had risen. A cry to desist an attempt at boarding a ship echoed through the still air, to be shortly followed by the sound of a struggle and someone being thrown into the water.

“What now?” Father and sons were on their feet as a returned, pale haired mariner put his head through the door at the top of the steps that led to the hold.

“The Noldor want our ships! They intend to take them by force!” The nér’s face was almost as white as his hair with a mixture of shock and outrage. “Quickly! Defend the fleet!“ With a beckoning gesture he departed their sight.

They had followed, and nothing could have prepared them for the sudden onslaught of noise, the shouts and curses of neri fighting, and dying that met them. For the Noldor were upon them in force and desperate were they! Armed with terrible, long swords were they!

The Uinenlindë was moored at the sea end of the quay. Already they could see two swan ships cast off and heading for the misted harbour entrance, one with Teleri and Noldor still locked in a deadly conflict. But the battle on the quayside was now in the city also, and the Noldor were not prevailing without cost. Lightly armed, with knives, short bows, and but a few spears and fewer swords, (those given them by Noldo ‘friends’), were the Teleri, but they were brave of heart in defending what was as dear to them as their children.

Gaerion and those of his family aboard could have fled; their ship was nigh ready to sail again. But none of those three neri would leave their people, leave those who were wife and mother, to this onslaught.

“How can this be? What could possibly have caused such evil in this place? That Elda slays Elda, it is a thing unknown!” Struck by the horror surrounding him, Gaerion had thought it was the end of the world.

Then, out of the growing mists that snaked long of finger into the harbour, a group of armed and lightly armoured Noldor were nigh the Uinenlindë. Gilfanon drew his hunting knife, the only weapon he had, and made to bar their way.

“What is this, that the Noldor have become murderers? What of friendship and of the invite to live side by side in this land, even as close kin?’

“Yield the ship, Teler!” From the midst of the group, a tall and powerful dark haired nér strode forth. Unhelmed was he, and a light as of flame burnt fiercely in his eyes. The blade he wielded was grim and fell, and he made as if to strike.

Gilfanon could not match him, not with a hunting knife nor with any other weapon! Yet neither would he give over his ship. He stood defiant upon the deck.

“Never will I yield my ship, not for friendship nor most certainly for force!”

But the Noldo seemed to be focused on some instruction, on some deed he must accomplish without thought, without rationality or conscience. Gaerion made to aid his father’s defiant stance. And he called into the noise, to one he had met before, to one of the four of the seven sons of Nerdanel that he had known.

“Makalaurë! Hold! Do not do this thing!”

But he was too late. His father’s body, pierced through with fine-crafted metal, fell dead into the waters he loved.

“Nay!" Gaerion had cried in vain.

Then Gillondë rushed past him, his knife drawn, only to be pushed aside as the second son of she for whom he had been so concerned made to board his father’s ship. His ship! And Gaerion knew what he had to do. He ducked the first blow aimed at him by another of the Noldor, and darted back into the hold. The sword! He would take up the sword he had promised himself never to use. Fumbling with urgency amongst the items stored in his locker, he felt the touch of the leather scabbard in his hand and drawing the blade, headed back to the deck.

The sea was red with blood! Ai, the sea was red!

Bodies of Teleri and Noldor alike floated in the water, and littered the quayside. If he had thought the Teleri could prevail, for there had been at least one successful rebuttal of the attackers, he now saw a new host of Noldor fresh to the fight, running through swirling mists to the aid of their kin. Only one thought did he then have, and that pounding irresistibly in his mind. He would bring down his father’s murderer; he would find that son of Nerdanel - nay, of Fëanáro, and end his life there and then. A rage filled the normally gentle Teler the likes of which he had never known.

The Uinenlindë was taken; there was nothing he could do to prevent that. He saw that the anchor was being raised and the mooring ropes recoiled. On the quay, Gillondë lay upon his back, open eyes staring at the stars overhead for which he had been named but which he could no longer see. Falmarin also lay gravely wounded, his bow beside him that had never fired a shot. No time for grief was there, only for anger! Gaerion saw the dark-haired Makalaurë moving on to a further ship, blood-soaked sword in hand; the killer, the slayer of friends - and the distraught Teler made a leap back onto the quayside, even as the oars were being manned, to pursue his enemy.

“Murderer! Kinslayer!” he had called after the advancing figure. He had seen then that Makalaurë had moved swiftly to cover the back of another, even taller Noldo. Another of the brothers, 'Maitimo', he thought, as that one had hair lit to flame mingled with blood in the lantern light. Determined to bring down his father’s killer, Gaerion was almost impervious to the presence that was suddenly upon him from the side. He raised his sword defensively, just in time to deflect a downward stroke. And his heart nigh quailed within him. For between he and his goal, armed and armoured, in full strength, in hate and rage, was Fëanáro himself.

Never could Gaerion quite recall what had happened. That he had awoken, face down, upon the beach to the south of the city was the next clear memory. He knew he had striven with Fëanáro, that in his anger over so many things he had wanted to kill. But he had not!

“More noble neri are there amongst the Teleri!” the Noldo king had said to him bitterly, and with but one flashing movement of his own sword, had disarmed him. Gaerion had not understood Fëanáro's reference, but he sought to grapple with the one who was surely responsible for the mayhem. Yet was Fëanáro stronger by far, and had brought him low not with his sword, but with a resounding blow to the head; then thrown him, dazed as he was, into the water.

Had Fëanáro let him live? Had he who was in a blood-rage prevented Gaerion in his hate from being likewise? The Teler could not quite believe there had been any compassion, any conscience in Fëanáro’s heart that day. That his sons had gone to the slaughtering of innocents with unfeeling hearts of their own; that many of the Noldor, save those to the rear of the hosts, those with Arafinwë, had been part of that slaughter would never be forgotten. But ages had taught Gaerion that the kinslaying had not been as straightforward a matter as he had first supposed. And over time, had some of the Teleri tried hard to forgive the Noldor that most awful grief. But he could not forgive! Nay, not even for her sake could he forgive.

- - - - - -

Urundil had made the ridge and was looking for the quickest way to the promontory Nerdanel now stood upon. Calling still, he believed she was beside herself with grief, over the revelations of Eärendil. “Gaerion; by the Valar, think of what she said of late. If you know aught of what has brought this mood back upon her, then tell me!”

There was nothing for it but to speak the truth. Gaerion also saw the lone nís, and fear struck him that she would cast herself into the sea. Never had he thought his words would drive her to such an action. Never had he thought she would suffer so much despair.

“I called her my heart’s-love. I said that I wanted to be with her.” It had to be that, at least in part. But did he not have to speak the rest of it also? “One thing did she ask of me, and that would I not give her. She asked me to forgive her sons.”

Ignoble did his refusal sound now he had spoken it aloud. Not at all did he appear to himself as he had imagined, when he had pondered on asking her to end her marriage for him. A wave of guilt swept him that he had not realised he had failed her, even as Fëanáro had failed her. Little different was he to her lord of old, for he also had put vengeance and hate before love.

Urundil halted momentarily to glare at him. “We knew your feelings. Why did you not speak with us first? We could have told you, my Lady Taurlotë would have told you. Fast bound was our daughter’s heart to the son of Finwë in life, and fast bound in death, it seems! She will not love another as she loved him; not even you of whom she is most fond.”

“Most dear art thou to me, Son of the Sea, did she say,” Gaerion whispered, almost in shame.

The Noldo did not reply, neither did he mention her sons; but his expression said all that Gaerion dreaded.

They had halted some way back from where she still stood, but it was as if she knew not they were there. No move did she make as she stared out across the wide sea.

“Let me have a moment, Lord Urundil. Let me speak with her that, mayhap I can undo what harm I have done!”

Though he was asking the smith to trust him with his daughter’s life, yet did Gaerion believe it was the only way.

“Nerdanel! Come away from the edge. Come home with me, and to those others who love and care for you,” Urundil called. But then seeing no reaction, he nodded to the Teler. " Do what you can, but with care.”

Slowly - so slowly did Gaerion walk forward. He unclasped his cloak as he moved and let it drop to the grass, for it would but hinder him if it were needful to make that jump after her, to attempt to pull her from the waves.

“If you have no love of life left, if all is but weariness and pain then step forward, and know that I will follow to save you if I can. Or if it is my presence, my ill-considered words that so torment you, then can I leave these shores with the fleet that carries the armies hence and return not to Aman, but to Tol Eressëa alone.”

He thought she must have heard him, for a small smile touched her lips. But it was not he she was thinking of.

“Finwion," she whispered in nigh soundless longing - as if recalling something spoken in ages past, something he had said to her. In but an instant her smile was replaced by a look of profound sadness. Her tone, as she responded to Gaerion’s words, was soft and clear.

“I am sorry, my friend. For I see now that I have given you false hope over these years; that I have hurt you as I would never have chosen to do.” She turned to face him, though made no move to depart the wildness about her.

“Fëanáro used to say that there are many kinds of love: that which he had for his father was one kind, for the works of his hands was another, and for his sons and I, yet others still. Not all were of equal value to him, neither were all equal at any given time. But he did love all!” She paused, grey eyes softening their focus, as she remembered further. “And he loved his mother, whom Finwë condemned to remain in the Halls of Awaiting through his second marriage. Whatever is decreed, never will I so condemn my husband! Though there was I time when I sought to be parted from him, now do I know my own folly. Never will I seek the unmaking of our union.”

Gaerion understood what she was saying. He knew the issues involved. It appeared to him that Nerdanel was again lost in some thought or memory for a moment more. So he waited. Always had he waited, but this time he knew what was to follow.

After a few moments, she sighed. “ I love thee Gaerion; I love thee well! But as a friend, as a brother, even. Thou art truly most dear to me. Yet I should not have so spoken. For to one only do I give my heart’s love; and thou art not he.”

The words hurt, though not with the intensity they once would have, for he understood. He had paused upon the cliff top, knowing in that moment that there was no real danger to her and that she had no intention of ending her life. She was there to think, to remember, and in that to be closer again to those she so missed. He knew that she was offering him the only form of love she could - as a friend. And if she could live her life without the one she most longed for, then so could he.

“Truly do you speak, lady. But I am more like him than I had thought. For I have lived these years with hate for my father’s murderer, and know that I would have become a murderer given the chance.”

She gazed at him directly for the first time that day, a look of compassion lighting her features.

“You would have slain Makalaurë!” she stated, though without any accusation. “You would have slain my son in vengeance. So do you see, in part, my reason for asking you to forgive?”

“Aye, my ‘everfriend’. I see most clearly.” He smiled at his own foolishness and held out a hand to her. Then at last did she walk away from the edge, towards him, taking hold of his proffered hand as she had done in her childhood. As it had been when they had played upon the shores and he had helped her across the rock pools, did it suddenly seem. But Gaerion knew those days were forever lost - save to his memory.

“And do I not know what the grief at having one of your family slain, and that one your father, can do? So I retract my request. That there is understanding between us is enough, Gaerion.”

“It is not enough!” he interrupted “I shall seek your sons in the Hither Lands for their own sake, and for mine. Though of now I cannot conceive of entreating for any of them to the Valar, yet do I hope in time, I will change.”

She took up both of his hands to her lips, her face lit with a rare beauty and her complexion flushed with warmth. “Of noble and generous heart art thou, my friend.”

Seeing what had transpired, Urundil moved to stand with them. The unexpected words of the Teler echoed in his heart and struck at his own need for vengeance, as he thankfully embraced his daughter.

“Atar! Sorry am I to have concerned you, and to have been not at my work,” she said “But I needed to be away with my own thoughts for a short time. These words of late from the Hither Lands, they weigh heavily upon me.”

“Yendë! I feared for you, for your well-being!” Urundil released her from his grasp. “I feared that this latest revelation from Eärendil had pained your mind so much that, in despair you sought to cast yourself into the sea.”

“Nay, father! Better than that should you know me! No honour is there to so do if one is in their right mind. And at least one of the House of Fëanáro will ever seek to behave in a manner that is pleasing to the Valar, and to Eru Ilúvatar.”

So a sense of joy in life touched both neri, that she who they cared so much for was yet undaunted. Back to the horses they walked, in a new mood of relief.

“And I do not despair, father.” Nerdanel had that slight smile upon her lips again, as if she knew something that hitherto, she had not. Gaerion made to help her mount and she nodded to him graciously, accepting his offer.

“There is still hope! While I think that Makalaurë will not return from the Hither Lands for some time, yet does Maitimo also live.”

The Noldo smith and Teler walked forwards at the side of her mare, making to that place where they had left their own horses. They did not notice the strange look that momentarily lit her features.

“We know not all. There are some things hidden even from the Valar in the will of Iluvatar. Aye; and even should Maitimo perish, is there hope!”

- - - - -

Urundil - Sarmo Urundil / Mahtan. Nerdanel’s father.

Aulenduri - Servants of Aulë

Aldëaosto – Tree-shadowed town, I think.

fëa - spirit

Turukáno - Turgon

Arafinwë - Finarfin

Ambarussa the elder - Amrod

Maitimo - Maedhros

Makalaurë - Maglor

Moringotho - Morgoth

Nolofinwë - Fingolfin

Yendë - daughter

(1) ‘Of the Flight of the Noldor’ The Silmarillion. JRR Tolkien. HarperCollins Ed. p 91

Notes on the marriages of the sons of Fëanor. In a footnote to 'Of Dwarves and Men' in 'The people's of Middle-Earth', (HoME 12), it says that Maedros appears to have been unwedded, also the two youngest. Celegorm also, since he plotted to take Lúthien as wife. But Curufin was wedded (though his wife did not go into exile with him). Others that were wedded were Maelor (Maglor), Caranthir. p318 HarperCollins) I realise this is a very obscure reference.

I sometimes switch between the polite ‘you’ form of address and the more familiar – or affectionate –‘thou’ according to the situation between the speakers. ( Notes 5 and 19 ‘Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth’ Morgoth’s Ring J.R.R. Tolkien.)