Not for her
I never could understand how you were able to keep a straight face during these times. It took me all my will to restrain my laughter and still I would get caught by father when I smiled to you. Of course then Fingon would come because he had done something wrong and we would be released from father’s attentions, not that he was ever particularly strict on us.
Remember how we overheard him and mother speaking about us that time? We heard how they were happy we were close. We also heard what they had got for Fingon’s begetting date as a present. I told you that what we had heard was a secret and you could tell none. You nodded, but you were too small and did not understand me. We continued to overhear mother and father, but when I turned around to laugh with you about Nerwen and her attempt to sew I found you had run straight to Fingon telling him all we had heard about his gift.
Eventually we grew up. Through Fingon you befriended the sons of Fёanáro and a close friendship grew between you and Celegorm whereas I became closer in friendship with the sons of Arafinwё, our cousins. Though we no longer spent our times together as we used to, the love between us did not change as brother and sister.
Then I met Elenwё and what little time we did spend together soon lessened as I fell in love with a Vanya, and you with the woods and with hunting. I loved you no less though and I knew you felt the same for me.
Then the dark years came. Often were you troubled of the words spoken against our houses and that of Celegorm’s. The times became darker and darker and at last all of what light, life and love I had in the world was stolen from me when Helcaraxё stole Elenwё. But I still had Idril and you. Both you and Idril became my strength, my will to carry on.
Never would you know how grateful I am to you Aredhel for all you did for me then on. Not only parenting Idril in ways I could not, but just by being my sister again.
‘Twas a while ago, but do you remember when…
Nay, you do not remember, do you Aredhel? Nay, how can you, for at this moment you can barely stay alive.
You lie, paler than ever I have seen you, your black hair, lifeless and limp about you, your body trembling as you clutch at the bed sheets, a sweat upon your forehead.
You were always strong and hardy of body and mind, as are all the children of Finwё, but often I wondered who was the elder, you or I. You always seemed more mature and it angered me so how in our quarrels you always had something to say, leaving me lost for words. Mother once told me you had learnt them from Celegorm and his brothers.
Mother and Eärwen were close in friendship and were always most astounded at how athletic both you and Artanis were for women, you with your love for hunting and she with her competitiveness against all athletes. You would always say that it was a result of growing up in a house filled with such many influential men.
You loved your hunting and often you would come home dirty and blooded, once even shot accidentally by Curufin’s arrow in your shoulder, but never did you complain but merely laughed while mother made a fuss over you. No matter how great the injury, never did you complain or worry for you knew that it would soon pass.
Still now, in great injury, you do not complain, but I see by your furrowed brows how you worry. You are too weak to do anything but worry.
I am not used to seeing you like this Aredhel. Only in your infancy can I remember you to be so helpless and never before so lifeless. Even as we crossed the Grinding Ice, though grim and tired was your face, you always managed a smile for me.
Never before have I seen you as such Aredhel and it frightens me at the thought that this time your illness will not pass away. It frightens me that you will.
For the past few hours, since you collapsed, you have fallen in and out of sleep, though you did not cease the fever. I can see now as your eyes struggle to open and your hands tighten at the sheets that you are trying all your strength to awaken from your light unconsciousness.
“Turgon,” you whisper through your parched lips, your voice dry and rasped. My name, the first word you have said since you first fell asleep.
Without a word I take your hand in my own and squeeze in gently letting you know that I am here.
Your hands are hot, hotter than they should be, and are covered with sweat as you grip mine tightly.
Slowly and weakly your eyes open and look at me. They are a mist of grey, like the mists about the stars and I see your worry and weariness.
You take my hand and press it against your heart and I feel the fast and unsteady beating beneath my skin.
“It seems my fёa is at war with my hröa,” you whisper, and of all things, you smile at me. The hopelessness in your voice and in your eyes are enough to make me cry, but for you I remain strong.
I squeeze your hand tightly and I force the sides of my lips upwards, a pathetic attempt to return the smile you took the trouble of giving to me.
Indeed your fёa is at war to depart swiftly to Mandos. I can see it in your struggle to live. But your mind will not have it and so you suffer with every breath you make.
Your hand grasps tightly at mine and your nails dig into my knuckles as you are overwhelmed in an outburst of violent coughs.
I look at you for a few seconds, helpless in my dumbed fear, until I realise that you are choking and are unable to breathe.
With my hands trembling and my heart flittering, faster than the wings of the butterflies we used to watch together in Aman, I lift you into a sitting position, tilting you head upwards and rubbing your back so some air might enter your lungs, but you struggle against me and I hear your voice as you cough, trying to speak at the same time.
“Lady, speak not!” I say urgently to you.
Still, despite my plea, you attempt to speak, your eyes looking directly into mine. You look at me with such precision that I am sure the black centre of yours and mine are aligned. Your gaze panics me, as I think that it may be the last time you look at me.
“Aredhel, you must breathe! Speak not for the moment,” I say to you again.
This time you listen to me and I hear your voice no more. Slowly the tide of your coughing subsides, much to my anxious relief, and you settle back weakly onto the pillows I arrange for you so that you are sitting up.
I help you sip a glass of water and your breathing returns to normal -- slow, heavy and dragged.
“The poison…” you whisper, closing your eyes, “…I feel it coursing through my veins.”
Perhaps you feel it, but I see it. I see it coursing through your body, bringing your fёa closer to victory with each drop of blood in you it defiles. I see your strength diminishing before my eyes. I see you fading into the bed linen.
“Whither is Maeglin?” you ask opening your eyes again and looking about the room, “Was he not here a while ago? His voice I had heard in my sleep.”
“Yea, a while ago was he here. Both he and Idril. I had a room prepared and I bade him go thither to rest from his weariness,” I say gently and I push some of your hair away from your face.
In truth I sent Maeglin away so he might be alone. Though he said not one word, I saw that he dealt with his grief over you in silence and thought he would appreciate solitude, as I do when I am aggrieved.
A small dreamish look comes across your face as you think of your son.
After Elenwё was lost to the ice, you were as a mother to Idril. Discreetly, when at Vinyamar we still dwelt, I would watch you and her play the games we used to play when we were children. Often I wondered when you would have a child of your own to teach such games to and I imagined Idril and he or her close in friendship, as we were with our cousins. Like I was with Elenwё, I imagined you to be happy as you have never been before with your husband.
Of course I was never able to see my beloved and yours playing games within the white walls of Gondolin in their childhood, nor you and your husband in happiness, if indeed one could find happiness with an elf as he.
“Lomion,” you breathe and your body begins to shiver again. Your grey eyes look to me and I see you smiling in them, “Thankyou, brother.”
I smile, my heart gladdened that at least the poison has not claimed your memory and mind, though it has taken your strength.
“You have naught to thank me for, sister,” I reply to you, taking your hand in mine again.
“Nay, I do. I have to thank you for all you have done for me…and all that you shall do,” you say, breathing heavily. Your hands are so small and fragile, helpless and weary, gripping my thumb tightly.
You were born in the Opening hour, in the mingling light of the Two Trees, when Telperion waxed and Laurelin waned to begin a new day.
Both Fingon and I were still asleep, as mother insisted we do as children, when your first cry rang through our house. I jumped from my bed, where I had not been sleeping at all, and ran as fast as my legs would take me so I might see you. Unlike Fingon, I had been eagerly anticipating your birth for many months.
Father was waiting outside the door and when we were allowed, we walked into the room and I saw you with your fair skin and jet hair, the silver sheen of Silpion reflecting off every strand. As beautiful as you were, I was disappointed, for I had wanted a younger brother, not a sister.
My opinion of you, however, changed when mother asked Fingon if he should like to carry you. Whilst Fingon held you I looked down at you and offered you my hand. Your tiny, pale, fragile and helpless hands reached up and met mine and you clung to my thumb then, as you do now, centuries later.
“You will look after him, won’t you, Lord?” you say, looking to me sincerely, your hands gripping mine so tightly my knuckles whiten. “You will father my son as I have mothered your daughter and you will remind him how his mother loves him and how she has suffered in his place for love of him. You will teach Lomion our ways and make him a great Lord of Gondolin…won’t you Turgon?”
Though I had greatly wished for a younger brother, I had no loss for you were as good as any brother, eager for challenges and naïve, doing anything I told you, good or bad. Your intelligence grew though and soon it was you using me as a scape goat, than I using you.
Once you were challenged by Caranthir to intentionally knock over a vase our grandsire particularly liked and after you had done it, it was I who was put to blame. In your guilt you told Finwё the whole truth as it was and the blame was passed to you.
You always had certain strength in you to speak the truth. You were never afraid of the outcome of things if you told the truth, no matter how bad it was. You told things as they were and took the end result, whether it good or bad.
But what now are these words you speak Aredhel? These words of despair and hopelessness?
Looking into your eyes I see that you indeed are speaking the truth now, that you will soon pass and that it is your wish that I take care of Lomion. I see the truth within those grey mists and I believe, yet I am afraid and I stare at you unable to respond.
How can anyone respond when their younger sister asks them to take her son after she dies, when she is well night to death’s door?
The sincerity of your voice as you speak to me is what shocks me most. You are so certain of your death Aredhel, so sure that I can hear you passing away in your voice.
It scares me so to know how right you are. Too late was the poison found in your body and now no herbs or spells of healing can help you. You are right, and now only do I realise that these moments I have with you right now are far more precious than any jewel from Tirion and that they are a gift from Eru. The One could have had it that you suffered from the poison straight away, but he granted you the time now that you are here with me.
Your eyes search mine for an answer. I do not have to say anything to you. I would gladly bleed myself dry for you, and you know it. You know that I would do anything for you that you ask of me.
Yes, I will take Maeglin, Aredhel, and I will foster and father him as my own. I will have him the most honoured prince of the Noldor after me, here in Gondolin. I will remind him that he is the son of the beloved Aredhel Ar-Feiniel, that he is a Noldo, of the Royal Line of Finwё and not the son of a primitive Dark Elf. He will learn all our ways, learn of our lore and study all of what I can give him and grow in strength of stature and mind. He will be like you and be renowned as the son of Ar-Feiniel, the White Lady of the Noldor.
With a small smile of assurance, I lean towards you and kiss your forehead, letting go of your hands and wrapping my arms around your body. You burn with fever against me and I feel every tremble of your body, every beat of your heart.
You feel so small in my arms, as small and delicate as a young child, smaller almost than even Idril.
Your favourite female role-model had always been Artanis. Though you favoured much Nessa the Dancer, you favoured our cousin more and held her as your elder sister, the sister you never had. You wanted to be most like Artanis and even went through a stage where you decided that you would be the best among all athletes in Eldamar, racing Artanis and the others whenever you could, though never beating our fleet-footed cousin.
Though you did not know it, once Finrod had bade Artanis to let you win one race. You ran with all your might, thinking that you had indeed surpassed Nerwen’s might and you won. You were so happy and the first thing you did was run straight into my arms after you had finished, hugging me so tightly I could not breathe.
You felt small in my arms then as you do now. You feel so small it feels like I can snap your bones, should I hug you any tighter. Of course you would only ever feel small in my arms and Fingon’s now and forever, for you will always be our little sister.
But back in Valinor that day, you were vibrant and full of life, fighting to regain your breath, not weak, shivering with fever, coughing to breathe and fighting the poison in your body, as you do now.
You let go of me slightly and look to me, your arms still holding me so you can keep your balance, lest you would fall back in your weakness.
“There is another favour I must ask of you,” you say softly, followed by more coughing. Your voice is barely audible, like the whisper of the wind through the bows of the great Willows.
That voice once used to hush Idril to her sleep and would have done the same for Lomion.
“What is this favour you must ask of me?” I ask you gently.
You begin to speak but stop as you begin to cough again. I can do nothing but hold you and my growing fear that soon you will be silenced forever.
The poison is spreading through your body, but still you will fight until the end, won’t you Aredhel. You will live to see another sunrise, at least for me your brother, won’t you?
Your coughing subsides and you now breathe deeply, in and out, your hands clutching to me. You look at me painfully and smile fleetingly, as well as you can in your pain, to let me know you are fine and you begin to talk.
“My King, I beg you, no matter what should happen to me ere the sun rises this morn, do not slay Eöl who is my husband and the father of my child. Remember that he too is your brother now, by marriage, and to kill him would be to do kinslay again. For the sake of your sister, keep him in your dungeons as prisoner and law breaker or if you will, release him back to his smithy in Nan Elmoth, but I beg this only of you, to slay him not and let not his hands come upon my son.”
I can do naught but stare at you and wonder if the poison has indeed gone to your mind.
You sit here in a bed of white and were it not for your raven hair, one might almost mistake you for linen, as your raiment is white and your skin, paler than any have ever seen it. I see with every breath you take, with every movement, that your wound and body are pained. I look into your eyes and I can almost feel your pain, feel your anguish and hopelessness. It is because of he, whom you are wife too, who has done this to you. Were it not for his foolishness and childish defiance you would not be here Aredhel. You would not be here, fighting your own battle within you with what strength you have left so you might live.
And this you ask of me, to not slay him?
Looking back upon that time in the darkness when we drew our swords upon our Telerin kin, to this very day it makes me shiver with shame and horror at what I had done. That night I slew elves, not soldiers, but simple elves, mariners who only loved their ships, for which they stood against us. I slew elves and I suffered with the loss of my wife. I vowed to myself that I would not slay another soul lest I truly needed to and I would not have the need to slay he whom you call husband, did he not speak such words and make such actions, breaking the laws of my kingdom and what respect I had for him as kinsman.
He has hurt you Aredhel. He has hurt you, my younger sister, hurt you and there is now no way that you may be healed. He has hurt you. A true husband who loved his wife and son would not have had them shun sunlight and suffer them from visiting their kin. A true husband would not leave you alone in the darkness as his captive while he might visit the stunted people in their vast halls. A true husband would not have hunted after you and your son like a hunter after an animal and would not have attempted to slay his son. A true husband would not act like that.
And a true brother would not tolerate it.
“Turgon. Promise me that you shall not harm my husband, after I have passed to Mandos,” you say in between coughs.
Husband. How can you even name him your husband, after this? After what he has attempted to do to your Lomion, after what he has done to you? But the question which is plaguing my mind most is that why do you ask this of me?
Even after this Aredhel, do you love him? Do you love him still? But how, how can you after what he has done to you?
Celegorm and his brothers taught you well what revenge was. I mocked you once for a drawing you had attempted and you looked at me with those eyes of yours, grey, cold and piercing. I continued to mock you and you only sat there listening to me. Only a few days later was it that I sorely payed for mocking you when you purposely spilt many bottles of ink over my table, staining drawings, notes, love letters and other matters of importance. But you did not stop at that, you stole Fingon’s favourite knife and father’s helm, hiding them in my room and when they were found, again sorely did I pay for my crude words.
Is this revenge? Do you wish to see Eöl live and have him know that it was because of him that you were dead and that Maeglin was a high lord among the Noldor and he, but a prisoner of your bother? Is it that you wish him to know, that even in your death you are the victor? Is it that you want him to think of you every second with hate and malice, to curse your name and your marriage, rueing he ever felt for a great Lady, rueing that he had treated you that way for all those years in Nan Elmoth? Is this revenge… or could it possibly be love?
“He is not to be blamed for these events, for all is my fault and mine alone,” you continue, looking to me earnestly.
Your fault? Nay, how can this be revenge when you blame yourself for what is not your fault. It is indeed love, is it not, Aredhel?
You love him. You love him as a wife should love her husband. You love him as you had told me only few hours ago when you had moved me to mercy over him.
“You have done nothing to be found guilty against this man,” I say to you sternly.
But what about me? What of your brother Ar-Feiniel? Do you not love me? Do you not see how pained I am to see you this way? Did you not see the happiness in my eyes when I saw you enter my hall, you Aredhel Ar-Feiniel, this sister whom I had lost due to my own stupidity in letting you ever leave Gondolin? Did you not feel my pain, my anger, my misery whilst you wandered in Nan Elmoth? Did you not feel my guilt, for it was I who lost you and it was by my leave that you left?
“Nay, you know not the whole tale Turgon. Tell me now though, whilst I still draw breath, that you shall not kill him.”
What mercy can I give the abductor of a princess? What mercy can I give to the enslaver of the White Lady of the Noldor? What mercy can I give to the slayer of my little sister? What mercy can I give to the man who has been the stealer of yet another woman in my life whom I love?
You say my name, the loudest I have heard you spoken since first you fell asleep and I see that raising the sound of your voice has hurt you. Your eyes stare at me with a stormed anger and you breathe deeply, struggling for air so much that you wheeze. There is a frown upon your brow as you stare at me with anger.
“I am dieing Turgon. Can you not see me in my pain?” you whisper angrily and the tears form in your eyes.
“Yes I see you in your pain and it is because of he that you are hurt!” I say angrily.
“Do not talk to me in that tone. I am your sister, not your servant and do not speak of my husband that way. Were it not for him you would have lost me long ago and you would have no Ar-Feiniel to look upon at this hour, nor a nephew whom you have so long desired!”
‘I am your sister and not your servant.’ You said this to me once, long ago when all of this had started. I listened to you then and ill came of it. Will I listen to you now when you say the same words? Will ill be gotten again if I agree?
“Promise me Turgon.”
A single tear travels down your cheek and you are trembling, more with fury than fever.
I could never suffer to hear you cry. When you were still a babe, Arafinwё and Eärwen came and whilst they were in the room, drinking and eating with father, both father and Arafinwё laughed aloud, too loud, and you awoke with a cry. At once I went straight to them and lectured my elders on how a house must be quiet when a babe is there asleep.
I must have looked like a little fool to father and our uncle, but I cared and knew not then about what they thought of me. I only wanted for you not to cry.
With a shadow foreboding upon me and against my will, I say the words you cry to hear. As soon as I finish my sentence I feel a heaviness in my heart at these words. I only want for you not to cry.
“And promise me you shall hold to that promise as Celegorm holds to his oath,” you whisper, squeezing my shoulder hard, more tears spilling. You tremble now with weakness for the strength it has taken you to make me say two words are too much.
“I promise I shall.”
Again you struggle to breathe, wheezing in long, slow, heavy draughts. You stare at me with tears in your eyes, your hands clutching to my shoulders.
“Aredhel, you have my word,” I tell you solemnly to assure you.
You nod, breathing deeply, and then you kiss my cheek, slipping your arms around me with an embrace, tight and close. I shroud my arms around your small frame and hold you close to me, closing my eyes and breathing in the scent of your hair.
I hear you draw every breath, deep and struggled. I hear every sob you make, muffled as you bury your head in my shoulder. I feel every tremble of your body under my skin, every tear that you shed upon my clothes. I feel your every heartbeat against my chest. Every drop of blood, the same blood as mine, but defiled with poison, I feel running through your veins. Every cough you make is like a dagger piercing through me. I feel your pain Aredhel, I feel you.
I want to hold you closer to me. I want to hold you tighter, to crush you in my arms, hold you, my little sister, and never let you go. I want no one to separate you and I. I want you to never leave me, to stay here, my sister, my beloved little sister, at my side for all of time till the unmaking of Arda. I want to return to Tirion, to our home in Eldamar where once we felt no pain, no fear. I want to be the little elf running after you around Galathilion. I want to throw leaves in your hair and annoy you so much that you threaten to pierce me with an arrow…I want nothing more than to just have you for longer than the time we have.
Amidst your tears I discern the muffled words, ‘I am dieing,’ and on the inside I utter the same words too to myself, ‘I am dying Aredhel, I am dieing with you.’ You cling to my body helplessly, your tears washing over me, mingling with the threads of my clothes.
Shuddering, you begin to cough again, this time uncontrollably. No more whispering or muttering, no more sobs and crying, just tears and coughs that strike you with pain, like daggers.
They strike me too Aredhel, more than you could know.
I hold you tighter and closer to me and your arms tighten about me more with each cough you make, with each tear that falls. Like a child, I rock you back and forth to the song of your tears and your heart beating, close to mine.
You cough and cough, then suddenly you stop, just gasping for a few seconds.
In those few seconds I hold you tighter than I have ever held anyone and you equally hold me.
My eyes are shut tight, so very tight that it hurts, yet it does not stop the tears which fall from them, leaking past the closed lids and dribbling down my face to your white raiment.
Fingon had always been the strongest out of all of us. Finrod was fairest, with the golden hair of his father and a mesh of the radiant silver of his mother, but Fingon was strong and valiant, just like our father.
You were not born yet, that day long ago, when he Finrod, Orodreth and I were playing a game of chasing down the corridors of our grandsire’s fair house. I was only of few years and barely able to properly run, only playing because I wanted so much to be like Fingon. Over the threshold of a door I tripped and fell, grazing my knee. I began to cry and mother came to see what had happened and told me not to play with them till I was a little older and could properly run.
Of course I cried a little more and was miserable watching Fingon playing happily with our cousins and some part of me I remember felt ashamed because I had cried. All I ever wanted to be as a child was like Fingon, strong, fearless and valiant. A while later, Fingon made fun of me and I took it to heart, thereafter promising to myself not to cry in front of Fingon or anyone else.
You were born, Fingon befriended Russandol and soon you and I became close as we both grew older together. We spent much time together and only once did you see me cry and that was when I lost Elenwё.
You must have known or guessed some of my promise. I saw you watching me that night but I truly cared not if you saw me cry or anyone else for that, yet nevertheless I hid my face from you and when you asked me if I was alright I said yes to you, but you knew well and truly that I was crying. The next morning, once the sun had risen, I was afraid you would come to me and tell me you saw me crying and try to comfort me in my grief as I could imagine mother, Indis or Artanis doing, but you did not. You came, sat next to me upon the ice saying, “Worry not for Idril, I have taken care of her,” with a small smile and spoke never of it again.
Though probably you did not know it, I was grateful to you Aredhel, so grateful. Childish it may seem, for me not wanting my younger sister to see me cry but it was important to me and you understood it. You understood me.
But now, without concealment or shame, I cry openly with you, for you.
Those few seconds of your gasping, of my clinging end and you exhale, a perfect, smooth, calm breath without any taint of poison and your arms slowly release me, your head bobbing upon my shoulder. All your muscles free from the knots of tensity and with that exhalation you are released from this bondage you have been held under, you are released and I, enchained.
And the one time I want you to see that I am crying you are not there.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.