My Aragon Stories
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Father's Wish, A: 5. Chapter Five
Year 1496 of the Valian Years of the Trees… And the day dawned, with Fëanor at the hub of the universe, with the wheel poised to spin….
“He left?!” roared Fingolfin. “What do you mean, he left?” The House of Fingolfin was currently gathered in the palace, in order to hear Fingon’s message.
Fingon flinched as he answered. “Fëanor has already begun the march to Alqualondë with his people. We must hurry, or we will not be able to catch up.”
“Why should we catch up with them? We will go at our own pace in our own time,” scoffed Turgon. He was just as unhappy with Fëanor as his father was, but unlike Fingolfin, he was not obligated by fraternal loyalty to curb his comments.
“Regardless of our own opinions, we are required to obey Fëanor’s summons. They are still our kin,” pointed out Aredhel acidly.
“You always considered those damned sons of Fëanor as your brothers, instead of the ones you already had,” snapped Turgon.
Fingon placed a hand on his brother’s shoulders. “Do not judge the sons by the father. For the most part, the sons of Fëanor are good friends, Brother.”
“This is foolhardy,” muttered Anairë as she turned to her husband. “Your brother is mad, both of them are mad.” She paused, glaring at her husband. “And now that I think about it, so are you.”
“Who is the greater fool? The mad fool or the fool who married him?” quipped Fingolfin.
Anarië said nothing for several moments, until she began to laugh. “My father said the exact same thing, Fingolfin. There must be some truth to it then.” Anairë was one of the beautiful women of the Noldor, with dark hair and gray eyes. Often she and her daughter were considered sisters, so alike in looks they were. But regardless of how much she resembled her headstrong daughter, Anarië shared none of Aredhel’s excitement over the journey. Why look to a rough and cruel land when Valinor was already their home? Yet Fingolfin was bound by the oath he had made his brother, and he would not allow his people to fall under Fëanor’s rule.
Fingolfin gave his wife a fond glance before addressing his children again. “Going back to the original topic, I find myself highly irritated at Fëanor. The least he could have done was tell us ahead of time.” He sighed. “We will leave tomorrow morning.”
“What about Uncle Finarfin?” asked Turgon.
Fingolfin smiled ruefully. “He will not be ready by tomorrow morning.”
Fingolfin was correct in his assumption that his younger brother would not be ready by the next morning, frankly because Finarfin himself did not want to leave. Finding delay at every possible excuse, he stretched his departure time to late afternoon on the next day. This in itself was odd, because Alqualondë was his family’s home, and out of all the brothers, Finarfin had very few possessions or people in Tirion. Yet Finarfin lingered in Finwë’s palace, until even his own wife lost patience with him. When they finally did depart, the House of Finarfin rode in a disorganized column, with Angrod and Aegnor at the head of it. Finrod was one of the last to depart, for he was reluctant to bid Amarië farewell.
Artanis, caught up in her own thoughts, rode in the middle of the column. Glorfindel, who would normally have been at her side, had departed earlier with Fingolfin’s family. But for once, Artanis was thankful for her solitude. Thoughts of the future disturbed her, for anytime she thought of it, she was filled with excitement tempered by dread. Fëanor’s words had stirred the submerged longing in her heart, the longing for great lands, for more freedom, and for power. Arda was something wholly new and undiscovered to them, and it would be theirs. But as much as she tried to stop it, Ingwë’s final farewell rang in her head.
Arda is not as great a place as Fëanor claims. If this were so, than none of the firstborn would have left those shores. And if you will look carefully, you will see that those of the Noldor who were born under the twilight do not accompany you on your journey.
Do not make the mistake of thinking you shall be masters of that land. Many of our sundered folk still dwell there, those of the Teleri, as well as many of the Avari. Fëanor will attempt to conquer them, but they are a proud folk and will not accept your dominion.
The High King’s words had filled her with foreboding, because now Arda did not seem as great as it had once been. It was filled with too much danger, too much unhappiness. Yet she was of the Noldor, and so she continued riding toward her home.
Three hours later, she came upon a sight that bemused her. Several of her kindred were in a battle. Many of Fëanor’s and Fingolfin’s people were fighting with the Teleri. For several moments, the people of Finarfin simply stared at the battle ahead of them. Next to Artanis, Aegnor and Finrod exchanged strange looks. What was going on? How long they would have stood there none knew, because in the next moment, Eärwen emitted a loud shriek, took her husband’s knives, and ran forth into the battle. Turning back to regard her confused family, Eärwen shouted at them. “You idiots! Your family is killing mine, and all of you simply stand there!”
Spurred into action, the others immediately went forth into the battle, except Finarfin, who was bereft of weapons. Artanis left her family behind as she withdrew the Vanyarin daggers Ingwë had given to her several years ago. She found herself in a melee of confusion. Fëanor’s people were killing the Teleri, with only half of Fingolfin’s people aiding them. The other half was fighting Fëanor’s people. For Artanis, there was no question of sides now. Carefully maneuvering herself around dead bodies, which were new sights to her, she approached Fëanor and his sons…and was stopped when someone grabbed her and threw her on the ground.
It was a young male, one she vaguely recognized as the brother of one of her friends. “Traitor,” he hissed.
“I am no traitor!” she defended.
“Your family attacked us! Killed us!”
Shaken, because so far she did not know what had occurred, she slowly placed her knives on the ground. “My father’s House was not a part of this. You must believe me.” She nodded toward Celegorm. “They are my enemies as well.”
The youth narrowed his eyes at her. “Very well. But we will be watching. We can now only expect treachery from the Noldor.”
Artanis picked up her knives again and kept going forward. Many of the people she had grown up with now regarded her with hatred and mistrust. With every step she took, her anger solidified. When she approached the middle, where the fighting was the thickest, she began to attack Fëanor’s people systematically. Thanks to the teachings of the Vanyar, she was superior in combat.
And when it was all over, with the Teleri defeated, she walked around the city of her childhood, the swan haven. The bodies were already collected, but the blood still stained the white streets. Thankfully her grandfather had survived, as well as her mother’s brothers. Her father’s family had also survived, although many now wished Fëanor dead. Finarfin certainly did, and perhaps even Fingolfin.
But did she?
She certainly was angry with Fëanor. The Teleri were her kin, and he had destroyed her home. Many of her childhood acquaintances were dead. And death was something that she could not come to terms with just yet. It was another new thing, in this journey of new things. Trudging along the white stone paths, she found herself in one of the many gardens in the city. This was one of the places that had survived the rape of Alqualondë, for everything in the garden was untouched and innocent of the bloodshed that had occurred outside its gates.
Stopping at a fountain, where normally birds would drink, she looked down at her bloody and disheveled reflection. “I hate Fëanor,” she said to herself.
Do you? asked her relfection.
Artanis sighed in frustration. “No, I do not hate him.”
Is that so? The Reflection Artanis was smiling sadly now.
“No, I hate him because I cannot hate him.” The real Artanis was close to tears. “I hate him because although he is wrong, I still believe that he is right. That whenever I am with him, I feel content and blissful, and that all my troubles – such as my father, the journey to Arda, and Glorfindel – wash away like dirt in the rain.” She extended her hand and touched the surface of the water, yet the reflection still remained. “I am a traitor. That boy was right.”
She remained sitting in the garden for a long while, until Olwë found her a few hours later. Approaching her quietly, Olwë silently took a seat next to her. Although not acknowledging his presence, Artanis allowed herself to feel glad that he had not perished. In most ways, Olwë was dearer to her than Finwë had ever been.
“This garden is special to me. It is where I asked your grandmother to become my wife. I am glad to see that it has survived the past events.” It did not pass Artanis’s notice that Olwë had refused to say “Kinslaying” to her. “Artanis, you will find that it is always easier to destroy rather than to create. Fëanor and his people have destroyed in one day what took my people over ten years to build.” Keeping quiet, Artanis allowed herself to be pulled into her grandfather’s arms. “Oh little one, I am sorry that you had to choose. I wish your father had delayed longer in Tirion.”
She shook her head slightly. “No, Grandfather. The choice I made was the right one. Perhaps not the best one, but it was the right one.”
Olwë smiled wistfully. “You have much wisdom in you.” He patted her hair. “Mandos came by earlier.”
“Oh?” Although her voice was uninterested, she was brimming with curiosity. Rarely did Mandos interact with the Eldalië.
“He said some terrible things, things of the future. I will not repeat those words here in this hallowed place, but your father was very upset. Fingolfin was stoic as usual, and your uncle Fëanor found it funny enough to laugh.”
She traced the patterns on her dirty dress. “That is typical.”
Olwë stilled. “Artanis, your father will not be going to Arda. He will return to Tirion with those who are willing, and he will plead forgiveness from the Valar.”
“He will leave us alone?” she asked dully.
“You can stay,” Olwë pointed out gently.
She shook her head. “My place is not here. I can feel it.”
“Then who is it with?” asked her grandfather.
She pondered that question for a long while. Coming to no decision, she found her father’s tent and entered, in the hopes that she could change his mind. And she knew it was futile the second she glanced at his face. Finarfin was grieved, for many of his friends had died. Her mother was with her own family, and her brothers were scattered throughout Alqualondë. Deciding that the situation called for bluntness, she sat down in front of Finarfin. “Father, Grandfather Olwë has just told me that you will be remaining behind.”
He nodded. “That is so.”
Finarfin’s eyebrows shot up. “You ask me why? My eldest brother has just shown me that he is capable of the basest treachery. He is responsible for the death of many of our kin.” Finarfin stood up and poured water into two glasses. “Furthermore, Mandos has just threatened us. That once we leave, we become exiles.” He gave his daughter an incredulous look as he handed her a glass. “You ask me why?”
“All the more reason for you to go. Many of the Noldor still wish to go. They need you, Father,” she argued.
He laughed tonelessly. “They do not. After all, if my own children do not need me, I hardly think they do.”
“Father, please, reconsider. We are your people.” But even as she said these words, she knew that her father’s mind was made up.
“I have made my decision. My place is here…even if yours is not.” Artanis drew back. She and her father had reached their final impasse. Finarfin was choosing to leave his people. He was as much a traitor as she was. Indeed, as much as Fëanor was.
She stood and bowed. “I am sorry, Father.”
“For what?” Finarfin stood as well, so that father and daughter were eye to eye.
Artanis met his eyes. “I am sorry that you do not have the courage to face Fëanor, I am sorry that you are a coward with your people, and I am sorry that you must grovel at the feet of the Valar.”
Finarfin stiffened. “If that is the way you see it, it is I who am sorry, for your judgment is clearly swayed.” Turning from her, he flicked his hand in dismissal. “You may leave now.”
Although she did not know it, her next meeting with her father would be many hundreds of years later.
After leaving her father’s tent, she wandered around aimlessly, skillfully avoiding all who knew her. Eventually, a messenger from Fëanor tracked her down. “The lord wishes to see you,” was all the messenger had simply said.
She debated on whether or not to obey the summons, but deciding to hear what Fëanor would say, she trekked toward the docks, where she knew Fëanor and his people to be. Upon her arrival, she saw Celegorm and Amras. When they noticed her, they looked at her warily, as if they were afraid of what she would say. “Hello, cousins,” she said simply.
“Hello, Artanis,” said Amras carefully. Amras was the youngest of the grandchildren of Finwë, and it grieved her to see that he too had been involved in so much bloodshed. Barely out of his majority, he would never gain his lost innocence back.
Celegorm, perhaps impatient, simply asked, “Why have you come here, Artanis?” The unasked question remained in the air between them. And whose side are you on?
“I have come at the bidding of your father.” Amras pointed toward one the tents in the compound. Nodding her thanks, she walked to the tent. One of Fëanor’s people, a young woman and one of his most devoted vassals, rose at Artanis’s approach. The woman bowed and pulled back the flap of the then. Artanis entered and found it to be occupied by several people.
Fëanor was in the middle, and he was giving instructions on the loading of supplies on the boat. Curufin was also with him, as he mindlessly whittled on a piece of wood. She remained unnoticed for a while, until Curufin finally did notice, and after giving her a speculative glance, leaned toward his father and whispered something in his ear. Fëanor looked up at her and beckoned her forward.
“Ah, Nerwen,” said Fëanor. “Welcome.” Dismissing everyone else in the room, Fëanor waited until he and Artanis were alone before continuing. “I was concerned that you would not answer the summons.”
“That would have been very unlikely.”
He shrugged elegantly. “There was always the possibility.” He rose. “May I offer you something? Perhaps something to relieve your thirst?”
She shook her head. “Thank you but no. I have already partaken of drink with my father.”
His eyes sharpened at the mention of Finarfin. “I have heard that he will remain behind.”
“This is so.” She leaned back in her chair.
“And will you be remaining behind with him?” Fëanor regarded her steadily.
She shook her head again. “No. I will still be leaving.”
He gave her one of his predatory smiles. “I am glad then.”
Tired of the ritualistic conversation, she traded formality for her customary bluntness. “Why did you attack the Teleri?”
“Why is a question that is far deeper than its answer,” he replied cryptically.
Artanis narrowed her eyes. “Then please elaborate.” She deserved an answer, an honest answer, from the man who had so far both shaped and destroyed her life. “Why did you kill our kin, our unarmed kin?” Her voice was rising in a crescendo. “Why did you hurt everyone so?”
Fëanor gracefully sat down in front of her. “Nerwen, you may not see it now, but the attack on the Teleri, while tragic, was necessary.” He looked at her with some trace of sympathy – an unusual thing, for he was rarely sympathetic with anyone. “It was your kin that I killed, and I respect the fact that you chose to stand with them.” He tucked a stray strand of hair behind his ear. “The Teleri would not give us their ships, and since we do not have the skill to construct them in so short a time, we had to take them. And the only way to take them was to kill those who stood in our way.” His eyes grew distant. “There is no stronger tie than that of blood. Not love. Not hate. But blood. The taste of it, the feel of it, the sight and smell of it as it spills . . . Or the flowing of it through your veins. There is nothing stronger.” His eyes became clear again. “I have bound all the Noldor to me, through the blood of today.” He chuckled at her distressed expression. “My actions have repulsed you, I know. I do not expect you to understand them. But I do hope that you will accept the necessity of them.” His voice hardened. “I will allow nothing to stand in the way of Melkor’s destruction, or the greatness of our people.”
“Killing people hardly adds to our greatness.” Acid coated her words.
“Does it matter, Nerwen, which path you take toward your destination?” Fëanor leaned forward. “As long as you get there?” Artanis was feeling desperation seep into her heart...as well as some sort of perverse agreement. Her feelings must have shown, for he laughed, an arrogant, triumphant sound that filled the tent. “You agree with me, although you hate yourself for it.” His eyes were flashing with pleased delight. “That is just as well. Just as long as you accept the truth in what I say.”
Struggling to maintain control of herself, she took a deep breath. “Why have you summoned me here? Was it to gloat, to prove that you have conquered me?”
He shook his head. “I have not conquered you, Nerwen. In fact, I am far from it. It is what I like best about you.” Smiling warmly for once, he rubbed his hands together. “Nerwen, you are a daughter of my heart, and you have proven to be the most worthy pupil.” He patted her shoulder. “Now, as you know, my House and I will be leaving tomorrow morning with the ships, as well as the goods of all the Houses.” He stood again and went toward his makeshift desk. “I would like it if you accompanied us tomorrow.”
She narrowed her eyes. Fëanor had assured Fingolfin that once he reached the shore, he would send the boats back. “You will not be sending the boats back, will you?”
“Nerwen, you have guessed correctly. I expect no less from you.” His smile one of pride, he nodded his agreement. “No, the boats will not be coming back.” He nimbly sat on his desk. “Fingolfin only half-heartedly supports this move to Arda. And if he is half-hearted, he will not fully support me.” Fëanor shrugged. “I do not want Fingolfin to create divisions among the Noldor once we get to Arda. It will weaken us in our coming fight with Melkor.”
“That is treachery,” hissed Artanis.
Fëanor waved that comment away. “This is not treachery, Nerwen. Only efficiency.” But Artanis was shaking her head. “You know that I am correct in my assumptions,” he said.
She glared at him. “Yes, I know you are correct. But that does not make it right.”
He gave her a look of disappointment. “Nerwen, doing the right thing will not always give you what you want.”
“I know.” She paused, and then, “I know.” She looked down into her lap, hiding her eyes from Fëanor, the one person who could read what was in them. Tears were currently welling in her eyes, and she did not want him to see them.
But he must have known, for he came to her and lifted her chin with his hand. “You are crying,” he marveled. “Why?”
“I am crying for the fate of the Eldar,” she lied.
“No,” he said, his voice hard. “You did not cry at the death of Finwë, nor did you cry at the rape of Alqualondë. If you cannot cry for those, then you cannot cry for our fate.”
Unable to keep the truth for him, she said honestly, “I am crying for you.”
He placed a hand on her shoulder and squeezed it. “Many have shed tears over me. My wife, my sons, many of our people. But never has anyone shed tears for me.” He knelt at her feet, and had anyone walked in, they would have seen the greatest of the Eldar at the foot of a mere slip of a girl. Tenderly he reached forward and, capturing a teardrop on his finger, he licked the tear. “I possess many things of great value, but I have left them all behind me. Yet I have swallowed your tears, and I shall always have them inside me.” His own eyes glittered, and distantly Artanis realized that she was perhaps the only person ever to have seen him cry.
Fëanor touched his forehead to hers. “How special I am, for the woman who never weeps has wept for me.” He drew back, and his farewell was written in his eyes. “Will you not give me a strand of your hair, Nerwen, even as a parting gift?”
“I wish I could, but I cannot.” She gave him a sad smile. “Perhaps next time,” she said in an attempt at levity.
“Yes, next time,” he echoed.
When Artanis left, she realized she had no place to go. The two people who had controlled her life, Finarfin and Fëanor, were gone from her. After more wandering, she went to see Fingolfin, who, while he had never loved her like his brothers had, was perhaps the most honest with her.
He was alone in his tent, completely oblivious to the activity outside. It was interesting, that while Fëanor was going forward and Finarfin was going backwards, Fingolfin was content to remain where he was. When Artanis entered, he gave her a briefly surprised look, and then invited her to sit down. “This is the last place I was expecting you to be,” he remarked.
“It is the only place I wish to be, Uncle.” She attempted not to fidget. “My place is not with my father, nor with Fëanor.”
Fingolfin nodded, as if he expected her to say that. “That is understandable. Fëanor and Finarfin are both at opposing ends of philosophy.” He chuckled ruefully. “They are both extremists, although neither will acknowledge it.” A pause, and then, “If I may ask, why do you come to me then? Not that you are unwelcome,” he assured her.
“My father and Fëanor, even as they love me, seek to use me. I have always been a pawn between them, and I will not grant either of them that victory.” She sighed softly. “I refuse to follow their plans for me, even if it means sacrificing my own.”
He looked at her carefully, as if he suddenly understood why Artanis had come to him. “Those are not necessarily your only options, Artanis.”
She looked at him evenly. “Yes, I know. Which is why I have come here.” She took a deep breath. “I wish to pledge my loyalty to you, and I will recognize you as the head of the House of Finwë.” Her words were not insignificant, for she had said the House of Finwë, not the House of Fingolfin.
“You realize, Artanis, that as a member of my House, you shall fall under my dominion? And that I will also seek to control your fate? Not personally, of course, but perhaps politically.” His eyes were guarded.
“Yes, I understand that. I only expect that you be honest with me.” She kept her voice firm.
He nodded again. “And in return, you will benefit from my lordship.” He gave her another careful look. “It is a burden, Artanis, but it is also an opportunity.”
She inclined her head. “I agree – only on one condition.” At his nod of encouragement, she continued. “Any confidences that Fëanor or his House has made with me can never be known to you.” She spread her hands on her lap. “You will have my loyalty, of course, but I cannot break any vows of loyalty that I have made before.”
“Of course. I will not ask you to break any vows of honor.” But his eyes remained speculative.
She rose. “Then it is done.”
Fingolfin rose as well, and he kissed her on her forehead. “It is done,” he echoed, and then she departed.
She had added that final part for her own purposes. Fingolfin would be furious when he discovered his brother’s betrayal tomorrow, but he would have no way of knowing that he could have been forewarned by his own niece.
Artanis wondered what it was that had prevented her from telling Fingolfin that by this time tomorrow, there would be no ships for them. But Fëanor had told her, and perhaps he expected her to tell Fingolfin. At any rate, nothing could be done now anyway. The goods were already loaded on the ships, and they were fiercely guarded by Fëanor’s people. They could not be retrieved without more bloodshed.
There had been enough bloodshed already.
Three days later, Fëanor lay dying in the arms of Maedhros.
“Remember your oath, my sons.” The words came out with difficultly, strange, because Fëanor was a master with words.
“We shall not forget,” promised Maedhros.
Fëanor looked once again toward the awe-inspiring peaks of Thangorodrim. In a fit of insight, he knew that those walls would not be conquered by the will of the Noldor. Using his last ounce of strength, he tore off a thin gold chain that had a bright, green stone attached to it. Giving it to Maglor, he instructed, “Give this to Nerwen.” He paused for breath. “Tell her…tell her that I began the betrayal, but now she must end it.”
“She will hear those very same words from my lips, Father.” Maglor was holding back his own tears.
So it was, that Fëanor, the mightiest of the Eldalië save Ingwë, died. And as soon as his last breath left his body, he erupted in flames and turned to ashes. Fëanor scattered over the lands.
A death that occurred at the height of Fëanor’s insight and power…almost god-like.
- The destruction of Alqualondë and the death of Fëanor are described quite well in the Silmarillion.
- The green stone that Fëanor gave to Maglor for Galadriel is the Elfstone. It had quite a few possible histories, but I find it more poetic to have Fëanor make it (for an excellent alternate history of the Elfstone being made by Fëanor, you should refer to Deborah’s A Very Fire).
- I have made a slight deviation from the actual events in the Silmarillion. Finarfin and Fingolfin actually marched to the northern shores of Araman after the Kinslaying, which was where the Doom of Mandos took place. Then Fëanor sailed off with the ships and abandoned his brothers. But for the purposes of the story, I changed it so that the Doom of Mandos took place right after the Kinslaying, so that Finarfin could leave right after. I did this simply because the Finarfin that was created in this story is too honorable to continue following Fëanor after the massacre. Remember, Finarfin is the son-in-law of Olwë, the lord of the Teleri at Alqualondë. Having Finarfin follow Fëanor after the Kinslaying was too improbable for me, so I had to deviate from the actual tale. I do beg your forgiveness for this infraction.
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