3. Mere Anarchy
Maitimo abruptly turned his mind away from that last, half-finished thought, and focused instead on the way the starlight made the marble walls of the city glow. He would not think of Findekáno. How does one begin to forgive betrayal by a friend? I will ignore him, he said to himself as his father urged them on through the city gates. I will never let him see how much he wounded me with his hateful words when I went to bid him farewell. Findekáno is the one who was in the wrong, after all: I was only doing what I had to do when I chose to follow Father. Who is he, to condemn me for my loyalty? When has he ever gone against his own father's wishes?
The people who filled the darkened streets, watching as their banished kin returned, were clearly uneasy. Many were armed but they held their place, apparently waiting for Fëanáro's followers to act first. The exiles, for their part, were careful not to raise their own weapons; instead, following Fëanáro's lead, they headed towards the center of town, and as they passed, the people of Tirion followed in their wake. Maitimo clearly heard their whispers: "Isn't Fëanáro still banished? He's defying the Valar! What do you think he's going to do next? Has he come back to challenge Nolofinwë?" The low, unfriendly voices were unsettling, as was the nervous and faintly hostile energy emanating from the crowd; Maitimo began to feel as though he were in truth a trespasser rather than a kinsman returning to the city of his birth. Perhaps, after all the horrors we've experienced, we merely wish to come home; did you ever consider that? he wanted to shout, frustrated and increasingly tense. But before Maitimo could utter a sound, his father began to call out, exhorting the people of Tirion to come to the Great Square and listen to him. The sound of his father's familiar voice, proud and commanding, soothed Maitimo's nervousness, and he remained silent as his father lead them all deeper into the city and into the Great Square.
While Fëanáro prepared to speak, Maitimo's eyes searched the crowd. But he did not see the faces of his half-uncles or his cousins anywhere in the sea of people streaming into the courtyard. Where are they? he wondered. I can't believe they simply let us come here unopposed! Then his father began to address the restive crowd, and Maitimo's attention was quickly drawn away from the milling crowd.
He sounds like Grandfather! Maitimo realized, astonished. The same tone, the same inflections, the same control; as he awakened the people's pride, reminding them of the heights of greatness the Noldor had reached under their slain king, Maitimo thought that Fëanáro could almost have been mistaken for Finwë himself. But there was an underlying note of fury and grief and wounded pride in his father's voice that Maitimo had never heard in his grandfather's. And as his father's speech became more impassioned, that note grew increasingly powerful, and the sound of it tore at his eldest son's heart.
Perhaps the Valar did fail you, Father, as you believe, Maitimo cried silently as he listened to his father's bitter denunciations of the Powers and their treatment of the Noldor, but I swear that I will not.
* * * * * * *
The Great Square was crowded by the time Nolofinwë's contingent finally emerged from the palace. Findekáno scarcely recognized the place, though he'd dwelt in the city all his life. The square was filled with curious onlookers, followers of Fëanáro mingled together with Nolofinwë's own people, and the flickering torches they held threw a strange, unsteady light upon the white walls. The movement of the leaves on the branches of the White Tree that graced the central courtyard mimicked those flames; for a brief, horrible instant, Findekáno thought the Fëanorians had torched the beautiful tree, a gift of Yavanna's to the Noldor during happier times, and it was ablaze. Fëanáro was standing high on the staircase leading into the Mindon Eldaliéva, the better to be seen by the assembled Noldor; the fierce, fell light that shone from his eyes was simultaneously arresting and terrifying. And yet, though his eyes were filled with anger and grief, Fëanáro's raised voice, though impassioned, was surprisingly steady as he addressed the restive crowd.
"Why, O people of the Noldor, why should we longer serve the jealous Valar, who cannot keep us nor even their own realm secure from their Enemy? And though he now be their foe, are not they and he of one kin? Vengeance calls me hence, but even if it were otherwise I would not dwell longer in the same land with the kin of my father's slayer and of the thief of my treasure."
He must be mad! Findekáno thought at first, horrified. To equate the Valar with Melkor! And yet, I suppose it is true what my uncle says; Melkor was a Vala once... Slowly pushing his way through the throng towards the Mindon, along with his father and the rest of his kin, Findekáno shook his head as he tried to block out the sound of Fëanáro's voice from his mind. But there was no ignoring the power in Fëanáro's increasingly wild words, and as his uncle's speech gradually became louder and less restrained, Findekáno felt the crowd around him slowly beginning to stir with an echoing rage. And as he listened, he was reluctantly forced to admit there was more truth than venom spilling from his uncle's angry tongue. The Valar had failed to protect them, had they not? Grandfather Finwë had placed his trust in them, and what had that trust gained him in the end but death? The Valar's promises of safety had been proven to be merely empty lies. And no plans were now being made by them to avenge his loyal grandfather's murder; instead, the Valar had left the Noldor to huddle together in fear and grief in the darkness, too preoccupied with the dead Trees to concern themselves with caring for the Noldor's hurts. They had failed to capture Melkor, too - or had they? Perhaps Fëanáro was right, and the Valar had actually allowed Finwë's murderer to flee Aman rather than subjecting Melkor to the punishment his evil actions had earned. For who was Finwë, the highest of the Noldor, compared to even the lowliest of the Ainur? Could the Noldor truly expect beings so remote from them to care about their calls for justice? Findekáno shook his head, confused, but it was hard to think clearly, caught up as he was in the energy of the crowd, and with his uncle's powerful voice continuing to echo in his ears.
"In Cuiviénen sweet ran the waters under unclouded stars..."
The heat of the crowd was stifling; it was hard to breathe. The torchlight cast a sickly glow over the faces of the nearby people. Findekáno found himself reeling. An image suddenly sprang unbidden into his mind: dark, quiet hills covered with firs, and at their feet a lake, its surface calm, its waters gently lapping against the sands of the shore as if kissing the earth, the stars reflecting off its smooth, mirrored surface: the Waters of Awakening. His people's first home. Their true home, Findekáno now saw, from which the Valar had lured them away with sweet, false words, and shimmering, ephemeral light. Why had they ever abandoned those quiet shores? What had their long journey to Aman truly brought them besides grief?
"Come away! Let the cowards keep this city! Fair shall the end be, though long and hard shall be the road! Say farewell to bondage!"
Fair shall the end be... The vision of a lake filled with stars swam before Findekáno's eyes again. How much brighter, he wondered dimly, would the light of the recaptured Silmarils shine over those still, black waters? Fëanáro was right. It was time to make the Black Foe pay for the blood he'd spilled, to rescue the Light from his grasp and return it to its rightful owners, the Noldor. Time for his people to reclaim the lands of their birth, and shape their own destiny free of the Valar's endless interference, however well-intentioned it might be. Time to return home.
The crowd roared its approval of Fëanáro's proud and defiant words, and Findekáno roared with them.
* * * * * * *
"Journey light: but bring with you your swords!"
Maitimo no longer knew how long he and his brothers had been standing there, listening to their father as Fëanáro rallied the crowd below to his side. It was not important; the only thing that mattered at that moment was his father's anguish. He'd thought himself helpless to ease it, but at the sound of those words Maitimo remembered the sword he carried. His right hand slipped down to grasp its hilt, and the familiar texture of the grip against his palm provided a peculiar comfort. He'd long thought his talent with swords a cruel joke, for what was there to fight in Aman? But as he listened to his father's exhortations, he realized he had been wrong. Ilúvatar must have gifted him with his strange talent for this reason: to help his father lead their people into battle, that the Noldor might thus avenge their hurts.
"For we will go further than Oromë, endure longer than Tulkas: we will never turn back from pursuit."
Of course not, Maitimo thought dimly as he felt his heart racing with excitement at the prospect of their upcoming battle. For I know you will never turn back, Father, and who among our people would shame themselves so, to abandon you while you strive to fulfill your duty as a loyal son of Finwë? Your father was murdered, your city ruined, and your Silmarils, the finest things ever created by our people, stolen, and the Valar in turn do nothing. They couldn't even be bothered to comfort you when I brought you the news of Grandfather Finwë's death! Well, if the Valar will not act, then we must. You have a right to your vengeance, and our people know it.
"After the Black Foe to the ends of the earth! War shall he have, and hatred undying. But when we have conquered and have regained the Silmarils, then we and we alone shall be lords of the unsullied Light, and masters of the bliss and beauty of Arda. No other race shall oust us!"
"Be he foe or friend, be he foul or clean..."
Fëanáro's gaze was fixed upwards as he spoke. But when he finished, he turned his head away from the stars and back towards the earth, and his eyes fell on Maitimo. I have made my choice, those eyes seemed to say. Now it is you who must choose. Prove to me that you are indeed my loyal son, and follow me.
Maitimo did not hesitate. He drew his sword and thrust it up high into the air, only faintly aware of the sound of his brothers' blades also leaving their scabbards, their voices echoing his as he cried, "Be he foe or friend..."
The words came in a rush. As he spoke, Maitimo saw the pain in his father's face diminish slightly, replaced by a mixture of pride and gratitude. I will not fail you in this father. Am I not your son? Heart filling with pride and a hot, pleasurable wrath, he continued to echo his father’s voice, scarcely aware of the meaning of the phrases now falling from his tongue.
* * * * * * *
We should have come more quickly, Nolofinwë realized as he tried to make his way though the dense throng to reach the steps where Fëanáro stood. But I had thought it best to be cautious, and wait until we could gather at least a small force, lest my unstable half-brother again resort to violence in his desperation. Fool! he chided himself as he continued to shove his way through the crowd. I should have known he'd use his tongue rather than his arms; he no doubt believes that once he's wheedled the people into following him, I'll have no choice but to step aside and allow him to have his way.
He had to push hard to force people to step out of his way, for they seemed oblivious to all but Fëanáro's words, sparing Nolofinwë only quick glances as he squeezed his way between them, then quickly returning their attention to the proud figure standing above them on the staircase. "Have ye not all lost your King?" Fëanáro cried out, and the crowd surrounding Nolofinwë stirred restlessly. "And what else have ye not lost, cooped here in a narrow land between the mountains and the sea?"
I don't believe I'm hearing this! Nolofinwë thought angrily as murmurs of approval echoed around him and scattered voices shouted in reply "Fëanáro is right!" Don't these fools realize that Fëanáro himself is the cause of our father's death? If the Valar not been forced to banish him, Father would have remained here in Tirion, where the Valar could have protected him from Melkor's attack. Curufinwë has our father's blood on his hands, and yet the crowd is cheering him on as though he's their savior rather than a murderer. Has the onset of this new darkness rattled my people's wits so greatly? he wondered, simultaneously angered, baffled, and frightened by what he was observing.
It was becoming impossible to move forward, for the crowd was growing much too dense. Trapped in a sea of angry, excited, frightened people, Nolofinwë could do nothing but watch, and listen, and fume. "Hear me," he called out repeatedly, "this is madness!" But his voice was lost in the wild cheering that Fëanáro's calls for vengeance elicited. The air was filled with an excitement Nolofinwë had never felt before; even the younger members of his own household, he saw with horror, were succumbing to his half-brother's poisonous, persuasive tongue . It is like drunkenness, he decided, but brought on by strong words instead of wine. Until my brother ceases his intoxicating speech and the people sober up again, I cannot do anything. But once this madness passes, they will recognize the folly of Fëanáro's foolish plans. Melkor, though debased, is a Vala; we can not hope to prevail against him alone, no matter how valiant our kindred may be! The other Valar will eventually act to avenge Father's death and to regain the stolen Light, and when they do we will have our justice - not before. The press of closely packed, sweating bodies was beginning to bother him; to distract himself, Nolofinwë focused his attentions on the sky, letting his thoughts drift as he gazed up at Varda's ancient gift to his kind. Even Fëanáro could not speak indefinitely; surely his half-brother would soon start to tire, and the spell he'd somehow cast over the crowd with his fell words would begin to fade. And then, Nolofinwë decided, he'd be able to act. He had only to wait.
It was the sudden quiet which brought Nolofinwë's attention back to earthly matters again. For Fëanáro had abruptly fallen silent (for the sake of drama - or in apprehension? wondered Nolofinwë in retrospect), staring intently at the assembled Noldor. The pause lasted a mere heartbeat; then Fëanáro's voice rang out, solemn and stern, as he began to utter what sounded to Nolofinwë like the words of a vow:
"Be he foe or friend, be he foul or clean,
brood of Moringotto, or bright Vala,
Elda or Maia or Aftercomer,
Man yet unborn on Middle-earth,
Neither law, nor love, nor league of swords,
dread nor danger, not Doom itself,
Shall defend him from Fëanáro, and Fëanáro's kin,
Whoso hideth or hoardeth, or in hand taketh,
Finding keepeth or afar casteth
a Silmaril. This swear we all:
death we will deal him ere Day's ending,
woe unto world's end! Our word hear thou,
Eru Allfather! To the everlasting
Darkness doom us if our deed faileth.
On the holy mountain hear in witness
And our vow remember, Manwë and Varda!"
At the sound of the words "Eru Allfather", the peculiar and pleasurable tension that had previously been flowing through the crowd abruptly disappeared, and by the time Fëanáro uttered last words of his oath the people stood in shocked silence. The invocation of Eru's name was never done lightly by any of the Eldar; to invoke it in an oath such as this was unprecedented. Do you understand what you have done, brother? Nolofinwë thought, momentarily too stunned by what he'd just heard to speak. Those fell words will be your doom!
Before Nolofinwë had recovered enough to speak, the silence which had so rapidly descended over the Great Square in the wake of Fëanáro's dreadful vow was shattered by the ringing of metal, and the darkness was pierced by a flash of orange light as flickering torchlight reflected off steel. For Nelyafinwë Maitimo, who with his brothers had been standing at the foot of the Mindon's steps watching their father address the crowd, now drew his sword and sprang up the staircase, followed by his younger brothers. For an instant, Nolofinwë thought his nephew was about to smite his father Fëanáro for uttering that blasphemous oath. But just before he reached his father's side, Maitimo thrust his sword upwards instead, as though he would slay the very starlight itself, and cried out hoarsely "Be he foe or friend..." His brothers followed suit, and suddenly a wall of red-orange blades separated Fëanáro from the milling Noldor assembled below in the courtyard.
When the people heard those terrible words filling the air for a second time, their shock quickly gave way to a mixture of dread and confusion, laced with anger. "Do they know what they're saying?" "They're bound now - nothing can release them..." "...the everlasting Darkness, no one should invoke it..." "...can't be broken..." "...they speak as if the Silmarils are theirs alone..." The growing murmurs of consternation and indignation partially drowned out his nephews' final words, but that was of little importance; Nolofinwë had already heard them once, and that was enough. They were not the sort of words one needed to hear more than once in order to remember them - and the One they were addressed to would doubtless discern them in any case, His perceptions not being limited to mere hearing. As his nephews lowered their swords, Nolofinwë quickly began to push his way through the crowd again. No longer besotted by his charismatic half-brother's oratory, the people now willingly stepped aside and allowed him passage. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Arafinwë and Turukáno approaching as well; doubtless his other children, and Arafinwë's, were also making their way through the throng.
"You fools!" Nolofinwë roared when he reached the foot of the staircase at last. "Do you have any conception of what you've done? To invoke Ilúvatar so, to bind yourselves to such a fate..."
Makalaurë and the twins appeared discomfited by his words, but the other boys bridled silently, their eyes filled with anger. Maitimo actually raised his sword again and stepped slightly in front of his father, as though to protect him. But Fëanáro placed his hand on his eldest son's shoulder and gently pushed him aside, walking past him down the staircase to confront Nolofinwë face to face.
"And why should I hesitate to call upon Eru to witness my oath, brother?" Fëanáro replied in a low voice. "Or to declare aloud what has been in my heart since the news of Father's murder reached my ears? I will regain the Silmarils and avenge my father, whatever the cost, as I have sworn to do. As any true son of Finwë would do."
Nolofinwë gritted his teeth, and felt his hands knotting up involuntarily into fists. He forced himself to open them, breathing slowly and deeply in an attempt to calm himself. "We all want vengeance. But what you speak of is madness. To abjure the Valar, to incite our people to abandon their home and set off in a hopeless quest to destroy a foe beyond our strength to defeat... You and your reckless oath! You will lead our people into ruin!"
"At least I lead them, 'brother'. That's more than you have ever managed to do. I lead - and by your own words, you are bound to follow me in this venture."
"No one is bound to follow a fool - and no one will follow you, not after the way you've spoken against the Valar!" Turukáno had finally reached his father's side, along with Arafinwë; Arafinwë had his hand on his nephew's sword arm, as though he was afraid Turukáno might choose to avenge the insult to his father with more than just his tongue. Nolofinwë half-listened as his younger brother spoke calming words to Turukáno, and the younger sons of Fëanáro replied with accusations of their own. The words he'd spoken so recently to his elder brother, uttered before Manwë and Varda during the feast on Taniquetil, kept echoing through his mind: Thou shalt lead and I will follow.
Fëanáro, Nolofinwë suddenly realized in despair, was not the only fool in the family. He was trapped by an oath of his own.
* * * * * * *
"...and our vow remember, Manwë and Varda!"
It was done.
It was only after the final words had left his lips that Maitimo noticed the change that had fallen upon the crowd. The sense of unity, of a grand purpose shared, that his father's speech had invoked in his listeners earlier was gone entirely; Maitimo suddenly felt as though a strange, invisible wall now separated his family from the people in the square below. Uneasy, he slowly lowered his sword and looked away from his father. He slowly turned back to gaze out at the assembled people, and saw his uncles and his cousins approaching, the milling throng slowly making way for them. Findekáno's face was flushed with excitement, but his eyes seemed troubled, and the looks on his uncles' and many of his other cousins' faces were dark.
Predictably, his uncle Nolofinwë was the one who began the quarrel. Even after so many years of separation, nothing has changed, Maitimo thought, watching his uncle carefully lest he attempt to use something more than a sharp tongue to wound Fëanáro. He is still trying to usurp Father's rightful place. Doesn't he understand that now is not the time for this? Does he truly care more about his own ambitions than about Grandfather's murder? What sort of a son is he, that he argues against our people setting out to achieve justice on behalf of his own slain father? And what concern of his is our oath? He did not swear it, after all.
Nolofinwë may have set things in motion, but what started as an argument between him and Fëanáro quickly spread to involve the entire family. Seeing his beloved older brother publicly humiliated by Fëanáro must have given Arafinwë pause, for he refrained from criticizing Maitimo's father as directly as his elder brother had. It seemed clear to Maitimo, though, that his younger uncle's soft-spoken pleas for calm and reflection were a ruse; he clearly felt that any delay would cause the people's support for Fëanáro to fade. Turukáno and his cousin Findaráto kept echoing Nolofinwë's hateful words, and Turukáno nearly came to blows with Carnistir and Tyelkormo. Arafinwë's other children, though, and Findekáno too, remained silent, and Maitimo found himself hoping that perhaps they were more willing to hear the truth in his father's words than their sires were. Surely they could see the justice in what Maitimo's father was proposing? Their grandfather deserved vengeance, and the Black Foe had no right to keep the Silmarils he had stolen. Surely the Valar had no authority to keep the Noldor from claiming what should be theirs - freedom in the lands of their people's birth, the Silmarils, justice for their hurts. If the Valar would not help the Noldor achieve these things, then how could it be said that they had the Noldor's best interests at heart?
Maitimo himself took little part in the raucous debate; there was no need for him to defend his father's actions, and Fëanáro was more skilled with words than he could ever be in any case. Besides, what could he say? He was bound now, he realized, and the oath he'd sworn had to be kept; for none in Arda, not even Manwë himself could release him from it.
And why would I even wish to be released? he thought, exasperated, as he listened impatiently to his relatives' fierce quarreling. The Silmarils belong to my family by right - so it's only proper that I should vow to see them returned. But to listen to some of my cousins, you'd think my family had committed a crime worse than the Black Foe's! Are they really so blind?
In the end Fëanáro's arguments prevailed with the people, as Maitimo had known they would. Outnumbered, Nolofinwë's supporters were finally forced to concede defeat. And so the decision was made - the Noldor would depart Aman forthwith under the banner of Finwë's rightful heir, to bring the Black Foe to justice. The Noldor were united, a single people again, despite the reservations of some of his relations, and at this time of crisis Maitimo felt that that was all that mattered. It was only when the people started to leave the Great Square to begin their preparations for the journey ahead, and he finally went to sheath his sword, that Maitimo felt a moment of uneasiness. But it only lasted for an instant, and afterwards he chided himself for his foolishness. It was merely torchlight flickering on the metal, after all, not blood.
The names of the characters used in this story are all Quenya, and the meanings of all of them can be found in the essay "The Shibboleth of Fëanor," published in The Peoples of Middle Earth (History of Middle Earth, vol. 12). When more than one name is listed for a character, the first name is the father-name, and the second is the mother-name. The Sindarin equivalents of these names are as follows:
Curufinwë Fëanáro - Fëanor
Nelyafinwë Maitimo - Maedhros
Makalaurë - Maglor
Tyelkormo - Celegorm
Carnistir - Caranthir
Nolofinwë - Fingolfin
Arafinwë - Finarfin
Findekáno - Fingon
Turukáno - Turgon
Findaráto - Finrod
The words of Fëanor's speech to the Noldor are taken directly from The Silmarillion (see chapter 9, "Of the flight of the Noldor").
The text of the Oath of Fëanor is taken from "The Annals of Aman" (Morgoth's Ring (History of Middle Earth, volume 10) p. 112); I have taken the liberty of changing the Sindarin name Morgoth, used in the published text, to the early Quenya version of Moringotto.
This story was first published on 3/13/2003
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.