Taking the Sword: 1. Part 1

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1. Part 1

As this story is set in Aman, I've chosen to use the characters' Quenya names, which are as follows:

Maitimo or Nelyafinwë - Maedhros

Makalaurë or Kanafinwë- Maglor

Tyelkormo - Celegorm

Carnistir - Caranthir

Curufinwë - Curufin (he shares Fëanor's father-name)

Ambarussa – Amrod and Amras (they share this name)

Findekáno - Fingon

Angaráto - Angrod

Aikanáro - Aegnor

Nolofinwë - Fingolfin

Arafinwë – Finarfin

 

The meaning of these names can be found in the Author's Notes at the end of the story.

I would like to thank Deborah for her helpful comments, and for suggesting the name of this story.

 

 

 

 

Taking the Sword - Part 1

 

 

 

"What is it, Father?"

Nelyafinwë looked upon his father's latest creation with a vague sense of unease. Nothing my father makes should surprise me, he thought, for is he not the greatest craftsman of our people? Truly, Fëanáro's genius was unrivalled - his most praised creations, the Silmarils, were even admired by the Valar themselves. But Nelyafinwë had never seen anything like this, and was not sure what to make of it.

It looked like a type of knife - a very long knife, about as long as Nelyafinwë's arm. But the blade was nearly a hand's-width broad, and the strange knife carried an edge on both sides of the blade, quite unlike the kitchen knives and hunting knives Nelyafinwë was used to. The handle was peculiar, too; it had two flat metal projections jutting out perpendicular to the blade at the point where the handle and blade joined - very different from the handle of a kitchen knife.

"That's right - I've forgotten that you have never seen one before," Fëanáro laughed grimly. "This is a sword, Nelyafinwë. I've forged swords and armor for all seven of you, as well as for myself. Melkor has been busy spreading lies about our family; I fear that some of the Noldor who listen to him and to my so-called loyal brothers will eventually believe those lies, and act upon them. Our lives may depend on these weapons one day. That is why I want you to learn how to use this."

"You wish me to learn how to wield a sword? How to... how to..." Nelyafinwë couldn't bring himself to finish. After a moment, he composed himself and continued, speaking more calmly. "But this is Aman, Father! The Valar brought us here to keep us safe, and in all the time our people have dwelt with them, there has been no need for violence. No one has ever ended the life of another here! This... sword... is a relic of the past; the Valar taught our people how to make such weapons that we might defend ourselves from the violence of the debased creatures of -"

"Melkor," his father interrupted, "who walks freely among us, poisoning and twisting the hearts of the Noldor here as he once corrupted the bodies of creatures of Arda ages ago. Oh, he says he's reformed; he wants to help us, teach us, be our friend - but I am wiser than he knows, and I see through his mask of repentance to the black heart he hides beneath it. Aman is safe, you say. I say it is no safer than the Waters of Awakening were, not as long as the one who has ever hated our kind is free to go where he wills. If you value your life, and the lives of your family, you will learn how to use this." Fëanáro held the sword out to his son. "Take it, Nelyafinwë. It belongs to you now. Learn to wield it well."

Nelyafinwë reached out, and grasping the sword in his right hand, held it up, turning it so the Treelight shining through the nearby window glittered on the blade like flames. It was heavy, although not as heavy as it had promised to be from its size, and oddly, it felt as if it were a part of him already, as though the grip had fused to his palm - a strange metal extension of his arm and his spirit. He shuddered and forced his hand open, and the sword fell to the floor with a loud clatter.

"I have killed many times, with my brother Turkafinwë when we've gone hunting. Beasts. It is one thing to slay a beast out of need, for food, quite another to take the life of a person. I refuse to do this thing - I will not take up a sword."

Fëanáro reached down and carefully picked up the discarded sword, then gently placed it down on a nearby table. "I've spoken with my father's men, ones I know are loyal to me as eldest son and rightful heir. One of them was born at Cuiviénen; he will be coming soon to train all of you in the use of this weapon."

"Did you hear nothing I said, Father?" Nelyafinwë responded in frustration. "You cannot make me take up that sword."

"Perhaps not," Fëanáro responded, "but I can insist that you watch your brothers' lessons." And then he looked into his eldest son's eyes, and Nelyafinwë was startled at the intensity of his father's gaze. "In the end, Nelyafinwë, you will wield this weapon, and wield it well. You will do it, eventually, because I have asked you to do it. You will do it for me."

*******

"I hate to say it, Maitimo, but Father may be right," Kanafinwë said. "You know that I go into Tirion frequently -"

"Yes, and I also know why you go, little brother," Nelyafinwë teased. "Tell me - what does Aurel think of having such a pretty filit singing outside her window? Does she want to catch it and put it in a gilded cage to sing for her pleasure?" Kanafinwë looked away, but not before his brother saw the deep blush spread across his face. Laughing, Nelyafinwë placed his hand on his younger brother's shoulder. "She's a lovely girl, really she is, Kana, and I'm sure you'll be very happy together - that is, once you convince her to say yes to your proposals."

"She did - yesterday. Now I just have to work up the nerve to talk to her parents," Kanafinwë replied. He turned again to face his older brother, eyes shining. "I can't believe she's agreed to become betrothed to me at last. How did I get so lucky?"

"I can believe it," Nelyafinwë replied as he gently stroked his brother's glossy black hair. "She's the lucky one, Makalaurë - she'll be getting you. I'm happy for you both." And I am, he thought sadly, but I'm going to miss having you here, little brother. We've been together all your life; it's going to be strange to be separated at last. After a long moment of companionable silence, Kanafinwë spoke again.

"As I was saying, I go into Tirion a lot - more often than any of you, you all seem to prefer trooping around the countryside with Father or working here at his forge rather than meeting other people - and anyway, the last few times I've gone into town, I've seen people wearing badges, or carrying shields with devices on them. It's as if they want to let everyone know where their loyalties lie, although they can't say anything verbally, since Grandfather is, after all, still the undisputed ruler of our people. Increasingly, it seems that those badges are those of our half-uncles Nolofinwë and Arafinwë, and not Father's. And Aurel's told me she's heard ugly whispers; most people think our family is over-proud, and seeks to dispossess Father's half-brothers of their rightful share of Grandfather's love and drive them out of Tirion."

"But that's nonsense! Father may have his quarrels with his younger half-brothers, true, but surely people don't believe our family would ever do anything to actually harm them. Most of us are friends with our cousins, after all, although I'll admit that Carnistir doesn't particularly like Arafinwë's sons. And everyone knows how close Findekáno and I are - he's practically my seventh brother! Once they stop to think about it, they'll realize how foolish these rumors are."

"Will they? I'm not so sure, Maitimo. Certainly the way Father talks about his brothers only adds credence to these wild ideas; we know he'd never hurt either of them, no matter how he sounds, but other people don't. I wish Grandfather would step in and put and end to all of this," Kanafinwë said quietly, "but he's done nothing so far. I wonder if he's even heard the ugly talk; people are probably careful of what they say in his presence, they know Father is his favorite child. I'm afraid, Maitimo; I don't want to see anyone harmed, but all it would take is some hothead drinking too much wine and listening to stories best ignored, and you, or one of my other brothers, or Aurel, could be hurt or perhaps even killed, and right now there wouldn't be anything I could do to protect any of you. I'm going to learn how to use my sword."

"I don't believe I'm hearing this," Nelyafinwë replied. "Kana, you've always been the gentlest of us. You've never liked wrestling, or roughhousing, or hunting very much - I still remember how much you shuddered the first time you slit a deer's throat, I thought you were going to be sick - and now you're going to learn how to hurt people, possibly even kill people? Do you realize what you're saying, little brother?"

"Yes, and I wish I didn't," Kanafinwë responded firmly. "I hate the very thought of fighting. But I hate the thought of anyone I love being harmed even more. So I'll learn how to use this sword, and I'll pray to Manwë and Varda that I'll never need to wield it in earnest. And you, Maitimo? What have you decided to do?"

"I haven't decided anything yet. I told Father I wouldn't learn this craft, and I'm inclined to stand behind that decision, but your words have made me uneasy, little brother. If you are willing to do this, the situation must be more serious than I thought," Nelyafinwë admitted. "Perhaps I should talk to Findekáno, and maybe some of our other cousins, and go into Tirion to find out for myself what the situation is."

"Perhaps you should, assuming of course that any of our cousins will still speak to you," Kanafinwë replied; at Nelyafinwë's look of shock, he continued, "It's time you come out and see for yourself what is going on, brother. Come into Tirion with me before you make a final decision. You may find yourself changing your mind."

*******

The visit to Tirion had been a shock. Following the departure of Nerdanel, Nelyafinwë had gradually taken on more and more of his mother’s former duties. Over time he had slowly become the person who managed the daily running of the household; now he rarely assisted his father Fëanáro with his labors at the forge (his younger brothers, and especially Curufinwë, now filled that role), spending his time instead with the never-ending work of performing or organizing the cooking, cleaning, gardening, and other chores needed to keep the household functioning smoothly and its members clothed and fed. What little free time he had, he preferred to spend in the company of his cousins Findekáno, Angaráto, and Aikanáro, hunting, racing their horses, or exploring the countryside of Aman. It had been a very long time indeed since Nelyafinwë had last visited the city; and on the day he finally returned to Tirion with his brother, he had found it so changed as to be nearly unrecognizable.

The city itself was not much altered, of course. It still stood atop the hill of Túna, as it had since before Nelyafinwë was born. The streets were laid out much as Nelyafinwë remembered, the walls remained white, and the beautiful Mindon Eldaliéva still soared skyward. But these things were merely a facade; it was the aura of the place, more than its appearance, which was different. The doors of many of the houses now sported large crests - and in most sections of the city, those crests were the red and orange rayed flower-star of Arafinwë or the bold blue and silver pattern of Nolofinwë, not the Silmaril of Fëanáro. Many of the Noldor had also taken to wearing embroidered badges on their clothes, and some now even carried shields emblazoned with the devices of Fëanáro's half-brothers, though (so far as Nelyafinwë could see) none were carrying swords. Hostility burned in many people's eyes when they recognized the sons of Fëanáro, and though they held their tongues when facing the two brothers, Nelyafinwë heard ugly whispers as he and Kanafinwë passed by - "Be careful! Aren't those two Fëanáro's get? Why do you suppose they've come here? What errand of their father's do you suppose they're on?" The tension only eased when they neared the palace of their grandfather Finwë; the surrounding neighborhood apparently supported their father's position as heir, and the people living there almost seemed relieved at Nelyafinwë's and Kanafinwë's presence among them. Talking with them, Nelyafinwë learned that though there had yet been no serious altercations, a drunken brawl had broken out between several of the younger followers of Nolofinwë and Fëanáro only two days before. Fortunately, no one had been injured, and no serious property damage had occurred. The participants on behalf of the House of Fëanáro were currently confined to their homes; Nolofinwë had apparently done the same with the combatants championing his name, but rumor had it that King Finwë might soon be calling for a council meeting to discuss this growing unrest among his people. Nelyafinwë had been very glad to return home at the end of the day - the house he'd previously begun to view as a shrinking prison now felt more like a sanctuary from the madness blossoming in Tirion nearby.

Kanafinwë was right; I had no idea how dangerous this unrest has become. Quendi fighting with Quendi - such a thing should be unthinkable, and yet it happened, only two days ago! Perhaps Quendi killing other Quendi isn't as impossible a thing as I'd once thought? Nelyafinwë had reflected somberly during the ride back from Tirion. All the Quendi knew that their hröar, though of course much sturdier, were in essence no different from the hröar of other creatures, and could succumb to violence; though such a thing had never happened in Aman, it had happened before, many times, when their people had been living by the waters of Cuiviénen. All children born in Aman had heard those dark tales, even if they had not experienced those horrors firsthand. When we dwelled at Cuiviénen, we were attacked by Melkor's foul creations - and now Melkor himself is free. Could he corrupt the hearts of my people so that they would willingly perform such a vile act as slaughtering our own kind? I don't know. I'm still not sure I should learn the craft of wielding a sword, but I do not think it would be unwise to watch Kanafinwë's lessons, since he is determined to learn this skill, while I consider the matter more carefully at length.

And so it was that Nelyafinwë found himself standing in the dusty back courtyard, watching as his younger brothers, blunted practice blades held firmly in their strong hands, thrust and stabbed and parried at the air, while the man Fëanáro had engaged as their instructor called out directions. "No, you're using too much wrist," he told Kanafinwë. "You need to allow your whole arm to follow through on that stroke." To Curufinwë, following a violent thrust that left his brother slightly off-balance - "You opened your defenses up too much just now; if you'd been facing a real orc, he'd have cut you in two. Don't be so eager to attack that you become reckless." He watched as Kanafinwë and Tyelkormo, paired together in a practice bout, thrust and parried, advanced and retreated; almost to Nelyafinwë it seemed a dance, a beautiful, lethal dance of steel and flesh. Nelyafinwë felt his breath quickening, his body tensing ever so slightly as his vision narrowed until the world consisted only of the two combatants and their swords, advancing and retreating, thrusting forward and withdrawing, the echoing sound of steel against steel reverberating through the sultry air...

Suddenly, Nelyafinwë was jarred from his reverie by his brother Kanafinwë's sudden exclamation, and Tyelkormo's almost simultaneous cry, "Gotchya!" Tyelkormo's attack had been almost too quick to follow, the sudden stab of the blunted blade into Kanafinwë's briefly unguarded chest nearly too quick for the eye to follow. One instant of carelessness, and Kanafinwë had lost the match. And if that blade had not been dull, my brother would have lost far more than this sparring match, Nelyafinwë realized in shock. The same thought had apparently occurred to his brother, who was now looking at Tyelkormo with a somewhat dazed expression on his face. "A very good attack, Tyelkormo," their instructor said matter-of-factly. "You followed through on that opening beautifully, with no hesitation. Kanafinwë, you were doing well until you tried to press that attack against your brother - you became so focused on it that you allowed your defenses to slip. Next time, don't try to force the moment - wait until it comes to you. The trick is not so much to create an opening as to exploit the ones that inevitably occur as you opponent tires or grows careless. Now, try again..."

Late that day, in the privacy of his room, Nelyafinwë stood contemplating the sword his father has forged for him, the sword he had not touched since that day when Fëanáro had ordered him to learn to wield it. It had been lying in the corner, forgotten and unused; now Nelyafinwë found himself fascinated by its lines, so elegant and clean and deadly. The metal of the blade glittered in the silvery light of Telperion; almost it seemed to him a living thing, calling out to be held. Take me in your hand, for I am yours, it seemed to whisper. Almost without realizing it, Nelyafinwë found himself reaching out and grasping the hilt, lifting the sword up. Again he felt that odd, electrifying connection between himself and this creation of his father's hand, the sense that in some indescribable way the sword was an extension of himself. Without thinking, he began to swing it in the patterns he had seen his brothers practicing in the courtyard earlier that day, slowly at first, then faster - forward and back, thrust and parry... At last he began to tire, and finally stopped, flushed with a strange sense of excitement. He put the sword away, this time carefully placing it next to his clothes chest rather than tossing it back into the corner, and finally prepared for bed; when at last he slept, his dreams were filled with shining blades and the clamor of steel.

 

 

(To Be Continued)

 

 

Notes:

Filit – "small bird"; a childhood nickname Maedhros gave to his brother Maglor

Tolkien devised many heraldic symbols for both Elves and Men. The symbols for the Houses of the Noldor can be seen at http://www.forodrim.org/gobennas/heraldry/heraldry.htm

 


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.

Story Information

Author: Ithilwen

Status: Reviewed

Completion: Complete

Era: Time of the Trees

Genre: Drama

Rating: General

Last Updated: 04/14/03

Original Post: 07/20/02

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