2. The King
I wonder if you truly appreciate the situation you have placed me in, Finwë mused as he stood on his private balcony staring idly at the beauty of Oiolossë while he waited for the arrival of his younger sons. Never before have I questioned your wisdom, my Lords, but I find I must question it now. My decisions over the years ultimately lead (at least in part) to the current situation; it therefore should have been my place to deal with the matter - but your interference has made that impossible. And even were that not the case, I doubt Fëanáro is now in any mood to listen to reason, not after the way you have treated him. If only you had not meddled so...
He had been present at Valmar on that day, of course, as had all the Noldor who might have possessed any information about the causes of the unrest which had been sweeping though their people, or who had witnessed the recent quarrel between Fëanáro and his half-brothers, during which Fëanáro had threatened Nolofinwë with his sword. He had witnessed the Valar questioning his eldest son in the Máhanaxar, and had watched as Fëanáro's proud stance had gradually crumbled beneath their relentless pressure, saw the humiliation in his son's eyes when the sentence of banishment was pronounced - and had also seen that look quickly transform itself into anger and defiance. I fear what little trust my Curufinwë may once have had in your benevolence is gone now, my Lords, Finwë mourned silently. I can only hope that I may somehow rekindle in him that lost spark, and that your recent actions have not so clouded his judgement as to render him forever blind to your love for us. Do you truly not understand that mere force, though it may coerce his compliance for a time, will never compel him to freely submit to you? A fire may shrink under the blast of a strong wind, but when the gale abates, it oft springs to life hotter than ever.
The sound of a door opening behind him brought his reverie to an abrupt end. Finwë sighed, and turned to meet Nolofinwë and Arafinwë. Knowing that this conversation was necessary did not make it any more pleasant.
"You asked to see us, Father?" Arafinwë asked.
Finwë nodded. "Indeed I did," he replied, "for there is much I need to discuss with you both. As you know, tomorrow your brother Fëanáro must, by order of Manwë, begin his period of banishment from Tirion. He shall ride forth an exile, forbidden to return to his home until twelve years have passed."
"I am sorry for that, Father, truly," Nolofinwë replied, "I would not have chosen such a doom for my brother, had it been my choice to make. But it was not, and if Fëanáro must now depart from his home, it should be remembered that it was his own actions that brought the Valar's doom upon his head, and none of mine. Do not hold me responsible for my brother's fate."
Finwë nodded his head in negation, noting to himself the grim irony of the situation. Your older brother has accused you of acting to usurp his place; now his rash actions towards you, the fruit of my folly, will lead to you usurping my own. But perhaps that is for the best - for have I not shown my unworthiness to rule by allowing this hatred between my children to fester for so long? "No, Nolofinwë, I blame none of my children for this - I blame myself. It is because of my failures as a father that this discord arose between those I love most. And that is one of the reasons why I will be leaving Tirion with Fëanáro tomorrow."
For a moment both Nolofinwë and Arafinwë simply stood staring at him, faces blank with shock, too surprised to speak. It was Arafinwë who finally said, in a halting voice, "Father... You can't be serious? Our people need you here! How will you rule if you are in exile?"
"I will not," Finwë replied. "Nolofinwë will. That is why I needed to speak with you - so that you would both be prepared before I announce my decision to our people. Nolofinwë, I am asking you to assume the kingship of the Noldor following my departure. I know your abilities, and am confident that you will make a just and fair ruler. But I would advise you to listen to your younger brother's counsel as well as your own heart, for in some ways Arafinwë's wisdom may surpass your own."
"But why, Father?" Nolofinwë asked plaintively. "Why desert your people, your family - our mother, my brother Arafinwë and our sisters, me - to follow Fëanáro into exile? Do we mean so little to you?"
"No, of course not! I love all my children - never forget that! But it is Fëanáro who needs me the most now; for I am afraid that in his anger he will turn away from the Valar entirely. And as a father, I must do everything in my power to prevent that from happening. Both of you are fathers yourselves - would you abandon one of your children who was in need of your guidance? And besides, the Valar have left me little choice. I cannot remain the ruler of our people now." The look of dismay that passed across his sons' faces made Finwë realize he'd let too much of his own anger seep into his last statement. No my sons, he thought bitterly, it is not only your rash elder brother who holds a grudge against the Lords of the West now - although, unlike him, I realize they did not mean to cause the harm they did. I will forgive them in time; I can only pray that one day my Curufinwë will as well.
"That's not true, Father -" Nolofinwë began, but Finwë cut off his agitated son with an impatient gesture.
"Is it not?" he replied mildly. "Consider, son - by what right did the Valar judge your brother Fëanáro? Is he not a Noldo, and thus my subject? And since his transgression was against another Noldo, should not the matter of his judgement and punishment have been left to his sovereign? But the Valar saw fit to render sentence themselves - and in doing so, they have unkinged me, for they usurped the authority that should have been mine. Their actions have shown that they do not trust my judgement. Perhaps they doubted my willingness to act fairly when the matter at hand concerned my own family. But it doesn't matter, in the end, why they chose to act as they did - what is important is that through their actions, they have made it impossible for me to remain here as king, for if the Valar themselves do not trust me to rule wisely, why should our people?"
"Father, our people have always revered you!" Nolofinwë cried; beside him, Arafinwë nodded in silent agreement. "They would not question your judgement, as you seem to believe."
"Perhaps not at first," Finwë agreed. "But eventually the day would come when I would be forced to make an unpopular ruling - and then the whispers would begin. 'Why should we listen to him?' the whisperers would say. 'The Valar themselves did not trust King Finwë to judge rightly, else why would they have assumed the burden of punishing his son Fëanáro - they must have known he would be too biased to be fair. Why is this case any different? Why should we trust Finwë, when the Valar themselves did not?' Once such doubt has been raised, it cannot be ignored, and it will not be denied. No, it is no longer possible for me to rule," Finwë concluded sadly. "And so I pass the burden of the crown to you, Nolofinwë. Be worthy of it, as I was not."
"Enough - it is decided," Finwë said as he saw Nolofinwë preparing to voice another complaint. "You will not change my mind on this matter; I beg you do not try. I do not wish a fight to be the last memory of you I carry away into the wilderness tomorrow." And then he embraced Nolofinwë, and then Arafinwë in turn. It seems only yesterday that I held you both for the first time, wrapped in your swaddling clothes, and now you both stand before me as men with grown sons of your own, he thought sadly. Would that I could turn back that time and relive those years with what little wisdom I have managed to acquire now, too late - perhaps this exile would not have needed to take place then. How I will miss you both!
"Remember always that I love you. These years of exile will pass more swiftly than seems possible now, and soon our family shall be united again here in Tirion - and with Ilúvatar's grace, we will be united in love then as well. Now go, for I have much to do in preparation for my journey. I will see you both again in the morning - we can make our final farewells then."
Nolofinwë and Arafinwë, dismissed, bowed to their father silently and left. As Finwë watched his sons retreat, a wave of sorrow suddenly washed over him, and for an instant he was strangely convinced that he would never see either of them again following his departure the following morning. I am going to lose my sons, he thought, suddenly and inexplicably afraid, just as I lost my parents to the Darkness so long ago - for they had refused to journey with him to the unknown West, preferring the dangerous but familiar lands surrounding Cuiviénen to their young son's promise of a distant, unseen paradise. All of my family, they are all destined to be swallowed in Darkness... Finwë shivered. Nonsense! he told himself firmly as the odd feeling slowly passed. This is Aman, not the wild and shadowed lands where Oromë first found us. The years ahead will seem long, but in truth they will be over soon enough. I only pray that during them I may finally help Fëanáro overcome his bitterness towards his younger brothers, for I yearn to see my family united in love at last. I have rarely asked anything of the Powers; surely they will listen to this one prayer?
And then Finwë himself finally left, turning his back on the balcony, with its beautiful view of Oiolossë, to walk into his private bedchamber. It was time to begin the long job of packing for the uncertain journey that soon lay ahead.
The names of the characters used in this story are all Quenya, and their meanings 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 the names in this chapter are as follows:
Curufinwë Fëanáro - Fëanor
Nolofinwë - Fingolfin
Arafinwë - Finarfin