The High King of the Noldor wrapped his scarf tighter round his nose and mouth and tried not to breathe too hard. The wind blew from the North. Chill, strong, unceasing, unclean, stinking of ash and blood and Ages of pain. While it blew, every breath of acrid air burned the throat and made even elven eyes water. And yet, strong though it was, it did not dispel the reeking murk that enveloped all the North. Even from the high, cold vantage of the hills, the cindery plain of the Anfauglith was barely visible, shrouded in a slow-coiling, yellow-grey haze.
It was early autumn on Himring the Ever-cold, and for league upon league the hills were already grey and dun and leafless. The long years of Morgoth’s dominion had fouled the water and withered the land. The trees once healthy and fair, though dwarfed from the height and the cold, were grown sickly and hostile. The only living things that the Elves had seen besides themselves were the carrion birds, crows and ravens and rooks, that flocked in the wake of the armies of both sides.
The fortress of Himring loomed unyielding before him, grey stone under a heavy grey sky. Maedhros’ work. Not for the first time, Finarfin regretted his nephew’s skill in defensive architecture. Himring had fallen last of all the fortresses of the Leaguer, and the Easterling Men who had held it since the Year of Lamentation had learned to take full advantage of its strength.
After months of harrying the Easterlings through the hills, the Noldor had driven the greater part of their host north and east out of Beleriand, into the trackless plain of Lothlann. But the Easterling rearguard still held Himring, blocking the approaches to the north and east. Finarfin had invested the fortress, expecting a quick victory that would free him to deal with the rest at leisure. Six weeks later, the Easterlings’ tall, narrow banners of black and violet still lined the walls defiantly. Two separate assaults by the Noldor had been beaten back with vicious determination; thereafter, Maedhros’ walls had resisted bombardment, fire, undermining and songs of power. It was entirely like the Sons of Fëanor, Finarfin thought with what he knew was unfair irritation, that their works should do more to hinder their own people than to help.
At his side, his son said, “There’s someone in there who isn’t just a Man.”
Despite weariness and anguish, Finarfin’s heart lifted at Finrod’s presence, as it always did. His beloved eldest, lost first to estrangement and the Grinding Ice, and then to slow death in darkness. Restored and living beyond all hope and all grief. When the hosts of the Valar sailed from Aman, the former King of Nargothrond had chosen to risk his renewed life, and accompany his father back into mortal danger, to fight once more for the land and the people for whom he had died in torment.
“I am accustomed to rebellion,” was all that he had said when Finarfin had tried to forbid him to go. It had been small consolation to his father, outweighed by greater fear, when his marriage-daughter Amarië had cited her husband’s own example, defying Finrod in her turn to follow her kin to war. She was with Eónwë’s host, in the ranks of the Vanyar. To Finarfin’s relief, his own wife, like the rest of the Teleri, had refused to fight. Eärwen of Alqualondë commanded one of her father’s fleets, guarding the shores of Beleriand and keeping the armies of Valinor supplied and transported at need. Empty Tirion they had left in the care of Finarfin’s elder sister Findis, come down from her tranquility upon the Holy Mountain. It had taken effort for Finarfin to restrain himself from remarking that it might have been well for the Noldor had Findis remembered her responsibilities as the second of Finwë’s children rather earlier.
“A Power of some sort, think you?” Finarfin asked his son now. He trusted Finrod’s experience of the long War. “One of the Enemy’s lesser Servants?”
He looked across and up at the sheer heights of Himring. From his vantage point on a lower, adjacent hill, it was a daunting sight. Maedhros had crowned the entire plateau with an encircling wall, with his great tower in the centre of further concentric rings of fortification. The steep, rocky slopes of the hill were overlooked at every point, treeless and cleared of anything taller than lichen. The Great Gate, broken when Himring fell to the Enemy, had been repaired with strength if not beauty. Like the walls it had resisted all arts of the besieging Noldor. The host ringed the hill, covering the slopes of the lesser hills surrounding it, but the siege engines were silent. Finarfin and his son were now considering a more fundamental attack.
“It’s not Sauron, anyway.” his son said, cheerful even through his own shrouding veil. “I couldn’t have missed him
Finarfin winced despite himself. He had noticed the same grim humour in the Companions, those ten who alone of all his people had followed Finrod into darkness and the werewolf’s teeth. They were there too, lurking at a discreet distance behind their Lord. Finrod had brought them from the Halls of Mandos back into life with him, and when the call to arms had come, they had attached themselves barnacle-like and without fuss to Finarfin’s host.
“It might be a mortal sorceror,” Finrod was saying.
“Gil-galad’s people told me that the Enemy has been lending strength to some of his mortal servants. Some are of great power, relatively, though it seems to shorten their lives even more. They’re more intelligent than Orcs, and he doesn’t have much choice now that he’s running low on Balrogs. The Song that I hear is like nothing I have ever heard before...”
“Nonetheless,” Finarfin said, “and though I would not grudge you further time in which to study the ways of this our enemy, it is my thought to humble my pride a little and solicit the aid of Eónwë’s folk. It would be better than wasting more lives of our people against yon accurséd rock.”
His son nodded without hesitation. “You are right, Sir. Better to save our strength as we can for the battle to come.”
They fell silent at that reminder. Beleriand, or what remained of it in the contest of Powers, was almost wholly overrun by the hosts of Aman. Himring was the last outpost still held by Morgoth’s forces. Once it fell, there would only be the Anfauglith and Angband, and the last battle. And then? The Valar had not shared with the Eldar their plans for what would come after Morgoth’s defeat.
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.