9. Chapter Eight: To Ache and To Burn.
Disclaimer: All the characters are Tolkien´s, as well as the spoken words in the little conversation in the end (if he only knew...)
Warning: If you read this story you´ll be GETTING INSIDE A PSYCHOPATH´S MIND. Remember that normal people do not kill their families, or hide weapons under their cloak.
Chapter Eight: To Ache and To Burn.
He did not stop for a single moment to rest after he jumped off his horse in the courtyard, or stay to hear the mumbled apologies and explanations of the frightened guard, who apparently considered as his duty to risk his life by following him. Only one thought kept hammering into his mind, and it was that he had to enter there and see it for himself, even if there was no need at all because he already knew.
His own chambers, his wife´s chambers, his son´s chambers, the whole house. Much as he had always hated the sound of laughter and chattering passionately, he would have given everything now just for the barest trace of life, but silence was overwhelming and no one came to greet him.
His suspicions had come true. Aredhel and Maeglin were gone, and what he had felt in Nogrod had not been an illusion. They had left for good, leaving him behind.
Angbor grimaced as the heavy door of his lord´s private chambers was slammed in front of his face, making an unbearable noise.
If Eöl had had any different feelings or emotions before his imprisonment in Angband, he did not remember anything about them. However, after his release, and through his different experiences, he boasted of having learned three, three strong and distinct kinds of feelings that he cherished as the only possible way to stay alive. The same day he was sent out from Angband, he had learned the first of those. When he peered into the eyes of the Evil One, his body fell to violent shivers, and his numb and apathetic mood was overcome with the overwhelming need to escape from His presence.
Then, as his tormented body lay exhausted in the ground, and he was more than willing to let himself die, he remembered the horrible fire that burned him, mocking his wretched state from the heights of the sky. At first, his only way to fight against it had been to hide in caves; some time after, he sought refuge in Menegroth, and, finally, he found a way to spite the power of light by weaving his dark sorcery upon the forest of Nan Elmoth, where he had dwelt until this day.
The third, unlikely and strange as it had seemed to him back then, had been love, and it had started much later, when his life in Nan Elmoth had left few chances for him to continue fearing and hating with the same passion as before. It was quite a powerful feeling too, that love of his that needed to seize its object and turn it into a part of himself, like the black metal he worked with or the woman he took against her will. Together with the other two, they had always been enough, even for his twisted fëa, and he had never felt the need for anything else.
Eöl sat again at the fireside, in the same place where he had used to find his son Maeglin resting his head on Aredhel´s lap, both gaping sleepily at the flames until they would become aware of his presence and quickly adopt a more dignified position. He did not recognise the persistent ache in his chest as he brooded over the memories, and this perplexed him even in the midst of his obvious misery. Was it hatred? Yes, but no, for if he hated them he would not mind to know that they had gone away. But, if he could hold them once more in his grasp, what would he do? Could he forgive them?
Maybe. Maybe for, terrible as it was, the feeling that resembled more what he felt was fear. He was afraid of withering away, alone and without them, with the numbness of hröa and fëa that he had once known in Angband.
Slowly, but firmly, the Dark Elf recollected his shattered thoughts and stood up again. He was afraid of losing his mind, that same moment, if he did not go at once to find them and take them back.
Yes, that was what he would do, he decided. He would find them and take them back with him.
Oh, what had they done?
For a long while, knowing that, at the same time, his wife and son were riding at full speed to increase the distance between them and him, Eöl could do nothing but sit on his bed and stare at the empty box with magic protections where Anguirel had been laid just a few days ago. Nogrod was not a good place for a sword who delighted in exciting willingly the greediness of all who beheld her, and this was the reason why he never took her, but now she was far away, with him whom she had seduced. She was with Maeglin, and Eöl, in his puzzled wrath, had forgotten everything he had thought a mere moment before.
That was quite different from simply sneaking away when he was not there. That was betraying him, showing that he did not want to return or to be forgiven, only to leave or die.
Stupid fool, how could you have thought of escaping your father, of betraying him, when you are but a part of him grown inside the body of another! You are not good at anything except at the very things you learned from him, and you could not even leave without taking his sword and his wife with you. Curse you! I will retrieve you, even if I have to go back to Angband, and you will come back to me, or you will die!
Beside the resting place of his sword, there were some weapons of every kind that Eöl had decided to keep with him because of their perfection. Among them, there were some arrows and javelins never used before, and he compared them attentively until he spotted the best made and took it into his hands.
Look! This is far more treacherous than Anguirel, even more treacherous than you, my dear son. I will kill a part of myself if I kill you, yes, but why cannot another part be born to replace that which I would lose? If I brought Aredhel back, she could give birth to a son who would love me as he should, and who would be happy to live in Nan Elmoth with his father and kin, not like you, who betrayed me remorselessly.
Or would she, once again...? He paused for a long moment, shaking with rage. It was she who had poisoned Maeglin´s mind. Without her, he would have ever been what he was in the beginning, his father´s son, only a Noldo in his face and in the colour of his hair, but his in mind and in the dark power they would have shared.
Aredhel, the White Lady. The deceitful Noldorin princess, who had always hated him, but who loved him at the same time, in spite of herself, just as he loved and hated her also. Ever willing to spend the night at his side, ever eager to despise him in the morning, she had changed very much about a month ago, when she began to look at him with expressionless eyes, and what he had believed to be but one of her moods he had not understood clearly until now.
It was she who should die. That would solve everything, would it not? He would kill her instead, and then, without her, his beloved son would be only his at last...
..And spend the rest of his life without making love to her again, without the keen feeling of her hate and her lust under him every nigh they spent together?
Eöl buried his face in his hands. He had to go. Even if he still did not know what he was going to do, he had to go immediately.
When, that same morning, the people of Nan Elmoth understood that their lord was about to leave again, and that he would ride through the open plains at day to the lands of the Noldor, they were shocked enough to try holding him back. They implored Eöl to forget the proud Kinslayer princess, warning him of the many dangers that he was going to find in his way if he pursued her among her own kin, but the Dark Elf, clad in his black armour, took his swiftest steed and left them in a rush, without even hearing or answering those Elves that, he knew, were making fun of him behind their concerned faces.
So that Kinslayer wife you took has deceived you and escaped taking your son with her, mighty Lord of Nan Elmoth! How laughable you are, old fool!And now, not happy still, you still pretend to convince them to come back, so that they may deceive you again!
He did not care. He was going to show them who he was, and why nobody could mock him and stay unpunished.
Fifteen minutes later, as the forest was left behind, the first obstacle to that determination was the ordeal of Arien´s rays falling mercilessly over him, blinding his delicate eyes and making his whole body scream in pain. He had never exposed himself in such a reckless way, and all because of them, curse them!
To ease the burning feeling, Eöl protected his head as he could with his cloak, and leaned over the neck of the horse to embrace it tightly with both arms and whisper that he trusted the beast´s senses to keep the way the rider could not see. The horse whinned in acceptance, and thus they rode for two or three risings and settings of the Heart of Fire.
They did not stop to rest, at day or night. They did not slow their pace except once or twice a day so the horse could munch some green grass to deceive his hunger, while a tired and weary Eöl watched him with envy, wishing that he could stop to eat and rest as well. In spite of his weariness, he knew that he could stay alive for a long time without sleep and with the scant food he had brought with him, and his only chance was to find Aredhel and Maeglin before they rejoined their kin... no, -her- kin!
But, even after he grew somewhat accustomed to the painful light, and his dazed eyes could look ahead of him searching for riders in the distance, he did not see anybody. On the third day, he was aware that he had crossed the borders of Himlad, and still no sign of his wife and son met his gaze. Wrathful and heavy-hearted, he began to journey more slowly, to avoid the arrows and spears of the Kinslayers who had claimed that land as their own.
They did not find him until the next day, when he was already too disheartened and angry to care anymore. Twenty Noldorin riders surrounded his horse and made him follow them to the Lord Curufin´s encampment, threatening to kill him if he did not comply, uselessly, for where his wife and son were now Eöl would go.
During their short journey to the Fëanorian encampment, and while he disdainfully ignored the offensive jokes the Kinslayers kept whispering behind his back, Eöl had enough time to put his thoughts in order, and to plan a valid strategy that would ail his purpose. He was in the land of his enemies now, and all he would be able to get from them would be by acting friendly and hiding his true feelings, his wish to throttle them all with his own hands. If he pretended to be searching- no, too strange, too humiliating. "Coming to rejoin" would be an adequate lie. If he pretended, then, to come to rejoin his kin, he would take a risk, but he was too sure that they were indeed there.
As it was, his only fear was that Aredhel had told them about her grievances against him, and that they were prepared to seek revenge on the offender. But, what truth could there be in those grievances? He had never hurt her in any way he could recall; she was his wife, and, if she agreed to return with him willingly in front of her kin, he was even ready to forgive her, as well as Maeglin. Such was the speed with which his resolutions changed in his actual frenzied state of mind.
Soon after, they arrived to the place where the tents were displayed, and his thoughts stopped dead to be replaced by watchfulness. It was the moment to succeed or to fail, and those twisted Elves could very well kill him if he failed. Not in vain the prince that was about to receive him was despised and feared for his cruelty even among his own kin, as Eöl had heard from the Dwarves who dealt with him.
As he himself found a moment later, rudeness and arrogance could be easily added to those attributes. When he was brought to his tent, Lord Curufin did not dismiss the guards that held him as it would have been only proper, but started to question him as if he was a prisoner instead of- he nearly spat thinking of it- his own kin by marriage.
"What errand have you, Dark Elf, in my lands? An urgent matter, perhaps, that keeps one so sun-shy abroad by day?" the Noldo began, in a mocking voice. He was tall and dark- haired, with cunning eyes and thin lips that curled in a contemptuous smile that reminded him of Aredhel´s the day he had met her for the first time, but far more dangerous. Eöl sensed power within him, and a mind shut tightly against any intrusion, even trying to peer at his own as nobody, except the Queen of Doriath, had dared to do before.
My errand is none of your business, and it´s less painful to look into the sun than to be in your presence, Kinslayer. And what you call "your" land is the land of the Teleri! he thought to answer, but he knew he could not, at least not with twenty armed warriors behind
"I have learned, Lord Curufin, that my son and my wife, the White Lady of Gondolin, have ridden to visit you while I was from home; and it seemed to me fitting that I should join them on this errand." he said. For a moment, the expression of the Noldorin prince was unreadable, as if he was considering his words; then, his mouth twisted in an amused smirk, and he broke into a laugh.
A laugh "at" him.
"They might have found their welcome here less warm than they had hoped, had you accompanied them, but it is no matter, for that was not their errand. It is not two days since they passed over the Arrosiach, and thence rode swiftly westward." Curufin told him, pausing to laugh again at Eöl´s stunned and ashamed face. Oh, yes, he could laugh indeed. Laugh at the fool he was, who had not thought for a moment that his deceitful family had betrayed him to return to the Hidden City, a place far surer than Himlad! Of course, they would have gone to the famous Gondolin, his wife´s own dwelling- place, as he should have expected.
But in truth he had not thought about it until now.
"It seems that you would deceive me; unless you yourself have been deceived." Curufin concluded in the end as if he had made some wonderful and witty joke. Suddenly, Eöl was reminded of the poisoned javelin he carried under his cloak, and he was more than tempted to use it to silence once and for all this dishonourable murderer of kin even if it was the last deed in his life. But there was a voice inside of him, that reminded his fey mind that the javelin, as well as his life, had to be preserved for more important purposes.
Instead, he cursed him. Cursed him with all his might, with all the power of his ancient blood. For laughing at a father´s misery, you will suffer yourself my fate, and your own son will hate you and leave you forever. Perhaps then you will laugh heartily at how it feels!"
"Well, my Lord" he said then, in a humble tone. "perhaps you will give me leave to go, and discover the truth of the matter."
Curufin shrugged his shoulders.
"You have my leave, but not my love. The sooner you depart from my land, the better will it please me."
And me, Eöl thought. While he went to fetch his horse, still followed by the guards that now accompanied the prince, his thoughts were already for the betrayers who were now far away, perhaps out of his reach; and how he was going to kill either of them when he found them. He would not relent, now. Death was all they deserved, and it was well that this Curufin could not know what he was thinking, for he would not let him depart in his life if he did, as he thought when he mounted the steed.
"It is good, Lord Curufin, to find a kinsman thus kindly at need" he snapped before leaving. I will remember it when I return."
Unexpectedly, those words angered the Noldorin prince much more than what Eöl had ever thought they would. His anger made him careless, so that, for a few seconds, the Dark Elf was able to peer at his open mind. What he saw made him gloat in spite of himself.
So "that" was it...
"Do not flaunt the title of your wife before me! "Curufin nearly cried, in rage. " For those who steal the daughters of the Noldor and wed them without gift do not gain kinship with their kin. I have given you leave to go. Take it, and be gone, for by the laws of the Eldar I may not slay you this time. And this counsel I add: return now to your dwelling in the darkness of Nan Elmoth; for my heart warns me that if you pursue those who love you no more, never will you return thither. "
Eöl complied, and left with an exaggerated bow. Being as he was, engaged in the pursuit of a wife who had escaped from his house with his son, it still felt comforting to his fëa to learn that this mighty cousin of hers was consumed by bitter jealousy, and that his heart was shaken to behold the one who had done what he himself in his cowardly heart had always been afraid of doing.
(To be continued)
A few things:
This Curufin is supposed to have been drooling over Aredhel (like some of his other brothers, by the way) before he ever got married. I suppose he was too proud to make a show of it.
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.