The Princes of the Noldor: 4. Caranthir

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4. Caranthir

He cocked his head sideways in cold curiosity. Beseechment turned to horror as her face froze forever in final agonies and her fëa fled, leaving eyes dead and cold. He had killed Elves, Men and Orcs but never had he seen death. She had been someone of importance, someone close to Nimloth, perhaps. He could sense that they had been near it; he had known the moment they lost it. The maid's life was a poor trade, but no less rightfully his than what had been stolen.

--------------------


He saw her, ruined yet still filled with spirit, and knew then what was right and good to do. He invited her to live between the lands he and his brothers held, where she and her people would be safe, but she would have none of it. He invited her to take shelter under his own roof, and trade her hard life for his hospitality, but this too, she refused.

"Then I have but one thing left to offer, and before you say 'Nay!', know you that such refusal is taken not lightly by the heart of an Elf. Therefore, consider your answer with care!"

She looked at him gravely. "Then let me think on it, and give my answer in the morn."

In the morning, she returned as promised, but still unmoved. "Neither man nor Elf shall have me. I am mother to my people - that is my lot - and great ill, I sense, would come should I leave them."

He was never sure what insanity moved him, but he would have her and no other. He wished to mingle himself within her, and know what it was to be free; wished to capture the spark that animated her, and know what it was to be alive.

He let her go, and she took the Haladin into Estolad and there dwelt, but his suit did not waiver. Each year at midsummer, he journeyed to that region and asked for her hand. Each year, her answer was the same.

Some dozen years passed in this manner and she wearied of his pursuit.

"Will you not cease, lord? For my heart shall not change."

When he returned one year later, he found the dwellings of the Haladin empty and cold. He sent messengers far and wide in search of her. A year passed, then two, but at last, one of his people returned with tidings.

"I am told by the men in Dor-lómin that your kinsman Finrod obtained for them Thingol's leave to settle in Brethil."

Though leaves already fell, and the winds were cold and foreboding out of the north, he set out forthwith and came into Brethil as the first snow flew.

"Would that you had waited another ten years, lord, for perhaps you would then understand. Do you not see the white in my hair, or that my face is no longer smooth as it was in my youth? And yet you, who have lived more years than I can count, will ever be in the spring of your years."

"Do not think I have not thought on this."

"But you have not," she replied. "Nor do you hear the words of my heart. You are quick to make judgement, and will not see that in your haste, you have erred."

He bowed his head, for he perceived that she was not wrong. "You do not know," he said quietly, "how everything shrinks upon me, until I cannot move for decisions that cannot be unmade. Mine is a lonely life - I quarrelled too often with my brothers, that they friended one another in our youth, and I became the seventh of what should have been six.

"I brood alone in my great house, too proud to mend things, and see only the walls I have made," he continued.

"Walls are good for houses, not for hearts."

"And what do you call what you fence around yours?"

"It is not my heart that is lonely, lord."

"Then I am the fool," he said with bitterness. "Fool was I to hope that you would free me, and be my companion when winter closes and the nights are long."

"And yet so captured, I would trade my freedom for yours. Tell me, would you remove yourself to Brethil, and live among my people, as you demand of me?"

He laughed bitterly. "Now you mock me, or you truly do not know how things stand among the Elves."

"I do not mock you. Yet, I perceive that an ill goes with you that I would scarce bring upon me."

He took her arm roughly. "Has your good patron, Finrod, told you this? Or perhaps Thingol, who hates us, has set your mind against me."

"Unhand me!"

He released her and bowed his head in misery. Good will and fine intentions so often came to quarrel and wrath in his dealings. Few could abide him for long, yet he had seen from the first that this woman would never fear him. "This is how it ends, then."

"Lord, it never began," she said in a voice so soft and filled with pity that at last, he saw. She did not love him. She would never love him, even if he pursued her the rest of her mortal days.

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The well-wishers were now drunk or asleep and Maglor's voice had roughened with overuse. In a year's time, Maedhros would stand for his father, and speak the words that would join them for the remainder of their immortal lives. He had known his bride-to-be only four weeks, and would have bonded himself to her already were it not for the heavy weight of custom. Instead, he would be wintering at Himring, leaving his folk to wonder that he did not return to Thargelion.

Still quite sober, for he did not trust his tongue, he stood alone, listening to a ballad that would have been quite inappropriate outside the male territory of the lounge.

"May I have a word with you?"

With a sigh, he followed Maedhros to his private quarters. They shared a drink, a good vintage off his own lands. Winemaking had become a fine art in Thargelion, one in which he had no small part, and with this gift he persuaded his brothers to come to Lake Helevorn during the vinting season each year.

He dutifully awaited the usual questions, the very questions Manwë must have asked of Finwë when he took Míriel to wife: Do you love her? Will she make you happy? Will you make her happy? Can you pledge your love in the sight of Eru?

"Do you love her?"

"Obviously."

"Do you truly, truly love her?"

This was not expected.

"Or do you still hold out love for another?"

He had forgotten tears and swallowed suspiciously at the lump in his throat. "She does not return it."

"Then why, Moryo?"

Why indeed? He could tell Maedhros that his betrothed had her face, when she was yet freshly a maiden; that this loveless marriage would be his revenge; that he would at last see her suffer as he had suffered. Maedhros, however, with his maddening sense of right, would never allow it, and Caranthir had to consider that he could, indeed, prevent the marriage. A few words to the lady and her mother, words of a heart given to another, and the silver ring would be returned to him. "I will not suffer these years alone, Nelyo." There, for a moment, a better spirit wavered in him, the spirit of Carnistir, whom he had once been, and he spoke truthfully to Maedhros.

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In the end, she had crumpled before him, all will leaving her when she saw his designs. She had not been worthy, he reasoned. Her ghostly remains mocked her spirit, mocked the blackened remains of his heart. Not even revenge could be had.

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Maglor sent a messenger: reinforcements were coming, they must get out. He pulled his sword from the maid's breast and looked for her companion. Too many years had he been compelled to seek what would never be for the taking. He had grown to believe that pain justified pain. Perhaps, in this Valar-forsaken land, it did.

Author's Note: Tolkien tells us that Maglor, Caranthir and Curufin were married, but only Curufin's wife is specifically said to have remained in Aman. Thus, it is certainly possible that Caranthir did not marry until he came to Beleriand. (The Peoples of Middle-earth, 'Of Dwarves and Men' p 318 pub Houghton Mifflin)

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: erunyauve

Status: General

Completion: Work in Progress

Era: 1st Age

Genre: Drama

Rating: General

Last Updated: 03/29/08

Original Post: 02/26/07

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