Irissë talks of accompanying Findaráto on his scouting trips in the vicinity of Mithrim and beyond. I tried dissuading her. But she takes after me. The more she is opposed, the more determined she becomes to see her will done.
Turkáno often accompanies Tyelkormo and Atarinkë on their hunting trips. I have never been able to find out what my supposedly wise son sees in Atarinkë. But who am I to question him when my own choices were decidedly more peculiar? Atleast, he has given up on advising me on state matters.
Findekáno is devoted to his eldest cousin. Predictable. And I am glad of that. Of the rest of us, Artanis learns more of the Sindarin traditions and healing methods. She is a silent support to me. Unlike Irissë’s high-spiritedness, Artanis’s temperament is matured and calm. As she was the closest to her father, I have felt guilty and sad that she chose us over him.
I try to be a good foster-father to all my nephews and to Artanis. While Findaráto and Artanis accept my worrying over them with cool maturity, my half-brother’s sons have not taken so well to it. Macalaurë has never been affectionate or companionable. He is as he has always been, keeping to himself, except for matters involving Russandol. However, he is not averse to helping me with concerns of the administration. He has a steadier rapport with his cousins than with his own siblings. Which is not surprising from my long experience of the younger Fëanorions.
Russandol…Where shall I begin? It has been a miraculous journey from the emaciated, maimed arrival in his cousin’s arms to the fiercely independent, wise soul who has emerged in the last few months. My dearest nephew is no longer the person he was before his father’s madness. But atleast, he has turned stronger where lesser souls would have been broken.
“I see that you have taken to your journals again, Nolofinwë”, Russandol’s voice was curious.
“Yes”, I smiled as I moved to make a space for him on my campbed, “My journal has proved to be a worthy companion who doesn’t mind my relentless ranting.”
“Then it is well that I keep no journal”, he sighed as he looked about the tent entrance before climbing onto the bed cautiously and resting his head in my lap, “No journal could probably bear my turmoil.”
My hands moved over his shoulder-length newly-grown hair in an involuntary gesture to soothe him as I once used to do while he was but a mere babe in my hands. I had held him and lulled to sleep while his parents were at the forge. I felt a constriction about my chest when I thought of Fëanáro. I had never learnt to hate him. But how I grieved at his madness that had wrought such destruction upon us all; particularly on those who loved him the most. The greatest consequence of his ill-thought actions lies now in the form of a wounded, weary survivor tossing about restlessly on my lap.
“Russandol”, I murmured as I looked down into those exhausted, wise grey eyes, “If you had wanted my company, you could have sent for me. It will do you no good to trudge about the camp.”
“I am weary of doing nothing but listening to Findekáno play the harp and Macalaurë sing”, he muttered as he adjusted the sling over his maimed arm with his still clumsy left hand, “I was thinking of starting my swordsmanship anew with this”, he waved the fingers of his left hand absently.
“Russandol”, I began, then halted thoughtfully, my nephew has never been idle for his entire life. He is like Findaráto with absolutely no interest in hunting or sex. He appreciates music, but is not addicted to it. He has always been a thinker, an administrator and a ruler. I knew well that he was not recovered. But had I discouraged him, what if it broke the little fragile hope he had?
“I think you should take up the sword then”, I continued firmly, his grey eyes flashed with sudden wistful longing at my words.
“I am sure you will prove the master at it”, I said confidently.
Lying is an art I have learnt to excel in. One needs it to survive this family. I have never lied to my half-brother or Russandol before in my life. But now, I knew instinctively that I would have to lie to help him regain his confidence. He would never be good with his sole hand as he had been before Thangorodrim. I will never tell him that. For him, I was not above lying. Once again I am reminded of the depth of my love for Fëanáro’s firstborn.
“Thank you”, he whispered as he averted his eyes, which had become suddenly lustrous.
He has never cried, except in his nightmares. And nightmares torment him each night he feels bold enough to rest without draining down a sleeping potion. The things that he shouts during his nightmares pierce my heart. I would stand by the lake, silently grieving as he screams in fear and remembered pain while Macalaurë and Findekáno try to calm him down. Being of my father’s blood, Russandol too has the vice of pride. He never consents to speak of his nightmares or ordeals endured on the Thangorodrim. We are reluctant to question him directly.
If pride is all that he has left, then perhaps pride might be his salvation.
I wandered through the camp, keeping a sharp eye on Atarinkë and Carnistro who had earlier walked out after a terrific argument with Findekáno in the practice ring. My son seems to be excited by his newfound ‘Valiant’ status. There is no other reason why he would willingly enter an argument with Carnistro, who is the worst-tempered of us even in the best of times. Even Fëanáro…Fëanáro.
Forgive me, I digress. Am I starting to sound like Arafinwë? The coward, ruling the lands of my father, that he should have rightly ruled. I hope that the Noldor of Valinor see sense someday and know him for the usurper he is.
“Maitimo”, Atarinkë strode into the paddock where Russandol was grooming his stallion, a magnificent beast that I had gifted him. It was feeble payback for the generous gift of a herd that he had made to our host. Still, the horse was gentle and patient. He could relearn the art of horsemanship at his own pleasure.
Russandol looked up at his siblings with mild curiosity, pausing in his grooming task. I hurried over, concerned by the dark expression on Carnistro’s face. I stood in the shadow of the nearest tent, waiting to interrupt if they had a confrontation. I have always been fiercely protective of Russandol and now, I find myself even more so.
“What right have you to even consider giving the Kingship of our house to Nolofinwë?” Atarinkë asked angrily, “And you did not even have the courtesy of including us in your councils.”
“Nolofinwë is the patriarch of our house”, Russandol remarked gently.
He has always been gentle with his brothers. I was once more reminded of the blood of Míriel Serindë that flowed in his veins.
“I refuse to accept that!” Atarinkë snarled, “And the day I see our crown on uncle’s head, I shall burn in my own forge!”
“Brother”, Russandol began remonstrating with a patience that I am sure that nobody else in our house would have shown, “As you did not refuse his aid while we were losing in the ports of Alqualondë, you can hardly complain! More than one of us owes our lives to him. Even if it wasn’t so, the fact that he was father’s blood-brother should entitle him to the crown of our house.”
“Blood-brother?” Carnistro said quietly, “Would you sleep with a blood-brother, Maitimo?”
A sick feeling rose in my chest. Would you sleep with a blood-brother? Russandol put down his currying comb and leant against the fence, his tall, spare, emaciated frame so different from his siblings’ healthy, well-formed bodies and glossy raven hair. My dear nephew might have looked incongruous with his blood-red hair and maimed arm, but for those wise grey eyes that still held wisdom and patience. There was an underlying nobility about his frame that neither his father’s madness nor his captivity could break.
“I would not be too quick in making such accusations”, Russandol replied calmly.
“Mean you what, Maitimo?” Curufun frowned, his black eyes, his father’s eyes flashing in anger.
“It is a case of the pot calling the kettle black”, Russandol said quietly, “You know well that father was as active a participant in that as was our uncle. It is the same as your relations with Turkáno.”
“Maitimo!” Carnistro spoke stunned, “You have never interfered in our personal affairs before.”
“And I have no intentions of doing so in the future”, Russandol said amusedly, “I would be driven to madness if I took it upon myself to trace the conjugal relations of our depraved family. I merely wish that you would accept my decisions in the matters of our house. I am the eldest.”
“You are unwell”, Carnistro remarked coldly, his habitual callousness making a sudden reappearance, “And unlikely to recover anytime soon.”
“Carnistro!” Atarinkë hissed in shock at his brother’s cruelty.
Atarinkë is brash and outspoken with little regard for respect or decorum. But he has merely inherited his father’s temperament and cannot be blamed for that. But Carnistro, I have always harboured a deep resentment for him.
“I would suggest that the two of you make your way to the training yards and spar. Work out your anger”, Russandol said quietly.
His face was a study in calmness, but I, who has seen his every mood, can well sense his insecurity and desperation. I decided to not approach him though Atarinkë and Carnistro had hastily made their departure. He would not welcome prying now, however sincere my motives were. I would settle for keeping an eye on him.
“Russandol”, Macalaurë strode in briskly, “What are you doing here? You should not stand underneath the midday sun for such long periods.”
“I am no maiden or new-born babe to be so cooped”, Russandol commented with the slightest acidity flavouring his tones.
“Did you have an argument with our brothers?” Macalaurë sighed, “Nothing else can make you so.”
“A wise deduction”, Russandol leant back on the railing, suppressing a wince as his body protested fiercely, “I hope that you have not come with similar motives. If my hope is to be proved wrong, then please do spare me for now. I am tired and would postpone this conversation till a better time.”
“Russandol”, Macalaurë said curtly, his eyes flashing with his father’s fire. Wistful memories rose in my mind, his stance reminded me of Fëanáro’s impassioned speeches in the court, the few times my half-brother had been persuaded to attend.
“Yes, Macalaurë”, Russandol asked softly, his eyes suddenly vulnerable as his defences lowered for the moment, “What is it? If Findekáno wishes to proclaim his love once again, I shall kill myself and be done with it. What does the fool see in me?”
“Do not jest about love and life”, Macalaurë said sternly, “He is still smitten with you as he has always been. Do not hate him for being devoted to you. And come with me, long enough have you stood in the sun.”
He walked over and pulled his brother along. Russandol relinquished his stubbornness and leant onto Macalaurë exhaustedly. I decided to make my appearance and fixed myself on his other side, inconspicuously providing him support.
As Macalaurë entered the tent, Russandol faced me and said seriously, “I have never been more certain of anything than I have been of your regard for my father. I want you to know that you have always been the best foster-father, mentor and friend to me despite all that has happened in our family.”
“I pledged myself to your father’s side, I do the same by you. The house of Nolofinwë shall ever follow the house of Fëanáro, to the gates of Mandos and beyond if need be”, I replied solemnly.
“And beyond”, Russandol smiled weakly, “Will it come to that, Nolofinwë?”
“I have burned in your father’s fire too long. Nothing else will burn me”, I shrugged as I helped him into the tent.
That night, I thought of my half-brother with more intensity than was usual.
I could remember him looking frankly curious when I had stared in awe at his magnificent body on the day of his marriage.
I could remember the pride that radiated so intensely from him when he had stood beside me as our father brought a just-born Russandol from the birthing bed.
I could remember the passion-laden kiss he had instigated in his forge mistaking me for his wife. My first taste of him…of his passion…of his spirit that burned with an all-destroying and all-purifying fire.
The day he had so rudely walked in on me in my bedchamber and the turbulent events that followed in rapid succession, the memories are burnt into my mind. Every nerve of my body still aches in memory of his passionate, all-yielding frame underneath my fingers.
Fëanáro might have been many things, but let it never be said that he withheld anything from those he loved.
It is with mixed feelings that I take up my pen to write the events of this most momentous day in my life.
I am The High-King Of The Noldor.
Russandol insisted on going through with the public humiliation of the house of Fëanáro to unite the factions of the Noldor. He brought his brothers in tow and knelt before me. Tears gathered in my eyes as I saw my worthier nephew make an impassioned speech as to why he considered himself dispossessed and undeserving of Finwe’s crown and lineage.
“To you, Lord Nolofinwë, I humbly hand over the crown of my grandfather. No soul in these lands is worthier than you to be called the High-King of the valiant Noldor”, he bowed his head, the simple, yet, elegant circlet wrought by his father sparkling on his red tresses.
He raised his head again and those grey eyes met mine with determination and wistfulness in equal measure as he spoke clearly, “I pledge my alliance to you. You are my uncle, my lord and my King, Nolofinwë.”
A solitary tear burned its lonely way down my face as I spoke hoarsely, “And you are my nephew, Nelyafinwe Maitimo Fëanorion. Nothing can break the ties of blood, neither betrayal nor madness. The house of Nolofinwë shall always follow the house of Fëanáro.”
With that, I placed my father’s crown on my head and stooped down to help my nephew to his feet. We embraced. Over his shoulder, I could see the unhappy features of his younger siblings. Macalaurë alone stood to the side, speaking softly to Artanis.
I watched my family carefully during the feast. Findekáno was speaking earnestly with Carnistro, I hoped sincerely that they would not brawl. Atarinkë and Turkáno were sitting next to each other, their voices low in conversation. Once again, I wondered about the nature of their relationship. Russandol was speaking with Tyelkormo and Irissë, his features set in a deep frown. They appeared to debating something. I made a mental point to stay away from Irissë. My daughter has a time-proven way of getting on my nerves.
“Nolofinwë”, Findaráto had come to my side, “It is going well so far, is it not?”
“Too well in my opinion. Though these stage-managed performances have never boded well for our family”, I remarked as I turned to face him.
His golden Vanyarin features constitute the major reason why I have never liked him as much as I like my other nephews. He is a noble soul, but…I have always hated Vanyarin blood. Maybe it is the fact that my father discarded his vows in favour of a Vanyarin woman. Or perhaps of the fact that my wife first cheated on me with a Vanyarin lover.
“I wonder if Russandol is recovered enough to attend this”, he said concernedly as he watched Russandol arguing with my imperturbable daughter. Tyelkormo seemed to have beaten a hasty retreat to join the Ambarussa and the younger siblings of Findaráto at the banquet tables.
“He was most insistent on getting it over with”, I informed him, “What of your plans to explore the lands? I do wish that you would not take Irissë along, she is too high-spirited unlike Artanis.”
“Artanis wishes to stay with Russandol until he is fully recovered…”, he commented lazily sipping his wine, “And Irissë is coming along because she wishes to spend more time with Turkáno’s new advisor, Glorfindel”, he waved towards Tyelkormo, “She wishes to stoke the spirit of jealousy. I do hope she doesn’t take it too high. Fëanorions are said to be destructively possessive”, he chuckled at his own joke, “Of course you would know that, wouldn’t you, Nolofinwë?”
“I wouldn’t”, I retorted, “But I am sure that the Fëanorions are immensely possess-able. Where is that seneschal of yours, Ecthelion, was it not?”
“He is loitering about”, Findaráto leant back against the wall, his golden features looking remarkably naïve, “I will find him then, have a good time, Nolofinwë.”
I feel lonely. Since Fëanáro’s exile, loneliness has become a part of what I am. Now I stand by the lake gazing at the clear reflection of the moon in the water. I find company in Macalaurë during these long vigils.
“How did you do it?” he asked me one cold night, even as Russandol’s howls of fear rent the air followed by melodious, soothing notes on Findekáno’s harp.
“Do what?” I asked absently as I stared at the distant peaks of the Thangorodrim, the maker of which had claimed all that was dear to me...the exile from my home, the murder of my father, the torments of my nephew and the fall of my half-brother.
“See someone you love beyond all walk the ridge between sanity and madness and yet, stand aside helplessly because you are afraid to reveal the monster in you”, he said in a low voice.
I glanced at him, his features were waxen and wilting in the cold moonlight. He looked as spectral as death warmed over. Should I have told him to reveal his secret to Russandol? Perhaps, it would have eased Macalaurë’s self-recrimination. But I am selfish. I loved Russandol more and wanted to spare him the burden of making personal decisions right now. Let Macalaurë bear the silent grief and longing alone. I know that Russandol would have been appalled if he was told the exact reason behind his beloved brother’s tender care.
For a moment, I shuddered at his skeletal, gaunt form before saying in an alarmed tone, “You must not give in, Macalaurë . It is the curse on our house!”
“I think so”, he said uneasily, “Even the most noble of us like Findarato have succumbed to lower emotions like lust after the curse.”
“Don’t be gloomy”, I corrected him, “I was attracted to your father starting from the day of his marriage. Lust is not a lower emotion; it often leads to love.”
“There is a fine line between lust and love, Nolofinwë”, Macalaurë sighed as he turned back to leave, “And not all of us are blessed enough to experience both.”
I pity Macalaurë, for I have been in the same situation for long years. And truly, I hate Macalaurë sometimes for what he reminds me of. He invokes in me memories of a soul I love above all.
But I do not regret my decision in counselling him to keep his desires a secret. Perhaps, if Russandol had been as volatile and passionate as his father, Macalaurë might have stood a chance in love. As Russandol is more inhibited and a stickler for court-customs, I think it wiser to let what lay concealed stay concealed.
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.