1. Chapter 1
“Tell me another story, mother,” he said, coming to sit by my side, taking my hands in his own.
He had grown, into a young, sensitive lad. In him, I could see Turkáno and my father. In my dreams, I would see someone else in my son’s aristocratic features; someone who was not Eöl of Nan Elmoth.
“I have told you all the tales I know, Lómion.” I compared our fingers. His were callused already by the work he did to aid his father in the forge. Mine remained as smooth and unblemished as they had been long ago, under the golden light of Laurelin.
“There must be something more,” he insisted, a note of pleading inserted into his tone, which swayed my reluctance to relive my past. It was the only entertainment the lad had, to hear my tales. Though my memories were brought with the pain of remembrance, if they succeeded in bringing him joy, thus be it.
“What shall you have?” I asked him. “Shall it be how Findekáno rescued Maitimo from the land of dark fire?”
“No,” he shook his head, “you have told me that tale many times. Tell me something about your life of old, mother. You never do.”
I had never told him a tale about my life, for manifold reasons. I looked up at the dark branches concealing us from the sun, their canopy oppressive and frightening. How many days had I wandered through the woods, within the limits Eöl had set me, craving to catch a glimpse of the golden sun? But the land obeyed my keeper, and it allowed me no peep at the light and warmth of the day.
Sitting with my son, in the hushed copse of trees, I was seized by regret and sadness so overwhelming that I nearly cried. But I did not cry. I never cried, for I was Aredhel Ar-Feiniel. A sigh escaped my misery though.
“Mother?” He was on his knees before me the next instant, his dear features twisted by worry. “What is wrong?”
I shook my head. He wanted a tale; he wanted my tale. Then he would hear it. I motioned him to be seated beside me and wound our fingers together. Taking reassurance from the warmth of his hands as they clasped mine, I began the story of my life.
“In the age of gold, youth and maiden bright,
Naked in the golden beams delight.”
Elenwë was singing in her sweet, low voice, encouraging her young daughter to sing along with her.
“Don’t you have anything else to sing about?” I asked my sister-by-law, disgruntled that she would sing about gold and warmth while on the Helcaraxë. I would have been inclined to sing one of Macalaurë’s philosophy-soaked compositions.
Elenwë smiled brightly at me, a spot of Laurelin on the cold Ice, before gaily dancing her way to grim Turkáno, who accepted her fussing and carousing with good grace.
“Irissë,” Findaráto took my arm. “You must eat something, cousin. Pining for-”
“I am not pining for anyone,” I cut in before he could complete the sentence. To stall his next argument, I put on my fiercest scowl. Stranded shivering on the Ice, forced to watch the damn ships burn, exiled from my home, hands stained with blood and grief for my grandfather weighing down my spirits, the last thing my pride would allow me to do was to admit that I pined for him.
“He may have had nothing to do with it,” Artanis said as she came to my side and wrapped her cloak over my shivering form. It had been Macalaurë’s. He had given it to her before boarding the ships.
“I don’t want it.” I wriggled out of the fine cloak and shoved it back at her.
She clucked before saying, “You need it more than I do, Irissë. Take it.” I gave in with ill-grace. She was right. Anyway my quarrel was not with a cloak.
“Don’t theorize without facts,” she said briskly. “We still don’t know what happened on the other side.”
“He is his father’s son,” I retorted. “I know he would set fire to his own hair if Fëanáro asked.”
“That is quite enough!”
Artanis looped her arm in mine and marched me on. Before I could disagree, she began singing a hunting lay with such infectious enthusiasm that I had no recourse but to join her in the song. Our bedraggled, sorry people hearkened to our clear voices with such hope kindled on their faces that I forgot all about my personal grief and poured myself into the song.
Elenwë fell. Seeing my niece’s horror and Turkáno’s pain, I vowed that I would never forgive him. If ever I see him again, I shall have him impaled on a nicely sharpened spear.
Findekáno and Artanis led us onward; his courage and her determination brought us to the lands Fëanáro had spoken so eloquently of.
When I saw him, I did not run to fetch a spear. I merely stood rooted where I was, and listened in growing horror. ( Horror is an understatement. There exists no word to describe what I felt then.) His faltering words as he helped Atarinkë relate what had befallen them…He did not meet my eyes. He did not meet anybody’s eyes. That had never happened before. It was then that I realized things could never be renewed.
Our age of gold was past.
Finwë’s grandchildren have always revered the ties of blood. We forgave our cousins for the ships, as much as it was in us to forgive. The death of Fëanáro and the plight of his eldest healed our breach. Always a close-knit family, now we were brought closer by my father’s firm, loving manner. He arranged hunting and scouting expeditions so that his nephews and sons renewed their ribald companionships of better days. He succeeded, since the sons of Fëanáro looked up to the brother their father had loved above his own self.
The strangest development was the unusual attachment that had been born between Turkáno and Atarinkë, something potent and unbearably heart-wrenching in its blossoming, of solace and acceptance found amidst parting and grief; of widowers and single-parents coming together to provide each other simple comfort.
In its wake, it was singularly ironic that Tyelko and I were not even exchanging the barest of courtesies when we chanced to meet other. But my family feared my pride and temper. Not even Artanis found the courage to broach the matter with me.
My father built a mansion, modelling it heavily in the like of Formenos. Was it his unconscious homage to someone he had loved beyond the pale of reason? We did not ask him, for we must each make our own peace with fate, and if this was his chosen manner, who were we to naysay him?
Long days spent underneath the stars had hardened us and we preferred the open glades to the confines of the mansion. But Artanis and I were bundled into cosy, large chambers as opulently furnished as my father could manage with what possessions we had. Most of our cousins and brothers preferred to camp under the skies, only opting for tents in the colder weather.
I would always leave my chamber door unlocked at nights, and sleep with a spear by my side.
Findekáno brought Maitimo to us. Both my father and Macalaurë stirred themselves out of their brooding to take up position by his sickbed. Between the bevy of cousins and brothers, I am sure that they did not allow him a moment’s privacy in those harsh days. I would often go in the afternoons and send Turkáno away to spend time with his young daughter while I kept vigil over Maitimo.
In the beginning, he was not lucid at all; his mind affected by the drugs and the pain. But he pulled through, as I had always known he would. He would often greet me with a wan smile and then lose himself to his thoughts, not bothering to acknowledge my questions or remarks. I would chatter on despite his silence, for I hated the oppressive quiet that pervaded the air.
“And all of us rushed into Atarinkë’s bedchamber, frightened by his screams. Findekáno forced the door open and we found Atarinkë and Turkáno standing by the window. They dismissed us briskly and were shutting the door behind us, when a howl came from Turkáno. Findekáno was alarmed and drew his sword before barging in. Atarinkë came to stand before Turkáno, his hands outstretched. Findaráto strode past them impatiently to see the cause of distress, before starting to laugh until he was crying. Then he proceeded to put to death the source of all the commotion, which turned out to be a little--”
“Spider!” Maitimo said, his grey eyes swirling in mirth as they met my shocked gaze.
“True,” I said. “Who told you?”
“Nobody. I merely happen to be aware of their fear of arachnids.” He gingerly rose into a sitting position. “You are the only gossip I have to endure, and am I grateful for that!”
“If you had asked me to stop,” I began hotly.
“But I love your gossip,” he laughed, his voice still hoarse from whatever purpose he had been forced to use it for.
I shifted from the chair to the bed and sat beside him, leaning my head against the ornate head of the cot.
“You heard everything I chattered about and did not even see it fit to tell me you were listening. I could have expanded on some scenes.”
“I had forgotten our language for the most part,” he said frankly, sounding neither unhappy nor angry at admitting that. I sighed in incredulity. Only him…and perhaps Findaráto. “Your conversations helped me regain my vocabulary to a decent extent.”
“Flatterer,” I muttered, trying to quell the wave of fierce pride that I had helped him in some way.
“Tell me about your latest escapades with my brother. You have spoken of everything but that.”
“There is nothing to tell; there have been no escapades,” I said flatly.
He should have dropped it then, heeding the warning note in my voice. But he has never resisted a debate in his life, and I knew he would pursue the subject to its bitter end.
“You can tell me,” he said. “I am not biased.”
“Does my beauty not bias you?”
He chuckled at my arrogance before saying, “In that case, I would not have allowed Tyelko to dog your shadow, instead taking up the pleasurable task myself.”
“Why didn’t you then?”
“Ah! But that might earn me my lady’s scorn,” he teased me, throwing me the gauntlet for a battle of words.
I rolled my eyes and gave in. If he wanted to spar with words, he would have to wait for my father or Artanis. I had better things to do.
“The long and short of it is that he burnt the ships. We have not spoken since then. I await his appearance in my bedchamber so that I may impale him with a spear.”
Beside me, his arm brushed my own as he quivered silently, fighting off a bout of mirth at the expense of my words.
“I am serious!”
“Methinks the lady does protest too much,” he said jocularly.
“Methinks the knight shall laugh less when his brother is impaled upon the lady’s spear,” I retorted.
“Don’t!” His eyes were sparkling pools of grey, reminding me of the silver clouds that had heralded rain last week, and of the thick coils of smoke that issued from our campfires. “It is a most uncomfortable business to be on the receiving end of a spear.”
I hastily changed the thread of discussion, for I feared where this would lead us to.
He came to me that night, his distinctive knock waking me immediately. Maitimo must have spoken to him; the well-meaning idiot could never resist interfering. I sat up and watched as he closed the door behind him. He made to speak, but no words were given voice to. We stared at each other for an indeterminably long time, his black eyes shining lamps in the moon-lit darkness of my bedchamber.
I pushed aside the coverlet and rose to my feet, uncocooning my body from the warmth of the bed. He gasped and his fingers flew to his throat as if easing his breath. Before I could speak a word, he strode forward so that we were mere inches away from each other. His breath was hot and caressing as he brought shaking fingers to hover above my cheeks, tenacious in his resolution not to touch me.
I bent down and exulted in the cry of desire that escaped him. But when I rose again, a spear weighing my hands, he gasped and drew back a step.
“What is it?” he asked breathlessly, making as if to take away the weapon from me.
“For your deceit. You burned the ships, cursed dog,” I hissed. (I was very good at such endearments, the fallout of spending my time with my brothers and cousins.) “I swore upon all I believe in that I would impale you upon this spear, when we met again.”
“Iri-” he began. I twisted the spear so that its sharp end kissed his chest. He instinctively drew back a step. I pressed down upon him, my grip clammy on the metal I brandished.
“Don’t speak my name. Not when you put me through the Ice,” I jerked the spear, earning a crimson trail of blood down his chest. He flinched and brought his fingers to feel the cut. I swatted them away and backed him to a wall.
“It was never my intention that…” He waved his hands angrily in explanation, as if anything he said could ever explain away what he had done.
“I hate you,” I told him fervently. “I hate you more than I hate Moringotto.”
“And well-deserved shall it be,” he spoke brokenly, his eyes cast to the ground. “I am sorrier than I ever can say. But it shall not be enough.”
“Tyelko-” I began softly, my rage undone by his hoarse, emotion-wracked words.
“No.” He shook his head firmly and began undoing his tunic, exposing the wound I had wrought on his flawless skin. His chest heaved with emotion and his muscles were strained. The fine frame that I worshipped shook under the onslaught of his tempestuous feelings and I wanted nothing more than being underneath his glorious body. (Artanis was right; I was ruled by carnality. I hold to the opinion that embracing passion freely is less guilty than embracing it furtively, cloaking it under intellectual conversations as she did.)
He stretched his hands and met my gaze, so that I was subjected to the full array of emotions loose in the peripheries of the dark oceans of his eyes. I stood transfixed, my hands trembling with the effort of holding up the spear, and he began speaking in a voice so moved and true that I knew I would forgive him even before I had understood what he spoke of. His words were hoarse and weighed down by a plethora of emotions, not the least of which was regret. The spear slid down onto the floor from my limp fingers and I threw my arms about his neck, sobbing my heart out onto his chest. I had not cried after hearing about my grandfather’s death, I had not cried when we had fled like fugitives, not when we had been stranded on the Ice and the memories of silken bodies twined from head to toe sufficed not at all to warm me, not when I had made it alive to the new land and saw him mourning his father.
But now I cried, and fisted my hands raining blows on his torso, willing him to know one-hundredth of the pain and the grief I had felt at his betrayal. Then I pressed wet kisses to his skin, seeking desperately to remove the traces of my violence, for I did not want him to suffer anything at all. He was here, he was whole and he was embracing me as if his life depended on it.
That was enough.
“The Valar shall not be pleased with you,” he murmured quietly as we lay basking in the aftermath of quenched passion.
“They can rot,” I scoffed.
“Blasphemy,” he began concernedly, “shall not endear you to them.”
“Now that I have you, what do I need from them?”
I believed in my words. I was determined to recapture our age of gold. And being blessedly in love, I feared nothing.
References: General meandering within The Sunset framework. “In The Age of Gold…Delight”, lines quoted from Blake’s ‘A Little Girl Lost’.
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.