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Father's Wish, A: 13. Chapter Thirteen
The lone figure seated on the carved garden bench was a sight that was sorrowful even to the most joyful of people – including Luthien Tinuviel, who was currently debating on whether to approach the still figure of her cousin.
When the news of Morgoth's surprise attack on the Noldor had first reached Thingol, Galadriel had immediately requested leave from the king to go join her family. But Thingol had closed his borders so that no one could enter or leave – including his own grandniece. The argument between Luthien's father and Galadriel had been long and bitter, and finally, they had sought Melian's opinion, which was similar to her husband’s.
Ever since then, Galadriel had withdrawn into her own company, refusing contact with all save for Linneth, and at times, Celeborn. And although Luthien was glad that at least one of her cousins was safe within the enchanted borders, she also understood the devastation that Galadriel was feeling. To be unable to help her most beloved kindred...and to face each day with the fear that Thingol's couriers would bring unwelcome news.
Steeling her spine, Luthien clutched the basket of fruits more securely and walked towards her cousin. "Good day, my lady." As casually as she could, Luthien sat next to her. "A fresh harvest of fruits was delivered this very morning. I wanted to share them with you."
Galadriel barely spared her a glance. "Thank you for your kindness, Princess, but you needn't have bothered."
Determined not to be put off, Luthien continued amicably, "But I have bothered, so I suppose we must eat them."
"Perhaps later then." Galadriel kept her eyes fixed toward the horizon.
"Galadriel," said Luthien pleadingly, "please, you must eat. You are growing weaker by the day, and you will soon collapse." This was no exaggeration, as Galadriel's healthy frame had become frighteningly slender, her skin had taken on a pale, waxy sheen, and her hair had lost its luster.
"Do you know that Fingolfin was more foresighted than any of us had ever imagined?" The question was asked abruptly.
"What do you mean?" Perhaps if Galadriel kept talking, Luthien could secretly insert apple slices into her cousin's mouth.
Galadriel chuckled humorlessly. "For many years, Fingolfin spoke of attacking Morgoth when my people were strongest, when both men and Elves filled the ranks of our armies. But we took to enjoying the harvests of our lands and paid him no heed. Only my younger brothers, Angrod and Aegnor, listened." Another empty laugh. "But I did not."
"Morgoth has attacked your people before. What makes this time any different?"
The pale blue eyes narrowed. "Morgoth is impulsive – he rarely takes time to plan, instead preferring to ride out waves of anger and hatred. But this attack – it must have been planned for years." Galadriel clenched her hands. "A foe who thinks is dangerous."
Luthien laid a comforting hand on Galadriel's arm. "The grace of the Valar will see your family through." The common phrase had slipped from Luthien's mouth unguarded.
"The grace of the Valar would only be aiding Morgoth." A pause, and then: "I could be there with them!" she cried passionately. "I am a skilled warrior, and as a Princess of the Noldor, I belong with my people."
"But one more soldier will not make a difference in the outcome."
"Will it not? I would like to think otherwise. But in any case, it makes a difference to me." And in the face of such logic, Luthien could only agree as she munched on an apple. The two women lapsed into silence until Galadriel spoke again. "I wonder if my cousin Turgon will emerge from his hidden kingdom." Luthien tried to imagine what the hidden kingdom would look like, but she could only imagine rough tents set up in a cave. "Perhaps Glorfindel accompanies him."
Luthien heard the rare wistfulness in Galadriel's voice. "Perhaps," echoed Luthien, a strange anger filling her chest. Galadriel is blind, as are all her kin who have journeyed over the waters. “Once, in the earliest days of our acquaintance, I asked who you were, and you said to me, ‘I am the woman who loves Glorfindel, and that is all there is to me.’ Did you mean that?”
“The woman who said it certainly meant it,” agreed Galadriel.
It had been a strange thing to hear. This woman, this powerful, beautiful woman, had briefly defined herself by the love she held for another. What kind of love must it have been! But then again, Lord Glorfindel was an exceptional Elf, wise in the ways of the ancient Vanyar kindred, yet still filled with the temperament of the Noldor. The pity that Luthien had originally held for Galadriel vanished, only to be replaced by a reluctant envy.
And she wondered if one day she herself would be able to say, “I am Luthien, and I love this man. That is all there is to me.”
As dawn fell to dusk, Artanis maintained her vigil on the carved bench, the place where she and Finrod used to sit during their visits to Menegroth. Luthien’s fruit basket lay untouched at her side – a reminder of the disturbing conversation they had earlier. Generally, Artanis did not spend much time reflecting on the choices she had already made but instead on the choices ahead of her. She rarely dwelled on the Kinslaying anymore although it remained a guilty blemish on her conscience, and she certainly never thought about why she loved Glorfindel – only that she did. For her, the question had always been, “What next?”
But today, she had been forced to admit that what she and Glorfindel had shared was now only a fond memory, and even if he were to return from Turgon’s hidden city, she knew that he would not want her back. She had rejected him in favor of politics, and he would never be able to forgive her. Glorfindel, even with the calm Vanyar blood running though his veins, was still a man (1), and he had his pride too.
Briefly, she allowed herself the luxury to imagine what life could have been like, and it was a nice fantasy, to be sure, but that was all it was – a fantasy. Long ago, she had seen the possibility of this future, but she had turned away from it. Insteads she had chosen Fëanor, who had promised neither happiness nor riches but power.
But the path to power was one to be made alone, and as prepared as she had been to accept it, when faced with the harsh reality of loneliness, she had almost turned away from Fëanor’s promise.
For now, she would ride the wave of fate as Olwë had taught her.
“My lady?” The tentative inquiry disturbed Artanis’s reverie. She looked up to see one of Luthien’s handmaidens. “The king requests your presence, my lady.”
Surprised, she stood and smoothed her skirts. Ever since their argument, Thingol had left his grandniece alone. “Of course. Did he mention why?”
The girl shook her head. “No, my lady…but word has it that a courier has arrived from the battle.”
Fear kept her rooted to the spot. “I see.” She tried to banish images of the horrifying possibilities. She might have stood there all day, but the concerned eyes of the girl reminded her that the king had requested her audience. “The king is in the throne room?”
“In the council room, my lady.”
Artanis nodded. “Thank you. You are dismissed.” The girl bowed and departed, thus leaving Artanis to find her way to the council room herself. When she finally arrived, Thingol was waiting for her, and a dirty courier stood at his side.
Their faces were expressionless – just as hers was. “I was summoned, my lord?” The question was spoken very calmly, as if the king had only summoned her to ask if she wanted to eat berries or nuts.
“Yes, Grandniece. Celeborn has just arrived from the front.” It was then that Artanis recognized the dirty courier as Celeborn. He was attired in armor – a sight Artanis had rarely seen before, and so streaked with blood and dirt that he was hardly recognizable.
“Galadriel.” Celeborn said her name softly, and she knew, she knew….
Oh Valar, not my brothers. Please not my brothers. Not Finrod. Please not Finrod. “What news from the front, my lord?” And she knew that he would tell her anything she asked, even if it hurt her, for she was no angel to be protected but a woman capable of judging the amount of hurt that she could withstand.
He told her all that he knew, of the deaths of Angrod and Aegnor, the loss of Pass of Aglon, that Hithlum and Himring remained unconquered, and of Fingolfin’s valiant death. Through it all, Artanis sat stiffly, her face pale and her lips clamped shut. When it was finally over, Celeborn abandoned his post next to the king, and kneeling at her feet, he touched her hand – a light, undemanding touch telling her that although he was no rock for her to lean on, she had his sympathies. “I am sorry, Galadriel.”
Mutely she accepted his condolences, all the while thanking fate for leaving Finrod unharmed – and feeling guilty for thinking so. Angrod and Aegnor were dear to her as well, and Fingolfin had in many ways understood her more than her father and Fëanor ever had. But cold practicality demanded that she acknowledge her preference, which had been granted.
Turning to Thingol, she requested formally, “My lord, I would like your permission to return to Finrod.”
Thingol hesitated, the fear for her safety evident in his gray eyes. Celeborn, seeing his hesitation, offered, “My lord, perhaps if the princess has an escort?”
“I need no escort, my lords.” Artanis did not relish sharing a long ride with Thingol’s warriors. “Besides, sire, all your men are needed here.”
“That is so, but I cannot allow you to leave Doriath unescorted. Especially now, when the countryside is swarming with Orcs and other foul creatures. I shall send Celeborn with you, for I would like him to speak to Fingon for me. As he is now the King of the Noldor, I must acknowledge his kingship, or else the Sindar will not recognize him.” He gave his niece a stern glance laced with gentleness. “Is that acceptable to you, Grandniece?”
She nodded. “Yes, my lord.” She looked away briefly so that neither the king nor Celeborn would see the grief in her eyes. “If it is permitted, my lord, I would like to retire to my chambers.”
“Of course.” Thingol came towards her and placed his hands on her shoulders. “Your brothers died valiantly, and they are a credit to your race. Surely you can recognize that, my child?”
Artanis nodded. “Yes, sire.” With a final curtsey, she left the chamber, which had grown oppressive with the sympathies of both Celeborn and the king.
The journey to Nargothrond passed in silence. Celeborn left Artanis to her thoughts, instead speaking with the dozen warriors that had also come with them. She was grateful for the reprieve, but then again, Celeborn had always known when she wanted silence and when she wanted to speak.
The journey took longer than it usually did, for the battle had left the terrain rough and dangerous. They would pass by large stinking piles of burnt Orc bodies, but because it was Elvish custom to remove the bodies of their fallen warriors right away, no Elvish bodies were left behind for the Orcs to collect. But in the hastiness of retreat, they must have been unable to collect fallen equipment, which explained why Artanis and her party would periodically come across bits of Elvish armor or other such belongings. Thingol’s warriors had silently made it their task to collect the belongings of their dead brethren so that they could be returned to Finrod at Nargothrond.
They encountered no resistance from Finrod’s watchmen in the hills although Artanis knew that there were several arrows trained on them during every moment of their journey. Finally, only a few miles from the entrance, Edrahil, one of Finrod’s chieftains, came to greet them. “Welcome, Lady Artanis.”
“Captain, I am glad to see that you have survived unscathed.” Artanis perused the tall form of Edrahil. Other than for the tiredness etched in his handsome features, he looked healthy.
“Not unscathed, lady. Not in here.” He tapped his breast.
Artanis nodded in understanding, and then turning to the silver-haired Elf to her side, “My lord, may I present to you Edrahil, one of my brother‘s most loyal war captains?”
Edrahil bowed. “It is a honor, my lord.”
“I assure you, Captain, that the honor is mine.” Celeborn clasped Edrahil’s arms in kinship. “We in Doriath have heard of your people’s courage and valiant defense.”
The captain looked saddened. “It was not enough, sir.”
“In war, nothing is enough. But we all try,” said Celeborn gently. “And that is all we can do.”
Artanis watched the exchange with a certain degree of gladness. Celeborn, with his quiet praise, knew exactly how to restore Edrahil’s faith in himself. “Captain, would be so kind as to direct us to my brother?” she asked.
“King Felagund is in the southern caves, my lady.” Edrahil beckoned one of his lieutenants to see to the needs of Celeborn’s escort, and then he led them past the main halls to the caves further beyond. “There are so many wounded that the infirmary could no longer hold all of the soldiers, so the King ordered a temporary infirmary built in the outer caves of Nargothrond. These caves have more fresh air and some sunlight, which the king insisted that the patients would require.”
Artanis chuckled. “It certainly does sound like Finrod.” As the group drew closer to the infirmary, the air took on a stifled stench. Though it smelled like lavender and other pleasant scents, the stench of death and blood was also mixed in.
“Ai Elbereth!” exclaimed Celeborn upon entrance to the infirmary. Hundreds of makeshift beds were scattered throughout the room as patients with various injuries waited to be examined by the very few healers available.
“Everyday, more wounded are brought in,” said Edrahil sadly. “The healers and their apprentices tirelessly work day and night, but still the injured are overwhelming.” The captain scanned the room. “Lord Finrod is over there, my lady.” He pointed to a shadowed corner of the room. Artanis thanked him gratefully, and then with Celeborn a few steps behind her, she made her way to her brother.
Finrod was sitting slumped in a chair, his golden hair matted with dirt, grime, and blood. A normally impeccable dresser, his tunic and leggings were torn in several places, and the original color of the garments was not even recognizable. Only his harp was clean, which lay limply in his hands. In front of the king lay a small Elf-lad, his chest bandaged very securely.
Artanis must have made some sort of noise, for Finrod’s head shot up. “Artanis?” The question was part hope and part fear.
She went around the bed to kneel at her brother’s feet. “I came as quickly as I could.”
“Thank the Valar for you, sister.” He wrapped his arms around her, and for a long moment, they remained holding each other as Celeborn quietly watched on. Finrod finally released his sister, and although much of the dirt from Finrod’s clothes had transferred itself to Artanis’s, she did not care in the least. Finrod was alive and well right in front of her eyes. That was all the mattered at the moment.
Artanis took a deep breath as she searched for what to say. “You were playing your harp?” was the first thing that came to mind. She did not want to ask about her other brothers just yet.
“Yes.” Finrod set the harp on the floor. “We found this boy on the fields – I suspect he must have followed his father to battle. He is so injured that the healers hold little hope for his survival.” Finrod gently caressed the sleeping boy’s hair. “He was crying for his parents, so I thought that if I sang for him, he could finally seek rest.”
“And what of you? Have you rested?” The question was asked gently.
He rubbed his eyes. “Perhaps later,” he said vaguely. “I will not be able to rest until everyone is safely inside these caves.” Fully aware of Finrod’s stubbornness, Artanis did not press the issue.
“My lord?” It was Celeborn, whose quiet presence had been forgotten.
Finrod looked abashed. “Forgive me, Celeborn. I meant no disrespect.”
“None taken, my lord,” assured Celeborn. “I would like your permission to send for Sindarin healers. Your own are overwhelmed, and I am sure they would be glad for more help.”
“That would be very much appreciated, Celeborn,” said Finrod gratefully. The silver-haired prince nodded as he took his leave, undoubtedly seeking a messenger to go bring more help from the villages outside Doriath.
Once he left, Finrod turned to his sister. “He is very kind.”
“Yes, he is,” she agreed.
He took her hand and led her through a long hallway and into his study.
Finrod spoke again. “Thankfully, we are almost done with the burials. I do not think I could stomach anymore…” his voiced trailed off. In Aman, the Eldar had never thought about burial, but when the Noldor arrived in Middle-Earth, they had been forced to deal with burial rites. The Sindar, they had learned, preferred to bury their dead deep within the forests, so that their bodies would return to the very woods that had fostered them. Most of the Noldor had accepted this tradition, but the Fëanorians instead preferred to burn the bodies to ashes – a tradition that had its roots in the death of Fëanor. (2)
“What of Angrod and Aegnor?” she asked softly.
“Their bodies were buried with the others in Dorthonion.” His eyes glistened with silent tears. “I wanted to bring their bodies here so that we could perform the final rites ourselves, but it was too dangerous to transport bodies, as Ard Galen is still teeming with Orc parties. But Vastian, Angrod’s lieutenant, brought me these.” He removed two knives from his belt. “I suppose these will do,” murmured Finrod.
Her breath hitched as she fingered the blades carefully. “Their hunting knives.” She remained silent for a few moments as memories of Angrod and Aegnor overcame her. “Where is Orodreth?” she finally asked.
“He has returned to Minas Tirith.” Finrod exhaled softly. “He is in a bad state, Artanis.”
“He was closer to Angrod and Aegnor than we were.” She lovingly caressed Aegnor’s knife.
Finrod nodded sorrowfully. “Yes, he was. It is strange, really, but I always considered these two to be the youngest in our family. You always seemed older than they.”
Artanis’s hand dropped as she fell into a chair. “At times I felt like an older sister – both were so full of mischief.”
Leaving her side, he tenderly wrapped the knives in cloth, which he placed on his desk, and then went to stand by the fireplace. He stretched out his hands, his elegant hands that wielded the harp just as easily as it wielded a stonecutter’s tool or a sword, as he sought warmth from the fire.
Except something was missing. “Finrod, where is your ring?”
Finrod sighed and placed his hands on the mantle for support. “I gave it away.”
“You gave away father’s ring?” Artanis was flabbergasted.
“Yes.” And then he told her what had transpired, of how he had almost died, and of how the mortal Barahir had come to his rescue. “It is an honor debt, sister.”
“To a mortal,” she said flatly.
Finrod passed a hand over his eyes. “Artanis, honor is honor, regardless of where it is found.”
Her hands clenched in her lap. “But now you are bound to this man – and to all his descendents.”
She did not allow him to continue. “Over the years, I have watched you grow attached to the Atani with many misgivings, but I had thought that you would not abandon common sense for them! Finrod,” she said imploringly, “You spend most of your days concerned with the fate of these men, yet you hardly ever think of our own.”
“That is not true, Artanis.”
“Is it not?” She shook her head. “You say that Barahir saved your life today. But tell me, was he the only one? How many of our people have taken arrows in your stead, have followed you from place to place, and have given up their dreams to fulfill the dreams of their lord?” Her voice was rising in a crescendo. “So why have you chosen to honor this mortal, brother? Why him?”
Finrod did not answer for several moments. And then, clenching his jaws: “Because he did not have to. “The only thing I could give him was my oath.”
A sense of dread filled her. “This may lead to your death, Finrod,” she said.
“So be it,” he said with cold finality.
This situation was achingly familiar. Except last time, she had stood in front of her father and had severed all times with him. She could not, would not, do the same with Finrod, as much as his decision made her upset.
So for the first time in her life, she backed down and gave into her brother. “Very well then. It will be as you say. The House of Finarfin shall aid any of those of Barahir’s line. I promise that I will offer them help should they ever seek it.”
“It is not your debt.”
“But it is. You gave them the ring of Finarfin, and though it was yours, I am also bound to it.”
He closed his eyes in relief. “Thank you, Artanis.” He placed his hands above the fire again, as if a sudden chill had overcome him. “Celeborn will be leaving for Hithlum in a fortnight. I understand that he is conveying a message from Thingol.”
“Yes, he is.” Artanis joined her brother at the fire, hoping that the fire would ward off the lingering cold dread regarding Finrod’s oath. “I have a mind to accompany him.”
“You just arrived today.”
She nodded regretfully. “Yes, but I had a duty to Fingolfin, and I imagine that I now have a duty to Fingon.”
Disappointment etched Finrod’s features. “Forgive me for sounding selfish, sister, but I had hoped that you would remain here and spend time with me.”
“After I come back from Hithlum, I will stay here.” She offered a tentative smile. “Unless you put me out, of course.”
“You need not worry about anything, Artanis.” Fingon offered her a tray of fruits and then took a seat behind his desk. Fingolfin’s desk, she corrected herself. The open windows in the study allowed for maximum sunlight, and when Fingon stood in front of the window, his features would be appear less distinguishable, and it would seem, only for a few brief moments, that Fingolfin had returned to life. But Fingon, though he had the look of his father, shared little else with him. The traits that Fingolfin had taken with him to his grave, the shrewdness, the sly cunning, seemed to linger near the birch desk, which caused Fingon to appear dwarfed – almost as if he could not compete with his father’s legacy.
He shook his head, the crown of his kingship gleaming in the sunlight. “He released you from all obligations. And he left you with this letter.” He handed her a scroll. “I imagine that he explained himself.”
“Ah.” She did not know what else to say. If Fingon had no more uses for her, then what was she to do? “What will be done with the province in Ossiriand?”
“I will probably send some of my people over there. Although Ossiriand was not attacked, the regions surrounding it are unstable, especially now that Thargelion is not there as a buffer anymore.”
Artanis contemplated this silently. Fingon had a point in that a greater military force would be required to keep Ossiriand, rich with farmlands and Green Elves, from falling to the enemy. But was Fingon the one to provide it? “Perhaps it would be better if Maedhros sent some of his own people. Himring is closer, and he already has a relationship with them.”
Fingon frowned. “Maedhros is overtaxed. I cannot ask more from him.”
He also wants his own people there, and I am not considered one of them anymore. When did he stop trusting me? But then again, Fingon was no longer a prince who could freely give his trust to anyone, including his cousins.
Artanis shrugged delicately. “It is your prerogative. Where is Ereinion? And Seniel?” she asked, referring to his son and wife.
“I sent Ereinion to be fostered with Cirdan at the Havens.” His features grew heavy. “It is too dangerous here, and I do not know if Hithlum can hold against another assault.” But then his features brightened. “Senial is still here, however.”
“She would not leave?”
Fingon chuckled ruefully. “No, she would not. But Senial is a woman with the skills to defend herself. Ereinion is but a child.” He paused, and then: “I received a missive from Turgon this morning. He…received my father’s body.” Not knowing what to say, she kept silent. “Turgon built a cairn fom him on top of the mountains. It would have been nice if I could have been there as well.” Fingon looked out the windows in the direction of the Havens. “I wonder if one day my son will bury me. Far better, however, than burying my son.”
She nodded sympathetically. “Cirdan will keep Ereinion safe.”
“Yes, he will.” Suddenly brisk, “Artanis, do forgive me. It is selfish of me to complain over not being able to bury my father when you could not bury your brothers.”
“I did not come here for comfort, Fingon,” she said pointedly.
He smiled. “No, you did not. I daresay that you seek comfort from no one.”
She raised her brows. “There is Finrod.”
Fingon waved that away. “I would wager that it is you who comforts him.” A sharp rap at the door indicated that her time was up. “I have an appointment with my steward,” he said apologetically.
“I did not mean to keep you.” Artanis stood, Fingolfin’s scroll burning in her hands.
“You did not keep me. I enjoyed speaking with you Artanis, and I hope we will speak like this again before you leave.” He walked her to the door, but before she could open it, “Your friend, Celeborn, has relayed Thingol’s message to me.”
Her eyes sharpened. “What did he say?”
“What I expected. He offered his condolences on Father’s death and he welcomed me as the new king.” He sighed in frustration. “He will never be our ally, will he?”
She shook her head in denial. “Thingol is still angry, and he is as proud as ever. He is determined to prove that he can survive without the Noldor.”
“As long as Melian is with him. But they can only keep Doriath safe – not the lands surrounding it.”
He placed a hand on he shoulder. “One day, he will need our help.”
She placed her hand over his. “Will we give it to him?”
“I do not know.” Another rap on the door. “I must put you out, Artanis. I trust I will see you at tonight’s meal?”
She inclined her head gracefully. “Of course.” She strolled through the door he held open for her, and after exchanging greetings with the steward, she made her way outdoors. She had grown accustomed to the habit of reading letters outside, and although she burned with impatience to read Fingolfin’s scroll, she had to find the perfect spot to read it from.
The gardens at Hithlum were a far cry from the ones at Doriath, or even the ones she had in Ossiriand. But Hithlum was a fortress, so the fact that it even had an enclosed patch of greenery was surprising. Thanks in part to the efforts of Senial, blooms and various trees were flourishing. Unfortunately, several people were strolling the gardens, and because the area was so small, Artanis was guaranteed no privacy.
She hissed in irritation as she tried to think of another place to read the letter – and looked up.
A few minutes later, she was securely seated on the branch of an oak tree, too high above the ground to be bothered, or in fact, noticed.
My dear niece,
I wrote this letter in the event that I would die without being able to say goodbye. The times are harsh, so can you fault an old Elf for having as many contingency plans as possible?
I have instructed Fingon to release you from all obligations that you had to me. This includes the one regarding your marriage to a son of Fëanor. Fingon would not have asked that of you, but I cannot speak of Turgon, or if my grandson ever becomes king, Ereinion. I thought it best to release you from your promise now. And because I am dead (as you would not have received this letter otherwise), you cannot argue with me.
By now you know that I have given Ossiriand to Fingon, although by rights, the region should have been yours. No one is more deserving of her own realm than you, Artanis, and I know that you are capable of maintaining that land. But I have foreseen some problems. If I had left Ossiriand to you, you would have been besieged by suitors night and day. Caranthir, in particular, has evinced much interest in your land and has on several occasions attempted to buy it from me. Knowing Caranthir, I imagine he would have manipulated you into some position (perhaps he would threaten the Green Elves, or even the Avari) so that you would have no choice but to marry him.
Caranthir will certainly not consider marrying Fingon for the land – or perhaps I should not make too many assumptions regarding Caranthir.
I do not want you to think that you are without assets. I know that you gave Finrod whatever valuables you possessed to aid him when he first began constructing Nargothrond, and whatever other fortunes you had were tied up in Ossiriand. A significant portion of money has been put aside in the treasury for you. Consider it for services rendered in Ossiriand. This money is for your use. Whatever you wish to do with it – to start building a kingdom somewhere, to buy presents with, to buy dresses, etc., is completely up to you.
Now that the business part is over –
I would like you to know that although it may have seemed so on many occasions, you never were a pawn to me. My brothers, as much as they loved you, treated you as one. I cannot, indeed, will not, apologize on their behalf, nor I will not deny you were an asset to me. But I have sought to be honest in my motives regarding you, and if I have ever used you, I have always told you first. You are a woman of honor, and I knew that as long as you were bound to me, you would not deceive me. Therefore, I knew that I did not have to deceive you.
When my brothers began to fight over you, I thought them both silly. Fëanor and Finarfin, two princes of the Noldor, quarreling over a young girl – the reason for the great impasse between them. Fëanor saw his qualities within you, and Finarfin tried to fill you with his.
How strange for me to realize that I understand now, and perhaps, if I had known then what I do now, and if my temperament were different than what it is, I too would have fought over you. Like me, you are stubborn and cold, and you know when to yield a small dream to get a bigger one. But my temperament being what it is, I will not say that I wish you had been my daughter, for that is not true. If you had been my daughter, I would have seen you from a father’s eyes, and not as an adult fully capable of making decisions on her own. By the same token, I do not love you either, except perhaps in the distant way I love the people of my House.
Your judgment has always been of value to me, as was your advice and companionship. I will not console you by saying that the Valar will forgive you one day, just as I refuse to believe they may forgive me. Instead, allow me to wish you luck in building a future here.
I have a feeling that you will outlive us all, and if you did, well, that would be the greatest irony. Why, you ask? Perhaps one day, should we ever chance to meet again, I shall tell you.
With the best of wishes, Fingolfin, High King of the Noldor
Artanis shivered as she felt a sharp stab of pain – as well as a swift uprising of hope that one day, the two of them would meet again. From the beginning, Fingolfin had never tried to be a father to her as his brothers had. He was simply there, a man of few words whose presence was all the more remarkable in its intensity. He was the man who had known her best, had known her even better than the people who loved her; he was the man who had expected her to be neither better nor worse, nor anything other than herself. She had been at ease with him, been engaged by him. She had been adult with him.
He must be laughing now, for he had given Morgoth a limp.
Year 457 of the First Age – Nargothrond
“He was frightening, Artanis.” Orodreth sat shivering in front of the Fire in the Great Hall. “When I set my eyes upon him – I have never seen anything so hideous, even among the foulest of Orcs.”
Only a few hours ago, Orodreth had arrived with the remainder of his warriors with the news that Sauron had successfully laid siege to the watchtower at Tol Sirion. Although Finrod was grieved that his fair isle was lost, he was also happy that his brother had survived. “Sauron worries me more than Morgoth,” she admitted. “There is something about him, something even darker and more twisted than his lord.”
“I heard that he was once a servant of Aulë.” Orodreth wrapped the blanket more tightly around himself. “Now he is Morgoth’s servant.”
She shook her head, the fine golden strands catching the firelight. “I think that Sauron serves himself.” She patted her brother’s shoulder. “You should seek some rest, brother. Your wounds, though slight, still need to heal.”
He rose and kissed her cheek affectionately. “I will do as you bid.”
“Sleep well,” she whispered to his retreating figure. Once he was out of sight, she sat down on the bench again.
“I fear that sleep will never come to your darling brother again, cousin.”
The sneering voice could have only two possible owners in Nargorthrond. As this voice was deeper: “Why do you think so, Celegorm?”
“Those who look upon Sauron’s face are never able to escape it again, even in their dreams.” He took a seat beside her, his face for once relaxed in contemplation. “Or so I have heard.” He stretched with a strange cat-like grace that so reminded her of Maedhros. “Orodreth was quite lucky in not being caught. I had never credited your brother for such slipperiness, but he has exceeded my expectations.”
“If he had been caught, he would have died.” Artanis repressed a shudder at the thought of her brother dying. It was one thing to fall in battle but quite another to die at the hands of Sauron…
“I doubt Sauron would have killed him.” He leaned closer to whisper in her ear. “You have heard the stories of our kindred who were captured by the Dark Lord and then set free – except that their wills were chained to his. Would you have wanted that for him?”
No, she would not. She would prefer her brother dead than to have him live as Morgoth’s servant. “But you accepted Maedhros back easily enough. Are you saying that you do not trust him?”
If Celegorm was unnerved by her question, he did not show it. “Maedhros is my brother, and fraternal solidarity prevents me from ever going against him – no matter whom he serves.”
“That was not what I asked.”
“You asked me if I trusted him, and I do.”
She examined her cousin’s face for deceit but found none. “You speak in riddles, Celegorm.”
He chuckled. “Or perhaps you are not capable of understanding me.”
“Then I beg for your indulgence.”
“Maedhros came back from captivity, and though his spirit remained unconquered, Morgoth’s shadow lingers in him still. So perhaps Maedhros is an unwitting tool of Morgoth – just as our father was. Regardless, Maedhros is still the head of my House, and as long as he remains true the Oath, I do not care whom he serves.”
Artanis glanced at him in surprise. “So it would be better to say that the Oath is your master?”
Celegorm nodded. “Indeed. As it has been from the beginning.”
“Do you really mean that?” she asked, regret tingeing her voice.
He blinked; not shutting away tears, of course, since a son of Fëanor does not cry, but perhaps a possibility – a memory – of tears. “I think so.” Celegorm averted his eyes for a few moments, and when he looked up, they were scornful again. “I have heard an interesting tale in the kitchens this morn.”
She raised her brow in interest. “It must have been quite a tale if it had you lurking in the kitchens.”
Ignoring her jest, he smiled in malicious amusement. “Your Sindarin cousins have seen fit to provide me with entertainment.”
“His sister-in-law, in fact. She apparently had quarreled with her husband, and leaving behind her own daughter, she managed to escape the Girdle of Melian. She was found by one of Finrod’s scouts, who later handed her over to a rather distraught Celeborn. In gratitude, he gave the scout his stallion – you know the one everyone is always envious of.”
“Nien,” she supplied.
He nodded. “The very one. A magnificent creature, worth more than that stupid woman’s life. I will see if I can get the scout to part with him. After all, what does he need such a magnificent animal for?”
Ever the hunter, he went on, describing the smooth lines of the stallion. Artanis nodded mindlessly, her mind still on Celegorm’s tale. Galadhon had been right in his predictions. The lack of understanding between Galathil and Linneth is finally paying its toll on their marriage. Naturally, Celeborn would be the one to intercede. And for the first time, she allowed her heart to accept the strange bitterness growing within her.
Year 463 of the First Age – Menegroth
Melian watched indulgently as Luthien sang, as always accompanied by Daeron. Seated next to her, Celeborn watched with a small smile as well, for regardless of his mood, Luthien and Daeron’s music always had a way of moving him. “Luthien is akin to a bird, so free-spirited is she.” commented the queen idly. “Sometimes I fear that the confinement of Doriath will cause her to feel stifled.”
“Foresight, my queen?” asked Celeborn curiously.
She laughed, an airy sound that always cheered him. “No, simply a mother’s perception of her daughter.”
“Daeron loves her,” he stated softly.
“I know.” Melian’s eyes fell upon the minstrel. “And Luthien loves him – just as she loves Galathil, just as she loves you.” She sighed. “Daeron’s love is much like Doriath itself – Luthien would feel trapped in its boundaries. And even if that were not the case, Thingol would not allow a minstrel to marry his daughter. I fear that in matters concerning Luthien, I have less say.”
Celeborn nodded, too wise in the way of politics to comment.
Melian clasped her hands in her lap. “It is the right of any mother to wish for the well-being of her daughter.” She looked grave. “We have seen what unhappy marriages can do,” she said, referring to Galathil and Linneth.
“They were not unhappy in the beginning. And they love each other still,” defended Celeborn.
“Of course,” she agreed noncommittally. “But if not for their daughter, they would feel no responsibility for each other. Sometimes, Celeborn, love is not enough.” Her green eyes flickered towards Daeron.
He covered his face with his hands. “I love Linneth,” he admitted. “Perhaps not enough to be a better husband than Galathil, but I do love her.”
“Do you,” and she said no more, her voice blending with the sounds of the birds, the wind, and the melodies being sung by her daughter. Celeborn turned to her sharply, astonished, and she smiled in amusement. “Well, what did you wish me to say? You can hardly expect me to comfort you in this, and you surely do not need to be told that you are a fool.”
Celeborn laughed bitterly. “No, I know that for myself.”
“Well, am I to encourage you to end this silly infatuation?
“I do not know if I can.”
She shrugged. “I imagine that you will be obliged to, eventually.” She accepted a glass of water from her handmaiden. “Are you feeling guilty for loving the wife of your brother – and perhaps for secretly being joyous that their marriage is failing? Do you wish for me to assuage your conscience?”
He shook his head. “No, on that account I manage well enough myself, I suppose.”
For the first time, impatience entered her ageless eyes. “Let me ask you something. What are you hoping for, Celeborn? They are bonded, and nothing can break that bond – regardless of how they – and you – currently feel.”
“I want nothing,” he answered. “I cannot help loving her.”
“Then how gratifying must it be for Linneth to have both your love and your brother’s. Poor Linneth, to be forced to continue married life – and continue it she does, for had she stopped sharing her bed with Galathil, her maids would have been quick to spread the word.” And as Celeborn gasped at the blow, she went on smiling as she used to do when he had been much younger, ruthless in the administration of what she perceived to be a cure. “It must have occurred to you many a time, but have hope, for there is always the possibility that Galathil will go into battle and never return. And though Linneth could never be your wife, she would be free to become your mistress.”
Celeborn cried out at the cruelty of Melian’s words. “It is not like that! I would never wish Galathil dead, just as I have never wished my father dead.”
The ruthlessness gone from the queen’s eyes, for she perceived that her words had struck home, she wrapped a gentle arm around her grandnephew. “Celeborn I do not mean to hurt you. But sometimes I feel that you insist on maintaining this love for Linneth because you fear a greater emotion.” She patted his knee. “This is really about Galadriel, is it not?”
“It could be about Galadriel,” he admitted honestly. “But I try not to make it so.” He closed his eyes. “I hate the shadow that lies upon her and all her kin. Every time I see her, she grows darker and darker, as if Morgoth and this war are her only realities.”
“It is the curse of the Noldor.” She examined Celeborn closely. “May I ask you something?”
“Of course,” he said, fully aware that the queen would ask anyway.
“When you found Linneth, you gave the scout who found her your most beloved possession – Nien, the only surviving horse left from the line your mother so lovingly bred. That was quite a sacrifice, for I know how much Nien meant to you. So I ask you – would you have given Nien up for Galadriel?”
He stared at the queen for a long time before answering. “I cannot believe,” he said steadily, “that she ever would have placed me in the position of having to do so.”
Satisfied, the queen directed her attention back to her daughter’s singing.
Year 465 of the First Age – Nargothrond
“He has been gone for over a month, sister.” Orodreth and Artanis sat in Finrod’s study – the very same place, where, ten years ago, Finrod had explained to her his oath to Barahir.
“I do not think he means to return.” Artanis despondently looked into the fire. “I saw it in his eyes. But part of me hopes that he will.”
“That hope is the greater part of me,” said Orodreth. Every night, he and his sister would retire to Finrod’s study, and they would sit together in quiet reflection as they waited to hear news of their beloved brother. “Do you know,” asked Orodreth, “that I would be able to handle your death, just as I handled Angrod’s and Aegnor’s, but I would have the hardest time accepting Finrod’s?”
She threaded her fingers through his, silently offering comfort. “I know what you mean.”
“He is dear to me – perhaps even dearer to me than my own daughter.” He slanted a mocking glance to Artanis. “How strange and shameful.”
Artanis smiled, her gaze free of any recrimination. “Not shameful. Finrod is the tie that holds our House together – from our days in Valinor. The truth is, we need Finrod more than he needs us.”
“I doubt you need anyone, Artanis.”
She tapped her chin. “People keep telling me that, and I find that the more I hear it, the more I believe it, and so the more it comes true. A self-fulfilling prophecy.” She placed her chin in her hand. “Better though, than needing people all the time.”
“Yes, better,” he agreed.
They both jumped at the loud knock on the door. “Enter,” called out Orodreth.
A dirty messenger stumbled through, his eyes wild and anguished. “My lord!”
Artanis closed her eyes as horror filled her. This scene was a repeat of another that occurred much earlier – as was the pattern in her life.
Orodreth was wrong – she did need Finrod. Except this time he was not here.
And would never be again.
- (1) I’m using the word “man” here to refer to the male gender, not to the species. Using “male” every time was starting to annoy me.
- (2) In the Silmarillion (paperback, second edition, Del Ray 1999), there a few documented cases of Elvish burial. Fingolfin (181), Finrod (207), and Glorfindel (292). Of the Fëanorians, Tolkien says nothing, but I’ve taken the artistic license in thinking that they would choose to honor Fëanor in this respect.
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