1. Beyond the Shadow
The Halls of the Dead hold much room for thought, as the tattered soul is knit together and its hurts are mended.
The memories of the body decay like rotting flesh. I barely remember the venom of the werewolf coursing through my veins, or the slicing Orc blades at Serech, where tears shed for brothers slain mingled with my sweat and blood. The frostbites of the Ice have faded, the bones in my grave do not know the cold. But the naked soul is stubborn and clings to the past. It recalls every word uttered, every decision taken, all the doubts, regrets and fears of a guilty conscience, the courage of despair and the laborious birth pangs of hope.
How shall I be cured of grieves that burrow into my soul like maggots into dead meat? What will my heart tell my mind, or my mind tell my heart to hold true? My brothers went here before me, taken by the roiling flame-bursts of the dragon that crossed the green plain to reap the harvest of our Doom - and bitter ashes of mourning blew into the wailing mouths of those bereft of friends and kin.
One brother may choose to clothe himself in a cloak of living flesh once more. The other will not: the one who loved unwisely; he shall see the stars no more. The hot flame of his passion merged with the fell fire of his wrath, till he who would be bane of all life blew it out and the spirit was ripped from charred remains.
My soul spoke to his, but the words it whispered in the caverns of his loss flew back unheeded, echoing dread. To reject rehousal is held a taint of the fëa: it betokens weakness and lack of courage, but trying to fathom this my mind reels at the edge of an abyss. Can a fearless warrior be so faint of heart? Why not rather believe that my brother is marred like Arda, a marring to last while Arda lasts?
A mortal lifetime ere he fell I found my brother changed. Aikanár, the Sharp Flame, he was named by a mother's foresight, but that day the fire was dulled. In his halls in Dorthonion's cold hills, exposed to northern gales and Angband's baleful glare, he wrapped me in gloomy welcome and kissed me with clouded eyes.
'What is it that burdens thy heart and lines thy mouth as with mortal cares, brother?' I asked when we had leisure to speak of matters more private than the Siege.
'Why would it be anything but the worries of war?'
He was my little brother and I loved him too well not to know better. 'Our war has not changed since yesteryear. Thou hast. Why, brother mine?'
His face averted, he said: 'Love. Love is eating my heart.'
Night was nigh; shadows were building sorrow around us. Carefully I spoke into his silence: 'Indeed these are not times to wed and beget. Does no hope lie in waiting? Or' - and my hand touched his shoulder like a bird alighting on an unfamiliar tree - 'would foresight of fate or doom warn against it?'
And bending as in a terrible wind Aikanáro replied. 'Even if fate were kinder, no hope would lie in waiting. Mortal cares, thou sayest, and hast spoken true. She whom I love is of the Edain, and Andreth will not tarry.'
There is valor of the hröa and courage of the fëa. No foe had ever seen my brother's back; wounds of the flesh he bore without wincing. That day, his heart wept within him like a child afeared of nameless perils. Yet, though I sensed his anguish, no word of comfort came to my lips. Wisdom I was named, yet none of my counsels were a match for his misery that night.
'Does she share thy love?' I asked.
'Aye,' he sighed, 'would that she did not. Hers is a rash and fearless heart. She thrust at me what I could not take and now this daughter of the Sun fears herself scorned by a mere son of the Stars. Why lead them here, brother, and not send them back over the mountains when the Green-Elves bade them go? What am I to do?'
His back bent under a burden of my making, for it was I who had returned from the eastern marches riddled with this new strangeness of mortality. I was in doubt. Should I tell him to pick this flower of brief beauty for precious few suns of delight dearly paid for? It would leave him in a wasteland, I deemed, for the dying doom the deathless to bleak bereavement, while the deathless doom the dying to black despair.
And so, I became not my brother's keeper but his prison-guard. 'Would that I could lift this fate from thee, little brother; it followed in my wake. Would that I saw more clearly, but how tell thee yea or nay when neither evil seems the lesser? All I can do is ask: wouldst thou espouse her and see her wither and shrink till she knows naught but shame for what she was born to be? Or wouldst thou rather keep thy memory of her unblemished?'
That last word was what he wished to hear, I deem: he clung to it as windblown trees hold on to naked hillsides. Yet speaking them I pointed him to Mandos till the end of days. His love tore his soul; by turning from her he could no more heal it than she could by dying on him.
The Halls of Awaiting offer all the mortality our kindred will find within the circles of the world. He claimed it in that very hour.
Mortal tongue could name me wisdom; but mortal heart could make me wise. Deeds spoke where words would fail. Yet how, in these Houses that are home to him now, could I tell my brother of a maid undying, undaunted by Doom and grasping the Gift with eager heart? How break to him that I died for her love, who never did battle for his?
Needless the tale; thought naught I tell, he knows it withal.
How bring comfort, then, to this cold soul whose flames once dared and danced? I beg him forgiveness, he heeds it not; his back bids me leave. I weep with him, he sees it not; his eyes are draped with mourning. I lock him in a memory of embrace, he wants it not -
- but I must not fail him again.
'Brother mine', whispers my disembodied voice, 'though this be thy chosen abode, despair not. I bade her wait beyond world's end, beyond the shadow ahead, beyond the circles of time. There, she will bide us, and thou shalt find her.'
'I have to believe thee,' he said.
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.