12. Chapter 11: Sharper Than Thy Tongue
He did not wait until the appointed time, for that would have been foolish. In such a battle, against an enemy far stronger, one must use whatever weak weapons one may possess. So Fingolfin strapped his new-forged sword to his belt, covered it with a long cloak, and set out to arrive just before the meeting at the court of King Finwe.
On the stone arch above the gateway to the court were drawn the emblems of Finwe and his three sons. They were not new, but Fingolfin paused to look at them. Feanor had made his first, shortly after he had forged his Silmarils. His sign was a gleaming jewel of multicoloured fire, radiating light on all directions. Finwe had chosen his in response, for if any are to have signs so must the king. His sign was simple fire alone, pulsing out in a circle. It is the fire of the one he had said, but once he called another by that name. Little Finarfin had chosen his next, light with no fire, silver as well as gold, as if to flaunt his Teleri wife. Fingolfin followed his father's lead, and took the flame. For Feanor is not the only fire.
"Father," Fingolfin whispered, trying to feel like a child approaching a parent, but all he could remember was Finwe's dark eyes, dark like Feanor. All the Noldor burn, but Feanor burns brightest of all, with the very fire of the one. Fingolfin gripped the hilt of his sword through his clothes, held it for a moment, then released it and strode into the hall.
Finwe smiled, as if at an overenthusiastic boy. "Wise-child," he said, "you are welcome. What..." Before he could continue, Fingolfin was at his side, kneeling.
"Father," he said, "I must speak with you before the council."
Finwe put his hand on Fingolfin's shoulder. His hand was long, with narrow fingers, just like Fingolfin's own. But larger. It must be larger. Fingolfin bent his head. In smallness there is also power.
"I must speak of your son Feanor," Fingolfin continued. "He has done an evil deed, forging weapons in secret."
"Ah, Wise-child," Finwe said. "You are so quick to see evil. But Feanor, Feanor is quick to take power, for the fire that burns in him is too strong to be contained." Fingolfin clenched his jaw as Finwe spoke, knowing what was coming. "It is the fire of the one."
Fingolfin forced himself to go on. He had not expected Finwe to listen to him, nor did it matter that he would not. He only needed to speak, and to continue speaking until the appointed time. "Feanor has corrupted my son, stealing his loyalty, so that he is now one with those who speak against the Valar."
"There is no corruption in Feanor," said Finwe calmly, explaining. "And Fingon is old enough to converse with his uncle. I would not see suspicion between my children."
There. Footsteps nearing the door. Fingolfin raised his voice, knowing that these were the words history would hear. "King and father," he exclaimed, "will you not restrain the pride of our brother, Curufinwe, who is called the Spirit of Fire all too truly? By what right does he speak for all our people, as if he were King?" Finwe opened his mouth, but Fingolfin rose to his feet and continued as loudly as he could. "It was you who long ago spoke before the Quendi, bidding them accept the summons of the Valar to Aman. It was you that led the Noldor upon the long road through the perils of Middle-earth to the light of Eldamar. If you do not now repent of it, at least you still have two sons who honour your words."
And then it was done. Feanor was in the room, his eyes darker than the angry red plume of his helmet. He looked from Fingolfin, to Finwe, and back. "So it is," he said. He moved towards Fingolfin then, slowly, until they were face to face. "My half-brother would be before me with my father, in this as in all other matters."
It was as if all the world was reduced to Feanor's breath, soft, hot, demanding. And his eyes, alight with anger, and with something far beyond it. Fingolfin wished suddenly that Finwe would speak, but he knew that he would not, that any escape from Feanor would need to come from his own soul.
And did he want escape? There was a weakness now in Feanor that he had not thought to see, and the fire was his own. "Brother," he almost spoke, almost loud enough to hear. Then his hand found again the sword-hilt at his waist. Deliberately, Fingolfin turned away from Feanor, and took one step closer to Finwe.
A clang of metal behind him, and Fingolfin smiled, for victory was near.
"Go and take your rightful place!" Feanor shouted.
This is my rightful place. Fingolfin bowed before Finwe, as low as he could, not looking behind him. Without a word he strode out to the gates, knowing that Feanor would follow. The house of Finwe was in the great square beneath the Mindon, and many were assembled there. At the gates Fingolfin waited, and then turned to face Feanor. It was a dance, almost a seduction, and yet it seemed as if the steps had been made before time. The crowd was behind Fingolfin, so the assembled lords could see Feanor's face but not his own.
Feanor glanced from side to side, looking at the crowd, but returned always to Fingolfin, as Fingolfin had always returned. "What are you doing?" he whispered.
Following you. I will always follow you, brother. "Taking," he said. They were close again, closer than they had been before, whispering words from one mouth to another. Fingolfin had a sudden memory of the kiss before the Silmarils, the demanding touch of Feanor's lips that he had not been able to understand, and in that moment it made sense, although not in the way it seemed. He placed his right palm on Feanor's chest. The metal of Feanor's breastplate was not cold but soft and yielding, and it seemed to ripple around his outstretched fingers. "Taking," he said again. "Your inheritance. Your place." Your fire. "Your father." None burns brighter than the fire of Feanor. "Your son." Fingolfin drew his cloak back slightly to reveal the sword he wore, unmistakably of Maedhros's making. Then he returned his hand to its place on Feanor's chest. It rose and fell quickly beneath his hand. Fingolfin bent forward. His lips brushed the point of Feanor's ear. "Son of Miriel," he said.
Feanor suddenly, convulsively pushed him away. Fingolfin still had enough presence of mind to fall on his back, landing at Feanor's feet. He reached inside his cloak, as if to draw his sword. A flash, and Feanor's sword was at Fingolfin's breast. The next step in the dance.
Both were breathing hard. The thick point of Feanor's sword joined them, hand to breast once more. "See, half-brother," Feanor said finally, "this is sharper than your tongue." The crowd drew closer. Fingolfin was tempted to run his hands up the sword, to show he did not fear it, but for the sake of the watching crowd he refrained. Instead, he did not relent his intent gaze from Feanor. The armor shifted, and he saw the green stone at Feanor's neck. Ah, brother, as you sought to bind you yourself are bound. Fingolfin mouthed a kiss.
"Try but once more to usurp my place," Feanor continued, weakly, lowering his sword, "and the love of my father, and maybe this sword will rid the Noldor of one who seeks to be the master of thralls."
It was a vain threat, of course, unless the one Feanor meant was himself. Fingolfin knew that if Feanor had been truly able to kill him he would have fallen to his death from the cliff many years ago.
The crowd meanwhile began to whisper: swords...madness...danger...swords. Feanor did not move as Fingolfin rose to his feet. Madness. He is mad. He is mad.
It was some time before Fingolfin noticed that his father had emerged, and was standing silent, as if far away. Was this the one who has led the Noldor so bravely, now so without power in the face of his children? Fingolfin went to stand next to him. "Father," he said, "one loyal son remains to you." Finwe did not answer, and his eyes were still on Feanor, and on the crowd that whispered his name.
The trial after that was inevitable. Feanor stood in the Ring of Doom and told a fantastic story about a demon voice, strange whispers, treasonous rumors, a force that craved his Silmarils. Tulkas set forth and sought such a spirit, but could not find it. He brought back an even stranger story, that this spirit had become a cloud. And it seemed to be so, for the light of the trees had dimmed. But as Fingolfin watched Feanor in the circle, answering calmly, submitting himself to the Valar, the trees were not all that had lost their light. When the Valar proclaimed exile on Feanor, he accepted it without comment or argument. Then Finwe stepped into the circle, head bowed. "I accept exile along with my firstborn," he said. He took off his crown and placed it on the floor, as if it were nothing to him. Feanor still did not speak.
Am I the dark cloud that has dimmed the light of the fire? But what else had been his intent? "I will release my brother," Fingolfin called out, hoping it would make a difference, knowing it would not. Feanor did not even look at him as he set off to begin his journey northward, and Finwe spared only one glance at his second son.
When they were out of sight, Mandos lifted the thin circlet of gold that had been Finwe's crown and handed it to Fingolfin. "This is your judgement," he said.
"Judgement?" Fingolfin asked. The metal was cold in his hands.
"Did you believe you would not be judged?" Mandos said. Then he too was gone, leaving Fingolfin alone.
Fingolfin held the crown for a long time before placing it on his head. But it did not warm, and the gold was dull without fire.
Some dialogue is taken from Silmarillion 7: Of the Silmarils, and somewhat adapted.
The site that has the symbols of the various houses is unfortunately down, but you can find most of them on Ithilwen's homepage:
'Wise-child' is a play on Fingolfin's name, which means 'wise Finwe'.
This chapter is dedicated to Maeve, for never ceasing to ask for it.
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.