2. The Widening Gyre
Findekáno's ugly words, spoken so long ago during their last, fateful argument, kept echoing through Maitimo's mind as he searched the darkness for any sign of his father. Although his eyes were now used to the faint starlight, he had never tried following quarry under such difficult conditions, and he now found himself wishing he had Tyelkormo's skills. My little brother tracks almost as well as a hound; he could move through this darkness quickly, while I dare not go too fast lest I miss a sign and lose the trail. But the more slowly I go, the farther ahead Father will get. I have to find him! Please, he silently begged, let me find him before he harms himself in his grief. I can scarcely bear Grandfather's loss; I couldn't endure Father's death, too. Manwë, Varda, help guide me to him!
When he had been a small child, Maitimo had looked up at his father in awe; now he was the taller of the two, but that childish sense of reverence had never completely faded. Truly his father was a spirit of fire; his intensity and vitality made other people seem dim by comparison, and the brightness that burned in Fëanáro's eyes was unmatched by any other Noldo Maitimo knew, even his grandfather. But when Maitimo had arrived at last at the Máhanaxar, where the Valar and the princes of the Eldar stood mourning the ruined Trees, and had begun to recite his dreadful tale, he had watched as that fiery light began to flicker out. As Maitimo spoke, it had seemed to him as though his father shrank and faded, until he'd been reduced to a mere cinder, cold and dead. Overcome at last by grief, Fëanáro had collapsed upon the earth as though he too had been slain, completely oblivious to the presence of his distraught eldest son. While the Valar had continued to closely question Maitimo, he had lain there unmoving, seemingly insensate; for a moment, before he saw the faint movements of his father's chest, Maitimo had feared that Fëanáro's mourning fëa had also fled to the Halls to join Finwë in death. Then his father had abruptly risen, his flame reborn, and even Manwë himself had been taken aback at the heat in Fëanáro's gaze. For the new fire that burned in his eyes had been white-hot and wild, and Maitimo had quailed at the intensity of the anger and pain that had filled his father's voice when he'd damned Melkor, naming him Moringotto, the Black Foe. On and on Fëanáro had raved, alternately cursing the summons of Manwë and berating himself savagely for having obeyed it, leaving his father to face Melkor alone. As his anger had built, he'd seemed to swell with fury, until finally Fëanáro had simply screamed out in raw, impotent rage. And then he'd run heedless into the blackness, leaving Maitimo and the others standing stunned. Maitimo's shock had only lasted for a few moments, but that had been long enough; by the time he had recovered his senses and set off in pursuit of his father, Fëanáro was no longer to be seen. The darkness had swallowed him up, and Maitimo had been reduced to tracking his father's footsteps. And with each step he had taken as he followed the faint trail, Maitimo's dread had grown. Would his search merely lead him in the end to another lifeless form? Please, let my father be all right, he wished desperately.
Concentrating intently, his eyes fixed firmly on the dark ground, Maitimo nearly walked past the motionless figure sitting huddled in the grass, taking it for an upthrust rock at first. For Fëanáro had pulled his lanky frame as nearly into a ball as possible, knees drawn up tightly to his chest, arms wrapped around them, and head pressed down into the hollow created by his limbs as though to blot out all awareness of the world. He remained still as his eldest son approached; only the barely perceptible movements of his chest provided proof that he still breathed.
"Father?" Maitimo gently reached out to touch his father's shoulder, but neither his touch nor his voice was acknowledged; Fëanáro remained unmoving, apparently oblivious. "Father, it's me. Nelyafinwë. I've been so worried about you! Father, talk to me, please?"
No response. Not knowing what else to do, Maitimo sat down on the ground next to his father and put his arm across his father's rigid shoulders, pulling him close, and waited. He sat for what seemed like an eternity, watching the stars slowly wheeling overhead and listening to the faint whisper of the wind blowing through the grass, before he felt a faint stirring in the flesh beneath his hand, and heard his father's softly voiced question.
"You were there, in Formenos, with him. Why are you still alive?"
Now it was Maitimo's turn to stiffen and pull away, shocked. He had expected - what? Wild grief, perhaps, or weeping, or anger, such as he'd seen his father pour out in the Máhanaxar. Not that question. Confused and hurt, he made no reply; after a moment, Fëanáro spoke again, a little more firmly.
"Your brothers, do they also live?"
"Yes, Father," Maitimo replied. "All of us are alive and unhurt; only Grandfather was slain in the attack. Did you not hear me tell that to the Valar? You still have a family who needs you, Father."
"Where are your brothers now?"
"With our people; they're leading everyone back home to Tirion. Formenos is ruined now; with Grandfather dead and the Treelight gone, I didn't think anyone would be willing to stay there any longer. What would be the point?"
"Back to Tirion," Fëanáro murmured softly, then lifted his head up to look at his son. His face was still pale, and faint traces of tears streaked his cheeks, but his eyes glittered strangely in the starlight. "Your father is mad." For an instant, Findekáno's voice seemed to echo on the wind, and Maitimo shivered reflexively. But the moment passed, and the unnerving gleam in his father's eyes seemed to fade as he watched, and Maitimo chided himself for even briefly considering such foolishness. "Take me to them, Nelyafinwë. I think it is time for me to rejoin our people."
"Of course, Father," Maitimo responded, relieved. Surely this was a good sign, that his father wanted to rejoin his family and his followers? His grief might still be raw, Maitimo thought, but the love of his sons and the admiration of his people would serve as a healing balm in time. And there they could all keep an eye on him, to make sure he didn't fade away and die to escape his pain, as his mother had done so long ago. Fëanáro's return would be the first small step back to normal for Formenos's now-lost and leaderless people as well. The recent past had been filled with horrors; Maitimo hoped this was a sign that the evil nightmare they'd all been living through would soon pass by. As he helped his father onto his feet, Maitimo silently thanked the Powers of Aman for answering his prayers.
* * * * * * *
On that fateful day when you left us, Father, you told us you would be coming back, Nolofinwë mourned as he walked up to the base of the throne. The small oil lamp he carried flickered, and seemed to throw almost as many shadows as light; as Nolofinwë stood gazing at the empty seat before him, it seemed as though a great clot of darkness now engulfed the intricately carved and richly upholstered chair. I suspected even then that your words were false; you would remain by my arrogant half-brother's side, blind to his faults as always - how could you think his hatred of us was something you could ever change? But I allowed myself a sliver of hope. Perhaps a city of his own to rule would content Fëanáro's prideful heart, and you could return to Tirion one day to resume your proper place as our people's king. My little brother and I would then be free to resume our former lives, and everything would again be as it once was: you here on your throne, and our elder half-brother, his vanity flattered and his lust for power sated at last, content to ignore our existence once more.
And so I went to make peace with your favorite child, and openly acknowledged his primacy, and told him as plainly as I could that I did not seek to challenge his position in our family or in your heart. What good would it do, in any case? Your own actions had long since made it plain that Fëanáro had already won that battle for your affection. I was saying nothing that was not already obvious to everyone but him. And if saying those words was the price I needed to pay to have any hope of persuading you to return to Tirion one day, than I would pay it gladly. I missed you. Arafinwë missed you. Even if all we ever received from you were the scraps of your love.
But now you're dead, and it was all for nothing, he thought sadly. I can't believe that you'll choose to leave the Halls, and Míriel, even for Fëanáro's sake. And I will have to watch my half-brother take up your crown, and bow to him, and call him 'my lord'. Perhaps Arafinwë and I should begin planning our exile now? "At least when I am forced to leave my home, there will be one consolation; Mother will be glad of my company. She's forever pleading with me to spend more time with her at Taniquetil."
"Who's going to force you to leave your home, brother?"
Nolofinwë turned around to see Arafinwë striding into the room. "Is there no place I can retreat to where I will be left alone in peace?" he said. "Whatever problems you bring with you, I don't want to hear them now. Go away."
"No. I came to talk to you about planning a ceremony for Father, to publicly acknowledge his passing into the Halls. But you are obviously troubled by more than just grief over Father's death, so I'm going to repeat my question. Who's going to force you to leave?"
"Do I need to spell it out to you, Ara? With Father's death, his crown passes to his heir - and that is Fëanáro, not me or you. Do you honestly think our hate-filled half-brother will allow us to remain here in peace? He despises us; we both know it."
"Of course he does. He always has; we're a constant reminder to him that he lost his mother, after all. Our very existence galls him. But why are you so sure he'll come to rule the Noldor? Yes, he's the oldest. But he was banished from Tirion because of his rash actions, and that exile has not yet ended; the Valar won't permit him to return here until the term of his banishment is concluded. Mandos never reverses his judgements so. And when Father left to follow our brother into the wilderness, he announced you as his successor - and most of the Noldor chose to remain behind here, in Tirion, rather than to follow Father and Fëanáro into the wilds. I do not think our people's loyalties will suddenly change merely because Fëanáro wishes to sit here now in Father's stead. And I do not believe that the Valar will interfere with their free choice. Fëanáro may trumpet his 'kingship' over our people as loudly as he can shout, but a king wandering alone in the wilderness, bereft of followers, is no king at all. Our people followed our father Finwë out of love, and love is one thing that Fëanáro has never understood. You won't be going anywhere, brother, no matter how badly Fëanáro wishes it were otherwise," Arafinwë replied.
"I wish I could believe you, brother," Nolofinwë replied quietly, "but my heart remains uneasy. The Valar still weep over the withered Trees; I do not think they will pay events in Tirion much heed at the moment. And you saw how Fëanáro reacted to the news of Father's murder. Rationality was never his strong point; who knows what will happen when he announces his claim and our people refuse to acknowledge it?"
"Well, what can happen? There's really nothing he can do to force our people to follow him, and the public display of childish temper he'll undoubtedly exhibit when he is forced to face that reality will only serve to alienate the few remaining followers he does have. Trust me, Nolo, you need not worry. Now, back to the subject of Father's ceremony. I think we should hold it in the Great Square, and certainly we should invite Ingwë and Olwë to speak, for they knew best his bravery -" Arafinwë's next words were cut off by a loud bang, as the heavy wooden doors of the throne room were roughly shoved open; the resulting gust of wind nearly blew the small, trembling flame of Nolofinwë's oil lamp out completely. Startled and angered, both brothers turned to confront the rude interloper.
"Father! I've been looking everywhere for you. Quick, look out the window, now!" It was Turukáno who had burst into the room, disheveled and breathing heavily. "Fëanáro and his followers are marching on the city!"
Arafinwë's face went grey at those words; Nolofinwë merely shook his head slightly. "Well, brother," he whispered as the three moved towards the bank of windows on the west side of the room, "it seems you overestimated Fëanáro's respect for the rulings of the Valar, and underestimated his anger. But even I never thought he'd be so rash as to launch an attack on Tirion itself. Our people outnumber his by at least five to one!"
"What shall we do?" Arafinwë asked as they watched the small host approaching, hoisting a large banner bearing the sigil Curufinwë Fëanáro had chosen to represent his House, and three smaller ones styled with a white star, symbols of the lost Silmarils. Nolofinwë did not answer immediately; instead he leaned forward, pressing against the glass, straining to make out faint details in the dim starlight.
"They are armed, yes - but they have not yet drawn their weapons. And look - behind the first rank. I think there are children there. I do not believe that even Fëanáro would lead mere youngsters into a battle. I doubt they have come to fight. But then why all the pomp and the aggressive posturing? Turukáno," he said as he straightened up, "go quickly; alert the guards, and gather as many armed men as you can. Find your brother, and your cousins. Have everyone meet at the foot of the Mindon. But tell them all to keep their blades sheathed! Your uncle and I will join you there shortly."
"What are you planning, brother?" Arafinwë asked after Turukáno left.
Nolofinwë replied, his voice very grave. "I am planning to talk to our brother, Ara. And I am going to pray that, just once in his miserable life, Curufinwë Fëanáro will surprise us and listen to reason."
The names of the characters used in this story are all Quenya, and the meanings of all of them can be found in the essay "The Shibboleth of Fëanor," published in The Peoples of Middle Earth (History of Middle Earth, vol. 12). When more than one name is listed for a character, the first name is the father-name, and the second is the mother-name. The Sindarin equivalents of these names are as follows:
Curufinwë Fëanáro - Fëanor
Nelyafinwë Maitimo - Maedhros
Tyelkormo - Celegorm
Nolofinwë - Fingolfin
Arafinwë - Finarfin
Findekáno - Fingon
Turukáno - Turgon
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.