9. Defying the Darkness
Formenos was entirely different from Tirion. Before coming to Valinor, the Eldar had rarely lived in large dwellings, and so Tirion had been modeled off of Valmar, the city of the Valar. This was the first mistake in the layout of Tirion, for the Valar and the Maiar did not need to conduct everyday life and business like the Eldar. Also, Tirion had begun as a relatively small city, larger than any that had previously been built by the Eldar but still small compared to its present size. Thus, as the Eldar had become more numerous, the city had simply expanded in a circular, sprawling pattern. Formenos made none of these same mistakes.
Feanor designed Formenos as a big city, with wide streets for carts and horses and several smaller marketplaces in addition to the Main Market. Each house was unique in appearance yet added to the overall harmony and beauty of the city. And, of course, there were workshops aplenty. The gardens seemed as natural and peaceful as those of Lorien, and there were ponds with small waterfalls that were reminiscent of Cuivienen. Formenos was primarily constructed of stone, unlike the crystal stairs of Tirion and the golden streets of Valmar, but that did not diminish its beauty in the least. Feanorian lamps of imperishable light hung along the streets like constellations, yet some areas of the city remained unlit by these lamps so that the stars would be visible. Like the House of Fire, there were seven towers, but each of these towers was as tall and great as the Mindon in Tirion. Connecting the towers was a great wall, yet even this wall did not mar the beauty of Formenos, for the wall was decorated with elaborate carvings and fine tapestries.
Feanor personally wrought each of the seven gates that allowed entrance to the city: the Wooden Gate, the Stone Gate, the Bronze Gate, the Iron Gate, the Silver Gate, the Golden Gate, and the Steel Gate. No gate was mightier than the other, for Feanor enhanced the strength of each of the gates with gems of power.
The exile of Feanor and the unrest of the Noldor were almost forgotten in the excitement of the new Elven city. Business flourished between Tirion and Formenos. Even the Teleri of Alqualonde traded with Formenos with the aid of merchants in Tirion. Also, because of its ideal location farther north than Tuna, Formenos provided the free-roaming Vanyar with excellent opportunities for trade and converse with the Noldor.
Finwe had at first entered exile with his eldest son in hopes of cooling the dispute between his sons and healing the breach in the Noldorin people. Both reasons soon proved to be inapplicable. Still, Finwe stayed in Formenos because he had grown tired of ruling Tirion and because his wife, Indis the Fair, and his eldest daughter, Findis, had chosen to dwell among the Vanyar for a time. With Formenos situated closer to the Vanyar, Finwe was able to frequently visit Indis and his friend Ingwe, but he was also able to visit Fingolfin, Irime, and Finarfin in Tirion.
Nerdanel the Wise did not enter into exile with Feanor in order to aid Fingolfin in the stewardship of Tirion and in the healing of the hearts of the Noldor. She dwelt in her father Mahtan's house, for the House of Fire seemed too empty without her husband and seven rowdy sons. She visited Formenos often and aided in the establishment of trade between Tirion and Formenos.
In these joyous times, Curufin wedded Volaurel and begot a child by her. Curufin named his son Nelyacurufinwe, for he was the third of the skilled Finwes and a rival for even Maedhros in shapely form. But his mother named him Feanarince, for his fire was greatest of all the Eldar save Feanor alone.
"Thank you once more for agreeing to take care of Narin," Volaurel said to Feanor. "Curvo and I will pick him up before Telperion sleeps."
"It is I who should thank you. What grandfather would not wish to spend more time with his grandson?" Feanor said. "Enjoy yourselves this evening, and should you decide to beget another marvelous baby, I would hardly object!"
Volaurel whacked Feanor on the shoulder, but she couldn't help but to giggle at the suggestion. "It's much too early for another child. Curvo and I have hardly had time to enjoy being newlyweds."
"Or perhaps the two of you have been enjoying yourselves too much."
"Father!" She hit Feanor again. "You must stop suggesting such things."
"But my dear, Atarince is my son and like me in skill and in heart. I do not doubt his prowess or his eagerness to express his love for you."
Volaurel blushed and apparently decided that she could not win in a match of words with her father-in-law so instead turned her attention to Celebrimbor. "Feanarince, be good while you're with your grandfather."
"Yes, Mother." Celebrimbor raised his hand to take Feanor's, but Feanor picked him up and cradled him in one arm. "Grandfather, I can walk."
"Indeed you can, and very slowly at that." Celebrimbor sulked at that, and Feanor only smiled. Volaurel bade them farewell before leaving to meet with Curufin. "Well, then, Nelcurvo, it seems it's just the two of us," Feanor said cheerily. "I have set aside my duties for today, so we will do whatever you wish. If you have no preference, we'll just play in my quarters."
Celebrimbor tilted his small head to look up to his grandfather and assumed a look of childish craftiness. "Whatever I wish?" he asked.
"There are limitations, of course."
"Oh." Though he was undoubtedly truly disappointed, Celebrimbor's expression was one of exaggerated sadness, for he'd already learned the power of being an adorable little child. Feanor laughed.
"Tell me what you have in mind, and I'll try not to refuse you," Feanor said. He ruffled the child's hair as he walked through the elaborate gardens back toward the North Wing.
The palace was composed of four different houses, and in the center of the court was Thiliperion, the White Tree of Formenos that was born from the fruit of Galathilion, the White Tree of Tirion. Curufin had chosen to move to new quarters in the West Wing after his marriage. His brothers had tried to persuade him to remain with them in the North Wing and had promise to give him ample privacy, but Curufin had insisted on moving and Celebrimbor's birth had illustrated well why he had desired to live apart from his brothers. Of course, it meant that teasing Curufin had become a new hobby among the sons of Feanor.
"I heard that my father aided you in the forge when he was but three," Celebrimbor said. "I want to go too and see what you do there."
"Ambitious, aren't you?" Feanor said with great liking. "But you are not even two yet. Perhaps you should wait still longer."
Celebrimbor pouted. "Please, Grandfather! I'll be careful. I won't touch anything I'm not supposed to."
Feanor looked at his grandson thoughtfully and saw through his striking blue eyes to the very fire that was within him. "Very well, Nelcurvo." Feanor turned from his path home and headed toward the forge. Celebrimbor hugged him, and, though the show of joy and affection was genuine, Feanor also knew that a part of the child was using his charm to get his way. Not that Feanor minded. He fully intended to be the doting grandfather. "Well, you can't help me with my normal projects, but perhaps we can craft something else together. Would you like to make something for your father and mother?"
"Okay!" Celebrimbor's arms were still about Feanor's neck when he looked up with bright eyes and said, "And I don't want to make candy either. I want to make something for real."
"Candy?" Feanor said innocently.
"I heard about your trick," Celebrimbor said with a serious look on his soft round face. "You took Father to your forge but made rock candy gems instead of real gems. Father says they were tasty and bright but didn't last more than a day."
"Because Curvo was good enough to share with his brothers. If I remember correctly, he liked his gems just fine at the time."
"Well, I don't want my craft eaten! I want it to last longer than that." Celebrimbor nodded with that stern look of seriousness still about his baby features. Feanor couldn't help but to laugh.
"Okay, okay, we'll make something else, something 'real,'" Feanor promised.
Feanor went to one of his emptier workshops after giving Celebrimbor a tour of the other workshops, which were filled with gems, jewelry, lamps, and other such crafts. Other Noldorin craftsmen imitated most of the things that he designed, but Feanor had long stopped worrying about the mimicry of his works. He cared only that the Noldor as a whole improved their skill.
The project that they did that day was simple. Celebrimbor put his palms into a tray of warm wax-like gel. After the gel cooled, the imprints of his hands were retained in the mold. Celebrimbor then sat behind a clear shield to watch as Feanor poured liquid silver into the mold. The precaution was hardly necessary since Feanor never missed or spilled when he poured molten metal, but it was best to teach the child safety at a young age. Once the silver cooled, they had a rectangular plaque of silver of Celebrimbor's two small hands. Even Celebrimbor's fingerprints and the lines of his palms were visible in the fine silver, which contained no bubbles or cracks. After all, this was a rudimentary technique, one that was hardly difficult for Feanor. But Feanor found reward in Celebrimbor's delightful laughter as he held his hands to the two silver hands. Celebrimbor's eyes shone with a hint of the great fire within him.
"Let's do it again!" Celebrimbor begged.
Feanor smiled. "Okay."
This time when Feanor prepared the gel, Celebrimbor demanded, "Put more in. I want to make a statue of my fist this time."
"Ah, but Narindo, how will you take your fist out without ruining the mold?" Feanor said.
"You'll see." Once Feanor had prepared a small cube of warm gel, Celebrimbor plunged his small right fist into it. He was patient and already understood how the gel functioned from their first project. With his left finger, he touched the top of the gel tentatively when it felt cool to him, but his fingerprint appeared on the surface, so he did not move his fist. He tested the gel again, and this time it was cool enough.
"And now you're trapped!" Feanor said. He tickled the boy. "You'll never go home to your parents now. You'll have to spend the rest of your life in my workshop!" Celebrimbor laughed and laughed until, at last, Feanor stopped tickling and teasing his grandson. "All right, what will you do now, silly little boy?"
"I'll cut the mold in half," Celebrimbor said. He tried to reach for one of the sharp cutting tools but was too far and was held in place by the gel block. "Can you get that for me?"
"Don't be silly. You'll cut your hand," Feanor chided. "We'll rewarm the gel, and you can pull your hand out."
"I know where my hand is, Grandfather. I won't cut myself." Celebrimbor waved his left hand at the blades.
Feanor looked at his grandson thoughtfully. Curufin had been cutting vegetables with Nerdanel in the kitchen since he was two. If Celebrimbor hurt himself, Feanor would take him to the healers straightaway, and the cut would be healed with Curufin and Volaurel none the wiser. It was almost cruel to allow a child to hurt himself, but Feanor was curious to see if Celebrimbor could cut the gel without hurting himself. After all, even as a one-year-old, Feanor had been able to do much with his skilled hands. He eased the cube out of its container and gave one of the duller blades to Celebrimbor.
"No, no, this one won't work," Celebrimbor objected. He held it up to Feanor. "See, it's not sharp enough. The cut won't be as neat." He waved his hand at the blades again. "I want the left one. No, the second left one."
Feanor gave him the thin, sharp cutting tool and watched as Celebrimbor slowly and carefully cut the cube in half. He was less skilled with his left hand than his right, so he took his time, or perhaps he didn't realize how much time passed as he moved himself around the gel cube. When he was done, he looked to Feanor expectantly. The gel was not heavy, not without the steel container that had given it its cubical shape, but Celebrimbor seemed to know that he couldn't separate the halves with only one hand free. Feanor picked up the top half of the gel cube. It came away easily. Celebrimbor pulled his right hand free from bottom half of the gel.
"Now you can just make two halves like before, and we'll put it together," Celebrimbor said.
"Hm." Feanor studied the top half of the mold briefly. There was no loose bit of gel that had been pulled from the bottom half of the mold. The cut was precise and smooth. He put the two halves together. The incision line was hardly visible. "No, let's not do it like before," Feanor said.
Instead, Feanor simply put the two molds back into the original steel container and filled the mold from the top, where Celebrimbor's arm had been. Once the liquid metal cooled, Feanor pulled the molds from the hand statue and showed Celebrimbor how to sand down the extra bits of silver that had formed along the cut of the molds. They polished the silver fist after sanding it and smoothed the bottom. When they finished, Celebrimbor held his own fist next to that of the statue and smiled with great satisfaction at his work. Feanor was also pleased, and when Celebrimbor tried to take the silver fist into his palm, Feanor covered both the statue and his grandson's hand with his own. They smiled at each other and laughed.
Perhaps they would have begun another craft, but at that moment, Feanor perceived that a guest of great power had come to Formenos. He used his Ring to see far within his realm. Lord Aule was before the Gate of Gold.
"Ah, Nelcurvo, I'm afraid our fun must be delayed until later. Lord Aule has come to visit," said Feanor. Celebrimbor didn't mind. He admired the silver plaque of his palms and the silver fist while Feanor carried him to the Golden Gate.
Feanor bowed to Aule, but a sense of discomfort gnawed at Feanor's heart. "I heard no news that you would be coming today. What brings you to Fair Formenos, Lord Smith?" asked Feanor before the doors.
"Before the Valar, I spoke in your favor, but Manwe would not listen, and now thou art banished unjustly," said Aule. "But if the heart of Feanaro is yet free and bold as were his words in Tirion, then I will aid him, and bring him far from this narrow land. For am I not Vala also? Yea, and more than those who sit in pride in Valimar; and I have ever been a friend to the Noldor, most skilled and most valiant of the people of Arda."
Feanor looked to Aule with surprise, for, though Aule did believe Feanor to be wrongly judged, he had never before spoken of ill of the other Valar or of leaving Valinor. Feanor reached out with his mind but could read nothing from the Vala. He searched Formenos with his mind. Amrod and Amras were close by. Feanor summoned them silently with his Ring.
"Lord Aule, I have indeed considered going to Middle-earth, the birthland of the Eldar, but I do not believe this to be an appropriate time," Feanor said with his smooth tongue. "I have been banished for 12 years. If I do not endure my punishment for the duration of that time, the Noldor will think that I am weak, and the Valar will believe that I have not taken true counsel with myself and considered who and what I am."
Amrod and Amras arrived at that moment and bowed before Aule. "Lord Smith."
"Ambarussa!" Feanor shouted. He used his false anger to hide the fear that brought goosebumps to his arms. "Can you not see that I am conducting business with Lord Aule? Get thee gone, and take Nelyacurufinwe with you."
"We're sorry, Father," Amras said hastily. Amrod and Amras looked hurt and confused, for their father had summoned them and now drove them away, but Amrod took Celebrimbor from Feanor's arms as commanded.
"Go!" Frightened by Feanor's outburst, the twins retreated quickly with Celebrimbor. Feanor then turned back to Aule. The dread in his mind was stronger than before. He bowed to Aule. "My apologies, Great Lord. My youngest sons can be most troublesome. But as to your proposition, I must confess that I am frightened of the Outer Lands. Here, I have build a strong fortress, but, in Middle-earth, surely dark creatures still roam the lands."
"Here is a strong place, and well guarded," said Aule, "but think not that the Silmarils will lie safe in any treasury within the realm of the Valar."
His words touched Feanor deeply, and the great fire that Iluvatar had set within him flared more strongly than what should have been possible for an Elda. Feanor looked upon Aule with eyes that burned through his fair semblance and pierced the cloaks of his mind, perceiving there a fierce lust for the Silmarils. At last, Feanor understood that this was not Aule, who admired but did not covet the Silmarils. This was Melkor, Master of Lies.
Feanor stepped back further into his realm of Formenos. The jewels about the Gate of Gold flared to life, casting a red glow upon the false form of Aule. Feanor felt a push in his mind, a darkness that sought to suppress his will. He clenched his fist and used the Ring to strengthen the defenses of Formenos. The gems along the outer wall of Formenos lit up one after another until the entire city glowed bright red. Telperion was waning, and the silver light in Valinor was not so bright that it obscured the glow of Formenos. Even the Noldor of Tirion should've been able to see the strange red light from the Northern Fortress. Still, the darkness sought to seduce Feanor, told him to turn off the defenses of the city. Feanor did not listen. The fear he'd felt was now replaced with anger. Within Formenos was young Celebrimbor, and Feanor would not allow any harm to come to the babe. He pushed back against the force upon his mind.
Feanor looked at Melkor with sharp eyes and said, "Get thee gone from my gate!"
With a command to his Ring, the Gates of Gold slammed shut. Feanor felt a great weight pressing him to his knees, but he did not falter. From afar came the cries of the eagles of Manwe. They had seen the red lights of Formenos and sought to investigate on swift wings. Melkor heard them also and cursed Feanor's name. Then Melkor departed quickly, for he was himself in peril. Once the presence of the Dark Lord was gone, Feanor exhaled long and leaned against the wall. There was a sharp pain in his abdomen, and when he looked down, Feanor saw blood staining his shirt. He called his sons to him and let himself slide down the wall to sit in waiting at its base.
Thorondor, King of Eagles, appeared a moment later with his brethren. He perched on the top of the Tower of Gold while the other eagles circled in the skies above. "Curufinwe, what is the meaning of this? Do you seek to make Formenos shine with light greater than even that of the Two Trees?" asked Thorondor.
Feanor smiled wryly at this, for he was still held in suspicion because of the breaking of the peace of Valinor two years ago. "Nay, Lord Eagle. I only sought to repel Melkor from the gate of Formenos."
"Melkor?" Thorondor repeated. "He has not been seen in Valinor for years."
"Indeed he has not," said Feanor. "But he came today to my very door, and he sought to corrupt me in the form of Aule the Smith."
The sons of Feanor arrived then. "Father!" Maedhros called out. Feanor smiled wanly and closed his eyes. His sons were here now. He need not worry. They would handle the rest.
"Father!" Celegorm shook him gently. Feanor eyes fluttered open briefly, and he nodded to his third son. Celegorm understood and began to dress his father's wound.
Distantly, Feanor heard Finwe conversing with Thorondor. Maedhros and Curufin left on the backs of the eagles to report all that had happened to Manwe in Valmar. Though Feanor rested in bed, Maedhros and Curufin heard his words spoken to them through his Ring, and they reported the words and actions of Melkor before the Gate of Formenos. At once, Orome and Tulkas sprang up in pursuit of Melkor, but Melkor had departed Valinor as a thundercloud. Still, Formenos was safe, and the Valar had been alerted to his evil stirrings. Once Feanor was certain that these important matters had been attended to, he let his mind rest, for that had been where the struggle with Melkor had been greatest.
By his bedside, Celebrimbor cried for his grandfather and begged him to be strong, for he feared that Feanor would become as weary as Miriel and would not return to play with him again.
When the time of festival came, Feanor alone came to Taniquetil, for he had been commanded to do so by Manwe Sulimo. His father and his sons did not come forth from Formenos, for a dark foreboding was over Feanor, and he had bidden his family and his people to stay where he believed to be safe. In hindsight, he realized that he should have left the Ring with Maedhros, for the defense mechanisms built into the very stones of Formenos would not be as efficient without it. It mattered not though. Maedhros had his own Ring, albeit a lesser Ring of Power. Besides, Feanor purposed to leave the festival as soon as possible on his swift steed. Manwe had ordered him to come; he had not ordered him to stay for the entirety of the celebration.
Despite the growing dread in his mind, Feanor was overjoyed to see his wife. She had visited him in Formenos, but it was different seeing her radiant in the Light of Aman, for the Two Trees shone strongly on the slopes of Taniquetil.
"My dear, my beloved..." Feanor said, and though he was known for his oratory abilities, he found himself at a loss for words to express how sorely he had missed her in these last five years. Nerdanel put a finger to his lips. Then she kissed him and sent him forward to the throne of Manwe. The festival was for the reconciliation of the Noldor, not for the reunion of husband and wife. Feanor understood all too well Nerdanel's intentions. He swallowed the growing emotions that had threatened to overwhelm him and met Fingolfin before the King of Arda.
Fingolfin held out his hand and said, "As I promised, I do now. I release thee and remember no grievance."
Feanor took his hand, yet words failed him. It was not the welling emotions that he'd felt at the sight of his wife. Nor was he reluctant or ashamed to be accepting this pardon from his younger brother. Instead, the foreboding that had been lingering in his mind was at last taking shape, and the words of Mandos, ere the passing of the Statute of Finwe and Miriel, came to Feanor as the ringing of death tolls. They were so close to the Two Trees, so close... Feanor looked to that Light, and it seemed to him that a shadow passed over the pure Light that he had known since birth.
When Feanor did not speak, Fingolfin added, "Half-brother in blood, full brother in heart will I be. Thou shalt lead and I shall follow." Fingolfin's brow furrowed. Feanor's hand was clammy, and, though he did not mean to, the touching of flesh at such a vulnerable time allowed Fingolfin to see some part of the dread that was growing in Feanor's mind. The echo of the words of Mandos, spoken before Fingolfin's birth, resonated between the brothers. Fingolfin tried to shake off this feeling, for he knew that this moment of reconciliation was very important to the Noldor. "Let no new grief divide us."
Feanor searched his brother's blue-grey eyes intently. "I hear thee," Feanor said. He squeezed Fingolfin's hand, letting his younger brother know that that was not the reason for his silence. Fingolfin heard his words repeated clearly in his mind, placed in there by Feanor. "Let no new grief divide us." It was a prayer, but it was an empty one, for even as Feanor thought it, he knew it would not be true.
The words of Mandos that had been but a faint echo suddenly became clear in Fingolfin's mind, as sharp as those spoken by Feanor yet deeper and more terrible: "The griefs that shall come ye shall weigh in the balance, and they shall not seem too heavy compared with the rising of the light when Valinor groweth dim."
Horror overcame Fingolfin, and he looked in desperation to the Two Trees, both of which were in bloom, their Lights shining and blending with unsurpassed beauty.
"So be it," Feanor said, echoing the very words that Manwe had spoken at the utterance of the Prophecy of Mandos. At that very moment, at the very utterance of Feanor's words, the radiance of silver and gold failed. Valinor was plunged into darkness. The Two Trees were slain.
Is this the price of my birth? Fingolfin wondered. Or would this have happened regardless? But Feanor held his hand tightly and did not let him slip into the despair that was brought upon by the dark cloud. His thoughts were open to Feanor, and the sheer will of the Spirit of Fire prevented him from falling to his knees in the lightlessness in which none would see his weakness.
"We defy you," Feanor said, and yet there was no voice to his words, for choking black vapors were all about them. Fingolfin's knees stopped quaking, and he stood hand-in-hand beside his brother, strong and valiant, so that the Dark Lord would look into the dark clouds and see that his vengeance was not wholly achieved. It was not the presence of the Valar or the Maiar that brought comfort to the grieved and terrified Eldar. When the winds of Manwe at last drove away the vapors of death and rolled back the Seas, the assembled Eldar first beheld the striking image of the Princes of the Noldor, still standing together, bathed in the radiance of starlight, and hope was rekindled in their hearts.
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.