1. Captive of Fate
The wind feels especially cold in the dark. My whole body is going numb – well, all of it except my right arm. My wrist never stops burning where the tight metal fetter digs into my flesh, and the sinews and joints of my arm and shoulder, straining under my suspended weight, protest the abuse with a deep, relentless ache. Strange how the mind never adapts to pain. An unpleasant noise, a foul odor – if exposed long enough to these sensations, the mind simply blocks them out of conscious awareness. But not pain. The agony in my wrist and arm I feel as acutely now as when my captor first bound me to this mountain, even after all this time.
I no longer remember exactly how long I’ve been hanging here. At first I tried to keep track of time by watching the revolution of the stars, but the smoke and ash that billows out of the black fortress often obscures the sky, and I quickly became confused. And often now in my pain and weakness I find that my mind wanders. I do remember at least one period of extended cold, though, and one long stretch of time when the heat from the bright new light in the sky transformed the black rock of the mountainside into a furnace, and I nearly went mad with thirst.
Not that he would actually permit me to die of thirst, or of hunger for that matter. My people are tenacious of life but our hröar do have limits, and he is careful to see that mine are not exceeded. He visits me periodically to force water and gruel past my resisting lips, enough to sustain me, and to laugh at my obvious pain. He takes great pleasure in the suffering of others, and dead I would no longer be a source of enjoyment; therefore, I must be kept alive to hurt. I will hang here for long ages to come, a toy to provide him with amusement. A just punishment, I suppose, for all the wrongs that I have committed, for I have blood on my hands now.
The freshest, of course, is the blood of my loyal escort. They trusted me, they were my friends, and I lead them into an ambush. Oh, I was more than wary of the Black Foe’s offer to treat with us for the return of the Silmarils – I brought extra men along in anticipation of treachery. But he brought more and they managed to surprise us, and I saw my friends butchered by his foul creatures, giving their lives in a futile attempt to protect me. It is my fault they died! I should have listened to the counsel of my younger brothers, but I was loathe to pass up this possible opportunity to regain the Silmarils with little or no bloodshed, thus releasing us from our oath. That oath had cost my people so much blood already.
My brothers and I swore it without thought, being blinded by grief at our grandfather’s cruel murder, shock at the destruction of the Trees and the theft of the Silmarils, and anger at the Valar, whom we held responsible for the tragedies that had befallen Aman. For were they not the ones who had released Melkor from captivity in Mandos, thus freeing him to act out his malice? And were they not seemingly indifferent to our resulting suffering, being content to let him escape unhindered to the eastern lands, and discouraging us from pursuit? I can see now (with the passage of time having transmuted my mourning from a blinding agony into a softer ache) that in our pain we judged the Valar too harshly, for they were doubtless as shocked as we were by the sudden catastrophe, and needed time to decide the proper course of action. But my father, ever passionate, had over the years grown increasingly mistrustful of all but his closest kin, and when my grandfather, to whom he was devoted, was murdered, he was overborne by his grief and rage. I think he may have felt in some way responsible for Finwë’s death, thinking that if he had refused the Valar’s summons to festival and remained at Formenos, he would have been able to protect my grandfather from Melkor. He was constitutionally incapable of waiting patiently, even for the Valar to act, and when they counseled him against leaving Aman all of his pent-up anger and pain was unleashed and, furious, he swore that dreadful and unbreakable oath. And we his sons, aching for his pain, immediately stepped forth and swore it also, in a show of solidarity; at that moment, I would have done or said anything to ease the naked anguish in my father’s eyes. And so we committed ourselves to following his lead and leaving Aman, to recovery of our jewels and achievement of our revenge.
None of us expected what followed. How could we? Nothing like it had ever occurred before, although in retrospect my father’s treatment of his half-brother Nolofinwë should have provided a warning. I knew my father had a quick temper, but neither I nor any of my brothers actually believed that he would ever seriously harm another person. So when the quarrel started with Olwë I was upset that our supposed friends the Teleri would not aid us in our journey, but not alarmed. The sight of my father suddenly drawing his sword and slaying Olwë stunned me, but I acted instinctively, as did the other Noldor, when the Teleri rushed forward to avenge their king and protect their ships. I could not stand helplessly by and watch my beloved father be slain! And so I quickly found my sword covered with innocent blood. I only vaguely remember the doom ushered later by Mandos; heartsick and in shock, I was too busy damning myself to clearly perceive his terrible words. In our attempt to bring a murderer and thief to justice, we had become murderers and thieves ourselves. But I couldn’t let my father die! The Teleri, in their anger, would certainly have slain him. What else was I to do?
The nightmare grew worse after we arrived in the eastern lands and we beached our stolen vessels. I was eager to bring the rest of our people over quickly to join us, especially my cousin Findekáno, whom I love dearly. I was horrified when my father ordered the ships burned, and bitterly protested his decision. But he did not listen, calling those of our people left behind useless baggage, and I could do nothing but watch as he set the beautiful white ships ablaze, feeling a sharp sense of guilt at the betrayal we were committing by stranding in Aman those who had loyally followed my family and shed blood for our sake. My father laughed when the ships began to burn, knowing that he had successfully tricked his now-hated half-brother Nolofinwë, who would now have to slink, humiliated, back to Tirion to be tried as a kinslayer. I wept silently, turning away so that my father would not see my tears, grieving over my father’s continued descent into wickedness. Now I am grateful that the ships were destroyed, for Findekáno’s sake. At least I know that he is safe in Aman, where he can plead to Mandos for forgiveness of his crimes and live in peace once more in Tirion. By stranding Nolofinwë’s and Arafinwë’s families in Aman, my father unwittingly prevented them all from becoming trapped in this useless, doomed conflict.
For doomed I now see it is. We arrived here as conquering warriors, intent on destroying Melkor’s forces, which we soon routed in a fierce battle. But what a terrible price we paid for our victory! For my father, already unstable, went berserk in the end and, ignoring our cries of warning, chased the enemy’s forces relentlessly, pulling far ahead of our troops and rushing headlong into a trap. By the time my brothers and I caught up with him, it was too late – it was clear his wounds were mortal. I could see the despair in his eyes as he realized that he would never see the architect of our sorrows, whom he now named the Black Foe, brought to justice, and when he bid us remember our oath my brothers and I swore it again for his sake, to give him peace before his fëa left for Mandos. What did it matter to us? We had already damned ourselves both by swearing that oath in the first place and by the actions we had previously committed in our attempt to fulfill it. At least our words gave him some peace in the end. One can only be damned once, after all. I have no regrets about uttering those evil words a second time.
So my brothers and I were left behind to mourn both our father and our grandfather, bound by an unbreakable oath to fight perpetually against an enemy we now saw, after viewing his terrible fortress, we had no hope of defeating. We were squabbling among ourselves, arguing about what course of action to take next, when the Black Foe’s emissary arrived with his treaty proposal. Sick at heart, I allowed my hopes for release from our oath to cloud my judgement – and now here I hang. I deserve to hang. I only hope that Mandos will pity my brothers in the end. Let my pain serve as redemption for my family; I will suffer it gladly if it buys them release from the wrath of the Valar. Please, let them go home.
The sky is getting lighter; the bright new light is rising now, and soon I will again be too hot. Good. I am tired of being too cold; at least there is variety in my torments. Perhaps the heat will help to clear my mind, which seems intent on playing tricks with my senses. The wind is still blowing, that is obviously all I heard, but for a brief moment I could have sworn it carried the voice of someone singing.
Nolofinwë = Fingolfin, Findekáno = Fingon, Arafinwë = Finarfin
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.