1. Memories in the Dark
Quenya: Fírimar, sing. Fírima, – "mortal people"; Engwar, sing. Engwa, – "sickly" (because Elves were immune to disease)
This is all that is left to me.
It is truly rather ironic. Once I was King of the greatest realm in Middle-earth – well, perhaps I am somewhat biased. But what have I now? Naught more than myself – my fëa only, to be exact – and my memories.
Oh, the memories. Some to fill me with overwhelming gladness; others to drive me near mad with grief and unanswered questions. And so few – my life was fleeting compared to those of others here; and there is not much more to do in Mandos than think.
It is so very quiet here…I do not mind the darkness much, but I wish sometimes to hear a familiar voice…or any voice. As it is, the only voices that company me are voices of the past…
"Pray accept my condolences for these sorrowful tidings, Majesty."
The words of my servant caressed my ears, waves lapping at an indifferent shore, then faded into the silence.
Not a word had he spoken, the lord of the Laiquendi – only strode in from the night, bowed, and departed, leaving a simple but finely-worked wooden chest on the table before me. But he needed naught by way of explanation – enough, and more than enough, was said by his gift, which hung now in my hands. I moved it slowly, watching the light of the torches glint along wrought gold, diamonds, rubies. But far more dazzling than the golden reflection was the jewel set in the centre. It glittered brighter than Anor, coruscating with a brilliance unknown outside Aman. Glimmers of gold and silver chased round the heart of the jewel, imbuing it with a mystery, a different seeming from every perspective. "Beautiful…" I murmured.
I shook off the spell, returned a word of appreciation for the servant’s sympathy, dismissed him. As he slipped quietly from my chamber, my gaze was drawn back to the gem that I held. Mother wore it always, I remembered; it was the only ornament that she never set aside. And now it was come to me. So she was perished, then, and Father as well. So untimely had they passed on, so soon after being granted a temporary freedom from Mandos’s halls. Though my mother had surrendered her immortality to remain with Father, I had expected them to abide many more years in Middle-earth, dwelling with the reclusive but kind Laiquendi at Lanthir Lamath. But now they were gone from this world, continuing their adventures together in the next. I smiled slightly, sadly, at the thought.
A log broke and settled in the fireplace, throwing a rain of golden sparks whose reflections dazzled the jewel to life. It vibrated in my hands: a faint arpeggio trembled lightly from it through my fingers, more subtle sensation than actual sound. I held my breath as it caught the light of a lick of flame; the gentle pulsing swelled into soft, clear tone, melting from one delicate note to the next as the fire danced.
Inspired, I rose and walked to the hearth, standing wholly in the firelight. With eager hands, I clasped the necklace about my throat. In the twofold warmth of flesh and fire, the Silmaril woke to full song, its music a thrilling caress of the senses.
And yet…and yet this thing tokened the deaths of my parents. For all its beauty, it was still a herald of grief.
Torn, I turned from the fire, and the jewel stilled, lying quietly against my skin. "By all rights," I said aloud in the sudden silence, "by all rights, I feel as though I should not take such pleasure in something that carries such a burden of sorrow." I did not sound convincing even to myself.
Then I touched it, tentatively, with only the tips of my fingers. It gave out a sound, halfway between a sigh and a murmur, that recalled similar sounds made by my sleeping children and woke my deepest paternal instincts.
I was enchanted.
I was lost.
When the anticipated message from Fëanor’s sons came a fortnight later, demanding the Silmaril, I returned no answer. "Do not fear," I whispered, cradling the jewel in my hands as I sat on my throne. "I will not let those killers take you."
Something stirred uneasily in my mind. Was I actually speaking to a stone? Worse, was I expecting it to reply? Was I mad?
Nonsense, I argued. It was so much more than an ordinary stone; it almost did seem to reply in its own way. With this frail reasoning, I swiftly fastened the Nauglamír back around my neck.
Perhaps I was mad.
I was raised in a peaceful sanctuary of green and music, i Dor Firn i Guinar, with the Laiquendi and my beloved parents. Never could I have imagined such a breed of fear as followed the sons of Fëanor that winter – cold and steel, and Elven features twisted in horror and hatred and despair, and fire, fire devouring everything, consuming my city…
Ah, beautiful Menegroth. One might think by its name, the Thousand Caves, that it was a dark, dank dwelling fit only for the vile Naugrim. Oh, no, I tell you, nothing could be farther from the truth. I remember the first time I set foot within its gates: I was overwhelmed, struck utterly speechless by its radiance. And it was mine – mine to hold, and protect, and keep shielded from the terrors of the outside world.
Forgive me, Grandfather, for failing in my charge…
I tried, though. I did all that was possible, whether by Elven or Mortal standards. I defended my cherished city with my own life, when there were those among my counsellors who would have spirited me to safety, abandoning Menegroth to the invaders. Those accursed fools of Noldor – they stumbled into the hallows of my great hall, and were surrounded by its beauty. But they in their blindness saw only the fact that I had but two guards with me, and they marked me for an easy target. Their eyes burned with desire for the Silmaril, and I nearly laughed in contempt, for the jewel was no longer in Menegroth: I had sent it away with my daughter Elwing, my youngest child, before Fëanor’s sons had come. Those thieves would not find what they sought here.
I will give them this credit, that they were none to stand aside as their people bloodied their own hands. As for myself, who had never wielded a weapon in earnest, I stood before my throne, the sword of Elwë Thingol in my nerveless grasp. "Come, cravens," I grated hoarsely. "If it is death that you seek, my blade shall fetch it to you." I did not delude myself with fancies of incredible victory – this was a hopeless resistance. But I fully intended to deal out as much reparation as I could ere the end, and perhaps it might purchase time for Elwing and her companions to put distance between themselves and the city.
One stood forth from the knot of Noldor at the gates of the hall. His sword – inexplicably sheathed – he drew slowly, letting the slithering ring echo from the high stone walls; his dark blue eyes bored unnervingly into mine. "This is the get of Lúthien and the Fírima?" he murmured softly. "The Man’s blood was more overriding than I had thought. Look at this one – hapless, helpless, incompetent. He reeks of mortality."
My fingers tightened on the hilt of Aranrúth. "Who art thou, who enters my hall by force and dares dishonour my parents?"
"I?" His lips curled in a scornful smirk. "I am he who might have been your father, child, had your mother not been so mad as to chase after an Engwa."
Who might have been my father…A suspicion settled into chilling certainty. "Celegorm Fëanorion."
He dealt me a deep, mocking bow. "The same, at your service, Majesty."
Mother had told me of the insults this one had done to her and Father. I gritted my teeth. "Thine shall be the first blood that my sword tastes, thou filth."
His eyes gleamed, and an actual smile lit his face. "I look forward to it. I shall be glad to exterminate the son of the Dog-master."
I tried to stifle the nagging voice of doubt in my mind, casting about for some means to come at the Noldo before being cut down myself by his brothers. But before anyone could move, a small voice piped up from the side of the room: "Do not speak so of my father!"
All eyes cut sidewise to the source of the voice. My heart lodged itself firmly in my throat and began hammering madly; I could nearly hear the blood rushing in my ears. Just inside a small door to the hall stood my two oldest children, my two sons. Eluréd, nine years old, held a sword that woefully outsized him, although he was doing his best to brandish it menacingly; Elurín, only seven, was partially hidden by his brother, and carried nothing but his small wooden practice weapon. I had left them with Nimloth, my wife, in a hidden room of the palace – Elwing was gone with the Silmaril, but I could not bear to send away more than two – one, I corrected myself hastily, one – of my children.
Celegorm rested the point of his sword on the floor, leaning indolently on the hilt. "And why should I not, nursling?"
Eluréd’s chin jutted out resentfully at the slight. Before he could answer, I spoke quietly, urgently. "Eluréd. Elurín. Go back to your mother."
They both looked at me defiantly. "Ada, we will not let him call you that!" Eluréd protested.
Tears clogged in my throat, threatening to shame me. Now I did not want to die, courageously or any other way, not when it meant leaving my children and wife at the mercy of these murderers. "Go, my brave sons," I said huskily. "He shall pay for his words, I promise you."
"Arrogant, Majesty," the loathsome Noldo commented. "Perhaps you shall pay for yours, I think." He signalled to his servants – arrayed in more armour than most of my servants had ever seen, let alone worn – waving a hand lazily in the direction of my sons. "Take them."
A red haze settled over my vision. "No!" I roared. I leaped off the dais at Celegorm, hoping to catch him unprepared.
Faster than I could see, he was crouched in a fighting stance, face twisted by a ferocious grin, crackling with energy like an angry cat. At my sides, there was a double clash of steel as my guards engaged the other two brothers.
My sword collided with the Kinslayer’s with a ringing shock that rattled my teeth. I grunted, twisted my blade to free it, and jabbed an underhand blow that made him hiss and stumble back, gripping his side. First blood. Aranrúth seemed to hum in my hands. Then, above the noise of battle, rose a sound that made my blood run cold: the voice of Eluréd, wailing, "Ada!"
I glanced wildly: the Noldorin servants were wrestling my struggling sons out the doors of the hall. "Sinaeth! Lasgalad!" I cried frantically. "Save the princes!" The two guards snarled and shoved the Fëanorians aside, running for the doors.
"Go, Curufin, Caranthir!" Celegorm shouted in response. "I will recover the Silmaril. Do not lose those babes!" After a quick glance back at him, his brothers followed my guards.
A metallic shimmer flashed in the corner of my eye, and I only barely managed to deflect a thrust aimed at my heart; it tore across my sleeve and shoulder, not deep but painful. Celegorm regrouped, swung his weapon over his head and whirled it down with a strength that could cleave my skull. I brought my own sword up, and they connected again brutally, sliding to lock at the hilts. Over this stalemate we glared eye to eye, breathing hard, trembling with adrenaline. "Please," I panted, surrendering to a desperate hope, "please, spare my sons. They have done nothing to you."
Celegorm’s expression hardened. "They have done more than enough," he returned harshly. "They are of the blood of Beren Barahirion. They deserve to die."
A foul vision of my children spitted upon Noldorin lances nearly made me retch. With an incoherent yell, I broke the deadlock of our swords, throwing the son of Fëanor away from myself, and turned, shouting, "Elurín! Eluréd!"
"Ada!" The cry was faint, distant, and I felt tears staining my face. They were so far, so very far…Recklessly, I made a dash for the doors. Be brave, my sons, I am coming!…
A flying body knocked me to the floor, sending my sword skittering away across the stone. I managed to wrench around onto my back. Celegorm knelt over me, his sword point poised at the base of my sternum. I winced as the keen blade drew a drop or two of blood. "What art thou?" the Noldo asked softly, with a contemptuous sneer. "Elf, Maia, and Man. Art thou mortal?" He twisted the sword, digging it a half-inch deeper. "Wilt thou give me the Silmaril freely, or shall we learn which of thy bloodlines is the strongest?"
Ilúvatar protect thee, my daughter. Each breath was a needle of pain in my chest. I drew a slow lungful and replied, "I do not yield to the demands of cowards."
His face darkened. "Then thou hast signed thine own death warrant, Majesty."
It was as if the previous needles had been melted together and cast into a rigid flame that rived through my body like a knife through silk. I may have screamed; I do not remember. Celegorm jerked the sword free, heedless of the blood that spattered his clothes, his face. "A fitting death for a mongrel," he said viciously.
I would not, could not let him have the final victory. With a surge of frenzied power, I scrabbled up, threw my entire weight against him. We landed heavily in the reverse of our positions just a moment ago. He looked stunned as my dagger buried itself in his heart, stunned and furious, as a dog who has had his prey snatched from under his nose. "Perhaps I am a mongrel," I rasped, "but thou? Thou art all butcher, and naught more. I would sooner be a mongrel than one such as thou."
The look he gave me would have made Morgoth pause. He opened his mouth and would have answered, but blood filled his throat and thwarted his voice. As I watched, his eyes grew glassy, and his hands, grasping my neck, fell limp.
The terrible energy drained from me, and my head dropped to his chest, abruptly too heavy for me to hold up. We lay so entwined, tangled as intimately as lovers, until one of my guards returned, bloodied and exhausted. "Majesty!"
He dragged me from the Noldo’s awful embrace, settling me gently on my back with my head cradled in his lap. "Majesty, forgive me – I should have been here to defend you—"
I hushed his apologies with a small shake of my head. "Sinaeth…how goes it?" The four words, said in no more than a whisper, seemed to require all the breath in my body to voice.
His expression was answer enough. "Ill, Majesty. Very ill. Much of the city is aflame, and the fire threatens to spread quickly. The two brothers whom I and Lasgalad fought are dead, but there are four others who yet live. Most of our people are slain."
My eyelids fell shut as I nodded in acknowledgment. I could hardly gather the nerve to ask the next question. "And…my sons?"
Long moments passed silently. Then, with a thickness of tone that told me he wept, he replied, "I know not, sire. The cowardly…the cowards carried them into the forest. But I could not find them."
I opened my eyes. His evident grief convinced me more surely than any words could have. "What of the Queen?"
"Sire – forgive me, sire – she is dead."
I was finding it difficult to focus on his face. My gaze drifted to the ceiling, blurred by tears. My family…they were all beyond my reach, beyond my help. All except… "Elwing," I whispered. "My little star." I raised my fingers to my throat, touching the empty place between my clavicles where the Silmaril once lay. "Sinaeth, will you accept one last duty for your King?"
He covered my hand with his and pressed strongly. "Anything, my lord. Anything you ask."
I wished that I could summon a grateful pressure in response. "Find my daughter. Someone with her must be told…everything. And…" My strength was ebbing, flowing away with the blood that now soaked my clothes. I fought for one more breath. "…and keep her safe."
His voice seemed so far away. "I swear, my King. I swear…"
And so ended my life. There is so much that I wish to know – what became of my children; how fares my city; if any of my people still live. I wish to see Nimloth, as well, but those who dwell in Mandos’s halls do not receive callers. Perhaps she has been freed from this place already and is living in Valinor. I hope to find such release soon.
I would like to know the fate of the sons of Fëanor.
And the Silmaril? You might think that I would care about the thing that wrought the doom of my beloved Menegroth. But in truth, I could not be less interested. In fact, I know not why I kept it to the ruin of my city. Perhaps because it was my only physical link to my parents; perhaps because I was too proud to surrender it to thieves and murderers. But as for its overvalued beauty? True, it was certainly the fairest thing that I had ever held. But I would far rather be granted the joy of holding my wife and children again, who repaid love with love, rather than with an inanimate indifference. To me, this would be worth a world of Silmarils.
Why did I not realise this while the choice was still open to me?
The idea of the Silmarils’ singing belongs to Cirdan (the author, that is), although he will tell you that it came from Fëanor. Muchos gracias to whoever had the original thought. :-)
Ada – Sindarin, hypocoristic of adar, "father"
"Dog-master": While in Valinor, Celegorm was gifted with Huan, one of Oromë’s own hounds. After the Noldor returned to Middle-earth, Celegorm fell in love (lust?) with Lúthien, and he and Curufin attempted to kidnap her and murder Beren. They were foiled, though, by Huan, who interposed himself between Beren and Celegorm’s spear, and also caught a malicious arrow shot at Lúthien by rancourous Curufin.
Everything and everyone belongs to the Professor except for Sinaeth and Lasgalad.
As always, any obscure references can be explored in the Encyclopaedia of Arda (http://www.glyphweb.com/arda), or feel free to email me and chastise me for being so vague… :-)
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.