23. An Evil Ghost?
Then the flames parted, her vision cleared as if she was coming out of a faint. He was standing before them: a tall elf in black robes, with long black hair flowing around pointy ears and down to his hips. Mina remembered to watch his eyes. If they have dark eyes, then run, run like the wind... But his eyes were not black. Nor were they like the eyes of any ordinary Man or Elf. His eyes were filled with flickering flames. It should have been impossible to create the expression of focused attention with eyes like that, but he was staring at Celebrían now, intently, taking in every detail of her appearance, as if he wanted to sear her to ashes.
Mina blinked. Blinked again. Then her heart resumed a frantic race. Hair and cloak floated in a wind that was not there, and the edge of the fabric as well as the fine tendrils of hair dissolved into nothing. Whatever he - it - was, it was no Elf, and it did not look like a living being, but more like a spectre.
"Oh Gott," Mina whispered again. "Oh Gott, was ist das?"
"You're not her," he said. "You're one of the Eldar, but you are not the one I am looking for."
Celebrían was suddenly on her feet, moving too quickly for mortal eyes. Her stance was tense; she was poised to flee if she got the chance. Her eyes were cool; there was no fear in them at all.
"Whom are you seeking, faereviol?"
His fire seemed to flicker, to diminish. "My wife," he said. "My love. The mother of my children, the light of my life.
"But I cannot find her." His voice sank to a whisper.
The flames in his eyes died, turning them into an almost translucent light grey. Mina thought she could see the dead bushes and their deceitful blossoms through his eyes.
"Is she gone?" His voice was barely more than a sigh.
Suddenly Mina was shoved to the back. Elentar jumped in front of her, obviously trying to shield her from the ghost. At the same time Celebrían subtly shifted her stance, so she, in turn, stood between the appearance and Elentar. Protecting the protector, Mina thought. For all the good it will do.
Celebrían looked intently at the wavering form before them. "I think I know who you are," she rasped. Tension choked her voice.
The form solidified once more. The Elf - or ghost - seemed to throw back his head in anguished laughter, but there was no sound.
Celebrían's reaction was strange. The Elf-woman appeared to relax ever so slightly.
"Who you were," she amended. Her voice sounded much softer, almost like a sigh now, too.
Mina had to suppress a sigh. 'Who you were' - just like Celebrían herself. But who was he?
She narrowed her eyes at the strange figure, fëa without a hröa.
The ghost ignored Celebrían. Instead he swept over to Elentar. Mina could not help herself; she took a step back, flinching from the approach of ... of what? A phantom of fire?
She swallowed hard, but it did not help. Her heart was beating so hard that she could feel it in the veins at her throat, literally in her mouth, a hard, vibrating lump of fear that she could not swallow down, no matter how hard she tried. Was he with the enemy?
Elentar froze and did not give an inch.
Mina could not see it from behind, but she guessed that the skin stretched tight over his cheekbones and that his eyes turned cold like ice. Celebrían turned with the movement of the ghost, but she did not step aside. For a moment the Elf-woman hesitated, as if she calculated the time and distance necessary to throw herself between Elentar and the ghost should the need arise. Then she favoured Elentar with that little half-crazed smile of hers and took exactly two steps back.
"And who are you?" hissed the ghost. Black and fiery he loomed over Elentar.
"Where I come from it is considered to be good manners if the newcomer introduces himself."
Mina knew that the slight tinge of tension in Elentar's voice was for her, and her unborn daughter, not for himself. And she could almost hear that quirked eyebrow.
She shot a glance at Celebrían. Elentar's grandmother gazed at her grandson in barely veiled fascination.
The ghost drew back. Met with such stubborn courage he seemed to diminish again. He drew his robes tighter around his body, then drifted even closer to Elentar. The gesture looked wrong. Like an act, like a gesture of an actor up on a stage. As if he had not worn a real cloak for a very long time.
What would constitute a really long time for an Elf?
"And where do you come from?" asked the ghost - almost politely.
Mina could feel how Elentar opened his mouth and shut it again. Indeed, just where they had come from was very dangerous information to give right now. Especially if you did not know who was asking for it. But there was something niggling at the back of her mind now. Something unbelievable, something even more incredible...
"You have not yet told me your name," Elentar repeated. "But I will be gracious and tell you mine, hoping that this courtesy may improve your manners. I am Elentar Elrohirion. And you are ...?"
Mina gasped. "I know who he is," she stammered. Who he must be, she thought. An Elf who had been dead for such a long time that the movements of his visible fëa felt wrong like an act. An Elf who was so imperious that the idea of someone not obeying him instantly never entered his mind.
"He was tall, and fair of face, and masterful, his eyes piercingly bright and his hair raven-dark..."
Indeed a phantom of fire. She inhaled deeply. Still her voice sounded thin and shivery when she spoke, her halting Quenya unsupported by Elentar's mind-speak.
"Erye na Fëanor."
He is Fëanor.
Fëanor drew back from Elentar and seemed to notice Mina for the first time. He did not approach her, only focused his attention on her. Flames seemed to dance in his eyes, a grey fire of light and darkness.
"And who, may I inquire, are you, gentle lady?"
Mina almost laughed. So he could be polite if he wanted to! She groped for an appropriate reply in Quenya.
"Or should I say what?" Lightning seemed to flare in the eyes of the ghost. Mina gasped and took another step back.
Elentar had enough. He stepped next to Mina and put an arm around her. Though it was obvious that he wanted to protect her, the gesture spoke more of pride than of fear for her.
"She, my lord, is a child of Men, one of the younger children of Eru Ilúvatar. And my wife."
The ghost hesitated. Celebrían gave an odd sound, almost like choked laughter. Fëanor appeared to grow smaller, but more solid. Now nothing of the dead meadow behind him shimmered through his form. As if curiosity and concentration strengthened his fëa.
"We were told about you," he whispered as he stared at her. His eyes looked almost normal now but indeed very piercing and bright. "They were waiting for you."
He shuddered, and once more lost some of his substance. The meadow lurked behind his eyes again, and Mina could not make out the hem of his robes clearly anymore. As if his form echoed a sigh, she mused.
"I never encountered one of your people."
Suddenly a thought seemed to occur to him and he focused his gaze on Elentar.
"And you ...," he said in a bemused way. "You are different, too. Though not as different as she is."
Fëanor drifted back a little, as if he wanted to take in their appearance from another perspective. Mina shivered. She was almost certain that Elentar and Celebrían did not appear to Fëanor the way they did when she looked at them with her human eyes.
The ghost of Fëanor affected to sniff.
"You're like her, and yet you are an Elf. Or almost an Elf." He turned to Celebrían. "So we mix our blood with theirs? And our fate?"
Celebrían gave a bitter laugh. "Apparently we do, we do. My former husband was one of them, too. Mixed blood and tainted fate. What we would have been spared, had the blood of the Firstborn and the blood of the Secondborn never mingled!"
Mina frowned. But even as she felt the cutting rebuke form in Elentar's mind, she laid her hand on his arm. It doesn't matter, she thought to him. And right now we really have more important things to discuss.
Fëanor whipped around as if he had heard her. She flinched. Alive Fëanor's spirit had been more powerful than that of any other Elf. Apparently this had not changed much just because he was dead.
Dead. He had been in the Halls of Mandos. If the other fëar who had been held there had evaporated upon Morgoth's return, why was Fëanor here? Here, and well - or at least visible and coherent?
Elentar had noticed Fëanor's reaction, too. Without giving any indication of being bothered or afraid, Elentar said calmly, his Quenya slow and clearly enunciated, "My wife is right. We do have more important matters to discuss right now than woes of the past. Why are you here? Why were you not atomized along with the other souls kept in the Halls? Have you become a servant of Morgoth? Was that the price for your ... continued existence?"
Mina gulped. Yes, life was definitely the wrong word.
Fëanor glowered at her and seemed to become more insubstantial than ever. Celebrían moved closer to them, her eyes glowing.
"Yes," she agreed. "Those are very good questions. And I would like them answered.
"If you please, my lord," she added as an afterthought and sneered at him. Mina tried to school her face to impassivity, suppressing the urge to frown. Was that a good strategy to draw him out? It was very obvious that neither of them could make the ghost of Fëanor talk if he didn't want to, or keep him here, or prevent him from betraying them to the Enemy, should he indeed have become a servant of Morgoth.
"At least your accent is not painful to my ears," Fëanor retorted, covering his ears in another exaggerated, artificial gesture. Now Mina did roll her eyes, even as a suspicion formed in her mind. A thought she tried to keep as quiet and unobtrusive as possible.
He wanted something from them, or rather from Celebrían. The whereabouts of his wife. And: he was hungry for company.
In vain she tried to suppress her next thought: millennia in the Halls of Mandos must be very dark and very lonely.
She staggered and clutched at Elentar for support when an alien, silky and strangely powerful mind-voice invaded her thoughts: Very dark. And very lonely.
Fëanor wavered in the air as if he was unsure what to say. Then his form solidified once more as if he had made an important decision.
"He thinks that he controls me," Fëanor muttered. Celebrían and Elentar gasped as one. Mina felt her cheeks grow cold and her temples pulse with shock. So he was in league with Morgoth.
"Nay!" the ghost bellowed, then glanced about hurriedly, sinking lower to the ground as if he was ducking away from an invisible eye, fearing discovery. "Nay," he repeated. Then he looked up, his face almost translucent, as he added with painful honesty,. "I think that he only thinks that he controls me."
"But you're not sure."
Fëanor threw up his hands. Another of those overdone gestures. As if he had been completely invisible during the millennia he had spent in the Halls. Had he practiced each gesture in his mind, as the centuries passed by without a trace?
"Look at me!" he said. "How can I be sure? I am not sure of my own form! I do not know what this 'atomized' means that you speak of, but if you refer to instantly dissolving into the Void, then yes, that should have happened to me."
He fell silent. For a long moment he hovered hesitatingly, a brooding look on his face. Had he been in possession of a bodily form, he would have paced.
"He came looking for me.
"I ... do not know how he did it. How he prevented me from ... annihilation. But I do know why he did it."
The faked inhalation enlarged his form, but frayed the edges of his appearance. Suddenly a sly expression flittered over his phantom face. "You want to know about him. But I ... there are things I want to know, too."
"A deal then?" Elentar's Quenya was good. As good as Mina's excellent Latin. Fëanor winced. But he nodded. A most solemn impersonation of a nod.
Celebrían scowled. She did not like how Elentar cut to the chase, how he took over the leadership in this matter. But she, too, nodded her assent.
"What do you want to know, Curufinwë?"
Being addressed like that made the ghost wince, withdraw into himself, while at the same time becoming more solid again. When he replied, his gaze was focused on Celebrían. "I told you already," he said. "I am searching for my wife, I am searching for Nerdanel. I must know if she is lost, if she is gone -"
"And if she is?" Celebrían's voice was harsh. "What then? Will you accept Him as your master willingly then? Out of grief? Many are gone, Curufinwë. Dissolved into nothing. Vaporized. Atomized." She shot Elentar a hostile glance. "My mother is gone," she whispered. "And my father is gone," she rasped. "Olórin is no more."
Mina clutched at Elentar's arm. For a short moment their minds touched even as their bodies did, sharing an instant of grief over meetings they had secretly hoped for, longed for, and that would never take place now.
"Alatáriel? Gone?" Shock and grief rendered Fëanor almost translucent.
Celebrían looked at the ghost with an expression of bitterness and curiosity in the same measure. "I thought there was no love lost between you."
"Love? Lost? Yé, there was love between us, and it was lost. Lost to my pride and my arrogance, as there were so many other things." He hovered in silence for a moment. "How -"
"How did it happen?" Celebrían rushed out the words. Hearing Fëanor mention love and loss had made her pale even more. The bloody gash over the broken cheekbone stood out in stark contrast to the white skin. "I was not there, I was not there, would I be here if I had been there? But I heard whispers in the mines, of how they faced him even though they knew it would be the end for them, an end that would last beyond the end of Eä. They must have been gone within the blink of an eye."
"But Nerdanel, do you know aught of Nerdanel? Do you know if my wife ..." He could not continue.
For a moment Celebrían seemed to hover on the brink of crazy laughter. But then she sobered, as if the broken tone of his voice reminded her of something, or someone, or some place else.
"Nay, my lord, I am truly sorry. I do not know what became of her. She dwelt on Tol Eressëa ever since you left these shores. She built a house on the eastern cliffs of the isle, so she might look towards the East." Celebrían broke off, as another bitter thought disrupted her softer mood.
"She might still be alive then," Fëanor murmured. "She might still live. Would I know if she were gone? In this strange form of my self? And if there were no Halls for her fëa to fly to? Would I know?"
Mina shivered. She had always imagined death to be final and lead to nowhere, entertaining nothing beyond the vaguest of hopeful agnostic notions. But here, now ... it had not been necessary to hope for an Elf before, for they had known. They had known that their soul was tied to this world until the end of time. Death only took them to the Halls of Waiting, and to a newer life. But not anymore. Not anymore.
She felt Elentar stir next to her, as if he had to force his mind back to practical matters. "So you do not serve him? Does he know that you are here? Will you tell him that you met us?"
Celebrían glanced at her grandson. Astonishment and appreciation mingled in her gaze.
Elentar shook his head impatiently when he noticed how she looked at him. "Don't tell me I remind you of my father. This is not the right time or place for that."
Mina pressed his arm. His irritation masked apprehension. The expression on his face was strained, his posture tense. Mina's reaction seemed to amuse Celebrían. The Elf-woman flashed a quick, lop-sided smile that ended in a painful grimace as the movement hurt her broken cheekbone. "No," Celebrían said softly. "It was not your father you remind me of. - But you are right: this is not the time or place to dawdle. My lord, those questions are warranted."
If he were a true servant of Morgoth, Mina mused, would we still be standing here?
Another alien tendril of thought stroked her brain as if Fëanor was chuckling at her: Maybe.
She glared at him, then searching for the correct words, she retorted, "I do not think so. If he were, reducing us to dust instantly would have been much more practical."
Fëanor bowed to her. "Indeed." Then, turning to Celebrían, "A child of Men she may be, but she can think."
Elentar inhaled. His words were almost too quiet and slow when he spoke again. "Will you tell him that you met us? Will you hinder our progress?"
The outlines of Fëanor's form sharpened. "Your progress? Where to? And to what purpose?"
Mina made a quick decision. If he was a true servant of Morgoth, they had little chance of escape whatever they did. But if he was not, maybe here was the chance to win a powerful ally. "We're on our way to Alqualondë. We mean to return to Middle-earth, in order to warn the Elves there of Morgoth's return and to raise an army."
Celebrían started laughing, a low, crazed laughter. But she did not speak.
Fëanor frowned. It must have been one of his most-often used facial expressions, as it did not appear as artificial as most of his other gestures and looks. "There are still Elves in that damned and forsaken place?"
Elentar nodded. "My grandmother informs me that my grandfather and many other Elves have returned to Middle-earth, supported by Eru, the Valar and the Ainur."
Now it was Fëanor's turn to collapse in silent laughter. The Ainur and the Valar were gone. But although a part of Fëanor in his pride probably rejoiced in that fact, the way he writhed in silent laughter spoke of pain more than of glee.
"What kind of army do you think you can raise? They are few," Celebrían snapped. "And they are far from the strength of even the Third Age."
"You are not giving up the fight either," commented Mina dryly. "And besides, what else is there to do?"
"By which means could they hope to return?" Fëanor asked.
Celebrían raised her eyebrows at Mina. Obviously the Elf-woman had understood Mina's train of thought, but was not quite convinced of it. Suddenly she shrugged. "The Straight Way was opened when three mortals came to ask for our help a few years ago. When my former husband, the re-born Gil-galad and many others of our people returned with them to Middle-earth. And unless someone has been burning ships again, there should be a sailing-boat that can carry them back to Middle-earth at Alqualondë."
Fëanor exhaled softly - or at least it seemed to Mina that the movement was supposed to portray a soft exhalation - and shook himself. "You will never reach Alqualondë. He has sent out his minions to find all Elves and bring them to him. He does not like opposition."
"On their own, certainly not. With my help, maybe." Celebrían threw a calculating glance at Fëanor's pensive form. "With your help I dare say they would have a chance."
"Why should I help you?"
Celebrían never got to finish the sentence.
"They are here already," hissed Fëanor suddenly. "They are approaching quickly. From the north. Run! I will detain them."
Celebrían did not hesitate for a second. She grabbed Mina's arm while Elentar snatched up their packs, and off they were, running southwards as fast as they could, through pretty blooming meadows and into a lovely green forest, and under their feet dead and withered grass crumpled like old paper.
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.