Dying Fire, The : 1. The Dying Fire

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1. The Dying Fire

Warning: If you aren't very familiar with the text "Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth" by JRR Tolkien, on which this fic is based, then I strongly recommend that you won't read this fic, for both you won't fully understand it and the dramatic effect of the original text will be spoiled for you.

Here, as in the original text, "ye" is used for the plural only and "you" represents the Elvish pronoun of polite address, while "thou, thee" represents the familiar (or affectionate) pronoun.
estel = hope, trust
fea = soul, indwelling spirit of an incarnate being
hroa = body of an incarnate being
adaneth = mortal woman

At some moment, during the long painful night she had managed to sit up in her bed. She stayed there, her breathing thin, for how many hours she did not know. She was too old, too weak. But the fire was calling to her, and the desire to see his fair face gave her strength enough to get off her bed of pain and stand before the hearth. The flames had subsided, yet her mind needed but a little food to dream the past and his beloved face - a past that was not irrevocably lost, for it had never been in the first place; and never would it be, in all Ea, until the End of Time.

Then the flames leapt higher, as from a drought, and it seemed to her that he had thrown his head back in sudden laugher and his long golden hair flew about his face, his fair face, the fairest face on Arda for her, for she had loved him, loved him desperately, her bright Elven prince, her Sharp-flame...

And now she was dying old, unmarried, still a maid.

She was sitting on a worn chair, stretching her creased hands to the hearth. The fire was always calling to her. And she thought it would not be the worst way to die, embraced in his arms in death, as she had never been in life. Ill and old she was, alone and without estel... always and still without estel. When they had first met, their hands had touched in this darkness, and that was all the hope and faith she needed to live and love... and die. In that dearest, most terrible, most bitter morning, upon the high hills of Dorthonion, under the new sun bathing her young and brave and eager where she stood, her long hair flying around her slender form, she had believed all was possible, perhaps even the defiance of death, for his bright flame had leapt towards her while they treaded on the soft pine-needles and she was feeling immortal already. And in the twilight, they had kneeled by the silver waters of the lake Aeluin, clear as a crystal mirror, and he had looked at the reflection of her beautiful face, radiant with unspoken happiness. A star was caught in her long black hair, and her gray eyes shone almost with the light of a Silmaril.

Then, he had turned away. He stood and left, and never came to her again. He had turned away and she lost all estel at once, and wept, and wondered if Men could indeed not die from grief like the Elves, for her heart was broken and her fea clouded in darkness. But it wasn't her time yet. So, she lived and became Saelind, one among the Wise of her people. She lived and took no man; and every morning that she rose, she looked in the mirror and fronted her unkissed face.

And now her hour had come and she would die as she had spent her long life, alone and lost.

Never had she found faith, nowhere had she found hope.

She got up with difficulty and took a single trembling step towards the hearth, towards the dying fire that was still calling her, whispering 'Andreth, Andreth!', towards her Sharp-flame who beckoned at her with his hand outstretched, an invitation, a promise of love beyond the Circles of the World. His smile was brighter than the face of the sun and she leaned over it and stretched her own bony hands that lo! were withered no more, but instead were soft and lily white, as in the days of her youth. But as her breath caught at the sharp pain she felt when their fingers touched (in this darkness, always in this darkness... till Ambar-metta!), she heard his musical voice calling her name loudly from behind her, not before her; and it was not a whisper. And turning, she saw her door wide open and her beloved standing at the opening, his appearance like a white flame against the endless night.

She took a step back from the fire then, but the sleeve of her dress had caught, and she shouted in torturing pain. The next moment he was beside her, having crossed the room with two strides of his long legs, and with his naked hands quenched the flame. Then, he was clutching at her arms, holding her upright, and she leaned in his embrace. A veil of tears was blinding her and her voice was broken, while she whispered fervently:

"I thought thee dead! I was seeing thy face in the flames and seeking thee. I thought thou wouldst never come to me again, never touch me again, for, as is the way of ye Eldar, thou wouldst rather have a fair memory of me, than witness this... this bitter Punishment of Men."

Yet, it was from happiness that she was weeping, from feeling his young strong arms around her brittle frame and the beating of his living heart against her cheek.

"Ah, wise lady!" he spoke in unimaginable suffering. "Wise-heart thou art justly called, for thou rightly perceived that beloved Aikanár is dead. He fell at the battle against Evil and I came to bring thee the ill news, for the Enemy even now is marching towards us."

Her fea almost left her hroa at that moment, both at the words and the voice, for now she recognized its sound, even though she hadn't heard it for many years. She raised her eyes and through her tears, she looked upon the fair - and yet at that moment so hateful! - face of Finrod Edennil, the friend of the Men and her own torturer. With a scream of uttermost anguish, she ripped herself away, stumbling, and would have fallen on the floor, if he had not caught her. She beat his chest then, with all the force that was left to her, though to Finrod the strikes seemed as light as beatings from a captured bird's wings. And she wailed for him to leave her, and be gone, and let her die in mourning.

In bitterness she spoke, and hate caused by pain:
"O why did you come at the hour of my death to give me the killing blow? Could you not have let me find him amidst the flames, but you wished for me that I died twice over?"

But Finrod's heart was generous even in the moment of his own despair.
"Nay, wise lady, do not speak thus," he said. "For thou art very old and the fitting thing for thee is to receive the Gift of Iluvatar lying upon thy bed in peace, and not burned by fire in agony and pain. And I bring a message from my brother for thee, as well."

At that, Andreth's wails subsided somewhat, but she didn't look up at him.

"What message?", she asked only.

"Aegnor Aikanár, the Sharp-flame, bid me to tell thee that he loved thee, and in all his years since he first looked upon thee, he never forsook the fairest memory of thee amidst the pine trees on the high hills of Dorthonion, and later in the evening by the lake Aeluin, but instead always cherished it as his bright hope against darkness. And he pleads with thee that thou havest naked estel, trust in Eru, that after the end of Arda, when the fates of Elves and Men will be revealed, a great happiness will be bestowed upon the two Kindred, therefore upon the two of you as well. Beloved adaneth, do not think of death as forever inescapable, but rather as a temporary state until thy kindred bring about Arda Remade!"

The woman in his hands fell silent. After a while, she softly made as to retreat from him. Yet, he wouldn't let her, still holding her.

"I want only to sit on the bed, Lord," she said.

Then he took her in his arms and got her there. He laid her on the clean crisp sheets, with his bright eyes full of pity. And she noticed, for she turned her face away.

"You know that I desire neither of your kinds of pity," she said and her voice, though weak, was proud and stern, echoing the authority of old.

"Then none will I offer thee", answered Finrod, marveling at her strength, even as she was stepping on death's doorstep.

She was silent for longer still and then she said:
"Those were not your brother's words, nor was that his message. Don't lie to me, Lord," and she turned and bore her eyes to his, "for I have heard you speak enough times in the past, and your thoughts were in his message."

"The message came from him," said Finrod after a pause, "for I have shared with my brother dearly loved our conversations and the beliefs of Atani on the matter of death, and he came to see things differently than most Eldar, same as I did, even if not wholly. But yes," he added slowly, "some of the words were mine, Andreth, who remains the most perceptive adaneth I have known."

A bitter laughter escaped her parched lips, and at first she felt as if it would choke her, but then her loathing quieted down and even sadness deserted her. Finrod's hand over hers was strong and warm, and her thoughts drifted anew on the swift and eager flame the King had had as a brother.

"Death..." started Finrod.

"Nay!" she stopped him. "Nay, Lord! Don't tell again to this old woman that what is about to befall her is the Gift of the One to Men and not their Punishment. I am weary. For years now, my eyes dwell more in the past than in the present and I dream, rather than live, my days away."

Her voice was low and difficult and if there were a Man beside her, he would have had to strain to discern her words, but Firnor Felagund was an Elda. Very tired and fragile she seemed to him now, and very old, and he felt a great pity and sadness inside him, but he strove to not let them show. However, Andreth would not have been able to see them, as her own eyes were closed.

"I do not know of what might await our kindreds beyond the Second Music, if there is indeed a beyond that and not a foolish hope of Men," she said, "yet nonetheless he refused me the only certain time we could have had. He rejected me," and she opened her eyes, "he turned away from me!", stark pain painting her face."He left me and did not look back and moreover, he left me with nothing to go on, lost in the empty darkness of his absence. If I had had a single day, a single hour of his flame, I would have lived with my heart full, being the richest adaneth on Arda! Alas! He denied me all! He kept his fair memory of forested Dorthonion and lived on, yet I was left with nothing but the certainty of a dark future. Please, Lord," she implored and raised her hands, now cupping his, "let me be and do not remind me of the truth. I had a most fair dream just before you walked in, and in death I would have found the happiness I was denied in life. But it was the fate of Andreth to be denied even a happy death!" She closed her eyes again and released his hand. "Farewell. I thank you for the news, ill though it was, and for the message, gladder but without hope that I can see. Now, I beg you, leave and let me die alone, as I have lived."

She heard him standing and walking away from the bed and no reply came for a very long time. Silence settled on the room and only the constant creak of the eaten logs, the rare hiss of the diminishing fire and her labored breath could be heard. She felt very weakened and knew that her end was near. She marveled that he had left without a word of farewell, but was too spent to dwell on it. "Those Eldar Lords, leaving suddenly and forever," she murmured, opening her clouded eyes.

And there he was, barely two steps away, standing tall and bright as a star in her poor dwelling, his clothes dusty and torn from the fight and the flight afterwards, yet his pains had not touched the brilliance of his sculpted form or his fair face... which was bathed in tears. Silently, he wept as he gazed at her, fresh streams flowing down his high-bone cheeks without a sound.

"Lord..." she whispered amazed. "Are those tears for your brother, or for me?"

He kept on looking at her, his mute weeping being her answer. Maybe he mourned for both.

"Lord," she said again, thereupon awkward and very sad, "please do not weep, not over an old adaneth, for it does not become such a strong Elda King as thou."

He then drew a deep breath, bridling his feelings. He walked up to her. "There is a last part of my brother's message I have yet to deliver and then I will leave, for the Enemy presses close," he said. And then he leaned and kissed her brow.

A pyre was upon her, setting fire to everything inside her and burning her clean. Calmness was instilled in her soul and where his tears touched her skin, it felt renewed. A fragrance of memories overtook her and she was back upon the great highlands of Dorthonion, a lithe maiden singing clearly in a new day, looking upon Aegnor Aikanár, who had the sun on his face and the wind in his long hair. And she wished that she would die at that moment, inside her dream.

And then she felt a caress on her lips and her heart almost burst from happiness, but it was so real that it forced her to open her eyes and Finrod's golden hair greeted her, as he kissed her. She raised her bony fingers, then, and stroked his face, and his wet skin was like satin beneath her palm.

"This was not part of thy brother's message," she said trembling.

"The message came from him," he replied. "But yes, wisest lady, a part of it was mine," and he looked her in the eye and covered her hand on his cheek with his own.

She smiled then, and lo! it seemed that the years were lifted from her and her face was fair as in the days of her youth, her eyes radiant like mithril, her hair no more white, but shining black, and a star burned upon her brow. "Edennil, Friend of Men, they name thee, Finrod beloved," she said in a musical youthful voice, "but I name thee Adanethil, Friend of Mortal Woman. Farewell! I go in peace, and indeed, even desire!" she laughed softly. "For who knows what awaits us beyond the End of Time?" And letting her hand fall, she crossed them both on her breast, like folded wings of a white bird.

And she closed her eyes, letting her fea depart, just as the whispering fire in the hearth died out, and never opened them again, until the end of Arda.

The Elda stood still in the emptiness of the silence, until the embers too went out.

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.

Story Information

Author: Vasiliki

Status: Reviewed

Completion: Complete

Era: 1st Age

Genre: Drama

Rating: General

Last Updated: 08/31/02

Original Post: 07/01/02

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