"hindsight (noun) understanding of a situation or event after it has happened."
(Oxford Dictionary of English)
I lie here, alone at last, freed from the chatter of the healers and the awkward silences of my brethren. Hope had long died in their hearts when my cousin, the Valiant, brought them back a brother shaped into a stranger.
Am I grateful to Findekáno for denying my plea? As yet, I do not know. I avoid meeting his eyes, but the guilt that racks him also blinds him to my disquiet.
I may no longer take refuge in unconsciousness and delirium. My thoughts are clear for the first time in years and I remember. All of it. Ai, how I wish that I did not!
My eyes drift to the neat bandages where my wrist used to be. It troubles me, and not because of the strange, ghostly pain that radiates from my missing hand. Now, and always, I shall loathe what it has become: an inescapable reminder of my surrender…
My kin sees it only as a grievous loss, the most visible proof of what has been done to me. I find it hard to accept their pity.
They must have gauged the depth of my distress from the way I flinch at each sudden sound, at each touch, however gentle, or from my panic of closed spaces and blankets tightened over me. They may rightly doubt me for these weaknesses and what they may portend.
Indeed, they may venture guesses about the truth of my ordeal, but they will never know it from my lips. I shall never speak of how I was broken, though the memories burn within me as much as Moringotto's touch did.
I saw my company fall bravely, one after the other, as they futilely attempted to shield me from a far greater foe. I cursed my rashness that had led us to an ambush, to be ensnared by one who I knew would have no scruples about betraying an offer of parley.
There was no escape. I vowed that our lives would be dearly bought. When all my warriors had been hewn down, I stood with my sword held high in a ring of fell beasts who sneered and taunted me, sure of their victory. When they rushed forward, I braced myself to meet death and judgement before those whom my father, my brothers and I had defied and enraged with our oath.
I fought fiercely until my blade was knocked from my grasp, and I was crushed to the rocky ground, slippery with the blood of my comrades. Slowly, I turned my head and looked up to the dark shape of a Valarauco towering over me, his eyes ablaze and his tendrils of fire all but scorching my face.
The demon shouted urgent commands in his harsh tongue and I was pulled to my feet, struggling against many rough, filthy hands. My heart almost stopped, in dreadful awareness of my plight. They had taken me alive!
Scalding terror twisted my gut. I envied my fellow warriors: maimed, bloody corpses with unseeing eyes. They had been granted what I would not receive.
With hindsight, I should have realised that Moringotto would not waste the chance of grasping such a prize: was I not the King of those who had forsaken Aman, though I had not yet claimed my right? Was I not the first-born of the one who had dared unmask his lies, insult him to his face and name him the Black Foe of the World?
In the long hours that followed, relentless pain anchored me to my body, to reality.
Whenever I stumbled, they drove me with whips, more oft as time wore on. But I was still proud and unbroken, and endured in silence. Screams would come later.
Although weak from weariness and grief, rage swelled within me at having fallen into my enemy's crude trap. My throat burned from thirst while the lump of untamed fear grew heavier in my chest.
I would not look backwards to the freedom I had lost or to a vain hope for rescue; I had made Macalaurë swear he would not follow, despite his protests. Neither would I look ahead at the gaping entrance of Moringotto's stronghold, growing closer with every step. I focused on putting one foot in front of another, again, and yet again. I could not, however, banish dark thoughts as I walked towards a bleak fate.
After being paraded like a trophy though the jeering throngs of foul creatures that crowded the entrance to Moringotto's lair, I was thrown at the feet of his throne. My righteous wrath surged at the sight of my father's most precious creations shining upon the brow of our sworn enemy. I met his gaze with loathing thrumming in my blood and pride in my stance. Soon I learnt that one paid dearly for such foolish displays of defiance.
'Welcome, Nelyafinwë!' he spoke mockingly. 'What an honour, to receive the heir of Fëanáro in my humble abode! I truly regret that your father refused my invitation and unwillingly accepted the hospitality of my brother's Halls instead.'
I was wise enough not to rise to such blatant provocation.
'My hope is that we can perhaps reach an understanding.' His eyes raked me from head to toe, no doubt to assess the measure of my strength. Then he leant forward and spoke to me as if in confidence. 'A prince of the Noldor deserves certain privileges. As a valued hostage I would be inclined to grant them to you in exchange for some minor concessions.'
We both knew the true meaning and value of such words. I would yield nothing.
'I will send an envoy to your brothers with proof that you are our guest,' he continued, undeterred by my apparent indifference. At his signal my sword was placed in his hands. He ran his fingers along the blade, dull and dark with the dry blood of his minions, and frowned in distaste when he noticed a deep dent. With a sigh he set the weapon aside. 'If they make the right choices your kin need not worry about your safety.'
I deigned no answer to his contemptible reassurance, uttered in the same breath that sealed my captivity as the lever to force his demands upon my brothers.
'Truly, from your insolence I can see that you fail to realise how precarious your position will be otherwise.' His false affability had vanished in an instant, replaced by a tone that sent a chill down my spine.
'Your life here may yet be bearable, Nelyafinwë, provided your brothers desist from their harassment and accept my lordship. Endórë is large enough for all of us, and we can all share in its bounty. Under my rule.'
I hoped that Macalaurë would not be swayed on my behalf, while I swallowed the urge to weep at the doom that awaited me in his black hands if my brethren forsook me.
My obstinate silence irked him. The beasts around me growled at their master's growing displeasure but he raised his hand and absolute silence ensued.
'So arrogant, so stubborn,' Moringotto laughed coldly. 'Though these attributes seem ingrained in the spawn of Finwë and may have once served you well in Tirion, they are ill-fitting in a thrall.'
I still refused to speak.
'You will cower before me like your grandsire did,' he snarled.
My brittle equanimity snapped at last. With a cry that unleashed my repressed rage I lunged forwards, despite knowing that my bare hands would not suffice to slay a Vala.
Predictably, his servants restrained me. I felt the cold bite of iron on my skin and the heat of humiliation as shackles were fastened upon me. In time I grew to accept the burden of chains as one of many unpleasant constants in my existence, but their first embrace oppressed me most disturbingly, and not because of their weight.
'You shall yet see the folly of your ways and accept me as your master, Maitimo,' Moringotto purred. Anticipation glowed in his eyes, as well as something else that made me shudder. Was he so bound by his incarnate form that he would succumb to such base desires?
'Never! Thief, murderer, traitor!' I cried hoarsely, all caution forsaken.
His backhanded blow sent me sprawling on the stone slabs. Hampered by the chains, I scrambled awkwardly to my feet and stood tall again. The moist warmth of blood trickled slowly down my cheek.
'First you must unlearn some of your pride.' He sighed regretfully, as if dealing with a wayward child. Then I was dragged away at his command.
An age might have passed or perhaps only a year, for I lost all track of time in the dim depths of his dungeons. I endured hunger, thirst, filth, degradation and pain in more guises than I thought possible. But worst of all torments was the anguish at the thought that such agony might last as long as Arda itself.
My screaming flesh was abused by Moringotto's servants in all manners of vileness but one. The ultimate violation was too rich a prize for any other than their master.
After a while I even began to regard his minions with disturbing familiarity within the boundaries allowed to a prisoner, which I learnt through painful lessons. I also discerned their particular preferences and styles in dealing out my torture and their varied reactions at my responses during their games, whenever I remained conscious enough to watch and hear them. This grim knowledge allowed me to achieve a certain level of predictability in my otherwise helpless existence; in return my tormentors delighted in testing my every limit and laughed raucously if my endurance outlived their expectations.
My only hope lay in spurring them beyond the strict boundaries their lord may have set for my misery, to goad them into overstepping the fine edge between life and death that we trod together, between thraldom and freedom for my spirit from my tortured shape.
With hindsight, I would have realised sooner that this release was not within my grasp. Moringotto's despicable slaves were too fearful of punishment and would not risk their miserable hides by killing their master's latest plaything.
Every so often they would bring me before him, amongst a loud din of rattling chains and cracking whips, as if to impress their master with proof of their crude dominance. I would fight them every step of the way until we reached the throne room, where they kicked my feet from under me and shoved my face to the ground at his feet.
Moringotto would laugh with pleasure at my progress, as he used to call my growing weakness, but I could sense his annoyance at my resistance, and I secretly savoured my meagre triumph. Despite my battered defences, despite my weariness and despair, I would not willingly submit to him. To deny him this last victory was my only goal, the thought that nurtured my dwindling strength.
Oh, but temptation to yield seemed more irresistible with every instant that torment lasted, with every day I spent robbed of freedom and hope.
During the rare times of respite I tried to think little, for soon after my captivity began I discovered that my worst enemy was within. Too often had I hastily dismissed an insidious voice that wished to wallow in self pity, that whispered doubts about my vain resolve and counselled surrender to relish at last the peace and bliss that had been promised in exchange for compliance.
Strangely, it was easier to see through these lies while my mind was solely bent on riding the agony of torture, on enduring whatever cruelty was done to me for twelve, or six, or merely one more heartbeat. While the lash kept falling or the rack wheels kept turning I could doggedly, desperately cling to my hope, that one day death might finally claim me and my foe would be cheated of his prize.
Instead the day arrived when Moringotto's patience reached its limits, when his irritation at my defiance turned to ire. He dismissed his inept slaves with a snarl and took it upon himself to break me.
I thought he would double, treble the tortures he had so far submitted me to. I was mistaken. For what seemed like eternity I was thrown into silent darkness. No one touched me, no one spoke to me. I was buried alone in a chamber, nay, a pit not much larger than my body where it seemed as if my senses had been severed. Nothing pierced the impenetrable blackness that wrapped around me. No sound reached my ears. I could barely move, and cramp pierced my chained limbs. I could touch only my own body and the rough stone that entombed me on all sides.
I attempted to fill the time, the silence, which stretched beyond endurance. I sang, without the skill of my brother, but with the urgency required to mask the emptiness and keep despair at bay. I recalled every memory of a blissful past; recited every lay and song; chanted lessons on every art and science I had been taught, in those days long ago when we believed that the mingling of the Light of the Trees would last for eternity.
I recreated the precious faces of those whom I would in all likelihood never see again before the breaking of the world. For them, and for the oath, I would endure.
At length I faltered, and began to drift into visions, to imagine things that a part of me knew to be unreal. During rare moments of lucidity I doubted whether to fear or bless the loss of my sanity. I screamed, and when my throat was too hoarse, I whispered. I pounded on the rock with my head and fists; I lost my fingernails in a futile attempt to dig through my prison's walls. I longed for voices, for the sight of another face, for a breath of clean air. For the first time I begged to be released.
Unfortunately, he heard my quiet plea and I found myself standing in the light of the Silmarils, wincing at the harsh sound of his laughter. The familiar blaze of a whiplash across my back jolted me out of my trance and made me remember my plight. I met his gaze unflinchingly, to prove that I still refused him. With a chuckle of mock disappointment he shook his head.
'As you wish, Nelyafinwë,' he conceded. 'Though your scorn hurts and saddens me I will not disrupt your costly introspection any longer.' He stood up and turned away as if to leave.
'Take him back. Do not plague me with this thrall's presence unless he is willing to give a different answer,' he ordered my guards, almost as an afterthought. Immediately they yanked the chains that had become part of me. I yelled, and fought, to no avail. Until my lips betrayed me: 'No. Not again…'
I will never forget his smirk at my defeat, or the shame of hearing myself sobbing like a child at his feet.
'You have a choice, Nelyafinwë: you can serve me as one of the Eldar or as a beast robbed of will and memory.' He waved in the direction of the Orcs that patiently awaited his next command. My heart sank, unable to discard the whispered rumours of unspeakable horror, of those who had been lost in the shadows in the hills above Cuiviénen, taken by the Hunter.
'What shall it be? Is it truly your wish to go back to the pit?' His voice was smooth and kind, as if offering me a dainty. I stood undecided, blinking in the brightness of the Jewels. I hated my helplessness; I despised my inability to master my terror of being buried alive. I hung my head in surrender.
I was carried through a maze of corridors to a wide chamber. At his command several men and women of my kindred, beautiful, naked and with vacant eyes that chilled the blood in my veins stripped me from the filthy rags which barely covered my broken, aching body. They bathed and anointed me with oils, and combed the snarls out of what little remained of my hair. He watched hungrily.
Can I bear to remember the rest? How, at first, his soft fingers slowly covered my skin with trails of tantalising fire; how despite all my efforts I felt my flesh stir at his touch, to my utter shame; how I fought my restraints until I bled; how he forced his lust upon me at last, while I wept in helpless rage. How he revelled in my unwilling submission, in the searing pain of his brutal assault on my body. How I would have fled my defiled flesh, despite the accursed oath and the promise of Everlasting Darkness, had it not been for a delicate, shimmering distortion in the fabric of the Music that seemed to tie my fëa to my hröa, a wicked device of twisted but ensnaring beauty which in different circumstances I would have considered beyond the sensibilities of one such as Moringotto.
During those days? seasons? he took me often, and toyed with me in the most degrading, ingeniously cruel ways to assert his mastery. It was never long before I begged. Ai! I cried hoarsely for release from both agonising pain and undesired pleasure. He relished my perpetual humiliation with undisguised glee.
Forever my most loathsome memories shall be linked in my mind to the purity of the Silmarils that bathed us both with their radiance, and to the deep rumble of his hideous laughter.
Once, as I knelt by his side, weary and disgusted, he suddenly yanked my head back by the shorn hair and smiled cruelly at tears I could not curb.
'You are mine, Maitimo.' There was no way I could refute this statement so I just glared at him. 'But you remain proud...' In mock gentleness, he caressed my face along one of the wet, salty trails, until his fingers touched my lips. Revulsion coursed through my veins. Without thinking I pushed his hand away with my manacled one.
'You dare raise your hand against me, slave?' he roared. Hatred shone in his eyes now and I fervently hoped that at last he would slay me to punish my insolence.
He did not. He took me to the heights of Thangorodrim, fastened a tight band of metal around my right wrist, and bolted it to the face of the cliff. When he was done he pushed me over the side where I hung from the hellish bond. Agony flared anew from my hand down my shoulder and side, and slowly spread to my whole body. With a sneer on his lips he left, without declaring whether he would come back for me. I prayed he would not.
Ai, it was most fitting for Moringotto to make the hand that had offended him the tool of my new torment. Even more aptly, by my hand many of my kin had been slain in Alqualondë and now I suffered penance at last. I deserved such treatment, but that certainty did not make it easier to bear.
I cried, I cursed the Black Foe, and Mandos and his doom, and the ruthless Valar that had released this fiend back into Arda and turned their backs on us, and my brothers that had forsaken me, and my father's pride, that had led me to this torture. Again it was the fear of the Darkness that ruled my will, and I did not dare renounce the ill-fated oath and seek the Halls of Waiting.
Naked, I was at the mercy of the freezing mountain winds under the cold fires of Varda that watched me without pity as they circled above my head. Unfamiliar lights soared up in the sky, first silver, then golden, like those of the Trees, and they waned and waxed countless times. At first, I believed them another perverse game of Moringotto, or a trick of sorcery like the one that bound my fëa to keep it from soaring away from my fading hröa
There came a time when I could not even raise my head. My hand wasted, it had been long since I had moved my fingers. I no longer cared.
I lost my wits, and in my madness I had visions, fuelled by hunger and thirst. Once I thought the wind brought to me the sound of fair trumpets and of many steps like those of an army marching close, that of my kindred. Alas! I cried out but my voice was lost amongst the echoes of the stone.
When I thought I might die at last, I heard the sweet notes of a harp. In the mist of confusion and pain, I recalled the tune my cousin Findekáno used to play in happy, almost forgotten times in Valinor. What a sweet hallucination! Had it been sent as a precursor to my passing?
Weakly I sang, while I begged the One for death and delivery.
Eru did not listen. There would be no mercy for a kinslayer.
I live. Free from the torment of Moringotto, but still bound by the Oath; a chain stronger and heavier than those I bore in Angamando.
My kin rejoice to see me alive and urge me to recover my strength while their eyes are clouded by doubt that they would not put into words. Not in front of me, not yet.
I will prove myself to them, if only to spare us all from such a question ever being spoken.
'Long and hard shall be the road,' my father once warned us, and I followed him blindly.
Now, with hindsight, I shall lead my kin to whatever end, fair or foul, that will bring down our accursed foe.
From me, Moringotto, war shall you have and hatred undying!1
1 These were originally Fëanor's words ("Of the Flight of the Noldor", The Silmarillion)
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.