Tainted Light: 11. Dark

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11. Dark

Chapter 10

Dark

How does the day that changes all that has ever been start? Should you expect a sign, an omen, a flight of birds to tell you that today's light you shall remember for all the time you will spend on this earth? Or perhaps, instead, this day shall be like any other day; the lights shall mingle and fade, gold will replace silver as the house awakes, as your limbs stir beneath the sheets. You will open your eyes, and find nothing that should not be there. A day like any other day. But for the detail that will change the path you walk, and bring you to a crossroads you won't be able to come back to. But you don't know this; and after all, you are but one thread in the endless weavings of Vairë, a small sparkle in the light of the tale of Time. It would be selfish, it would be unfair to expect you should know that the last hours are slipping away. It would be petty to demand fair notice to taste one last time the illusion that this one place in Arda is untainted.

And no power beneath the One could ever grant you to see into a future this dark.

So I woke up that day, and knew nothing. In the bed beside mine Artanis slept, her forehead creased in troubled dreams. If in them there be anything more than her confused conscience of the change to come, she said nothing. By then she had lived so long beneath the shadow of this future darkness the morning the storm broke would come as a relief unexpected, unsought for. I let her sleep. My feet bare, without changing, I walked downstairs. In the kitchen, drinking tea with Daro, Maitimo waited for me.

I saw at once the worry on his face, the painful conscience, etched in its every line, of impotence before what had come to pass. I cared nothing for my nightgown, nothing for propriety as I walked to him. I did not even say his name. I let my fingers twine in his hair, caressing it. He closed his eyes, like a horse when it's stroked after a long run. Quietly, Findaráto stood up.

"I shall leave you."

I nodded. I waited for my cousin to leave the room, for the discreet sound of the door meeting its post before I reached out for a chair. Maitimo did not let me do it. His hands firm, he drew me to him. Sitting on his lap, I sought his eyes, but they avoided me. Encircling me with his arms he let his head rest against mine, and so we stood for countless time, our breaths the only sound. Until at last the words came out he had come to say.

"My father is preparing to confront my uncle as we speak. They shall meet at the King's house, for my grandfather wishes to temper their complaints and their wrath. I doubt he shall be able to do it. We could not hold Fëanáro back."

There was nothing I could say that would change this, nothing I could say to soothe his worry. No one, not even Finwë his father, could hope to mitigate Fëanáro's rage when it was unleashed. It was madness to allow him to confront Nolofinwë thus, madness to hope for something good to come out of it. But it was done. Had Maitimo rushed to his father, asking him not to go, the son of the King would have laughed in his face. Nothing I could say. But something I must, for this silence weighed as iron upon us.

I raised my eyes, seeking his, my fingers caressing his skin. But he shied away from my touch, gently rising, putting me back on the floor.

"Would you come for a ride? I shall wait for you here."

I nodded, and hurried steps brought me to the door. On the threshold I turned, looking at him. But his glance rested outside the window, in Eärwen's orchard, and in his whole great body was the tension of that morning, and of a wait he knew not for what.

Briskly I turned, and climbed the stairs to my room. Artanis woke as I came in, her keen spirit attentive to every shift in the wind, every change in the air. And now a black cloud had come to rest above us, and she questioned me with her eyes as I slipped out of my nightgown, reaching out for a dress.

"Nolofinwë and Fëanáro have come to a reckoning. They shall meet in the King's house."

Nothing else she needed. Throwing aside her blankets, she rose.

"I shall rouse my father. This must be stopped."

"You know well there is nothing you can do."

Her eyes told me she did. The obstinate set of her jaw – so similar to Fëanáro's when he would not be moved – told me she did not care. She had rushed out of the chamber already when she came back.

"Where are you going?"

"With Maitimo. We go riding."

Another moment, she would have scoffed. Now she nodded briskly, and was gone. I finished dressing in haste, unwilling to leave my betrothed alone now. On my way down Findaráto stopped me.

"Something he has told me, too. Is it as I feared?"

"Yes. Artanis is calling your father as we speak, but I doubt gentle Arafinwë could ever keep his fiery brothers back."

"Nonetheless, he will try. And I will do the same." If gentler, in his eyes the same light as Artanis' was kindled. Silently, I wished them luck. As I turned to go my cousin's hand caught my arm, retaining me. "Look after him." He had no need to say after whom.

When I entered the kitchen again he was not there. He waited in the courtyard, my horse, saddled and bridled, by his. He helped me mount in silence, and in silence we started from the city. Tirion the White was soundless in the morning, Laurelin's golden rays falling empty in empty streets where our horses' hoofs drummed a hollow rhythm on the pale stone flags.

I did not ask where we were going; I suspected he would not tell. I followed him, our horses abreast, as we crossed deserted plains at a small trot. It was the scent that told me where we were before I saw it. When we tethered our horses to the curved trees, only then did I speak.

"The Sea."

He smiled, the faded shadow of his light on his lips.

"I thought it would be a beautiful place to stay."

Waiting for what, he did not say. He spread his mantle on the pebbles, in the same place we had had lunch, so much time before. We had gone there again, to swim and to watch the tide coming in; Findaráto making up for the absence Findekáno had left. Here we had been happy again. Here we lay down, looking at the Sea in silence.

For a long time I did not speak, respecting his wish for wordless companionship; he sat apart from me, not looking at me, his beauty clouded even in the light unperishing of Valmar. Sometimes I stole a glance at his frowning brow, knowing that in spirit he lay far from here, in the halls of Finwë where Fëanáro his father battled his demons without knowing where the true strife lay.

But when the waves had woven a long hour with their music, then I could not bear to bring no soothing to him, or at least try, and with my hand I reached out for his. He grasped it; but then, as I drew closer to him, he kept me at distance.

"Offer me not, my love, the comfort of your arms, for for long years my desire has been bridled; and today I have no strength to control it. Tempt me not."

I smiled.

"Why, it takes two to take such a road. Or would you think that because I am a maiden, I feel not such a bite?"

He looked at me, recognizing the teasing in my eyes; and answering my smile with a truer one than his previous he replied: "No, I would not."

I held his eyes, the silence now fuller of other, unspoken things; all worry forgotten before the simple truth that here had been laid. Tentatively then he caressed my cheek, a stray lock of hair stranded from its tress; and my lips touched his before he could push me away. His rigidity melted as I would not withdraw, his arms locking around me. He burnt; burnt even as I did. With light fingers I caressed his neck, and his kiss deepened. His well-controlled strength was a flame engulfing me, an unreleased grip on his muscles. My skin screamed.

And then we drew apart as a horse's hooves drummed a hurried halt on the rocks above our heads, and we rose in answer to their haste. Slipping on the path she had run down, Artanis came in sight, her hair disheveled by the race. I never knew how she learnt we were there; perhaps, her mind clear now the storm had struck, she guessed it.

Her voice thick with concern, her face flamed with indignation, without greetings she spoke as if every word were poison to her.

"Fëanáro threatened Nolofinwë on the King's threshold with a blade. Many saw him, and the Lord Tulkas was in the city then. They were both seized and brought to Valmar by the messengers of the Powers; they must have reached it as we speak."

No answer made Maitimo, but he clasped my wrist, and up the path we trekked in urgency, our feet skidding and sinking in its pebbles. As soon as we regained a solid foothold on the rock he tore the reins from the branches of the trees, and hauling me in front of him on the back of his horse he told Artanis who had followed us: "I thank you for your speed. May we arrive in time."

My horse, bound to the saddle, following us, he spurred his own steed forward; and the grass disappeared beneath its legs as it ran. Fast are the messengers of the Valar, and the ground under their hastening feet means nothing; but faster was the fear that had seized us, faster our thumping hearts. In a few hours we were there, changing horses midway, Maitimo's black left alone to wander his way home. Cold grew my blood as we ran, and grasping my betrothed not to fall my mind was empty and dark. Valmar of my fathers shone in the plain before us, but its white walls shone like a colourless threat. The Valar were displeased; Laurelin's light bleached and dimmed by gathering clouds.

Before the gates a ring of the dignitaries of the city was assembled, the Powers seated in majesty and judgement. My exhausted horse bore us to the edges, and, our hands locked, we joined in silence the Fëanárions, marshaled beside their grandfather. Nolofinwë stood apart, by him his eldest alone. Findekáno looked at us, in his eyes a raw rage and a naked pain. And then I looked further, to those of the Vanyar sitting in obedient glory at the foot of the Powers. By his uncle, Ingwë the High King of the Elves, stood my father, pale in wrath. Even more strongly I clasped my beloved's hand, for in Olorimo's eyes, as he saw his daughter among the sons of Fëanáro, I read our doom.

And then Mandos, the Doomsman, spoke.

"Curufinwë, son of Finwë," he began. Fëanáro that stood before them, tall and proud, bore on his mouth a cruel and a cutting smile. "Your wrath had false roots, and your words have uncovered that behind them was the malice of Melkor, that we had pardoned, but who has again sown the evil seed of his black mind among those that we love. But if innocent you are of this shadow, still you threatened with the blade you had made your own blood; and such a fault we can neither forgive nor ignore."

"So be it, Nàmo of the Dead," scoffed Fëanáro, his voice vibrant and full, "Nàmo who has locked my mother forever away from the wind and the sky to please Indis of the Vanyar. So be it. Whatever doom you pronounce against me now, know that in it I shall read but the print of the kinship that binds you to Melkor."

A murmur ran through those present, and the Vanyar trembled with wrath. I shivered, for such boldness none of the Elves had ever shown before the Powers before. But Varda, Queen of the stars, raised her hand, and called us all to silence.

"Be quiet now, for those things that you speak of Mìriel Therindë decided of her own heart. None deprived her of life against her counsels. And you that most of all has been deceived by Melkor's treachery, you should show gratitude to those who now will set to punish him for what he has done."

But Fëanáro's face grew darker.

"Fair are your words, Varda Tintallë; but where is now Melkor, that you seek to punish? While you waste time pursuing once again the free will of one of the Eldar he certainly will have fled; while you sit solemnly in a power not yours, for you not unlike me are but a speck before the One, already the deceiver is far."

A glance ran between Varda and Manwë, the King of Arda; and before they could speak the Lord Tulkas, the Warrior, and the Lord Oromë the Hunter had risen and started on their pursuit, their calls of wrath and challenge like a thunder above the earth.

Fëanáro watched them go; and Fëanáro smiled.

"I see, Queen, that you shall need one of the Children of Ilùvatar to remind you of the things that need be done; now I ask, make your Doomsman speak what he has to. Already we have wasted much time here."

Varda frowned; and the heavens flashed with lightning.

"Great is your pride, son of Finwë, and great is your mistake in believing it sets you above those the One has appointed as Guardians of Eä. Today your heart is full of rage and lies; today I shall grant your hasty words a pardon. Hear now, from me, your doom: for twelve years you shall dwell in exile from Tirion upon Tùna, where your fault was committed, not to return there before the time has elapsed. In such a time you will reflect upon what you have done; and in such a time you will see if your heart can find the truth beneath all the deceits."

Fëanáro's mouth became a thin line; and my heart sank. But before I could look to Maitimo, and find in his eyes what he made of this, the son of the King spoke again: "This I will do. And the Noldor shall see if they like their city despoiled of those who made it great, when Fëanáro and his sons are all departed!"

Now truly all strength had abandoned me, as I realized that he intended for his sons to follow him in exile; and Maitimo held me without speaking, as if for the last time. The King then spoke himself, and his voice was fractured by the hurts of that day, and yet still great.

"My son shall not go alone. I will follow him."

Both he and Fëanáro bowed to the Valar, but the latter's courtesy was a perfunctory and a defying gesture, and when he rose to turn and leave I saw that he looked at Nolofinwë his brother with cold triumph. For one last time had Finwë, the King, chosen; and where his affections lay was for the Elves to see.

"Father!"

My cousin's voice was a needle in my heart as he appealed to the King; but Finwë made no answer. And the Powers left that place to go hunting for their brother, and the Vanyar withdrew in their city. But in the dust of the plain that still the sky covered with leaden clouds remained Olorimo my father, and Ingwion his cousin, son of Ingwë.

In despair, seeing that they came to me, I appealed to Maitimo.

"What now? Will you follow your father in exile?"

He replied not, but looked past me, to where his father and brothers stood. And still Fëanáro smiled, for he knew that to such a call Nelyafinwë could not disobey.

"I cannot ask you to follow me now."

"Maitimo! It matters not. You have no duty to stand beneath this doom yourself, but a great duty you have to me. You promised."

"I would not remain in Tirion now, not while my father stands exiled and forsaken in the eyes of the Power. Or would you that I renounced him?"

Yes, I wanted him to; and my heart's savage desire I recognized clearly now, as thunder clapped on the mountains at Oromë's pursuing horns. I wanted this shadow lifted from us, and I wanted Fëanáro's fell fire away, where it could no longer burn me. Where it could no longer crack open the abyss I saw now in Maitimo's eyes. I said nothing; but in my eyes the answer was clear.

And there, among the rooted ranks of Vanyar and Noldor stranded in this new, dark day, he held me to his breast and kissed me, in that one kiss putting all that he was, with warmth and eagerness and despair, and his broken gentleness one last caress upon my hair.

"I love you," he said simply, and it was a truth as heavy as the pillars of the Earth, "But this is my blood, this is my fire and my doom. Even if I renounced Fëanáro today I could not escape the print of his spirit upon mine, not if I fled a million miles far. Yours is the choice, Silmë Lirillë of the Vanyar, Silmë of the Light. I let you free to elect whether to follow me upon this path, or remain where no darkness shall ever taint you again."

He held my hand in his, but too soon let it go; sooner than I could speak, sooner than my spirit could overcome pain and confusion, and give him an answer. He let it go, and walked away without looking back; to Fëanáro and to his brothers, and to Finwë the High King from whose face pain and determination had erased the last trace of happiness past. And then I felt Ingwion's hand upon my shoulder, and knew that my family had come to reclaim me back.

Artanis was not there, but her voice filled the clouds.

Poets lie. Love cannot conquer all.

I looked to the sky, and it was black, torn by lighting and clouds in bleeding rags. Laurelin's light had disappeared.

No joy shall last.


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: Aredhel Serindë

Status: General

Completion: Work in Progress

Era: 1st Age

Genre: Romance

Rating: General

Last Updated: 09/29/10

Original Post: 04/22/10

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