1. The Plunge
Below is the list of names of the characters in this story. In this story I use their Quenya names (and mother names), as they would not yet have Sindarin names.
Findekáno's quiver was full of arrows, his bow on his back, as he walked noiselessly along the ridge of a hill. His face was grim and gaunt, his prominent cheekbones more severe, the blue eyes yet defiant. But to see him one would make no mistake that here was a great lord and warrior of elves who'd seen much, a wanderer, travel worn.
His sword hung at his side in its scabbard, hitting him awkwardly if he made too quick a movement so he moved with much care. The sword belt was inferior for his current task. The design of it was not meant for one wearing a heavy sword on a long journey. His thigh was bruised from the constant bump of the sword. The leather sword belt was too well worn, tearing in places, and stitched with crude plant sinew. His people were short on supplies. Though many crossed the Grinding Ice, waxed linen thread, while an important commodity, did not make the return journey to endor in marked abundance. Findekáno smiled bitterly: the maker of the sword belt had no reason to design a belt for efficiency and endurance. In Valinor such items were entirely ornamental, but here in the Outer Lands now the center of his universe, these little details mattered much. Luckily the scabbard was well made. There was no danger of the sharp sword cutting through the leather. At least he was thankful for that bit of elven vanity for their ceremonial swords were required to be sharp and their scabbards thus sturdy.
Findekáno preferred his ceremonial sword to the swords that had been secretly and hastily forged in the tumult of Valinor. They were good swords, but his sword was an entity unto its own, a gift from Fëanáro--in better times--and Findekáno knew how to wield it. He understood its weight, the balance of it, and its many deadly angles. But the memory of his sword in better days was no comfort. Indeed he was drowning, drowning in the unnamable pain of loss. Findekáno remembered his little brother's awe of his sword when Arakáno was still a child in Tirion. Arakáno had cut his hand trying to pick up the sword as Findekáno turned his back to his youngest brother to speak with his instructor. The injury sustained was serious enough that their mother, Anairë, had to call a healer to tend to Alagon, as Arakáno was intimately known. Findekáno did not hear the end of that tale for some time. But now Arakáno was gone, slain by Morgoth's filth. Oh bright impetuous Alagon, who for a moment shone with the strength and might of the Noldo as he cut a bloody and terrible path of slaughter, felling the orc captain. Findekáno suppressed the cry that threatened to escape, the vision of his brother falling ever present; a deep and terrible wound he would never recover from.
Findekáno kept moving, trudging along, the wet seeping into his boots, the leather conditioning poor. Like the wet seeping in, his grief was filling him, drowning him. He folded over and threw up the meager contents of his stomach. His body shuddered. The violent heaving was now reflex, some subconscious part of him willing the pain to leave by whatever means. Another elf came to kneel next to him, laying a healing hand on his back. The warmth and calm that filled Findekáno had the intended effect. Once his body calmed, Findekáno turned to look at his companion whose face was shadowed by a hood. Golden hair peeked out from beneath. The hooded elf offered Findekáno a water skin. Findekáno took it and drank deeply, trying to ease the grief that was eating him from the inside out. No words were exchanged. Findekáno stood, nodding to his companion that he was ready to go on. The elves continued their pursuit, each holding the memory of a loved one close to their heart.
Oh ammë, Findekáno thought as the group carefully made its way to the foothills of the Echoing Mountains, your mother's foresight is like an arrow to my heart. Bold and brave you named us and yet you abandoned us to the destiny you foresaw. His thoughts were indeed bitter. Findekáno had forgiven Anairë upon the Grinding Ice, but that forgiveness was now gone. Gone with his beloved brother-son. Forgiveness was hard to come by. Findekáno had hardly forgiven himself. He remembered the warmth of his brother's blood, spilling onto his hands as he held Arakáno's body close to him, desperately trying to keep Arakáno from hemorrhaging during the Battle of Lammoth. It haunted him, a constant memory as the water slipped between his fingers, the rain incessant.
Atto, Findekáno silently cried out for his father, hoping to find some thread to Nolofinwë, out here in the unknown lands, to feel the comfort of his father. Instead he found himself reliving the moment that Nolofinwë saw Findekáno from afar carrying Arakáno's limp, lifeless body to him, amidst the ongoing carnage. Findaráto and Turukáno had reached Findekáno, slicing and hacking, clearing a path enraged by grief. The entire Host of Fingolfin was emboldened by pain beating the orcs into a hasty retreat, one that had come too late for the House of Nolofinwë. Findekáno would never forget the look of pain and anguish broken onto his father's fair face. Not Alagon! Not the youngest! Oh Alagon, too impetuous, too bold! He had ever wanted to be like Findekáno, admiring the traits that his eldest brother was lauded for, and ultimately Alagon won the renown he sought in this first Battle the Host of Nolofinwë fought. But at such a price!
The main Battle of Lammoth proved a victory for the Host of Nolofinwë. The Noldor host, greeted by the birthing of the moon, came unto Lammoth and was attacked by a mass of orcs that originally intended to surprise Fëanáro's forces from the rear; instead they came upon Nolofinwë and his people. At first, the tired elven host was caught by surprise, and in the first confusing moments of battle, was rained upon by an onslaught of orcs. But Nolofinwë's host had not endured Helcaraxë to be defeated as they finally made their way onto the lands of Middle Earth. The tide turned when Arakáno single-handedly made his way through legions of orcs to slay the imposing orc captain, yet having accomplished this mission, he was struck down by a sword to his back. The orcs dismayed seeing their captain fall and Noldor host seeing their beloved Alagon's heroic yet tragic end rallied, beating the orcs back…
Findekáno slipped on the muddy terrain, his mind back to the present, grabbing hold of the side of the ravine they made their way in to avoid being seen. The elven company was having a terrible time of it as water careened down the sides, carrying rocks and other debris with it. Each time they stepped their boots would sink into the wet earth, sometimes up their knees. The path was slow and arduous. Their spirits were dark and while they made their way, the elves lost themselves in memories of their Doom. As Findekáno trudged along, the ravine before him disappeared and he was back at Lammoth, his brother in his arms… Nolofinwë was now before Findekáno. How do you hand over what was your father's treasure to him, dead, broken? Gently, Nolofinwë took Arakáno's body into his arms, as if his son could still feel pain. He embraced Arakáno closely, as a father carries a babe in his arms, calling his son's name, willing him to respond to a father's pleas. Nolofinwë turned his eyes to his eldest--a look that would forever haunt Findekáno--noticing the blood upon him, his eyes widening in terror. "No atto, I am whole." Findekáno replied, his voice hoarse.
As if in a dream, Nolofinwë held up one of his hands examining Arakáno's blood upon it, running down the length of his hand onto his sleeve. But he could not hold back his anguish. "No Eru, he is mine! He is of me!" Nolofinwë cried out, his grief crashing down upon him. "Findekáno, could you not save him?" Nolofinwë collapsed to the ground, Arakáno in his arms. Nolofinwë folded over his son's body, sobbing, searching his son's face, his hair, trying to find a semblance of life.
Findekáno collapsed before his father and youngest brother onto his knees. "Atto, I tried, I tried, but I could not reach him. Please forgive me." Findekáno pressed his head to his father's knees and wept as Nolofinwë buried himself in Arakáno, desperately committing every aspect of his youngest-- his smell, the contours of his face, the feel of his hands, the taste of him, his sweat, his blood--to memory…
"Forgive me," Findekáno whispered as he looked ahead and found himself traversing the side of a ravine somewhere in the unknown lands they had crossed the Ice to reach. The warmth and metal smell of blood still clung to Findekáno. It had never left him since Alqualondë. "Forgive me," he whispered again. He was responsible for the death of many, of innocents, of Alagon. Findekáno remembered Turukáno's eyes as he turned to look at him before Findekáno and small group of elves left to track the group of orcs they now pursued. They were empty, his face sallow. Turukáno would have willed himself dead if not for that fire that stoked his will to be strong for his father, for their people. Findekáno remembered his father's words to him as he stood before him and placed a kiss on Findekáno's forehead.
"No mercy," Nolofinwë pronounced, his voice calm, hiding the raging current of anguish and sorrow. Lalwen stood behind her brother, a hand upon his back; ever the silent support Nolofinwë fell back on. Írissë had watched them from a distance, Itarillë at her side.
"I will hunt them down atto. And they will fear me." Findekáno replied his utter grief now subsumed by a hunger to destroy and devour those that took his brother.
"Come back to me son," Nolofinwë whispered. "We need you. I need you." And with these words father and son embraced, and once more Nolofinwë had to rely on courage, though dim, silently cursing the Valar for their Doom, his brother for his madness, and himself for finding himself a King bereft of hope…
The torrential downpour washed away the orc tracks the elves trailed, but keen elven eyes had by this time glimpsed the orcs' path into the dense forest that covered the steep foothills. These orcs fled into the Echoing Mountains, away from the icy fury of Fingolfin's host. Findekáno and his company of elves trailed this group of orcs that split from a larger group fleeing the Battle at Lammoth. Other elves were dispatched to trail other retreating orcs, but this group was special. In this group was the orc that slew Arakáno.
The elves finally made their way to the tree line, climbing out of the ravine that led them there, snaking its way across the terrain through the foothills and into the mountains. The elves slowed, surveying the dense woods. The thoughts of their loved ones, of all that had occurred, were now set aside. In their minds was now a deadly intent. In the mountains the orcs would be more difficult to track. They were not stupid. The orcs split up so their tracks would lead in different directions. The orcs had knowledge of these woods, Findekáno considered, a knowledge that the elves were simply ignorant of. There must be a place up beyond the steep rise where the orcs will regroup, he thought to himself. At least that is what he would try to do if being pursued: use what is unknown to his enemy for an advantage. The only thing Findekáno could rely on, indeed all of them, was their intuition of landscapes, of mountains, of patterns on the land. Findekáno surveyed the manner and type of trees, the soft light that filtered through here and there. He examined where earth turned to stone, but what told him much was the sound of water making its way down the steep foothills. He stretched his senses, listening to the water, making out the sounds of springs and waterfalls, but then he found something unexpected: the murmur of slower, wider water. The steep slope rose as far as their eyes could see through the dense trees, but certainly beyond that, the precipitous hillside of the Ered Lómin broke into some sort of flat area where such waters could flow. There, Findekáno thought, that is where the orcs will regroup to attack.
He motioned to the other elves the direction of the water he heard. The others quickly and silently understood his strategy. They broke into four groups of two for eight was all there were in the small company. Silently they crept up the hillside, blending into their surroundings. The greys of their clothing were stained with blood ironically providing camouflage under the dense foliage. Their arrows were notched and ready. The rain had ceased and the clouds dispersed above, making room for the bright light of the moon. As they climbed, the color of moon and starlight began to bleed through the trees more profusely at the edge of their sight. Where before they could see trees from foot to top, now ahead they could only see the tops of trees. A ridge of some sort and beyond that a flat break in the mountainside was up ahead.
The elves could hear the clumsy movement of the orcs, their heavy breathing, and occasional throaty speech. The signal that reached Findekáno indicated that the total number they were trailing was present, fifty-five. There were orc sentries posted at the perimeters of the makeshift camp. It was obvious this area had been used before by the orcs. Maybe as a resting point on their way to surprise Fëanáro? It was dark under the trees. Here the orcs could rest and regroup, away from the eyes of elves, and away from the new light of the moon they did not trust. Findekáno and another elf circled towards the northern perimeter of the camp, allowing for a wide girth to remain unseen and unheard. On the other side two other elves circled the southern direction of the camp to attack from above and the side, though neither group knew the terrain they would encounter. The remainder would close the circle. If their plan was successful they could hew down at least one-third if not more of the orc company with arrows and dispatch the rest with their swords.
For Findekáno and his companion, the path was arduous as a rocky outcrop jutted out, providing a protective ridge to the camp that was now below them. Findekáno spotted the orc that killed Arakáno at the edge of the river in the open, near where the mountainside rose steeply. Findekáno's companion found his spot south of the camp. From here the elf could easily make his way down a path amongst the rocks to the orcs below, yet remain protected from sight. Findekáno continued circling the camp arriving at a gorge that plunged 20 feet below to a river that snaked through the mountains. There was no bank below, only the churning, quick moving river. He looked to the opposite ledge, no more than five rangas in width a bit further up. It was not likely an orc would venture this far out from the camp. Findekáno removed his pack and searched the heavy bag filled with items he thought would be useful for mountainous terrains. He pulled out grapple hook and rope. He certainly had enough length. He just hoped the sturdy looking trees on the other side were indeed sturdy, as he could see no rock formation. For a moment he considered that the earth was very wet, soaked; mud was careening from the steep sides of the opposite ridge down into the river below. Tree roots might not be so firm. He hesitated but considered alternatives: retreating back to join his elven companion, leaving an escape route for the orcs; or throwing caution to the wind? What was the worse that could happen? I could fall into the river? That might not be such a bad idea, he thought, but then I will be exposed as the river abruptly widens.
He made his mind up. He would need cover. Findekáno eyed the trees on the opposite edge of the ridge; the trees where he stood were too far back from the gorge to work serve his purpose. If he could fell a tree into the river, it was dense enough to provide cover. Findekáno considered this course of action might allow some orcs to escape, though maybe not, but it certainly provided an opportunity to claim his desired target quickly. The river should be deep here, he considered, though he was far enough away from the orcs that they would not here if something heavy splashed into the river. Findekáno quickly surveyed the area he was in and found a heavy rock, more like a small boulder. This will do, he thought, but first he marked his path to the edge of the gorge and river below. He did not want to find unsure footing. Satisfied that his path was solid. He picked up the small boulder and hoisted it to his shoulder, walking quickly to the edge where he threw it as far as he could. The boulder splashed into the river and was quickly subsumed. It certainly seemed deep. Findekáno felt it was a risk worth taking.
Findekáno removed his cloak and used extra straps of leather to secure his sword and bow. He inspected his quiver, making sure the cover would not open on impact with the water. He had swum with heavier gear before. He ran his hands through his hair and tied it into one long plait. Satisfied he was prepared for whatever the following moments would dictate Findekáno threw the hook across the gorge towards a tree whose roots trailed along the ledge. The hook caught the tree, though not as low as he wanted. Findekáno pulled back on the rope to check the catch. It would hold. Slowly he tested to strength of the tree. It bent. Luck was on his side! With more strength he slowly increased the tugging on the tree. Bit by bit the rope inched towards Findekáno. Careful, he thought, one misstep on the muddy ledge and I might find myself careening into the river. The tree groaned, the sound of wood snapping making him pause, but Findekáno could not see where the tree was splintering. Findekáno offered the tree quiet words: "Ávatyara mello, forgive us," he whispered, knowing many, many trees would be taken by the Noldor on these lands. A deep groaning was heard and a torrent of mud and rocks tumbled from the roots of the tree. The tree now hung precariously over the gorge. One more pull, Findekáno offered a silent prayer, and the tree was tumbling down into the river, the rope fell away from him and without thinking he was also falling into the river below.
He dove in feet first, his body held tightly. As he hit the water his body went into shock. This water was ice cold, though he knew it would be so far North, but he chose not to dwell on this fact before concluding his idea was a sound one. Maybe he should have just tried crossing the river. He was panicking. The chill of the water meant he needed to come up for air much quicker than he anticipated, but the river was fast here, the current keeping him under. He fought the water and finally he broke through to the surface. He made to one side of the river where the current flowed quick but away from the undertow of the river on the opposite end as the river snaked towards the opening. He'd have a few moments to swim to the tree before it floated into the widening. His body was growing colder by the second but he willed it to swim, to use the currents like a fish. Finally! He caught the limb of the tree and carefully held on in a way that he wouldn't get caught up in it if some unforeseen geographic feature and water current pulled the tree under or against the ridge, trapping him. Though there was a risk of that. Then he saw the gorge opening suddenly ahead of him. The river currents ran wilder as the fast flowing water hit upon rocks and other debris that was gathered at the mouth of the widening. Findekáno guided the tree best he could through the white water, reading the river to swim as best he could where he thought the path would be less obstructed.
Suddenly he was swept over and the waters calmed. He felt rocks at his feet. The river was indeed shallower here. He made sure he was well hidden beneath the canopy of the tree that was above water. The orcs glanced at the tree and promptly turned back to their chores. Findekáno let out a sigh of relief. As he quickly surveyed the length of the river he noticed other trees and debris lined parts of the river shore. He counted on the fact that such fragments would be common during rainy times. He fought the river to slow the tree, and then he saw him, the orc that had slain his brother. The orc had moved further away from the larger group, filling water skins. Findekáno guided the tree towards the orc. He had no plan for what to do now. He did not care, for his only goal, his overwhelming desire, was to slay the orc that brutally killed his brother. But how? How would he remain unseen? He felt for the dagger in his boot and removed it, readying it. Findekáno had that strange sensation that had marked him as bold and valiant, a strange humming sound and a feeling that the world around him was pure energy. The look in his eyes, if one were to see him, was feral other worldly.
The orc was in about a foot of water, where the water was not muddied, filling the skins. He stooped over to submerge a water skin, which took some time. The orc noticed the tree but paid it no mind. If it came to close he'd simply push it away. As the tree neared, the orc turned to push it away, but as he grabbed the trunk he was swiftly pulled under. The last thing he saw as he tried to scream underwater was the face of an elf clouded by the color of the orc's blood.
Findekáno had swiftly dragged the orc underwater, slicing his neck so deeply he almost decapitated the grizzly looking creature. He dragged the thing with him as he navigated the tree towards the deeper part of the river. Some orcs looked to where their companion had been and noticing him gone started looking around for him. A few walked over to where they had last seen him. The increasing tension in their voices revealed they were distraught or angry. Findekáno held on to the orc with one hand and with the other pushed the tree as he tried to make the tree move more swiftly. He needed to make it to the opposite end of the clearing where he could release the filth in his hands and scramble through the brambles on the side of the river. Findekáno needed to get out of the water. He did not know how much longer he could remain in the cold water. Also worrying, was the fact he did not know where the river would take him if he stayed in it. No, he knew this was his last opportunity to make for land.
The tree caught on something on the shore. This was his chance! The orcs' attention was focused on the opposite end of the clearing where the orc disappeared. Findekáno hastily maneuvered the body in the branches of the tree to prevent it from floating and bringing attention in Findekáno's direction. He would have weighted it and let it float away, but he had to act quickly. He allowed himself to be carried further down the river where he quickly made his way to the eastern shore and crawled through the dense creeping river grass and into the brambles. He lay there for a moment, catching his breath. The buzzing energy dissipated and he found himself chilled to the bone, his body slow to respond, his feet and hands numb. He crawled further into the dense forest, sure that elven eyes had now seen him. Then he heard it, the bird call announcing he had been sighted. Daring to raise his head and spy his surroundings. Findekáno willed his cold body into a crouch. He could see the orcs now scurrying around. A great cry erupted from the camp. The body. They had seen it. An orc waded into the river and pulled it out from where it was caught. The head fell awkwardly to the side revealing where an enemy had lopped it almost clean off. A furious wave of cries erupted in the orc camp. This was it, Findekáno thought, now was the time for attack. He undid the ties on his weapons.
Arrows started flying into the mass of orcs that were running around gathering their weapons. Findekáno noted the flight of the arrows. He located four of the elven group immediately. Seconds later he marked the location another two of the company nearer to him, and finally he saw his companions' arrows flying from the rocky outcrop above the river. Findekáno strung his bow, the adrenaline warming him. His quiver uncovered, he carefully made his way as close to the spot where he was originally supposed to begin his attack. He said a silent prayer and let fly arrow after arrow that hit. But now the orcs were organized, heading in the direction of the elves.
"I thought you were lost!" a hooded elf announced behind him.
Findekáno turned and offered the elf a sly grin. "I was delayed."
"Delayed indeed!" the elf replied, a scowl on his face. "Shall we meet them?"
"Let us!' Findekáno replied, his voice like ice.
The two elves advanced, shooting arrows, using the trees as buffers from the orc arrows.
Findekáno made his way behind a group of orcs that approached them. His companion continued to shoot as Findekáno drew his sword and came upon the rear of the furthest orc, decapitating the creature from behind. Another orc turned to fire an arrow at Findekáno but Findekáno was quicker, using the length of his sword to slice the arrow. Another orc charged Findekáno with sword drawn. Findekáno caught the slicing sword with his blade, but the shock of it took him by surprise. He was still recovering from the cold water. The tremors from the clashing of swords sent shooting pain through his hands. Findekáno's sword slipped from his hand. His fingers could not grip the weight of the heavy steel.
Findekáno's companion had dispatched two other orcs and was engaged in a sword fight with the orc that tried to shoot Findekáno with an arrow. The remaining orc that was clashing with Findekáno gathered his sword and charged at the elf. Findekáno dove away from the blade and caught the orc with his foot, using the orc's momentum to topple him over. The orc fell hard and must have knocked the wind out for it struggled to get up. Findekáno was quick, though not as quick if he had not been submerged in icy cold water for such a long time. With his dagger in hand, Findekáno tackled the orc, using the weight of his body to impale the orc with his dagger. The orc cried out in a fury knocking Findekáno back against a tree. With a last burst of energy the orc spun around and lunged at Findekáno with its sword. Findekáno spun away from the blade and caught the orc's head with his hand, slamming it hard onto the earth. As he did this he swung his other hand with the dagger around and impaled the orc in the throat with such force the dagger pierced the earth. For a split second, before his dagger found its home Findekáno recognized the look of utter and terrible fear in the orc's eyes, but he did not have the luxury to reflect upon the sight of his enemy. Findekáno dove behind a tree, trying to avoid unseen arrows, but none were coming. The sound of melee was no more. An eerie silence fell over the camp.
Before him stood the elf he fought with, his gear stained with the black orc blood, his hood pushed back revealing the black hair beneath. "They are defeated," he informed Findekáno.
"The lot of them?" Findekáno replied.
"Some escaped down river," the elf gestured towards the river.
"We must pursue them!" Findekáno cried out as he sat up, his body still chilled from his time in the river.
"We will but first me must rest Káno and we must see to you."
"What in the Void were you thinking Astaldo?" a worried elf rushing up to Findekáno cried out, using Findekáno's mother-name, a sign of intimacy. "Get a fire going," the golden haired elf ordered the other elf, "and get me some dry clothes." He paused as the dark haired elf turned to look at him. "Well as dry as you can find."
"Are we safe Ingoldo?" Findekáno asked feeling incredibly sleepy. Findekáno tried fighting the sleep that wanted to claim him. He felt hands ripping his soaked gear from him. He was being carried near a fire that now roared. The warmth of the flames was comforting. He could rest now.
"Not yet Astaldo. No sleep now. Stay with me you stupid, stupid, impetuous elf." The golden haired elf now had his face buried in the crook of his cousin's neck, fighting back tears. "What were you thinking? I thought we were to loose you too. Did you not consider we could not survive that?" Findaráto now held his cousin's face in his hands, willing the sleepy elf to look and listen him. "You would have destroyed your father. Nolofinwë would not have survived this and you would have left us, your people, without a king."
"Here drink this," the dark-haired elf spoke, offering Findekáno a flask, wearing what seemed a permanent scowl. "If we'd lost Káno," the serious elf shared, looking at both Findekáno and Findaráto, "Nolofinwë would certainly have died of grief. And whom would we have then, Turukáno in his place? No, Findaráto the crown would have passed to you for our cousin could not rule in his state."
"I am not dead," Findekáno whispered, feeling revived by the miruvor. "Nor did I believe I would die. Ingoldo, I knew I could do this thing. I would never act so selfishly, believe me." He paused taking another sip of the mead. "Thank you Ecthelion," he offered the dark-haired elf, grandson of Lalwen, that had shared the small flask with him.
Findaráto sighed. "I am not so sure Astaldo, still a part of me wants to believe you. Yet Ecthelion is right. No longer is the line of Kings something that is a mere symbol. It matters now. You matter in a way we had never conceived."
The weight of Findaráto's words caused all the elves gathered, including Findekáno, to consider the precarious nature of their existence. Immortality was not a guarantee. Death, they all understood, was now a permanent companion.
Another elf approached the group dropping a pile at Findekáno's feet. "Your cloak and pack, my lord." The imposing elf turned away from the elf warming by the fire. "Here," he threw a thin black cloth to Findaráto. "Warm this against the flame. It will not catch and when it is hot to your touch, wrap it around his feet with these leaves next to the skin." He paused, looking directly at Findekáno, "And do not let him remove it. When it cools, repeat the process and wrap his hands in it."
Findaráto silently acknowledged the elder elf's command with a nod of his head, sharing a knowing and slightly accusatory glance with Findekáno. None would gainsay Calmacil of the Unbegotten who made the Great Journey and now was returned to the lands he had left long ago.
Calmacil posted himself along the perimeter of the camp, sending two other elves to guard at different points. They needed to rest. Findekáno needed it more. He had run himself ragged, volunteering to lead the company, though Calmacil knew what drove Findekáno: the need for revenge; the need to spill the dark that had took hold of them; to cleanse the blood spilled here and before. It was a dangerous path Findekáno tread, knowing that Finwë's grandson was strong with the power of Awakening. Fëanáro, Nolofinwë, and Lalwen had kept to their father's practices and beliefs that had not changed much since the time of Awakening. Over there--across the seas where the power of the Valar was held above all--many had grown to distrust the first laws, the esoteric ways of their ancestors that awoke at Cuiviénen. Indeed those who believed and practiced the first laws, the powers born from endor, became known as Halda, the Veiled ones. They adhered to the beliefs, the ritual, from the time of Awakening, the Cuivienyarna as it was, not as it was retold.* Calmacil continued thus, keeping an ever watchful eye on the surroundings, listening for anything out of place, and thinking about how differently their lives would now be.
Hours later Findaráto came to relieve Calmacil. "Did you rest Arafinwion? How is our Káno?" Calmacil quietly asked the approaching elf.
"Better," Findaráto replied. "Finally truly resting. I do not believe he'd slept well since…" His voice trailed off. Arakáno's loss was too painful to speak aloud.
Calmacil grunted, acknowledging Findaráto's words. "Very well. I will see to him if he wakes."
"But Calmacil," Findaráto replied, "you must also take rest. We have yet a long journey ahead of us to reunite with our people."
"I will do as I see fit young one." Calmacil's tone and face indicated he would hear no more from Findaráto. Calmacil turned and headed to where the fire was burning.
Findaráto watched as the elder elf settled himself next to Findekáno. He was thankful Calmacil had volunteered for this mission. It had been quite the scene when Findekáno asked who would go with him to follow and slay the orc band that had split from the larger group of orcs retreating after the Battle of Lammoth. Both of Findaráto's brothers, Angaráto and Ambaráto, had volunteered as well as Ecthelion and Egalmoth, grandchildren of Lalwen. Turukáno had also insisted he join the small company. Laurefindel had stepped in to say he was more fit to go, for Turukáno was in no shape to endure such a journey. Turukáno had made a great show of insult, but even he knew Laurefindel was right. Findekáno quickly put an end to the bickering acknowledging that the house of Finwë indeed had a personal investment in tracking this group of orcs and thus he chose a representative from each of Finwë's children. For Nolofinwë Findekáno would go. Representing Arafinwë would be Findaráto. For Lalwen it was Ecthelion and for Findis Laurefindel would go. From the other Houses he chose three representatives that had volunteered. It was at this point that Calmacil interjected, announcing he would represent Finwë himself. Findekáno dared not contradict Calmacil, who was like a second father for the children of Finwë, yet an enigma for he remained aloof of most politics, interested only in protecting those Finwë loved most. Thus it came to be that the company of eight elves tracked the group of orcs into the Echoing Mountains.
Findaráto reached his thoughts to search for his siblings. He found no ripple, no discord in the thread that bound them, but they felt distant. They would have to travel quickly, daring to be out in the open to reach Nolofinwë's host. As he surveyed the camp he heard Findekáno move near the camp fire. He had awoken and was now speaking quietly with Calmacil. Their conversation was intriguing for Findaráto.
Findekáno awoke to find a pair of intense eyes studying him closely. Calmacil's searching gaze was always disconcerting. Not only did his eyes reflect the Light of the Two Trees, they also held a deepness that only those born on the other side carried. Those born on the other side, Findekáno mused, he'd yet to shift his worldview. That, he thought, would come quickly.
Calmacil wore his allegiance to the first laws, the laws of Awakening, openly. Only for his oath to protect Finwë and his line had he made the Journey. Calmacil spoke to Findekáno sensing the changes that were taking place in the younger elf. "The veil that separated us is now lifted Nolofinwion. That which was Halda in Valinórë is no longer shadow. That power is now Helda, that which is stripped bare--naked. It is more potent than you have ever imagined or felt. Be weary kala-kwend?," Calmacil spoke, falling back into the ancient language of Quenderin that existed before the split, "though you were born to the light of that place, here there is ambiguity." Calmacil quieted searching the fire with his intense eyes.
"I felt it Calmacil, felt what we called the Veil break. It was upon me so swiftly, like a quickening. I felt it in me. I felt it move, stretch me."
Calmacil listened turning a rock over in his hand. Silence stretched between the two for a few moments. Calmacil finally offered, choosing his words carefully, "It is a quickening, but be wary Nolofinwion for it is now a naked power and it can consume you." Calmacil shifted to look directly at Findekáno. "What you did up there," Calmacil pointed in the direction of the gorge, "was foolish. But helda seized your desire to kill, your darkness, and it led you from that place. The only total control you have is over what resides in you Valiant son." Calmacil extended his bedroll, and lay upon it looking up at the stars above. "In endor the power of Awakening is neither good or bad. You choose from where to wield it and there are times that choosing darkness is wise. That is what you must learn." Calmacil turned over, facing away from Findekáno. "Wake me in three hours Findaráto," Calmacil announced, knowing Findaráto's keen ears did not miss a word of his conversation with Findekáno. "And you Findekáno go back to sleep. You need it."
Findekáno tried to relax. Had he been foolish? He was having a difficult time coming to terms with Calmacil's reprimand. Foolish. Yet he knew he was purposefully keeping his thoughts from turning to the other words Calmacil spoke to him. Darkness. It had always been present over there, across the sundering seas. It pushed at him through the veil, like figures distant, a hand, a whisper, and a touch that are ephemeral. It was more comforting to think of foolishness than it was of a world so different that everything he knew was upended. He shifted on his bedroll, his body aching in whatever position he ended up in. Finally on his back he stared at the stars, so bright, so close. Beautiful. He could not imagine being sundered from starlight. His forefathers had made difficult choices. Choices he was beginning to understand in the skin. Arakáno, that pain, that loss, sprung laying in wait, biding its time to strike, always under the skin. He suppressed a sob. He heard voices. Strange, from beyond the clearing he thought he heard a melody, a pair of voices lifted to the skies above singing of sorrow and loss, of love and life. But it was probably the sleep overtaking him. He really was very tired. So tired…
Alagon-Arakáno's mother name. Taken from Alag that means impetuous, rushing, thus impetuous son.
Halda- veiled, hidden, shadowed, shady. Halda is used interchangeably to refer to elves that made the Journey and crossed what is referred to as the Veil, coming from lands cast in shadow to Eldamar and the light of the Two Trees and to the belief system brought and practiced by those who Journeyed from the Outer Lands. Thus Halda is used to refer to a group of a people or a belief system and/or its related practices. When referring to the people I use the phrase, the Halda. When referring to the practices or belief system I use the word Halda. I've been working out a belief system since early stories. This is the latest incarnation, which appears in Not So Valiant Not So Wise, a story that is also under progress.
*For a great take on the legend of Cuivienyarna read DawnFelagund's Reembodied. This is in line with my own musings on this aspect of Elvish lore that infuses most of the stories I write borrowing Tolkien's characters.
kala-kwend?- Calaquendi- Elves of Light
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.