1. The Bitter Expanse
The Bitter Expanse
Doriath: 1st Chapter
"There are only the pursued, the pursuing, the busy and the tired."
– The Great Gatsby
Author's note: I have been writing this story for about 8-10 years now and it is quite long. This is the first chapter but there are about 40 in total so I will try to upload regularly. Please note that I have tried to use Doriathrin spellings wherever possible and that the names of things, people, and places used change to reflect the ethnicity and thoughts of the POV character. (ex: Thingol uses the name Belegur for Morgoth) Of course, I own none of the canon characters. Many thanks to anyone who has inspired me over the years.
This barren ice was as cold as it was wild, as beautiful as it was desolate, an endless mirror stretching into oblivion, a coffin of the purest glass. From the snow the mountains rose cold and unforgiving, sharp peaks of clearest ice glowing with an ethereal blue light from deep within. It was a world heretofore unknown, crossed only by the Valar and Ungoliant.
At night they mourned those who had perished by falling snow and the great cracking of the sea of ice. In their dreams they realized the crippling but unspoken fear that tomorrow they might be the mourned rather than the mourners and, for the first time, the very real fear of what had once been incomprehensible death enveloped them in her icy mantle. Night after night Turgon had sat by the fire, inconsolable; at times he was silent while at others he wept outright yet always in his eyes was the look of one haunted by the unshakeable specter of guilt for those he could not save, for Elenwe, gone into the murky black grave.
The traitorous ice had cracked beneath her feet and she had plummeted to the freezing water below, her fingernails grasping frantically, uselessly at the lip of ice while Turgon bolted to her like an arrow loosed from a bow. But by the time he reached the spot where she had fallen, the ice had shifted and covered her. Then Turgon had taken his sword from its sheath and, in a desperate attempt to save his wife's life, hacked away at the ice while she clawed desperately at the underside of it. Yet it was of little use and gradually the bubbles of air that had escaped her mouth slowed, then stopped. By the time the others had reached them she had been still and frozen, her eyes open in death, her face already purpling. It had been a sight terrible to behold, the most recent in a seemingly endless concatenation of horrors, and despite their best efforts they had been unable to retrieve her body.
The sound rebounded off of the mountains like thunder, a great booming in the depths of the ice that stopped them all in their tracks, and a crack as sharp and loud as that of a great tree being seared by a white-hot bolt of lightening. She felt a lurch beneath her feet and then she was sliding on her stomach, spread eagled, over the ice. Her head hit hard and immediately a sharp painful throbbing started between her eyes and at the base of her skull. Her mouth, which had opened to allow for the natural impulse of a scream was quickly filled with the water and snow that made up the layer of film covering the ice. She had bitten her tongue. The metallic taste of her own blood filled her mouth and she coughed up bloody snow. Her eyelashes were dusted with cold fresh powder.
Her arms flew out as she made to stop her desperate slide across the ice and she dug in her fingernails, which made an awful screech, like rusted metal, small balls of ice and snow accumulating beneath them as she worked to slow her mad glide. She could feel her stomach lurching with fear and adrenaline and the image of Elenwe's frozen purple face beneath the ice, staring up at them with dead accusatory eyes flashed through her mind. If she could not stop herself she would most certainly die. Death: a word she had long known but only recently come to understand. The cold sent shivers through her spine, which twitched involuntarily at the sensation. She felt the delicate skin of her fingertips separate from her nails and then the nails themselves tear like paper, a fresh pain racked her entire body as she slammed into the ungentle arms of an outcropping of ice. At the impact it felt as if cold knives had been plunged into her spine. Yet, she had stopped; she was alive.
A lesser woman, or one without such strong resolve or sense of duty, might have lain there until the others came to pull her to her feet and offer to let her ride on a sled, but she was not like that and so, waving away the frantically helpful hands of those who had rushed to her aid, she stood, with great pain and a great struggle, though she showed it not. Her heart was still hammering within her chest and her eyes were brimming with tears so she refrained from raising her head, lest she betray her true emotions and quickly brushed snow off of her cape, noticing that pools of blood were forming under her nails where the skin had torn. Her hands were cracked from the dry air and the cold. How very cold it must be, to have even such an effect on elves. Quickly, so that no one would see, she wrapped her bleeding hand in the folds of her cape and pulled it tight around her.
She was Artanis. She was Nerwen. She was the daughter of Finarfin. She was a princess of the Noldor. She lifted her aching head and straightened her back. For her people she knew she must go on. She had to be an inspiration to them in this trial, to remind them of their greatness, to remind them that they would prevail. They looked to her for strength and it was her duty and privilege to give strength to them. As her eager helpers faded back into the group of elves, she walked steadily to her brother Finrod who was leading the group of Noldor at Fingolfin's side. Coming to march beside him she gathered her thin cloak about her forearms once more, for it had been slipping in the blustering winds, and wrapped it around her gown, though it did her little good, soaked from her slide as it was. The cloak, like the rest of her clothes, was far too thin. They had been unprepared but, then again, they had never expected to cross the Helcaraxe, never expected Feanor to do what he had done. Artanis clenched her eyes shut momentarily, willing those memories away before the dark thoughts could overtake her.
"Artanis, are you well?" Finrod whispered anxiously, lightly touching her arm with his hand, his kind black eyes searching for pain in her blue ones. Though her oldest brother was her most loyal and beloved confidant, she was rattled and did not wish him to see her upset as he would worry over her incessantly. Pulling her hood over her head, she turned away.
"Nothing I cannot handle, thank you brother." Nerwen replied, keeping her head down. Her mouth was still pooling with blood and she was forced to swallow it, wishing most ardently that her tongue would stop its bleeding. She heard Finrod sigh at her left side. He knew she was in pain but he wouldn't pursue the issue, knowing better than to baby his willful sister, and instead turned to speak to the young elf woman walking on his other side, Wilwarin, who had been given extra cloaks because she was with child. Perhaps, thought Artanis, Wilwarin should have stayed in Aman, but she had refused to be separated from her husband, who traveled with Finrod's host, even though she knew it would be especially hard for her. And, after all, who among them could have predicted this? Even she, cursed with foresight, had not. What further horrors lay ahead?
Artanis pulled her threadbare cloak around her more tightly. She didn't shiver anymore, though she had at first. She was used to the cold now; it had numbed her body and senses into acceptance. She would finish this long march. She had embarked on it and she would finish it, be it in death, as Turgon's wife had, or in the reaching of safety in Endor.
Though, if the rumors she had heard were true, it was inhabited only by the Moriquendi who were mostly savage, hardly safe to be around. Finrod had high hopes of seeking shelter with them and even suggested that the two cultures, Calaquendi and Moriquendi, be blended. Others, such as Feanor, believed that in this view her brother's wisdom had failed him, that to blend with them in culture and blood would be to dilute the purity of their own race. He had even spoken against the Teleri, whom he had always deemed the least of the Calaquendi, rebuking Olwe and saying, "You renounce your friendship, even in the hour of our need. Yet you were glad indeed to receive our aid when you came at last to these shores, faint-hearted loiterers, and well nigh empty handed. In huts on the beaches would you be dwelling still, had not the Noldor carve out your haven and toiled upon your walls."
In this manner had Feanor's words sat ill with Artanis for she herself bore Telerin blood from her mother and the implications of such speech troubled her greatly. She shivered now, not a shiver of cold but one born of distaste, for she recalled the way that she had worshipped her uncle Feanor and now, after the horrible things that he had done, she wondered how she could have been so blind, how she could have allowed his words to stir her, and she looked upon her past self with great distaste.
Nevertheless, she thought, turning her mind to happier thoughts, she expected that the Moriquendi would be glad to see them. They would have heard of the great wisdom and skill of the Noldor, who would only be too glad to educate their kin in their ways and perhaps together they would be able to rid all Arda of Morgoth.
The thought brought a smile to her face. This was why she had come. To explore, to conquer. She was weary of Valinor, of lands where she felt caged, always confined to being someone's daughter, someone's sister, a land where there was no room to be anything more than what you had been born. But her mind yearned for lands without a horizon, where she might establish her own kingdom in her own right, where she would bow to no one.
That night they built a stack of kindling from some of their salvaged belongings and lit it with the two precious stones of flint, the bedraggled group of survivors crowding around the meager source of light and heat. There were no stars in the sky tonight, the indigo void above as empty as her stomach.
Artanis gazed into the flames. Sometimes she still imagined she could see Feanor burning the swan ships of the Teleri, leaving Fingolfin, Artanis, and her brothers to die along with their people. Betrayal. He had left them with no other way but to brave the Helcaraxe. Even then, she could have turned back as her father had done, as he had begged her to do. But though she had not taken the terrible oath of Feanor and his sons, she had taken an oath of her own, to establish herself as a queen in her own right and to thereby thwart evil in all things.
It seemed so long ago that he had reached out and tugged gently on her hair as they stood beneath the light of the two trees, caressing it, and, though she had admired him, she had not liked his touch, her skin crawling at the merest brush of his fingers, and she had shrank away.
"You would not miss a single strand. Twice have I asked and twice you have refused. This time I beg you give me a different answer... You are so beautiful to me Artanis."
It was unnatural and her heart revolted against his sentiment. At a loss for words she had slapped his hand away, running from the plaza. Although he called her beautiful, when he said it, she felt disgusting. His eyes contained an unsettling strangeness, perhaps that's what it was, perhaps that was all that he was, fire, burning and destroying.
There was blood everywhere, staining the beaches and the tide was rising, stained incarnadine. She saw Curufin plunge his blade into the heart of a tall silver haired elf, blood burbling around the wound as he withdrew the crimson stained weapon. Saliva, froth, tinted pink with blood, trickled from the mouth of the Teleri as he crumpled into a heap on the dock. He twitched and then was still as a milky film glazed eyes that had only a few moments earlier, been full of shock and terror.
The Teleri still did not comprehend what was happening and their confusion cost them dearly for they had been unarmed and they had hesitated to escape when the Feanorians had first drawn their swords, unable to believe that their kinsmen truly intended to slaughter them. Everywhere there were people running and the air was filled with screams. Artanis could feel the tears running down her face. She had been raised here in Aqualonde, amongst her mother's people, and now wherever she turned she saw familiar faces, cold and glassy eyed in death.
A newly severed head bounced to the dock from the shoulders of its owner and spun like a top. Startled, she lurched backwards, tripping into a fountain. The water from it sprayed onto her face and she shrieked as she noticed that it was red with blood, the entrails of the disembowled floating lazily across the gruesome surface. Hands wrapped around her neck from behind and she struggled violently, choking hard, her chest tightening, and managed to shake her attacker off, turning to find herself facing a she elf who was with child.
Artanis gasped, confused, unable to understand what was happening. The Teleri lunged at her again shrieking, fear, pain, and anger in her eyes. She was afraid that Artanis would kill her and Artanis stood frozen. Then, the she elf was knocked off of her feet as Celegorm charged at her. She fell, hitting her head on the ledge of the fountain, blood and brainmatter beginning to leak from her cracked skull but somehow she was still alive. "No!" Artanis gasped. "No!"
"GO. TO THE BOATS!" Celegorm screamed at her. He grabbed the Teleri by her silver hair and thrust her head into the red pool. She did not struggle hard, already half dead, and her body soon went limp, collapsing against the stone. Artanis stood stunned. It was like a horrible dream. Surely, surely she would awaken any moment. "ARTANIS GO!" He shouted again, smacking her hard across the face. It shocked her out of her frozen stupor. All that she knew how to do was run and run she did, seeing nothing, hearing nothing. A vision, white hot and burning, seared across her vision: Feanor, the silver scalps of the Teleri hanging from his belt, his eyes gone mad. She reached the boats to find his sword pointed at her throat.
"Three times you denied me! Think you now that I shall allow you to pass?" He screamed, his face contorted with anger and madness. He swung wildly at her and she turned, fleeing from the ships shrieking, clawing at her head. Her mother's kin were dying all about her. It vanished.
Suddenly she was in a much different place. She lay upon soft silken sheets and a bright white light filled her mind. She felt warmth beside her. A hand caressed her cheek gently, a soft kiss on her lips, then the hollow of her neck. A soft rich laugh. The whisper of a name: Galadriel. She smiled and then it was gone.
Artanis awoke with a start. Her breath was ragged and her heart pounding, her body shaking and not because of the cold. She had felt fear and then joy. She lay back down as one of the elves standing guard over the sleeping company looked at her anxiously. Her dreams were growing more troubled lately and they were increasingly confusing. For days after the kinslaying her memory had remained blank. And then, then, the memories had started to return in pieces. She lay awake, unable to resume her slumber.
The arrow flew straight and struck true, landing dead center in the gnarly black head of an orc. Celeborn, silver-haired prince of the Sindar turned to direct a thankful nod at Beleg Strongbow, who sat perched in a tree with his mighty black bow. The master archer grinned back in acknowledgment and Celeborn lazily turned to sink his mithril axe into the neck of an orc that was coming straight towards him.
Ever since Thingol and Denethor had led them to victory against Melkor's forces in the Battle of Beleriand, the attacks by the orcs had been getting weaker and weaker. They had marshaled a force to send south in support of Cirdan, who had been besieged at Eglarest and Brithombar but, since Denethor had been slain and the Laiquendi had refused to fight without him, the force had been too weak and it was repelled. Belegur had dealt them a blow indeed, though they had triumphed, and it would take them years to return to their former glory but return they would, for this was the land of Elu Thingol, High King of Beleriand.
Celeborn bent to wipe his axe on the fallen leaves and smiled as he heard Beleg whooping and singing a Sindarin war song. The orcs had all been slain and the elves milled about, checking the corpses for anything of use before leaping into the trees and heading back towards Menegroth, crossing the girdle into their hidden kingdom. They sang as they ran and as they swung through the trees, falling in with Beleg's song.
The four winds are blowing,
A war party came a riding,
They came riding on wolves.
Their teeth they were sharp,
Sharp as knives in the dark.
Our arrows they were sharper,
Our blades they were sharper,
We have obliterated every trace of them!
They sent up a great shout as the song came to an end and then Celeborn began to lead them in song, the others joining in.
We circle round, we circle round,
The boundaries of the earth.
We circle round, we circle round,
The boundaries of the earth.
Wearing our long wing feathers as we fly,
Wearing our long wing feathers as we fly.
We circle round, we circle round,
The boundaries of the sky.
They ran throughout the day, eager to return to their home after weeks spent outside the girdle in the wilderness. As much as Celeborn missed Menegroth, he was quite certain that he could live forever in these woods. He loved the feeling of the wind in his face and the living trees beneath his feet. He could hear them singing as he passed through, greeting him, his old friends. From the tops of the tallest sycamores he could see all of Doriath spread out beneath him, a sight that never failed to strike wonder into his heart. There was never a time when he felt more wild and free, never a time when he felt happier than this, to see his kingdom in all of her beauty.
Moving quickly, they reached Menegroth by nightfall and passed happily through those gates of the hidden kingdom. Dinner was underway but some of their company headed for the bathhouses instead while Celeborn and Beleg, sick of eating nothing but lembas, dried meat, and nuts, headed for the great hall, where dinner awaited. It was in the Sindarin tradition for all to eat together there, which they did by sitting on cushions around low tables set on the floor. All were free to wander as they pleased and most did so, moving from table to table, sampling different foods and conversations as they went. Here kitchen maids mingled freely with the king's counselors and animal and elf alike was welcome. Dinner here was not a chore to be quickly done with, no, it was an event to be relished and enjoyed over the course of an entire evening.
Celeborn and Beleg moved slowly through the hall for there were many who wished to greet them or have words with them but before they could satiate their growling stomachs, a messenger approached to summon them to Thingol's chambers and it was with much regret that, as they left the hall, they looked back at the steaming trenchers of roast boar meat and grilled fish and forest herbs.
"That shot!" Celeborn exclaimed with a laugh as they tread the familiar path to Thingol's quarters. He stopped momentarily, reenacting it. "That was a fine bit of archery Beleg, like shooting a fresh melon." He laughed and strode forward once more.
"Just doing my job your highness," Beleg replied with a grin. "Not all of us feel the need to perform theatrics with our axes," he spun about in a mockery of Celeborn's fighting style, laughing.
"Your highness…" Celeborn scoffed, "you mock me Strongbow!" But their antics continued no further for they had arrived at Thingol's great door and Celeborn knocked, though he waited for no reply before entering. "Uncle, I say, calling us away from our dinner. Do you not think that most cruel and unusual?" The prince asked, feigning complete seriousness as he stood at rigid attention before the king, who was sitting in his chair behind his desk.
"Not so cruel and unusual as what I might have done to you had you not heeded my summons," Thingol said with a raised eyebrow and a grin, for he could not entirely mask his amusement at the antics of the two younger elves. Celeborn's name meant 'silver tree' and yet Thingol often pondered that 'silver tongue' might have been more appropriate, whether for better or for worse, for the prince's words could either smooth over the most bitter of quarrels or cut one down to the very bone itself. "And besides," the king continued, turning to Melian his queen, who sat to his right, "we have received very shocking and important news that I would tell you immediately, before word of it spreads like wildfire throughout this city."
"Well if it is interesting enough then we may forgive you after all," Celeborn said to his uncle.
It was Melian who laughed at her nephew's earnest expression and then she said, "As the both of you well know, I have been particularly perceptive of a changing lately, though I knew not what that change was until today. But, at last, we have had word from Cirdan and, not only him, but from our cities in the Northwest."
"May I be permitted to hope that this is good news?" Beleg asked them. "For neither one of you looks particularly somber."
"Whether good or bad we cannot yet tell," said Thingol, "but it is certainly news that would invite caution, though there may a part of it that is joyous as well. Time will tell with it, as it does with all things. Yet, be not impatient and allow us to speak properly. Today we received word from Cirdan at Falas that the orcs which were attacking have drawn back at last," the king said, a grin upon his lips and a twinkle in his eye. He leaned forward, resting his elbows upon his desk. "Good news not only for Cirdan, but for us as well, for long had I worried that I could not send him the army he needed and now my worries have been assuaged and Menegroth need not tax herself so harshly to meet that demand."
And at this Celeborn cocked his head, eyeing his uncle quizzically, for though he enjoyed his jests and good fun, he was above all a highly intelligent lad and Thingol could see that his nephew's mind was already bent upon the matter fully. It was, indeed, the reason that the king had named the young silver-haired prince as his right hand. "Do you mean to tell us that Cirdan has managed to push them back himself unaided or can it be that they have retreated of their own accord?" Celeborn asked. "For it seems to me that both of these scenarios seem highly unlikely. It may well be that Cirdan could have achieved this but it would have taken him a much longer time than it has done."
"Well said nephew," Thingol gave answer, "and, indeed, you have struck near the truth. Belegur's forces abandoned their siege of the havens in favor of joining another battle."
And now it was Beleg who reasoned aloud, saying: "Another battle…but with whom? Denethor's people? Yet that cannot be, for they have sworn to never fight again after Denethor was slain."
"This also is true," Thingol said, for it was not Denethor's people who joined in battle with Belegur's forces. Rather, it was to move against one called Feanor that the orcs abandoned their siege of Falas," Thingol replied, the satisfaction in his eyes coming together as his tale neared its climax. He did so love to make them think but both of them stared back at him with blank expressions.
"Feanor? But who is he?" Celeborn asked, "For I have never before heard his name and it seems strange to me that one whom I do not know should enter into this realm without my knowledge." Both he and Beleg were looking intently at their king now.
"He is the son of my dear friend Finwe, or so my reports from our people who live in the north say," Thingol said simply. At that both Beleg and Celeborn grew wide-eyed with shock, for whatever news they had expected, it had never been this. "The Noldor have returned," the king said.
"What of the Vanyar? What of the Teleri?" Beleg asked.
"Either they have not come at all and will not or they have not yet come," Thingol said. "At the moment only the Noldor have arrived."
"A very strange turn of events indeed," Celeborn mused aloud.
"Is this not cause for rejoicing?" Beleg asked. "Surely it cannot be coincidence that they arrived in our hour of need, as Cirdan was besieged with us powerless to help him. Perhaps they have been sent by the Valar to assist us. For the loss of Denethor was a great blow indeed and without the assistance of the green elves we were not even able to assist Cirdan at the havens. If their force is large enough we might be able to take decisive action against Belegur." But Celeborn did not throw his lot in with Beleg for he had taken notice of Melian and the uncertainty that he saw in her eyes, finding that it rhymed well with a certain foreboding that seemed to trouble his heart.
So instead he said: "And yet why should the Valar see fit to answer our prayers now when they have consistently turned deaf ears upon our pleas? For out of all of them only Orome shared in both our pleasures and our sorrows." Then did Beleg turn a skeptical eye on his friend, for the prince's habit of blasphemy had ever struck him as ill, but Celeborn continued to speak, saying: "Could it not be that this is no triumphant return, but an exodus caused by some event in Aman, some great trouble or unrest? And should not the fact that none of our Telerin brethren nor any of the Vanyar travel with them be evidence enough that there may have been some discord to which we are not privy?
"When I contemplate this question, my heart grows disquiet indeed and I find that my mind immediately wishes to know more of this situation, to know if these Noldor are well prepared, as if for a journey long-planned, or whether they are in disorder, seeming like one who steals from his bed in the middle of the night. There are those who might say that this line of questioning is mere folly for Aman is good and all of the fruit that she bears is equally good. Yet on some rare occasions have I seen a prized tree yield a spoiled apple and so I find that I cannot believe that any land, even Aman itself, does not bear some stain."
Then did Elu Thingol sit in silence for a long while, for these were thoughts that had not occurred, even to the him and Melian, and he found himself astounded at the wisdom of his nephew. Young though he was, it was aptly that he was called Ngolo, the wise.
At length the king spoke, saying: "Many ages have we been separated from our kin in Aman and so we cannot with certainty say what might have passed or understand how they may have changed in the time in which we have not had contact with them. Yet you are right indeed to wonder these things nephew, and I find even that you have brought questions to my mind which I had not previously considered.
"Upon first hearing the news, I, like Beleg, was overjoyed to think that I might once more meet my kin, from whom I have been long sundered, and my mind ran even so far as to think that perhaps the way had been opened to us and the Eldar might now pass freely between Aman and middle earth," Thingol said. "Yet when I pondered further I grew uneasy, for I wondered why Belegur should have returned so suddenly to our lands and begun to build up once more his fortress of Angbad, and I think not that it is mere coincidence that the Noldor have come so soon after he. And there are many questions that I have concerning the strange goings on of late: these two lights, one gold and one silver, that now circle the sky and the increase in Belegur's strength that led to the war we have only just finished. I should very much like to know the answers to these questions." So said the king.
"Can you not see what has happened?" Celeborn said, turning to Melian but she shook her magnificent head.
"The way is closed to me, concealed with a darkening shroud," the queen told him, "I dreamed that I walked through the forest in a starless night when before me lay a gate of stone so great that I could neither see over it nor pass around it. It was as tall as a mountain and seemed to span the entire earth. There hung from its top a long black curtain that seemed to billow in the wind though there was no breeze and yet I could see nothing on the other side for it seemed only darkness lay there. As I approached, a great fear came over me and then from the other side I heard thousands of voices whispering to me in a language I could not understand yet it seemed that they called to me for help, entreating with me to save their lives. But, as I placed my hand upon that shroud I suddenly knew that were I to pass through, I could never return and I should be gone forever. Then the voices all cried out at once and were immediately silenced." Celeborn felt a cold chill creep down his spine at the Queen's words and from the look in Thingol's eyes he knew that the king had already heard this tale and that he and Melian had discussed it with concern. These were dark tidings indeed.
"These Noldor carry a great evil with them," she continued. "It is something the like of which I have never seen, yet I cannot perceive it clearly, though I have sent my creatures to watch them and though I myself have wandered ghostlike amongst them at night. It is an evil so great that they dare not speak it aloud nor give it name." Celeborn's heart was greatly troubled then, for he had never known Melian to be thwarted in her designs and so he surmised that this evil must be great indeed and carefully guarded.
"We must be wary," Thingol said. "This may merely be the precursor to worse things that are to come." Celeborn could understand his king's wariness well. Never had he heard Melian speak of such dark things but he was well aware of the veracity of her premonitions and, like Thingol, it was not something he would take lightly. "It is, therefore, my decree that none but the children of Finarfin be allowed within the girdle of our realm." The king continued. "For these four alone we have judged to be innocent of the stain. Beleg," Thingol said, turning to the chief warden, "you will communicate this information to the other march wardens and most especially to Maglor when he returns from our borders."
"The children of Finarfin?" Celeborn asked.
"My sources say that there are four, three males and a female, though they journey alongside Fingolfin's people, separately from the Feanorian host. It seems that some rift has opened between the two groups though we cannot know what it is. And here is an answer to your earlier question nephew, for while Feanor's host is fit and healthy, the hosts of Fingolfin and the house of Finarfin appear as paupers, dressed in rags, emaciated such that their bones are tight against their skin. Yet we could not discern all that had happened, for the scouts that discovered them do not speak their language."
"Did our people initiate contact?" Beleg asked.
"No, not with Fingolfin's host and the children of Finarfin who travel with them. The Noldor do not know that we are tracking them. But it seems that Fingolfin's party has come into contact with some of Denethor's people, from whom we have received our information, though they are not able to communicate very well with them. They approached the green elves whenever they saw them as if in a panic, for they were starving and knew not how to cultivate the earth. The green elves taught them as much as they were able, though they could not well understand their speech, and took pity on them, giving them clothing and food."
Elu Sindacollo he was sometimes called, the "grey cloak" for his family's genetic trait of silver hair, yet at times Celeborn thought that he ought to be called Elu Lhewig, "The ear," for there was not a thing that passed in Beleriand that Thingol did not hear of. "But," the king said, continuing, "Feanor has indeed come into contact with some of our people, though they liked him not. It is from them that I have received word of his movements. These two groups of Noldor are traveling separately, which leads me to believe that mayhaps there has been some quarrel among their princes or else they did not leave Aman together."
"You have known of this for some time then, have you not?" Celeborn asked.
"The first news, from the green elves and from our folk in the Northwest, came to me soon after you left to cleanse our borders but the news from Cirdan I have only heard today." Thingol said.
"Your highness! I beg you, wait but a moment!" Beleg said, raising his hands as he laughed uncontrollably. "What do you mean they do not know we are tracking them? Are they truly so unaware?" Thingol shrugged.
"They seem somewhat ill adapted to forest life and they are unaccustomed to living in the wild. I have heard that they have brought all manner of strange things with them, furniture and such." Celeborn and Beleg could not contain their mirth at that and both began laughing wildly. Even Thingol, though he had tried to remain serious in light of the dark news he had so recently delivered, could not help but crack a grin. At times he felt very exhausted indeed, for life in middle earth was no easy thing and being a king in charge of those lives he sought to protect was harder yet. With the recent war and Belegur's growing strength he had often spent many a day in worry rather than sleep, yet it was good, he mused, to keep these young elves around in the capital and not send them overly much to the borders, for they reminded him of the days when he too had been young and carefree.
"Very well then," Thingol said to the young ones, who were still doubled over with laughter. "You have given me a great deal of grief over your dinner and yet now that I have finished with you I am surprised that you do not make with all haste to the banquet hall. Get thee gone then!"
"Oh please," Celeborn said, wiping tears of laughter from his eyes. "Please uncle will you send us to scout their position?"
"Absolutely not," Thingol replied. "I will not have you seek them out for your own entertainment when I need you for other matters. And, besides, you will see them soon enough. Two of Finarfin's sons ride for Menegroth as we speak."
"Indeed, they have just now passed the girdle," Melian said, turning to her husband.
"Two of his sons? What of his daughter? We wish to see his daughter," Beleg said with a grin and Celeborn nodded his assent.
"We do indeed uncle, we do indeed," he chimed in.
"Go on, get out of here!" Thingol said with a shake of his head while Melian laughed, a sound with all the richness of bells. But the kind stood as the young ones made to exit and approached his nephew.
"Celeborn," Thingol took his nephew by the elbow as the younger elf made to leave, "another thing." The king spoke in a low voice, looking agitated. "Frerin has been pestering me again…something about me bringing him here under false pretenses. They're just clamoring after money like they always do." He shook his head. "You know how dwarves are. Would you go and placate him for me whenever you have the time?"
Celeborn sighed. The relationship between the dwarves of Nogrod and the Sindar had been strained of late and whenever Celeborn dealt with either Frerin or Thingol on that matter it tried him sorely. It was like weeding through an endless web of lies and half-truths with more unpleasant surprises around every corner. As much as Celeborn loved and admired his uncle he continually found himself frustrated by the political entanglements that he often entrapped the both of them in.
"Of course uncle," Celeborn said with a smile and a nod, for he had not the liberty to say anything else else, but a certain uneasiness settled over him as he and Beleg at last adjourned to their dinner.
"Brothers!" Artanis cried, standing and brushing the soil from her hands. "Tell me what it was like! Was it truly wonderful?" Angrod and Aegnor could do naught but laugh as they dismounted from their horses for they had seen Artanis look a queen in all of the fine regalia of a Noldorin princess in the gardens of Lorien, and they had seen her look the most boyish of them all, wrestling in the mud and playing at swords with her cousins in Valinor, but this was the first time that they had seen her wearing sackcloth for a dress while she dug potatoes barefoot.
"Thank the Valar you are here," she said as embraced them. "Our dear cousins have arrive and are eagerly awaiting you," she whispered, rolling her eyes. "Finrod and I are about to go mad and he has already been fighting with them and they have spoken many bitter words to each other concerning the business with mother's people and also about how they abandoned us at the mouth of the Helcaraxe."
"Glad I am to hear this!" Angrod said, "For if Finrod had not already said something to them concerning their dastardly behavior then I certainly would have."
"Yet what does it profit us to start old quarrels anew?" Said kindhearted Aegnor. But Artanis knew her brother well and though Aegnor was gentle of both heart and speech, she doubted not his resolution, for of all of them he had been the most fierce in battle, his eyes seeming to flash with fire, and the Feanorians had not forgotten the many of their men that the youngest son of Finarfin had slain on the docks of Alqualonde in defense of his mother's kin.
Together the three of them approached the place where their cousins sat with Finrod and as they approached they could see indeed that all there were exceedingly disgruntled. And the children of Finarfin were careful to refrain from looking at the stump Maedhros bore where once had been a hand, for the wound had not yet grown old and they had heard from Fingon that it was with an anger terrible to behold that their cousin confronted any who dared mention his deformity.
"Cousins, well met!" Angrod called out to them as they drew near but the Feanorians greeted them not with courteous words but sprang to their feet at once in haste, demanding to know all that the younger sons of Finarfin had learned in their brief months spent at Menegroth, the capital city of Doriath and the home of Elu Thingol, called Singollo, King of Doriath and High king and Lord of Beleriand.
As ever, Caranthir was the first to speak and he did so rashly, as was his habit, crying out: "Tell me now cousins what you know and do not think to hide anything from us for we shall find it out!" And they all knew by his words and from the rumors that they had heard that it was true indeed that their cousins had grown envious that Thingol had extended his welcome to Finarfin's children but not to those of Feanor.
But Maedhros was the oldest of Feanor's children and, as such, he resented that his brother had usurped him by being the first to speak and so he rebuked him, saying: "Be silent brother, for you forget yourself. These are our cousins who come to us in peace and mean us no harm. Let us sit and speak with them for a while. Do you not recall the days of our childhoods when we would play together at our fathers' feet?" And, having heard the words of their eldest brother, the rest of the Feanorians calmed themselves and took their seats once more upon the rich and verdant grass.
"Very surprised I was indeed," Curufin said, "to find our cousin Artanis digging about in the dirt like a common green elf." He laughed as though it was the most amusing of jokes and Artanis had the good grace to smile, yet a great unease hung in the air. For the Feanorians had come to these shores by boat with all of their provisions intact save those they had lost in the storms after first setting out from Alqualonde. But the children of Finarfin had been forced by their cousins' treachery to cross the Grinding Ice, using up all of their food and stores in the process, and losing many of their people to death besides so that when at last they had arrived on these shores they had appeared so like skeletons that they had given a nasty fright to the green elves who had discovered them. At that time, even Artanis might have been called ugly and the hair of Finrod had grown so brittle from malnourishment that he had been able to break it off in great hunks, for though they were princes, the children of Finarfin had shared equally in all of the hardships of their people.
Moreover, the cavalier attitude that the sons of Feanor took in speaking of the green elves sat ill with the House of Finarfin. For, when first they had come to these shores, it had been because of the kindness of the green elves, who had provided them what clothing and food they could spare in addition to teaching them how to cultivate this strange and foreign land, that they had survived at all. The first winter had been hard, yet it would have been certain death if it had not been for the elves of this land who had helped them. All of the Noldor had come to this land with ideas of ethnic superiority over those elves who lived here, yet seldom now was the word Moriquendi spoken by those of Finarfin's house, for it seemed poor recompense for those who had saved their lives.
But things had been different with the sons of Feanor for they had needed no assistance or else they had refused what assistance was offered to them out of pride. It had been the Sindar, or grey elves, and not the green elves who had happened upon Feanor's people. And the Feanorians had treated them with scorn, laughing at their strange clothes and even stranger habits, mimicking their language and speaking disrespectfully about them in Quenya before their very faces.
"Well you called me a little piglet when we were children for the way I squaled when you tickled me," Artanis said, her eyes full of mirth, "Is it not natural then for me to root about in the dirt?" They all laughed, remembering how they had quarreled together as elflings and the sons of Finarfin sent up silent prayers to the Valar for the remarkable tact and charm of their sister, who had managed to extract them from what might have been a sticky situation.
Then, after passing some more time in reminiscing their days in Valinor, they at last arrived at the business that they had all convened to discuss and Artanis was among the most eager of them to hear what news her brothers bore, for her interactions with the green elves had awakened in her heart a great desire to meet the gray elves and to journey to their capital city, Menegroth, from whence her brothers had come this day.
"Tell us then," said Maglor, ever good natured, "how was your time in Menegroth and what words did you exchange there with her dark king?"
"It is a wonder to rival even the gardens of Lorien," said Angrod, "a cave, just as the Sindar told you that it would be, yet like no cave that I have ever seen. You would hardly be able to believe that you are beneath the ground, or that it is all carved of stone, so magnificently is it wrought."
"Then tell us more about it," said Finrod, "for already I find that my curiosity is piqued in the extreme."
"The ceiling is like no ceiling that you have ever seen," Aegnor said, "for it is so high above you that it might be as far away as the sky itself and it seems to be imbued with magic and charms for it does not look as a ceiling, but as the very sky and in all ways does it imitate both the day and the night. The stars move across it, and the moon as well, a perfect illusion of the night itself so that if you were to step outside and then back in again you would not know the difference between the two. During the day, which is when the Sindar sleep, for they love not the sun and turn their joy towards the moon and stars instead, the ceiling appears as a bright sunny day, with perfectly blue skies and white wispy clouds like cotton or else it roils with stormclouds and crackles with lightening, again, mimicking exactly the weather of the true sky, but never does rain fall within the palace, even if there be a veritable downpour outside.
"The pillars of the palace are carved in the likeness of trees of all species in such exactitude that you would not be surprised to imagine that you saw them growing. And these are tall beyond measure, reaching clear up to that high and magnificent ceiling. Their leaves are of emerald and glass, clear and glittering, veined with gold, and they reflect both the light of the sun and of the moon with equal beauty. The floor is not of marble or granite or tile but is in every way exact to the forest floor, comprised of both dirt and grass and mosses, flat in some places and with hills in others, and the roots of the pillars are dug into it as if they were real trees and real flowers grow there as well, lilies such as I have never seen, and many specimens of plant that do not grow in Aman. The ground beneath one's feet is thick with greenery and mosses, flowers and ferns from which peek rabbits and deer, forest cats and wolves, and all manner of birds and even salamanders and lizards. These are wild creatures that come and go from the palace as they please, just as if they were elves themselves and subject to Thingol's rule.
"Then there are the streams: creeks and brooks that flow freely throughout the city, their water fresh and delicious to drink, as beautiful and clear as crystal. These are filled with all manner of fish, many of which I have never seen before, and they are vibrantly colored in reds, oranges, and golds, blue and lavender and green. But these are not for eating and the Sindar feed them and take delight merely in watching them and caring for them. Truly," he said, "it is the most wondrous place that I have ever seen and I gave thanks to Illuvatar himself for giving me the gift of sight that I might behold it."
At his words the heart of Finrod was moved, for the desire grew strong in him to create a kingdom such as this, a thing of beauty and of majesty into which he could welcome all who wished to come and he dreamed of this day, when all divisions between kin would cease to exist. And Artanis was moved as well, for to her the city seemed beautiful beyond what she could imagine and she wished nothing more than to see it for herself. Driven by this desire she spoke, asking: "But what of Menegroth's people? What of King Thingol and Melian, his Maian queen? What of the Sindar? Most ardently do I wish to hear of them."
"Then I shall tell you," said Aegnor, while Angrod listened quietly, for of the two Aegnor was the better storyteller. "King Thingol I met myself and he is impressive indeed, tall as Finwe himself, taller perhaps, and with the most handsome of faces, yet he is quick to anger and one is given to think that his anger, if truly provoked, would be most terrible to behold indeed. A true king he is, wise and kind, a giver of gifts beyond the power of kings. And he is called Sindacollo by his own people, 'grey mantle,' for his hair is of silver, pure and bright as mithril, like a fall of stars it was, long and regal.
"And also I saw Melian the Maia, beautiful beyond comprehension, with hair as black as midnight and eyes like the evening sky. Little did she say yet my sense was that she was always perceiving things that were beyond my understanding and, in her presence one felt a certain magnificence. There is a princess as well, Luthien she is called, the daughter of Thingol and Melian, and if it were possible, one could say that her beauty surpasses even that of her mother. Very fair she was and kind of heart, ever joyous and gregarious, she takes delight in everything and many nights did she dance to her heart's content there in the beautiful halls of Menegroth," he said, and Artanis laughed, seeing the star-struck look in the eyes of both Angrod and Aegnor.
"The way you speak of her, one might think that the both of you were besotted!" She cried and Angrod laughed.
"It is impossible for any man to behold her and not fall in love with her!" Aegnor said. "Yet fear not Artanis, for there is a prince as well, Celeborn he is called, and I know not what it means, but the king sometimes calls him Ngolo, meaning 'the wise' in Doriathrin, for he is not only a great and fearsome warrior, but the king's chief counselor and his right hand. None deals with Thingol who does not first deal with the prince. Furthermore, he is exceedingly handsome, very tall and strong, even for a Sindarin male, and besides Thingol, he is the only other of the Sindarin royals to be silver of hair."
"I had not heard tell that Thingol has a son," Maglor said, intrigued.
"He has not," Aegnor gave reply. "For the prince is the grandson of the third king of the Teleri, the lost king: Elmo, the brother of Thingol and of Olwe." Hearing the name of Olwe the Feanorians grew uneasy, yet Aegnor continued his tale and they were at peace again. "Thus he is Thingol's great nephew, though Thingol calls him nephew, for he thinks of him like a son, having raised him as his own after the deaths of his parents when he was but a babe."
"This is all very well and good," said Celegorm, "and yet I think that I have heard my fill of Menegroth and her people. For I have come to hear what Thingol has said concerning our desire to settle the lands in the North and I grow more and more impatient."
Then did Angrod speak, seeing that the Feanorians were growing anxious and also that they had taken offense at the mention of Olwe's name. "Then I will tell you what Thingol said," he told them. "Many long and pleasant hours did I pass in conversation with the king and he spoke to me, saying: 'Thus shall you speak for me to those that sent you. In Hithlum the Noldor have leave to dwell, and in the highlands of Dorthonion, and in the lands east of Doriath that are empty and wild; but elsewhere there are many of my people, and I would not have them restrained of their freedom, still less ousted from their homes. Beware therefore how you princes of the West bear yourselves; for I am the Lord of Beleriand, and all who seek to dwell there shall hear my word. Into Doriath none shall come to abide but only such as I call as guests, or who seek me in great need.'"
Then did the hearts of the Feanorians grow hot within their chests, for this seemed to them a cold welcome and they were jealous indeed that Thingol should have welcomed their cousins whilst he had turned them away. In his passion, Maedhros showed not his earlier restraint, but laughed and made reply to Angrod, saying: "A king is he that can hold his own, or else his title is vain. Thingol does but grant us lands where his power does not run. Indeed Doriath alone would be his realm this day, but for the coming of the Noldor. Therefore in Doriath let him reign, and be glad that he has the sons of Finwe for his neighbors, not the Orcs of Morgoth that we found. Elsewhere it shall go as seems good to us."
Then Angrod staid his tongue, for he wished to rebuke Maedhros and tell him that he knew not of what he spoke, for Thingol was a king indeed and a powerful one at that but any king, having only just fought a great war against Morgoth himself, could not be expected to have reclaimed all of his lands in such a short time. Yet before he could placate his cousin Caranthir, who loved not the sons of Finarfin, and was the harshest of the brothers and the most quick to anger, cried aloud: "Yea more! Let not the sons of Finarfin run hither and thither with their tales to this Dark Elf in his caves! Who made them our spokesmen to deal with him? And though they be come indeed to Beleriand, let them not so swiftly forget that their father is a lord of the Noldor, though their mother be of other kin."
"That," said Maedhros, taking hold of his younger brother's arm, "was not so courteous!" But the damage had been done, for Angrod had grown wrathful at the words of his cousin and even now went forth from the council with all haste, desiring to be not anywhere near the sons of Feanor and Galadriel, his sister, went with him to comfort and calm him. Then did Maedhros turn to Finrod and beg his pardon.
"Cousin, I humbly beseech you to forget and forgive the harsh and callous words of my brother, for he spoke in anger and knows not what he says," Maedhros said.
"Yet it seems to me," said Finrod, "that the sons of Feanor have made a habit of doing things in anger that they later regret." And hearing Finrod's words, Celegorm and Curufin and Caranthir grew wroth with anger but Maedhros, together with Maglor, managed to restrain their brothers and, once more begging Finrod's pardon, Maedhros led them forth from that place shortly thereafter.
Then did the Feanorians part from the other princes of the Noldor, going north into Himring and for many years after that they had very few dealings with their Noldorin kin in the western regions of Beleriand for Maedhros deemed this to be the wisest choice by which he might prevent strife between his brothers and the other houses of the Noldor. Yet he himself remained friends with Fingolfin and with Finarfin's children and would come among them at times for common counsel. Yet he also was bound by the oath, though it slept now for a time.
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.