Memories Of Findekáno
Disclaimer: No characters in this belong to me. I am just borrowing them for a short while and playing. No harm or insult is meant to come of this.
Warning: Canon Character Death
Author's Note: The Sindarin versions of all names can be found at the end of the story for those that may wish to use them as reference.
Summary: Nirnaeth Arnoediad is over and Maedhros remembers.
It is chaos around us. The battle is over and we have lost, the dreams I had of peace and redemption are shattered, destroyed by the betrayal of Men and the underestimates that I made of our enemy. We have lost so many; the ground behind us is littered with corpses and we are forced to leave them behind as we flee. Where are my brothers, I wonder, the young ones I have always sought to protect? I hope they all stand.
It is nightfall when we finally stop to care for our wounded. Tiredly I sit, leaning my back against a tall oak as I listen to the sounds around me. We have failed. I have failed.
I hear footsteps and I know them well. "Any news, Makalaurë?"
You sit down beside me, quietly. I can feel the weariness that radiates off you, as tired as me, as weary as my own soul. "All our brothers live," you say. "None seriously wounded; scratches and bruises but nothing worse."
There is something in your voice that I cannot place, as if you are hiding something from me. I cast you a glance but you do not meet my eyes, you do not speak, your dark eyes staring into the night. A shiver of unease runs through me; never before have you, my brother, hesitated to speak to me. Fear rises in me; something is very wrong.
Before you have time to speak, another flies at me. For a moment the raven hair and grey eyes lighten my heart, calm me, but his hair is unbraided, his grey eyes brighter, bluer and his figure slighter. There is hatred in his face as he looks at me and my heart shatters. Refusing to believe, I tear my eyes from him, searching for reassurance in your eyes. From the look of your face I know.
"How many more, Nelyafinwë?" he screams. "He died because of your damned pride, because of your cursed oath! The only reason that he fought in a war that he did not believe in was because you asked him! Yet you did not come. You did not keep your own vows! The only thing you did for him was throw him to the Balrogs."
Every word is a stab in my heart as I lean heavily against the tree, my legs weak, the air too thick to breathe.
The faint cry of a newborn carried through the air and I smiled as I held out my arms to accept the child in my arms. Our mothers, mine and the babe's, wanted me to stand there, to present my cousin to the court, the proud parents behind me. I was honoured that they asked, for I knew well the dislike my father had for his brother, but we did not speak of such things.
The child in my arms had strong lungs and already his head was crowned by soft raven hair. The crying ceased when I took him in my arms, clear grey eyes staring up at me.
I turned, stretching my arms out and turning towards the court. "Findekáno," I said loudly, pitching my voice to echo of the walls. "Son of Nolofinwë and Anairë, grandson of Finwë. Let us be grateful for his birth and greet him among ourselves as one beloved."
If I had only known how true my words would come to be. Findekáno, beloved, adored. I raise my eyes to Turukáno, searching for words to give my condolences, to offer my grief for his brother's death, but I find none. What words could ever ease such a loss, soothe such a grievous wound to us all?
Wordlessly I meet his eyes that shine[ with hatred. I want to turn my gaze away but I am trapped, trapped in the accusation I see in his eyes and in my own guilt. My soul cries, the shards of my heart cut my chest. Does that help, would that ease his pain, I wonder. But I can say nothing, the grief and pain too new, too raw, too deep.
He was a delightful child, eager to learn and full of life and joy and love. Early on, I lost count of the injured animals that he managed to find and bring to me; some I could save and some I could not. Each time one passed away, he cried, his grief deep and raw just as his laughter and joy at other times were rich and pure.
I spent much time with him in his early days. How could I not when he sought out my company? So I taught him what I knew. I taught him to read and write, I taught him the arts of my father as much as I shared them and, as he grew, I taught him to use a bow and how to ride. He was an eager student, loving each new thing he learnt and spending hours at perfecting himself. His skills in archery soon surpassed my own, as did his skills in horsemanship, for there was a love between him and his horse that I and mine did not have. I taught him other things as well, the skill of knife and sword, and he had a grace in him that belied his years and build.
He was a beloved child and youngster, his friends were many and close to his heart and even my father, who disliked all other of Indis’ breed, suffered his presence with a smile, but then father always loved knowledge.
Soon the other children had grown tall and strong, and other curiosities woke in them. Findaráto and Amarië and Turukáno and Elenwë often went for long walks and more than once had I, by accident, caught Irissë and my brothers exchanging kisses and caresses. More often than not, Findekáno spent his time with me in those days, his friends experimenting in realms that held no interest for him, for there was an innocence in him that time had not yet touched.
I remember one day, a good while after his majority, maybe as much as two decennia of the years under the sun. We were lying in the grass by one of the lakes, resting and drying out after a day of swimming, when I decided to breach the subject with him.
“Are there none who tempt your interest, Findekáno?” I asked, trying to figure out why this Elf, tall and gangly and highly loved, was never seen with a sweetheart, no whispers, no rumours of romance around him.
He turned his head and smiled lazily, his eyes still clear and innocent. “What do you mean?” he asked, curiously. “I have many friends who interest me highly, you among them.”
I smile at his innocence. “Your brother is set to bind with Elenwë soon, Findekáno. Have you no such longings?”
“Oh.” His voice was surprised, thoughtful, before he fell quiet for a long time, chewing on the tip of his braid and thinking deeply. “No,” he said eventually. “I never really did have such an interest. There is too much love in me for that.”
I laughed then. “Too much?”
“Yes,” he said seriously, suddenly seeming centuries older than he was. “I love fully, Maitimo, all around me I love with all that I am. How can I cast that aside and give love to one person only?”
“You do not stop loving others by taking a mate, Findekáno,” I replied, amused and yet slightly disturbed, as if something in that statement carried a truth I did not understand.
“But you do,” he insisted. “The love you have for others changes and becomes less, less rich, less important. I love all creatures too highly for that. I have no wish to share my soul with another in that way, nor will I ever feel such a need.”
My laughter grew. “You sound so young, cousin,” I finally managed to say, between the laughter. “Once day you will fall and I will remind you of this discussion.”
He laughed as well then and his eyes glittered mischievously. “I may,” he admitted. “Life is all about changes.”
It suddenly struck me that the Elf next to me was no longer the child I had tutored and protected. He was a grown Elf, tall and gangly, with rich, lustrous raven hair and pale skin, and he was beautiful. Shocked at my own thoughts, I rose and gathered our things, claiming the hour was growing late.
We spent more days like that, lazy, sweet and innocent days of friendship, but I knew that my feelings had changed. I loved him differently now and his body called to my hands. I do not think he ever realised that things had changed. Never did I speak of my feelings and desires with him for I wanted him free to choose and love; I wanted him happy and carefree. In some way I wanted him to marry and sire a child; it felt right somehow to think of him as a father.
It was after one of those days that I arrived home to find the household packed and waiting. My grandfather was talking to my father but I did not hear their words and my brothers were silent. Mother was pale, her eyes reddened by tears.
“Your father is moving his household to Formenos,” she said as she saw me.
Confused, I looked at her and my brothers, but none met my eyes. “In such a hurry?” My voice was mild.
“Father drew sword on Nolofinwë,” Makalaurë said, breaking the silence. “He is banished and we follow.”
A glance from father silenced him and I felt my heart freeze. Father drew sword on his own brother? “How long,” I asked, keeping my voice mild and calm.
“Twenty years.” It was mother that replied, her voice tense. “They will pass.”
I cast a glance over my shoulder with a sigh as they left. Twenty years in exile without a farewell to Findekáno. Maybe, I thought to myself, it would be a blessing for us both, a chance for Findekáno to meet someone suitable and fall in love. The thought made me feel empty.
The years passed slowly in exile; few words were received from Tirion and I found myself unable to question the few messengers that came, mostly from mother's kin. Makalaurë saw what I went through, he knew the questions I longed for, and so he asked them, braving our father's fury he asked after Nolofinwë's children, and so we heard about Turukáno's bonding to Elenwë and some years later about the birth of their daughter, Itarillë. Findekáno, it said, was loved by all and spent most of his time with Aikanáro and Angaráto. Did he love them, I wondered? Had his innocent assurances to take no mate changed? But I could not ask.
Summons came for our father to join the festival but he asked all others to remain behind, to make his attendance a public statement to the Valar of how he felt. We did not argue; even if my heart cried at a missed chance to see Findekáno again, I remained silent.
Then darkness fell, inexplicable and horrid, covering the land and halls in black, as a shroud of the dead we had been told about from the long travels. Melkor came and grandfather sent us all away, through the underground caves, before he greeted him. I am ashamed to admit that I fled with the others. At a time when I should have lifted my sword and defended my family, I fled.
Grandfather was dead when we returned and the Silmarilli, greatest of our father’s treasures, were gone.
Duty and guilt made me leave Formenos and travel to Taniquetil, a carrier of bad news, stumbling though the dark, lost. My father was standing in the ring of the Valar when I came and I saw no other. Even now, in a time of grief and pain, I longed for him and him alone, feeling like a traitor to my own family. Father's grief was terrifying, maddening and as he fled I followed, afraid he would cause harm to himself.
We returned some time later. Father could no longer be reasoned with, but we tried. We tried over and over to convince him to remain in what was left of our home and I lost count of the tears my mother cried as she reasoned, pleaded and begged, but father would not be calmed. It was with dread we followed him into Tirion and the square of the King.
Through the torchlight I saw him, one of the first to come out into the square, almost as tall as me and well grown into the formerly gangly body, muscles shifting under the shirt as he moved, and my mouth went dry. If I had thought him beautiful before...
Our eyes met over the heads of others and he smiled, a small, sweet smile for me alone, before his face went serious. I forgot to breathe. Beside me, my father raised his voice, but I did not listen as his voice rang over the square, my eyes, my mind, filled with him and him alone.
I do not know what it was that finally made me listen, maybe it was the draining of colour from Findekáno's face, maybe it was my mind screaming at me, but I listened in horror as father swore an oath that could not be broken. A shiver ran through me and before I knew what I was doing, almost as if a greater force had hold of my mind, I stepped forward, hearing myself repeat his words. My brothers stepped up behind me. Sweet Valar, the damage that we did that day can never be healed.
An argument broke out around the square and I listened with trepidation as Findekáno was one of those who argued most to follow, my mind screaming at him to stay quiet, to step away, but he did not. Of course he did not, his eagerness for all things new called him, the opportunity to see new lands. I knew then that no matter what the others would decide, Findekáno would still follow us.
Father tired of waiting and much as I wanted to linger I did not. We went with him, of course we did, the household of Finwë at Formenos. The only one who did not come was mother. I saw the tears on her face as she shook her head at us and turned. Mother was always the wisest of us.
We were silent as we left, grim and frozen inside, as we left our home behind. I wondered then if we would ever return. Father was fey and strange as he drove us on, tiring our horses on our way to the shores of the Teleri.
I was there when he argued with Olwë, wincing inside as pleading became insults but still, when the meeting was over and father told us to seize the ships, I am ashamed to admit that I did as told, no questions asked. I no longer know who raised the first blade, but my heart always suspected my father's temper behind it. Before we knew what was happening we were involved in something I had never thought would happen; not even in the darkest of my dreams had I thought that Elf would kill Elf, and still that is what we did.
At some stage I turned, saddened to see Findekáno and Turukáno in the midst of battle. I had hoped them spared this horror, but they were not.
There were few words after the ships were seized, most of us quiet and grieving, uneasy, but father pushed on, insanity reigning in his eyes. I did not seek Findekáno out. What words would I have had for him? What words would have made any difference after this?
A storm came and took many of the few ships we had, drowning several of our number, and still father refused to stop. We travelled far in silence, north towards the cold and ice that we had only heard about, the ships slowly sailing close to the shoreline, using what little shelter there was from winds and rains.
A dark figure awaited us when we reached the mountains and in a loud voice he told the truth, how the Teleri had been the attacked not the attackers, how we had spilt innocent blood, and I could taste the horror, the guilt and the disgust that the others had for us. We heard our fate that day, never to win our goal, to die of torment and by violence, and by grief. Some turned back that day. Arafinwë did, and by all that is still good I wish that Findekáno had as well, but he did not.
So the journey continued until we reached the long, white wasteland of the Helcaraxë. Once again we stopped and once again they argued. Father gathered us, me and my brothers, when all others looked away and told us what he wanted. It made sense. For some to cross first and send the ships back again for others until all had been brought. I did not question him and neither did the others. We simply followed, we sailed across the waters and we set foot upon the firm ground.
I questioned father then, as we set foot upon the new shores. “Now what ships and rowers will you spare to return,” I asked, innocent as a child, “and whom shall they bear here first? Findekáno?”
My father laughed. Strange and fey he was, his black hair whipping in the wind, as he denied me. None was to be sent back and so the ships burnt. I stood aside then, sickened by what we had become, what we had done. I stood alone. My brothers helped father, bearing the torches that betrayed those who had followed us, those who had killed for us. I turned away. I could not watch.
I felt a hand on my shoulder. “They will turn back, Russandol.” Makalaurë's voice was soft. “They will not brave the ice.”
I wish I could believe him, but I could not. I knew Findekáno, I knew his pride, his passion when an idea had entered his head. “No,” I whispered in reply. “They will come, or die trying.”
There were no more words after that.
Our fires were seen. Father pressed inland too fast and too far, becoming separated from the rest of us and by the time we found him again he was wounded and dying. We drove the enemy away and bore father away from the scene of battle but we knew, as did he, that we had arrived too late. And so he made us swear the oath again, to continue what he had wanted, and we did. I do not know if the others believed in the words they spoke, I know that I did not. I no longer believed in our cause. Father passed there, on a hillside in a strange land, his spirit so fiery it burnt his body as it left and we could do nothing but watch the ashes scatter for the winds. Lost and alone.
I admit that I was desperate when the envoy came, admitting defeat and terms of surrender. Did I believe him? Of course not, but I saw a chance to maybe finish this insanity. The attack was not unexpected, but the size of their forces was, and those around me were slain.
Time passes whether you want it to or not. I do not dwell upon that time, months or years in captivity. What I remember is the cliff, the manacle around my wrist. Hunger and thirst can drive anyone mad, this is a knowledge that many share, and pain can break a soul and bring insanity. But it was neither of those that threatened to break me. It was the monotony. Each day the same as the next, cold, huger and thirst, pain that never dulled and the same landscape to watch. Nothing happened, nothing changed. You hallucinate after a time, your mind making up images, bringing back memories of other times; I did that. I remembered it all, my childhood and mother and father, my brothers. Only one did never enter my mind; at times the raven hair of Makalaurë twisted into braids and I forced myself to wake, to shatter the illusion. He was pure, innocent. There was no place for him here, in this cruel mockery of life.
So I cried, the day when a faint song floated through my isolation. The remnants of sanity gone. I forced my throat, that had made no sound for time uncounted, to take up the song. If this was to be my last hallucination, my last weak grasp at sanity, then I would enjoy it. In my fall I would kiss him, taste his palely golden skin, touch him as my dreams had long wished for. Let me have this last dream.
The song silenced soon after I took it up and a shiver of fear ran through me. Soon the song started again, louder, closer, and before long I saw him, scrambling over the rocks as he searched for my voice. I knew his cause to be useless, I knew he would not reach me and I wished he had not come.
I could tell the moment he saw me, those silver eyes widening in despair as he realised that which I had known. His way into danger had been without cause and he had failed. Tears spilled down his cheeks as he looked upon me, I guess I must have made quite a sight, broken as I was. Still there was one thing that he could give me. One last freedom that I had long been denied.
“Your arrows have always flown true,” I croaked, disuse hurting my throat, making the words sound thick and dulled. “Give me peace.”
He shook his head at first, clinging to hope.
“Findekáno,” I said, my voice surer this time. “Do not leave me to waste here, alone.”
I could see the sadness in his eyes as he raised his bow, tears clouding his sight as he prayed to the Valar. The irony did not fail to reach me. They had deserted us, turned their backs in horror at what we had done and still he asked them for aid? It was a sweetness left since childhood, I guessed.
But the eagle came. As he released the arrow, his prayer was answered. I do not remember much of what happened then; I remember the eagle coming towards me, Findekáno on its back, both his hands wrapped around the hilt of his blade before he swung it, using all his force, and I was falling. Even then, through the haze of pain and confusion, of freedom, I noted that the Valar had answered. That is how highly Findekáno was loved. I cannot have been falling long before strong arms wrapped around me. The impact and breaking of the fall would have made me vomit, if my stomach had still been capable of such things. I felt myself dragged across the back of the bird, held securely in Findekáno's arms, and then all went black.
I could feel the rough pine needles and leaves and branches below my back when I woke and I marvelled at their softness. The sky above me was darkening slowly but I could still see the fresh green in the trees above me. I was lying on my back. After a while I started wondering why my hand and arm were throbbing and I flexed my fingers experimentally. There was nothing. No feeling of movement. Panic rose in me as I struggled to remember.
“I had no other choice, no second chance.”
I turned my head and looked at him. He was sitting with his back to a tree, pale and drawn and covered in blood as he leaned his head against the silvery bark of the birch, his eyes closed. I remained silent as I watched him, his face showing grief that had not been there before.
“I hoped you would turn back,” I said, my voice hoarse.
“We had already forsaken that option,” he answered, a coldness in his rich voice that had not been there before, a distance that cut deep.
I did not wish to ask, seeing the pain of loss on his face so clearly I knew that I did not want to know. “You managed what none had done before,” I said instead.
He smiled then, a bitter, twisted smile. “With less than half of our host,” he answered. “That is how many were lost on the ice, Nelyafinwë, once we realised that the ships burnt.”
My mouth was dry and I had no words to offer him in comfort, no explanation, no excuse. Never before had he called me by my fathername and never before had his voice been so careless towards me. I wondered how deeply we had hurt the innocence inside him. I wanted to beg him to be quiet but I listened with horror.
“We froze as we crossed the ice, food and water running out far too early. Some froze to death in their sleep, others were taken by hidden cracks in the surface and others yet were taken as the ice behind us broke and fell away into water. Elenwë was lost that way. I put Itarillë in my father's arms and dragged Turukáno with me, away from the water, step by step until we reached living lands again. You have no friends among those you betrayed.”
“Still you came to find me,” I whispered, wanting to find some hint of warmth, some glimpse of the child he had been.
“I would not leave any creature, beast or traitor to suffer needlessly,” he replied, his voice flat.
I turned my head away then, closing my eyes. His words cut deeper, hurt more than the lack of my hand, than the torment I had been through. Still I could not blame him; it was me and my closest kin who had changed him, who had hardened the sweetness and stolen the innocence in him. Maybe that hurt as much as his disregard for me. The silence stretched. I did not attempt to talk to him again as I shivered from the cold against my naked body.
He sighed only a few minutes later and moved, taking me into his arms until my back rested against his chest, and wrapped his arms around me. “Still,” he said, sounding resigned. “I suspect you have more than paid for your part in what you have done. Take your rest, Maitimo. You will need it.”
I could feel his body heat surrounding me and I allowed myself to relax, soothed by his use of my mothername, by the warmth that was creeping back into his voice. Despite how deeply I had harmed him, he still cared. My Findekáno of the gentle heart.
We walked for a long time, he carrying me, dragging me along, refusing to leave me even when I begged him, even when the enemy was almost upon us again. After a long time we reached the stronghold of Makalaurë. I do not think anyone recognised us at first, me in particular, and once they realised who Findekáno was they drew their swords against him. I do not know how it would have ended had not Makalaurë himself come out to see what caused such disruption. After that we found food and rest.
Findekáno stayed with us for over a season as I healed, slowly. He was the one who denied me death when I begged for it, the one who demanded that I to learn to eat and write and use my sword with one hand only and, despite how much I screamed at him, despite my rage, my despair and my black moods, he refused to give up. We switched roles in those days: he became the teacher and I the student and slowly we rebuilt the friendship between us as I grew stronger. Soon the nightmares of my time of torture were broken by hot, sticky dreams of Findekáno, his muscular body plaguing dreams both sleeping and awake.
My soul cried for him, for his touches and kisses, but I remained silent. There were many nights when I saw him with my brothers, laughing and joking, as carefree and full of ease as ever, apart from a slight shadow that remained in his silvery eyes, a touch of sadness that went deep. He had grown up. Those nights that followed such evenings I slept little, tormenting myself with dreams of what could not be, and the mornings after I was irritable and short tempered.
He left shortly before the winter came, the sadness and unease in his eyes deepening as the cold grew and his departure from us was all but a flight, a flight back to his family, to those he had crossed the ice with. I did not bid him farewell.
I relinquished my Kingship that spring, kneeling by the feet of Nolofinwë as I pledged myself to him as a Lord to his King. My brothers were not pleased. I did not see Findekáno at that time and over the years that followed I saw him only rarely, in councils and at the Great Feast of Reuniting. I treasured those times together and he too seemed to find some comfort in the sharing of wine and tales until dawn came. The legend around him grew as he drove back a dragon, the tales increasing, and the bards and storytellers loved him. Fingon the Valiant they called him in the strange tongue of the Sindar.
One year we were called, or maybe we were simply invited, by our King to join his court and we came, greeted by the news that Findekáno, his heir, was about to swear his loyalty to a maid of Doriath, to be pledged for one year before the day of their bonding ceremony. We had not had any news or rumours before we left and each word cut deep into me, but I kept my dignity.
That night and the days that followed were not days that I will ever remember fondly, the slow torture of feigning happiness in front of one who knew me better than others. Often Makalaurë's hands found my shoulders for a comforting touch, innocent enough to look like nothing but fondness between brothers. Of that I was grateful for even breathing hurt those days.
The feasting lasted for days and I watched them. Tall, broad Findekáno and his frail looking, colourless betrothed. That she loved him was obvious but his feelings were harder to read.
It was on the last night of feasting that I found myself tired of the dance and the music, tired of hiding behind my lies. She was dancing with her sisters and laughing; of him there was no trace. I walked through the corridors, up to the small but precious library, and stopped once the door opened. He was sitting on the window ledge, one leg bent in front of him, the other on the floor and his back against the stone. His head was turned away as he looked outside, a shroud of sadness surrounding him.
“Findekáno?” I said quietly and closed the door behind me as I entered.
He did not move. I walked over to a table in the corner and filled a goblet with rich red wine, noticing the similar goblet that he nonchalantly held in his hand. I sat down in one of the comfortable armchairs and watched him.
“I remember a conversation between you and me,” I said finally, my voice warm and amused. “You were not much past your majority and we discussed the nature of love.”
“I remember.” His voice was quiet and he did not move, his eyes still looking at the stars.
“I told you then that time would change your mind.” I smiled at the memory of the young man, so sweet in his innocence.
“Like time changed yours?” he said dryly.
I looked at him, wondering about his tone. “Not all of us were made to marry,” I answered eventually, aching at his beauty.
“No,” he admitted with a sigh. “Not all of us are.”
Unease rose in me as I looked at him, wondering how to put my sudden suspicions into words. “Findekáno,” I said, hesitantly. “Do you love her?”
He sighed again and turned his face, meeting my eyes for the first time since I had entered the room. “Yes,” he said, “but not in the way you mean. I told you once that I could not love that way and to that I hold.”
I shook my head. “Then why do you marry her?”
He laughed at that, a tired, old sound that seemed wrong coming from him. “Out of duty,” he replied. “Out of the love I hold for our people. I am my father's heir and that means more than fighting his battles. Turukáno will have no son and so that duty falls onto me.”
I was horrified. “To sell your happiness for...”
He interrupted me with a small shake of his head. “I sell nothing, Maitimo. I give freely, out of love. This will bring some sort of kinship between the Noldor and the Sindar, it will benefit us all as we need the unity if we are ever to win this battle. She knows my feelings and asks for nothing more than friendship and loyalty from me, and that I can give in abundance.”
“Yet she loves you,” I argued.
“Yes,” he admitted. “She does. I will give my all to make her happy if I can.”
I did not know what to say after that but noted with sadness the new traces of grief and pain that had found a home in his eyes. Life had not always been kind to Findekáno, or maybe his sense of duty was too strong to allow such kindness. I hoped that she would bring him peace and happiness in return.
We did not speak much more that night as we shared our wine in silence, both of us lost to our own thoughts.
I did not see him for years after that. I listened eagerly to all and any news that I could find about him. His bonding ceremony had been a feast not to be missed but I had been held up on my own borders at the time and sent my apologies together with the finest stallion and mare from my stables. A year later, almost to the day, his son was born and we all rejoiced at the news. Once I was on my own, however, I found myself at the window, staring at the stars and wondering if he was happy. Had his friendship with his Lady blossomed into love? I hoped he loved the child at least. Leaning my head against the cold glass pane, I closed my eyes and wrapped my arms around myself, and for the first time I can recall, I cried. I do not remember hearing the door open but I do remember Makalaurë's soft voice soothing me as he held me. Faithful Makalaurë.
Years passed, I admit that I made excuses not to visit him at times, sending my brothers in my stead, claiming a reluctance to leave my guard against the enemy, and my reputation as a relentless warrior bent only on revenge against Morgoth grew. Only Makalaurë saw through the mask and knew the real reason. He told me much when he returned, carrying greetings and letters. Findekáno missed me, he said; there was always a sadness in his eyes when I was not among my brothers. The child had been named Ereinion and he was beautiful, taking more after Findekáno than his mother. I did not ask for his wife and yet Makalaurë insisted in telling me. The first few years he talked of radiant smiles but as time passed, he spoke of sadness and loneliness in her eyes and I knew that she was still unloved. It made me sad to think that she was not happy with him; I knew he would take her sadness to himself, blaming himself for what he saw as his failures, and so the pain would deepen in his silver eyes. They were not easy stories to listen to, but I listened all the same.
The peace broke fast when it broke, the enemy streaming towards us, his forces large and terrible as he fell upon us, shattering our lands and people with terrible strength. It was spring before the assault lessened and we wearily gathered our forces. We were trying to rebuild when the messenger came from Hithlum; the King had been slain in single combat against Morgoth and his broken body had been borne away by the eagles to Turukáno's hidden city. I listened in horror and suddenly realised that I now owed my allegiance to Findekáno.
“Did the King see his father's fall?” I asked, praying that the messenger would deny it. He did not.
It seemed that Findekáno had looked on from a distance, forcibly held back by those who loved him as he watched the desperate ride of his father and screamed and raged at his death. Only when the eagle swept low to gather the body had he given in and allowed them to take him away. The ride back to Hithlum had been silent and grim, I was told, as the people grieved for their fallen King.
They had been met by black flags at the keep, all who met them refusing to look at Findekáno. It was not for the King they grieved. Fatherless and a widower Findekáno had returned from the battle, his wife having cut her wrists, a week previous, in the silence of the night.
I closed my eyes at his sorrow, bitterness filling my mouth as I thought of his wife. Had she not seen he had given her all that he could? Did she hate him that deeply, to damn him to pain and grief and guilt? Had she truly lost hope? My soul bled then, to have lost both father and wife, unexpectedly and unlinked. What would that do to him, I wondered, what would it do to the gentleness of heart, the love of others?
Wordlessly I stood and left the room, ordering horses to be readied at once. We left, Makalaurë and I, only a few hours later, riding in haste to Hithlum. Even at the speed we rode, it took us days, for both we and the horses were already wearied by the recent war.
The black flags still flew at the keep, fluttering limply in a weak breeze, mournful and sad sentries of grief. The courtyard that used to bustle with life and laughter was empty and still, what few Elves we saw working and speaking to no one. It seemed a keep of spirits.
I could feel the gaze Makalaurë cast me as we dismounted from our horses and left them to a stable hand. The eerie silence made me shiver with unease. We were welcomed, of course, and shown to grand rooms ripe with brocade, gilt and tapestries, fit for a king. Findekáno, I was told, had secluded himself and Ereinion since his homecoming and his people worried.
We rested and waited for Findekáno to send for us, but he did not. An eagle came that night and I wondered what news the Valar had for our King as I watched the wings blacken the stars as they flew past me. I had no doubt this was a messenger; all too well did I recall Thangorodrim and Findekáno praying. Him, the Valar still loved. It was close to morning when the bird left. I had watched for it though the night, unable to find sleep or rest in this mausoleum.
I was as surprised as all others when the door to the King's private chambers opened that morning. Findekáno was pale and drawn as he walked through the keep, carrying the small, travelclad body of his son. For the first time I saw Ereinion. Tears streaked his small face and my hands ached to comfort him, bringing back memories of another ravenhaired child, many centuries ago. There was nothing of his mother in the face of the child: he was his father's son, with his father's early beauty. Solemn grey eyes met mine for a moment, his eyes far too old for a child, and I suddenly wondered who had found the Lady bathing in her own blood. With heavy heart, I realised that the innocence of Findekáno had never had a place in this child's life and I suspected it never would.This was a child of war.
Findekáno called his warriors to him; the horn rang loudly against the stone walls, a call of arms to the house of Finwë, and I answered. We gathered in the courtyard, all defenders and armies of the King gathered. It should have been an impressive show of arms but we had lost too many in the War and the lines of soldiers had thinned. All of us watched the King, thinner and paler than any of us could remember, his silver eyes leaden and dead. The last innocence and sweetness had fled and my heart cried.
He gave the child to his captains and for a moment his face softened as his knuckles gently ran over Ereinion's cheek. The boy cried softly, soundlessly, as he clung to his father. I saw Findekáno's lips move as he whispered into the tiny ear and the child shuddered and let go.
"Take him to Círdan," he said, his voice flat. "His mother's people will raise him well."
The crowd mumbled and I stared at him in shock, unable to believe what I saw. How can a King lead his people when he sends his heir away? Did he not trust his own people to protect his heart or did he doubt our ability to keep the child safe?
"Send him to Turukáno if you must," I said, raising my voice in protest. "But do not send him from your people."
He turned his silver eyes on me then, noting my presence for the first time with a cold detachment that scared me more than anything else. Never before had he been emotionless towards others and yet now no flicker of feeling could be seen in his eyes.
"Our people are dead, we know our fates," he replied tiredly. "We will fall; Hithlum, Nargothrond and Gondolin will shatter under the enemy's forces."
The silence around us grew and I shuddered at his words. Would all that we have sought fail? Something in him at that moment reminded me of my father, the look in his eyes when he spoke upon the hill of Túna, the same despair and lack of hope. I knew the others could feel it too, our fates hanging over us, swords to our necks waiting to fall.
"But slain ye shall be," he quoted in the same tone. "By weapon and by torment and by grief."
"Then send him to Doriath," I said again. "His mother was from Elwë's realm; send him there."
Once again Findekáno's eyes met mine before he turned to his men. "Take him to Círdan," he said again. "My son will live and I will see that he is safe, no matter what cost from me or our people. We will see our children safe." He raised his voice and let it ring over the courtyard. "The armies leave within an hour, as many men as we can spare and then some. Send your children with them, send them away for safekeeping, and we will fight, we will bleed and we will fall to see that their future is one of peace."
Many were the ones that left then, hurrying to their chambers and cottages and returning with children of all ages, from babes to those near majority, sending what they could with them to see to their futures.
He was true to his word. The armies left within the hour, a grim army carrying away the future of Hithlum, for the keep was emptied of children. He was the last to leave the courtyard, save me, his eyes gazing south as if he could still see his son.
"The girdle of Melian will falter and fail," he said to me as he turned and walked back inside. Nothing else, only those few words, and I wondered at his lack of hope.
I went to him that evening, knocking softly on the door to his rooms for the first time since his engagement. I entered unbidden as the knock went unanswered. He sat on the floor by the large fireplace, a goblet of wine cradled in his hands.
"Close the door."
Quietly, I did as he told me before I sank down in one of the chairs, watching him. The raven hair fell in wild curls, loosed from the strict golden threads that usually ran through his braids.
"She made a choice," I said quietly as I sat down. "She knew your heart. You gave her all you could, it is not your guilt to carry."
He shook his head, emptying the goblet and held it out to me to be refilled.
"The eagle came to me last night," he said tiredly. "I was told much I do not wish to know, or maybe I was told what I needed to know. Among the messages he carried for me was one from Manwë himself. I am truly a widower; she will not be reborn. She forsook her eternal life because I could not love and you tell me it is not my guilt? No, Maitimo, it is my guilt and my shame."
I handed the refilled goblet back to him and wrapped my arms around him, holding him against me as I had when he was nothing but a child. "She made her own choice, Findekáno," I whispered. "I know you gave her what you could. You told me once you loved too highly and not until now do I begin to see what you were trying to tell me. You give all of yourself to those around you, holding nothing back, and your people love you."
It was with sadness that I accepted the impact this last sorrow had had on my Findekáno. The innocence and sweetness that had been the essence of him had faded and hardened, tempered by time and steel and death. What I held in my arms that night, the one who did not allow himself to cry or grieve, was a shadow of the Elf I had fallen in love with and yet, somehow, somewhere, he was still the same. Still my Findekáno and I loved him.
I stayed in Hithlum a long time after that. Makalaurë returned east to see to our people and borders but I stayed with Findekáno. He did not speak much, even to me; his smiles were rare and far between and never did the rich laughter pour from his soul. Weeks grow to months and seasons passed as I stayed with him, giving friendship and someone who would listen and talk when dreams haunted him at night.
When spring came again, I grew restless, my fingers screaming at me for the touch of his skin, my lips starving for his taste, and my dreams grew feverish when I did sleep. Quietly I readied for my departure, ignoring the Captain and Matron who begged me to stay for his sake. Soon all in the Keep but he knew that I was riding out.
I found him in the library the last night, sitting as he had sat that night when we had debated love and sacrifices, and just as then I sat down quietly and watched him. He would speak to me when he wanted company, this I had learnt.
"I will be lost without you," he said finally, his silver eyes still staring out at the stars.
"You will not," I said fondly. "You will be strong and steady as always, leading your people with love and wisdom."
He laughed slightly at that and the sound made my heart ache. I had not heard him laugh since I had joined him and the sound was more beautiful to me than any song of Makalaurë's. Maybe that is why I did it, maybe it was just the acknowledgement that he would miss me, but I went to him then and knelt by him, my hand on his thigh.
He turned his face towards me then, a gentle hand running though my hair. "What are you doing?" His voice was bemused, amused. "You have no need to kneel for me, Maitimo."
I smiled up at him and leant my cheek against his thigh. "I kneel because I want to," I replied, letting my fingers play over the muscles of the leg.
His fingers played in my hair. "Why?"
Soft laughter welled up in me at the question, the sweet innocence in him as endearing as always. Most of us had played with kisses and caresses, touches and tastes, pushing our limit and walking that thin line between freedom and bonding as we came into our majority. I know I had, but I also knew that he had not, I remembered the talk of love we had had by a lakeside in Aman, his disinterest in the love of body.
My laughter quieted as I looked at him again, seeing him as friend and monarch, leader and beloved, and I suddenly knew what I was about to do.
"Hush, Sire," I whispered softly. "I kneel for my King because he owns my heart. I kneel for loyalty and love and admiration of his strength and his love for us."
I rubbed my cheek against his leg and his eyes widened in surprise. "Maitimo..."
I silenced him by laying my fingers over his soft lips. This was my gift, my offering of strength. Many loved him but no one had given themselves to him as selflessly as he gave to others.
"Close your eyes," I whispered and let my hand fall, brushing over his chest and stomach before it settled in his hip. I looked up again, all laughter and amusement gone from my face. His eyes were wide and slightly darker then usual as they met mine. "Close your eyes," I said again and saw his eyelids flutter before they fell closed, the dark lashes resting against his cheeks.
I fumbled when I unlaced his leggings, finding him half erect under the soft suede. A shudder ran through him and I forced myself to tear my gaze from his face, to look away from his beauty before it blinded me.
I closed my eyes as I worshipped him with lips and tongue, savouring his taste and the touch of his hands running through my hair. The breathless gasps that spilled from his mouth set my blood on fire, but this was not for me. His seed filled my mouth and I swallowed before I rose, taking him in my arms.
His eyes opened and his lips parted to speak, but I once again laid my fingers across them before I led him to his chambers. We did not speak; I could feel the tension in him and I saw the confusion in his eyes. I worshipped him that night, giving all, pouring myself into loving him with hand and mouth. I know I strayed dangerously close to the line of bonding, neither of us taking the other, but I drank his essence many times during the dark hours as I served him. If a bond was seen in his eyes the following morning then few, if any, would question it, thinking it the bond he shared with his late wife.
He reached for me at one point but I batted his hands away. I would not seek my own pleasure this night; I would love and accept and give all without seeking any gain of my own.
I got dressed at dawn and gently disentangled myself from him. He was beautiful, the raven hair spilling over the pillows and the heavily muscled body gleaming in the faint light. There was peace in his face as he slept, peace that I had not seen there for many long years and I felt a similar calm in myself.
My body ached with unspent desires as I dressed and bent down, brushing my lips against his in the first truly selfish act since the previous evening. His lips curved into a small smile even in his sleep.
A moment of hesitation came over me before I covered my head, tugging the hood of the cloak up to hide my face before I left. Most of the Keep remained asleep; only stableboys and kitchen maids stumbled tiredly about their tasks. I asked for my horse to be readied and ate quickly while I waited. The Matron and Captain both came to me, asking me once again to stay, but I shook my head silently, keeping my eyes lowered and my hood up. The time had come for me to leave.
I rode out before he woke; that was my last gift to him from me this time. No questions and no awkwardness. The ride was long and slow and I did not push myself this time on my way home. Home, such a strange small word that meant nothing. Home was a Keep and a cause in which I had lost faith centuries ago, it was a grim place where my brother was my only solace against madness.
I was welcomed when I arrived and a meal set ready for me. I was tired and sore of heart and said little to Makalaurë as I ate. I do not know what alerted him but suddenly I felt him take my head in his hands, tilting my face until our eyes met.
"What have you done, Maitimo?" he whispered at what he read in my eyes.
"What needed to be done," I replied, my voice low. "I gave what I could that he would find himself again. Leave it be, Makalaurë. I did what I felt I must."
He did not berate me after that, accepting what I had told him with loyalty and grace. I knew that his regret over what had been done was for me, for he had always known what I hid from others.
My borders were hard pressed and the fighting never truly ceased in the years that followed. A few messages were sent between me and Findekáno, all warm and friendly, none more that that. There were nights when I regretted what I had done, that I had bound myself to one who did not love me, but most nights I took comfort in the memory of his skin under my fingers and his taste against my tongue. I loved no less but I did love differently.
News came to us of a large battle in which Dor-lómin fell and Findekáno's forces fought and failed at Hithlum. By the time news reached us, he had been saved; Círdan's ships had come to his aid and Hithlum still stood. Great fear rose in me at the news, imagining a life without Findekáno, and so I befriended the new Men that came from the east and started to build alliances. One day we would be strong, Men and Elves, and we would march on Angband and we would win. If not, we would die.
He came to me one spring when his borders were quiet and he could afford to leave, and I welcomed him. The first night was long as he, Makalaurë and I shared stories and memories as wine flowed freely. His silver eyes shone with joy and laughter and I could see the life that had started to fade from his eyes dance through them again. I felt at peace.
My brother excused himself close to dawn and silence fell between us once we found ourselves on our own. For the first time that I could remember, I was unable to read his thoughts as he looked on me, quiet and serious, and fear grew inside me.
"You left before I woke," he said finally, his voice calm and unreadable.
"Yes," I said as I stood, walking over to the window with my back to him. "I thought it best."
I heard the soft sounds of moving, boots scraping over the stone as he rose and came to stand behind me.
"I remember a conversation we had once," he said, "I made a vow I would not love and you called me young and innocent. I did not understand and I lived by that vow, my heart untouched by all who reached out to me. Grieving as all around me found the other half of their souls and I did not, my heart flawed and loveless."
"I remember," I replied. "You kept your honour. I also told you once, another night, that not all of us are made to marry. I ask nothing from you, Sire."
He moved closer. I could feel the heat of his body behind my back, but he did not touch me. "But you did bind and I broke that promise."
It took me a moment before I realised what he had said. I had married, but in secret and asking nothing in return, and he had come to tell me that he loved. He had found the Elf that was the missing part of himself and I had bound him, trapped him into this shadow of a bond. I cursed my carelessness, my lack of foresight. My heart was shattering inside my chest but it did not matter. His happiness was too important, and I had tainted that as I had tainted all else.
"I would set you free if I could," I managed to answer, hating the strain on my voice as I struggled not to choke. I spoke true. If I could set him free I would, but I knew him well enough to realise that my death and choice, following on that of his Lady, would crush him. "I will set you free if you ask." I had to say it nonetheless.
His hands came up to cover my shoulders, rubbing them gently. "I do not wish for freedom." His voice was warm and low, sending shivers down my spine before he pressed his lips against my neck. Overcome by emotions, I gave into him, the soft kisses and caresses, as he worshipped me the way I had once worshipped him. Cousins by blood and lovers. My soul cried as he took me but my body soared in ecstasy. Tainted, my mind taunted. Tainted by bloodbonds and love. I knew I was, but not him. There was no taint in him and so I accepted what he gave.
Had both our lives led to this moment? This sharing of bodies and souls as we poured our love into each other, gasping and moaning as our bodies moved? Perhaps it had. I felt whole again for the first time since Alqualondë. The end came quickly for both of us and we relaxed in the arms of the one we loved before the play started anew. I relished every touch and taste of him, each caress against my skin, and his dominance despite his inexperience set me aflame as I gave all and took him inside me, filled and loved until we screamed and spent.
The months that passed were filled with joy and laughter for both him and me as we grew closer than before, sharing all. Makalaurë watched us with a smile, passing no judgement on our sins but accepting our happiness.
Summer flew fast and all too soon did autumn fall and his time in my home came to an end. He was King first and lover second, that I understood and accepted. Still my soul tore as he left.
Time is a strange thing for the Quendi; a generation of Men come and pass before our eyes before we even have time to realise that they are there. A century is short in so many of the ways that count. The enemy grew stronger and the skirmishes grew more vicious and more violent before they suddenly and unexpectedly stilled. Songs came to us soon after of Beren the Man and Lúthien of Doriath, of the fall of my cousin Findaráto and the recapture of a Silmaril. Hope lit inside me again and I gathered my strength and sent out messengers, pleading for others to join me. Naugrim and Edain and the Men of the East answered, Doriath did not.
I rode to Hithlum again that summer, filled with life and hope as I spent a month in the arms of my beloved. We talked of war and draw plans and maps, but it was the silent nights with him and the nights of passion that I treasured above all else.
Too quickly the month passed and I left, to answer messages and call to arms, my heart light. Soon, I vowed to myself, would we break the curse we had taken upon ourselves. Soon we would be redeemed. Soon, there would be peace.
Midsummer came and we marched to war, our plans filled with glory and grandeur. My forces and I would draw out the enemy, acting the treat as to which lure the hound, and once the enemy was engaged in battle the forces of Findekáno would strike from the west. We would catch them between hammer and anvil and we would crush them.
Uldor came to me and Makalaurë after we had started our march, warning us of an attack from the enemy, and we were forced to restructure our plans and forces. Still I had hope; Findekáno would not move until my forces had engaged in battle.
Too late did we realise we had been betrayed, already were the force of Hithlum in battle before we came and we were separated from our allies by Glaurung, the firedrake, and from three sides did the enemy come upon us. It was Makalaurë who cut down the traitor, cold and dangerous in his fury, and yet we were failing. The Naugrim saved us; they alone could face the heat of Glaurung and their battle was long before the snake was slain.
By then the battle on the field we came to was already failing, Quendi and Men fleeing the field as soon as they could, and we had no choice but to join in the flight, overrun by Orcs and Balrogs and all the other creatures that Morgoth had in his service.
The world around us was in chaos, the screams from the dying and grieving, the whimpers of the injured, and the overwhelming smell of blood and smoke surrounded us. All dreams that I had of peace and redemption were lost, shattered by the betrayal of Men. The ground behind us was littered with corpses. The time of the Quendi had passed, we had failed. I had failed.
Night fell before we stopped to care for our wounded and I went aside, sat apart to think and to wait for him to join me, but it was my brother who came, his face pale and drawn.
Would I have left the field of battle if I had known what I know now? Would I have fought my enemies until we could flee if I had known his need for safety had passed?
Wordlessly I watch them, my heart shattered by my recent knowledge. Maybe I should rage and scream as Turukáno is doing, maybe I should cry, but I cannot. I cannot feel, cannot think, cannot breathe.
"Was his body recovered?" I hear you ask.
"There was nothing left to recover. His body was torn apart, trampled into the ground by the Balrogs."
Their words are faint, hardly reaching me despite the fact that I stand with them. Broken.
They will forget, even the memories of the Quendi will forget him. They will remember his battle with the dragon, his valiant rescue of me from Thangorodrim, they will remember their love for him and maybe his death, but they will forget him. They will forget those things that made him Findekáno, the smile, the laughter and the love. They will forget how much he sacrificed for them, they will forget why the children were sent away. They will forget him, they will forget his voice and his silver eyes, his scent and touch and taste. They will all forget.
The words of Mandos echo in my memories, taunting me. “Tears unnumbered ye shall shed; and the Valar will fence Valinor against you, and shut you out, so that not even the echo of your lamentation shall pass over the mountains. On the House of Fëanaro the wrath of the Valar lieth from the West unto the uttermost East, and upon all that will follow them it shall be laid also.”
How true those words have come to be, how foolish of me to believe in redemption. We are cursed by our own actions. There is no hope, no salvation, no life.
Tears unnumbered ye shall shed...Findekáno....
Makalaurë - Maglor
Nelyafinwë, Maitimo, Russandol - Maedhros
Nolofinwë - Fingolfin
Findaráto - Finrod
Irissë - Aredhel
Itarillë - Idril
Aikanáro - Aegnor
Angaráto - Angrod
Arafinwë - Finarfin
Elwë - Elu Thingol
Fëanaro - Fëanor
Quendi - Elves
Author's note: For those of you that recognised qoutes out of the Silmarillion and reacted at the fact that they had been changed. There were three instances where I did this. In one I changed one word to be less antiquated, in the other two I simple changed the names into the Quenya form. This was done with no disrespect and only for the continuity of the story.