Nerdanel's Story - Flame Rekindled. Part 4.
(Disclaimer: All of the characters and the world in which they exist are the wonderful creations of JRR Tolkien. All references are from The Silmarillion and HoME 1, 10 and 12. Nothing is mine except the interpretation and the mistakes.)
"But not until the End, when Fëanor shall return who perished ere the Sun was made, and sits now in the Halls of Awaiting and comes no more among his kin; not until the Sun passes and the Moon falls, shall it be known of what substance they (The Silmarils) were made."
(Of the Silmarils and the unrest of the Noldor. The Silmarillion J.R.R. Tolkien. Ed. C. Tolkien.)
Máhanaxar*, Seventh Age. Reflecting upon events of the First Age and earlier.
It had seemed cold!
Strange, I had thought, for with no hröa to so sense the air, or whatever it was that surrounded me, I knew the coldness was but an impression I was meant to consider, even as had been the beat of wings.
Why that sensation of chill air over much ice, I had thought?
`Do you hold me in the farthest north of your halls, Jailer?' I enquired of Námo Mandos, although his presence was not impinging upon my awareness overly. Neither had it been since he had decided he wanted not to hear of my thoughts on my half-brother; since I had made that foolish concession of asking help of Manwë Súlimo. `Have you so isolated me in location, that my presence may not be an affront to those fëar of the Teleri whom I sent here?'
I was baiting him. I was trying for some response from the Doomsman of the Valar, that I would know of Nelyo, and of those others of my sons who still confronted Moringotho*. But no pride did I have in that statement. Never was the deed at Alqualondë one in which I took pride. A necessity it had been! Always, since coming to the decision as I had sat in darkness of spirit, and brooded upon what had befallen me, upon the need for vengeance, and for freedom, had I known it to be something that would set my feet upon a course I would have avoided. I had wanted the Teleri to join with us. For Elda to slay Elda, that had never been my wish. But they would not listen. Olwë had put as little the slaughter of my father, and he would not listen!
It was cold! As cold as the time I had ventured with my sons to the borders of the Dark, and had come upon the edge of the vast and gleaming frozen lands. I knew the Halls of Mandos to be nigh that location, and had thought that was what he wanted me to ponder upon. But, on this matter, as on others, was I wrong!
"Thou hast spoken, and that the Valar would welcome the shame filled return of Nolofinwë* to Tirion!"
With such a pronouncement did I become aware that the encounter with Mandos had resumed, and at his will, rather than at mine.
`Speak on. I hear thee!'
But Mandos spoke no word in answer. Rather, he showed forth an image, even as I had first beheld the predicament of Nelyo*.
The Grinding Ice! The Helecaraxë it was that I beheld!
As that vision unfolded I knew with no doubt the reason for it.
`Never did I say the Noldor were craven!' I protested. Though to behold so many of those whom I had once considered my people, who had long been my father's people, struggling forward across that terrain in such desperate hardship was an amazement to me.
"See how those thou didst name as `needless baggage' strive against the odds? See thou their suffering, and loss?"
I watched, for I could do no other, as that multitude progressed across the treacherous ice. I watched as the ice broke, time and again, pitching forth many of that host, and I saw that some were pulled from the maw of the cruel sea, but many were not. I saw Turukáno*, and he near death himself, lying flat upon an ice flow and clasping desperately to the cloak of his daughter, to pull her from the doom that would claim her. I saw Findekáno*, who had oft spent time with Nelyo in exploration, and he shouting warning, so that a group made hurried retreat from a sudden fall of ice. I saw how near to death he came, as the ice nigh buried him alive. The sons of Arafinwë* I saw, and they rallying the people, with words of encouragement and determination, and breath that froze as they so spoke. Artanis* was with them still. Hah! And grim of expression was she, as if fired with hate. Well did I know that expression, for it was one she had borne most frequently on those few times we had met. Neither did I have any love for her!
Others I saw, that I knew, and it seemed to me as if they were crying out in fëa as they so struggled forth. That they were crying in anguish and accusation against me, even though it was not I that led them. Yet was that hardship but increasing their valour and endurance. And at their head, and ever leading onwards, was Nolofinwë.
'So; thou doest follow after me, even as thou didst say,' I thought. Yet was I not surprised at that action?
"My half-brother and his sons are yet fiery of heart! In this, at least, do they show themselves true children of Finwë; that they turn not back from a task, no matter how bitter, once set upon it.' So I spoke, yet did I not know that some of the reason for such a daring undertaking was fear of the Valar for their part in the deaths at Alqualondë. Did I not also know that Nolofinwë led them forth out of despite of me!
But I was not to behold the outcome of their travail. Not just then.
"Take council with thy thoughts, spirit of Fëanáro, that thou speak naught of the sufferings of those thou once held to be thy subjects. For was it by the power of thy ill chosen words, and by the power of thy will that they set forth."
`By the power of my words and my will, aye! So it was! And it is by the hate of my half-brother that they progress.' Yet did I feel shame. Not for Nolofinwë, but that I had all but abandoned so noble a people. And it struck me that, mayhap, the ships should not have been fired at Losgar; that I should have continued in my struggle against my half-brother, that such a host had been brought safely to the shores of the Hither Lands. With such a host could I have accomplished so much.
Again did the presence that was Mandos depart from me for some time. Time, I say, yet little idea had I of its passing. Days, years, Ages it could have been.
I thought then that I hoped all would not perish on that crossing, yet did I not also see the threat such a number could present to my sons and people, should they reach their goal. Had Nelyafinwë been not captive of Moringotho, I would have had little concern, for I deemed my eldest a match for Nolofinwë and his sons. But Káno*, mighty though he was, yet did he have too much of his mother about him at times. I would not that he sought to understand Nolofinwë, but that he met him as leader of the hosts, and acting King, in his brother's absence.
Memories came to me unbidden, and that of my sons ridding ahead of me through snowfields, and Telvo* turning upon his horse's back to smile his enjoyment of the expedition. Ice was in his hair of flame, and upon his eyelashes, for he had not the hood of his cloak raised.
Another memory followed on swiftly, though almost equally as brief, and that of a meeting with my sons in my tent, upon the barren coast of Araman.
"The murmuring and complaint, they grow with the coldness. Yet our people are strong. More is it than fall in temperature that causes their dissent!" Curvo*, who stood close by my side, had said.
"Some do speak of return to Tirion. That there they had warmth and comfort." added Pityo*, hesitantly.
"But no warmth, nor comfort is there for them to return to! Neither freedom! Would they be thralls for the sake of remembered comfort? Nay! We go on, as you lead us father, and seek ways to silence the discontented, and for their own good." Turko* had been paying full heed to those gathered around the table, but had been watching from the tent flap the movements of those outside, and past my guards.
"Your thoughts, Nelyo?"
I had turned to question the foremost of my captains, my eldest son, who sat at the further end of the table, chin resting upon steepled fingers as he pondered the developing issues. All of my sons' opinions did I value, though would not be swayed by them against my better judgement. Yet Curvo, Turko, and Nelyo; their words always carried the most weight for me.
Nelyo made as if to rise from his seat, to respond to me, but then did I behold him, arisen, and in a far different tent. And his right hand, it was no longer there, but his arm did end in a well-bandaged stump!
"Mandos!" I called in fëa. "What do I see that my son is so mutilated? What is this you have me behold?"
Instant was the Vala's answer to me. "Nelyafinwë yet lives, and is no prisoner, even as thou so prayed of Manwë. Though another, also, did add most earnest prayers for mercy, and unto the King of Arda."
Káno, thought I! Káno would so do; and would he not do all within his power to rescue his brother? I was filled with relief, that not a second of my sons was lost. And that Nelyafinwë had looked pained as with an abiding grief, but strong; so much stronger than when he had hung upon the mountainside, filled me with hope. For the fire of life had always burnt most ardently in that son; of all of them, even Curvo, was he not most like me in that respect?
But his right hand! Ai!
I thought then upon Manwë, and that he had heard me yet. That, mayhap, was there still some small love in him for my kin. I thought, despite the curse upon my House, yet were some of the Valar watching, and with growing respect for our striving.
`Nelyafinwë is again King of the Noldor in more than name, and in time, will he give the Dark Lord much cause to regret what he attempted,' stated I, and with much relief.
"Thy sons are brave of heart, that is true. And Nelyafinwë will wreck much damage upon the hosts of Melkor, though will he also endure more. But Nolofinwë is King of the Noldor, and Arafinwë rules in Tirion."
A statement of fact, it was. No lie to plunge me back to the edge of the abyss, no cruel joke, to pain one who had, but an instant earlier, felt his spirit soar with exaltation.
I could not answer. What to say? I could not think clearly.
"The eldest son of Nolofinwë, Findekáno, it was who rescued thy son from Thangorodrim. And that with the aid of much courage and determination to heal divisions between the Noldor, that they present a united front to their enemy." Námo Mandos continued, "For the ancient friendship he had with thy firstborn, did he venture forth, and alone. Save this help did he have; that Manwë heard his plea, and thine, proud spirit, and did he send forth Thorondor, King of Eagles, to give of his aid."
I would have been trembling with rage at the earlier words, had I physical form. I would have been so fired with anger at what I was hearing. But I could do nothing, other than endure the news.
`He cut off Nelyo's hand, to disadvantage him!'
`To cut off his hand was not the wish of Findekáno. Indeed, bitter tears did he shed at thy son's predicament. But needful was that act, that thy son be delivered to freedom."
I heard, but did not take in the implications of Mandos' comment. So angry was I and that Nolofinwë was king! Arafinwë I cared not for. Servant king of a servant people; thralls all! But Nolofinwë; how had he usurped that which was my right, that was Nelyo's right?
`Let my half-brother crow forth his victory while he may. My sons will reclaim what is theirs. Once Nelyafinwë is fully restored, will he reclaim his birthright!'
"Nelyafinwë it was who gave up his birthright, and to Nolofinwë."
Amongst the bitterest words I had ever heard were they: almost as bitter as the news of my father's death, and my Jewel's theft. I could not believe it. I could not believe that my eldest son would so do. Then, in a struggle of thoughts, did it occur that he was still suffering from his trial, and so knowing, had Nolofinwë pressed home his advantage. But then why had Káno, and Turko not spoken forth? Why had they not acted if Nelyo was still weakened?
"Thy son acted with wisdom, and clarity of mind." Mandos made to reject my suspicions. "For dost thou not recall my pronouncement, that: thy House shall be `The Dispossessed'; and that of thy Jewels, and of the Kingship of the Noldor?"
I would not believe it! So he showed me. A vision of what had or was transpiring in the Hither lands was before me, yet did I have no means of knowing if this deed was now occurring, or was something done in a Age past!
Nelyo was standing in the tent of Nolofinwë. Clothed in fine garments was he, as befitted his rank, and behind him, stood his brothers and foremost lords. And my son, he whom I trusted, he bowed before my half-brother and begged forgiveness for deserting him, that the main host of the Noldor had endured so much suffering in the crossing of the ice. He abdicated his right to be king, for himself, and for all his brothers.
`If there lay no grievance between us, lord, still the kingship would rightly come to you, the eldest here of the house of Finwë, and not the least wise.' 
I felt nothing but humiliation. It was as if I, myself, were upon my knees. I wished I could have died in truth in that moment, and departed the circles of the world as, it is said, the Secondborn so do, that I witnessed not that exchange.
On the edges of my consciousness was Mandos hovering; no doubt observing my response. What response was there to give?
`When is it that thou will restore me to my hröa?' Calm did I endeavour to make that statement, and no plea. `It is said that the severing of hröa and fëa is an unnatural act, and is recorded that it will be the duty of Manwë to restore us to bodily life if we so will it! I so will! I would have again my body, and my rights.'
Not so eager to answer me was Námo Mandos. But thought he to let me ponder awhile.
Again did I make statement. `Unjust is what is befallen my family, that Káno and Turko and the others be deprived of their inheritance by my half-brother and his kin; that Maitimo decides now to be his mother's son, and so betray me. I demand what is my right, to be restored again, that I may take up the battle. In thy own interest is it. For do I perceive now thy reasoning, that the Noldor are thy best hope to constrain Moringotho without outright war. Do I perceive thy traitorous hearts, that thou wouldst aid the Usurpers, that the Noldor be used to keep from them the taint of the Enemy while they are in their childhood! `
No answer. So did I know I was close to the truth.
`Restore me, Doomsman! Seek council with thy kin, and see if better plan thou canst devise than to send me against Moringotho. More damage can I yet do unto him than any other who now abides in the Hither Lands!'
"Council have we already sought concerning thee, spirit of Fëanáro. And that thou may never return!"
So did I expect their answer to be. Though lawful it was not.
`Has Ilúvatar not given thee express instructions that, though Manwë and thyself have some say, yet may the fëar of the Eldar not be held captive. If I desire restoration, if I am willing to take up again my life of old, if I have spent time in considering my memories, I may be returned. To Eru Ilúvatar I make plea!'
"Thou who calls most freely upon the name of the One; know that Manwë has referred thee to His will already, and that His will is thy return be withheld."
No way forward was there for me. No way from this place of memory and vision alone.
`For how long?' I already knew his reply.
"Until the End." The voice of the Doomsman made that a most solemn pronouncement. "Thou must remain here until the End, neither may thou walk again amongst thy kin, nor will thy likeness be seen in Arda."
I closed in upon my thoughts. Even I would not contemplate arguing with Eru. And to think I had believed that it was He who had set in me such a spirit of fire, and for his purpose. I could think no more. All joy was as dust to me. All I loved, taken from me.
`Speak not to me of what transpires in the Hither Lands, Jailer, nor of aught else. No interest do I have'.
I would say no more, thought I. If memory was to be my place of dwelling until the end of time; if Maitimo had thrown away all I had striven for in his desire to show thanks for his rescue, then I would make for myself those memories that would endure, and in them abide. I would forge together the thoughts of what was pleasing in my life, and make of them a strong fortress.
So did time pass. Mandos disturbed me not, neither did I speak forth anything unto him. Of the Silmarils I dreamt; in the light of my love for them did I bathe and seek comfort. And in memory of my father, and he with me in talk, and discussion, in debate on linguistics, and in history; in these thoughts did I bury myself to assuage my grief and bitter disappointment.
Yet did the darkness about me endure. The light of memory of my Great Jewels did not pierce that darkness I was in. I could not hold to true joy, even with them.
It came to pass, that another thought slipped through my guard. One I had pushed aside as of pain. But it was there, nonetheless, and not of my deliberate will.
Lying upon the richly upholstered couch in my study was I, and looking up at the patterns of light that Laurelin played upon the ceiling above me. Sounds from the rest of the house bothered me but little, for the heavy doors had I set almost closed. Her voice I could hear faintly, and that of Arnónë, as they discussed final plans for the later meal, that meal to which she had invited Ecthelion and Serewen. To which she had also invited Rúmil, and without my leave! No matter, I recalled thinking, I would be hospitable, and not cause argument unnecessarily. I watched the light patterns on the walls, the shape of trees blowing gently in the breeze, as I contemplated events. Difficult could she be, that wife of mine, and not one to easily take orders. Always that attempt at understanding did she make, and sometimes did it vex me. But I knew she had also invited my father, and he without Indis, through her words of persuasion. I knew the meal she had planned was for my pleasure, and that my father's forthcoming arrival was supposed to be a secret kept from me. And so it had been, until Nelyo told me.
Then was the culprit, Nelyo, himself in the room. For he had reached up to free the heavy catch, and pushed open the doors than he might creep stealthily to my side. I had kept my eyes unfocused, that he knew not I was fully awake, as he had climbed up upon the couch beside me, encircling my neck with his small arms, and cuddling against me. So good had that felt, to have such freely given affection from my son. I let him rest for a few moments, but then raised an arm, to draw him closer and encircle him in turn.
"I am sorry, Atar*," he spoke forth, his soft voice yet light with the tone of early childhood. "I am sorry that I ruined this day for you by telling you Amillë's* secret."
"You ruined nothing, Nelyo. For we will keep this secret between us, that your mother think her plan has worked. And will I not be always pleased to see my father, surprise or no? But mayhap you will think a little more carefully before you speak in future?"
He had promised he would. Most careful was Nelyo with his use of words. Always, was he most careful.
We had stayed there for some time, talking of plans for travelling to visit Aulë. The house sounds around us grew louder and busier, as the assistants and ladies went about the business of organising. But we stayed where we were. `A sanctuary from the nissi!' I had said. And he smiled.
"Would you not rather go to the forge, Atar? No sounds will disturb you there." His bright, silver-grey, eyes held such admiration of me, as he looked up to meet my gaze.
"Not this day, Nelyo. I find I am most happy with the company I keep."
So much did I love him, that firstborn of mine. Despite our disagreements in the last days, despite my never really telling him, yet did he mean so much to me! And, somewhere, in the furthest recesses of my considerations, was the knowledge that, in the time that was my present, he was free of torment by the will of Manwë, and by the valiant deed of Nolofinwë's eldest son.
`Leave me be, Doomsman!' said I, sensing the presence of the Vala and reluctantly leaving that memory. `Why do you bother me still? Evil do you deem me, and of evil actions. You give me no hope!'
"I said not that, O Noldo. For there is hope! Not as Melkor, from whom all love has departed, art thou. And despite what we believed, despite thy bitterness and hardening of thy heart, yet doest thou still love."
I heard him; but answered with a question that had been at the back of my thoughts since my second vision of Nelyo. `What was the source of light I beheld? What source of light illuminates the Hither Lands, for the stars were no longer visible to me?'
"That was the light of Anar."
Vast again did the presence of the Vala seem to me as he spoke forth. Vast, and high, and wide!
"For as soon as the feet of Nolofinwë touched the land of Mithrim did the great light arise, and scatter the creatures of darkness before it into their refuge of Angband. The Age of the Trees and of the Stars are ended; the Age of the Sun has begun!"
Máhanaxar = The Ring of Doom
Moringotho = Morgoth / Melkor
Nolofinwë = Fingolfin
Nelyo/ Nelyafinwë / Maitimo = Maedhros
Turukáno = Turgon
Findekáno = Fingon
Arafinwë = Finarfin
Artanis = Galadriel
Káno / Kanafinwë = Maglor
Telvo / Telufinwë = Amras.
Curvo / Curufinwë = Curufin
Pityo / Pityafinwë = Amrod
Turko / Turkafinwë = Celegorm.
Atar = Father
Amillë = Mother
 Of the Return of the Noldor. The Silmarillion JRR Tolkien. Ed C. Tolkien