Nerdanel's Story - Part 9 Flame
(Disclaimer: All characters are JRR Tolkien's. The few that are not, are inspired by reading his works. All references are from The Silmarillion, and HoME 1, 10, 11 and 12.)
"Long he ( Fëanor) fought on, and undismayed, though he was wrapped in fire and wounded with many wounds; ---- "
( The Silmarilion. `Of the Return of the Noldor.)
The house of Sarmo Urundil. Seventh Age.
Is it now that I am dreaming? Are all the tears and grief of ages past but some trick of my mind? Will I wake, and find him sleeping still by my side?
I feel the touch of his fëa upon mine; an exquisitely gentle touch, yet one that ever grows in demand of me, filling all of my senses with a fierce and joyful longing. I feel the touch of his hands --- and his breath, warm against my skin. And I am wrapped in the fire and the flame of his being ----
But now darkness has come, darkness has fallen, and another flame there is, wrapping him in death!
That dream of a memory of a vision haunts me ever more frequently! Since I have begun to record my memories of the early days, is it a thought that comes into my mind most nights. Almost do I think Morgoth, to taunt me into despair, sends me that dream. But Morgoth, he is bound behind the Door of Night, is he not? One may think that time assuages grief, but for us does its burden but accumulate. For many ages have I not dreamt thus of Fëanáro, though dream of him --- of them --- I do. But that dream was with me again last night, and of it do I feel constrained to speak. Sometimes I wonder that I still think of him with any sense of loss and longing, for did we not part before he left Valinor? Yes, I hated, I abhorred the folly and the evil deeds into which he was led, but to my oath did I hold; never have I stopped loving him, though at times have I hated him as well. And in the passing of time, the clearing of sight, did I understand much better why he followed the path he did, and also why I had failed in my endeavour to change his mood!
Mayhap if I speak now of that memory, before I leave my father's house, I will have a measure of peace of mind for the recording of events pertaining to my sons. Mayhap I will never have peace apart from in the company of Mandos!
Now this is the history and manner of that dream. Though I never had the gift of insight into minds that Artanis possesses, yet inherited from my mother, and from the art of close and careful observation did I have more insight than many. And with Fëanáro did I come to have a close bond indeed, strengthened doubtlessly by the many occasions of mediating his fëa to our unborn children. At times, after the birth of Maitimo, did I also see events from afar, as if I were using a palantir, but this was from my own mind with no mediation from that creation of my husband's.
It was almost two years* after the departure of the hosts of the Noldor from Tirion that the vision came upon me. Almost two years of darkness that we endured in Aman; for the light of the Trees was no more and no moon was there. Neither had the bright sun risen, for before the first sunrise, was the light of our greatest fire to set. Only the stars of Varda, and our torches and candles, and those gems that blazed with blue and silver fire, did we have. Of the anguish of those days of Morgoth's `victory', of Aulë no longer walking amongst us, of those Teleri who remained, of the grief of broken hearts and broken families I will write in due course. Think not that I wept only for my own kin! But of nature, and not the least of motherhood, were they foremost in my mind.
I had been working with my father, when a warning came upon me. No vision was this save a momentary sight of `fire over the Sea!' I called for my mother, for she who had first had this intuition in relation to Fëanáro! `What does it mean? What is happening to them?' I had cried, fearful that this would be another battle, another Kinslaying, but no clearer were we as to what was taking place then than before. Since the destruction of the Trees, no message had gone forth to those lands of the east from Aman, neither had any message returned, save what we knew from those Noldor who had accompanied the wise Arafinwë back to our city.
"Ai, Nerdanel!" For the briefest of moments did I hear Fëanáro's voice, sense his dismay, and that came as a shock to me, as I had experienced no direct thought from him since our last parting words. For that instant I felt the touch of his fëa again, reaching back to me in his pain of loss. Then did his anger flare, and his consuming hatred for Morgoth --- his hate, it blocked out any further touch between us. But I knew that one of our sons was dead in that fire, though I knew not then which one it was. For a time did my anger flare against my husband most strongly, (though only with the return of the exiles was I to know his part in that son's death!) and so was that bond between us doubly blocked. Such anguish was that for me for greatly did I love my sons, rebels against the Valar, and slayers of the Teleri though I knew them to be!
Again did it happen, many days later, very many days. I was alone in my room, and about to take rest, when the sharp `arrow' of his directed thought became fixed in my mind. The thought was wild, fey indeed, as he cried to me, `Vengeance now shall I have!' But that was all. It was as if he wanted me to know that he had been right to defy the Valar that he would bring down Morgoth himself by the strength of his wrath.
I sat up upon my bed, filled not with any exaltation, but with a sense of dread. Something was very wrong! Then it was that the vision unfolded before me, as a large map unfolded upon a table. And I could see very many foul and terrible creatures, and also the host of those of our House only; of the blue and silver banners of Nolofinwë and his followers was there no sight! Outnumbered greatly were our people, yet they fought on with the fire of Aman burning in their eyes, and their long swords slashing through their foe as easily as through air.
I saw swift riders under the cold stars, Fëanáro and four others ahead of the main force. Riding fearlessly they were, in pursuit. His sword was held aloft, and I heard him faintly, as if muffled and distorted by distance, urging the others onwards so as to come upon Morgoth the sooner. That he intended to seek personal combat with the Vala I had no doubt! But I had a greater field of vision than he. I saw the huge and dreadful creatures of shadow and flame come forth from the dark mountains. Seven of them there were, and a host of orcs turned at bay at that sight, and prepared to give battle. Orcs and Valaraukar*, setting a trap!
"Fëanáro! Turn back!! They lie in wait for you! It is an ambush that they plan!" I called aloud, rising to my feet; though my voice could carry no further than the confines of my room! Neither could he have heard me in fëa then, so clouded was his reason, so consumed was he by his battle fury.
The vision shimmered before my eyes, and I knew some time had passed in that land over the Sea. I knew also that he had not turned back!
I sank to my knees on the hard floor, my hair falling heavily forwards across my shoulders as I bowed my head. My anger against him faded away in that moment, as mist in the light, and held fast was I to the vision that I already knew would bring me further grief. A circle of flame lit my view; seven servants of Morgoth Bauglir encompassed him, as he fought on, undaunted by them! By his feet lay the crushed and burnt bodies of those loyal guards of his, of Alcarin and three others. But Fëanáro they could not bring down! He was swift and agile and strong; they could not match him for all their might! I gasped in hope and in near wonder as I saw that he had wounded some, that two were lame, and moved but stiffly in gait, and another bore the marks of Urrussë* upon it's body, while an arm hung useless at its side. But the moment when I thought he might yet prevail even against those odds was soon to pass. I beheld then that, valiant though he fought, he bore many wounds himself, and burns from their swords and whips of flame.
It was as if I were watching him again competing against other of the Noldor in the arena in Tirion. Five or six or more would he often compete against, and harder still did he train, and with our sons, in those later days of swords and banners and lies. But these seven were not Eldar, but Valaraukar, those who had once been of the Maiar! He is nigh exhausted, thought I, with cold realisation that he could not prevail alone. As if in answer to my thought, he stumbled --just a little -- but it was enough, and his shield was torn from his hand as he was wrapped in their flames once more.
In my room, sitting motionless upon the floor, silent tears were upon my face. I could not watch this, could not know the unthinkable, that he was defeated. Was this to be the result of my failure to `care well' for Míriel's gift? Was it to be the end of his dreams, the outcome of his eloquent and impassioned speech in Tirion? "Fair shall the end be, though long and hard shall be the road," he had said. Fair? Nay, it was not to be so for him!
I reached out in thought to our sons, though I had never had any link with any of them that was beyond the norm for mother and child. While they had been young, had I often sensed their needs, but not once they reached maturity. Even less than I could reach Fëanáro could I reach them. But try I must!
`Maitimo*! Be quick! Thy father is failing, even he! Tyelkormo*, Carnistir*! He is near the end of his endurance'. As I called, I knew they heard not, and in part was I glad as I had no wish for them also to be wrapped in the flames. Yet without our sons now, would he be lost!
On the far edge of vision, did I see the tall figure and flame coloured hair of Maitimo, fighting his way through, trading blow for blow with those foul creatures. A fell warrior had he also become, my firstborn, as he brought up his sword to meet a descending blow with a resounding clash, and then followed through slashing into the upper chest and throat of the orc. With my son were many of our people, but they still could not breech the circle of flames
"Fëanáro, they come--soon they will be with you!"
But it was not to be! Out of the shadows loomed a shape greater and more terrible than the others, and in his hand was a black axe. The very Lord of Valaraukar was being sent out against my lord! In full strength, aye, I believed Fëanáro could have defeated him, but not after fighting so many, so hard, and for so long.
Yet it was still not over. The Lord of Balrogs brought down his axe in an attempt to cleave a deep wound on Fëanáro's neck, but again was my husband swift of foot, and evading that blow, hewed mightily at the body of the Valaraukar. They circled each other, but still in the midst of the other servants of Morgoth, were they. Twice more did they exchange blows, and Fëanáro, without a shield, was wounded again.
With pounding heart did I watch as another of those creatures let fly its whip, and wrench Urrussë from my lord's grasp. Defenceless now was he, yet he tried to evade them, tried to take a sword from the hand of one of his enemies, but the Lord of Balrogs struck again, with a blow to his back that brought him to his knees. A clawed foot was placed upon him, driving him into the dust of the ground, but not completely! Numbly did the realisation that they would not kill him quickly fill me.
"Maitimo!! Be swift!" My thoughts winged forth to my eldest son. And I wondered at the strength of what I felt! I had little contact with Fëanáro since he left Tirion. Only that briefest of touches of fëa, and only once--- mayhap twice! We had parted in anger and in thwarted hopes, he and I, and I had thought at the time that I had reason enough to turn from him. But turn from him now, I would not!
They wrapped their whips around his body and dragged him behind them, moving fast for creatures so large, in a game like a thoughtless child might play with a toy. Dragged across the roughened ground and rocks was he, until for one moment, his body was caught between two larger stones, and would not easily be pulled free.
With all that was in me did I reach forth in fëa, seeking that slender `thread' of union that should still be between us despite our estrangement. Although he could not have 'felt' me, I fell upon him then, throwing my arms around his neck as I covered his burnt and broken features with my tears. It was as if I thought I could wash away his hurt, as Nienna could, and make him whole again. It was as if I could make him what he had once been!
Pain hazed eyes opened, and he knew, aye, he knew that I was with him!
"False wife and mother!" He struggled to respond, "You who deserted me, keep now your tears, I need them not!" The sharpness of his words caused me to recoil, and the tenuous link was broken! Those words were among the cruellest he had ever spoken to me! Never had I thought we who had once loved so well would come to this!
Fëanáro was yet in my vision, and for a moment he reached to his neck, as if to touch something that was perhaps hung around it, under the hauberk. I saw with amazement him bring forth the Green Stone* upon a chain--- he wore it still! Despite his harsh words, despite all, the Green Stone was yet about his neck! There was a tug upon my own fëa; one last bright flare of his brilliant eyes, as he seemed to search for me, his mood momentarily changed. "Nerdanel, do not shed tears! Never did I leave thee lady!" blood smeared fingers were upon the stone. "Here, in this memory am I always with thee ----."
He could not maintain his focus, as the Valaraukar tugged his body helplessly from the rocks, and set him again in their midst, now making to crush his hands. I would have called unto the Valar, unto Eru himself then in my anguish for him, but how was I any different to the wives and mothers of the Teleri? I thought none would hear the plea of the wife of Fëanáro!
Never indeed had he ever left me, (though had his later deeds played a major part in driving me from him!) for was it not I who left him, refusing to go with him to Formenos and then refusing to leave Valinor with him, even for the sake of our sons! That he believed me to have deserted him I could understand; but now was I to have no chance to ever explain --- to tell him the truth and without anger. Neither could he tell me which memory he recalled, what he meant by those last thoughts to me, so broken was he by then.
I watched in silent helplessness as the rest of the vision unfolded before me. Maitimo and Tyelkormo with a great host, cut and hacked their way into that circle of flame, and Ambarussa the elder approached his father's still form from another direction. It seemed that the Valaraukar retreated, though I wondered why? That they had dealt Fëanáro a mortal blow they must have known, and perhaps that was all their purpose at that time.
Our sons, they raised up their father between them, and bore him away, to an upward path to a mountain pass.
That he would soon die, both he and I knew, though with firmly spoken words of encouragement did Maitimo and now Curufin try to renew their father's strength to live. A chill thought struck my heart. What if Fëanáro would heed not the summons of Mandos at death? We still knew little of death in Aman, but since the Kinslaying did we know a lot more than we had! That Mandos summoned the fëa of the slain, we knew well. But Fëanáro had defied Námo Mandos before. What would happen if he refused to return?
They lay him down upon the ground, as gently as they might. And now they knew also what was to be.
With fading sight, was he looking at distant mountains, higher than any I had seen before the Pelóri had been raised. He cursed them then, and cursed also the name of Morgoth thrice. `Do not treat neither parley with thy foe', he instructed our sons. (If only Maitimo had taken that instruction to heart!) About his neck was he still wearing the Green Stone, and he signalled for Maitimo to take it from him. `Keep this well! Avenge me, and thy grandsire, and hold true to thy oath!" With his final breath did he lay that accursed oath upon our sons again!
`Why that' If only he had spoke otherwise! If only he had blessed them, or bid then seek release from those blasphemous words. Yet the oath had been made freely, and before Manwë and Varda, and they had called upon Eru, each one in their madness! Such an oath was binding, reminder or no!
They bowed their heads, our sons. For now were they all there save for Ambarussa the younger, and my thoughts that it had been he, it had been `Umbarto' who had died earlier in the fire were confirmed.
Then did Fëanáro die!
His spirit was so bright, so fiery, that his body was consumed as he sped forth. `Quickly now', thought I, as again did I send forth my own fëa, soaring upwards as a bird in flight, as a mighty eagle of Manwë. I had thought to meet him above the clouds, that we might take wing together for a final time---that I might draw he who had turned his back on Valinor, `home'. But there was no need! Freely did Fëanáro hasten into the west!
The slightest of touches there was, of anger tinged with a dawning sense of the true depth of his loss, and then no more. The Spirit of Fire had come to his journey's end!
Much later it was that I wondered why I had not told him the truth; that beholding him in the Ring of Doom, in his anguish at the death of his father and the theft of the Silmarils, I also had forgiven him all that had gone before. That, were it not for my oath to Aulë, I would have gone with him, even unto death! Neither had I told him that I loved him still. Mayhap he already knew!
I must have lost consciousness; for the next I knew was that I was lying upon my bed, with my parents seated nearby.
"Rest, Nerdanel. We know what has happened!" My father spoke in hushed tones, my mother looked most pained, understanding something of how I must feel. Had she not also held Fëanáro in great esteem until nigh the end. I could not answer them. No words had I then for anyone, or for very many a day.
"They found you outside, under the apple tree!" my mother spoke in a broken voice "Tuon was looking for you, to tell you what they had seen in the sky".
They had found me under the apple tree? I did not remember walking there!
"They saw a shooting star, burning brightly in the darkness as it headed from the east to the north-west shore of Valinor. No mere feature of the sky was it, Tuon said!" My father explained as gently as he could, knowing well what, or rather who, the speeding flame was. My parents bowed their heads. That Urundil was furious with Fëanáro's deeds, with his disregard for Aulë, his misuse of power and of skill, and not the least, what he had led our people to do to the Teleri, was no secret. That my husband had taken all his grandsons from him, and nigh broken my heart, Urundil could not forgive. Yet would my father hold his peace, and mourn also one who had been intended for greatness.
Instinctively I reached out in fëa, as I had always done when greatly troubled. But he was not there! It was not as it had been in those days when I had called to him, but because of his mood, or because he was occupied with work he had chosen to answer me not. Neither was it as it had been these last years. Still had I then felt his presence. But now, Fëanáro was not there; we were sundered indeed! At last did I fully realise the sting of death; the grief that had been Finwë's at his loss of Míriel, the grief of Indis at the death of Finwë, and the grief of the Teleri at the loss of their loved ones! In silence did I mourn my lord and our youngest son. It was a further two years* before my heart had any lightness, before I was able to speak freely again with others. Despite the grievous woe he had caused us all, had Fëanáro ever been my bright flame. And greatly did I wish then that I had died with him!
So now have I written of that which is a bitter `evergreen' memory to me. With the telling at last do I hope to lie to rest that particular dream for some time, and turn again to the task I have set myself, and in some order of its happening. In the manner of that of which I have spoken did Aulë's warning to my father come true. For indeed did the rebellion lead Fëanáro and Ambarussa to death, and in time, also, all of our sons.
Valaraukar = Balrogs
Urrussë = `Flame blade' (russë is the poetic word for blade - I think!.)
Maitimo = Maedhros
Tyelkormo = Celegorm
Carnistir = Caranthir
The Green Stone of Fëanor: This is mentioned in footnotes in HoME 11 `The War of the Jewels'. It implies that Tolkien was pondering the history of the Elessar, with it being given by Fëanor just before his death to Maedhros, who then gave it to Fingon. This does not agree with Tolkien's later thoughts in `Unfinished Tales'. I am using the idea that Fëanor gives a Green Stone to Maedhros, though it is not the Elessar.