(Disclaimer: All of the characters and the world in which they exist belong to JRR Tolkien. All references are from The Silmarillion and HoME 1, 10 and 12. )
“Then Fëanor swore a terrible oath. … ‘Our word hear thou, Eru Allfather! To the everlasting Darkness doom us if our deed faileth. On the holy mountain hear in witness and our vow remember, Manwë and Varda!’
(The Annals of Aman. Morgoth’s Ring JRR Tolkien. ed. C Tolkien.)
Mahanaxar. Seventh Age.
Is it now that I am dreaming? Are all the tears and grief of the many Ages past but some trick of my mind? Will I arise, from what has seemed the long shadow of my thoughts, to find her resting still by my side?
I feel the touch of her fëa upon mine; an exquisitely gentle touch, yet one that ever grows in response to me, filling all of my senses with a fierce and joyful longing. I feel the touch of her hands, so small, aye, and so strong, and her breath, warm against my skin. And I enfold her in the fire and the flame of my being —-
But now all is light! Around me, all is light! I struggle to cope with the sudden rush of feeling, of myriad sensations, as my disembodied fëa is enfolded again in hröa. And for a third time I stand in the Ring of Doom, before the Lords of the West. No dream is this!
I remember it all! I remember my life; I remember my death overlooking that goal unreachable, the peaks of Thangorodrim. What has befallen Moringotho*, the accursed, since I was slain, I ponder? What has become of my Jewels? But neither thought is the one that fills me upon my restoration.
I remember the timeless `time’, the immeasurable days sitting in the shadow of memory in those Halls of Awaiting. For some, mayhap, is it a time of gentle rest, of peace and kindly ministering? But for me, nay! How could it have been?
A battle of will it was! At first, a battle with the realisation of my failure; then with the isolation and despair, and then with Námo Mandos himself as I came to fully understand! And finally, — finally did I realise where my folly, and my true strength, lay!
I dwelt not on the memory of how I was slain. Once freed of my body, my fëa had been confronted with the truth of how things were, no longer did delusions have such a hold. And I carried with me the knowledge that the Noldor could, in no way, overthrow Moringotho! Fool had I been, that I planned not better but threw all my strength and power away in a useless pursuit!
Anger and bitterness! My companions were they for many a day after first accepting the truth, that I had been defeated not by my enemies, but by my own rashness. Anger against the Deceiver, for what he had achieved, bitterness at what I now saw he had achieved through me! And hate! Filled I was with hate for the one who had taken so very much from me. Filled also with an aching emptiness.
Though some other of my people had died in battle, none other spirit was there with me in that place. None with whom to speak in the manner of fëar; so was I truly alone. Trapped with but memory and grief was I.
`You will not humble me, Námo Mandos! Though you bring all your will to bear upon me yet will I endure. As I defied you when first you summoned me to Máhanaxar, I will defy you now!’ That thought, of stubborn self-will, held me fast in purpose for some time, –or for no time, — it came to be all the same.
No answer, no reply was given me.
There was a moment when almost did I wish Mandos would speak to me, would reveal his presence even to pronounce a damming judgement upon me. I began to wonder if I were truly in his Halls, in the place appointed for the Eldalië who were slain. Mayhap the everlasting Darkness had claimed me whole, even as I had called upon Eru, upon Iluvatar himself to so doom me. Yet I had felt that summons at the moment of separation, and my spirit had consumed my body in its fire, and sped away, into the West. I had not even thought to resist that call to me.
She had been there; she had called to me, also. She had been with me in those last moments, though had I tried to drive her from me that she felt neither the pain nor the moment of death. But there were none now who called to me, who reached out to touch me, to condemn or to console.
Ai! What consolation could I expect; I, whom they considered the rebel, the disdainer of the Valar, the chief instigator of the Kinslaying, the betrayer of my own people? Though I had judged myself justified in all my actions, and scorned the judgement of others, yet did I perceive how many had regarded me.
Then the memories began in earnest. My life as it had been, my love for my father, my grief over the loss of my mother, my distain for Indis and those who were her children. I beheld in my thoughts my works, how I had busied and delighted myself with often little consideration of others, and I felt again pride in my creations. Much had I undertaken, much had I accomplished through the drive of the fires of my heart. But also had I wanted my father’s approval. I had wanted his love first and foremost, and to know of his pride in me!
As I thought on that did I wonder how proud of me he had been? Never had he deserted me, never would he be parted from me for long. Never did he question whether I was guilty of that which they accused me or no! Not as she did!
As I pondered, the timelessness endured, and so did I.
I remembered her when first we met, walking upon the hillside, lit with the radiance of Laurelin. Beautiful to me she was; her eyes bright with joy in life, with intelligence, with questions and longing for answers. But then I beheld her with tears upon her face as she pleaded with me to release Lastamo from the crushing mastery I had of his thoughts. Again, I beheld her distress as I had moved in anger to strike Ecthelion a blow that would send him reeling across the floor of my study; to strike he who had betrayed me to my half-brother.
I beheld her pleading with me at the last, to leave at least one of our children with her, and her face, angry and wilfully determined, yet knowing I would not alter my course.
`Better off are you without me, Lady,’ thought I, `for truly did you say that I was a bringer of grief unto you.’
I thought I heard the cries of my son, of Ambarto, of Ambarussa the younger*. From a flaming white ship I heard him calling to me though I behold him not. Was his fëa somewhere in the vastness that surrounded me, sitting in the shadow of thought of the father who slew him? Would I find him again in this place, and be able to tell him of my sorrow? I wondered if he would understand?
The memories had moved on apace: first a recollection of loneliness in my childhood, then of threatening Rúmil in the hall of the loremasters, then again of the blood and death I left in my wake at Alqualondë. Makalaurë* had said that Ambarto found it hard to take rest, and that the memory of what he had done at Alqualondë was ever with him. Though I never so spoke, I wondered that it was not with all of them? It was always with me! And also the cries, I heard the cries of the Teleri in every sea bird, every gull, we encountered from that time forth.
`I am sorry’, thought I, `for requiring such ignoble deeds from the Noldor’, but the action was needful! Did none understand?
I was answered by memory of the flames of Gothmog. Wrapped in flame was I, and unable to break free. `Enough’, my fëa cried out, as I struggled to control my thoughts! `Is this memory to be my constraint?’
But none did give me reply.
Time. In that place it was almost as I remembered the Gardens of Lórien. Timelessness there was, a moment as a hundred years, and a hundred years as a moment. But in Lórien there was a gentle light; mazes of yews and tall pines there were in abundance, and fields and meadows full of poppies. The pools and lakes were lit with reflected light of the stars of Varda, and spirits abounded seeking to heal and bring peace. In Lórien I had rarely been alone. First with my father had I travelled, and the last two times with her.
My father should be in the Halls of Awaiting, I had thought. My mother also should be here! Why was I not aware of either of them? Surely great love bound fëar closely?
But mayhap that would not be permitted me? Mayhap it was thought best to keep me from them both. And what could I say to either if it were allowed?
`See, Father, I have brought the Noldor to a place where they can win their freedom; back to that place you first brought them from! And though I have not overthrown the Enemy nor reclaimed my Jewels as I so desired, yet have I been slain in the attempt! I have lost my youngest son, though the others are still with our people. Still will those six seek to avenge us both! Nelyafinwë* is King, and he will hold true to his oath! `
Was that what my beloved parents wanted to hear?
The folly of some of those thoughts filled me again with bitterness. I hated Moringotho, I hated Nolofinwë* for what he had driven me to do, I hated the jealous Valar for desiring my Jewels and for failing to keep my people safe, failing to keep my father, who had first followed them, safe! But most of all I found I increasingly hated myself!
Then one thought came to me that was not, could not be, of my own. For no memory of this I ever had, nor thought I conceived. So did I know I was indeed in the company of Mandos, and not abandoned to the Darkness. Little comfort did that thought bring me, however. An image I saw; that was all; of Nelyo bound by the wrist to a precipice of that accursed mount, Thangorodrim.
And I yearned most desperately for restoration with my hröa. If I could have spoken or striven with Mandos, I would have demanded to be so returned. More the fool I, to think I could still so command. Though my fëa protested, demanded, howled with rage, none there were who paid heed. None paid heed to my anguish for my eldest son.
I hated Eru in that moment, that He had seen fit to make me at all!
It came to pass that I exhausted my anger and my grief, so I thought. Nothing was left to me. I was staring into an abyss! I, who was always so strong of will, found I had little will to exist. Doom had I brought upon myself, and doom upon my sons and people.
One last thought would I indulge in, one last memory before the desire for complete extinction took over. One last memory…
She was standing in the doorway of the workroom, clad in a simple white robe. Her unbound hair was curling in the heat, a wild mane of red-brown hair it was. And on one hip she was balancing the small form of our son, whose hair, that same rich colour, was also curling at the nape of his neck.
Sharper than any torment was the beauty of that moment.
Then she was passing the resting child to me with much tenderness. My son, my eldest son! He who, if the image were true, hung in wretched abandonment at the pleasure of Moringotho!
“I disagree with you!” she was saying, the expression on her oval face one of firm determination to match her will to my own. My thought snapped back to that, happier, memory.
“Here is the most wonderful of your creations, Finwion!”
Pain, like nothing even the flames had done to me, raced through my thoughts. Such loss! So much had I lost when I let her walk away.
“I had forgotten.” I found I was whispering. Voiceless words into the void it was, but the memory was strong.
“What have you forgotten, my Lord?” said she, in a bantering tone.
“I had forgotten how much I love you!”
And I had forgotten, also, how much I loved Maitimo!
Ai! If I had voice, I would have screamed those words out as a last defiance. I would have, should have, whispered them with my last breath to the sons that sat by me in silent vigil, and spoken in fëa to she who had never truly forsaken me.
No sooner had those thoughts come to me, than there was a sense of another `being’ drawing nigh. I felt as if I were trembling, with a mixture of anger and frustration, though without a body, that could not be.
It was not her, neither was it Nelyo, I knew with some relief. How could it be? She, I knew from our final touch of fëar, was alive in Valinor!
It was, however, another I had occasion to know.
“At last!” Námo Mandos’ well-remembered voice echoed through my fëa. ” At last, spirit of Fëanáro, son of Finwë, we can begin!”
Moringotho = Morgoth
Nolofinwë = Fingolfin
Ambarussa the younger = Amras
Makalaurë = Maglor
Nelyafinwë / Nelyo = Maedhros.