|Grey and Cold
Author: Neld PM
Some moments in Mithrim, Fingon's PoV.Rated: Fiction K - English - Words: 3,536 - Reviews: 3 - Published: 04-22-05 - id: 2361754
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
(Orodreth is here the son of Angrod and a noldo called Edhellos. Argon, fourth child of Fingolfin, dead in the battle of the Lammoth, does exist.)
(Cry, merci beaucoup, que ton dictionnaire soit béni.)
The moon was high the sky was clear when they brought his brother into the earth. Their eyes still stung from the harsh brightness of the new-born sun. Blue-grey and light the sky stretched overhead ; and below the lake shone with an eerie grey-white glow. The night was cool and silent.
Dark silhouettes gathered on the shore at dusk, bearing golden sparkling torches and a large stretcher, beside a wide dark hole dug in the greyish sand. They had dressed his dead brother in silk and velvet clothes ; golden embroideries twinkled upon the rich fabrics. He didn't wear such things in life, Fingon remembered. He wondered briefly, where they had found these, when living people walked in rags and tatters.
Fingolfin stood aside, very still and pale. They had also slain his father, he thought, and put a statue instead, and no-one noticed but him. (Now a tall figure with ebony hair and empty eyes shattered in his mind and they gathered the pieces in a blue jar and cast it into the lake.)
The beach was silent, white sand glowing faintly in the dark. He saw them from afar, sitting huddled beside the waters, facing the west and the dark mountains, where a golden shimmer lingered.
'We wondered where you hadgone. We worried', he said, with a falsely light-hearted tone that made all three cringe. A tone the late, carefree Fingon might have used while laughingly teasing his little brother. Not that Turgon, Turgon whose face was snow-white and eyes icy and dead beneath dark hair (but not so dark as the black waters from which they had pulled little Idril), whose weed-like, pallid fingers were wrapped tight around fistfuls of a white dress.
He fell, rather than knelt, beside them, as one crushed by some awesome force. His own voice, as it was forced out of his lungs, surprised him, thin and broken.
'Do you remember ? One evening in autumn, Laurelin's light was waning, and Telperion was waxing, and there was frost in the grass. I had come looking for you, a child, you had remained by the lake. In the shadow of trees, the waters were black, and yet there remained golden and silver specks of light, dancing and shivering amidst the darkness. You watched the lake, everything forgotten. I picked you up, and brought you back. You shook at first, you were so cold. But eventually you fell asleep in my arms, smiling.'
They both looked at him curiously. A strange smile curved Turgon's lips, and now he stretched it, longer and thinner, longer and thinner, (and Fingon feared that it would eventually breach that porcelain face).
'I do not remember', he said. 'Evening, autumn, and a boy enthralled deep into the night - by the sight of beauty perhaps. A thoughtful brother. I think you made it up.'
Fingon carefully distorted his lips into a smile, gritted his teeth so as not to weep, so as not to shout, growl and hit his brother until he bled and wept as well, that fey smile erased from his pallid, wry face.
'Maybe. I can't tell anymore.'
He sank on his bed, arms wrapped around his chest. Heavy fabric flapped in the wind ; his tent shook. He fought to keep his eyes open. Turning to the side, cheek pressed against the coarse fabric of his bed, he let his gaze wander ; stray and fall on that book, a piece of paper still caught between its pages ; on a blue, rumpled tunic ; on a piece of wood, which he who now lay lifeless had begun to carve into the likeness of some strange beast - for the enjoyment of a sad, motherless little girl who now sat on the shore of a lake with her empty-eyed father.
His dead brother's face stared coldly at him. His eyes shot back open ; he cursed softly. Giving in, he shut his eyes, screwed them shut, buried himself further beneath his blanket. Silence became unbearable, unbreakable. He felt like screaming. He tried to remember - but Arakano's voice remained beyond his reach. Unbidden, a sigh built in his chest ; he gritted his teeth, screwed his eyes shut, did not exhale, sinking deeper deeper deeper into the dark and cold and emptiness, within and without. (Empty. He lay on his bed, but they only had to touch him, and he dissolved into nothingness, scattered into dust and then nothing at all borne on the wind and his chest was so empty and cold he thought he might crumble)
A hand stroked his hair, and a warm, wet cheek was pressed against his. Strong arms clasped him, and his head lolled against his father's chest. He fell deeper and deeper.
Sitting still, he watched her. He could not bring himself to listen - words drifted and buzzed past his ears, crashing melting into each other - but he followed her every move, spellbound. In the midst of his own tiredness, he wondered how she could gather such strength, walking to and fro, picking this, setting it elsewhere, to and fro, arms and hands ever moving as she talked on and on. She even seemed to be getting faster with each passing second (until her movements became too swift even for her, she became a blurred haze moving talking moving her arms fell off her jaw fell off her legs collapsed under her).
But she eventually stopped - brutally, letting an unfinished word crash to the ground, as if she had hit an invisible wall. She gazed at them, calmly and sadly : at her father's face, marble, steel and grief ; at her dearest brother's distant face, staring into empty space from a pit of cold water ; at her little old niece, a remote and serious watcher ; and at last at Fingon's own dazed face, holding his gaze for long moments.
She finally turned away. Spears leant against a rack ; she picked up one. Her fingers shook slightly. He called softly after her in a hoarse voice, whose sound surprised even him.
'Whither are you going ?'
'I do not know. Hunting.'
Her voice, too, trembled. She briefly closed her eyes.
'Hunting.'(More firmly now). 'What else ?'
He considered joining her. She left before he had made his mind.
A message eventually arrived. Unexpected - they had been dwelling there long enough. But then the southern shore was no concern of theirs (so they told themselves, purposeless folk too tired even to exact revenge, cursing shivering fighting ghosts at night.) Ecthelion brought it, whose wife, too, had laid herself to rest on a soft bed of snow and still slept, Ecthelion whose lips were tight and eyes angry, holding the sheet of paper as if it might burn him, soil him.
It was not Fëanor's handwriting, Fingon thought, as it was given to him. Fair and determined enough, and yet lacking all the strange melding of raw strength, fierceness and delicacy that was Fëanor's. He wondered why he had not written himself, in the brief time before indifference settled again.
They left the next day, wise, kingly Fingolfin and his not less wise, valiant children ; golden Finrod, of whom people said the sun had been created in his likeness, and keen-eyed Galadriel, strong Angrod and fiery Aegnor, who had been his friends once - but he dared not think of when 'once' had been, afraid of how close it would be, and of how distant it would seem. As they rode away, he caught a glimpse of Edhellos, a dark silhouette against the rising sun, the golden head of a child beneath each of her hands, standing still and watching as if they'd never come back.
The two companies met on a misty beach between wood and waters, almost by surprise ; emerging from a thicker fog, they found themselves unexpectedly, unbearably close. There was a time of uneasy, harsh stares, as they almost imperceptibly shifted away from each other. Then, a handful of riders came forth from both sides.
From the corner of his left eye, he saw his father suddenly stiffen, as shining silver gleamed on the brow of the foremost rider. All eventually came to a halt, a few yards and silence between them. He strove to ignore their faces, their steady, burning gazes. Instead, he let his gaze trail lightly over jet, gold and copper, focusing on the details of their armours, and their weapons, beautiful and deadly (as Fëanor, as everything he created in his image, weapons and jewels, and fey children who were both). At some point, he found that some were missing, and watched the sky instead, ghostly treetops, black hands of skeletons, swaying in the wind.
He could not keep his gaze away, though - none of them could -, when a deep, melodious, dangerous voice rose. No - his eyes were drawn to that king whose voice was like the sea, Maglor whose eyes shone cold beneath a silver crown. His mind went blank. Whispers rose behind him. Fëanor...his eldest son...dead ? Dead.
Maedhros. Out of the dim, misty numbness that grew within, he tried to summon some grief. Shreds of affection. Struggled vainly against indifference.
Maglor was still speaking, (Our brother) but he could not hear (was taken ) the words - only heard the music beyond (captive), a slow, rhythmic melody like the crashing of the waves on the shore. (have heard) Or his own pounding heart. (nothing) He felt light-headed. (of him)
He became faintly aware of their gazes, a steady tingling on his cheek. Eventually, he could not avoid them, though what they asked of him, he did not dare fathom ; their eyes were raised towards him in quiet expectation, bright, proud and full of their fey confidence. Sharp Celegorm, who hunted him down ; cunning Curufin, who entrapped him ; Amrod and Amras, strong and quiet, who held him captive ; dark Caranthir, whose eyes, brimming with unsaid wrath, burned into him ; mighty Maglor, who looked into his depths, demanding.
They were still speaking. He stared steadily at the ground now, at dewy tufts of grass and muddy puddles. When they finally turned aside and rode away, he screwed his eyes shut, turned his face to the north, and tried to forget their faces, tried to forget their very names.
At night, he lay on his bed and let images flood his mind unbidden, their dead bodies laying on the ice cold faces jet gold and copper drowning in chilly water the whole camp razed to the ground snow and ashes.
Fire engulfed him, blinded him. He rolled, up and down in a heated darkness, feeling his hair skin eyelids burn. He dared not open his eyes, but felt his uncle's searing gaze.
His cousin visited him sometimes, at night. In dreams. In the unsteady times before he was fully asleep or fully awake. Then, he just sat down on the grass beside him. Quiet. A hint of a smile in his grey eyes. Laying on his side, asleep on the grass ; pale face bathed in tree-light, copper hair mingling with green blades. Fingon listened to his steady breathing, sometimes letting his fingertips trail very lightly over a high cheekbone, reddish tendrils.
He woke up then, clinging to his bed, a distant ache in his chest, skin tingling with want. The cold night air chilled him, and, breathing deeply, in long harsh inspirations, he let anger wrap itself around him again, and willed himself back to indifference. Numbness grew in him again. (Until next night.)
They were so quiet, these two ; light-footed and silent, unexpected ; they appeared by his side as he walked in thigh-high reeds beside the lake, like spirits of water and ice, fairy-children conjured by his feverish mind. Quiet children with their helmets of dull gold, staring at him with serious eyes and hard faces ; whose skin looked translucent over thin limbs and cheeks.
They raised their heads and looked up at him. They spoke with their seldom heard voice, high-pitched and barely louder than the hissing of the reeds, far sharper ; and despite their grave faces, they reminded him that they were still children, so that he knew not whether they spoke out of innocence or cruelty. Their words flew through air and reeds, scythe-like, caught his knees. He fell, kneeling and staring before him with unseeing eyes.
'Why did we come here ?'
He remembered them. Her chilly skin as he bore her, soaked and shivering, blue eyes looking for stars hidden behind the mists, frost in her hair. Following a track, small bloodied footprints in the snow and eventually finding him, a boy whose shoes were gone and who had said nothing. They never said anything, never asked why, then. They just walked on. They had been babes when the choice was made.
'Why did we come here ?'
Because our king is dead, and we have to avenge him. (They had not known him, their king and forefather, exiled for the love of a son they had not known either.) Because the greatest works of art of our people have been stolen, and we must recover them. (So that they may be locked away. He thought of other jewels, crystals of snow and blood, scattered across the Ice for everyone to see.)
'Why did we come ?'
The memories of that day were blurred - by what was stronger than any liquor, Fëanor's words. Darkness. Stars shining weakly overhead. Bright torches, burning red and golden, and the scent of smoke. A heavy rain of words, a chant of anger and wildness, pouring over him, soaking soul flesh bones, beating through him. His uncle - no, by then he was no longer kin, rather some mythical figure, no longer theirs, no longer his own ; possessed by a fire that was beyond him and a music no one could truly comprehend. His cousins' face, staring with wild eyes and entranced face, and the fear he felt slowly creeping, though he could not explain it, only feel a trap closing over them. How reason weakly spoke in his ears, and he would not heed it.
'We came for him', he said.
'But he is dead', they replied, as one answers to madmen or children. 'Our Atari said so.'
He wondered if they truly believed it ; he had found that he could not. Maedhros's death was something he could comprehend ; even Finwë, king and grandfather, could die ; and the sight of his dying brother he would not forget. But Fëanor's death - though he had much wished it at times - was beyond imagination and understanding.
Why did we come ? (What are we waiting for ? Do we go further ? Must we die here ?)
When he looked up, they were gone ; the sun sank red and golden beyond the mountains, beneath a darkening sky. Amidst the deep blue of evening, white cloth glowed faintly, tents lit by lanterns. Black silhouettes moved swiftly. Someone shouted. Someone sang. Someone called for him, far and faint.
Curling up on the sand, he watched the shivering reeds ; black clouds painted across a pale, yellowish sky.
He woke up in the morn, cold and stiff.
Once, he came across an unfinished house. Half walls rose to his waist ; stones lay scattered around the place ; lines of rock and dirt sketched rooms - as children's imaginary houses drawn with a stick on the sand. Where a hearth might've been, the ground was black with soot ; fragile shapes of ash remained there, in the likeness of twigs ; as he stepped closer, they burst and floated away in a gust of wind.
A youth stood there, glaring at his skeleton house. Messy black hair ran down his back in a queue ; his sleeves were rolled up to his elbows ; his arms were tense and dirtied by clay, his fists clenched, his shoulders stiff. He had something of young Caranthir, Fingon thought - something wild and silently angry. And even more so as he heard him, shrugged nervously, and picked up a long, dull sword.
Fingon watched him for a long time, as he spun and thrust, walking, hopping, forth and backwards, forth again, spun, thrust, panted and spun, thrust, wild, harsh, cold metal slashing stabbing slicing cleaving the air. In the end, he fell to his knees, bent over, clutching his blade to his breast. His shoulders shook, he remained silent.
When Fingon came back, seven days later, and asked for him, he was told by a dirty child, playing with stones in the ruins, that his eldest brother had left some days ago, and had not been seen since.
Whenever Finrod, his father, or even Turgon drew their plans and sketches, with their straight streets and houses of stone, whose pillars were carved and balconies overflowing with flowers, whose jewelled courtyards were adorned by fountains, whenever they spoke dreamily of walls and towers in the hills, sturdy and comforting silhouettes in the distance, beacons seen from afar, he was reminded of that unfinished house and the restless youth who had not come back.
He always was cold, those days. Summer came, and Finrod, clad in silk, gently laughed at his heavy cloaks, which he wrapped tight around himself. His golden-haired cousin once took him to the low hills east of the lake, to the feet of the mountains, tall, blue and misty ; he half-walked, half-ran, grass bright and green up to his knees, and Fingon followed stiffly, squinting, dazzled and dizzy. He eventually sat down, and Finrod cast himself on the grass beside him. Fingon turned his gaze aside from an eager face, pale gold strewn over the grass (where he might have expected copper).
Below, the camp was a long, dark stain beside Mithrim's pale shores and its dark, mist-covered waters. Far away, on the southern shore, another shadow could be seen, and was steadfastly ignored. But for now, Finrod propped himself on an elbow, and pointed to their own abode : here, a few white shapes - buildings barely rising from the ground, which he already saw grown and fair -, fields, a shepherdess in the midst of her herd, a tiny triangle of cloth and wood upon the lake. Fingon forced his eyes to follow, and only saw mountains : white mountains of ice and snow, ready to break and bury them ; dark mountains, jagged and ominous peaks, blood stained cliffs he had never seen. Finrod's voice, unusually sad and wry, called him back.
'Well, cousin, is even this sight unpleasant to your eyes ? How long do you intend to wallow in bitterness ? Shall nothing and no one remove your cloak of melancholy ?'
Fingon bit his lips, and strove to forget the words that had risen unbidden, unexpected - that one might, and was lost. He closed his eyes, and did not tell of a ghostly people, sundered in two, cold and bitter, of the rags and hunger of the shepherdess, of the dead that still walked beside the living, making them pallid and fey, of hatred hanging over the lake, so thick and black that no one, north or south, could breathe, of war ever threatening, against the Enemy, whom all feared and no one dared yet fight, and against those one had once loved, so long ago.
When he opened his eyes again, even bright Finrod's face was white, and his eyes were wide, looking north. Following his gaze, he stared, stricken with awe and fright. And yet he could not hold back a wry laugh, as his cousin himself saw the darkness that he had always seen ; grey mists floating above and hiding the sun ; black mists creeping through the green fields, drowning the camp in obscurity.
He could not see, he barely breathed. Around him, hidden by the thick, dark fog, people shouted weakly, coughed louder. Sometimes, he caught glimpses - a women clutching two small children to her breast, a man pressing some damp fabric to his mouth, some running and some walking as if dizzied by wine -, and mostly found himself alone. Amidst the panic, no one cared about that prince, Fingon, who had once been so joyful, and now was so grim.
It was easy, then, to straddle a stray mare, in hopes to give her back to her rightful owner. In the confusion, to ride away, so that the shouts and shrieks grew weak and faint. To slide calmly away, through shadow and silence. To ride north, though he knew it not.
When the mists eventually cleared, he hesitated. South seemed unbearable. West then, to the chilly sea ? or East unto the unknown ?
Or North perhaps. Into danger. In defiance of the enemy, in a desperate attempt to heal too wide a feud. Looking for one long lost. To death - a foolish, noble, tale-worthy death. Yes, Fingon thought, that was the only way.
In the distance, the black fogs about Mithrim grey and cold slowly floated away.