Finrod had known, even as he had sworn his oath, that someday it would claim him.
He had almost faltered that day, hesitancy gripping him even as he vowed abiding friendship and aid to Barahir. He remembered his words to his sister, from years before, when the foresight had first come to him.
He had shrugged it off, so grateful to Barahir for the valor that had spared his life. It was no oath of vengeance, Finrod assured himself, not forged in strife and loss like that of his cousins.
He owed his life to Barahir. Finrod's sworn word to him was his thanks. But even as the words had left his lips he had felt the power of them swirl around him and trepidation had filled his heart.
What was done could not be undone.
The loss of his brothers in that conflict consumed him. Keeping his people safe became Finrod's utmost priority. He gave thanks that Orodreth had been spared and he welcomed the company of his last remaining brother.
Nargothrond was not a refuge for Orodreth alone; Finrod had welcomed many survivors of the Bragollach who sought the safety of his deep caverns. To all he gave sanctuary-most notably his cousins Celegorm and Curufin, along with the remnant of their people who had fled the carnage of their defeat at the pass of Aglon.
Even the presence of his cousins had not recalled to Finrod his own oath. It was not until Beren appeared, travel stained and weary, looking so very like his father Barahir and bearing Finrod's own ring-only then did an icy tendril of dread shiver through him at the memory of his words.
It had been warranted, that foreboding. It had led him to where he was now-a cold, dank prison cell in Tol-in-Gaurhoth, his ten loyal companions all slain and Beren alone remaining at his side.
Edrahil had been the last to fall, torn and savaged by the foul werewolves that had sought them out every night since their imprisonment.
Since the night Finrod had failed to overcome Tol-in-Gaurhoth's malevolent master.
Their company of twelve had started their journey beside the Narog, making their way to the Falls of Ivrin and then to the Shadowy Mountains.
They encountered a company of Orcs and slew them all, overrunning their camp in the darkness. They lit no fires after but used the cover of night to hide their own weapons and take those of their fallen foes. It was distasteful to trade their gear for the fetid garb and unwieldy weapons of the Orcs; but they could not come through Taur-nu-Fuin undetected in their Elven garments. There was no other option.
But the stolen clothing and arms alone would not fool the minions of Morgoth. In that very hour, in the moonless shadow of the western pass, Finrod raised his voice in quiet Song; weaving the words to change their forms and faces into the hideous appearance of the Orcs themselves. Deep and low he started but as the power of the words swirled around their company the melody shifted to a dominant theme of darkness, discordant notes overtaking the strains he sang.
Finrod sang of changing, of shifting shapes, and one by one their faces fair were overtaken by the foul visages and ungainly bodies of the Orcs they had so recently overcome.
Thus by his arts and artifice they continued unmolested in those evil lands.
They made their way through those highlands but Sauron, unbeknownst to them, watched their progress from afar. Unease grew in his heart as word of this band came-of a band that followed none of the usual routes and avoided encounters with other companies of their kind along the way.
He sent a force to intercept them and bring them to him in Tol-in-Gaurhoth; against his malice their disguises failed and their forms were laid bare.
In this hour Finrod knew that none could strive against Morgoth's lieutenant save himself. He stepped in front of his companions and gazed upon the hostile presence of Sauron, casting his thought as far from the soul-scorching malevolence of that place as he could.
A contest of wills, played out in Song-Songs of Power as had not yet been heard within those walls.
Sauron's chants darkened even the very gloom of his fortress-words of sorcery, of betrayal, of foul treachery and suffering.
But Finrod, his head held high, strove against him, singing in answer. A song of steadfastness, of resistance, trust unbroken. Back and forth they went, their words warring for supremacy, Finrod answering every challenge with its opposing theme.
He sang of secrets held strong and comrades faithful, breaking the shackles of despair that Sauron wove around him.
But Sauron did not waver; back and forth the mastery swayed. The power of Finrod's song was so very great that he kept the spark of hope yet in his heart and in the hearts of his companions. His voice grew stronger, his thought bringing forth the beauty of the Elven lands, the joy of stream and wood and valley, even unto the very music of the waves against the shore in far-off Valinor.
His voice swelled and Finrod sang his memories of that far-off land, his eyes going bright as he chanted a vision of the Light of the Two Trees and the unmarred beauty of Elvenhome.
But Sauron's discordant notes broke through; his voice bringing forth a darkness that smote the light Finrod had brought forth. He sang of Light dying and sinking into Darkness, of blood staining the glittering sands of Alqualonde, of treachery and theft, kin-strife and death-death to the Undying.
The melody Finrod had brought forth faltered under the onslaught of the desolation of those scenes Sauron invoked, choking the words he strove to sing in answer. Mightier came Sauron's challenge as ever weaker came Finrod's response, overwhelmed note by note as the theme shifted to the bitterness of the Ice, the deaths upon the crossing and the ravages of the battles they had suffered since.
Finrod's eyes grew dim, overcome by visions of the plight of captives held in Angband's vastness. His breath stuttered in his chest as scenes of Maedhros' torment threatened to overcome him.
His voice sank to a whisper, unable to conjure up the brightness of the sun on Mithrim's waves, the sound of the Narog's shifting current, the warm protection of his beloved Nargothrond.
Falling to his knees, Finrod tried once more to raise his voice but Sauron's song was as thunder all around him. The earth shook from its might. The very fires of Angband seemed to swirl around him and Finrod fell senseless to the floor.
He had awoken in this cell, his companions all around him, stripped not only of the glamours he had set on them but also of all they wore. Naked they were left, exposed not only in their bodily forms but in their spirits as well.
Yet even then Sauron did not have full dominion over them. He set his malice to discover who they were, from whence they came, but their spirits burned bright in them still and they shunned his interrogations.
Day and night meant nothing in that grim fortress-so deep were their cells that neither sun nor moon were seen. But Finrod marked the passage of their time by the advent of the wolves that came.
One by one his companions were overcome, the hours of respite from one attack to the next only heightening their apprehension for the next encounter. One by one they fell, shielding Finrod and Beren with their bodies until only Edhrahil was left.
And now he too was gone, last companion of Finrod's far-off youth.
He looked at Beren in the dim gloom of their cell. It would not be long before the wolves came again.
And when they did Finrod's oath would be paid in full. He would not let the wolves kill Beren as they had slaughtered the rest of their company.
He had no weapon, no hidden dagger or blade. Stripped of everything. Finrod narrowed his eyes at the doorway of their cell. He still had his strength-his teeth, his nails, the cunning of his mind. The time for song was over. His final battle would be with the might of his own body pitted against the hell hounds Sauron set against them.
He would not let Beren die. Not this night. His oath he would fulfill with his own life's blood.
Finrod crouched in preparation for when that door would open and the end would come.