The Wedge

Disclaimer: Main characters belong to Tolkien.

Warnings: uncanonical and squicky, but I don't want to give away the plot.

Happy birthday to Artanis (who wrote me two birthday presents)!

Fingolfin had last seen his sister more than two years ago. Until then, she used to visit him in his residence on the shores of Lake Mithrim almost every season, to celebrate the feasts of the sun-round that the Noldor had established since their arrival and the occasional feast they had adopted from the Sindar. After a year, he had sent her a letter asking her if something was amiss, to which she had replied that she wished to go into seclusion for a while. This was not at all like Lalwen Írimë, who loved gatherings and was a welcome appearance on any occasion, because of her general good cheer and her gift of telling the well-known tales of old in such a manner that her listeners were truly curious as to what would happen next. Also, he missed her opinions, which were not seldom original and free of any urge to please. So, after yet another year of the Sun, Fingolfin decided to seek her out. He was no letter, and he would brook no evasive reply.

It was a two days ride westward along the lakeshore and south into the hills to reach the hunting lodge she had chosen to live in. A small building it was, with a slate roof and eaves of carved wood, half hidden behind an outcrop of rock, in a narrow valley. Despite the fact that there had been no raids from Angband for two dozens of years now, the remote location was not quite to Fingolfin's liking. But at least, he was between her and the Enemy, while his son Fingon in the North guarded her back. And it was undeniably a beautiful spot, the vegetation more lush than elsewhere in these lands.

In the garden grew alder bushes and raspberries, as well as fruit trees, and assorted vegetables. There was a number of flower beds, too, many already past their bloom, as it was late summer. But he did see patches of yellow elanor, the chosen flower of his sister's new device, in which the fiery, rays of Finwë had been transformed into golden petals on a field of ice blue and white. The round emblem was painted above the entrance of the main building, the gold glinting in the rays of the late afternoon sun. There was a stable attached to the house, and a young ner probably born in Middle-earth lead his horse away. Lalwen had few servants, or actually none, for those she had she used to call friends, and she worked as hard as they did.

It was somewhat unusual that she did not answer the door herself, but the friend who did pointed the High King to the main room of the house, where he would find his sister. Walking towards the door his ears caught the refrain of a funny little song that their mother Indis had taught them in Valinor when he and Lalwen were both children with scant years between them, the closest in age of Finwë's offspring. His hand raised, he heard his sister's infectious laugh, and the engaging chime of a young child. A son or daughter of one of her serving friends, he thought, and knocked.

The child was a boy, hardly more than a year old. He was sitting or rather bouncing in Lalwen's lap. His short hair, dancing about his head, was as light as Lalwen's was dark, and with a hint of gold in it that might become more than a hint as he grew up. It reminded Fingolfin of his brother Finarfin's hair.

Seeing her kingly sibling enter, Lalwen's dark eyes glinted, a flash of sunlight on grey waves. He thought he noticed something unfamiliar in them, but he could not place it.

His sister whispered something in the boy's ear, and he stopped bouncing and gazed earnestly at the visitor. Fingolfin smiled. The child smiled back happily, a trusting, still partly toothless smile.

'Well met,' he heard himself say. 'Who are you, little one?'

'I am Senya,' came the immediate reply*.

Fingolfin raised his eyebrows. A look of uncertainty replaced the smile, and he chided himself. Of course, the boy was not to blame if his parents were wont to address him as 'my son', instead of providing him with at least one proper name. He made his lips curl upward again, but to no avail: the initial rapport was lost.

With a slight feeling of regret he sought his sister's face.

'Well met, toronya,' she said with a mocking laugh. 'I was expecting you sooner or later, and here you are.' She pressed a kiss to the back of the child's head.

'He is truly called Senya - for the time being, until he shall receive the name that fits him.'

'His father should have named him at birth,' Fingolfin remarked, taking a seat. 'Whose son is he?'

She cast him a quizzical glanze, and suddenly he realised what it was he saw in her eyes. She had taken a husband. He would have known it sooner if it had been less unexpected; it stung a little that she had not told him about it, as if he were not her brother dearly loved.

'Yours,' he answered his own question.

'Indeed he is. Everyone here who knew our mother in Valinor agrees with me that the boy is her daughter's child. I thought you would have noticed at once.'

Still taken aback, Fingolfin said nothing, though inwardly he had to admit she was right about the resemblance.

Lalwen put the child down from her lap and said: 'Seek out Móriel, Senya, and ask her to pick a bowl of raspberries with you in the garden; I am sure there are enough left. Your uncle here will dine with us tonight, and he is as fond of them as you are.' She eyed her brother questioningly. He nodded: of course he would stay for a while.

'Yes!' the boy cried, dancing to the door on a pair of nimble legs. The appreciative glance he cast at Fingolfin ended in the return of his smile.

When the door closed, Fingolfin regained his voice. 'Your son? Is that why you kept to yourself - because you were with child?' He frowned, for there was no custom dictating such a thing. 'I can imagine why you would wed without ceremony in troubled times as these, what with our father not avenged and his murderer unpunished. But why hide it, Lalwendë? Why not even share such knowledge with your own brother? And who is your spouse? Have I ever met him? Will I see him while I am here?

His sister shook her head. 'Those are many questions in very few breaths. Maybe you will see the child's father today, and once you know who he is, you will also know the answers to your other questions.'

'Perhaps?' he repeated, uncomprehending. 'You mean to say that your husband is away and you do not know when he will return?'

'Not quite,' Lalwen laughed. 'You are not looking your brightest at the moment, toronya.' She rose and closed the distance between them to kiss him fleetingly on the lips.

Fingolfin failed to understand why she evaded his questions. Conjuring up the image of the child before his mind's eyes, he vainly tried to think of a golden-haired Noldo who was not either a son of Finarfin, or Celegorm son of Fëanor. Lalwen's hair was as dark as his own, so the boy's father had to be fair. Or possibly a redhead, but the only redheads he knew were also sons of Fëanor - and to his dismay at least one of them would never father a son.

Not that the thought of having a nephew who was the son of another nephew did dismay him any less. He felt his sister's hands resting on his shoulders; she had not moved from the spot. 'Lalwen,' he said urgently, 'who is the husband you wed in secret?

Taking a deep breath she let go of him and turned towards the window to watch her Senya eat as many raspberries as he put into Móriel's basket. 'I know what you think, but I assure you it is not one of them,' she replied. 'Let it rest, if you cannot guess. And I have been sorely neglecting your needs; after such a long ride you must be thirsty.'

'I am,' he said, letting it rest indeed, for the time being.

Dinner was delightful, and so was Lalwen's young son, though he ate little after having gorged himself in the garden. Fingolfin sang him a song he invented on the spot, and the boy was clever enough to provide fitting endings to a line or two. He objected loudly when Lalwen sent him to bed and even tried to run away, which she said was very unusual and undoubtedly a compliment. Briefly, Fingolfin wondered what one did with a compliment taking the form of a near-rebellion. He settled for an ambiguous smile.

When he went to his bed in the guest-room later that night, he tried not to think too hard about the riddle of Senya's father; he was ready enough to lay down and dream. As he had not brought any bed robes he merely undressed, slipped between the sheets and let himself drift off.

Again, he dreamed of his wife Anairë. She had turned back with Finarfin after Mandos spoke his Curse, and he missed her still. Physically, which was remarkable, as they had not been together for some time prior to the dramatic events that led to their separation: she remaining behind in Aman behind the towering Pelóri, and he fenced out in Beleriand.

Even now he dreamed her coming towards him, clad only in her shift, her long, unbraided tresses flowing about her like a black cloak, an enigmatic smile on her lips that he could not remember seeing there ever before while he knew her in the flesh. She was real enough when she climbed onto the bed, removing the bedclothes to straddle his naked body. He felt himself stir when she divested herself of the silk shift to reveal herself, her pale skin shimmering, though her eyes were shrouded in shadows to prove that it was a mere dream. As if bound by a spell his hands went up to cup her breasts, and she let out a long sigh, murmuring something he did not understand.

At first she rode him with her eyes closed but suddenly they flashed open to stare into his, oddly luminous, feral like those of great feline - and he was the prey. He shut his own eyes tightly, both fearful and desiring to be devoured. When she bent over him to lick and kiss his upturned throat he felt her teeth against his jugular. Knowing he was about to die he came with a harsh cry and a convulsive shudder - and emerged from his dream to find her still there, gasping above him.

And then he recognised her. It was not Anaire. It was his sister.

Of course.

Abruptly Fingolfin sat up, pushing her roughly away. The truth hit him in the stomach like a fist, and he felt nauseated. 'You,' he said, choking. 'You. And not for the first time.'

Her silence confirmed all his fears. He recalled another time, another dream, two years of the Sun ago: Anairë telling him that she wished a child, because of their youngest son, Arakáno, slain in the Battle of Lammoth. She could not know that, for not even the echo of his lamentations could have passed over the mountains after Mandos' curse. It was a dream; he had complied.

'Your son is mine, too,' he said. Two dark-haired siblings, the offspring of a golden-haired mother to beget a golden child between them. You are blind, and a fool.

His sister nodded.

He grabbed her shoulders, shaking her. 'How could you! Do we have no laws? How could you break them?'

'Did you take those laws along then?' she asked, without pulling away, though he knew he was squeezing her hard enough to hurt her. 'Did you drag that burden all the way across the Ice? Did you rebel against the Powers with half your heart and half your soul and half your mind only? I did not. "Say farewell to bondage," our half-brother said, and he was right. Why should you not also seek release from bondage? Your wife refused to join you. You cannot rejoin her, exiled as you are. Laugh at those laws, as I do. Consider yourself free! Love, and do as you wish.'

'But this is no answer,' Fingolfin said. 'If this is what you think, why stay away from my court? I shall tell you: because you know well enough how wrong this is. Even if I were not bound to a wife, we remain brother and sister. This freedom of yours is no freedom!' And what about me, following my half-brother bound by a promise? 'Thou shalt lead, I shall follow.' Say farewell to bondage? I never did. 'We cannot love like this. It is an abomination!'

'But you do love me, toronya, and you have loved me. More than once,' Lalwen objected. No - not Lalwen, for she was no longer a maiden, and there was nothing to laugh.

'I thought you were Anairë.' Did he still love his wife? There should be a place in his heart where she was holy, where their bond was sacred. Why was it so hard to find - had he lost it? Had his sister severed it?

'You knew that I was not Anairë,' she replied. 'You knew that I was Írimë. Every time. All the time.'

'You must have cast a spell on me while I was asleep.'

'So you did this against your will? Then why are you still alive?'

'How else could I possibly have broken my marriage vows?' he cried. 'Such a bond is indissoluble.'

'By wanting it,' his sister replied. 'Like our father wanted to set aside his vows to Míriel in order to marry our mother - whom he loved before his bond with Míriel was officially dissolved. That is where it began. Do you really believe he needed the Valar to put an end to the earlier bond? He asked their permission, wanting to abide by their laws, but he did not need it. Marriage bonds are freely entered and can be voluntarily set aside. We are not dead things - we are not like the magnet and the iron, who have no will and cannot disengage themselves one from the other. Do you truly believe that Ilúvatar, whose children we are, would want us to remain faithful because we cannot choose otherwise? Marriage begins and endures in the will of the fëa, though it is realised by the hröa. Your wife chose not to follow you here. You chose to leave her behind. That marriage was broken.' She laughed. 'If you were under a spell, it was one of your own desiring!'

Fingolfin hesitated, his doubts using his guilt as a gateway to his conscience. Had he known? Was it Anairë he loved, or the sister whom she indeed resembled, his childhood playmate, the little imp he had loved from the moment he had first seen her in their mother's arms? Such a tiny thing she had been, much smaller than he, and his heart had gone out to her. Írimë she was, the Desirable**, but he had replaced that name with an epessë of his own devising before she was one year old: Lalwen. The happily gurgling baby, the gleeful child, the giggling girl, the laughing maiden who had cried at his wedding and claimed it was for joy.

Once more he closed his eyes, in pain and confusion, and a single heartbeat later he felt her lips touch his. They tasted of raspberries. He gave in and responded to her kiss.

But it could not be. It should not be. We cannot do as we wish, because we love. He tore his mouth from hers and picked up her shift, thrusting it at her. 'The law of marriage was placed in our hearts by Ilúvatar; in Aman we never needed anyone to teach it to us. If we break it, what does that say about our hearts?'

'That they are no longer under the law,' she replied promptly, as if she had expected such a question. 'It is beyond me why you think this is a bad thing. Love needs no law.'

He shook his head, exasperated, stalling for time to find an answer. 'Why a child?'

'To confirm that you are my one true love,' she replied, clutching the garment in her white hands. 'It was your child, or none. Was I to remain childless? I saw him, in my dreams and visions. What is wrong about a brother and sister begetting and conceiving a child together?'***

'Everything!' he said, between clenched jaws, the words suddenly welling to his lips. 'This is not love, this is greed. Love gives and does not take, merely to satisfy a want and fill an empty womb. We cannot have children like we have possessions - and you know it, or else you would have sent for me when he was about to be born. Your heart has turned to the dark, woman. You have used me. Dishonoured me. Constrained me. Deceived me!' He, a barrier between his sister and the Enemy? Sheer mockery. What had the fallen Ainu whispered into Lalwen's ears while he was one the loose in Aman? Now, Fingolfin thought, now I know who it is that has driven this wedge between what was holy and what was desirable - in light, in love, in freedom, in everything. 'You saw him, you claim? A deceit of the Enemy. This deed is a work of Morgoth. I wish to have no part in it! May the Valar turn your thoughts back to the One!' He realised this was the first time he named the Powers since the Rebellion.

Recoiling, she rose from the bed and put on the shift with abrupt, angry movements. 'What makes you think the Valar will heed you? And you do have a part in it, though you choose to reject it. You think only of yourself and your laws and rigid rules, locked inside your narrow dungeon of a mind. I do not hear you say that you will accept Senya, now that he is born. You reject him. I will take him to Turgon's halls in Vinyamar; he knows what it is for a child to have only one parent. But your lands I will leave, half-hearted rebel that you are, and doomed to fail! Do not claim to know what love is. Was it for love of your brother that you crossed the Ice after he burned the ships? Do you love the Silmarils half as much as he did? Did you love Father, who chose Fëanor above you and joined him in his exile in Formenos? Do you love Mother, who told you to stay and listen to the Powers? Do you love our youngest brother, who turned his back on you? And did they love you - did anyone ever love you as much as I -'

'Silence!' he snapped.

She laughed harshly.

To him, laughter was dead. He rose as well and began to dress, though he felt anything but clean after their coupling. Bathe he could later, maybe in Lake Mithrim; its waters were not nearly as cold as the Helcaraxë or his frozen soul. But he could not possibly stay any longer. Starlight would have to suffice for the first stretch of his journey back, till day came again.

It was not necessary to tell the stranger who had been his sister that he would leave her house. If they would ever meet again, it would be in the houses of the Dead. He could not openly acknowledge this boy - for by doing so, would he not accept that desire prevailed over what was holy? What would keep Morgoth at bay if he did that? What would give him the right to reject Morgoth? But he could do something else.

'I do not reject Senya,' he said. 'I shall give him a proper name, as is my right. Do not withhold this father-name from him - nor his father's name, should he demand to know it.' The name was a concession of sorts, containing the most important element of the house the boy had sprung from. And it fitted him well.

'Tell me,' she said.

'His name shall be Glorfindel.'

'Goldilocks?' she snorted.

'Give him a name of your own then,' Fingolfin replied, invulnerable to her disdain now. 'If you can see his fate, mother of Glorfindel. And may he be purged from the taint of his birth.'

With that he left, deploring the disappointment the child would feel when he woke up to find his new-found 'uncle' gone. If there was a soft voice that spoke: 'He will learn what love is. He will yet play his part in saving a cause that otherwise would be doomed and lost,' he dismissed it as a figment of his imagination.

*No, he's not precocious. Elf-children could speak, walk and dance before they were a year old (Laws&Customs).

**An-airë means something like 'very holy'. Lalwen's true (father?)name was Írimë (in one version: Írien), derived from írë, desire. Of her it is said in the Shibboleth (HoMe 12) that 'she went into exile with her brother Fingolfin, who was most dear to her of all her kin'.

***Of course, as Elves have no genetic defects, incest will hardly have any consequences for their health.

A/N: Of course I stole the basic idea underlying this story: from Tolkien himself, from the Volsunga saga, the Finnish Kalevala, Wagner's Ring des Nibelungen, from the medieval German poet Hartmann von Aue's Gregorjus, from the novella Thomas Mann based on this work, Der Erwählte (The Chosen). But I have to add that it's only in the Volsunga saga that one of the siblings - and here, too, it is the woman - wittingly commits the incest (with a purpose in mind). Well, maybe in some version of the Arthurian legends as well. (In Wagner's Ring, both siblings know what they're doing, but they don't care.)

Those familiar with Deborah's stories will also notice I borrowed elements from them - such as a saying from Fingon's wise teacher in Valinor (who in the Primary World goes under the name of St. Augustine). NB: I am not saying that Lalwen applies it correctly here. As for Lalwen herself, she's not an OFC, just in case someone wonders, but Finarfin's second daughter, mentioned in The Shibboleth of Fëanor (HoMe 12). Deborah was the first to give her a voice in any Silmarillion fanfic, and to turn her into a rebel.

The formal reasons why this is uncanonical: Glorfindel was born in Aman, not in Middle-earth (see the essay about him in HoMe 12), and of course, an essential part of the L&C goes right out of the window. If I did my job correctly, one of the reasons why is found in the story.