A tale of Arda Marred, as derived from the Annals of Beleriand, translated by J.R.R. Tolkien
Part I: Foundation
"You want to what?"
Turukano sighed soundlessly and rolled his mental eyes while his physical ones remained fixed on his father's. He should have known – should never have expected otherwise – that understanding would come slow and unwilling, if it would come at all.
"Buildings, Father. I want to design them. I will be an architect."
In puzzled silence, Nolofinwe pushed himself slightly away from the table, as if he intended to rise, but then did not. He gazed long upon his younger son, and his mouth opened, then closed without speaking, which made Turukano uncomfortable to no end. This spell of silence was not what he meant to achieve, throwing his outrageous declaration just like that on the dinner table.
On his right side, Findekano looked up from his plate and grinned slightly as he chewed, waving the fork at his brother. "You? Sitting at some desk measuring weights and positioning windows all day? You'll bore yourself sick, think nothing else."
Anaire, for her part, looked at her eldest son with a gentle huff while one slender hand closed upon little Irisse's wrist, saving some innocent spoon from being thrown viciously to the floor. "If this is what he wants, it's his business, Findo."
Nolofinwe was still silent. Evidently, he had not even noticed the two play through the exact roles Turukano knew they'd take. As far as Findekano was concerned, his brother was best spending his entire life rolling with him and Maitimo in some test of strength that never seemed to end. And all his mother had to say was always the same, if that is what he wanted.
If that is indeed what he wanted.
He kept his eyes fixed on his father's face, watching the different expressions of helplessness take each other's place. Anxiety swelled beneath his calm. This was a sensitive subject, he knew, had always been, and there was no helping it. If he'd been a good son like his brother…
The Noldor had a way about family ties – a house was a unit, its members maintaining some balance, usually concerning what they expected of life. Nolofinwe had given his sons names of strength, and his daughter a name of pride. Turukano did not know if his father had noticed the hidden thread of his lamantyave; he himself did.
"Are you quite sure about this?" Nolofinwe said suddenly.
Turukano blinked, willing his eyes to focus once more outward rather than into his troubled thoughts. There was a very dangerous undertone to his father's voice, even his mother and brother noticed it, and the former looked to him in slight surprise.
He straightened. "I am sure," he said heartily. "I'm good with my numbers, and Findarato says I paint well. He had shown some of my sketches to his teacher – "
"But that is not the reason," was he imagining how his father's voice was growing sharper with every spoken word?
The reason… what did Nolofinwe know of the reason he wanted to make beauty?
Findekano was beginning to carefully edge away from the table. Anaire looked to her husband in a sort of plea.
"Let him try, beloved, it cannot hurt," she said in a hushed voice, which he seemed to not hear entirely.
"What would you build, Turukano?" he asked in a deadly focused way, ignoring the world. The Elven boy swallowed hard despite himself and laid two hands on the table, as if seeking support in the firm, smooth woodwork. "Tirion is home enough for all our people. There is no need for more housing."
That is not true, Turukano thought, and you know it is not. It is not the reason…
"There will be need for more housing. New children are born every day…" his voice was starting to fail – he swore that he would not stutter.
"And why architecture? If you know your numbers, mathematics is also considered a fine art." The last two words – no, he was not imagining – were carved of ice.
"'Tis not the same, Father…"
"Ah yes," Nolofinwe said, in a manner of recalling some new fact. "Is this Elenwe's idea? The Vanyar are the architects of the Eldar, if memory serves. If it is a Noldorin art you wished to learn, you may as well try your skill at the forge."
Anaire leaped to her feet with fearful abruptness. She grabbed the surprised and sobbing Irisse, nailed Turukano with a terrible glance and fled the room.
"Stop it, Father," Findekano said in a low voice. "It's just stones."
Nolofinwe looked to him, and Turukano suspected that his brother had only commented in order to draw the terrible eyes away. He felt his muscles sag, falling against the back of the chair, and breathed in, did not realize how much freezing force was in his father's gaze, how eerie and unreal the room's atmosphere became. The fireplace flickered uneasily.
A short while was Nolofinwe's will locked against that of his firstborn. He turned his head back to Turukano slowly. It was evident that he was trying hard to make his words soft.
"You are ten years yet away from your majority, Turko, and I could alter your path by force if so I wished it. This is my failing and you must not bear its results."
"This is no failing," the words felt ripped from the younger Elf's breast. Nolofinwe shook his head.
"'Tis a great failing, but I cannot bend you to my will as I may a scrap of metal. Heed my words, child – the way you have chosen is set in pain. You do not yet know it, but I do. They misjudge me, those who say I dislike the artists – nay, I do not dislike, I pity."
He stood up, and went after Anaire.
The two brothers remained seated, Turukano feeling cold sweat gathering on his face, and soon heard voices from the other room. Loud voices, ever so rare in the House of Nolofinwe, in Tirion, in the Blessed Realm. Loud voices, raised in anger. Their parents'…
"I am sorry! But I would not have my son follow his path. I cannot bear the thought that he would follow his path…!"
"His path! Why is it always him! You can no longer look upon beauty without hatred, for ever your thoughts are of him! What do your own son's dreams have to do with him?!"
"Whom do they speak of?" Turukano asked weakly. His brother cast him a worried look, then stood up and began to clear the table. He moved in a monotonous, automatic way.
"Atar's brother," he said in a businesslike fashion. "Maitimo's father, Curufinwe Feanaro. You have not met him, Turko. He is… different."
The younger Elf's gaze rose in confusion, some unknown feeling rising in his gut. "Different like me, you mean?"
Findekano visibly winced. "Don't speak like that. You are my brother."
He stacked up the plates and gripped them firmly, for his hands were slightly shaking.
"He is an artist, the greatest of them all," he added suddenly, the words no longer deadpanned. "And I think, the reason Father does not like his kind. He…" he swallowed. "He fears them, Turko, do you understand?"
"I don't," Turukano confessed.
The voices died down in the other room. Now only Irisse's crying could be heard.
"You should never have hold him," Findekano said bitterly. He passed an ornate glass cup from one hand to another, and again.
His younger brother did not respond, instead looked to the window. Laurelin was swiftly waning, and the hour of the mingling of lights was at its height.
"The light will be gone soon," he said, then quickly stood up, looking to Findekano, pleading. "I want to paint. I have to paint. I'm going outside… would you tell…" his voice died down.
Findekano smiled warmly. "I'll think of something. No one will be looking for you."
They stood there a while, looking into each other's eyes, a firm bond strengthened despite their differences, all too obvious now. Then Turukano broke into a smile also.
"Thank you, Findo," he said softly, and turned to go to his room.
Barren places were very rare in Aman.
Outside of Tirion's western quarter, where the last houses were only lumpy shapes in the distance, yet not descending from Tuna, there was a sheer drop, almost a cliff. Grass grew there under the ever-tender weather of the Blessed Realm, and sometimes flowers as well. But down below, the plain that spot overlooked was empty of living things, flat brown earth wide and far, dust blowing over it in the wind, and utter silence.
In memory of Endore, Anaire told her sons when they had first seen the place, and the darker places of the world.
Turukano often dreamed of the house he would build in that place when he was grown and had his own family. Sometimes it had seven towers, and a standard on each, though he could not see the heraldic signs. Sometimes fountains, large, bubbly fountains, and sometimes decorated windows of painted glass, and sometimes high walls. Beauty, life and song to the barren land.
Those were dreams. He never actually designed the house, perhaps out of fear that he did not yet have skill enough. Perhaps out of knowing the image, in reality, could never be as fair. But he dreamed of it often.
There he came now, paper and quill in hand, the wind blowing at his face almost harshly. Dreams may soon be all he had left, unless he realized them here and now, if only on the paper.
The Empty Quarter stood as welcoming as ever under the sky, a stark contrast in brown battling silver and gold. Yet, to the young Elf's astonishment, he was not alone there, for the first time since his first glimpse of the place, as a babe of five on his father's shoulders. At the very edge of the cliff, where the land gave way to free air and the surface of the wind, someone was already sitting, writing furiously on a scrape of parchment. An older Elf, a Noldo most likely, for his form was tall and strong, and his hair was the color of solid darkness. He was clad in naught but dusty breeches, and his hair was unbound, swept backwards in the wind.
He made for a most disturbing vision alone on the cliffside, Turukano thought as he hesitantly found himself his own place to spread the paper. The ground was rough beneath the vulnerable surface, and Turukano found his focus sharpening to the point of pain in the effort not to pierce it with the quill. The other Elf did not seem to notice him at all.
He was writing, madly, it seemed, in a frightful pace, line after line. From time to time his gaze leaped up to study the plain and his lips moved forming silent words. Once he gave an angry call: "Nay! They would never do!" And unceremoniously ripped a part of the parchment, crumpled it up and cast it down over the edge of the cliff.
He frightened Turukano before the younger Elf's attention shut around his painting in a desperate embrace.
The painting taking shape... those gentle lines... his father's words now had him in awe. Where was pain in this? All he could see was beauty.
The towers returned, from his dreams, the flags atop them alive like wind on water, and those high walls to hold and keep safe within. There was a mechanical aspect that appealed to him about maintaining the proper perspective, distributing the weights lest the walls fall, calculating the alignment of the towers to compliment the angle of the horizon. All that held the work from becoming something else entirely – something he was not sure he would be able to raise his head from. Now he worked in silence, content, the only memory of the outside world in his mind thrust forth by the palatable presence of the other maker alongside him.
Still he had drawn but half of the base lines when a shout of triumph rang forth, and the older Elf leaped to his feet, holding up the parchment with a wild grin. Turukano had to look up to see what had transpired, his hand reluctant to let go of the quill.
Then the older Elf, his eyes shut, a thin smile on his noble face, tore his prized writing in two, and let the shreds loose into the harsh wind.
Turukano let out a small gasp, and at once the other's eyes were on him.
They were by far the strangest eyes the young architect had ever seen. Though they pierced him through, he was keenly aware that they did not in truth see him, or at the least, gazed beyond and into him, at something different. Gray they were and bright, and very deep, sparkling with mirth, wisdom and a hint of such sweet otherness.
The owner of these spellbinding eyes walked towards Turukano, his step very light, akin to that of a man freed of a great burden. He settled down, in a motion very smooth for one of his height and size, and, heedless of the younger Elf's astonishment, took the unfinished painting and studied it carefully.
"Tano I am called," he said, his deep voice plain. "This is a very good start."
Turukano found that he was dumbstruck.
"It is?" He weakly managed after a while, after the stranger – Tano, his name lingered, maker – has already looked at the painting from every possible angle, tracing his finger along this line or another, smiling at times, frowning at others.
"Certainly," Tano replied at once. He spoke most lightly, and without care; all the world's worried may have been lifted from him with the tearing of the parchment. "Your calculations are very exact, and this is no easy work positioning so many towers without making it look absurd, especially considering the lighting and weather here. Leaving the greenery away from the stone is a wise choice, which did not even occur to me before this, thus I thank you, and your line-work is exquisite for one so young. I may say your aesthetics are lacking, but you may say that is a matter of personal opinion." And he grinned mischievously, handing the amazed Turukano his painting.
"I..." the younger Elf's fingers traveled along the paper. Something in the feel of it was different, it seemed. "I thank you."
Tano laughed, bewildering him even further. "Do you?" He asked, or announced, throwing back his long hair. "Why would you wish to do that? I gave you not a word of helpful advice, mere empty compliments. Come, surprise me for the better, if you will!"
The wind howled among distant trees at the edges of the Empty Quarter. Turukano sought words. His fingers played on the surface of the painting, it had a surface – faint lines in ink, rising somehow to be felt as if demanding their own reality. Tano was still and silent, in one hand he held both quills, and he smiled in a fashion that had in it no waiting, nor expectation.
"You are Nolofinwe's son," he said by the way of statement.
Turukano gave a jerking nod.
"And you want to be an architect, is that the matter?"
His hand fluttered near the parchment, restless, yet never touching. Turukano's gaze unconsciously followed it in its teasing of the white edges. Before his father, the answer to this question was so obvious.
He was distinctly aware that Tano saw him hesitate, knew his hesitation on a level beyond sight and notice. The defiance he felt was an alien emotion, the stubborn wish to prove himself worse yet. If that was indeed what he wanted, Tano, it seemed, asked nothing else, and cared not for the answer.
"Yes. Yes, I do."
Tano snatched the painting up into his hands.
"Good," he said, meant it with a terribly binding certainty. He set the paper on the ground, chewed a thoughtful moment on the end of one of the quills, then started making lines quickly and efficiently.
Turukano had not the strength to shout; he lurched forward, one hand extended, yet somehow a moment of space too far to take the painting back into his possession. His face froze in a silent horror, the stiff muscles making the ends of his fingers tremble. Tano worked. He heard and saw nothing.
"Such decorated towers are somewhat a common element, don't you think?" He said tonelessly. "More angular, maybe… though the reach, of course, would have to be preserved. But taller. Taller. Taller by far. Spear the stars, ah-ha! There is the image for you. A spear…"
"My work…" the young architect's words rang hollow.
Tano's wide shoulders rose in a quick shrug. "Say the word and I recreate it line to line as you have made."
It mattered not that Turukano believed him. The words gathered in his throat, halted by something almost solid, to tell him to stop, stop, stop – but there it was, taking shape on the parchment…
Tano did not look up from his work; he knew.
"Good, good," he muttered. "To stop, they would tell me, as if I can stop. As if I can topple Taniquetil, make the sky fall, the staburn out… command the sea to be gone…"
The shadows of silver and gold began to shift upon the Empty Quarter.
"This land, it has good bones," Tano spoke abruptly, his voice detached in its entire from his working hands. At the painting Turukano no longer looked, it felt as obscene as gazing upon an act of bodily union, as disturbing as witnessing a bloody birth. He saw but the black lines taking shape from the corner of his eye, and beyond them nothing but the endless reaches, distant trees and rocks, cliffs and the surface of the air. "Stones for building, metal for crafting, wood for good fires. But the stone must be hewn… the metal melted… the trees cut down…"
He is no longer speaking to me,Turukano thought.
"The trouble with good bones is that they are too bloody stable," he spoke on as the howling of the wind and the sounds of quill on rough paper increased, louder and more shrill. "Something that lasts must become stale… no, nothing lasts, and that is why. No use in building upon the bones, they will not last. Best to shatter them and see if one can build something better upon the ruins. Though the bones be very fair… no, they cannot last, nor can all there is in the land save what one builds, and builds well! For that, any price."
"It is untrue, that nothing lasts…" Turukano heard himself mutter. It seemed to him, that every line Tano made upon the parchment was a line in his flesh, down deep to his own bones. Strangely there was no pain in the act of drawing them, only in the bone touching the free air.
Tano laughed without raising his head. "What does last? Flesh? Flesh fades, the spirit consumes it. Does love last? Nay, it becomes friendship, or obsession. How nice it must be to think otherwise! The Undying Lands last so long that all things in them slow and stop and decay. Even in the Timeless Halls did Eru have need of creation! Nay, mark my words, even after the golden light there is silver, and after it there will be darkness."
His hand froze, the tip of the quill hovering above the parchment.
Turukano hesitantly leaned forward to examine the finished work. His entire body trembled, very faintly. He found no words to speak, not even horror to cry out.
His gentle painting of the house growing upon the Empty Quarter was utterly changed, though in its heart still he could distinguish – could not help but distinguish – the basic lines that were his, and not Tano's, and not anyone else's. A much larger building it was – tall walls were about it, where before stood the line of trees, and it hewed into the surrounding mountains, imbuing itself into their tops, cutting into their sides. Merciless was its shape; almost cruel, its towers like onto spears indeed, its walls very high, its walls proud, its windows wide open, as if to take the sky inside and keep.
And it was painfully beautiful, unyieldingly beautiful, uncompromisingly, dreadfully, angrily beautiful.
It had changed the landscape completely, bending, breaking and forcing the Empty Quarter to a magnificent new form. Very slowly did Tano straighten, putting the quill aside and clutching his hands together, feeling the texture and touch of them as they shook with the hour's effort. An hour he had been working – nay, far more.
He gently held the edges of the parchment, lifted it up before his eyes, for both himself and Turukano to see. The younger Elf did not speak, nor gasp, merely reached out. Tano let him touch it, let him hold it up himself before his eyes, obscuring the original, empty view.
"This lasts," Tano said quietly, and he smiled no longer, and there was a physical pain in his voice. "Only this, and that makes everything it demands worthwhile."
Turukano nodded mutely, feeling that he need not agree; that the painting was a silent agreement by itself, that and his hands upon it, his eyes upon it.
He knew what he had to do next, Tano's eyes, drifting away, were a silent affirmation. He held the parchment between two fingers, and tore it in half, quickly, unceremoniously.
He threw the pieces out into the air.
Tano stood after it was done, he stretched, threw his head back and breathed in for long moments. Turukano looked not upon him but upon the Empty Quarter; it seemed to him that he could see the towers rise – the stones hewn, the metal melted, the trees cut down…
Beauty, life and song to the barren land.
"You father will hate me forevermore for this," Tano suddenly spoke. His strange smile had returned, relieved, and his eyes studied Turukano with a different quality, no longer seeing past him and through. He felt, in an oddness of body and mind, that he had gained a solidity of sorts; felt distinctly separate from the air around him, from ground and sky.
"What is your name?" He asked, knowing he would get a true answer. Tano laughed.
"Curufinwe Feanaro," he replied with a grin and a bow, turned, and was gone.
Aredhel winced as her brother thrashed of a sudden in his strange sleep, calling, reaching out for a comforting presence that was not there and could not be. The harsh wind of the Helcaraxe alone rose to answer him, wailing, wailing. She put her hand to his brow, with gentleness so alien to her, doing what she could, what could not be enough. The heat radiating off his pale skin made her shudder.
Hardy were the fear of the Eldar, keeping their bodies safe from many hurts. Sickness did not come upon them unless they were broken in spirit enough to let it. For many days, days she could not count in the darkness, since the ice broke and with it Turukano's love and life, her brother burned with a cruel fever that did not ease.
She was not frightened easily, Aredhel Nolofinwe's daughter, nor driven swift to worry, even over her favorite brother. But when he began speaking through that sickly haze…
Now he opened his wild eyes, and grabbed her wrist in the desperate grip she came to know all too well, and she steeled herself for another long hour of rambling, mad fevered rambling, but it was better than the silence of nearing death. She had not the heart to hush him to sleep.
"I… used to admire him, you know," he croaked, and slowly let go of her hand.
Aredhel did what she could to bring sense into this one of many insane moments. "Whom, Turko?"
"Whom?" He laughed, without humor, a dry sound little more than a cough gone wrong. "Feanaro, whom else? I suppose we all have in some place, admired him, hated him for it, could all this have been possible otherwise? Nay, but I loved him, I think, his craft… and he said he would teach me."
Rambling, she shuddered, it could not be much more. She wondered; if one had to go mad to speak truths, and that was a very dangerous thought upon the tempting ice.
"And now?" Such questions she was asking…
Turukano looked to her; he looked to her very long indeed. His eyes were bloodshot and unfocused, yet their gaze pierced through as sharply as the cold. An idea struck Aredhel that maybe he could see all the way back to Tirion now, his so beloved Tirion, and for a terrible second, she counted him as lucky as the dead.
"Now…" he began, almost in a whisper. "Now I want him to die. I want them all to die."
Her brother, Turukano the Wise. When he spoke such words, she could not take the easy road and agree.
"And I would have made their blood run myself, were it not that…"
His voice died down; had he lost consciousness once more? No, she was not that fortunate. His silence unnerved, chilled her, if she could be chilled farther. His eyes looked skywards, to the cold points of starlight, she did not at all like the sound of his laboring breath. What was it that he did not want – or did not dare – to say to her?
Aredhel considered calling their father, knowing Nolofinwe would come, despite duty, despite distance, despite all, he would come. And Findekano, and Findarato also, they would come and do what they could, to sooth, to warm, to heal.
But she very much doubted that they would listen.
She very much doubted that, had he not been ill and delirious and desperate, Turukano would have said anything at all.
Turko, her favorite brother, her wise, strange brother…
"Were it not that…?"
She stooped over him, looking to his face; but his eyes sought the stars.
"Could you topple Taniquetil?" He quietly asked. "Could you make the sky fall, the stars burn out? Could you command the sea to be gone?"
He meant the questions; he meant them very much.
She did not grace him with an answer to this. "Go to sleep, Turko."
"Go to sleep, she says." A weary smile spread on his ashen face. "Go to sleep and forget it all, Turko, and when we arrive in Endore there shall be no Feanaro, and he will not greet us with lamps and jewels and swords, and we will not count Endore lovelier than Aman for the peerless work of his free hands…"
He was sick, he was hallucinating…
"You know not of what you speak, brother."
And it seemed, Eru bless, he acknowledged that. "No, perhaps I do not." The smile faded, and Aredhel sucked in a breath in such utter relief. "I am sorry, sister, I will try to sleep… but these dreams…"
"Tirion… she is stone, Turko, mere stone…"
"Stone, yes… but her I can find in Endore anew."
Elenya – "my star"
Endore is Quenya "Middle-earth".
"The Empty Quarter" is a reference to Clive Barker's "Weaveworld".
The Vanyar as the architects of the Eldar is purely fanon.