Father and Son
(Disclaimer: Everything belongs to Tolkien. Nothing is mine except for the mistakes.)
A/N In the Silmarillion it is told how Fëanor's seven sons survive his death. In notes to 'The Shibboleth of Fëanor' (HoME 12), a different tale is told.)
With thanks to Ellfine for reading and encouragement, and to Vana Tuivana for her suggestions.
1497: The tent of the King of the Noldor. The edge of the Firth of Drengist
In the silver blue light of the crystals that illuminate my tent, my son's hair appears as dark as his mood.
"Thou wouldst speak with me?"
The day before last it was set to full glory like unto his grandsire's hair, by the flames from the burning ships. Copper-brown is the true colour though under starlight, under lamplight, one would know it not.
"I must know, my king," says he, purposefully. "I must know – atar!"
We have not agreed on all matters of late, my eldest son and I. Nor are we likely to in the near future. Yet despite his grievance is his heart most loyal to me. Though he is not as Curufinwë, he is the son in whom the fire of my spirit burns strongest.
He keeps one hand upon the raised tent flap, as if unsure whether he wishes to be in my presence. That action pleases me not at all. Ever am I decisive; so should he be – so is he most often. But I realise why he is here. I grip more firmly the pen with which I intend to make detailed recordings of what we have found - of this cold wasteland that lies between shore and mountain. Would that we were already pressing on. Would that we were come against Moringotho now – while I, also, am in the darkest of moods. Yet it takes of time to move a host, even the Noldor. So we make camp this 'day' and seek to prepare for what lies ahead.
I give my son no reply. I need not explain my actions. All know not to speak to me of the matter.
But Nelyafinwë is not as all others.
"Atar! Didst thou know that Telufinwë intended to sail back to Valinor before flame was set to the ships?"
Though he dare face me, even he dare not openly speak the words – 'Didst thou slay thine own son, believing him to be a traitor?'
I put down the pen most carefully, most precisely. He knows he is risking my wrath; that my mood is fey, darker even than his. But still is he here, my firstborn - the chief of my captains. At my gesture he moves away from the entrance to stand boldly before the table at which I sit.
"Pityafinwë - he wanders as in a trance. He speaks not, even though I keep him close company. I only know what it is like to lose a brother - not one of the same mind and form. Yet my anguish is great enough!"
His anguish? I feel great bitterness, and stand of a sudden keeping my eyes upon his face as I smash my fist heavily on the tabletop. He does not flinch, but draws of a deep breath.
"And I know what it is like to lose all that I love!"
Those words hurt him, I observe. I did not intend them to wound as deeply as they have. But I will not recant them. I know he suffers; they all do! They suffer not the least from guilt that they were away on a hunt to ease their restlessness, rather than at Formenos to defend my father and my jewels. Not that they alone could have prevailed against the enemy. None save I could have so prevailed.
I have lost all that I loved. But I hardened my heart before we left the shores of Aman, that nothing again would pain me. Nothing taken from me, no further betrayal of my trust would ever pain me.
Silent is he who seeks the truth - solemn grey eyes willing, nay demanding that I end at least some of his agony. So we hold each other's gaze, father and son - neither of us able to back down from the confrontation.
"I must know, atar," he repeats after a few moments, "that I can speak with conviction to Pityafinwë and he understand he has lost not his sire as well as his twin to the flames."
Understand! A reminder of her Nelyafinwë can be, that he seeks to understand minds and hearts. So be it! He alone will I speak to of what transpired, and but once.
"Did I know that Telufinwë slept aboard the first ship I set torch to?" I give answer brusquely. "That so distressed was he with all that had befallen, he wished to sail back to Valinor, to rejoin his mother and take refuge in her loyalty to the Valar?"
Had I known before I gave orders for all the ships to be burnt - had I even suspected he had not come ashore? Or had I been so taken up in my hatred of Moringotho, of Nolofinwë that I had questioned not the mood of those who were around me?
"Nay and aye! Three sons had I with hair of copper-brown. Would that I still had all three."
He looks into my eyes for a moment longer, seeking any cloak about my mind that would conceal untruth. Not that he could pierce such a cloak for all his strength of will! Then slowly he nods. He accepts my words as confirmation of his hopes, or mayhap I have hidden not my pain as well as I believe.
"I understand, my king and father," says he. And with a bow of acknowledgement, he departs.
Again do I take up my pen, and write…
Entry 1547. Of the burning of the ships and first camp.
What to say? My youngest son sought to betray me. Now he is dead, and at my own hand.
The things we had not yet brought ashore were of no importance. Nothing lost on the ships was irreplaceable given time, except for him, except for Telufinwë. I did not know he was still aboard that ship, Nerdanel! Ai; I did not know! Would that thy foresight at our last encounter been proven false! Would that thou had accompanied us and he had felt less need to return; that thou had accompanied me and I could speak with thee as I once did - and know that thou didst understand.
- - - - -
Atar - Father
Curufinwë - Curufin
Moringotho - Morgoth
Nelyafinwë – Maedhros
Telufinwë – Amras
Pityafinwë - Amrod
Nolofinwë – Fingolfin
Note on the use of 'Moringotho for Morgoth. While it is clear that Fëanor names the Vala Melkor as Morgoth in The Silmarillion, I often use 'Moringotho' instead. In 'Morgoth's Ring' HoME 10, two other names are given as older variations. Moringotto is the one mentioned on pages 194 and 294 of the HarperCollins edition. Moringotho is mentioned just once, on page 294.
Regarding Nerdanel's foresight of the death of Telufinwë, it says in HoME 12 in 'The Shibboleth of Fëanor' 'Then Nerdanel was angry and she answered: (to Fëanor) 'You will not keep all of them (their sons). One at least will never set foot on Middle-earth.'
She had also originally named both twins 'Ambarussa'. When Fëanor begged that they should at least have different names, she said after a while 'Then let one be called Umbarto (fated), but which, time will decide.' Being disturbed by that name, Fëanor changed it to Ambarto, (or in some versions Fëanor thinks Nerdanel has said 'Ambarto') but Nerdanel said: 'Umbarto I spoke. Yet do as you wish. It will make no difference."