Tyelko had thought there would be peace, once he reached the Halls of Waiting; he'd thought there would be quiet, and he'd thought he would be grateful.
He'd been wrong.
He still hurt at first. Dazed, he wondered briefly if he had been captured somehow – though how he could still be alive, let alone moving, after having a sword put through his body was far beyond his comprehension. Not that you ever comprehend much, you idiot, he thought bitterly, and resisted the urge to snarl.
Agitated, Tyelko paced in a circle. The darkness surrounding him was absolute and strangely muffling, but it didn't feel – wrong. Trying to explore the confines of his prison, he found four walls, reasonably close together but not cramped, mostly by running into them. There were no windows, no doors, and seemingly no crack in the stone surrounding him.
The feeling of uneasiness mounted. He resumed pacing, but nothing materialized. He seemed utterly alone.
(Voices, somewhere in the walls, muffled. Tyelko fell still, straining to hear them, or recognize them, but a moment later he wasn't sure he'd heard voices at all. Silence fell.)
At some point, he'd slipped off into something like sleep; dozing or closing his eyes, at least, though it seemed odd that dead he would need sleep. He supposed vaguely it was a residue of living that he hadn't quite forgotten, and that it would wear away. To his relief, hunger didn't seem as though it would become a problem.
He turned his thoughts instead to the problem of the room he was in. Measuring his steps so he didn't run into the walls this time, Tyelko paced the perimeter of what he had already begun to think of as his cell. There was still no sign of any weakness or structural flaw. It occurred to him, nastily, that if this was some kind of test he was failing it miserably.
At last, sick of fumbling in the dark, eyes still refusing to adjust to the pitch colored, impenetrable blackness around him, Tyelko sat down again and tried to sort through his thoughts. Something wasn't right. Too much wasn't right.
It occurred to him, blackly, bleakly, that if he didn't find a way out of this room, he would be spending all of forever like this. Fumbling in the dark alone.
The thought made him shiver and he hastily pushed it away.
(He woke in the middle of the night from a restless doze, half sure that he'd felt the walls closing in around him until they pressed his back and sides and he couldn't move, entombed in stone. But the room was the same size as ever, as far as he could tell, and he shifted, uneasily, without difficulty.)
He lay on his back under the stars, in the grass, hands behind his head, watching the sky and the stars go by. His eyes were drawn inexorably to one, in the East, far brighter, far more beautiful than any other. "I've never seen that one before," he told his companion, and an unfamiliar face looked at him and said, "That's one of the Silmarils…beyond your reach forever," and yet it seemed if he just reached up he could pluck it from the sky.
He reached, straining, and finally clasped the shining star in his right hand.
And it burned.
It took him a moment after he woke to realize that whoever was screaming, it wasn't him. It took him a moment longer to realize that it sounded like one of his brothers. He jerked to his feet, spinning around in circles. "What-"
"Please – please no, don't do this, don't-"
Tyelko searched frantically for an exit. "I'm coming," he cried, a lie, a lie. "I'm coming, hold – hold-" but of course there was nothing. And the sound was growing fainter. And then it was gone.
A moment later he realized that through the stone around him he never could have heard anyone. If there was anyone else to hear. The silence settled again and Tyelko sank wearily to the ground, listening attentively, hoping for another sound.
(Water fell somewhere, a slow drip drip drip. It grated at his nerves, made him angry. It didn't stop, and the water leak was nowhere to be found.)
He grew tired of sitting, waiting, eventually, and took to pacing back and forth. The pad of his feet against the floor made a rhythm both soothing and maddening. He counted the paces and tried to think.
So he was dead. The sword went through him and this time he couldn't stop the scream- Well, there was nothing to be done about that. But this – prison, this was unexpected. Unwanted. He counted the times back and forth across the room. Forty-six. Forty-seven. In all likelihood they had reclaimed the Silmaril, their attack had not been in vain – Even if two of your brothers are dead, you idiot – fifty-two, fifty-three, but of course, he had no way of knowing that.
Tyelko realized that he had stilled, staring up at the ceiling without being aware of stopping, half imagining he heard some sound that was not silence. His ears rang in an attempt to fill that silence, now, or perhaps simply rang in memory of the noise and chaos of his last moments.
Exhaustion overtook him eventually and he flung himself down, feeling sick, somewhere deep within. How many days, how many weeks had he been here?
(He hated the darkness, hated the way it weighed on his shoulders like something palpable. Like a wolf constantly at his back. The thought made him shiver. Wolves…)
Tyelko began to wonder if he was going mad. Or else if the Valar were watching his mind and bringing to life the things it imagined. There were wolves with him, now, circling and snarling and occasionally vanishing into the dark but always returning, teeth bared, mouths slavering. Their red eyes glowed malevolently at him, promising a violent and painful end between their jaws.
He wondered, sometimes, what would happen if he died here, if the wolves set upon him and tore him apart. There was nowhere else for him to go. Would he simply lie mangled in the darkness, horribly aware, forever? Or would his body reform, reshape into wholeness, to suffer the same fate again?
The thought was grim, gruesome to say the least, but he did his best not to shy away from it. He was a son of Feanor, no matter what else, and that was all he had left, now.
Perhaps including his sanity.
(He sometimes wondered if he was sleeping, if the wolves were a dream; or else that if he slept perhaps they would go away. He could neither wake nor sleep, though, and stood against a wall, breathing shallowly and watching their red eyes circle him, nails clicking on the stone floor.
The wolves never attacked him. But he began to hear them attacking someone else. The horrible snarls and sounds of ripping and tearing flesh made him sick, but as he stumbled seeking his invisible companion, never could he find the wolves attacking him, though something like blood was sticky on the walls.
Tyelko could hear the man screaming, though, howls of agony, day and night or night and day, not that either mattered here in this hellish dark. He turned in helpless circles and screamed in frustration, but his own cries never drowned out those of the dying man.
Something told him that he knew who it was, dying, that for some reason he was responsible, that for some reason it should be the wolves on him instead. But he had been given no choice in that.
(Guilt ate at him like poison, though he could not say what for. The screaming wormed into his mind until he was no longer sure if he really heard it or simply imagined he did.)
He was sure now that the screaming was only in his mind. It faded in and out, sometimes replaced by other things. His brothers roared angrily at him to get up and move, that he needed to do something, he could just sit down and die. Maitimo accused him of cowardice, Moryo punched him hard enough that he felt his nose snap, Kurvo laughed at his helplessness.
They offered him no smiles. They offered him no comfort. Once, he thought he heard Huan's voice, baying furiously, but he was imagining that as well, though when he heard it he clawed at the walls until his fingers bled in desperation, yelling and cursing, eventually crying when there was no answer and the silence settled again oppressive and forbidding. The wolves had vanished, though he still heard them growling sometimes, and occasionally felt their hot breath on his neck.
He didn't pace anymore. He didn't have the energy, and it didn't help, either. He sunk into a corner of the small, dark room, trying to ignore the blood or mud on his hands, wrapped his arms around himself, and tried not to shiver.
Thoughts of people floated through his head, fleetingly, but he didn't allow them to last. If they lasted, they only appeared and mocked him, and it was bad enough enduring his brothers whenever he slipped keeping them out.
It was trying to remember parts of his old life – a life that no longer seemed quite real, a life with sun and life and beauty and sound, that he realized what the wolves wanted with him. He lifted his head and found himself staring at one of them, dark-furred and snarling, and found the voice to say a single name before the ability to make sound was broken and he shattered again, shivering into pieces.
There was no wind, no sound. No voices came through the walls. Sometimes he tried to talk just to hear a voice, but his tongue seemed to stick to the roof of his mouth and he could not find the words. And did not know what to say if he had them.
He did his best not to think, but there was no avoiding his own mind in this place, and it whirled in constant circles: stupid, all for nothing, useless, traitor, murderer, stupid, useless, murderer that led him nowhere. He would have clawed his own eyes out if he thought it would help. As it was, there were bleeding scratches down his face where his nails had dug in a little too hard, trying not to see.
It was no longer clear which was dreams and which was reality. Sometimes Dior was there, staring at him coldly; sometimes his brothers turned and walked away carelessly, abandoning him in a field of blood where he was slowly sinking, sometimes he watched his father die and swore an oath that became truly unbreakable when Feanor perished. He had lost all his tears long ago.
Lost everything, truly.
Days passed, or weeks, or months, or years. He could not have said. Nothing mattered but the desire for something else.
(He was tired, so tired, and there was never any relief, never any peace at all. He had never before considered eternity, or understood it. Never before had he considered anguish, and understood it.)
In the dark, in the silence, Tyelkormo hunched into himself away from the shadow of an imagined wolf and rocked back and forth, tears streaming down a ravaged face that had been handsome and too-proud once. Back-and-forth-and-back-and-forth-and-back.
"No," he whimpered, in a small, shattered voice, "No, no no," and no one answered him, but he flinched anyway, as though someone had.
The third son of Feanor went limp, suddenly, head falling back against the stones, and closed his bloodshot grey eyes. "Please," he said, voice a hoarse rasp in his throat. "Please, mercy. Have some mercy. An end."
There was silence for a few moments, and then he shuddered violently. "No – don't make me – say – fine- fine – KILL ME, KILL ME AGAIN, LET IT BE DONE-"
The silence was sudden and complete, and even to the madman alone, as he stilled, quiet for a moment.
"Damn you," he whispered, then, and lowered his head into his hands, shaking, shattering, shivering. "Damn you, please."
The only sound for a long time was bitter weeping, the cries of someone who has suddenly found that he can't even face himself.