Based on The Silmarillion and The Shibboleth of Fëanor, HoMe Volume 12: The Peoples of Middle-earth. A story about choices, and about another forgotten and disregarded wife.

Disclaimer: Tolkien owns all these characters and places and a great deal of the plot. Cursive passages are quoted from Of The Flight of the Noldor (Sil).

'On the House of Fëanor the wrath of the Valar lieth from the West unto the uttermost East, and upon all that will follow them it shall be laid also… To evil end shall all things turn that they begin well; and by treason of kin unto kin, and the fear of treason, shall this come to pass. The Dispossessed shall they be for ever.'

Many more words the terrible voice spoke to the listening Noldor, and each doom he uttered upon those that would not seek the pardon of the Valar seemed darker and more unfathomable than the one before. When at last the hooded figure on the rock high above them fell silent he did not wait for a reply as the messenger of Manwë had at the gates of Tirion. He turned, and in the gloom vanished from their sight as one whose true abode was elsewhere and had been so all the time. Dread mastered their hearts. Even Fëanor, stepping forward to make a retort, seemed taken aback.

A low murmur arose from among the hosts of the Noldorin lords. Some cringed, some began to lament. Others turned towards the south, were they had left the quays of Alqualondë slick with the blood of King Olwë's mariners. But Alqualondë would be far out of sight even if the Trees had not been sucked empty of light.

Then Fëanor found his voice and cried: 'We have sworn, and not lightly. This oath we will keep. We are threatened with many evils, and treason not least; but one thing is not said: that we shall suffer from cowardice, from cravens or the fear of cravens. Therefore I say that we will go on, and this doom I add: the deeds that we shall do shall be the matter of song until the last days of Arda.'

'Thus shall it be!' his sons shouted, and many of Fëanor's and even Fingolfin's followers added their voices unto theirs. The foremost of the Noldor began to move on again, and those that held one of the shining blue lamps* raised them to push back the night that loomed ahead. They turned their faces towards the frozen waste of the North and never looked back.

Others did, and Fingolfin among them. 'Beyond Aman ye shall dwell in Death's shadow,' he repeated one of the dooms the dreadful voice had spoken. He wondered to whom it belonged.

'To none less than Námo Mandos himself,' said his wife Anairë, reading her husband's mind. 'He shall be our undoing.'

To Fingolfin, it was plain whom she meant: not the Lord of Judgment, but Fëanor, his half-brother. 'He is truly mad,' he growled.

'We had best turn back.'

Fingolfin's eyes swept over the marching hosts. His sons Fingon and Argon were not far behind on Fëanor's people, but Turgon waited, his wife and his daughter on one side, his friend and cousin Finrod on the other. Turgon's face clearly bespoke his unwillingness to abandon the pursuit of Morgoth, murderer of Finwë and thief of the Silmarils that held the last Light of the Trees. If he had tried to persuade Elenwë to take their daugher and return to Tirion, he had obviously failed, for she was shaking her head and seemed rooted to the spot.

Fingolfin turned to his wife again. 'We shall go on,' he said curtly. 'I cannot leave my people at the mercy of a madman. He only cares for what is his, and most of all for his stolen Silmarils. I even fear that the offspring of his loins is less dear to him than the work of his hand.'

Anairë sighed, but she did not speak against him. Fingolfin was about to signal to Turgon that they would march on when someone called his name.

It was his youngest brother. Finarfin hurried towards him, almost running, his cheeks strangely glistening in the pale starlight. When he halted, his face but two feet away, Fingolfin saw that he had wept.

'You will return and ask the Valar forgiveness,' he said, saving his brother the trouble to say it.

'I can do nothing else.' Finarfin's voice shook with bitterness. 'Or it will destroy my wife. I am ashamed that I even went as far as this, that it should take a curse to make me do what is right. It was her kin that bled, her father's people who were slain unrighteously.' He gazed at Fingolfin's hands and fell silent.

'Speak on,' Fingolfin said grimly. 'Speak on and call me a Kinslayer, for I am guilty, brief as my frenzy was.' He had washed his hands a dozen times since, and yet he was sure the stains remained visible to eyes that could see.

'And yet you would not seek pardon?' Finarfin looked at Anairë, as if she could say or do aught to change her husband's mind.

Her face remained motionless as a statue's.

'I would prostrate myself before the Valar to beg their mercy - if they would but restrain our brother!' Fingolfin cried. 'But that, they will never do, and how can I let this crazed fool lead my people... my sons... your sons' - he knew that Finarfin's younger sons had joined Fingon's host - 'into further grief and misery?'

Finarfin shook his head. 'That is not why you fail to seek forgiveness.'

'You think I am loath to humble myself before the Powers?'

Once more, Finarfin shook his head, though with less conviction. Their gazes met, and clashed. 'Nay. You cannot bear to think that our brother, crazed fool though he be, will name you craven, and claim that none of Finwë's sons dared avenge their father, save he alone, the true-born one.' Finarfin said at last.

Fingolfin remained silent, for he could not challenge those words. How Finarfin was able to bear Fëanor's disdain so much more easily than he did remained beyond him. There were times when he feared that Finwe's youngest son had no pride at all.

He knew the very moment when his brother gave him up. Finarfin turned and briefly raised his lamp to shine on his son, who stood with Turgon.

Finrod did not move. His face was perfectly still, as if he were dreaming.

'What is it you see?' Finarfin asked.

'The Great Sea,' Finrod replied, his voice full of wonder, 'glittering, sparkling beneath a new light. Beyond the Sea, wide lands under the sky, woods, hills and streams full of sounds and forms strange and marvelous to behold. People I never saw before.' Suddenly he smiled. 'I would go there, father.'

Fingolfin looked from his brother's pained face to Finrod. He wanted to shake him, to shout at him: Do you not see what this does to your father? Your brothers are out of reach, and your sister will be to proud to turn back. Prove yourself wise. Join him. Pity your mother's pain! But seeing Finrod's rapture, he could not speak.

'Would you pass into shadow, then?' said Finarfin to his son.

'Where we go, more than shadow awaits us.'

'Would you leave Amarië?'

On hearing the name of his beloved, Finrod's smile faded into sadness. 'We said farewell in Tirion.' He possessed the stubbornnes of all their kin, and it was clear that his father could say naught to change his mind.

'Then I entrust those of my people who will not turn back with me to your care,' Finarfin declared.

'I will try to prove myself worthy,' was Finrod's reply. His eyes seemed to beg for his father's blessing.

He did not get it. 'Go then,' was all Finarfin said before he began to walk back, his steps heavy, yet unhesitating.

Turgon was the first to stir. 'Shall we move on, father? Or else we will never complete the task we have set ourselves - and never catch up with my... crazed uncle.'

'You had better forget what I said about him,' replied Fingolfin dryly, 'lest you repeat it to his face' - which Turgon was very well capable of - 'and his fiery gaze burns you to ashes. But yes, let us go.'

Turgon smiled as if it were a jest indeed. He beckoned his cousin. His wife took their daughter by the hand, and the four of them joined the marching ranks.

Fingolfin turned to Anairë. 'Shall we...'

'No,' she interrupted him. 'You may. I shall not.'

Nothing had prepared him for this, and he did not understand. 'You are my wife. You belong at my side!' He grabbed her arm. 'Could it be that you fear this Curse of Mandos?!'

'If you would drag me along by force,' she retorted, 'all you would do is prove that it is already at work.'

Taken aback, Fingolfin let go of her arm. 'At least tell me why!'

'For the sake of your brother's wife, who was of old my friend - though I do not presume I will be able to console her. And because I do not see the wonders that lie ahead, nor the defeat of the Morgoth, be you ever so valorous. I see only Death. I helped bury your father. I do not wish to bury you, or any of our children.'

'Do not speak as if death has claimed us allready. Is not this life?' Fingolfin closed the distance between them, and gathering Anairë in his arms he embraced her and kissed her on the mouth with all the passion he had ever felt for the maiden he had wooed, the bride he had bedded, and the wife he had loved.

The kiss was long and deep, and to his surprise Anairë answered it with the near-forgotten ardour of their youth, neither of them paying heed to the curious gazes of those walking past. When they drew apart, though, Fingolfin knew the kiss had not swayed her. It had fanned the embers of their hearts, but only to make them flare one last time before they turned to cinders.

'Give my love to our children.' Her hand touched his cheek, and all the regrets of the years gone by were contained in that one gesture. Already, she seemed to recede into his past, even before she had truly left him.

When she vanished from his sight Fingolfin turned and went forward, but the waste of the North could not be emptier than his heart was in that hour.

* The Feanorian lamps mentioned in Of Tuor and his Coming to Gondolin, the first fragment of Unfinished Tales. The text says: 'They were made of old in Valinor, and neither wind nor water could quench them, and when they were unhooded they sent forth a clear blue light from a flame imprisoned in white crystal.'