Disclaimer: all things as always belonging to the brilliant Professor, creator of the finest characters and concepts ever to be seen here and in Middle-Earth

Author's note: this story is, as you may notice, heavily inspired by two other stories: Deborah's "On the Making of Fire", which may be found on this site, and a short story by Joanna Russ entitled "Souls". Both of them are magnificent pieces of work, and are highly recommended.

Why was this story written? Well, I don't know. I wanted to write Feanor, I wanted to write a story with the key phrase (you'll see what it is), and I wanted to highlight some wonderful points, such as how it must feel for a craftsman to be disembodied, and why Feanor really shouldn't have been released from the Halls of Mandos. Once again I hope to set you thinking about a few things, and if I cannot, I can only hope you'll like the story anyway.

"1 'Tis no imprisonment, 'tis a release."

When the firstborn among the Children of Iluvatar die, their spirit fly to the halls of Mandos, to wait there until the end of time. That is a well- known fact, and no fear of death have we, who have seen with our eyes the Light Eternal of the Blessed Realm.

The Halls are silent, and spirits dwell there pondering their lives' fortunes and misfortunes. Sometimes, the stories tell, spirits are let out, to walk once more among the trees of Eldamar and in the white streets of fair Tirion.

Sometimes, some spirits.

But not I.

I have stood before Mandos, as I have long before in Alqualonde, upon the pooling blood of my slain kin. I have stood in judgement, burning flame now lacking flesh to contain and hold it, no longer lighting and scorching the world outside. Before the wrath of the Valar I have stood when they decreed my stay in the Halls will be eternal

Eternal – until Arda is remade.

The firstborn Children of Iluvatar have no fear of eternity, nor do we shy from the thought of it as Men do. Only in time our spirits dwindle, and some of us fade as our inner fire no longer burns brightly enough to sustain us.

Some of us.

But not I.

I was not content to stay eternally as I want not content to part with my flesh and blood. What was death to Feanor, who had once defied the very makers of Arda, and what was their decree to him?

"'Tis no imprisonment, 'tis a release," they have said.

Perhaps I would have resisted, at that moment, standing in judgement before those whose judgement mattered nothing to me before. Who are they to seek to bind me? None could bind me; those who tried have reached these Halls long before I.

'Twas an imprisonment, as little else ever was. The Halls are vast and silent, and there spirits dwell. Nothing can be touched, nothing can be felt, nothing can be changed or shaped. They may as well have bound me hand and foot and left me to go mad and burn to ashes, the fire within me forbidden to ever forge once more.

I stood in judgement before them, who think themselves masters of this world me and my kin have claimed for our own, and I wondered, what was it that decided my fate so. Surely they knew, because all knew, that among the Eldar I was the greatest, none had lived before, lives still or will live yet who shall surpass me. Surely they knew the world outside the silent Halls had need of me, for if not I to lead the Noldor, who could? Surely they knew all that, and they knew what was it they were inflicting upon me, they knew the torment well.

A bodiless spirit, no feet to walk, no eyes to see, no mouth to speak, no hands to feel… to create.

At first that was what I thought – that I have invoked such wrath upon myself that the worst punishment of all was found for me. Easily, merely to keep me in the Halls.

But they said, "'tis no imprisonment, 'tis a release."

And I did not know, nor could I have ever guessed what they meant.

Before long, and I am proud to say it, I demanded to be set free, I claimed my righteousness before then. Before long, and it shames me to say it, I repented and I begged and I renounced all my past sins, all my past defiance of them. Then when still I thought my fate was darker than the fate of all Arda, when I thought they had imprisoned me, crueler than I, Feanor Kinslayer, could ever be.

I begged before them, begged the decree to be lifted, though well I knew my deeds to be too vile for any punishment, any imprisonment to be painful enough to repay all the pain that I have caused. There I begged before them to be released.

"'Tis no imprisonment, 'tis a release," they said. And I could not know or understand how any words of theirs could hurt me so.

I did not know, I could not have imagined.

But that changed. All that changed.

There I stood in judgement, there broken and begging before those who could never break me in life. And there my eyes opened to see, as if for the first time. There they gave me eyes to see and ears to hear and heart to feel, to see and hear and feel all they saw and heard and felt, all of Arda on all its vastness, the ages that were and the ages that are yet to come. There before them I was granted sight and knowledge and realization.

And I was granted sight of the fire of the Elves, far in the lands to the East, far from the light of the Deathless Lands, the fire that shall flare and reach and build and burn. I was granted sight of the time to pass, and the wars that reap through souls are a storm reaps through fair fields. And I was granted knowledge of the futility of building, and of great realms shattered, and of white walls made dust. And I was granted knowledge of the power of the Enemy and the darkness and the shadows, and the glitter of broken swords and fallen banners. And I was granted sight and knowledge of all that is fair and fades and all that is fiery and cools. All that seeks to last and will not and all that seeks to change and will never, and of the crumbling of bodies and the weariness of spirit, and of the fire that will turn into ice.

And before the sights of the fire of my people, the fire of my world, now ashes scattered in the wind, I, the Spirit of Fire, was granted realization.

"'Tis no imprisonment, 'tis a release."

Oh yes. I understand now.