Across the Ice
There was no day and no night on the ice, so they walked from when they woke until they could walk no more. Fingolfin walked always at the front, his long staff beating tap-tap on the frozen ground. That walking period Galadriel walked with him, looking ahead, making the decisions that would determine the fate of the group. Sometimes she looked back at her brother Finrod, who strode through the center of the travelers, singing journey songs to keep up their spirits - and the pace. These were not their set roles, they alternated with each other and with their dear friend and cousin Fingon, who was now at the rear making sure no one was lost, and picking up those who lay down to die.
Towards the beginning of the journey, sometimes Galadriel had allowed herself the luxury of Fingon's company as they walked. Then, sometimes Turgon would take one of their roles, allowing them a brief time to laugh and tell stories as they walked together. But then little Idril grew out of her shoes, and none could be found for her, and she had to be carried. Turgon walked now slowly, alongside his grim-faced wife, carrying his shivering daughter.
When they could go no further that walking period Fingolfin called a halt. Galadriel passed on the news to those that followed. The Noldor exiles numbered in the thousands, but were already far fewer than they had been when they set out. Some had died of hunger or cold, others had simply given up their lives in guilt and despair. Those that remained had few possessions, most of their goods having been burned with the ships at Losgar. They had no tents, few blankets, and what food they had was almost completely gone. Curse Feanor and his sons to Mandos, thought Galadriel, not for the first time, as she looked at her ragged people.
It was all Galadriel and Finrod could do to keep the exiles from dropping where they stood. The walking periods had become longer recently, as the food had run short. But to sleep uncovered on the ice would mean certain death, even to an Elf. Blankets had to be shared, fires had to be built from their rapidly dwindling supply of firewood, groups had to form to share body heat. At the beginning Fingolfin had tried to maintain the rules of modesty, but soon it became clear that the need for warmth was simply too great. Galadriel was lucky, she had Finrod and her other brothers to pile up with at night. Only Fingon son of Fingolfin still slept alone.
Galadriel walked through the settling camp, speaking words of comfort and encouragement. Because she had walked at the front, she was expected to have information about how close they were to their destination. Since she had none, she made some up. "We are more than halfway there," she said. "Over the next mountain we shall see the shores of Middle Earth." She did not care if she was right, or even if she was believed, but only that the people might draw some hope from the confidence in her voice.
She glanced to the rear of the camp, looking for Fingon. Still not there. She wondered what had become of him, and then decided not to think about it.
She found Turgon, rubbing Idril's red and bleeding feet. Elenwe sat by, staring vacantly. "Mandos might be a better place for her," Elenwe said, not looking at her daughter.
May Feanor and all his sons be taken by the everlasting darkness to which they doomed themselves."No, Elenwe." Galadriel took Elenwe's hand. "We will live, and we will found mighty kingdoms in Middle Earth." Elenwe did not respond, and Galadriel had nothing else to say. She let go of Elenwe's hand and moved on.
The last stragglers were reaching the back of the encampment. Fingon was with them, supporting a crippled child. Galadriel's heart brightened to see him, and her body filled with a sudden heat. In this land of no light, it was Fingon's fiery spirit that had kept her going. Perhaps this timeperhaps this time he would not sleep alone. She did not know how much longer they had.
By the time she reached him he had already settled down for the night, wrapped in his bare blanket. His exhaustion was apparent, but he smiled when she arrived and opened his blanket to make room for her. She settled down next to him, grateful for the warmth. His long black plaits were frost-covered, and she twisted one around her fingers.
They lay, not speaking. In the dark, she met his eyes. Such pain in them, and such silence. She let out a long breath. Perhaps this could be the time to speak her heart? The closeness of their bodies made her hands tremble, and she let go his braid.
"How goes the front?" he asked.
"We walk," she answered. "We try not to despair."
"Do you succeed?" he asked, softly.
"I always will," she answered, gathering her courage, "when I have you to give me strength."
His expression was unreadable, but her words were begun and she could not stop them.
"FingonI would bond with you if you would have me."
"Galadriel" his eyes widened in shock. He moved away from her, as much as he could with the blanket around them.
Was it shame that held him back? "Among my mother's people it is no scandal to wed a cousin. Although it is rare, there is no shame in it. And can the laws of the Noldor bind us now? Here on the ice, surely even your father can not object."
"It is not my father," Fingon whispered. His face was pale, as if in fear. But Galadriel had never known Fingon to be afraid. The warmth drained out of her and was replaced by the everpresent cold.
"You are bound," she said, "like my fool of a brother, to some woman who will never follow" But if so, why the secrecy? Everyone knew of Finrod's love for Amarie, even though he did not speak of it. Galadriel grabbed Fingon's shoulder, shaking him. If he was going to break her heart in this frozen place she was going to know why. "Tell me what is going on," she demanded.
"Do you remember the burning of the ships?" he answered.
How could she forget, the moment when they realized that Feanor and his cursed sons had abandoned them, that they were doomed to die on the desolate wastes of the Helcaraxe? A distant flame, blood-red beneath the clouds. A wail echoing from the Noldor, as they knew they had been betrayed. Then she remembered Fingon kneeling by the shore, with his hands covering his face.
"You love a Feanorian," she said. All the other names she had for Feanor's sons passed through her mind, one after another.
"This is why I sleep alone," Fingon said in response. "I would not have by brother, or any of our people, hear the name I would call out in my dreams. My teacher used to tell me that you are what you love. 'My weight is my love,' he used to say, 'wherever I am carried, my love is carrying me.' He wanted us to love Eru the Allfather, or at least Manwe and Elbereth, and to be like them. But what am I now? I have watched the ships burn, and Elenwe fade before my eyes, and still my greatest grief is that Maedhros has gone into danger and I am not beside him."
The cold wind cut at her face. What answer could she give that could pass though the guilt? What are you? You are a bright clear light, a burning core of brightness in the everlasting dark. "What am I that I love you?" she said.
She felt his breath on her, so close. The knowledge that he was lost to her did nothing to decrease her yearning. She thought he might apologize, and was relieved when he only touched her hand. "Thank you," he said.
That rest period Galadriel did not sleep, but lay awake clutching an ice-fragment, watching it slowly melt in her hand.
When Fingolfin gave the orders, the Noldor awoke, still tired, and resumed their march. On the ice there was no day and no night, so they could not tell how long they walked, or how many days or months had passed. Some survived the journey. Others did not. Those who did, Fingon and Galadriel among them, lived to see the shores of Beleriand when the horns of Fingolfin's host heralded the first sunrise over Middle Earth.
The story of the crossing of the Helcaraxe is at the end of Silmarillion 9.
This story (like 'What Flesh Remembers') is greatly inspired by Finch's praiseworthy story 'Under the Curse.'
I have followed the Silmarillion version of the story of Galadriel, but the business about the Teleri not having a taboo on marriage of cousins is based on that in the Unfinished Tales version Galaldriel and Celeborn are first cousins on her Teleri side. Fingon being unmarried is based on a footnote in HoME - see Finch's story for more details.
Fingon's teacher is none other than Augustine of Hippo, and the quote is from Confessions 13:10. I have no idea how he got to Valinor but I rather think he would have liked it there.
It is sometimes thought that Elves only love once, but we know that Finwe loved both Miriel and Indis. So nothing in this story is intended to show any disrespect for the Galadriel/Celeborn romance.
As always, I bow to the Great Professor Tolkien and beg forgiveness for any misuse I have made of his material.