FORESIGHT, HINDSIGHT by Finch
This one is for Deborah, who spotted an omission in my Finrod Felagund cycle; see her review of Chapter 1, The Wisdom of Friendship. I had the answer to her question, but until now I had no idea how to turn it into a story, because I thought it would be much too short. But it turned out to be simply a matter of the will and the way, so here goes:
Tonight, the healer in our small company told me my wound looked well. 'So it's doing fine?' I teased him. I couldn't help myself; with his ever-solemn mien he asks for such remarks, and I needed to cheer myself up.
'You are doing fine,' he corrected me sternly. He had been most reluctant to leave the Watchtower on Eithel Sirion, and the fact that we lost it to the Enemy, which made his return impossible, did nothing to improve his mood.
'Some of us are lucky you're among the survivors, Nólimon,' I said.
He surprised me by replying: 'I, for one.'
That's when I realised why healers aren't really eager for injured patients to burst out laughing.
But it's not the wound in my side that hurts most. My little brothers are dead. Angrod, straightforward, quick-tempered and always honest, and Aegnor, high-spirited, tempestuous and fierce in battle. Having lost Aegnor is worst, for I know I will never set eyes upon his face again while Arda lasts; he will not leave Mandos, for the mortal maiden he loved has passed from the circles of the world.* That is what angers and saddens me: that such love could not find fulfillment, and again I curse the Enemy.
The stab of pain in my shoulder tells me I have moved too abruptly in my anger, and I try to breathe evenly for a while. My right hand seeks my left resting quietly on my stomach, and gropes for my serpent-ring; it always has a soothing effect if I turn it around for a while. But tonight it's missing.
Of course it is: Yesterday I gave it to the man who rescued us.
We were surrounded by foes in the Fen of Serech, a pitifully small company, growing ever smaller. It was when we reached the point where most of us were wounded and our best hope was death and our worst fear being take alive to Angband, that Barahir of the House of Bëor arrived with his warriors, drew up a protective ring of spears around us and helped us escape. In my gratitude, I, Finrod Felagund of Nargothrond, swore a solemn oath of abiding friendship and aid to him and his House, and to seal it I gave him the ring with my father's badge, made of old in Valinor.
It was the second time I knew I was fated to die in these mortal lands. The kin of Bëor will not ask for help in trifling matters: the man who shows me the ring, whenever it may be, whoever he may be, will be in dire need. And I will share his mortal danger.
The first time I knew I was fated was after my sister spoiled my feast for me. I love Nerwen - Galadriel, as she is called now - dearly, but that doesn't mean I love everything she ever says or does. This was one of the times she went too far.
Nargothrond was finished: every cave was hewn, every corridor leveled, every wall smoothed, and every pillar carved to perfection (in some cases by me; yes this is one thing I'm still proud of ). In short, everything was in place, so I made a feast, inviting everyone I could imagine celebrating. Even Thingol, who was angry with our family for being Exiles and Noldor, to put it simply. He didn't deign to show himself - Aegnor and I joked he was afraid to find out Nargothrond was more beautiful than Menegroth - but among those who did come from Doriath was my sister. Of course, I led her around as soon as possible.
'So this is it,' she said, screwing her neck, not knowing where to look first. 'I have to say...'
'... you could imagine living here if it weren't for Celeborn?'
Galadriel pulled a face. 'You can't possibly expect him to stop his ears every time he hears someone speak Quenya. And that's bound to happen here.'
'Does he hate it as much as Thingol?' I was curious to know.
'It's more like he loves Thingol too much not to hate it on his behalf.'
'And what does that say about your love for him? You're speaking it now.'
'I'd never do so in his presence,' she retorted in Sindarin. 'Which should answer your question.'
'The more reason to visit me regularly,' I said, 'so you won't forget your Quenya.'
By now, we had returned to the throne room, where all were gathered in festive array. Galadriel's gaze went to the dais, where the throne stood, looking as lonely as I knew it was.
'This place needs a lady, brother,' she declared. 'You keep teasing me about Celeborn, but why aren't you married?'
I could only stare at her.
'I know,' she went on, seeing my bewilderment. 'There was Amarië. But didn't you two return your betrothal rings in the great square of Tirion, before we left Valinor?'
So she remembered that. What she couldn't know, was that Amarië had come to me in my room afterwards, that we had spoken vows and invoked the blessing of the One - and then consummated our union. It was something between Amarië and me. Though of course I knew very well Galadriel would ask some unpleasant questions if I told her about it. Such as: 'And yet you left? Yet you passed under the Shadow when Mandos spoke his Doom? What kind of a fool are you?'
Even so, she should not have assumed so easily that I had shed my love together with my betrothal ring. 'Indeed we did,' I said flatly, just to make it clear to her that I didn't like the turn our conversation was taking.
My sister raised her eyebrows. The formidable eyes beneath them met mine. Suddenly the lights in the room grew dim, the buzz of voices receded into the background, and I heard myself say: 'An oath I, too, shall swear, and must be free to fulfill it, and go into darkness. Nor shall anything of my realm endure that a son should inherit.' **
Now Galadriel was at a loss for words, looking dismayed. I turned away and went to the dais to hold the speech I had planned, though I would rather have left for a lonely walk through the hills.
Behind me, I heard my sister softly say: 'I'm sorry.'
I turned back. 'So am I. But if you meant to apologise, no offence was taken.'
The ghost of a smile touched her face.
That night, I dreamed of the Curse of Mandos. I heard it again, word for word, and much that had seemed only vaguely threatening at the time, now sounded outrightly ominous. And I remembered the burning of the Telerin ships, our shock at being betrayed, the horror of the Grinding Ice, the slaying of Fëanor, the torment of Maedhros and the dispossession of the Fëanorians, Thingol's cold welcome, the quarrel between my brother Angrod and hotheaded Caranthir, Thingol's discovery of the Kinslaying, his fury, his ban on our tongue in his realm - and I knew with chilling certainty that all the evils Mandos had foretold would come to pass: '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. Slain ye shall be, and slain ye will be: by weapon, by torment and by grief... and those that endure in Middle-earth shall grow weary of the world as with a great burden, and shall wane, and become as shadows of regret before the younger race that cometh after.'**
Shuddering, I emerged from my dream, and I rose from my bed; no more dreaming for me, that night. I left the caves to roam the cold hillside until first light, and there, with only my thoughs to accompany me, it began to dawn on me how wrong we had been. How wrong I had been. And that I would pay for it, one day. I hated to acknowledge it, but I saw it clearly.
Foresight, leading to hindsight.
Valar forgive me.
Since then, much more evil has befallen us. My brothers have already paid the price; I barely escaped with my life. Now, while we take some rest on our way back to Nargothrond from the Fen of Serech, it's is only too clear that the day of reckoning draws near for me as well.
*read the Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth (Morgoth's Ring, HoMe, Vol. 10) If not available, my fic Fell Fire will also do.
**direct quotes from QS, Of the Noldor in Beleriand, resp. Of the Flight of the Noldor.