TO GIVE LOVE ITS DUE, Chapter 1
Finrod Felagund cycle, Part 5
Based on the Silmarillion, the History of Middle-earth, and on Deborah's interpretation of the Statute of Finwë and Míriel (which I find increasingly appealing).
Disclaimer: Almost all characters and names belong to Tolkien.
At first he had little eye for his surroundings, though his eyes were as new as the rest of him. No gift more precious than life. To sense and feel again: the soft turf under his feet, the gentle breeze in his hair, the sun on his skin, the rise and fall of his chest, the song of his blood, the beating of his heart. His soaring heart.
The joy was fresh. He had not expected to be so graced, for he had erred, and died in the depths of darkness. Peace he had sought and found, a long rest from long sorrows; grief and regret waste the soul as wounds and venom waste the flesh of those who dwell on mortal shores. But he had expected correction as well: for pride, stubbornness and folly, and for the failure to grasp the real extent of evil in time, to see that you cannot truly fight what you have not truly fathomed.
'You saw all this before you came to me,'the Judge had said. 'How can I teach you what you know? You may leave my Halls, if you are at peace.'
'What did I do to be granted release?'
'You will know, that, too.'
And so, he had left, in a body both familiar and strange, familiar because it remembered the pain it had suffered, and strange because it did not feel the hurt, as its members were light and light was the heart of it.
He was Findaráto, son of Finarfin and Eärwen. Finrod Felagund. Finrod the Faithful, Friend of Men. He had kept faith and clung to hope, enabling Beren to win a Silmaril, and now - he laughed at the thought - he felt almost as if he were a Silmaril himself - but a living one that was no prison to the light it held; he would not begrudge himself to anyone.
He also remembered that he was the husband of Amarië of the Vanyar, for he had joined himself to her in his first life.
Now he looked about, his eyes recovering the familiar: the blue sky overhead and the green of the grass and the bushes around him were the very images of blue and green, the yellow and white of spring flowers a true yellow and white. The air was rich with birdsong, the breath of Manwe Sulimo whispered in his ears. No blemish, no discord, no decay, and everything at one with itself.
But is not that what you wish for, it crossed his mind, rather than what you know to be so? The discords of Melkor are contained in the Music of the Ainur. The sunshine is a lesser thing than the light of the Trees you knew of old. Many will not leave the Halls, and among them your own brother. Do not forget that Arda remains marred.
Amarië would dwell with her own people, he supposed. The Vanyar lived no more in Tirion but on the slopes of Mount Taniquetil, or about the plains and woods at its feet. It was a long journey, but his new body was as strong and tireless as his old had ever been. He passed by the Lake of Lorellin and the mansions of Aulë. From a great distance he beheld the lamps of the Mindon Eldaliéva on the Hill of Tuna, brightening the twilight. Yet driven by the memory of his love, his wife, he kept his course.
Before he came to the dwellings of the Vanyar he heard the tidings: Morgoth Bauglir had been defeated and cast through the Door of Night into the Timeless Void. But even that victory was marred, for the last surviving sons of Fëanor had stolen the remaining Silmarils. Now they were lost, for Maglor had cast one in the Sea and Maedhros had thrown himself into the abyss with the other.
Finrod mourned for his cousins, whereas the loss of the jewels meant little to him. They were cursed, they had caused too much pain, linked as they were to a terrible Oath that only Ilúvatar could undo. And his own light, encased in his living flesh, sufficed for him. He even found himself consoling some of the Vanyar - a strange thing, as he had always used to think of them as more enlightened than he was. Was it not enough, he asked, that the Silmaril of Beren and Lúthien had been hallowed by the Valar, to shine at dawn as a token of faith in the coming day, and at dusk as a token of hope for the coming night?* Had Fëanor not erred when he imprisoned the brilliance of the Trees, wanting to possess it for himself - and thereby proving to the world that nothing brings out flaws like light does? Should light be locked inside an object that could be put away from sight? It was good that the jewels were now out out of reach. And, finally, if Eonwë himself had not slain the robbers but allowed them to take the jewels, why bewail the theft, rather than misery of the thieves?
So he said. He did not mind that some of them looked doubtfully, but after a while, it began to trouble him that none of the Vanyarin Elves could tell him where Amarië dwelled. Even her name stirred but the vaguest recollections. Once, there had been a lady by that name, kin to Elenwë, the spouse of Turgon, who had joined the Rebellion. Elenwë abode in the Halls of Mandos, loath to leave them without her husband, who would not so swiftly find release.
But the fate of Amarië was unknown to them, alas.
When they heard he was Turgon's cousin and a Noldo despite his golden hair they grew more reserved, though they remained respectful towards one twice embodied. In the end Finrod went on alone, roaming the lands west of Mount Everwhite, thinking that he should have looked for Amarië in the tapestries of Vairë on the walls of Mandos**. Why had he forgotten to do so? Had he been too surprised at being released, too eager to be gone?
Then, just as he feared it was still possible to run out of joy and light even for the healed and renewed, he met another lonely wanderer in the woods. The figure was clad in grey and his appearance was that of the Children of Ilúvatar, yet by the depth of his gaze Finrod knew he was more. He halted, waiting for the other to address him.
'Greetings, wanderer in the woods,' the grey-clad figure spoke into his mind. 'Have you perchance lost your way? For you look less blissful than you should, for one who has so recently regained his body.'
'Greetings, clear-sighted one,' Finrod replied. 'Indeed I seem to have lost the way to my love, and this mars my happiness.'
The Maia eyed him gravely. 'How did you come to lose it?'
'The first time most certainly for want of wisdom. The second time...' Finrod paused, and a new thought struck him, 'the second time for fear what I may find?'
Now the other's eyes sparkled. 'Which tells me, son of Finarfin, that in the mean time you managed to acquire some wisdom at least.'
Finrod laughed. He knew full well that it was the one standing before him who freed the awareness of his own apprehension from the confines of his heart. His sole merit lay in having acknowledged it. 'It was a gift, I think. Will I find Amarië if I face my fear?'
'It may take more than that to find her back,' the Maia replied. 'But if you walk straight to the east and cross the stream, you will come upon a house at the edge of a wood where a nís and a nér live alone, apart from their kin. Speak with both of them, and you may yet find your destination.'
Touching the brim of his hat he walked straight to the west. After a few moments, Finrod headed in the opposite direction. He was not at all surprised to find the grey figure gone when he looked back.
The stream was too broad to jump, and crossing it left his feet wet. He ignored it, for the words of the Maia occupied his mind. A woman and a man. Speak with both. It did nothing to allay his apprehension. It was late afternoon; the dust motes of Arda danced in the sunbeams slanting through the gaps in the forest roof. How far to go? How far to wonder?
He saw them before he reached the edge of the trees and the house, and without thinking he slipped behind a bush. She was sitting on a boulder, looking up at him; he stood with his face turned towards hers, showing her something he held in his hand. It was an odd-shaped piece of rock such as a stone-carver might pick up because he could see a shape hidden inside it, Finrod thought fleetingly. They were both golden-haired Vanyar, his hair a slightly darker hue than hers. And the woman was Amarië.
His heart lurched, for she looked and felt even lovelier than he had expected - which was strange, as beauty remembered tends to increase with distance. But all the loveliness in her was meant for the man standing before her. The loveliness, and, plain to see from where he was hiding, the love.
Finrod had not known it was possible to feel such a keen sense of loss so shortly after his recovery of life and the waking world.
He recalled the day he had left to follow Fëanor to the mortal shores: Amarië coming to him in his room, their exchange of vows, their lovemaking, as intense as it was ill-timed. And then he had left. He had taken her, and left her, and failed to turn back when Mandos doomed the Noldor. He had passed willingly under the Shadow, and though not a day had gone by that had not found him thinking of her with undiminished love, to her it must have been different.
After the Prophecy of the North, it must have felt like nothing less than betrayal.
Which, of course, it was.
Those who wed share the mastery over themselves with their spouses. Yet he, Finrod, a son of the repentant Finarfin, had one-sidedly defied the Curse of Mandos, condemning Amarië to loneliness and emptiness. For what could she hope for? That he, of all people, would escape the inexorable doom, escape being slain, escape the long atonement in the Houses of the Dead, perhaps until the very End? So, feeling thus betrayed, she had appealed to the Valar. They had mercifully released her from her vows. And another had taken his place, for she did not deserve to remain alone.
He shook his head. If that were true, surely Mandos would have kept him in his Halls? For none among the Quendi shall have two spouses at on time alive and awake. Or so the Statute went. Had it been revoked? Could Fëanor have misunderstood it when he wrote it down, so long ago in the Noontide of Valinor?***
Or had she had taken a lover against all that was right and proper - she, the same Amarië of the Vanyar whose love of the Valar was so great that she had adamantly refused to leave the Blessed Realm together with him? It seemed unthinkable, and yet... These two lived apart from their kin, the Maia had told him. As outcasts? Again, Finrod looked at them. They sat side by side on the boulder now. Amarië was holding the stone, tracing its outline with her finger. His heart knew that she was happy, and his chest tightened.
Perhaps he should leave. Perhaps he had been allowed to depart from the Houses of the Dead because this was a thing he needed to learn by experience: that one could repent the past, that it was possible to attain forgiveness, but that not one thread of Vairë's tapestries could be unravelled in Time.
He turned to leave. But he did it too abruptly, for the bushes around him stirred, and his presence was noticed. 'Who goes there?' Amairë's companion called out.
*Not canonical, perhaps, but it appeals to my love of symmetry.
**Vairë, the wife of Mandos, 'weaves all things that have ever been in Time into her storied webs, and the halls of Mandos that ever widen as the ages pass are clothed with them.' Sil., p. 28. I have assumed it is possible for those leaving the Halls to take a look at them, but as far as I know this is nowhere attested.
***The Earliest version of the story of Finwë and Míriel, HoMe, Volume 10, Morgoth's Ring. As I think this statute is unnecessary harsh (and Nienna seems to be of the same opinion), I am indebted to Deborah for her suggestion it represents Fëanor's personal understanding of the meaning of marriage vows - which means it doesn't necessarily have the status of dogma.