"The Tapestries"--Chapter One
But this was a challenge for one major reason: Much of what happens later in my epic is a secret from everyone but me; even Bobby does not know. But to go into Middle-earth now would reveal these things and spoil later stories. So I was left with the option to 1) spoil later stories and to heck with the consequences, 2) invent a new verse for this story, or 3) find some creative way around my conundrum.
I opted for the third, choosing to write this story from a PoV that is probably a bit unexpected. But it allows me to look at the Noldorin arrival in Middle-earth without becoming hung up on the spoilers.
"The Tapestries" is a multi-chapter novella (though shorter than "By the Light of Roses") that does just what Jenni asked: recaps the Noldorin arrival in Middle-earth. However, it does so from the perspective of Feanaro, looking back at his life from the Halls of Mandos. The story is relatively tame for a Dawn Felagund story--I can even SSP it on lists that do not accept promotions for adult-rated stories--though it does have death (obviously) and some dark themes. There is some violence, but I will issue specific warnings for those chapters when they arrive. Beyond that, the story deals with the mind-brain problem, the malleability of memory, the issue of historical bias in the Sil, and whether Feanor was truly insane. That's a lot for a novella of a modest 18,000 words!
Though this story was finished in the beginning of September, I have waited until now to post it. It is probably my weirdest story to date, and I wasn't too sure that I wanted to share it. Combine death and Feanor, and you're pretty much guaranteed to get something odd out of it. Also, as this month is NaNoWriMo, it gives me something to post, and chapters are short enough to be convenient for those interested to read even if they are participating in NaNo. Per usual, I am eager to hear what people think, so please feel free to offer your thoughts and concrit. My thanks in advance.
It’s a funny thing, dying.
It was nothing that I expected to do, charging headlong toward the mountains with my helm slipping down my sweaty forehead, alone except for the crunch of my footfalls in the dirt and the rasp of my breathing. I didn’t even pause to ponder it. I didn’t even pause to be afraid. It just happened. One moment, I was fighting and laughing and certain of my victory—for what was the other option?—and dancing from foot to foot with the starlight darting off of my blade; the next, I was flat upon my back and trying not to hear the certainty in Maitimo’s voice as he spoke to Curufinwë, quietly, so that the others would not hear: “It will not be long now.” The next, I was trying to tell my sons that I loved them, but those were not my words. I did not want to tell them that I loved them, not because I did not but because I didn’t want to give in, make that concession to death.
Of course, death claimed me. When I was among the living, it seemed an easy thing in concept, staving off death, like when I used to eat candy with one hand and hold off one of my children with the other, a hand on his forehead, as he huffed and panted and strove against my hand for that tiny reward. I imagined that if I told it sternly—no—then it would go away like a rebuked child. Not the case. Rather like falling rain will soak one whether he wishes it or not, so death weaseled into my body and squeezed out the life; it leaked from my mouth and nose and pores, it stunk. It hurt too, and I hadn’t expected that.
My sons had given up on my wounds. Make him comfortable, I heard one of them say. Carnistir? Always the most perceptive of my children, I wondered if he felt it now, smelled the sharp stink of life like ozone leaking from my pores. They took turns, holding my hand. They used to hold my hand when they were small; they used to hide behind my legs when strangers approached, like I was significant enough to protect them. They’d been weaned of that habit long ago, when I’d taken them to the forge with me for the first time, when they’d been trusted with a colt of their own to train, when they’d first tasted freedom and disappointment, they’d grown out of holding my hand. Even the little ones, the twins, whom I wished small enough to curl in my lap forever; one day, and they’d been running on the path before me, long legs already lost the chubby roundness of babyhood, like two little whips of fire who no longer needed to hold my hand.
Maitimo, sweet and organized Maitimo, gave each of them a moment alone with me. None of them said much. Tyelkormo—who despite his vociferous malevolence remained the most naïve of my sons, caught somehow eternally in the startled blushes of adolescence—cried a little. Curufinwë spoke heartfelt sentiments as a father should expect from his favored son but they sounded like he was reading from a book, words thick and saccharine upon his tongue. Macalaurë said little but gazed into space, like he didn’t want to look at me like this; I wanted him to sing to me but didn’t know how to ask, and eventually his hand left mine, and he was gone from my side. The twins came and Telvo tried to tell me a joke and Pityo shouted at him, and Telvo whirled upon him. “What? Maybe if he smiles, he’ll get better!” and Pityo replied, “You’re a fool!” and those were the last words I would hear from my youngest sons for a long time. All of time?
Maitimo came next-to-last and admitted that he was frightened to be King without me—as though he would have ever been King with me—but that had ceased to concern me. The plights of the Noldor were already behind me. Death has that power: to dim what once seemed of such great consequence. He did not stay long because Carnistir had yet to speak to me and was stepping from foot to foot like a nervous colt or a child that has to use the lavatory.
Carnistir knelt beside me, my dark son, the one to whom I was least close in life. “Hugging Carnistir is like hugging a cactus,” Tyelkormo used to joke, earning a fist in the ribs from his dark brother. More like an eel, both treacherous and shy, darting out of sight as soon as he came under my notice, wriggling from my attempts to love him like I loved his brothers. Now, I lifted my arm and touched his shoulder like we were friends; he caught my hand and folded it on my chest. “I’ll see you soon,” he whispered. “We all will.”
It seemed like it should have been more dramatic, but it was like the ending of a road: One moment, you’re walking along and concerned with the pending rain and the blister on your toe, the next, the road is gone and you are standing someplace strange, amid knee-high weeds and rugged rocks yet to be crushed beneath the boots of civilization. It feels like it should come with a warning or at least a bright flag, but of course, it doesn’t because no one expects it to end. It was designed with a destination in mind. It just hasn’t reached it—my life or the road.
What had been my destination? Married, seven sons, a lifetime of accomplishment, two exiles, the deaths of two parents, forging a life in a new land—then it all ended. Just like that.
I thought, Oh. I felt rather disappointed. I’d expected maybe lightning or a falling star or at least torrents of tears from my seven sons, who were sitting around morose and silent and dry-eyed.
Then came the pain. Like I said, that I didn’t expect.
It wasn’t anything bodily for I had no body to hurt any longer. It was lying upon the ground, rather uncomfortable-looking despite my sons’ best attempts to do differently. The pain came not in my body but in the severing of my spirit from it. I was reminded of being torn in half, of the pictures in the books of torture methods collected by historians from Angband. The Elves stretched upon a frame, each limb with its own manacle attached to a series of cranks and pulleys. I would trace them with my finger, figure how they hooked together, the logic of it. Logic calms a writhing stomach if nothing else does. I considered the chains so that I didn’t have to consider the more delicate web of nerves beneath the skin of the victims, so that I didn’t have to consider the effects on that. All of the chains and pulleys culminated in a single crank that when turned tore the body of the victim in opposite directions, effectively ripping them in twain with little effort from their tormentors.
I imagine the sundering of body and spirit to be something like that, only the pain is not concentrated in cord and bone and flesh but pervades, as though every bit of my being was being shredded bit by bit. It is a bloodless, secret pain. If I had a throat to scream, I would have. To the Void with pride, that hurt. My spirit was being drawn from my body in a pale thread, coming through my skin. The light was going out of my eyes. If it didn’t hurt so badly, I might have been interested to watch this.
Then: it was done.
Nerdanel used to claim not to remember the pain of childbirth. Grabbing at me in our bed at night, I would laugh, How quickly you forget! And she would answer, What is there to remember? pressing her lips to mine; grinding our hips together. All of the screaming, the agony, the curses lobbed in my direction for the better part of a day: forgotten. I’d wondered if she was mad.
But as quickly as my spirit and body were separated, the pain ended, and I forgot it. Even the memory was dissipating upon the wind. As I was doing, I realized.
A strong wind was blowing into the west. I looked down at my children for the last time. Only Carnistir was looking up, right at me, as though the glittering spiritual stuff that was being shredded on the wind was something that he could see. Nonsense.
He lifted his hand at his hip and wiggled his fingers. He used to wave goodbye to me like that when he was very small, not wanting to draw attention to himself with much waving about of arms, as his brothers were wont to do.