"The Tapestries"--Chapter Three
Last week, we had a thoroughly weird and (hopefully) slightly unsettling chapter about Feanaro's weird perceptions of the Halls of Mandos. Frankly, he finds the place terrifying. This week, we learn just a bit more about the Halls' great secret, and Feanaro begins on the road to spiritual healing.
Thanks to all who are reading this oddity! I'm behind on comments--caught up on Chapter One but still severely lacking on Chapter Two--but I will reply to everyone. Between NaNo and RL, time is in short supply these days. I appreciate everyone's understanding and patience. :)
As usual, all sorts of comments and suggestions are welcome. To those of you celebrating Thanksgiving this weekend, my best wishes to you for a safe and happy holiday! To the rest of you, have a nice weekend!
“You might consider, Fëanáro, why you fear this place. Why you have spent your time fleeing without thought to why you are here and whether you may be healed.”
Námo sat across from me. Sort of. I saw Námo sitting across from me in his dark gray, cheerless robes, with his dark hair tied back from his face and slick as a helmet, with his slanted eyes and cat-green irises. Feet side by side, lost amid folds of cloth; hands folded upon his knees. Shoulders squared. But his features became blurred, crackling as though with static, and I began to understand something about the Halls of Mandos and my perceptions here.
“I have spent the better part of ten years chasing you. Alas, you are as stubborn in death as in life, and you eluded me. Or rather, you strove to where I felt sorry enough to allow you to elude me.” A crooked smile that skewed and melted for a moment, a bloody wound rending the side of his face, before I forced myself to replicate that blinking feeling and his unblemished countenance was restored.
“The grapes and roses, they have been a comfort to newly arrived fëar since your mother connived them upon her own arrival here. Yet you see darkness among them. Why do you think that is, Fëanáro?”
Fëanáro. He was the only Vala to call me that; the rest knew me as Curufinwë, though I had declared my name to be Fëanáro even before my Essecarmë. I had asked Námo once, Why do you call me that? I’d hated his green eyes; they left me with a feeling of having my body numbed and my skin peeled away. Why, your mother wishes that to be your name, he’d replied. Fëanáro.
Your mother wishes—
Not “wished.” Wishes.
In the weakness of youth, I’d let my composure fracture and then crumble completely; I’d fallen to my knees before him and wrapped his robe-shrouded knees with my trembling arms. He was cold; it was like embracing fog. My mother, please. Please let me see her! Please!
He’d unwrapped my arms from his legs. I’d never expected Námo to be strong, not like Oromë or Tulkas, but his hands peeled me free of him like I was of no more consequence than an insect. Be cautious of your wishes, young Fëanáro. Your mother has chosen death. What then do you choose?
For a brief, elated moment, I’d thought, I choose death too! Let him plunge his fog-cold hands into my body hot with life; let him rip free my spirit and whisk it to his Halls to sit alongside my mother. But my work in Aulë’s forge had come to where I could not sleep at night for excitement and my father had to press me to my bed by my shoulders to get me to lie still, holding me there for hours sometimes until my mind succumbed and let me sleep. And I was in love. I had a fleeting thought of Nerdanel, weeping alongside my body in Lórien as my father had wept alongside the prone form of my mother. And there was my father, opposite her: He would not survive it this time. Like a blight spreading among a herd, so grief would take the Noldor, one by one. And I’d lost my nerve.
Námo sat as he had that day, opposite me, as though he had retrieved that long-ago memory and used it to paint an image of himself upon the gray air. My mother….
“Is here, of course. And grieved that you have at last chosen to join her.”
Behind Námo, something manifested from the gloom of the Halls, the way that trees seem to emerge in layers from a foggy morning. They arched overhead too and beneath us. Bars. A gilded cage, swinging from the ceiling, and I the bright and useless canary within it.
Nolofinwë had given Tyelkormo a caged nightingale for his twentieth begetting day, knowing my son’s love for Yavanna’s creatures, especially the birds. “I’m sorry that I cannot make it to the feast. You will take it to him for me?”
I’d released it on the ride home, watched its frantic wings carry it from me until it became a speck against the dark trees. I’d given him a jewel from my own collection, more splendid than anything Nolofinwë could contrive, but I’d attached Nolofinwë’s name to it without compunction, and Tyelkormo had gasped in wonder and had never known the deception. On my journeys home from Tirion sometimes, as silver night made the fields look as though they wore a sheen of frost, I would hear a nightingale’s song and look at the bright jewel at the throat of my son sleeping in the chariot beside me, and I knew that I’d made the right choice.
Now I am bitter, for who shall free me?
Námo laughs, as though he perceives my thoughts. I suppose that he does.
“In ten years, Fëanáro, you have been so busy running from shadows (that do not exist, I might add) that you still don’t understand, do you?”
What was there to understand?
I want to see my mother.
In the next instant, we were walking down a long and narrow hallway. If I had arms, I could stretch them to either side and brush both walls with my fingers.
The walls were lined with tapestries. I recognized many—most—all—of them. Memories made a sound and spark like flints struck together, and I winced. There was my mother in Lórien and my father’s wedding to Indis and my first lesson with Aulë and the first time I’d glimpsed Nerdanel, an apparition moving through the trees. I stretched out to touch her, to wrap around the fibers of the tapestry, to return to that moment. Surely, in the Halls of Mandos, the tapestries that manifested from beneath the fingers of Vairë the Weaver and Míriel Þerindë had some magic in them, some ability to return me to a moment lost in time and memory. But it was just a tapestry, and up close, Nerdanel’s face dissolved into a series of tiny, precise stitches, and even the magic of memory was gone.
We came to others upon which I did not wish to look: swords darkened by nightfall and blood alike in the hands of my children. My children! How could I?
“I have asked the same thing many times, Fëanáro. But it is a futile question. We cannot change it now.”
We’d come to the last tapestry in the hallway, and I recognized my sons again, standing around me as I died. Only I was not in the picture; the tapestry peered up, into their faces made distant as though the weaver had been lying on the ground. Their faces were grim.
I laughed. Don’t you think that someone important is missing there?
“But you are there, Fëanáro. This—and all of the others—are from your point of view.”
Of course they were. I blinked at them. But surely I had not witnessed such things: my son Curufinwë holding the hair of a mariner to cut his throat; Macalaurë and Tyelkormo embracing in triumph of the ships burning behind them, their beautiful faces graven with vengeful grins. That was not the way of it at all.
You deceive me!
Námo laughed; it was humorless, like stones rattling together. “Such genius, Fëanáro, and yet such a lack of comprehension! This place is like your memories; it becomes what you make of it.”
I recalled again the afternoon in the forest, my hand upraised and cupped by my son Tyelkormo, a place for bees to land. His touch had been light; he’d trusted that I would not pull away. And I trusted that he would not allow me to be hurt.
What could I trust here?