One does not need to be familiar with Lovecraft to understand this story. I was inspired by his style and some of the common elements that he uses in his fiction, but the mythological basis is wholly Tolkien. "Hastaina" is set in the future, after the Ring War, when one of the loremasters of Valinor journeys to the ruins of Angband in search of secret knowledge that he believes Melkor stole when he razed Formenos at the end of the era of the Trees, knowledge that he hopes can aid his people in restoring Arda to its unmarred state. What he discovers there is enough to invert his beliefs and drive him to the brink of madness.
"Hastaina" is rated Teens on SWG for mature themes and some violence (as would be expected in a story that is largely set in Angband). As always, comments--both positive and constructive--are more than welcome.
Thus an end was made of the power of Angband in the North, and the evil realm was brought to naught; and out of the deep prisons a multitude of slaves came forth beyond all hope into the light of day, and they looked upon a world that was changed. For so great was the fury of those adversaries that the northern regions of the western world were rent asunder, and the sea roared in through many chasms, and there was confusion and great noise; and rivers perished or found new paths, and the valleys were upheaved and the hills trod down.
It is nearing the summer solstice when we sail forth from Forlindon and across the sea where once lay Beleriand. To the north of us, the light never fully fades; the sun subsides into a pale gloaming at midnight and springs aloft again after only a few hours of partial reprieve. My eyes loll like leaden spheres in my skull, aching as though there is sand caught behind them. Even in the ship's hold, the colorless light slices into any crack left unguarded by door or curtain; I can see my blood pulsing red, red, red behind my eyelids. It matches nearly the lurching of the ship. I am Noldorin; I was not meant for this. My stomach clenches at even the thought of food.
The captain draws me forth in the evening--or what counts for evening in this sleepless realm of endless sea--after we have been at sea for nearly a day. "It might relieve you mayhap." He has a voice like gravel crushed in a fist; the bristled top of his head comes only to my sternum and he is nearly as wide as he is tall but, perhaps, that is how he can hold his balance with such ease upon the lurching deck, laughing as I stagger to the rail, coughing behind a polite fist and struggling to swallow my gorge. He chews in his back teeth a twist of paper stuffed with herbs and set ablaze; the stink is welcome after smelling naught but stale seawater and my own reek in the bedclothes. The cold air eases the ache behind my eyes a bit.
"Himling," says the captain, jerking his thumb to the northeast of us where a black hump of bare rock arches above the water. Behind it, the sunset blazes, the relentless sun roasting red the underbellies of the clouds. I watch Himring slide toward us. So we are over the land now where once the hooves of Lord Maitimo's horses pounded up the dust on their way to Hithlum and King Findekáno. The sea remains unchanged by that fact. It has obliterated all in equal measure: the carven halls of Doriath and Nargothrond, the slender spires of Gondolin, the tossing pine forests of Dorthonion. I look north. Even Angband is gone.
For that is my ultimate destination: Angband, the Iron Fortress, at the northernmost extreme of the world, subdued by the sea and locked in ice that conceals whatever lingering secrets it holds. I am distracted from my misery long enough to note the irony of the unrelenting light where I know Angband to lie just over the horizon, for in the legends, it is always a land of darkness: dimmed beneath cloud and constructed of black igneous rock that might itself be shadow congealed by malevolent magic, the triple peaks of Thangorodrim obliterating what feeble stars dared peer down between the shreds of cloud to the miserable land below. These are the legends, but who among us living has seen within Angband? Those who did were never believed, scorned and hunted and murdered as traitors. Lúthien Tinúviel passed from the world, and Lord Maitimo keeps company with his father in Mandos, barred from all inquiry. Then there are the Valar, of course.
The legends make it a singularly awful place but once it thrived and there were great stores of knowledge there, and the skills of its craftsmen were enough to hold out against the might of all of Beleriand until the Valar visited it with annihilation. This is what I seek: the knowledge we have pleaded of the Valar and been refused, the knowledge to remake Arda as intended, to remove the marring done to it ages ago, when the Powers of the world could not content themselves to allow each his dominion.
For I am of the Lambengolmor, that order of loremasters established long ago by Fëanáro himself as a society for the study of language. All of our numbers fled Valinor after the Darkening and dwindled there upon the ice or in the myriad battles of Beleriand, but Pengolodh returned, scarred in body and spirit, to return our lore to Tol Eressëa and back to the continent. There I was born, in the midst of the revival of the Lambengolmor, when my mother went in secret to meetings to discuss what hidden wisdom our founder of old, Fëanáro, had found that made him leave the Lambengolmor to the governance of his firstborn son as he had relinquished nothing else in all of his life. It had been words that gave the world its shape in the Ainulindalë--or so the legends say--and it was my mother who first proposed in a fervent whisper that some of those very words had been unlocked by Fëanáro, and that this work took him from the Lambengolmor and gave him access to impossibilities in the shape of the Palantíri and Silmarils. And somewhere these secrets might yet be hidden! If we could find enough of these words and lock them together, link after link, as a metalsmith constructs a chain, then we might undo the marring that the world had undergone in ancient times.
Hearing of this, Pengolodh renounced her and her theory. I was but a child crouched behind my mother's chair as he threw down the badge of the order that had grown tattered in first Nevrast, then Gondolin, and then Khazad-dûm before seeking the illusion of healing over the sea. Others of the Lambengolmor stood and watched, inquiry trumping any loyalty they felt for him. He tells stories to children now on Tol Eressëa; his shoulders are round with defeat.
So did my father, of old Pengolodh's apprentice, renounce this manner of inquiry, but my mother and her associates would not be swayed, and I was brought up in knowledge that the Powers had concealed from us the very secrets that would release us from misery and did so for love alone of the poignant undertaste that sadness gave to the goings on of the world, swirling us about in a miserable brew and sniffing and sipping it as one might a good wine. Long ago, they had taken what they had recovered of Fëanáro's books and papers from Tirion, but one of the librarians upon Taniquetil was in our confidences and procured us a catalog of the holdings and, one by one, delivered books to us to be slowly duplicated. At the same time, my mother launched an expedition north to Formenos, where we searched the wreck of the ancient house while the native Noldor stood in a loose ring around the house, rolling their eyes skyward and making superstitious gestures of protection and moaning in thickly accented Quenya, calling the gaze of Manwë upon us.
I've no doubt that it fell just as they hoped, but we were not hindered, perhaps because there was naught to find. The library of Formenos--where Fëanáro had moved the most essential of his volumes during his exile--had been stripped of all of its holdings. It was in the bedchamber of his firstborn son Maitimo, who led the Lambengolmor after his father's interests drifted elsewhere, that we found the prize we had been seeking. Maitimo's chamber was in the north-most tower, which had borne the least of the assault of Melkor and still partially stood, slumping toward the ground, yes, but passable to one determined enough. In his bedchamber we found a number of books of little interest, for we had their like in Tirion, and one strange volume, thick and ragged and filled with the precise handwriting of the eldest son of Fëanáro. Ever orderly where his father embodied flame itself--brilliant and chaotic--Maitimo had been passing the years at Formenos, made dull without his scholarly associates, by indexing his father's considerable library. We hid the book in a satchel and made loud lament over the futility of our days there in the barren, unpleasant realm and returned to Tirion to match Maitimo's index against that of Fëanáro's collection kept by the Valar.
Thereupon we noticed the oddity that would eventually compel me here, to the ice-choked summit of the world and the dark depths out of our most ancient lore. Many of the volumes that Maitimo had indexed were missing from the collection held by the Valar, but the librarian in our confidences remarked that this was not strange to her: Long had she thought it odd that none of Fëanáro's books delved the more esoteric topics he'd pursued while at the peak of his abilities, indeed had often lectured upon. These volumes, doubtlessly, had accompanied him to Formenos yet never made it back to Valinor. It was her personal theory that they had been taken by Melkor, for their revelations would have far-exceeded what Fëanáro had spoken at lecture or even taught his apprentices and sons, and would have been of great value to one who sought to transform the essential nature of matter. She had never dared ask the Valar about it for fear of losing her appointment, but Maitimo's index confirmed her suspicions that many of the books were missing--taken, most likely, and by one with dark designs.
I was chosen to go, for my mother's absence would be noticed, and sent to Alqualondë, a city swathed in beige mist and clinging to the edge of the world, made shabby by long neglect after the theft of the Swanships; the people turned bitter and desperate by poverty. There I met in a seedy tavern one of the mariners who crosses back and forth between Aman and Eriador, taking what Elves would come to Tol Eressëa from the Outer Lands for all that he can leech of their gold. It is one of the few honest livings left in Alqualondë, and his children went in rags rather than naught; his wife offered me tea and thought herself a lady of good breeding. We departed when the sun set behind the Pelóri and the shadows cast by the mountains oozed over the city and brought upon it early night.
As we slipped past the Enchanted Isles, the night clenched around us, and for a disorienting few minutes, the sea lay so still that it reflected back at us the constant light of the stars, unwavering, and it was as though we sailed upon naught but air. When I next dared look behind me, the Enchanted Isles were gone; the sordid smudge of light that was Alqualondë was obliterated by the clot of darkness that thickens at the horizon. Only the sea, winking feebly in the light of a blood-red moon, stretched behind us.
It was a long, sickening journey over the Great Sea to Forlindon, the north of Eriador, the only small strip of Beleriand remaining after the destruction wrought by the Valar at the end of the First Age. It took a week in the streets of the squalid little fishing village to find one of the codfishers with lust enough for gold to be willing to surpass the latitude of Himring that marks the upper bounds of where ships will dare. Superstition abounds, naturally, among the slack-faced and, I suspected, largely inbred villagers, superstition that from what few whispers I could discern--for their dialect was unrecorded by Lambengolmor--concerns the ancient apprehension of Angband and the torments that had been executed there and, upon those few who managed to escape, thereafter as well, for few escaped Angband who were not later slain--often cruelly so--by their own people. At last I found a ship willing to offer me passage beyond Himring, as far as the ice field at the crown of the world.
It takes three miserable days beyond Himring to reach the ice. The Sun wheels overhead, seeming to circle as vulture over the ship bobbing relentlessly upon the ice-studded sea. The volume I keep ever open upon my knees to discourage conversation with the brush-headed captain speaks of a "great reek of dark smoke" sent up from Thangorodrim to hide Angband from the Sun, and I cannot blame the dark Vala for this, for in the unrelenting light, there is a dull, insistent pounding at the back of my skull and, if I let my eyes drift out of focus, I can see the capillaries of my eyes squeezing with the heightened throbbing of my pulse. The sun stoops low at day's end and the sea becomes like a vat of molten gold, and I hide myself belowdecks, no mind the reek and suffocating heat, to await arrival at the ice.
The next morning, I am not disappointed. I emerge, blinking, from the hold, the sun at my back now but no less scornful in the heat of her gaze. The crew is already preparing a small boat with oars, a sledge, and supplies that will keep me on the trek to search for Angband. They are uneasy and have been for days. A pet monkey that one of the crew keeps squaws without ceasing, scampering from shoulder to shoulder and biting its own fingers into a pulp. Even the captain wobbles from one end of the ship to the other with greater than usual haste, the perpetual reek of his smoking-herbs puffed out now with the urgency of a volcano on the brink of eruption. "Go, go!" He urges me to the small open boat. "We have schedule! And must be off!"
It is only as I am being lowered over the side of the ship that I get my first steady appraisal of the ice. In Arien's light, it is of a faint pink coloration, almost raw-looking, largely monochromous but where the ice has cracked and reared up, keen as knives, into abrupt peaks and the extremity of the sun casts shadows behind them that are nearly black and seemingly far too long. As I pull myself toward it, I wonder how different it looked upon approaching it on the Anfauglith: the same bitter cold and unrelenting light, all vegetation obliterated by one or the other, and of course, the Thangorodrim, the triple peaks said to guard the doors to madness itself. My heartbeat is too brisk in my breast; it is as though the collective experiences of all who have journeyed thus before me linger, even after the Thangorodrim were tumbled down, even after the sea was granted entrance not to erase but at least obscure the vile realm that thrived here at the capstone of the world.
Of course, I know not if Angband is even accessible; it is a feeble hope that it is. We have among the Lambengolmor a specialist in geology who has pored over the old maps brought forth from Eriador by our people, largely speculative, of course, that suggest that Angband might have been at such an elevation that some of it might have been spared from the sea's incursion and the passages to the lower levels of the vast stygian realm preserved well enough to allow admittance. Certainly, Himring was spared, and by the accounts of Lord Maitimo and King Findekáno, they once stood upon its northernmost ramparts and gazing north, perceived a black whirl of activity upon the mountainside, described by Maitimo in a letter to his brother as "akin to flies seething upon a corpse." The destruction of Utumno was once left woefully unfinished by the Valar; what a dark, strange hope that Angband should be the same! Yet the knowledge preserved within might liberate us, at last, from the hopeless Marring our people have long endured and the Valar tolerated. I pull and pull toward the ragged edge of the ice, toward that hope, toward Angband.
Beneath the circling sun, for days, I journey. The sledge I draw behind me is a constant hindrance; the coimas that I brought forth from Aman dwindles slowly, and I find naught of interest, my notebook unopened and inkwell uncapped. The ice is unrelenting and vast beyond my imaginings. Despite the eye-shades made for me by one of the Lambengolmor who once served as a guard far to the north of Nolofinwë's realm, the sharp gleam of the ice and the unremitting blue of the sky disorient me to where I am no longer sure if I walk to the north or back to the sea or if I wander in circles. The landscape, certainly, offers no distinguishing features to guide me. Once, I see a craggy, lichen-crusted tower on the horizon and I run toward it, but it disintegrates into a shimmer upon the horizon, and I realize that it was a mirage. Other such visions assail me, and I imagine this is why the villagers in Forlindon avoid this place despite the multitudes of plump seals upon the ice promising fortunes in fur and blubber. But, of course, the sea remembers Angband: It was cast forth by Ulmo with the singular purpose of erasing this place, and I imagine that it keeps in its memory how it felt to pummel those towers with a foam-crested fist, to cradle the eldritch black bricks as they swirled softly to the sea floor. My journey is hopeless, I see. The Valar sought to eradicate Angband, and the hard lessons learned at Utumno would not need repetition: They had succeeded. When I count the fourteenth circling of the sun, I orient myself and begin journeying back to the sea, for the ship will return for me one moon after the passing of the solstice. The futility of my journey is plain and painful.
I dream that night. Since passing Himring, my dreams have taken a strange texture that is difficult to describe in our rational language; they lack all visual orientation but consist, rather, of feelings, of deep and atavistic emotions, of quaverings in the viscera and murmurs, it seems, in the very marrow of my bones. This night, though, these emotions coalesce into a vision, and I am watching my feet cross the ice. The sun quivers on the horizon in a smear of crimson light; I am keeping pace with my shadow, stepping ever into darkness, when my foot strikes it: the black block of cyclopean masonry protruding barely from the ice, its corner smoothed by wind and weather, a single small carven hand grasping forth from the ice, beckoning, beckoning--
My foot throbs as though it has indeed struck stone. I crawl from my tent; there is the sun, low in the sky and seeming as vast as the horizon. I put my back to her and begin to walk, following my shadow, as I had done in my dream. I know not how long I walk. The sun seems caught, held by her trailing light, simmering at the cusp of the world. I walk and walk until my foot strikes stone: cyclopean masonry, black and as ancient as the songs that made the world, corners weathered and smoothed. I am unsurprised by its presence. All that can be seen of its carvings above the ice is a single carven hand. Beckoning.
I lift my chin and consider the gnarled black tower rearing up from the ice before me.
My guts writhe with repulsion at the sight of it, and I am ashamed to acknowledge that my first thought is to run as fast as I can back to my camp and to press onward to the sea without stopping. It seems that it looms, watching me. How many before me, I wonder, considered it just as I am doing now? How many felt their flesh, whole and unmarred, for perhaps the last time? I recall the images of the slaves freed from Angband at the end of the First Age, stooped from working the mines, long ago blinded, where their eyes had been gnarled into sightless flesh like eyeless fish wrenched from the depths of the sea. Hands compelled them forward--what compels me? Curiosity. Curiosity like a wriggling candle flame against the dark horror within me. I place one foot, then another, in front of the other. I follow my shadow until the tower overtakes even the vastness of the sky, until it seems to spread its arms to embrace me.
The prisoners would have been brought in at the lowest level, according to reports from the few who survived to escape and find audience where they would be believed. That level has long been obliterated by the sea, now locked in ice, and I ponder briefly the vastness of what must lie beneath my feet, of which the behemoth tower before me is only as a single curving fingertip to the entirety of the being. I have brought no climbing gear, but the bricks are weathered enough to allow hand- and footholds in the stone, and I pull myself up, seeking entrance on the vague hope that a passage might have been left unbothered by the sea; futile, I believe, looking on the destruction, yet I climb, compelled by curiosity. What foul hands set these stones in place, I wonder? Perhaps they were the last to touch the rock's blackened face before my own? It is as though I can smell his seared scent: Melkor, the Dark Lord, he who sought the answers to the questions that were not to be asked. A shudder grips me even as that candle flame of curiosity, nestled beneath my heart, kindles a bit brighter.
I am not long before reaching my reward: a small balcony, from which I can imagine Melkor commanding his army on the field below. The rock remembers, and I feel the shiver of their shouts in the column of my spine as I turn, briefly, to contemplate the vista. I climb over the railing and the stones crumble beneath my weight, casting me upon my face on the floor. There is a high arched doorway and only blackness within. I fumble for a torch and a flint, expecting that I should find only a short passage before encountering the sea, frozen in mid-leap, untouched for millennia by wind or warmth from the sun. The stairs are ancient, their centers worn into concavities. I trail my fingers upon the stone wall, my torch thrust before me, as the passage coils downward, beneath the sea, beneath the face of the world. I should have encountered ice by now. I should have but--I reach a landing. I reach a landing and turn about myself, the flame on my torch trailing like a comet, so fast do I turn. Swags of ice adorn the walls, seep forth from the cracks in the masonry. I am, I realize, beneath the sea only--removing my glove and stretching for a finger to trace the icy filigree upon the stone--the invading ice has been carefully removed. The ice is so cold, so sharp that it peels away the flesh of my fingertip with greater ease than would a surgeon's scalpel. My surprised shout is caught by the stone passage and thrown back at me until it becomes a multitude of voices raised in agony; it is the memory of the dead buried here or of those who mayhap ascended these stairs, their feet slipping in the concavities, to throw themselves from the height of the balcony above while watched by the unblinking eye of Arien. Such a voice meanders down the passageway; the long bones of my legs ache as though with the shuddering impact of naked feet on stone. I clasp my hands upon my ears and huddle against the wall, no matter the damage done to my heavy clothing by the acuity of ice broken asunder by axes and hammers: my screams join those remembered by the stones, those of women and men and children, Elves and Mortals, in a cacophony of terror.
I might have taken the same path: back up the worn stairs to launch myself momentarily against the pristine, glittering blue sky before being dragged back to the ice, but I control my heart; I stem my shouts and the echoes dwindle into a series of whimpering murmurs, and I am left alone again, in silence, to consider what I have found.
I am not the first to visit this place. The sea, it is clear, intruded upon the passage and froze there and was smashed and extracted by someone--but whom? Melkor was thrust forth into the Void; Gorthaur busied in the lands to the south and then, likewise, obliterated. That pervading sense of being not alone intensifies until the edifice itself seems to become almost sentient. I hold my breath but feel the walls moving behind me, rising and falling, like the chest of a man at rest--but that is madness. That is madness--pure madness!--and I know that it is madness. I press away from the wall and recover the torch that I dropped in my terror. The passage continues on downward, and that is the route that I must take. I think not of the screams and of the taint of this place but that, by discovering what secrets were brought here from the Light of Valinor, I might eradicate all of that; I might lift my voice to contend with the gods and, with the rush of air from my chest, disperse all of the misery that has been visited upon the world.
There was, in Formenos, a single page recovered from the library of Fëanáro, preserved between glass in the archives and brought by our contact to us in Tirion, where it hangs above my mother's desk in our study in a gilded frame. The page was charred in the fury of the battle between Melkor and Finwë, High King of the Noldor, but five words remain, seemingly selected and scribed by fate:
"Through sorrow to find joy, or freedom at the least," I mutter to myself as I come to stand at the top of the passageway that snakes into the earth, coiling tighter even than the one I have descended; the darkness is viscous and seems to tangle and tug against the squirming flame of my torch, but the fire throws the darkness aside and shows me five wedge-shaped steps before the darkness claims mastery once more and all else is hidden.
I do not know how long I descend. Even my footfalls are swallowed by the ravenous dark; I realize that my forehead aches and it is because I have my eyes clenched shut, though there is naught to see save the flame of my torch dancing before the darkness, and that should be a comfort, should it not? I trail a gloved hand upon the wall and feel the junctures of the ancient masonry as I pass and, faintly, the rough rock. Down, I walk. Ever down. I try to count my steps but the madness of the darkness wrests the numbers from my brain; I begin again and my count is shattered by a scream and, as I crouch, quivering, against the wall, I vow to count no more. At times, I feel myself being drawn downward but my legs ache as though I were walking upward instead; other times, I must press forth against air that feels thick like water and nearly as difficult to breathe. I grow lightheaded; my body feels stretched as though my head were a metal globe balanced and lolling upon shoulders miles above my feet; the only constancy is the wall, the skip of my fingers across the joints in the masonry, the wall at my left and the whisper of the rock beneath my hands.
Then, at last, I reach bottom. I do not expect it and so stumble when my feet reaching for the next stair encounters level floor instead. I creep along the wall before remembering the guttering torch in my hand, drawing my eyes open with great effort to find that it casts a reddish glow upon the pitch-dark stone of a vast entrance hall, high-ceilinged and arched like the ribs of a giant beast; they seem to move in and out, in out in out, panting with the throb of the torchlight. And the stone beneath my hand has changed as well. No longer does it meet the rough touch of unfinished stone but deliberate shapes: forms and figures carefully carved into the rock.
It is the Ainulindalë, wrought as decadent carvings hewn into the stone panels that line the vast room, but it is the Ainulindalë as I have never seen it: all of the Valar in horrible splendor working elbow at elbow together to shape the world, the good and the awful alike, Melkor with Varda, Melkor with Ulmo, Melkor with Manwë, shaping and corrupting, together, building and breaking, etching upon Time a story of aching poignancy with pain the constant counterpoint to joy--
But no! I believe it not! I hear my laughter, so small in the vast room, swallowed by dark and silence long unbroken. It is propaganda, surely! I tell myself. It is a delusory history, it is meant to mislead, it is meant to challenge--why, meant to challenge all that we know to be true in the world. When I come to the centermost panel representing Eä in its first incarnation, with all of the Valar arrayed as wide-eyed children behind a clot of light that will be the universe (my fingers lightly gracing the smashed stones that must have come from the strongholds of Fëanáro) and Eru even at their backs bellowing Pain into existence as the bitterness that mitigates the saccharine, then I am sick at my stomach and must turn away for, in all of our imaginings, this could not be true. Even Fëanáro saw himself not as an enemy of the Valar but as pursuing a cause different from their own. He allowed his sons to be blessed by Manwë; his Silmarils to be hallowed by Varda. Surely--
But that is why I have come. I have come for the song to strive against the pain sung into Ainulindalë, I have come for the secret to undo the Marring. For what is done can be undone, even if one must dance upon the spooling ribbon of Time to do so, as we believe that Fëanáro might have begun to do in the final years of his exile, before the murder of his father and the Darkening of the world drove him to madness.
I know not how long I wander the corridors of that vast stygian realm. My torch dies; I light another. I breeze past other carvings showing the Rising at Cuiviénen, watched by Melkor and Oromë both, from behind adjacent trees; the torments of Angband, observed by a faceless--at times shapeless--host; the destruction of Beleriand, the sinking of Númenor, the ruin of so many, heroes and humble alike; the sea filled with the stuff of tears--
I find the library at last. The sea, I realize, as I circle the vast room, has never even come here. The books are pristine, unmarred, scattered upon tabletops with inkpots and parchments alongside them. I recognize the scrawling speech of the Valar that, to look upon, is like having a metal shaving caught in one's eye. I force myself to look. The hands are multiple; this is a room that has never fallen into disuse. Squinting against the pain that sight alone of the horrible text creates, I translate a few passages before the nausea chokes me and I stagger on. It is the texts of Fëanáro that I desire, the Tengwar lolling gently as meadow grass waving in the wind, but as my fingers skip across the spines of shelved books, as I weave among the desks and the books open upon them, they are all Valarin. Their subjects are many but all concern the Marring: the shaping of the teeth and the thirsts of beasts for blood; the hot, leaping heart of the earth and the flesh hurt and scarred by its heat; the waters that beckon and drown those who answer. We are the Authors of the World. We are the Authors of a great tragedy so that, when it consumes itself, we may emerge once more from Eä with cleansing tears upon our faces and the bitter clutch of Eucatastrophe upon our hearts.
I see it then, at the center of the room: a cask, seemingly made of glass, but as I approach, I observe that it is a material indestructible, the secret of which only one ever mastered, and in it he locked--protected--the last of the pure Light in the world. The cask is of silima but it holds no light; it is soulless, meant only to bar and hoard, not to illuminate and preserve. Within it is a tumble of books, the reddish leather bindings, the silver Tengwar etchings, the hand upon the page as fair as the capering of light on water: All is familiar. It is the hand, the work of Fëanáro, captured and hidden here, in the purported stronghold of the Dark Foe. My fists rap upon the cask, futilely; only one other than the Valar can break silima, and his soul is ever in the keeping of Mandos. Against the screech of the Authors penning the Ainulindalë, his voice--our voices--are choked, silent.
And then I am at the base of the stairs winding upward, to ice and the unrelenting sun. My hands are empty at my sides, torches sputtered, dead, books left behind. The decadent carvings in the vast entrance chamber caper around me, all of the Valar, the Authors, writing their tales in our blood. At last, I place a foot upon the first of the wedge-shaped stairs. I might climb forever. I might arrive at the top but never at the Light, even as I emerge, blinking--as have many from Angband before me--into the glare of the sun.
As for the words I carry? In my mind and beneath my tongue? I see now why my predecessors were hunted as madmen; I see now why they named him--Fëanáro--fey. To speak what I know is as futile as the moth that batters itself to death within the iron cask. To speak what I know is to strive against the gods.
Then Ilúvatar spoke, and he said: "And thou shalt see that no theme may be played that hath not its uttermost source in Me."