"The Tapestries"--Chapter Five
This week, the Noldor will arrive in Middle-earth and the first whispers of the treachery to come will begin. In addition, we will learn more about the nature of the Halls of Mandos.
Thanks to everyone reading along. I'm still behind on replying to comments on ff.net and LJ, but it's getting there. Know that I read them all and appreciate everyone's support.
(Also, I have yesterday's drabble series finished; I just have not had time to post it. Today's isn't even written yet--hellish day at work, need I say more?--but I will post them all tomorrow.)
So I am evil, then. My whole existence founded on lies. Depraved. It is truly as Nolofinwë’s loremasters are doubtlessly spewing by now, and I am a shameless miscreant.
Námo was seated across from me again. As before, we were in the gilded cage. And as before, he sat in the tidy posture, just as he had on the day that he had denied me my mother. His imaged waxed and waned like a tiny flame caught in the wind, growing bright one moment and the next guttering almost to nothingness. Bizarrely, Námo’s hand seemed to melt into the knee on which it was resting, and when he lifted a hand to silence me—though I had not been speaking—his knee stretched upward with his hand like taffy. I waited to feel horror and did not. I felt numb.
“I have said nothing like that, Fëanáro,” he said. I realized that his lips were moving but did not match the words he was saying. “There is no evil. Just perspective. Your loremasters are not lying when they speak of the Teleri trying to drive your people into the sea, nor are they lying when they speak of your terror, facing Ossë’s wrath. But then, Nolofinwë’s loremasters do not lie when they speak of the merciless ease with which you killed the relatively unarmed Teleri. Even Melkor possesses a perspective in which he is not evil but persecuted.”
How did I even come to be here? With you?
Not that! In this cage? I did not will it.
Námo’s head turned slowly to the left, then slowly to the right. “I see no cage.”
A shadow flitted across my perception like a hand passing quickly over eyes.
The cage was gone, and I was back in the hall with the tapestries. I was standing before those of the burning at Losgar and wondering what secrets lay woven within their threads, what deceptions they would dispel. Behind me lay the tapestries illustrating the kinslaying of Alqualondë, a long smear of red-silk thread. But I did not look back at those. They lay behind me, as much did these days.
The first tapestry was filled with flame. I felt the heat on my face as I had that day, my throat tight and sore with the smoke. My heart raced with joyful vengeance. Only I had no face, no throat, no heart. But amid the fibers of flame, so easily taken apart into harmless red and gold, I burned.
We did not know how to sail. We were Noldor. Mayhap, we were cast into the sea as much for our ignorance and our folly as for Ossë’s wrath, but of course, we would not consider this. I’d been given a dory by Olwë as a child, for one of my begetting days, but my interest in the sea was trumped by my hunger for creation and, later, for Nerdanel, and so I’d never learned to use the thing. The dory bobbed in the water at the end of the King’s pier for many years, eventually became a plaything for his children (seeing as I never used it), and was eventually sunk by Alpaher when he collided with his friend’s larger boat while trying to race through too narrow a strait, driving himself into a rock.
I’d believed that the storm would end, the sea would subside: It had to! This was the way of things. After horror comes peace; we could not be asked to endure such terror for the whole of our journey. My sons were frantic and afraid. Many of them had never been on a ship before. One of the twins was relentlessly sick over the side; they pled with me with their eyes: Solve this! Save us!
Always had I been their savior. This is the responsibility of a father to his sons, after all. I was the one to lift them when they fell and blot the blood from their torn flesh; I kissed their cheeks, tasted their tears. Many of my nights with Nerdanel were interrupted by tiny voices: “Atar?” Tears bubbling in their throats, sleepy eyes blinking and wide, taking apart the darkness and looking frantically for that nightmare hiding in the shadows behind them. “Atar? Sleep with you?” My desire for my wife set aside—an amused smile on her lips as her fingers stroked my hair—and my body transformed from husband to father, my side curved like a tehta to shelter their tiny, quivering bodies.
But this—this was unsolvable. Maitimo and I fought the sails until our arms ached and would ache with the memory for days after, but we were no match for one of the Ainur. Even as I had strove against the Valar; even as I had held us as equals, I was humbled by this.
In the end, it was not me who saved us but the land: a shadow on the horizon, growing larger in our sights. We lowered the sails to stop ourselves from being dashed to pieces on the rocks, but we were too late. We cut sharply into the Firth—again, too late. We didn’t know how to sail. We were Noldor.
We cut too close to the shores at Drengist and the bellies of the ships were torn open on the rocks. The ships pitched and we were cast to our faces upon the decks, where the stink of blood still lingered. Some were knocked unconscious or slipped overboard and were lost in the chaos that followed. Such was our speed that we slid all the way to the gravelly beaches before coming to a painful halt; one of the ships behind us crashed into the stern of the King’s ship and began to take water but only sunk so far into the shallows.
Then, for a moment: silence.
But not for long. Clamor arose in its wake, enlivening the darkness pierced only by the stars. A lamp had overturned on one of the ships, and those aboard were hurrying to stamp it out. Some were sick over the railings, stomachs twisted by our tortuous journey at last relieving themselves of their contents. There was much splashing and shouting as people searched the other ships for loved ones and cried in lament when they discovered that—in too many cases—they’d been among those lost at sea. Even the cries of reunion sounded less joyful in the darkness and more akin to the cries of vultures happened upon their next meal.
Nelyo had leaped immediately to the neighboring ship—the one caught aflame—and was throwing his cloak, his good cloak, the one that I had had made for him for his two hundredth begetting day, over the flames. Inexplicable anger pinched my gut. I glanced back over the dark sea now grown calm and flat as a sliver of ebony and the first sparks of treachery flared to life in my thoughts.
Pressing the tapestry, I discovered that it had changed: The flames on the ships were diminished, and Nelyo was tossing his cloak over them. His good cloak that I had had made for his two hundredth begetting day, wasted in futility. The ships: still whole, taking on water, but still whole. Námo drifted behind me.
“It is what you make of it,” he said.
I’d lowered myself down the side of the ship. The beach that met my feet was different—less forgiving—than that to which I was accustomed; there were rocks rather than sand, as black as the sea, and they bit through even the thick soles of my boots. Others had lowered themselves as well and were running from ship to ship, calling names of those aboard other ships. My thoughts were not with them; they focused solely on the splintered bellies of the ships.
Treachery raged—as hot as the center of a forge-fire—deep in my most secret thoughts. But not secret for long.
No, soon it would blaze forth with such profusion that even those on the opposite shore would be left with no doubt.