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Medium Dawn Felagund of the Fountain

"The Tapestries"--Chapter Seven

The (Cyber) Bag of Weasels

bread and puppet




"About as much fun as a bag of weasels"...when I first saw this Irish adage, it made me think of the life of a writer: sometimes perilous, sometimes painful, certainly interesting. My paper journal has always been called "The Bag of Weasels." This is the Bag of Weasels' online home.

"The Tapestries"--Chapter Seven

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feanorians
Last week, I completely forgot to post Chapter Seven in all the holiday hustle. Well, it's not exactly a happy holiday story, so perhaps, it is just as well.

In Chapter Six, Feanaro had begun pondering treachery against the people left behind in Valinor. In this chapter, his intentions come to fruition.

Thanks to those of you who are reading! If I don't make it online again, then happy New Year wishes to all!

The Tapestries
~7~

I found myself again in front of the tapestries, having breezed by those marking happier times to stand before the ones of twisting, leaping flames. I burned at the sight, memory of them.

“Your mother nearly exhausted her supply of red thread in weaving them,” Námo said from behind me. I no longer had to look to see him manifest into a shape like a man. I no longer believed that it was that simple, that he was a being of bone as I had once been, who could be evaded and escaped. Deceived.

My mother. The weaver. She of whom was spoken only in hushed voices, full at once of reverence and fear. By the time my first memories were taking malleable shape in my thoughts, she was gone. And so from rumor and overheard conversation and pure wishful thinking, I wove my own images of her, constructed memories that kept with the tales that my peers would tell of their own mothers. I did not even know what she looked like, but I memorized my father’s face and spent hours staring into the mirror at my own, studying each feature that seemed not to belong to him, constructing her from the balance. I became good at listening at doors, through ventilation ducts, and sifting her name from otherwise tiresome adult conversations. Míriel Þerindë. My ears pressed to the wooden door, breath held in hopes of stilling my panicked heart.

In all of my hours of dreaming of her, though, I’d never thought of the fact that she had never known me. Staring into the tapestry she’d woven, I met my own ruthless gaze and thought that a mother who had known me would have never stitched her son in that way, never taken such time on the terrible fire in his eyes.

And Nelyo: pathetic and almost pious, begging of me with clasped hands not to loosen the flaming arrow into the limp white sails of our ship. I rippled with laughter. Anyone who knew Nelyo knew that he was far from pathetic and even further from pious.

I’d returned down the beach to find that my sons had done a commendable job in my absence. Even the despair was less palpable now that most of the people had something with which to busy their hands. A Noldo is always comforted by something in his hands.

Nelyo, naturally, had assumed command, even over Curufinwë, who was scowling at his elder brother with the resentment of one rudely displaced from a favorite chair and onto the floor. But of course, the people loved Nelyo. He’d been one of the King’s councilors—and one of the most beloved—when I had been exiled to Formenos. “To trust a trouble into the hands of your son,” a woman had once told me in the streets of Tirion, “is to see it vanquished, as if by magic.” Clapping her hands together as if the sound between them was the sound of my son committing magic; the emptiness left as the result. As if in confiding their problems to my son, he took them and made them his own, never to worry them again. I had never possessed the selflessness for such pursuits.

When I’d been exiled to Formenos, Nelyo had been the last of my sons to send word that he would accompany me and his brothers to the north, and his message came along with my father’s, as though he’d been awaiting Finwë’s decision before making his own. So slovenly, I thought, for one who was ever aware of how his actions appeared, how even a small misstep could have grave repercussions. I’d never thought Nelyo—the brilliant councilor, ambassador, politician—would be so foolish as to reveal to me that, had my father and his liege remained in Tirion, he would have remained also.

Since then, I have loved—but never fully trusted—my eldest son.

For a long while, I stood back and watched the scene on the beach. Nelyo was showing three women—each of them married but their husbands left behind to follow Arafinwë back to the city—how to tie knots strong enough to moor the boats firmly to the beach. “They might drift away,” he explained, “and be lost in the night, sunk before we can repair them.” They watched him with avid eyes, rimmed in red, bright within. He said something too quiet for me to hear, and one of them laughed, an unexpected burst of music that caused heads to turn. His bright smile flashed, and he moved on to the next task, and the woman secured the moorings as though they were protecting the fates of something far more valuable that a few waterlogged boats.

Curufinwë was overseeing the men who had gone to cut wood for the repairs to the ships that Nelyo was proposing. Tyelperinquar was perched on his hip and screaming; Curufinwë bounced him dutifully, but his eyes were as hard and cold as ice, and his mouth was twisted like he’d taken a swallow of lemon juice. He was pointing at the men and saying little, bursts of noise erupted from his throat that made the men scowl and Tyelperinquar scream harder.

“Curufinwë,” I said, “what are you doing?”

“What your eldest has instructed me to do, which is to arrange these boards in such a fashion that they can be easily retrieved when the time comes to repair the bellies of the ships.”

“Come with me,” I said, “if you can spare a moment.”

To the ships we went, wading knee-deep into the water to inspect the damage that Nelyo had proclaimed insignificant enough to fix. “I am not sure,” I told Curufinwë, “if these ships can even be salvaged.”

Between the two of us, we found the worst of the damage and, from it, spun awful tales of ships improperly repaired and taking on water at mid-ocean, foundering, with ourselves and our forsaken kinsmen aboard. His eyes grew wide and frightened. “We are not seamen, Atar!” he said, clutching Tyelperinquar closer to his chest. “And never have our energies been put to such use. The Teleri were taught by Ossë and then given leave to practice their skills in the safety of rivers and harbors, but we seek to overcome the open ocean!”

“The way I see it,” I said, “those Noldor who will be most valuable in this land are already here, and to risk their lives to bring the others oversea will ensure the failure of our mission against Moringotto. We were the ones who secured the use of the ships”—already, so diplomatic in our wording! so adamant in our belief that we had only taken what was our due!—“not them. We were the ones who faced great peril in doing so. And so we should be granted first use and are fully within our rights to deem our sacrifice unworthy of the meager return of bringing the others over the sea.”

Curufinwë nodded vigorously as I spoke. The people were likewise not hard to convince, and the whisper of treachery was drowned by our very logical arguments.

Except for Nelyo: he—my eldest son and heir—fought against me, at first using the slick arguments as he’d been taught by years in my father’s court, eventually devolving into hysteria, shouting at me and slipping on the sloped beach, cutting his hands upon the sharp rocks. The others looked away from the spectacle of their favorite lord and certainly the most dignified screaming at his father with tears in his voice. My other sons were eager to comply, and as we dipped arrows in oil and aimed at the sails that would easily catch flame, Nelyo strode away down the beach, wiping his cheeks with his bloodied hands.

In the roar of the flames, the whisper of treachery grew louder, and the ponderous bellies of the clouds overhead grew crimson with our betrayal. But it wasn’t betrayal. It was what we had to do to survive, and I do not think that you’ll find a single account written that night that says otherwise.

Except, perhaps, my son’s.

Our accounts remembered ancient and frivolous betrayals as we sat awake in the nights that followed, huddled in small, tight groups close around the campfires, holding our trembling hands to them, eager to prove that we were still creatures enamored of light and warmth. We had punished treachery with treachery, I realized eventually, as fruitless as punishing murder with murder. We had brought the crimes against us full-circle, and now they caught us like a whirlpool, and fight as we might, we would not escape. We remembered our kinsmen left behind on the opposite shore only in the accusations we made of them. The good times were necessarily forgotten.

For there had been good times. The tapestries drifted in front of me, moving as though on a carousel before my eyes. There were marriages and births when I had been glad to share my half-brothers’ joy. Even before that, there were hunts and excursions and competitions where we realized that would we be bereft a brother, also would we be bereft an opponent and the opportunity to snuggle close to our father in the moments afterward and be reassured of our superiority.

We moved inland, away from the black husks that remained of the ships, and we stopped speaking of it. In tight clusters—men on the outside and women and children within—hands on the hilts of our swords and eyes keen upon the shadows, we journeyed across the land in the darkness, lanterns held high, singular in our purposes. Or so we said.

But like using flames to douse a fire, our treachery against those left behind awakened more of the same, and it followed us even on these shores, hiding out of sight in the darkness. And the way that shadows will shift and convince one wary that there is something malevolent within—something that is indeed of no greater substance than strands of darkness—so we gazed upon even those dearest to us with greater scrutiny, tense and defensive and waited for the shifting shadows to manifest into our darkest fears.
  • Ooooh, clever Feanaro, even when balancing so precariously on the edge of sanity. Of course he could not have just ordered his sons and his followers to set the ships aflame. So he devised this clever and oh-so-logical explanation, convincing Kurufinwe first, and then the others. Save for Maitimo, of course. Good thinking on your part, Dawn.

    I was going to save this chapter and take it with me at work, intending to make it the last thing I read before welcoming the New Year. I'm off to work tomorrow and I'm taking all the chapters of this story to re-read. It's only right to end my year reading something of yours and thinking about a character/person/obsession/Elf who has kept my mind occupied so many times throughout this year.

    I met my own ruthless gaze and thought that a mother who had known me would have never stitched her son in that way, never taken such time on the terrible fire in his eyes.

    Mmmm, so spot on and so true... It feels almost as if Feanaro is taken aback my said fire, looking back on it from a completely diferent perspective.

    Since then, I have loved—but never fully trusted—my eldest son.

    Hmmm... This is also somethink that must have caused Feanaro much thought during his long stay in Mandos. Perhaps he should have listened to Maitimo, rather than keep a suspicious, albeit discreet eye on him.

    The others looked away from the spectacle of their favorite lord and certainly the most dignified screaming at his father with tears in his voice.

    This is such a powerful image... and it makes me wonder... What would I have done if I were there, in that particular moment. Maybe I'll feel inspired to write another quibble like that one I wrote a few days ago, from the perspective of a soldier, killing in Alqualonde. Yes, I might...

    You know... I can feel the fact that you have a particularly strong fancy for Maitimo... It's coming straight out of the story much like my complete adoration of Feanaro comes out form anything I write about him. Even when it's not about him per se.

    I loved the fact that you did not turn the burning of the ships into a completely senseless and disturbing moment of madness and mayhem. (even though it kind of is...) Thanks so much for writing and sharing this story. It is sort of a gap-filler for me and it certainly is a treat to read about it from the perspective of the one at the helm of things, especially since the only images I have of said burning of the ships is that of a "fey and fell" Feanaro that the Professor has left behind.

    Lots of grattitude along with many hugs for you! Happy New Year and may you write wonderful stories like this one for many, many years to come. I'll be anxiously waiting to read all of them.
    • Good thinking on your part, Dawn.

      Lol, thanks! I don't buy the explanation that Feanor was simply that ruthless and the Noldor simply that blindly obedient that he burned the ships out of pure malevolence. I was hoping to show how paranoia and misunderstandings can shift in one's mind and become legitimate beliefs--a sort of truth--over time.

      It feels almost as if Feanaro is taken aback my said fire, looking back on it from a completely diferent perspective.

      That's what I was hoping to convey. What one perceives of oneself from an internal perspective can be so different from the outward impressions that one gives. Kind of how a photograph or videotape of some behavior can make a person start and say, "I did that?" or "I looked like that?" and be mortified. The tapestries, for Feanor, provide a unique PoV. They are done from his PoV in the majority of cases, but they come from his mother's PoV. To see himself through the eyes of one worshipped and loved as she was to him must be hard.

      You know... I can feel the fact that you have a particularly strong fancy for Maitimo...

      I do tend to be a little obvious, don't I? *evil grin*

      I loved the fact that you did not turn the burning of the ships into a completely senseless and disturbing moment of madness and mayhem. (even though it kind of is...)

      It is...but my question--as someone interested in human behavior--is what caused it? Behavior has antecedents; it doesn't arise from nowhere, and I'd hoped in this story to show what some of those antecedents might have been, how what are intrinsic tendencies in all of us can lead to some pretty extreme behavior at times. People who maintain, "Feanor burned the ships because he was crazy"...well, that's only half the story for me. :)

      Sorry I didn't get to reply before the New Year! *hugs* back to you from me and the muses! :)
  • Hmmm. The voice here is very logical, very reflective. There's a nice flow to the narrative, and a nice sense of some of the relationships between the various descendants of Finwë. But I miss a certain something, a certain spark, in Fëanáro. He's recounting this story very dryly, with no sense of remorse or pride or any indication that he himself actually took part in it. I wonder if this is the dampening effect of Mandos, but he does seem to be able to feel at least some emotion. There's just something a little too calm about him, I guess.
    • I would tend to agree. This is something to address during revision, though I wonder also if it would be less noticeable if the chapter was read closely with the others? Regardless, I'll make Feanor whip it into shape during revision. ;)

      I assume from your comment on Chapter Eight that you thought that one was better?
      • I assume from your comment on Chapter Eight that you thought that one was better?

        Yes, indeed. I know that much of your writing is intended to give a more "balanced" view of Fëanor, but, really, he wouldn't be the Fëanor we all know and love if he didn't end up going rather floridly bats at the end of his life.
  • Chapter 7

    I just realized a week or so ago that you were posting this story—sorry, I’m a bit oblivious at times! I finally got up the courage to read it tonight. (A was little scared I guess. Angst is not my thing—don’t ask me how I reconcile that with being obsessed with the Feanorians—perhaps I am a bit schizophrenic.) Anyway, it is perfect. It echoes partially-constructed thoughts and impulses I have had on the subject matter and handles difficult questions with your usual incredible psychological insight and profound compassion. The brother I have been thinking most of for the past couple of weeks (as you know) is Nelyo so I honed on what Feanor had to say about him in this chapter. Found every single reference on-point and the following passage of Feanor's view particularly right and convincing:

    “Nelyo had been the last of my sons to send word that he would accompany me and his brothers to the north, and his message came along with my father’s, as though he’d been awaiting Finwë’s decision before making his own. So slovenly, I thought, for one who was ever aware of how his actions appeared, how even a small misstep could have grave repercussions. I’d never thought Nelyo—the brilliant councilor, ambassador, politician—would be so foolish as to reveal to me that, had my father and his liege remained in Tirion, he would have remained also.

    ”Since then, I have loved—but never fully trusted—my eldest son.”

    The end of the chapter is utterly believable and most particularly painful since I am still very much immersed in the world of AMC (and, by comparison, what halcyon days they are--despite my fore knowledge and its wealth of poignant foreshadowing and layering).

    This is a sweeping and amazingly insightful and terrific addition that you are presented us to your view of the entire world of Feanor. I cannot wait to read the next chapter.
    • Re: Chapter 7

      So sorry for the usual pleathora of typos! I'm such a jerk--I post and then read! Sorry.
      • Re: Chapter 7

        Don't worry about it! I don't worry about typos in posts; I can quite easily overlook them. :)
    • Re: Chapter 7

      I just realized a week or so ago that you were posting this story—sorry, I’m a bit oblivious at times!

      No worries! Given the amount that I post, I don't expect anyone to keep up. I can't keep up half the time myself (as evidenced by how long it has taken to reply to this comment.... *wince*)

      But I'm glad that you found it! :)

      It echoes partially-constructed thoughts and impulses I have had on the subject matter and handles difficult questions with your usual incredible psychological insight and profound compassion.

      Thanks so much; this is quite a compliment! I will admit that this story completely panders to the psych-geek in me. A lot of the issues addressed here--especially the malleability of memory--are things that are quite pertinent in real life, and I can never resist the urge to apply these theories to my Elves. The Professor is probably rolling in his grave--I have heard that he hated psychology--but after writing By the Light of Roses, I figure I can't insult his world much more, so what the heck!

      and, by comparison, what halcyon days they are

      I often feel the urge--when faced with the rare reviewer who thinks AMC an utterly sappy and worthless ball of fluff--to cackle maniacally and say, "Just wait!" Because--I will admit--I partly wrote AMC that way to stand in contrast to pieces like this and some of my short stories, that are admittedly much darker. >:^))
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