These small stories are for rinnor, who said, "I'd like to see a story about forgiveness among the Noldor in Aman. Since they're an immortal people, and tribal, I imagine that social pressure would push both parties to resolve their differences, but that's my interpretation ... Whereas mortals can take a grudge to the grave, how does an immortal come to terms with a grievance against another, when s/he is likely to see the other party, well, forever."
This was a wonderfully thought-provoking challenge, one that I thought I could tackle two ways: in a novella (or longer) or as a series of shorter pieces. Needless to say, for now, I had to choose the latter. :)
Therefore, what follows are three fixed-length ficlets, each about a different kind of forgiveness among the Noldor. (Though only two take place in Aman ... I hope you can forgive me!) This series is a nice safe General rating on SWG, and I have no particular warnings to offer for any of these.
Young Fëanáro is confronted by his father about his biggest flaw: his inability to find forgiveness for his new half-brother. A quibble (500 words).
My restless fingers rove across everything.
"My son." Atar is speaking. I am turning his paperweight in my hand; it is of magnificent construction, once a gift of Aulë. A gust of wind through the open window and parchments feather across the room, but he says nothing.
"My son, for all of your gifts"--
My eyes are measuring the precision of the facets. I could replicate this. In fact, I could make it even better! My leg begins to jitter. This chair, this room, this world is too small to confine the sudden inspiration that explodes in my brain.
"--this is your flaw."
My gaze jerks to his face at that word. Flaw. Flawed. Me?
"Atar." My voices cracks and my hands are tight on the paperweight clasped within them. In my mind, I see light dancing on facets; I see perfection; I see no room for flaws in a carefully measured and ordered world. "Atar, I--"
But I stop. For what else is there for me to say?
Atar, I don't think that this world should be a place that requires forgiveness.
His eyes are trained upon me. They are vivid blue, like the base of the hottest flame, and like fire, they burn away the veneer of all they look upon and reveal the hidden core. I squirm in my chair, but it is not restlessness this time. It is like watching one's skin being peeled back, to be looked upon like that by my father, but it doesn't hurt. It just feels like it should.
"I also don't think that we should live in a world where forgiveness is necessary, Fëanáro," he says gently. "But this is Arda Marred, and this is what we have been given." He sighs. "Your brother … he is--"
"Half-brother," I interject, and even I am surprised by the venom in my voice.
Those eyes are upon me again. He sees my discomfort at my own vitriol; he nods; he is pleased. He believes that he is persuading me. "He is only a child," he continues, and there is a vague note of triumph in his voice. My father--he who convinced an entire people to cross a world in pursuit of Light they'd never seen and could barely imagine--has ever grieved his lack of influence on his firstborn son. I know this. I force myself to sit very still. Beneath his desk, my thumbs caress the contours of the paperweight, and I am planning, computing, dreaming. "He is only a child," he says again. "Hold not my failures against him."
I push my tongue against the back of my teeth so that it will not speak.
"You may go now, Fëanáro," he says, and I scramble from the room, on my way to the forges, paperweight clutched in hand. My last sight before the door crashes shut behind me is my father remedying the mess I have caused, stooping to recover pages, resolutely, and without a word.
Maitimo learns from his baby brother about loss, pride, and forgiveness. A quadrabble (400 words).
A crash from upstairs rouses me from my book. It takes a moment for my eyes--my mind--to become adjusted again to sight of this world. How long have I been studying? The sand in the hourglass has long expired.
On feet numbed and legs cramped from sitting, I hobble up the stairs in the direction of the noise. I listen for sobs: nothing. The silence is thick and guilty. My heart pounding in my chest is all that I hear.
Dust swirls in the wedge of light pouring from my partly opened bedroom door. I hasten toward it and round the corner, pushing it open all of the way.
Curufinwë: he sits on my bedroom floor in a patch of light from the window. Around him are one thousand shards of colored glass, a rainbow shattered upon my bedroom floor. With small, trembling hands, he is trying to fit them back together.
His eyes fly open wide at the sight of me.
My mouth hangs open slightly. What have you done?--the accusation waits on the edge of my tongue to be loosed at my baby brother trying to put together the stained glass project--the only project I have ever done that made my father exclaim with wonder--with chubby, bleeding fingers. I have told you. I have told you one thousand times not to--
"The light through it, I liked, I wanted to see--" he stammers.
I should shout and rage; I have every right. I should demand that Atar punish him; this, too, is my right. I should make certain that the tears shining in his eyes soak his face and make him understand the pain I feel at what he has done.
But with stiff legs that want to resist, I go to him. With hands that want to clench into fists, I lift him from the mess he has made. With lips that want to tremble with unshed tears at the beauty--my single triumph--lost, I force myself to smile.
"Hush. Let us clean and bandage these cuts."
I hold his head to my chest as we walk so that he does not see the pain I feel at swallowing anger and grief. But my stained glass would have become bent and worn and dulled with time, if not eventually broken. But my brother--he will be mine to keep forever.
Nolofinwë on why even the most grievous deeds must be forgiven. 700 words.
III. The Spiderweb--Nolofinwë
It is the first fair morning of spring, and while out riding, I found a spiderweb bejeweled in dew, stretched between two trees. Had I flinched a second later, a spider would have had the face of a Noldorin prince as its day's catch and a sleepless night rebuilding the trap. I dismount and consider it.
The spider is nowhere to be found. Palm against the middle of the web, I press the non-sticky strands. It bends to the force of my touch; springs back, unharmed. I flick a strand harder, and still, it does not break. I ponder this.
From behind me come hoofbeats. The rider dismounts. I know the sound of his footsteps. "Turukáno, have you ever considered the marvel of a spiderweb?" I muse when he is close enough to hear. "Each strand locks with and supports the others, withstanding even forces far greater than what a single strand should bear. But if one breaks"--with a prayer of forgiveness to the spider, I sunder a thread and watch the web sag, almost imperceptibly--"then the whole web is weakened."
I turn to him. His face is dark and grim as it has been since Elenwë died upon the Ice. His eyes--dry now and sharp as flint--are red-rimmed. The last days have been difficult. My closest son--the one most like me--has not spoken to speak to me since I sent his brother to seek our kinsmen on the opposite lakeshore a fortnight prior, offering pardon for allegiance. He has been hasty to turn his back against proffered explanations and apologies, but now, it seems, he seeks me.
I raise my eyebrows at him.
"I want you to know," he begins, "that I no longer hate you for what you have done."
He is in so many ways my son: in face, in temper, and in bluntness of speech. I feel my lips smile for the first time in days. "I am pleased," I say, "to hear it."
"I understand why you must seek"--he pauses and swallows, and his throat clicks--"him, despite all that he has done to us. I know that we are useless without him and his people." He speaks faster now, as though eager to get the words out. "I know also that the lies of Moringotto underlie even the treachery of Fëanáro; I know that our people and his share this greater enemy, and that Elenwë is just one life lost of many--" With that, his face crumples, and he turns away from me. I wish to go to him and put my hand on my shoulder. He is my child; his pain is mine. But he is like to me also and would never wish me to bear witness to his grief. And so I wait.
He blots his eyes on the sleeve of his tunic. His sleeves have grown tacky with tears in recent weeks. He turns back to me. "And so I will forgive you, even if you grant him pardon. I will stand at your side when our people are reunited, and I will say no word against it."
"I hear you," I answer, "and am grateful."
He nods. I could reach out and touch his tear-streaked face. I could embrace him as I have not done since he was a boy wont to come home hurt, first with scraped knees, then with a broken heart. But his face has gone hard again. I glance back to the web.
Suddenly, I regret deeply that strand that I have sundered, even if to prove a point.
Hoofbeats come again. I hear Turukáno awkwardly greet his brother. I wonder if forgiveness awaits him too, he who has never stopped loving the cousin who also betrayed us. There is an uncharacteristic strain to Findekáno's voice. I turn back.
"My son." He kisses me in greeting. His face is lined by cares, and sight of it spurs my heart in my chest. "Will my half-brother accept my pardon?" I suddenly fear his answer.
Behind me, a gust of wind tears another strand from the web.
"He cannot," says Findekáno, choosing his words with care. "He is dead."