Lament the Morning
Anyone who has encountered a nuzgulius fangius (common name "nuzgul" or "plotbunny") in the wild knows the feeling: Walking along, oh so innocently, in your favortite Tolkien fan fiction site, when suddenly it springs, from nowhere, and attaches to a blood source, and it will not let you go, until death or fiction takes you.
Right now, I have an unhealthy number of nuzzies attached and am beginning to feel woozy.
"Lament the Morning" was inspired by one such challenge. In this instance, the challenge came from the Henneth-Annun Story Archive (better known as just HASA), a cute little nuzzy by the name of "Confesssions to the Sleepless Night":
Take a character, any character who finds him or herself sleepless when all those around are slumbering. Write about his or her thoughts regarding another character who can be seen and is still asleep.
"Lament the Morning" is (in 100 words or less) the story of Miriel's demise following Fëanor's birth. Most of the tale is set on the night that her spirit passed to Mandos, from Finwë's point-of-view, as he looks back at moments of their romance and marriage. Because fan fiction is, to me, as satismagic once so aptly put it, a writer's laboratory, this piece is very experimental for me. I am interested in peoples' response to it, if they are willing to give it. As always, all comments and criticism are welcomed and appreciated.
Please note that this story is rated for adult audiences only, for reasons of sexuality and some upsetting thematic content. If you are underage or bothered by sad stories (and yes, this is a sad story), please save us all the headache and read no further.
To those who choose to proceed, enjoy :)
By my return home, all the others are sleeping.
Well no wonder, I silently chide myself. What did you expect? Shame burns my eyes, and they fill with scalding, lonely tears.
In the early days of Miriel’s—what do I call it? Illness? Malady? Such words are supposed to be unknown to my people! I shall have to suffice to think of it as “when Miriel first went to Lorien”--then, no matter what the hour of my return, my servants awaited me: a maidservant, with a cup of hot, spiced tea; a page with soft slippers and a warm cloak—though the nights in Tirion are never cold, they are too often without comfort—and Fëanaro’s nursemaid, to tell tales of my infant son, to make me smile and laugh.
My son, though, is an infant no longer. He is a child who speaks and runs, scraping his knees, and has named himself Fëanaro, rejecting the name I wished him to share with me. Finwë. The son of the King.
He is, after all, also his mother’s son.
Fëanaro grows swiftly but not swiftly enough to have yet discovered that the love he feels for me is supposed to be shared between two parents. He does not yet understand the source of the name he has given himself—pointing at himself in childish self-importance and declaring, “Fëanaro!”—or perhaps he does. My son is an infant no longer, his perceptions are no longer mine to wholly understand, and mysterious is the fire in his eyes.
Time is drawing slowly, painfully onward. Fëanaro is growing and the servants no longer wait up for me. My wife’s affliction is becoming an accustomed part of the routine of daily life.
With a bitter laugh shattering the silence of my home—a laugh that threatens to twist into a sob with the malicious fickleness of a lick of flame—I realize that the routine will end tonight, and I am the only witness left awake. Tomorrow, “normalcy” will return. “Normalcy.” The word is two-headed and disgusting, a snake that sleeps in peace and bites the first hand to steal near. How ambiguous a word, “normalcy!” It implies something desirable, but for me, it is not. I want to wrap my hands around “normalcy” in a most undignified fashion, nothing befitting a King, and choke it into the same Death to which my wife now eases, to be replaced by this “normalcy” that cannot warm my bed at night and cannot nurture our year-old son.
I fling myself in the direction of the stairs and pound rudely to their top, hoping that I awaken those who slumber in peace on a night that feels, to me, as dark and endless as the Void.
But I pause at the top, and when I move forward, it is with great care, blindly, for my eyes are blurred with tears, and my sobs come in great, silent heaves, suppressed behind my palm. My hands fall weakly to his door, scrabbling for the gold doorknob, slipping—wet and without purchase—because of my tears. At last, mercy pushes the door open for me, and I ease into the room, where sleeps my son.
Joy sparkled in her eyes when she made the pronouncement, joy like diamonds, like chips of light fallen across her face.
And I was a father.
A father! How I was seized at joy with the thought—I, who went always without a father of my own—suddenly the part-creator of the marvelous little being that cried and kicked in my wife’s arms. I wanted to pound down the stairs and into the court, where my stone-faced lords awaited word of the new prince; I would kiss each of them on their marble-carved faces until they collapsed into smiles; I would laugh and seize handfuls of their robes in my fists and shake them and demand, “Do you know that Finwë your King is now a father?”
To the balcony I would go, overlooking the city. Gripping the balustrade, I would hurl my body against it and my voice to the city below, until my words had invaded every nook in every home and all would know that, I, Finwë was a father. A father!
“Hear the news! That a prince is born to Finwë our King!”
The criers in the street did that for me and so my joy had to be contained in the little room where Miriel had borne our son; they alone had to soak up my adoration. Such a small thing, he was; I feared he might swell and burst—my newborn son—to be the recipient of so much love. My heart fluttered in my chest; I felt as though I might dissolve with happiness. There was a floor beneath my feet, I suppose, but I could not feel it.
But there were my hands, reaching out to take my son—my son!—from my wife. So tiny he was, yet so perfect! I marveled at the tiny hands swatting at the air, each capped with a miniature fingernail, and at his wide gray eyes and the downy black hair upon his head.
In my hands, he stopped crying. His gray eyes blinked, and he looked at me. He held me in thrall. For this tiny creature, unable to walk or speak, small enough to lie in my hand—I realized—I would do anything. No sacrifice would be too dear. I would take a hammer in my hand and smash anything of value. For this little being—my son, my Finwë Fëanaro—had made all of it worthless to me.
I sank onto the bed and stared at him, unrelenting, while he stared, unblinking, back. Beside me, Miriel wept. Don’t make me let him go, I thought. Please, don’t make me.
I will do anything to keep him.
Fëanaro does not wake as I cross the floor to him.
Fëanaro. I shall have to get used to calling him that. It is how he has always named himself, but I have always called him Finwë. “Finwë!” Like calling to myself. As though, to be angry with him, I had also to be angry with myself, and I’d imagined mirth in his eyes, upon chastising him: To whom do you speak? Me or you? But Finwë shall be his name no more, for he is more his mother’s son than mine. She has seen to that.
My son lies on his back, motionless, with his head lolled in the direction of the window and the silver light that pours forth. Many times have I asked the nursemaids to close his drapes; many times have I closed them myself; many times has he climbed out of bed after we’ve left—having pretended to be asleep—and opened them again. No longer do I close them. Darkness draws rest over the weary brows of most; Fëanaro, though, requires light to sleep. And it is light that frosts his ebony hair; that glistens on the velvety smudge of his eyelashes on his cheek. His small fist lies curled next to his mouth, and Telperion at once casts the contours of his hand into both light and shadow.
I fall to my knees beside his bed and press my forehead into the mattress.
How I wish he would wake, and I would not have to be alone in my grief! He would hold his arms out to me, and I would lift him and bury my face into the drowsy warmth of his body. Always, upon awakening, Fëanaro burns as though with fever. I would let him burn the tears from my eyes.
It is tempting to call his name. Even a whisper could break the frail surface of his dreams and bring him to me. I bite the mattress to stay the selfish words waiting to erupt from my throat. My hand ghosts his body, but I do not touch him. How I want to! but I do not.
How could I? How could I steal him from his dreams and bring him prematurely into this new life we shall have to learn to endure—this new life without Miriel?
Sleep long, my son, and dream.
“Because I carry your child.”
I whirled to look at my wife, for I had only been joking when I’d teased her about her unwillingness to take a turn around the ring on my not-quite-tamed stallion.
“I do not because I carry your child.”
The world was a noisy place that day, in my stables, with the constant backdrop of chattering voices and the stallions trumpeting calls to the mares in the field. It was spring, and the insects buzzed with renewed vigor, and the sweetish aroma of flowers eclipsed the heavy, earthy scent of manure. I heard my horse trainer shout and laugh as the stallion threatened to dump him from the saddle, but I heard nothing else, as I contemplated my wife.
Her alabaster skin was unusually pale; there was a pinched anxiety about her and grayish shadows beneath her eyes. Her hand—her delicate, fine-skilled hand—caressed her flat belly. Last night, it had been my hand there, slipping down her naked flesh to the bit of dark hair between her legs, until she melted in my arms. Had I known then? Had I known that the unusual sweetness of our union—our love—would spark new life?
“Can you not feel him?” she asked in a whisper. Tears glimmered in her eyes, and one rolled down her cheek. They were not tears of happiness.
I placed my hand over hers, on her belly, but I could feel nothing. I shook my head.
“You are sure?” I asked.
“I can feel him. He is like light inside me—” She gulped and sobbed. I took her in my arms.
“Miriel, my love, why do you cry?”
“They are tears of joy,” she said hollowly.
Perhaps because the light reveals what I do not wish to see.
Fëanaro is a blur as tears cut burning tracks down my cheeks. Still, he sleeps.
Would he awaken, if he knew my misery?
Do I wish him to?
Her hands blurred, she stitched so fast. Always, upon abandoning her work, I would lift it into my own hands—hands that always felt large and clumsy when holding the delicate perfection of her work—and I would expect the stitches to be crooked, for no one could sew with precision at such a darting speed, but they were neat and meticulous, nearly painted onto the cloth.
Her pregnancy was half over, her belly a tight little balloon beneath her gown. She sewed constantly, more clothes than our son could ever wear. She sewed socks and booties. Tiny trousers and tunics. Miniature robes. Blankets and afghans, in which he would be swaddled. Small caps for his hair. One thing was cast aside and another new project was in her hands already, the other lying forgotten on the floor to become wrinkled. She rarely looked up. “Yes, Finwë?” I wanted to see her eyes upon me, but they stayed fixed on the cloth in her hands. Her fingers flew. I asked her to supper. Long moments passed, thread whispering through cloth, before she responded. “Not tonight. I will have a bowl of cold fruit, if you please.”
Usually, my wife was fickle and distractible. Many projects earned her love and devotion through many hours only to be abandoned in their final stages for something new. Now, she plowed through projects with the intractable single-mindedness of a wildfire. Even the young maidens, soon to be brides, who brought their gowns to her for embroidering were turned away, gowns crushed in their hands and eyes filled with tears as they hastened stiffly from the palace. Usually, Miriel would sit with them and—with the blushing giddiness of a bride, her laughter ringing throughout the house—they would plan vines and roses and stars and delicate filigreed patterns to be stitched on the gown, and the girls would leave to praise my wife to friends also soon to be wed, and Miriel was rarely without work to do.
Her mother invited her for a luncheon one day, but when the hour drew near, I emerged from counsel to find my wife still seated on the settee, her dark hair lank upon hunched shoulders, her knees splayed and sloppy. “I am not going. I am busy.” The clothes on the floor were not for an infant but for a child. “They will wait,” I told her gently, trying to guide her to her feet, but she wrenched her arm from me and said, “They will not.” Her needle flew so quickly that, at times, she stabbed her fingers and blossoms of her blood stained the pale blue cloth. “Where is your thimble?” I asked her, and she replied, “I am too slow without it.” She made the last stitch and secured the thread. She tore it roughly in her teeth, leaving a long bit still trailing, even as the child’s tunic fell from her fingers and to the floor. “You will have to trim that,” she said, looking up at me, and her eyes were wide and rabid, the look I had seen on horses that sense danger beyond the recognition of their riders.
In our bedroom, later that day, I found an armoire, full of clothes, some made for an infant, others made for a grown man. Along the hemlines of many were designs done in red and gold, of flame.
That night, she did not come to bed, and I imagined that I could hear the furtive breath of thread moving through cloth, as I lay sleepless.
In one season, we expected the birth of our son.
The light is changing. Morning is gilding the branches on the trees outside Fëanaro’s window; the first songbirds are beginning to warble.
I lament the morning. I have lamented the morning before, but this time, the reason is different. I lament the waking of my son even as I desire it. How I long for his company! How I long for him to sleep forever in innocent naiveté of what the night had brought! My hands are clasped on his bedclothes; I kneel beside him as though in prayer, my forehead cradled between my wrists. My eyes, I thought, were parched—the wells of tears drained at last—but they surge anew as the first finger of golden morning light caresses my son’s sleeping face, threading his eyelashes with gold.
Miriel had once laid in my arms, kissing my face, pushing her hands into my ink-black hair, the lengths of our passion-exhausted bodies quivering against each other, as the first rays of morning touched her eyes and made them as resplendent as the jewels for which she was named. “It is beautiful,” she’d sighed, “but how I lament the morning.” Not knowing that a child now grew between us. Not knowing that eternity was but two years from ending.
How I lament the morning.
I had not quailed when I first stood before the Valar. No tremor had marred my voice when I asked for Miriel’s hand in marriage, nor when I spoke Eru’s name and bound myself to her for eternity. In the Hither Lands, I had shaped words into cages to confine the grief of husbands, sisters, sons, and mothers who had lost one of their own to the darkness, but my hands in theirs had never trembled. None of them I had loved like I love Fëanaro, but my heart had beaten with resolve—as though my body had been filled with steel, not blood—and perfect lumps of words had fallen into the space between us, and they had raised their faces to mine, the tears evaporating from their eyes.
Words had been my gift, and they had been mine to string together—in strength or grace—the way that others of my people had strung together beads or notes on a harp, to make a thing of beauty. And like the craftsman who is not without inspiration as long as there are stones in the ground beneath his feet, never had I been without the right words, as long as there was air in my lungs to speak.
Not now. Now, I am shuddering beside my son’s bed, choking on my own tears, my body so weakened by grief that I cannot even kneel; my muscles betray me and cast me to the floor, where I lie like a dog, tears pattering the floor that burns with the golden fire of morning.
First we had named things: the trees, flowers, and birds; the clouds racing overhead and the raindrops in which we danced. Then we had named each other. It had been Ingwë, his slender hand upon my chest and his blue eyes bright, who had named me: “Finwë.” A word like a song in his voice. Then we had named the emotions that coursed through our spirits: sadness, frustration, displeasure, and—most of all—joy.
We had not named this.
Irmo had led me into the Garden and left me with her, a hand like a feather upon my elbow. Many times I had been here before, but today was different.
In the Hither Lands, when the news had come to us of another lost, always would I wonder what I had been doing in that moment, when their spirit had fled like smoke into the night, dissipated to all but memory, its fate unknown. I had grieved to think of how ordinary had been that dire moment—perhaps I had even laughed! danced! smiled upon the young, dark-haired maiden with the quick, precise voice and the busy hands!
While another had been lost.
On this night, I wondered what trivialities were discussed in the city behind me, who argued with his wife over something petty—and how I envied him!—who laughed and cradled his children without giving thought to his joy. I wanted to be angry but, in their place, had I been any different?
Her eyes were closed when I arrived to kneel on the cool grass beside her. The maidens who tended her had faded into the trees of the Garden, and the breeze sprung up and rustled the leaves so that my words were for Miriel’s hearing alone.
I called to her. The name I had once whispered in awe, of an unspoken dream; then cried in passion, my body alight with unbearable pleasure; and then called in the most ordinary of moments, “Miriel! Þerindë!” to beckon her to supper or to hear some frustration brought upon me in counsel or merely to bring her to my side—that name I now called with hopeful desperation, wishing that she would bound from behind the trees and, laughing, toss her arms around my waist and bury her face into my chest. “It was but a joke, my love! To see if you loved me! It was but a joke!”
But her eyes fluttered and opened; a face thinner and paler than I remembered was long shaping itself into recognition of its own husband; her hair was neatly arranged but brittle, and the grass was littered with broken, black strands of it.
The eyes opened fully, and they were no longer gems but weary, the color of smoke.
“How can you do this to me?”
Those were not the words I wanted to say. Those were not the last words that I wanted to say to my wife, with a glutton of years still left to live and to remember, nightly, what I had or had not said, that could never again be conveyed differently. But those were my words, and already, I was heaving with sobs. A wisp of a smile graced Miriel’s lips. Her hand crept with great effort across the grass, her fingertips pressing mine.
“It was I. Or Fëanaro. We cannot both live.”
I laughed, in derision. “How untrue are your words!”
“I have made my choice. Our son lives.” And with a single spark in her eyes, to remind me of the wife I’d lost, she added, “Do not blame me, Finwë: You would have chosen the same.”
And now, on the floor, in my son’s bedroom, dazzled by morning, I hear him stir, and I wonder:
How do I tell him this?