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First Blood

Disclaimer: see in the Foreword.

Author’s Notes:
This is simply a continuation of Chapter 13. One more thing concerning the pervious chapter: in the old mythology, it is not actually said that Ungoliantë drank the light of Silpion, but only that the tree died from her poison on Daurin’s blade (“The Book of Lost Tales 1”, Commentary by Christopher Tolkien, p. 178 of the Del Rey edition).


14. First Blood

There was a long, mournful silence after Gilfanon had finished the tale of the killing of the Trees. ‘Twas Legolas who dared to speak first.

“I have heard this sad tale many time, sung by the greatest minstrels of our kin,” he said, “yet never in such detail; and some parts were quite different, too. How come that you know things that are not even mentioned in the old laments?”

“I know these for I was there,” Gilfanon replied calmly. “Daurin was not the only one driven to the Trees in unnamed fear on that fateful day… a few of us, who followed Nólemë to Formenos during his voluntary exile and dwelt in the dale of Sirnúmen at that time, followed him from afar, for we knew his foreboding was to be trusted.”

“Was this Daurin a friend of yours?” asked Legolas.

“More than a friend,” answered Gilfanon. “We awoke together at the dark waters of Cuiviénen under the newborn stars, which, as you know, is the closest thing the First Ones could have to having siblings. The ones who awoke together would always have a special closeness, the same way as twins do who have shared a womb, and they were rather similar in both their looks and their nature(1). So yea, you can say that Daurin was my brother; for that is what he was, in the only way I could have one. And we both were close friends of Nólemë, Daurin even more so than myself, for I have already been drawn to the friendship of Olwë and his brothers. Thus my brother followed the King wherever Nólemë might have gone, while I often spent a great amount of time in Alqaluntë, or before that on the shores of Falassë Númëa.”

“Were you among those who followed Daurin on that day then?” asked Legolas, and Gilfanon nodded.

“I was. Even though I disagreed with Nólemë when he abandoned his duties and went into exile with his firstborn, he was my King. It was my duty to go with him… and it was my duty, too, to follow my own brother when foreboding called him to the Trees.”

“Noldorin men and duty is a tale worth telling in itself,” commented someone bitterly, and Celebrían recognized with some surprise the voice of Meril the Queen.

“There is a certain… blindness involved,” agreed Vainóni, but her voice, unlike Meril’s was calm and guarded, “and the tale of how the first blood was spilt in the Blessed Realm does, in a way, reveal the core of all the mistakes made afterwards. Go on, Lord of Tavrobel! Tell us the tale of the theft of Melko as you, the last eyewitness who still walks under the trees, remember it. For much has been added later and even more has been forgotten when those who could remember still were slain in the Battles of Beleriand, in useless defence of a doomed land.”

Her somewhat harsh words seemed to surprise even Legolas (who was, after all, a native of those very lands), but no-one made a comment, and after a short, uncomfortable silence Gilfanon continued his tale.

“Thus is happened that when Melko and Wirilómë saw our approach, they turned in flight and left Ezellohar in a cloud of impenetrable darkness, not for the fear of us, but for the fear of losing the element of surprise, should we catch up to them. Still, we stumbled after them in horror, for they were heading straight towards the rugged dale where the stream Híri plunged under ground: the dale of Sirnúmen where Formenos was built and where our King remained even as his son went to Taniquetil with the rest of the family.”

“What would the Dark One want from Nólemë,” asked Legolas, “unless he knew that the Silmarilli were kept there.”

“He knew that,” answered Gilfanon, “for he could see how Fëanáro came under the thrall of his own creation; and he also knew that the Spirit of Fire had grown suspicious towards both the Valar and his own brothers – he did all he could to raise and nurture these suspicions, after all. Therefore he was certain that the Jewels would be kept in Formenos – and as we all know now, he was right.”

“Were there no guards around the house?” Legolas asked. Gilfanon shrugged.

“My friend, there was no need for guards inside the Blessed Realm – yet. Though you are right in one thing: at any other time, Melko would have been hard-pressed to surprise Nólemë as he did on that particular day, for the Noldoli – by reason of the workings of Melko’s own whispers in their hearts – had become wary and suspicious beyond the wont of the Eldar of those days. Guards of some strength were set over the treasures of Sirnúmen where the closest followers of Nólemë had their dwelling, and some of us went not to the Feast, albeit this was contrary to the customs and wishes of the Valar. Yet they were few and no match for the strength and malice of Melko’s people, and soon all those guards were slain, even while the peace and gladness upon Taniquetil afar was very great – and indeed, for that reason no-one heard their cries.”

“’Tis still strange to me that the death of the Trees remained unnoticed,” said Legolas, in the accusing tone of a trained warrior. “Even though, as you say, ‘twas at a time when Laurelin used to be at its dimmest, the fading of the silver light of Silpion should have raised suspicions.”

“I fear that you cannot understand that, Laiqalassë(2), my friend,” answered Vainóni in her husband’s stead. “When Manwë relived the First Music for us, he took our fëar with him to walk alongside him on the Path of Dreams that is called the Olórë Mallë. Contemplating how Arda took shape from the Flame Imperishable itself, spun a cocoon of light around us that no darkness could penetrate. We were blind for aught else as long as that visionary journey lasted(3). Life in Valinor was quite different during the Time of the Trees from what it is like now. No-one who has not seen it can even begin to imagine what it was like.”

“There was but one who heard the screams of the dying guards,” Gilfanon picked up his thread again; “our King himself. For so the few servants who by some miracle survived that dreadful day tell: that they saw a blind Darkness sweeping northwards, and in the midst walked some power for which there was no names – as no-one had heard of Wirilómë before – and the Darkness issued from it. But Melko also was there, with some of his followers, and he came to the house of Fëanáro again, seething with anger and burning with lust for the Jewels. And there he slew Nólemë King of the Noldoli before his very doors.”

“So Finwë Nólemë fled not from the horrors of Unlight, then,” said Legolas. “But what hope could he have to stop the Dark One?”

“None,” replied Gilfanon, “yet he resisted Melko nonetheless, drawing steel against him. Melko himself, however, was armed, too: with a sword, very sharp and cruel, that the one of Aulë’s people whom he had long corrupted with his lies forged for him, and the strength of Nólemë was not great enough to stop him. For even though he was one of the First Ones, he could not beat a Vala, untrained for war as we all were back then.”

“Thus you and the others came too late, I deem,” said Legolas after a long, mournful silence. Gilfanon nodded grimly.

“Too late indeed, for we had to carry the broken body of Daurin, too, who was not dead yet, but in a bad shape, and there was little hope for him. When we reached Formenos, the stronghold of Fëanáro was broken, too, and all the jewels of the Noldoli that had been hoarded in that place were taken; and the Silmarilli, kept in a casket of ivory, were gone. The spilt blood of Nólemë, though, the first blood ever spilt in the Blessed Realm, darkened the broken doorsteps of the house.”

There was a long, mournful silence, for even the other kindreds of the Eldar loved and respected Finwë Nólemë, one of the three emissaries of the Quendi who first followed Oromë to Valinor and brought back tidings to their peoples about the Blessed Realm. Now, three Ages later, only High King Ingwë was still alive of those three; for Nólemë’s death led to the uprising and the flight of his people, and the return of the Noldoli to the Outer Lands resulted in the breaking of Beleriand and – among other horrible battles – in the fall of the greatest realm Middle-earth had ever seen: the hidden kingdom of Elwë Singollo in the enchanted woods of Doriath.

And Elwë, third of those ancient emissaries of the Eldar, he who had won the heart of Melian the Maia, was slain, too, due to the thrall of the Jewels that had been stolen by Melko. Thus the death of Nólemë was indeed the very beginning of the doom that haunted Beleriand and all the Elves in the West of Middle-earth for a whole Age – and beyond.

“I am still wondering how Melko could escape Valinor so quickly,” Legolas finally said, “even if all were attending to Samírien and those who were not, were mostly dead. He could not have carried his bounty while unclad; therefore he must have fled in his incarnate form, severely slowed down by the natural restrictions of a body.”

“True,” nodded Gilfanon, “but he had some aid, however unwilling. Know that Oromë used to have great stables and a breeding ground of good horses not so far from the dale of Sirnúmen, where a wild forest land had grown up. Thither Melko stole, and he captured a herd of black horses, cowing them with the terror that he could wield. Astride those he and his followers rode far away, after destroying what things of lesser value they deemed it impossible to carry thence. And thus they rode, faring with the greet speed of stormy winds such as only the wondrous horses of Oromë ridden by the Ainur themselves could compass, far to the north. For there, if one may endure the colds as Melko could it, is said in ancient lore that the Great Seas narrow to a slim crossing, and without aid of ships Melko and his company might thus have got into the worlds safely(4).”

“Others have crossed the Grinding Ice, too,” said Legolas with a shrug, “though I wonder how he got his Balrogs across it.”

“He did no such thing,” replied Gilfanon; “nor was there any need to do so, for the Valarauki never returned from the Outer Lands, not even after the chaining and long captivity of their dark Master.”

“I fear to imagine what the Noldoli must have felt when they fared back after the end of the Feast, only to find their homes despoiled and their King slain,” whispered Celebrían. Had she had to return to find Imladris in ruin and Elrond dead, she surely would have died from grief.

“Oh, they had learnt of it, before returning home,” answered Gilfanon, “but I shall leave that part of the tale to the one who had witnessed the bringing of dire news.”

With that, he looked at his wife in askance, and Vainóni inclined her head in the most dignified manner.

“And I shall tell my part of the tale, Lord of Tavrobel – yet not right away. Urwendi is about to return her ship to its haven, and Eärendil is ready to sail the skies with Vingelot(5). Let us hold the tale here and feast and sing and dance. Tomorrow we can return to the sad things again.”


End notes:

(1) Yes, I am abandoning some of the Professor’s ideas here. And I am doing it deliberately. Being born with one’s future spouse already arranged is not something I can accept for any being with self-awareness. So I opted for siblings, mostly because it would provide some family relations for the First Elves.

(2) Quenya form of Legolas.

(3) Since I based this tale on “The Book of the Lost Tales”, I needed a way to explain the delay of the Valar. Not the best one, I fear, but it works for me.

(4) See: “The Book of Lost Tales 1”, pp 160-161.

(5) Early name for Eärendil’s ship, Vingilot.


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