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The Darkening Fire

Disclaimer: see in the Foreword.

Author’s Notes:
Vainóni’s tale is more closely based on the “Silmarillion” than on the “Lost Tales” for a change, because of the necessity to keep the main storyline as in-canon as possible. Still, parts of Manwë’s speech and that of the Noldoli who brought the dire news to Valmar, are taken from “The Book of Lost Tales 1”, pp 161-162 and 165. of the Del Rey edition.


15. The Darkening Fire

After another night of singing and dancing and feasting in the great outdoor halls of Eglavain – and after a long rest in the following morn – those who wanted to hear Vainóni’s tale gathered in the Hall of Tales again. Once more, Legolas and the people of his household joined the audience, and so did Meril and the ladies of her court. The Lady of Tavrobel occupied the storyteller’s seat, and while her fair face was smooth and seemingly unmoved, Celebrían could see the shadows of deepest sorrow in her clear grey eyes.

“You wanted to hear how the Noldoli – and the Valar themselves indeed – finally learnt of the theft of Melko and the slaying of the Trees,” she began. “Listen then, for I shall tell you how it happened; for unlike my husband, I was there on that fateful day. I had not followed him to the dale of Sirnúmen, choosing to remain with the people of Fingolma(1) instead, whom Nólemë had entrusted with the burdens of kingship among the Noldoli in all but the formal title. For the wife of Fingolma was – and still is – a dear friend of mine, and she needed all the support that I could offer her, confronted with the duties of a queen all of the sudden.”

“Was this the reason why you never followed Gilfanon to the Outer lands, either?” asked Legolas. Vainóni nodded.

“One of the reasons; of the other ones I may or may not speak later, as the turns of my tale will demand. Anyway, as I said, I was present upon Taniquetil when that daytide of festival was over; we all awoke from the dream quest and noticed the peculiar darkening of the Blessed Realm; and even the hearts of the Valar were concerned. Thus we all hurried back towards Valmar, treading the white road from Tirion. And in the twilight the first lament for the dead that was heard in Valinor rose from the rocky vale of Sirnúmen, carried by the air spirits all over the darkened meadows, for the surviving Noldoli lamented the death of Nólemë; and many of us could feel, as one feels the passing of a cold breeze, that the fëar of our dead have winged their way to Vê(2). Then messengers came riding hastily to Valmar, bearing tidings of the fell deeds of Melko, and these turned to Manwë at once, for he has not yet left for this abode upon Taniquetil, eager as he was to find out what might have happened to the Trees.”

Vainóni sighed and paused for a moment. Apparently, ‘twas not easy for her to speak about these evil things, not even after all the ages in-between.

“While the messengers were still on their way to Valmar, a great concourse gathered about the Ring of Doom,” she finally continued; “and the Valar sat there in shadow, for it was night, ‘til at last the winds of Manwë had driven away the vapours of death and rolled back the shadows of the Sea. Then Palúrien arose and sought out the once green mound where the Trees stood; but it was empty and black now, all life that had filled it quenched by the poison of Gloomweaver, and even the wells of Varda were stained and barren. Gathering all her strength, she lay her hands upon the gift-stained bark of the Trees, but she could feel no life stirring under the dead, brittle wood, and each bench she touched broke like dried bones and fell lifelessly before her feet.”

The Lady of Tavrobel spoke with a quiet intensity that made them all but see the fruitless efforts of Palúrien to rekindle the fire in her Trees; and the people of Eglavain, being Elves of the woods, shivered from that image.

“She understood now that the light of the Trees had passed away,” Vainóni continued, “living only in the Jewels of Fëanáro now, and she asked him to unlock his Jewels so that she could recall life to the Trees ere their roots decayed. And Fëanáro was tempted to listen, for all that he was under the thrall of his own creation already, the grief of Palúrien moved his heart. For he understood all too well that for the greater even as for the lesser there is some deed that they may accomplish but once only; and that in that deed their heart would rest. But Astaldo(3), impatient as always, spoke in haste, demanding that Fëanáro give up the greatest and most beautiful things that he had created, and thus Fëanáro chose before thinking, denying the request of Palúrien, crying bitterly, and said:

Ve i taura tanon ea i nurmean
almárea carna ya cuileryo tertucis
erya lúmenna tenna i metta telima;
tana carnasse indorya seruva.
Nai panta hwarmar turuvan i alcaro
mírinyais; nan tennoio úvante encárine.
Íre i mirilli mánya hatuva,
ara te hatuvas hón sina: - andácina
yévan, Aman-nóresse yesta ilye Eldaron.
Tava úvan tyaro mirima indonen;
nai mauyuvar ni táre i Valar: entave
anwe onóror istuvanyet Melcoro!

Her unexpected switch to High Quenya surprised everyone, but it gave the answer (understood by all present, even by Celebrían, despite her meagre knowledge in the Ancient Tongue) a hard edge and an urgency that would not be there in Sindarin. She waited for a few moments to allow her audience to contemplate these hard words, then continued.

“His answer caused great bitterness in the hearts of both Valar and Elves gathered around Máhanaxar; and Nienna rose and went over to the now dead Trees, and with her tears she washed away the defilement of Gloomweaver, and she sang in mourning for the bitterness of the world and the Marring of Arda.”

“But even as Nienna was mourning, the messengers from Sirnúmen have finally arrived, and the tidings they bore filled the hearts of all with even more dread and anxiety.

‘Alas, O Manwë Súlimo,’ they cried, ‘evil has pierced the Mountains of Valinor and fallen upon Sirnúmen of the Plain. There lies Nólemë, our King, dead, and many of the Noldoli beside, and all our treasury of gems and fair things and the long travail of our hands and hearts through many years is stolen away. Whither o Manwë whose eyes see all things? How has come to this evil for which the Noldoli now cry for vengeance, O most just one?’

Manwë looked at them long in sorrow, and then he spoke and said: ‘Beheld o Children of the Noldoli, my heart is sad towards you, for the poison of Melko has already changed you, and covetice has entered your hearts. For had you not thought the works of your hands more worth than the peace of the Blessed Realm and more important than the will of the Valar, this had not been, and your King and those other hapless ones still had lived and your jewels been in no greater peril. Nay, my wisdom teaches me that because of the death of Finwë Nólemë and his faithful servants shall the greatest evils fall on Ainur and Elves alike, and also on mortal Men to be.’

‘Without the Valar who brought you the Light and gave you all things needed for you craft, teaching you in your first ignorance, none of these fair things you love so much ever would have been.’

Here Fëanáro, too far gone in his grief over his slain father and his stolen Jewels, indulged in the most shocking rudeness, interrupting the Lord of the West and saying angrily: ‘And mayhap we would be better off if they did not. For what was once our greatest joy is now but the remembrance of what we have lost forever.’

Yet Manwë, instead of chastising him for his ill-mannered ways, only shook his head and replied: ‘Not so; what has been done may again be done, for the power of the Valar changes not; but of more worth than all the glory of Valinor and all the grace of Tirion is peace and happiness and wisdom, and they once lost are harder to recapture. Cease then to murmur and to speak against the Valar, or to set yourselves in your hearts as equals to their majesty, rather depart now in regret, knowing full well that Melko has wrought this evil against you, and that your secret listening to his whispers has brought you all this loss and sorrow.(5)’”

Vainóni drifted off, her eyes becoming almost lifeless, as if she had been looking back through time, to that fateful day when she had witnessed all these events.

“The Noldoli of Sirnúmen were abashed and afraid,” she finally continued, “and they returned home utterly cast down. Yet even those of us who had remained in Tirion after the voluntary exile of our King felt a heaviness of heart, and not much later the murmurs arose again. And when Manwë bid us all to return home and if we so desired, busy ourselves in fashioning gems and other wondrous things anew, Fëanáro rose and spoke in bitterness: ‘Yea, but who shall give us back the joyous heart without which works of power and beauty cannot be? – and Nólemë is dead, and my heart also.’

And lifting up his hand before Manwë, Fëanáro cursed Melko, naming him the Black Foe of the World; and by that name – Morgoth – only he was known to the Eldar ever after. And also did Fëanáro curse the Feast of Double Mirth, calling it the Feast of Double Sorrow instead, and the summons of Manwë that called him to Taniquetil, for in his madness and grief he truly believed that he could have stopped the Dark One from slaying his father and stealing his Jewels, had he been allowed to remain in Formenos.

After that, he ran from the Ring of Doom and fled into the new darkness that the death of the Trees had brought upon the Blessed Realm; for his father was dearer to him than the Light of the Trees and all the peerless works of his hands; and they say that the grief over his loss was what darkened the fire in his heart to madness. And if that is true, the darkening of his fire certainly began on that very day.”

Vainóni fell in silence, and no-one dared to speak for a long time. Celebrían thought of Celebrimbor, the only one of Fëanor’s progeny still alive when she was young, and at the fire that burned in the master-smith, brighter than the midday sun. ‘Twas said that Celebrimbor was his grandsire very alike, yet even his fire could not match the one burning in Fëanor’s heart.

Her father, the otherwise so measured and wise Tree Lord, spoke with bitter hatred of the Fëanorians – which could be expected from someone who had been born and raised in Doriath, tutored by Thingol himself, and witnessed the cruel deeds of the sons of Fëanor. And her mother retreated into guarded silence every time when someone mentioned her uncle, the Spirit of Fire, or any of his seven sons.

Strangely enough, Elrond – the one who should have held the most grudge against them – was the only one who spoke with some reluctant fondness of them, at least of Maglor, his foster father. For while Maglor, too, had doubtlessly been a Kinslayer, he also was the first person who really cared for him and his brother.

Eärendil left his family alone and unprotected to fulfil his destiny and save Middle-earth. Elwing left her small children behind to save the Silmaril, the last remnant of the Light of the Trees. But Maglor, their sworn enemy, the Kinslayer who was ready to murder his own people for that accursed Jewel for a third time, cared enough to take those orphaned elflings with him and raise them.

And for that, Celebrían did pay him some grudging respect.

She wished she had had the chance to know Elrond’s brother. Sometimes she wondered if Elros had seen Maglor and the events of their troubled childhood differently. Sharing Elrond’s memories through their bond was a unique gift granted to but a few couples, even among Elves, but those were the memories of a young child. She wanted to learn more. And she said so.

“Tomorrow,” promised Gilfanon. “We still have one more day for storytelling, ere the Feast comes to its completion. Tomorrow I shall tell you about the flight of the Noldoli and about the Oath that led to so much sorrow and pain among our people – and to such horrible sins the likes of which were never committed by Elven hands before.”


End notes:

(1) Remember, I use this as a different name for Fingolfin, not as a name of Finwë.

(2) Earlier name for Mandos.

(3) Another name for Tulkas.

(4) Literal translation (by Björn Fromen, just like the Quenya version):
‘As for the great maker [there] is for the lesser
a blissful work that in his life he carries through
on one occasion only to the final conclusion;
in that work his mind [then] will rest.
Maybe I shall be able to open the locks of the radiance
in my treasures; but never then will they [lit.: for ever they will not] be remade.
If my hand must [lit.: When my hand shall] break the jewels,
beside them it will break this heart: - slain I shall be, in Aman-land first of all Elves.
Of that I will not be the agent with a free mind;
let the Powers then constrain me: thus
I shall know them [to be] true brothers of Melcor!’
Both, the Quenya text and the literal translation, has been found on the Mellonath Daeron website.

(5) See: “The Book of Lost Tales 1”, pp. 161-162.


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