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16
Spoken in Vain

Disclaimer: see in the Foreword.

Author’s Notes:
Oivárin was an earlier name for Ainairos. I made them father and son because I needed a Telerin Elf to present their view on the Kinslaying, and I doubted that Ainairos would be an objective witness, based on how he is portrayed in “The Book of Lost Tales 1”.

Fëanor’s great speech is a mixture between material from the Silm and from “The Book of Lost Tales 1”. I tried to harmonize the two rather different sources – if with or without success, that will be seen.


~~~

16. Spoken in Vain

“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.” (Exodus 21:7)

In the following night no-one felt like dancing merrily under the stars. Thus the minstrels were asked again to come and sing the time-honoured laments, so that all could grieve for their losses, for the Feast of Double Mirth had changed much indeed since the days of bliss. And the Súruli gathered around them in the trees and wept, for they, too, remembered those horrible days and grieved for a beauty that would not return, not even to the West, ‘til the Last Battle, when Melko shall be defeated for ever and Arda re-made.

The singing went on for half the night, ‘til the sweetness of the music and the beauty of the words comforted their hearts. After that, they did dance again, but now their dance was slow and solemn like the eternal wandering of Varda’s stars upon the dark velvet skies.

Once again, Celebrían spent some time with Ilverin after the singing. The Gong-Warden presented a welcome distraction from all the doomful tales that had been told in the recent days, talking about life in Tol Eressëa merrily. They danced together, and Celebrían was reminded of the seasonal festivals in Imladris early on, when a still very young Lindir had been too shy to dance with anyone else but her.

Then, after a long morning’s rest and a light midday meal, they returned to the Hall of Tales to listen to Gilfanon again. Among the already familiar faces Celebrían spotted a new one: that of a silver-haired Elf, obviously one of the Teleri, clad in a white robe sewn with pearls.

“Who is that?” she asked Legolas, at the side of whom she was seated. The Lord of Eglavain cast the newcomer a quick glance.

“Oh, him? He is an old friend of Gilfanon’s, from Alqaluntë. His name is Oivárin… the father of Ainairos.”

“Ainairos?” repeated Celebrían in surprise. “Was he not the one with a bitter hatred against all Noldor, because of the slaughter in Alqualondë? Did you not say that his brother, too, was slain on that terrible day? How come that their father is willing to partake on a feast of the Noldoli?”

“Oivárin is ancient,” answered Legolas, “and his wisdom had taught him to put blame where blame belongs. He is one of the counsellors in Olwë’s court and has been friends with Gilfanon since the days when the Solosimpi still dwelt on Falassë Númëa. Today he has come for he was asked to. For soon the tale will reach the events of the Kinslaying, and ‘tis better if the young ones learn about it from both sides, or else the old wounds will never heal.”

“What do you know of the Kinslaying?” asked Celebrían, and Legolas shrugged.

“Only what I have been told during all these Ages; as I am but a Green-Elf who was born in the Outer Lands, I was lucky enough to be spared that horror, and I am grateful beyond measure that I never had to watch our kindred using weapons against each other. Rather would I face the armies of Melko again than fight my own people.”

“And still, you are willing to keep company with the Noldoli,” said Celebrían. “Why? The sons of Fëanor were not the only ones to stain the steel of their weapons with the blood of their own kin as you have said yourself.”

“That is true,” agreed Legolas sadly, “for even though in self-defence, the Solosimpi of Alqaluntë, too, spilled the blood of elves, and their lost innocence cannot be restored completely either, not even when Arda shall be re-made. ‘Tis said of Olwë, that after that terrible night his hair that once had been silver like that of all those in his clan, turned to snow white.”

Celebrían was too shaken to answer. Elves did not turn white with age, not usually at least, unless they had begun to fade already. The only white-haired Elf she ever met was Galion, the seneschal of King Thranduil of Mirkwood – and Galion was known to have faced unspeakable horrors during the destruction of the First City of the Quendi. Her heart ached for Olwë, the close kin of both her parents, and for the first time since her arrival, she felt the desire to meet her relatives – at least the Falmari. For she was still not ready to face the High King of the Noldor and the demands of his court.

The gathering became silent as Gilfanon took the seat of the storyteller once again, and after a moment of thought he began to speak.

“The Lady Vainóni told you about the wrath and the grief of the Noldoli yestereve; now I shall tell you how Fëanáro brought the Curse upon himself and all of his followers. ‘Tis a dark and sad tale, but one you all need to know, so that you can learn from it and think trice ere you speak the name of Ilúvatar in vain.”

He paused, collecting his thoughts – for it was not easy for him to speak of these things, as too many painful memories were connected to them; memories that still haunted his dreams, even here, in the Blessed Realm – then continued.

“For a while, there was confusion and grief in Valinor, as Valar and Elves alike tried to find their way in this new, darkened world. Fëanáro dwelt in sorrow with a few folk in Formenos, in the rocky vale of Sirnúmen, and though he sought carelessly to find a way to make other jewels like the Silmarils of old, that Melko snatched away, he could not find any; nor indeed has any craftsman ever done since then, for the Trees were dead and their light gone forever. At length, Fëanáro abandoned the futile attempt, sitting rather beside the tomb of Nólemë that he called Cûm a Gumlaith, the Mound of the First Sorrow, and all Sirnúmen grieved with him for Nólemë, our beloved King, and for our slaughtered brethren. Indeed, well-named that mound was for all the woe that came from the death of him who was laid there.”

Gilfanon paused again, for grief threatened to overcome him, even after all those Ages; so great was his love for his friend and King. Vainóni silently laid her hand upon his to give him support, and he smiled at her gratefully ere he went on with his tale.

“There brooded Fëanáro on bitter thoughts,” he said, “till his brain grew dazed by the back vapours of his tormented heart. And thus, after a while he rose and went to Tirion, to the Noldoli who still remained there – which was, indeed, the great majority of our people. There did he speak to the grief-stricken and to the angry, dwelling on their wrongs and sorrows, bidding them to leave this prison-house and follow him into the Great Lands that would be their birthright but where now usurped by the Black Foe.

“He called them all to come to the high court of the King upon the summit of Túna, even though the ban that had been laid upon him for drawing steel on his own brother was not yet lifted. And all followed his calling, for our hearts were heavy with wrath and sorrow, and Fëanáro’s words were just as masterful as were his hands; and he offered us what we secretly all wanted: a chance to fulfil our curses upon the Black Foe. Fierce and fell were his words; and they found fertile soil in our anger and pride. A madness overcame us all as he spoke to us, and when he claimed the kingship of all Noldoli, since Nólemë was dead and he was the rightful heir, a great many of us supported his claim. For in the secret depths of our hearts we, too, scorned the decrees of the Valar and blamed their unwillingness to pursue Melko and their apparent inability to protect us and themselves.

“’As cowards have the Valar become,’ Fëanáro said bitterly; ‘but the hearts of the Eldar are not weak, and we shall see what is our own, and if we may not get it by stealth, we shall do so by violence. There shall be war between the Children of the Stars and the Lord of Darkness.’

“‘But what if we perish in our quest?’ his youngest brother, Finarphir(3), the most moderate and even-tempered among the sons of Nólemë asked; for even though he possessed the fateful pride of all Finwëans, he was his mother, the golden Indis of the Vanyar the most alike. Also, he was related to the Solosimpi through his wife and had no desire to leave Aman, no matter how much he, too, wanted to avenge his father.

“‘What if we perish?’ replied Fëanáro heatedly. ‘The dark halls of Vê be little worse than this bright prison – more so for though here once was light, now dark levels all. Shall we mourn here deedless for ever, a shadow-folk, mist-hunting, dropping vain tears in the thankless Sea? Or shall we return home, to the great Outer Lands that were meant to be ours by the will of Ilúvatar, ere our fathers let themselves be lured away by the call of the Valar?’

“By this, he looked directly at me, and I felt a great desire awakening in my heart; an ache to see the starlit mere of my Awakening again, to hear the whisper of the dark trees under a moonless sky; and I understood with a sudden jolt of fear that I was indeed willing to return home.

“‘Sweet ran the waters under unclouded stars in Cuiviénen,” I murmured, almost against my will, knowing that I played directly into Fëanáro’s hands; and yet I could not master my homesickness, unexpected as it had come to me; ‘and wide lands lay about, where a free people may walk. There they lie still and await us who in our folly forsook them…’”

“Till this very day I could not guess what had come over me on that fateful day,” Gilfanon continued, “other than the ban of Fëanáro’s fierce words about freedom and vengeance. All I could think of were the stars and the murmuring waters and whispering trees of my home of old – and the friends that we left behind. The people of Elwë and Elmö and our First City, built of white stone upon a steep hill amidst of a great, dark forest. I forgot all about the perils and the darkness, the bitter fights for survival. My Lady tried to bring me to my senses, but all her labours were in vain. Even though she told be that she would not follow me back to the darkness, I did not change my mind.”

“You were possessed by madness,” said Vainóni, a touch of bitterness in her voice, for the first time. “Had you only wanted to return to the lands of our Awakening, I might have followed you. But you were driven by vengeance – so much that you held it in higher esteem than our bond of love. I was not willing to take second place behind your obsession.”

“You were wise, Lady, and so were Anairë and Eärwen,” said Meril. “I wish I had listened to you, instead of following a madman and even dragging my own sons with me into destruction.”

“You were very young back then, and very much in love,” reminded her Vainóni gently. “All you wanted was to stay with your husband and support him. There is nothing wrong with that.”

“Is there not?” asked Meril, pain and anguish clearly written in her fair face. “My own daughters knew it better, remaining in Valinor, instead of following their mother into despair and death.”

“You were not the only one enchanted by Fëanáro’s words,” said Gilfanon. “For the longer he spoke, the more determined we all grew to follow him and make war upon the Black Foe, truly believing in our folly that we might conquer the once-greatest of the Valar, regain the Silmarilli and become the lords of their unsullied Light, mastering the bliss and beauty of Arda, as Fëanáro had promised.

“Finarphir was shocked by those blasphemic words, and once again he tried to bring his eldest brother to his senses. But no-one listened to him, not even his own sons, save the wise and soft-mannered Artanáro(4). And then, mayhap to bind his seven sons and his followers tighter to the cause, Fëanáro swore a terrible oath – an oath which no-one shall beak, and no-one should take, by the true name of Ilúvatar.”

Gilfanon closed his eyes as if trying to remember, then in a slow and grave voice, he quoted the fateful words of that terrible Oath in High Quenya. As in the previous day, when Vainóni had chosen to use the Ancient Tongue, there was a long silence in the Hall of Tales. All knew the consequences of that Oath too well. Then Gilfanon sighed and went on with his tale.

“Many of our people quailed to hear these dread words – for so sworn, good or evil, an oath may not be broken, and it shall pursue oathkeeper and oathbreaker to the world’s end; or so we thought back then, ere we had learnt about the true extent of Ilúvatar’s mercy. Fingolma, appointed though not named by Nólemë as the heir to kingship, spoke therefore against Fëanáro; and so did Turukáno(5), his younger son. Fierce words were raised between the sons of Nólemë, so that very nearly it came to the edge of swords again, for Finarphir supported Fingolma, just as Artanáro, his son. Findaráto(6), a close friend of Turukáno, was against leaving, too, but Nerwendë was eager to be gone, as she was the only woman to stand that day tall and valiant among the contending princes of the Noldoli.”

Celebrían felt her blood run cold. “Did she swear the Oath as well?” she asked tonelessly, but to her great relief Gilfanon shook his head.

“Nay, she did not. Yet the words of Fëanáro as he spoke of the vastness and the dark beauty of the Outer Lands had kindled in her heart, for she felt caged in the constraints of Valinor and yearned to see those unguarded lands and to rule there over a realm of her own.”

Some things have not changed, not even in more than three Ages, thought Celebrían, nodding her wordless thanks to the storyteller. It seems to be her fate, never to get what she wanted most. For, unlike others, she knew all too well that it always had been her father whom both the Green-Elves of Ossiriand and the Silvan folk of Lothlórien followed, even if the clueless beholder would think otherwise.

“Of like mind with Nerwendë was Findekáno(7), Fingolma’s son,” added Gilfanon, “being moved also by Fëanáro’s words, though he loved him little. But he was a close friend of Maedhros, Fëanáro’s firstborn and wanted not to abandon him, no matter what this insane quest might bring upon them. And with Findekáno stood – as they ever did – Angaráto and Aikanáro(8), the sons of Finarphir. But these held their peace and spoke not against their father.

“The debate continued for a long time. At the end, Fëanáro prevailed, and the greater part of the Noldoli there assembled were set aflame with the desire of avenging their slain king and of seeing new things and strange lands. And thus it was decided that some of us would go with him before Manwë and demand that our people be suffered to leave Valinor in peace and set safely by the Valar upon the shores of the world whence we had of old been ferried.”

Legolas shook his head in disbelief.

“You truly thought the Valar would agree? They had brought you to Valinor for safety – why should they bring you back into the perils of Middle-earth, moreso when Melko had returned there?”

“I doubt that any of us was thinking clearly,” answered Gilfanon with a rueful smile. “All we wanted was to be gone, at any cost – though I suspect that Fëanáro desired to confront the Valar themselves in his madness and grief. Then he decided to face Manwë in this matter – and I was chosen to go with him. But this is a part of the tale that I shall tell you later. Let us met again when Arien returns her ship through the Door of Night.”

Unwilling, but respecting his wish for a rest, the Elves left the Hall of Tales. Only Meril the Queen stayed, deep in her own troubled thoughts, and the Lady Vainóni speaking to her in a voice too low for even other Elven ears to hear.

~~~

End notes:

(1) Meaning the name of God/aka Eru here. See the Commandments.

(2) Earlier name for Alqualondë.

(3) No, really. This was one of the alternate spellings of Finarfin’s name. Even in one of the LOTR-editions, where Gildor says that he is from “the House of Finarphir”.

(4) Orodreth

(5) Turgon.

(6) Finrod.

(7) Fingon)

(8) Angrod and Aegnor


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