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Just Like Old Times

Later that evening Arafinwë lifted his head from a book of Vanyar poems, at the sound of a light knock on the bedchamber door. “Enter,” he called. The delicately latticed door slid open a bit, and Findis peeped in at her brother. As Arafinwë’s face lit into a smile, she pushed the door fully open, entered, and closed it behind her.

“This reminds me of your visits to Taniquetil when you were a child! Do you remember, Arafin, how I would read to you before you went to bed?” Findis glided softly across the room to perch on the edge of Arafinwë’s bed. She extinguished her candle before setting it down next to the glowing lamp situated on a shelf within arm’s reach of the bed.

“Of course I remember – that was one of the best parts of our visits to Uncle Ingwë’s house. You have dwelled so long here, Findis, and I have always wished to have you nearer to me,” Arafinwë replied.

Findis returned his smile. “Yes, I also wished I could be nearer to you, little brother.”

“But I know well your reasons for living here with Uncle. And of course, now, Mother lives here too. I used to consider joining you here! And when I am here I feel less … scrutinized. Mother’s folk are more contented, it seems to me, and so they are less prone to quarrels, jealousies, and disagreements than are the Noldor.”

Findis returned, “the Noldor are my people also, little brother. Just because I have chosen to reside with our mother’s kin doesn’t mean that I no longer deem myself to be part of the Noldor too.”

“Yet it has been so long since you last came to Tirion, Findis. To most it appears you have forsaken the Noldor, although there are few who would find fault with you for doing so.”

Findis gave a sidelong glance at her brother, and then turned her eyes towards the glow of the lamp, “Is that what they say?” she asked softly.

Arafinwë frowned and put a gentle hand on his sister’s arm, “No, my dear, I did not mean to imply that your absence is a subject of gossip or speculation in Tirion. Although several years ago, when my granddaughter and I were discussing the family history, Celebrian wondered why you never came among the Noldor, despite the love that is between us.”

“And what did you tell her?”

Arafinwë hesitated, and then carefully explained, “… I told her that the division between our father’s sons was especially difficult for you to bear, and so you retreated from strife which you were powerless to resolve.”

“Yes, that is so,” Findis agreed softly.

“But now there is some healing, my dearest sister! Artanis has returned, and although she’s weary from her toils in the East, she glows with a quiet strength that she did not possess before she left these shores. And that is nothing to be surprised at, for she accomplished much. She has grown in wisdom and will. You should come, Findis, come and see your niece! Come and meet our kin, Elrond, whose wisdom and goodness is also immediately apparent, and who brings such joy to Celebrian.”

Findis’s smile appeared again, but she said nothing.

Arafinwë persisted, “Come to Tirion, and meet the remarkable creature who accompanied Artanis and Elrond on their journey – a mortal being of seemingly small strength, who nevertheless defeated Morgoth’s greatest servant! He too is wearied, and he has come to Aman to be healed. But there is nonetheless a strength in him that is wonderful to see. All of them bring me hope, Findis! And Findaráto feels it as well.”

Findis’s smile broadened at the mention of her favorite nephew. “I can only imagine Findaráto’s delight at seeing his sister again! … Yes, I would like to see that for myself. And to see Artanis again, and meet Celebrian’s husband. What of Artanis’s husband?”

Arafinwë shook his head, “Celeborn has not yet departed Middle Earth. I do not know how long he intends to remain there.”

“Is there trouble between Artanis and her husband?” Findis asked, frowning a bit.

“None that I know of, and Artanis did not appear to be anxious when she explained that he was lingering. Elrond also gave no indication that there is any cause for concern about that. The Sindar Elves were never keen to join us here, and although Artanis says that he will indeed come, eventually, I cannot guess when that will be.”

Findis nodded, accepting her brother’s explanation without comment.

“So you will come to Tirion?” Arafinwë pleaded.

Findis grinned, “Yes, Arafin. In fact I’ve already discussed it with Mother. We leave at dawn. I’ve packed a bag and I’ve asked Lossëlaurë to see to the care of my garden, which she always does when I am away.”

“Ah, your mind was already made up? Why didn’t you say so?” Arafinwë exclaimed with raised brows.

Findis laughed, and nudged her brother’s bent knee with her elbow. “Because I enjoyed hearing your enthusiasm! You are a persuasive speaker, Arafin!”

“And here is another reason why you should come to Tirion! I think you are the first and only person who has ever complimented my speech! You do my pride good, sister!” Arafinwë declared.

“Nonsense! You’ve been the King of the Noldor for three ages, and your people listen well to you. To whom do you compare yourself and find yourself wanting?” Findis exclaimed.

“Well, first and foremost, Father! You know how gifted he was with our people, he could convince them of anything! If Father had declared that the sky was red rather than blue, I daresay at least half of the Noldor would have agreed that it was so!” Arafinwë asserted with a rueful chuckle.

Findis smiled, again gazing into the light of the bedside lamp, “Yes, Father had great charm and appeal. When he finished speaking I always wished he would continue, and say more. He was so delightful, so … attractive. I think that Findaráto has quite a bit of Father’s charm. And Nolofin had even more of it, but never as much as Father himself.”

Arafinwë smiled wryly, “Yes, of Father’s sons, I have the least of his charm and persuasiveness.”

Findis shot a sharp, reproving glance at her brother. “I wouldn’t say that, Arafin. You should not compare yourself to Nolofin, for you and he had different strengths, but were overall each other’s equals. Father’s charm was so often warm and wonderful, but at times it could be a bit … selfish, blind to others’ wishes. And such was Fëanáro’s charm, always. Nolofin had a bit of that blindness too at times. But not you, Arafin. You do have Father’s charm and appeal, but yours is tempered with Mother’s empathy. You hear others, you see them as they truly are, not just as you would like them to be.”

There was a silence between the siblings as Arafinwë considered his sister’s assertions. Then he slowly nodded, and said, “Findis, you are right about Father. And I think I knew that even when he was with us, but until you spoke just now I had never allowed myself to articulate that knowledge. I don’t know why that is so. It’s hard to conceive of Father as being anything less than … well, perfect! I don’t mean that he never made mistakes, but somehow his mistakes always seemed to be born of circumstance, things beyond his control.”

“Like Fëanáro.” Findis responded.

“Do you mean that Fëanáro was beyond Father’s control, causing him to make mistakes? Or do you mean that, like Fëanáro, Father was so utterly convinced that he was in the right, that any problem was inevitably the fault of another?”

“Ha!” The short, sarcastic laugh caught Arafinwë by surprise, so he looked intently at Findis as she spoke. “That you can ask this question shows how well you truly saw Father, even if you haven’t allowed yourself to know it. I would say that both were true, although unlike Fëanáro, Father didn’t attribute disagreement to malice on the part of another. I think that he simply thought that those who disagreed with him did not yet fully understand him. Father believed that once he conveyed himself sufficiently well to be understood, agreement would be inevitable.”

Arafinwë returned, “And he was right! He usually could persuade everyone to his view of a matter. That’s how great his charm was!”

Findis smiled flatly, with a hint of disdain that startled Arafinwë. “Yes, he could usually persuade everyone to his view, but was his view always right? That is debatable, Arafin. Father, Nolofin, and Fëanáro were much alike, in that each was always certain that he was right.”

Arafinwë nodded slowly. “Father believed in the goodwill of others, and so, as you say, he thought it was just a matter of convincing them of the rightness of his view when there was disagreement. Fëanáro didn’t believe in the goodwill of others, and so he met their disagreement with scorn.”

“Indeed. And I would say that Nolofin was somewhere in between the two. He was just as strong-willed, just as convinced about the rightness of his view as Father and Fëanáro were about theirs. Nolofin wanted to believe in the good intentions of others, but sometimes, particularly where Fëanáro was concerned, he could be just as suspicious and contemptuous as Fëanáro himself,” Findis observed.

Arafinwë nodded again, his eyes distant and sorrowful.

Findis took Arafinwë’s right hand in hers, leaning closer toward her brother as she continued, “But you, Arafin, you inherited Father’s firm belief in the goodwill of others. You don’t always set out to convince others about your opinions, because unlike Father or our brothers, you’re not always certain that you’re right. You’re willing to listen to another view, to hear it and consider it. That makes you wiser than all of them.”

When Findis had finished, Arafinwë squeezed her hand in gratitude. “Do you know, Eärwen has said much the same thing to me many times. But somehow it’s different coming from you, Findis. You’re the eldest of Mother’s children, and you and Mother have always been so close. You were also the only one of us who had a good relationship with Fëanáro, and I think that somehow made your relationship with Father less …”

“…complicated,” Findis supplied. “Yes, that’s true to some extent, but it raised other barriers between Father and me, and for a while between Mother and me too. Especially upon Nolofin’s birth.”

“You were only ten when Nolofin was born, Findis – do you mean to say that even at that young age you were aware of the problems between Father, Mother, and Fëanáro?”

“Can you remember a time when you weren’t aware of the tension and trouble in our house?” Findis returned.

“No. No you’re right about that. I didn’t realize it was the same for you. I hate to think of you taking on Fëanáro alone, without the rest of us to back you up. I’d always thought that in your earliest years, before Nolofinwë was born, you and Mother and Father lived quite happily with Fëanáro. He always seemed to like you, Findis.”

“Sometimes he did. Sometimes I think he used me as a pawn, a way to provoke Mother. But he never threatened me, never used harsh words with me. I was never afraid of Fëanáro, and there was never a need for me to confront him. Sometimes he ignored me, but when he did choose to interact with me he was always gentle. There were eight years between us, so we weren’t really playmates, but there was always … an ease, between us. And even some affection. For my part, at least.”

“So why were there problems, Findis? Did Mother worry about Fëanáro’s intentions regarding you? She used to worry so about what he might do to me or Nolofin.”

“No. Not with me. It was just that Fëanáro’s pain at the loss of his own mother, and his resentment of our mother were so strong, at times overwhelming. I think that by the time you were born, Fëanáro had turned much of his active animosity toward Nolofin … by then he had learned to treat Mother with indifference. But in those early years he openly loathed her, child though he was. And it hurt her. It was not easy for me to understand, once I was old enough to see it.”

“No, no it can’t have been easy. Poor Mother.”

Findis nodded absently. “But I was eventually able to talk with Mother about the problems I experienced, being both her daughter and Fëanáro’s sister. Mother understood, and it became easier for me to reconcile my love and loyalty to her with the love I felt for my half-brother. I could never talk about such things with Father.”

Arafinwë asked quietly, “What would you have said to Father?”

Findis looked at her brother for a long moment, and then said, “Nothing that would have made a difference, I think. “And it’s late,” she declared, gesturing toward the open window, “the moon has crossed the sky already! I shall retire now so as to be ready for our journey. We’ll need to leave in just a few hours.” She hopped down from the bed, picked up her candle, and relit it from the lamp, using one of the tapers that were kept on the bedside shelf.

Arafinwë started to protest his sister’s avoidance of his question, then changed his mind. It was enough that Findis was coming to Tirion.

“Good night, Arafin,” said Findis, smiling softly as she bent to kiss her brother’s cheek.”

“Good night, Sister,” Arafinwë returned both the kiss and the smile. “This does feel just like old times.”

As Findis slid the door shut behind her, Arafinwë extinguished the bedside lamp, and lay back on the pillows. The thought of his daughter, home at last, filled his heart again with hope. Some old hurts might never fully heal in his family, but the arrival of Artanis and Elrond in Valinor was a good turn of events.


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