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The Pillar Perished Is
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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1
The Pillar Perished Is

Only slowly did Ossë’s anguish and wrath peter out, even tempered as it was by now by the Valar’s decree to let go who would, forbidding to hold back any against their will, if Námo’s – Mandos, the Doomsman’s – words fell on deaf ears and numb hearts.


But still Uinen's tears continued to fall, relentlessly, hopelessly; tears of grief and pity like Nienna's.


Fëanor stood on the quarterdeck of the stolen ship, near deafened and blinded by the driving, roaring rain, the booming sea and the howling wind which lashed his hair into his face in snarled tangles. His hands, blood-caked, knuckles bruised, gripped hard around the railing, leaving smeared red fingerprints on the white wood.


He did not look towards the dwindling landmass on the horizon, where scores of people with torches still could be discerned despite the rain, sharply silhouetted in the ice-cold air. He did not look further south, where flames of another kind illuminated the unending darkness that now reigned over Valinor, billowing smoke obscuring even the faint light of the stars.


He did not contemplate the future or the past. He did not have regrets about leaving his half-brothers and their people behind. He did not think back on scenes of slaughter, of people screaming, falling on the quays, of blood spattering the deck under his feet where it mingled with rain and saltwater, slicking and staining the boards. He did not mourn for the loss of his own people when the sea rose in wrath and punishment and destroyed part of his stolen fleet.


He did not consider that this would be the ultimate parting from his wife, final and irrevocable until the end of Time.


Only one thought was constantly running through his head, chasing itself in circles and loops, without pause, without surcease.


The pillar perished is whereto I leant



His father was dead.


The one who had always stood by his side, showing his love for him above that for his other children. Who had been prepared to relinquish even his crown to follow him into exile.


And who had died there. Alone, without the protection his folk could have given him in Tirion. If he had not chosen love for his firstborn over kingly duties.


No.


No!


It was not his fault. It was the fault of the Valar. They had summoned him. Compelled him to leave Formenos, to leave Finwë. And for what? For dancing and singing and feasting?


It was they who had released Morgoth, so he was free to plan and plot, to wreak havoc and destruction. And who was Morgoth – Melkor – but one of their own?


Fëanor abruptly turned away from the sight of the vanishing West and strode over the pitching deck swimming with water, not acknowledging the questions in the eyes of his sons who were sitting slumped on some chests and coils of rope or cable, amid their meagre belongings: ghostly shades barely hovering on the edges of his awareness.


He did not want to see the confusion, the guilt, the terror.


The doubt.


The like of it no man again can find
From east to west, still seeking though he went.



He reached the bowsprit, which, while lurching wildly up and down, still pointed unerringly to their destination in the far, far East.


To Endor. Birthland of their race, left ages ago for the supposed safety of the Blessed Realm. But where had been the safety when Morgoth’s lies and treacheries poisoned hearts and minds? When Ungoliant’s Unlight spread across the skies? When death and destruction could be found there just as well as in the Wilds of the Outer Lands?


What use his desire to discover and explore new lands now?


This, too, had been corrupted. Now the only thing left was the desire for vengeance.


Perhaps also for oblivion?


He staggered and had to grab one of the forestays with both hands as the ship sank into and then climbed out of a particularly steep trough of the sea. The rough hemp abraded the tender skin of his bruised palms; blisters opened and scratches began to bleed anew.


No. He did not seek oblivion. At least not yet. Not until he had slaked his thirst for vengeance, not until he had fought the Black Enemy with all the fire that was said to burn in him.


Yes, he was the Spirit of Fire – let this “Holy One” see the meaning of the name, let him see what a “Child”, bound in one form only and limited in power, was capable of!


For hap away hath rent
Of all my joy the very bark and rind



The Two Trees were destroyed and the Valar could not recreate them? What use then their vaunted power over Eä? Instead they coveted his own creation, demanded he give up his greatest accomplishment?


But the Silmarils now were as nothing against his grief for his father.


Nothing.


And yet they were the shining beacon which drew him to his enemy, the thread to follow in his pursuit. The symbol of his quest.


And he would not give that up. Not for anything or anyone. Nor for doom and curse of the Valar.


A violent upsurge of spume drenched his clothing afresh, already soaked through-and-through. The surge slapped into his face, stinging his eyes, filling his mouth with the bitter taste of salt and loss.


Fëanor backed away from the bow again, to a place near the mainmast, where the force and fury of the raging storm was at least partially muted, and the rain did not pound him as unrestrainedly.


The rigging thrummed with a deep, sonorous twang, the tightly-furled sails fluttered in angry, stifled tones and the wood of the mast groaned under the onslaught of weather, wind and water.


He leant against the mast, disregarding the runnels of water sheeting down from the canvas high over his head.


Still avoiding eye contact with anyone. And no one dared approach him.


My pen in plaint, my voice in woeful cry



A muffled crackle where his left side met the mast made him start. His eyes dilated in shock and apprehension. He rubbed his bloodied hand on his tunic, then reached under it to carefully retrieve a thin, folded sheaf of papers from his breast pocket.


Shielding it with one hand from the rain he examined it before, slowly, as if against his will but knowing that it was safer in its hidden place, he put it away once more.


The writing was still legible, the ink only lightly smeared from the wetness. His father’s distinct, bold script still recognisable and unblemished. The letters Fëanor had bettered, adapted and devised still beautiful like they always had been when Finwë had drawn them.


But this had been the last time his father had written. There would be no more.


And what were all his letters now but a mere tool, a tool like swords and fencing lessons, mail and maps, spears and sessions on strategy?


No longer expressions of beauty and spirit and love.


His fingers crept back under the tunic to caress the pages.


And I myself, myself always to hate



Fëanor shook his head, his face a bleak, oddly forlorn mask of desperate denial.


No.


It was not his fault.


Morgoth would have done what he had done even without Fëanor defying and mocking him.


He would have killed Finwë even in the safety of Tirion.


The Valar could not have protected the Silmarils. They would not have.


It was not his fault!


Was it?


Till dreadful death, do cease my doeful state.


~~~

Author’s Notes:


My take on Fëanor’s state of mind at this point in time is largely taken from the following passage from the Silmarillion, The Flight of the Noldor:

Then Fëanor rose, and lifting up his hand before Manwë he cursed Melkor, naming him Morgoth, the Black Foe of the World; and by that name only was he known to the Eldar ever after. And he cursed also the summons of Manwë and the hour in which he came to Taniquetil, thinking in the madness of his rage and grief that had he been at Formenos his strength would have availed more than to be slain also, as Melkor had purposed. Then Fëanor ran from the Ring of Doom, and fled into the night; for his father was dearer to him than the Light of Valinor or the peerless works of his hands; and who among sons, of Elves or of Men, have held their fathers of greater worth?


The poem is by Sir Thomas Wyatt (1503-1542). Here the text in full:

The pillar perished is whereto I leant,
The strongest stay of mine unquiet mind.
The like of it no man again can find
From east to west, still seeking though he went.
To mine unhap, for hap away hath rent
Of all my joy the very bark and rind,
And I, alas, by chance am thus assigned
Dearly to mourn, till death do it relent.
But since that thus it is by destiny,
What can I more but have a woeful heart,
My pen in plaint, my voice in woeful cry,
My mind in woe, my body full of smart,
And I myself, myself always to hate
Till dreadful death, do cease my doeful state.


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