It's not easy to know that great events are afoot but be unable to take part in them. It's not easy being left behind.
1. Chapter 1 by Grundy
“Are you looking at something in particular, Findaráto?”
Finrod was startled, by his aunt’s use of the father-name he had not been used to hearing regularly in Beleriand and by her having noticed his distraction at all, in equal measure.
Findis glanced quizzically from her nephew to the tower he appeared to be staring at.
“No,” he sighed. “At least, nothing that I can see.”
There was a pause, for Findis had never been one to fill a silence with unnecessary words; if she had nothing in particular to say, she did not speak.
“I suppose I find it hard to understand how everyone can go about their business so calmly these days,” he said at last. “So many of our people have gone off to war yet life here goes on as it always has.”
The High Queen of the Noldor raised an eyebrow, a gesture that had once struck fear into her wayward or erring nephews- even Tyelkormo at his most brash. But that had been in a more innocent time, before those foolish boys discovered there were far worse things in the world.
“Were you under the impression that life in Tirion came to a sudden halt after you all marched off?” she asked.
Her tone was calm, but Finrod felt he trod on dangerous ground all the same. The Ice had been calm at first glance as well.
“No,” he replied thoughtfully. “Life carries on. And we did not know what Beleriand would be. I hope you did not worry so much over us as I do over the ones I know to be there now.”
“If you did not know what Beleriand would be, then it was a failure on your part, be it of education or imagination” Findis said sternly. “There were and are elves begotten or woken on the far side of Alatairë who you might have questioned. There were histories in the libraries. And you had just seen what Morgoth alone might to do to an elf who opposed him. Why should you have fancied that going to fight him would be a picnic in the gardens?”
It was a fair question. Why hadn’t they put more thought into their plan to bring the Enemy to justice, or at least vengeance? There had been dissenting voices even when Fëanaro’s words had been at their most potent. His own sister had been one of them. His aunt had been another – and one who had refused to follow her brothers in what she unreservedly termed folly.
“I know not,” he confessed. “It seems foolish, in retrospect. I suppose it was clear to you at the time.”
“It is not impossible to stand up to Fëanaro,” she said. “But that does not mean that it is easy, either. And it is somewhat different to oppose your uncle than your brother.”
“It was not all his doing,” Finrod demurred. “I would hardly have been permitted to return if I still held to that self-serving excuse.”
“You disapprove?” Finrod asked, amused at her reaction.
“I may think that it was foolish to go haring off on an ill-planned adventure on little more than my older brother’s honeyed words,” Findis snorted, “but that does not mean I think it right to let you all stew in Mandos until you come to whatever opinion the Valar deem appropriate on the matter. I daresay Namo will find himself hosting them quite some time if he thinks he can sway Fëanaro or Turukano by waiting them out. Besides, if you’re supposed to think over what you’ve done, I’d wager there’s a fair few here in Tirion who would like to weigh in on the subject.”
“You did fear for us, then? Or were you angry with us for leaving you behind?”
“Both. And neither,” Findis replied thoughtfully. “I imagine there’s at least as many opinions on it as there are Noldor. You know the saying.”
“Which one?” Finrod asked with a smile. “We learned a few new sayings in Beleriand. The Sindar, for example, hold that the Noldor returned because they needed room to quarrel in. Oddly enough, they did not believe us when we tried to explain there was plenty of room in Aman.”
Findis laughed at that.
“They don’t know us very well, then, do they?” she said ruefully. “We’ll debate anything, no matter how much or how little room there may be do it in. But I was thinking of the old saw about ‘two Noldor, three opinions’.”
“I’d forgotten that one. Though the Umanyar were quick enough to point out that we might be Wise in the sense of having knowledge, but less wise in the sense of using it well. There are a good many plays on the word in Sindarin.”
“I’d say they grasped the essential point, then,” Findis chuckled. “But as to your question, we worried, we were angry, we were everything that could be – but we were also busy. We had enough worries close at hand in the Darkness without much to spare for those who had chosen to leave. Later, when the Light had been restored, and we were less hard pressed, there was more time and energy for such luxuries. But by then we’d also gotten used to the idea of you being gone, and beyond our knowledge. Your fate was out of our hands, and for good or ill, news of any deeds you did would come to us only much later. The only thing we generally knew of at the time were the deaths.”
It wasn’t pleasant to hear that there had been more important things on everyone’s minds, but then again, the Noldor in Beleriand, be they of Fëanor’s host or Fingolfin’s, hadn’t generally given much thought to the difficulties of those who had stayed in Aman either. If they’d thought on those they’d left behind, it had generally been in a wistful way, imagining them still safe and comfortable, and their lives going on much as they had by the light of the Trees. Occasionally someone might have wondered if a sweetheart or parent missed them, but no more than that.
Even now, knowing that not only the remaining Noldor and surviving Teleri but even the pious Vanyar had faced hard times of their own before the rising of the moon or sun, it was hard to make himself believe that those in Aman had faced danger as grave as those in Beleriand had – save of course for the Kinslaying, which was still a monstrous event from which his mind still shied away.
“I do not quite know how to go about going about my business,” he confessed. “My thoughts are too much with my father, and my mother and Telerin kin on the ships, and my sister in the hopes that she still lives, and with all those Noldor in Beleriand who have survived until now. I know too well the peril they confront.”
“I do not see why you could not have gone with them,” she said. “So you are the first to return- so what? Why should that disqualify you from going with the host of the Valar? It is one thing to send Ara- and I hope he comes back alive, for it’s well and truly his turn to be High King after this – but you might have gone as well.”
Finrod couldn’t help the giggle that escaped him. It sounded all for the world as if his aunt had been stuck with a particularly ridiculous prize in the holiday game the family used to play, and couldn’t wait to foist it off on one of her brothers.
“You speak as if you didn’t want to be King, auntie,” he snickered.
“I don’t particularly,” Findis shrugged. “I ended up High Queen – and I am not so picky as my older brother about the finer points of language, but our tongue does have both masculine and feminine endings, thank you very much, young man – by default. Someone needed to keep the city running and the Noldor fed, clothed, and their houses heated despite the lack of light, and there I was, the only child of Finwë who hadn’t abandoned them.”
“Atto came back,” Finrod pointed out quietly. “His heart was never as firmly set on Beleriand as his brothers’, and Alqualondë was too much. He forsook the march before the burning of the ships.”
“His coming back did not erase his leaving in the minds of those he left,” Findis replied just as quietly. “You know perfectly well how frightened and distraught people were, do you really expect he could have come back and simply been accepted king as though he had never gone?”
That was, in fact, exactly what the Noldor in exile had always supposed – an idea that would only be confirmed in their minds by King Arafinwë leading the Noldor who had gone to the War. Embarrassing as it was to admit, Finrod couldn’t not tell her.
“I named him king as he is leading an army,” Findis said briskly. “And because he will need the title to cut through any arguments or objections your Exiles may try to raise to him assuming overall command of our people. The Vanyar follow Ingwion, of course, and if Eärwen decides she doesn’t want to sit on the boats watching with the rest of her people while one of her children is still out there somewhere, it’s Telerin business who should be in charge of the fleet. But Arafinwë is in charge of the Noldor, be they Faithful or Exiles. Any who would dispute it are welcome to take it up with the eldest surviving child of Finwë.”
“I doubt many would. Especially since it may be Artanis who leads our people by now,” Finrod pointed out. “Everyone else is…”
“Dead, yes, I know, Findarato.” Findis put a gentle arm around his shoulders to take any harshness from her words. “But the last news from the mortal shores was that Artaresto’s boy was still alive, and king. Though him or Artanis shouldn’t matter much - I don’t see your sister or your grandnephew taking it into their heads that they outrank your father. But their followers would be less likely to fuss about a King Arafinwë than a Prince Arafinwë. Everyone seems to discount Ara when it’s only ‘prince’ tacked in front of his name, no matter that he’s uncommonly sensible regardless.”
“They will be surprised to see him with an army,” Finderato murmured. “Everyone though he had no stomach for a fight.”
Findis stared at him in surprise.
“Where under the stars did anyone get such a fool notion?” she demanded. “Just because he was smart enough to steer clear of Nolo and Naro’s wrangling? Or because he was patient enough to try to keep the peace for as long as he did?”
“I don’t know,” Finrod admitted. “I never thought on it, really.”
“It seems to me there are a lot of things you never thought on,” Findis said sharply. “Least of all how much courage it took for your father to walk back into Alqualondë alone, not to mention face your mother.”
“More courage, do you think, than it took to sail to Beleriand to fight Morgoth, knowing what he is capable of and what he has done?” Finrod asked softly.
“Considerably more,” Findis said. “Be sure of that! He had no idea how your grandfather and grandmother would react, in a world where kinslaying was no longer unthinkable and your mother’s brothers had been slain. But going to Beleriand – your father may have inherited his patience from our mother, but he is no less Finwë’s son for all that. He wants to bring his anger home to the one who killed his father and his children and his brothers and his nephews. If Naro could scare Morgoth in all his stupid impetuousness and Nolo could wound him when he could keep his temper no longer, what do you suppose Ara’s wrath, held back all these years but well-honed for all that, will do when he finally has the opportunity?”
Finrod smiled, but there was little joy in it.
“I suppose we shall just have to wait and see.”
“Indeed,” Findis agreed. “And while we wait, I need you to make yourself useful and finish tallying the bales of that new fiber your grandmother is keen to try weaving into netting. I want to know whether we’ve enough to send to Alqualondë yet, or if it should be held back another week. And that won’t get done any faster for you trying to see to Beleriand from here.”
I would have liked to edit this a bit before posting, but I'm tired now and I suspect tomorrow I'm going to faceplant into bed as soon as I'm done work, so it's being posted as-is.
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