Screaming, crying, perfect storms
I can make all the tables turn
Rose garden filled with thorns
Her husband returned to her as broken man. Less miserable perhaps, but more broken than before. Eärwen struggled to admit it, but she hadn't envisioned his homecoming like this. When Finarfin left, she dared to hope everything would be alright. Despite her fear she hoped against hope all night he would return with happy tidings of her children. Eärwen heard of Idril's tales, but she refused to listen to them. She wouldn't believe until she had proof.
Unfortunately the far off look in Finarfin's eyes were bad enough.
„They're dead,“ he croaked and pulled her into her arms, when he stepped on the dock. His soul felt cold and numb against hers and Eärwen jerked back. She wanted to ask about her children, yet she could not voice her fears aloud.
„They are dead. My brothers, my sisters, the children. All of them,“ Finarfin said instead.
Eärwen noticed how her husbands once blue eyes, richly saturated like the sky during summer, had lost all their color. It shocked her more than the having her fears confirmed. There was little difference between dead and gone right now, however the grey and lifeless in place where had been azure joy before tore something apart in the Teleri princess.
During the last centuries her anger at her husband had receded and dropped again when he left war. Her own pain felt less important now, Finarfin choosing his family three times over her had hurt a lot, but she couldn't change the truth into comforting lies. Her husband followed his brothers once, fully intended never to return and only came back for the Noldor in Tirion who had done nothing to deserve the hate they received after the Kinslaying in Alqualondë.
Of course Eärwen had shunned him long after and when Eärendil arrived she had only begun to warm up to him again. With the Host left Valinor Eärwen feared there was nothing left of their marriage to salvage since Finarfin had done so without asking her permission, without seeing her off or consulting her during the preparations.
Carefully she placed a hand on his cheek. Roughened from wind and weather, she wished to see tears in her husbands eyes to see if his emotions still reached the surface. But nothing. No twitch nor ripple was to be seen in the grey pools that once were Finarfin's beautiful eyes.
„Arafinwë, I'm here. Come back to me,“ she called out to him. „Arafinwë, you're home. The war is over and healing awaits you.“
Despite the years of estrangement she didn't want to add to his suffering. Without avail, the connection that gave birth to four beautiful children could not reach the last son of Finwë. He kept mumbling into her ears, low and desperate with his soul full of regret.
The moment they shared on the docks remained brief since soon either of them worked too much to venture deeper. Eärwen doubted Finarfin even remembered the episode. For many he appeared strong like the Highking he was supposed to be, yet only a few knew still him well enough Finarfin had lost a lot of his cheer. Eärwen faced the reality her husband was more like a friend than a lover now and she accepted the fate of an empty bed. Yet she still cared enough to worry and her father shared the same fears. With the influx of refugees she assisted King Olwë and King Arafinwë wherever she could. Her position as daughter and wife helped a lot to smooth a few tempers since the returning Exiles and the Teleri inhabiting the havens were equally suspicious.
„I fear for him,“ she told her father one evening and King Olwë sighed.
„Your husband's condition didn't escape my notice,“ the Swan King answered. „At first I presumed it was from what he had witnessed during his leave, yet the light never returned to his eyes.“
The Teleri king glanced at his daughter, clearly expecting answers despite the fact Eärwen spend most of her time at Olwë's side than at her husbands.
„It's just not the death of our children,“ she answered, leaving out the fact Nerwen was theoretically still alive. For her she was just as unreachable as Finrod. „Abandoning them in the first place is what he holds himself responsible for. Them and all the other Exiles.“
„Does the hate for himself exist since his return from Beleriand?“ Olwë dares to ask and Eärwen wonders were the sympathy for his son-on-law has vanished to. Her father sounds like a ruler seeking an advantage over another and it speaks for itself that she answers freely despite the knowledge.
Shaking her head, Eärwen answers, „Long before. I think it crushed him to turn his back on his brothers and return with those too frightened to walk towards their doom. Hadn't it been for his sense of duty, he would've went with the Exiles.“
With his family, she corrected quietly in her mind. But her father wouldn't like her pointing out the difference.
King Olwë hummed in response, listening to the waves. The call of the sea was always in his ears, whispering and chattering like an eager child. Before the waters turned black and the depths treacherous he considered Ingoldo a good match for his daughter, someone he welcomed into his family. When the darkness engulfed them and the ocean summoned waves far too high to travel safely, when Fëanaro came with smoldering winds from south, he had not seen Finarfin. Not when the Prince spat lies about Finwë's death, the Valar and demanded Olwë's treasure. Not when he stole his swans and not when his people went out to get them back.
Olwë's heart had unwillingly hardened against Finarfin. Fëanaro had always danced on the edge of a revolution, had always been the rocky cliffed coast that would kill you if you ventured to close and Nolofinwë graded under the influence of wind and water, one could never tell if your hulk was swallow enough to sail through the channel this day.
But Arafinwë? The father of his grandchildren, who now laid dead on unfamiliar grounds? Always Finwë's youngest son had been like the beach, wide open and welcoming, friendly – perfect to take a bath in clear, pure water. Now a thick fog clung to him, surrounded him until he vanished in grey clouds and the only identifying color was deep red. Rich like the blood that stained Alqualondë to this very day and from the same shade like Fëanaro's House.
Perhaps Olwë was wrong to blame Finarfin for what happened, but his change hurt just as deep like returning his own people to the sea. Helping Finarfin was impossible for him, the elf would never return to the smiling ellon who dared to sail with his daughter onto the open sea.
Still Olwë hoped, Finarfin's heart would reach a safe haven no matter how foreign the port would be.
I’ll leave my window open,
‘Cause I’m too tired at night to call your name.
Just know I’m right here hopin’,
That you’ll come in with the rain.
Decades turned into centuries and Eärwen watched Finarfin from afar. She kept an eye on him, as often as she was able to and she never liked what she saw. Rarely Eärwen saw him ate and he always rose before the sun came up. They stopped sharing the same bedroom a long time ago, Eärwen even lived in a different wing when she was in Tirion but sometimes both of them shared a silent hour in the garden. Usually to discuss politics in private and while Eärwen used the time to relax a little, Finarfin always carried his work with him.
Papers, requests, reports, anything to keep his hands occupied.
Even on the hottest summer day since the sun first rose in the sky and even the most formal ellon had loosened collar, Finarfin was dressed in long sleeves while he sat on a simple stone table, writing his letters. For Eärwen these hot summer days had always been more difficult to bear than the winter cold. Tirion tended to heat up and the stone kept the warmth till late autumn.
„I'm willing to share the shade of the trees with you,“ Eärwen offered, not knowing how else to break the silence.
„I'm fine over here,“ he answered absently. „More space to spread out.“
For all her efforts to mend the bridges she burned in haste and anger, Finarfin did little to meet her halfway. At first she had felt rejected, kept worrying about if he ignored her on purpose. Currently Eärwen was convinced her husband truly did not notice.
Servants confirmed her theory when they reported the King ate dishes he previously hated, did not relaxed to music he once liked and kept a tight schedule. Eärwen feared Finarfin only got out of bed in the morning out of habit. Obligation drove him and if it were not for Valinor's light he would fade within days.
With a defeated sigh she rose and refilled his cup with water, hoping he would drink it within the next hour. Using the closeness the examine Finarfin as she rarely had the chance to since all intimacy had been washed away, Eärwen's eyes fell on the faint layer of sweat on his skin. Apparently his hröa was still affected by the physical world, only his mind had been detached from it. How long it would take until his fëa buckled under the strain?
Talk to yourself, talk to the tears,
Talk to the man who put you here,
And don’t wait for the sky to clear.
„Someone must help him,“ Eärwen insisted.
She had gone to the first person she coming into her mind, but Indis only shrugged when her daughter-in-law brought up the subject. Surrounded by various handmaidens offering tea in Vanyarin porcelain, Indis expensive dress and rare sculptures from famous artists Eärwen felt inadequate - like always. The mother of the King didn't even bother rising to meet her when Eärwen entered the greeting room, wearing only a light practical dress for the day.
„You worry too much. Of course it's natural he's stressed with all the new work and people he brought with him, when he returned to us,“ Indis told her in a soft voice and took her hand as if she tried to offer comfort.
In the early days of their engagement Eärwen would've nodded and not thought twice about Indis words. Now however she had much more experience and her constant work at the docks, greeting the newcomers and helping them to settle down, had taught her to separate wants from needs. Many of the Teleri had balked at the suffering the Elves in Middle Earth had withstood and had come to be ashamed of their embittered behavior.
Slowly her people had started to heal and Eärwen hoped to see more smiles on the faces of the sailors. Water used to bring them joy and the coldness in the Teleri's hearts would vanish when the high tide of the war finally receded.
Only one woman had not changed during all of this. Eärwen failed to remember where Indis had been during the Darkening.
„My worry is based on facts,“ Eärwen answered, balling her hands to fists. „I know my husband and he is fading. His mind is far away very often and I fear his body will follow soon. Nothing in Tirion lights up his eyes and if you had bothered to look you would notice his eyes are still colorless.“
With force behind her step, Eärwen swirls around and leaves the room before she starts throwing insults. Finarfin would not thank her since he apparently never bothered with his mother long enough for her to pick up the signs. Was Indis always this swallow, blinded by the luxury of the palace? For the first time Eärwen understand why the Exiles and the Moriquendi hated the elves of Valinor so much. Angers boiled in her at the thought that Indis didn't look like a woman who suffered through the darkening like everyone else.
While she walked through the place, Eärwen hoped it was the isolation and the loneliness which turned Indis into a woman of convenience. Otherwise Fëanor's opinion about her had been justified and Eärwen desired anything but that. Eärendil's arrival had opened the eyes of many but she wasn't ready - would never be in fact – to say Fëanor had been right from the beginning.
You put up walls and paint them all a shade of gray
And I stood there loving you and wished them all away
The news reached her like the always did, handmaidens hotly discussed the subject long before the invitation letter arrived on her desk.
„A feast to celebrate end of the war?“ Eärwen asked to be sure. Several nods confirmed it and the ladies in question quickly picked up the topic again.
Eärwen still stared at the letter when it arrived a few days later. A feast at the palace had been nothing unusual in the past, but Eärwen questioned the wisdom of it. Were it not for Indis signature at the bottom of the page, Eärwen would've agreed that it was time to move on and tried to enjoy herself for one evening.
Instead she saw this as reaction to her accusal that the King's mother cared not about the wellbeing of her son. Perhaps she hit a nerve. Hopefully Indis preparations were formed from good intentions, her mother-in-law was too comfortable in the role of the Queen to simply forget politics involved. There was no doubt she wished to help her son, in her own way.
„But what use is a feast if Finarfin is reminded just how many people will be missing?“ Eärwen murmured to herself and decided to get her hands on the sitting arrangements.
Maybe I should've seen the signs, should've read the writing on the wall.
And realized by the distance in your eyes that I would be the one to fall.
The only positive thing regarding the feast was that it was almost private and that Indis had also invited a few people Eärwen wished to speak to. She spotted Eärendil and Anarië, which was at least something. Anarië had been a dear friend she neglected the last years, once a fellow woman among the Finwion men and Eärendil she hoped to speak to since he was the only reliable witness she had for the War of Wrath. Talking to Elwing was impossible, the girl lived in her Olwë's house under medical care and was in no condition to even accompany her husband. Of course there were others who had seen Beleriand, but the soldiers would never betray their King's confidence. Nor Eärwen thought they would be able to help in the matter.
Yes, her husband suffered from flashes of the War during the day and from nightmares while he slept. Yet it was not the violence which caused his suffering. Finarfin saw duty as his calling and had learned not to shed away from necessary work. He had rebuild the relationship between the Teleri and the Noldor while kneeling on the hard and bloodied ground.
The horrors of war would, hopefully, fade over time.
But enduring without feeling pain is not living, Eärwen thought. There must be something that brings him pleasure.
And she would find it. Her own love for him was still true, but they would never share the same bed again. Thinking about making advances made her sick and they wouldn't be greeted with gratitude anyway. Even remembering the hours when they eagerly joined their bodies, caused a queasy feeling in her stomach now.
Eärwen blamed the Kinslaying.
Not the act itself tore them apart, since neither of them had ever slain another elf.
But they had chosen different sides.
Finarfin followed his brothers after Alqualondë until Mandos pronounced the doom. He made his choice in his heart and she stood on the other side. Had Finarfin been forced to kill that day, Eärwen knew more Teleri blood would've filled the streets.
We can never return to that place, where we conceived our children, that she knew even without asking. That agreement they had come upon in silence. Eärwen could stand beside her husband and greet Exiles returning from Beleriand, look over his speeches, hug him and care for his wellbeing, but never again she would be able to bear his naked skin against hers.
As soon as the initial greeting was done, Eärwen slipped away to mingle with the small crowd. Right now she couldn't bear to sit next to her husband. Even less since she felt Indis eyes on her back. If the King's mother expected hand holding, she'd have to look elsewhere.
Since this was more like a private feast for the selected few, Eärwen had it easy to move through the groups chatting with each other. On a public feast she would've been expected to stay had Finarfin's side. Since there were only Lords with their wives and a few old friends Finarfin's perhaps even liked to see again, Eärwen could drop the formality and treat the guests like friends instead of being faced with the weird situation of being the Noldorin King's wife and daughter of King Olwë as well.
While she was married to Finarfin the relation between the Noldor and the Teleri had been far too damaged to even consider of making her Queen when Finarfin returned. Some folks still debated who exactly was Queen of the Noldor now. Eärwen had never worn the crown and would refuse if asked. Indis was the most likely candidate since her position had not changed despite the fact she lost her title as ruling monarch with Finwë's death.
Since no one dared to mention Nerdanel, many had gone back to Míriel when they referred to The Queen. The people wished for one and the Noldor sorely lacked female leading figures. Fighting down the rush of emotions stirring towards her own daughter across the sea, Eärwen figured the lack of a a Queen made the normal people cling to their King even more. Seeing and actual meeting Finwë had been an rare occasion, the King of the Noldor had always cloaked himself in mystery with staying mostly at the palace. Finarfin instead had become a very public figure.
He invited minor Lords to his council, greeted Silvan chiefs in person and shook hands on the street quite often. The latter was a tradition the race of men had introduced them to and most of the Exiles and the Moriquendi shared it as their own custom now, especially when meeting strangers.
Eärwen wondered if Finarfin had known how eager the Noldor in Tirion followed their King into the new custom when they learned that the gesture also meant being weaponless. Right now it was simple a marvel to witness how her depressed and apathetic husband could throw an ancient Yanyar into a passionate stage of childish curiosity, just by explaining the meanings of a firm handshake.
Lost in her thoughts she didn't notice how a person joined in her task of watching the Noldor King.
„Curiosity led me to this evening, eager to meet Arafinwë himself when I heard so much about him and yet I wished I had listened more to the rumors,“ a soft voice told her.
Eärwen swirled around, startled, only to meet a tall stern woman with a thin face and pain in her eyes. It took her a moment to realize who she was inspecting.
„Queen Melian,“ Eärwen gasped and then fought the urge to bow.
While she was related to the Maia through her father, Eärwen's only thoughts were her children. This is had been one of the most powerful creature in Beleriand for a long time and when time came to prove her noble intentions she refused.
Two of her sons had died, because Doriath refused to send aid.
„Not the most powerful. Only the most foolish.“ Melian whispered, reading Eärwen's obvious thoughts and noticing her clenched fists. „Love blinded me to reason and when it mattered most, I refused to be brave. Any action that came after was just me trying to compensate when I'd never be able to correct.“
„What are you talking about?“ Eärwen demanded to know. „Which of your many mistakes are you referring to?“
In her eyes there were many. Her people had never much contact with Maia and Ainur in general. The few they met on occasion always belong to the sea and despite their love towards it, all Teleri knew how dangerous even the quiet waters could be. An elf could drown in a puddle. So they never forgot how alien the Valar truly were, how little they understood.
„The very first,“ Melian answered before Eärwen could throw a list of failures against her head.
In Valinor, Melian learned, people had different expectations from her. Doriath had viewed her as something special, rare. Here Elves joined Irmo for lunch and hunted with Oromë in the afternoon.
„I regret not meeting Fëanor, when he first touched our land and freed half Beleriand from Orc's,“ Melian confessed. „Many forgot the Dagor-nuin-Gilitath after they learned of Alqualondë.“
In her confusion Eärwen wisely held her silence. Melian reminded her little she knew of the strange land beyond the sea and it's history. Not many were willing to talk about it and often their tales contradicted themselves. It was difficult to create a clean timeline with so many survivors and lost tribes.
„The Battle under the Stars,“ Eärwen inquired carefully and wondered what all of this had to do with her husband.
„Yes, the first victory of the Noldor. Celegorm himself came to Círdan to free the Falas from siege. While my husband and I soon forgot, I doubt that Círdan never did. Least of all that the Fëanorian Host never demanded recompense for their aid.“
Sorrow now joined Melian's voice.
„Protecting my people became my first priority. I wonder what happened had I dared to meet Fëanor before he rode North into his death. Even my husbands reaction to the slaughter of his people beyond the Sea may have turned out differently, had the Fëanorians gotten the chance to explain.“
„Your tale is nice, Lady Melian. But I may remind your that the Teleri of Alqualondë aren't your people. Or your husband's. We are free and despite our relation you have no power over us. We were divided when my father lost his brother and his king and too much has happened to reserve the process,“ Eärwen spat, understanding for the first time why there was no lost love between the Sindar and the Noldor.
If they all emitted such arrogance with Queen Melian as their leading example she could see clearly how her Noldor kin had soon lost patience with such irritating people. More and more Eärwen failed to see what Nerwen had seen in this woman in front of her.
Knowledge hopefully, Eärwen thought with bitterness.
Silence followed and suddenly Eärwen remembered in which company she was in. Hurriedly she glanced around, but no one paid attention to two Lady's chattering in the evening light. Eärwen intended to leave, but Melian's next words stopped her.
„You're much like your daughter, Eärwen,“ Melian commented, comparing both princesses to each other. „I see the same intelligence in you and her clear vision of the world she inherited from you as well.“
Taking a sharp breath, Eärwen struggled with her emotions. Nerwen was a sore subject for her and another point in which her and Finarfin's opinions divided. Until now she had hated her husband for not bringing her youngest back to her, when she learned that Artanis was still alive.
And yet after meeting Melian Eärwen believed she understood her daughter better.
„Long I wondered what my daughter saw in your lands to stay if many of your own people left and their Queen chose Valinor over them,“ Eärwen considered carefully. Her voice was dangerously low. „However meeting you in person, makes me appreciate why my husband answered Eärendil's call in the first place. We didn't balk at the prospect of going to war. Not this time. We've grown strong enough to answer kin's call for help.“
Narrowing her eyes, Eärwen meet Melian's gaze unflinching and with the depth of the Sea in her voice, she announced, „I had trouble to understand the nature of the Noldor myself and they tend to irritate me to a great deal, but I've also found it far easier to compromise with their temper than with your societies reluctance.“
Before Eärwen risked a public scandal, she turned around to vanish among the crowd, leaving Melian behind without looking back. Perhaps the time would come where she'd dare to treat in Melian's waters again. For now Eärwen was thankful for the enlightenment the encounter had offered her.
Not only Eärwen dearly wished to apologize to Nerwen for hating her so long for her choice, looking into Melian's eyes and seeing Beleriand behind them, had shown her why her husband had fought so hard for it.
It's not unbroken anymore.
How do I get it back the way it was before?
Making her way through the guests Eärwen found her husband in a quiet corner. Just like she suspected he had lost his overbearing mother and hid in the shadows to observe from the outside.
„May I sit beside you?“ she asked, gentle with her movements. Despite the feast around them, they seemed alone and undisturbed in their little corner.
To her surprise Finarfin answered, „I'd be pleased.“
His voice was hushed, but soft and Eärwen's bloomed into a smile when she sat down on a chair beside him. Taking a cup of wine for herself she leaned back and looked at the guest. Neither of them spoke for some time until Finarfin broke the silence.
„I've always wanted to thank you what you've done for me,“ he said and when Eärwen turned her head, she saw the struggle in his eyes. It reminded her of the day he returned.
„You'll always have my support,“ she promised and knew Finarfin would think better than taking it for granted. Her loyalty would bring up arguments with her own father, but she wished to stay by her husbands side and see where his chosen path would lead him.
Melian had given her the understanding she sought so long and the words of the Sindar Queen cleared the fog to a certain degree. Of course Eärwen wished to belief Finarfin had changed for the better, yet she'd stay realistic and be content with the knowledge her husband had a good day. Ever since he touched Valinor's shores again Eärwen doubted the existence of a good day in the Finarfin's life.
„I appreciate it,“ Finarfin said. „Though I doubt you like where your blind loyalty will lead you.“
Eärwen held back a disappointed sigh. Had it been too much to hope they would regain the easiness they once shared? As much as it hurt her, Eärwen couldn't offer Finarfin the loyal, unquestioned reinforcement he longed for.
„I didn't say that,“ Eärwen corrected. „I shall not follow you blindly wheree ver you go. You may have my support, because I care for you but our political opinion's may differ one day and we have to part.“
„Again?“ Finarfin displaying a hint of a sarcastic smile. „What will cost me this time in order for you to open your doors to let me into your home?“
It was Alqualondë he referred to. Eärwen faintly remembered the day, Finarfin's host passed their city and slipped behind border during the night to speak with her. It was a true miracle Eärwen hadn't turned into a Kinslayer that night, so great her anger had been.
„I think deep in your heart you know it was you who never truly returned,“ Eärwen countered and wondered if the grey in Finarfin's eyes had been already there when he reappeared in Tirion, after he deserted his brothers after the Doom. Perhaps the colorlessness had waited beneath the surface and she had never noticed.
The sea is blue only because it reflects the color of the sky, Eärwen mused. Water itself is transparent.
Instead of answering Finarfin returned to his favorite past time, reflecting his thoughts in peace and quiet. During their conversation the sun had finally set and now in the light of Fëanor's lamps, Eärwen noticed how much Finarfin's resembled his brothers suddenly. In the shadows of the night even his bright hair had darkened, leaving only his sharp prominent features and his Noldorin eyes gleaming in the dark.
Sadness engulfed her heart and despite her desire to retreat to her chambers Eärwen constrained herself. Finarfin mustn't see her tears. He wouldn't even understand the reason for her mourning and his sympathy would make it worse.
An age ago she had married Arafinwë, the son of Finwë which took after his mother and had a strong connection the Teleri folk. Nothing of the ellon she had fallen in love with remained. Her blue eyed prince would never return, Eärwen acknowledged. Only the grey-eyed King of the Noldor prevailed, had finally ended the battle of which lineage to follow.
At least, Eärwen hoped, his blood will no longer divide beneath his skin.
Though it left no room for her.