It might not be too late. Perhaps the fool would heed the message if he himself delivered it. The eagle’s vast pinions beat silently against the unnaturally darkened sky. No stars could be discerned in the gloom.
In a clearing by the sea the encampment seethed like a kicked hive. And there, surrounded by his followers, strode the object of the Vala’s quest. With a rush of wind and wings, he directed the eagle into a great spiraling descent. As they neared the ground, he bellowed, “Thou, Fëanor!”
The call was like the snap of wind that precedes a storm.
Fëanor turned and looked up. He turned with a warrior’s precision as he pulled his sword; his long dark hair and cloak spun and settled around him. His armor was cleverly wrought: black inlaid with silver, the helm topped with a fiery red plume. Never did Fëanor set his hand to anything that was not well done. All about him crackled with reckless beauty. Truly, he was the most wonderful and terrible of Eru’s creations.
Fëanor’s eyes darted about, searching the gloom. “Show thyself, O Manwë Súlimo,” he cried.
And Manwë took form, clothing himself in the flesh of a tall Eldar lord, one so familiar to this elf but now dazzling bright in aspect. His brilliance split the dark. Murmuring, the crowd of Fëanor's subjects parted and drew back.
Fëanor shielded his eyes with one long hand. “Still in radiance thou dost assault me. I should have expected nothing less from thee.” Abruptly, he sheathed his sword.
Manwë dismissed the eagle, which vaulted aloft with a screeching cry. He drew a mantle over himself, shrouding the light; saw Fëanor drop his hand into a fist, saw the thumb slide across the knuckles.
“Impatience doth not abide well with immortals,” Manwë said. “It will consume thee.” His voice boomed in the still air. The torches flickered.
Fëanor struck a stance with his hands upon his hips. “What hast thou to say?”
“Just this. I would try once more to dissuade thee from setting forth, for thou hast begun on a terrible quest that will destroy thee and all thou lovest.”
The Noldo’s chin tilted upward; his mouth took on that arrogant curl. Maddening, this one, in a way that Manwë had never experienced with any other creature. A restless brilliance married to great passion, such that should not be contained in one being for it burst forth in strange ways. Manwë could sense the future of the Noldor as a discordant series of notes in the Song: anguish, suffering, and death, all because of this one’s pride.
“I have no more to say to thee than I already imparted to thy herald,” Fëanor snapped.
“I can see exile hath not blunted the sharpness of thy tongue,” said Manwë.
“Say rather that it hath honed and seasoned it.”
Manwë governed his wroth. “I would speak with thee . . . in private,” he said.
Fëanor hesitated, then dismissed his entourage with an abrupt gesture.
“Father . . .?” queried his eldest, Maedhros.
“Who am I to reject a request from the High King of the Valar?” Fëanor said, but his tone said otherwise. Manwë ignored it. Fëanor's sons made an obeisance, then moved away.
Manwë led Fëanor down a path through the woods, emerging upon a high cliff overlooking the sea. A low wall was built along its edge and it was to this wall that they came. The air was heavy with moisture and the waves spilled upon the beach in a frothy, phosphorescent glow. The night was beautiful! Aman was blessed. How could Fëanor forsake it? Manwë opened his arms and inhaled deeply - summoning the sea breeze, which came leaping eagerly toward them. Fëanor came up beside him, his plume and cloak fluttering in the wind. He too breathed deeply the salt air, but his hands were clenched.
A rent opened overhead in the cloud cover, revealing a triad of pale stars. Far in the distance glinted the white towers of Tirion. Manwë gestured at it with an open palm. “Wilt thou not miss thy home?”
“My home is tainted now beyond repair. Nay, I shall not miss it.”
“And thy loyal subjects and thy sons, wilt thou lead them to destruction as well?”
Fëanor frowned. “If thou seest into the future so well, tell me then, O Lord of the Winds, couldst thou not see into Morgoth’s heart when thou loosed him? Couldst thou not know his future deeds and have spared me the agony of my father’s death?” His voice broke.
Trust Fëanor always to aim his darts with deadly precision. Manwë sighed. “Nay, I could not see into his heart. In that I have failed thee and all of Aman. With honeyed words, Melkor hath misled us all. Us ALL, I say, thou not the least. But do not compound my error with thine own. This oath thou hast taken, Fëanor, thou must recall it."
“Can one recall an oath sworn in the name of Ilúvatar and by thy own name, High King of the Air? Nay, I cannot and I will not. It was thy kinsman, that odious blight on Ilúvatar’s creation, who hath slain my father, dearer than life, and wrested from my house the jewels that are my heart. I shall pursue him to the ends of the earth to take back what is mine!” At this, Fëanor slammed a fist into his palm. The sound redounded against the rocks.
“The Silmarils are thy heart? Aye, there we come to it. Truly, they are magnificent, one of the great creations in all Eä. But they are things, Fëanor, wrought of mere substance, not living creatures. I have always feared the desire they provoke. Thou couldst have turned thy works to good by healing the Trees. Yea, even now Yavanna weepeth upon their blackened corpses and all Aman lieth under cloud. Thou alone hadst the power to restore their radiance. Instead, thou hast chosen to hoard thy jewels like some covetous worm. See what has become of that? Melkor hath been the instrument of revealing thy weakness. Let him have the jewels! Let him go and sit in some dark hole staring at thy treasure into eternity. Little comfort shall they give him for he but yearneth for the beauty they represent - the light of Aman - that he hath destroyed and therefore shalt never be his.”
Fëanor’s eyes grew bright with anger. “So, thou sayest I should have broken my jewels, my greatest treasure, to heal the Trees? Thou askest a greater thing than thou knowest. But wherefore should it falleth upon me to make the sacrifice? Who is responsible for this fell deed? He that hath loosed the monster, say I. What art thou doing to right the matter? I choose not to sit idle, bemoaning, wringing my hands while thy kinsman remaineth unpunished for his atrocities.”
The words stung Manwë as if he had been slapped. The wind increased, whipping their garments into a frenzy. “Thou forgetst thy place, Elda,” he growled.
Fëanor stood proud and defiant against the onslaught. “And what is my place? Under thee, my Lord! As thrall to thy desires and whims? Nay, I have chosen otherwise.”
It could not be borne. Manwë drew himself up to a vast and terrible height. Taking a stride forward, he scooped up air and threw a chilling blast at Fëanor, knocking him down flat upon his face. The Noldo’s helm rolled away from him releasing a spill of inky hair, and he lay with his head turned to the side, hands struggling to find purchase on the ground, and eyes closed tightly against the tumult.
“Unsayest thy vile words, son of Finwë!” Manwë roared.
“Thy actions do but prove them,” Fëanor cried above the wind’s squall. “So, thy true face is finally revealed, even as Morgoth once claimed. Thou sayest the Silmarils are my weakness? Those words should scorch thy lips, and thou, THOU knowest why.”
Suddenly Manwë, even he, was afraid and did not want to hear what would follow. He straightened and his arms fell to his side. The wind dissipated to a confused mewl. But Fëanor raised himself on his forearms and rolled over. Dropping his head back, he swallowed and the motion traveled tantalizingly along his white throat. Then slowly he parted his knees. “Is this what thou desirest? Sweetest and most bitter of surrenders? Here, I offer it.”
Manwë looked at the proud figure sprawled lasciviously on the ground and realized that he did indeed still desire the fey Noldo. He turned and gripped the top of the wall as he diminished to a size nigh to Fëanor’s own. “So long ago,” he muttered, “I had almost put it from my thoughts.”
“Hadst thou? It hath never been far from mine.” Fëanor’s eyes glittered. Then he rose upwards like a curl of flame and leapt close to Manwë, his hot breath fanning the Vala’s face. “Surely thou rememberest a Festival of Harvest long ago when I was but newly come of age, a time when a certain Vala looked out among his subjects and found one of them . . . pleasing.”
Manwë turned his face away, but Fëanor chased after it with his fingers, taking his chin and forcing Manwë to look at him. Fëanor said, “There was dancing and merriment, rich food, and sweet wine. The company was giddy, laughing and innocent as children. Except one. Dost thou remember?”
“Aye,” Manwë said, “thou wast sitting at the far end of the great table. Of all that fair gathering thou wast the only one with a look of having just tasted something sour.” He smiled, trying to lighten Fëanor’s mood, but the Noldo’s mouth drew into a thin line.
Even when sullen, Manwë thought, Fëanor’s face was dangerous in beauty, restless in his longing and loneliness. He remembered how charming that face looked when lit with a smile. Just as one stares into a hearth mesmerized by the flickering motion of the flames, so was Manwë unable to avert his gaze from this one, neither then nor now.
“Indeed, that day I was angry,” Fëanor assented. “My father was shamelessly courting the Vanya, for all eyes to see. Finally, I could bear it no longer and sought to put some distance between myself and the revels. Not far away, there was a grove of trees that murmured and danced in the light breeze, deepest green moss at their feet and a silver brook that burbled alongside. There I went to ease my soul in its music. And it was there that thou foundest me, surpassing my wildest hopes. Dost thou recall that?”
“Aye,” the Vala said slowly, “I followed thee, hoping to cure thy malady.” Or had it been with a baser motive? He couldn’t tell himself. He had felt drawn to the young Noldo. Of course he remembered. He would always remember.
There, caught in his mind’s eye still, was the lovely Fëanor wandering along the bank of the stream; his long dark hair gleaming with satiny blue highlights, a striking contrast to the blood-red tunic. Always partial to jewelry, he wore a magnificent necklace of polished crystals. He strode along the bank picking up stones and pitching them underhanded into the water where they hit with an angry plunk. He selected one, started to throw it, then paused, rubbed it with his thumb, and examined it intently with that keen eye that later Manwë would learn came from a mind that wished to understand everything. Then, Fëanor’s brow knit in dissatisfaction and he heaved the stone into the dim shadows. Manwë had thought, ‘Among the great he will be, but something is not right with him, something that gnaweth and will not be satisfied.’
Coming up behind him, Manwë intoned, “Why dost thou forsake the revelry?”
Fëanor had looked up and his eyes widened. “My Lord,” he said and bent slightly, touching his brow in reverence. This was as it should be. Manwë waited patiently for him to collect himself. After a few attempts to turn aside the question, Fëanor finally admitted, “I still grieve for my mother lying in the gardens of Lórien, but now it appeareth that my father hath forsaken her.”
Manwë was puzzled. Why would Fëanor harbor such ill feelings towards his father? Should he not be glad that Finwë had found love again? He said, “It hath been many a year since Míriel’s fëa departed to the Mansions of Mandos, a cause for great sadness among us all. And long hath Finwë grieved. It is mete that there be an ending to such things. I, too, have seen him find joy in the company of the lovely Indis. Dost thou not wish him joy also?”
Fëanor looked off into the distance. “Thou shamest me, Windlord. My father is dearer to me than ought else in Aman, and I do wish him joy. Yet my heart becometh enraged when I behold that usurper to my mother’s place.” He clenched his fists. “I have tried but I cannot alter my feelings in this matter.”
“This emotion seemeth to me strange,” Manwë said. “It is one of possession, son of Finwë, a feeling that should be foreign in the Blesséd Realm. No good shall come of it.”
“I did not expect thee to understand.” Fëanor’s glance met Manwë’s and for a while they studied each other. Finally Fëanor asked, “My Lord, art thou above the base nature of the Eldar? When thou takest on the flesh of our kind, dost thou feel anger, jealousy . . . desire?”
Manwë said, “I do not know, as I have not thought on it before.”
“Shall we put it to the test?” Fëanor said with a crooked smile. But his eyes did not smile, instead they flickered with fire.
Manwë knew that such a trial, in whatever form it would take, would be dangerous. Yet there Fëanor was, beauty incarnate, his head tilted curiously to one side. Manwë hesitated. Into the space of that hesitation Fëanor stepped, laying hold of Manwë’s upper arms, encircling them in a strong grip. The Vala could feel him trembling.
“What dost thou mean by this?” Manwë said.
“Oft have I wondered how one of the Valar would respond to my touch,” Fëanor said.
“How I would respond?” Manwë asked, genuinely confused.
“I wish to know if thou art truly one of us, or an unfeeling god in a borrowed skin,” Fëanor said. “Long have I thought on this. Please, my Lord, I would take a liberty . . .” He leaned his weight against Manwë’s chest, turned his head slightly, then brushed a soft kiss across his mouth.
Caught by surprise, Manwë abruptly pulled away from Fëanor. “Thou art bold, princeling. This is not wise . . .”
“For once perhaps thou shouldst do what is not wise. Did that give thee pleasure?” Fëanor asked.
“Aye,” Manwë admitted, somewhat breathlessly.
Without waiting for further permission, Fëanor kissed him again - harder. Manwë felt himself enthralled by the feel of those lips, so eagerly moving against his own. They moved so sweetly, belying the sharpness of the tongue behind them. A strange musical thrum began deep within the Vala. As the symphony unfolded, he found himself opening his mouth and tasting of Fëanor, a flavor of amber darkness. He drew Fëanor to him, astonished at how good it felt to hold this hard, undeniably masculine form against his own. His body glowed at the contact like sparks caught in a whirlwind against the backdrop of eternal night.
Fëanor pulled back and regarded him with eyes burning bright as jewels. So beautiful. Manwë found himself leaning forward, opening his mouth to taste him again. Fëanor laid a finger on his lips and said, “I have learned something of thy nature, my Lord. I had guessed it, but now I know.”
“And what hast thou learned, Noldo?”
“I have observed thee watching us, standing so tall by the beautiful Varda’s side, as a proud father watching his children. Thou seemeth so calm, placid, as if nothing could ruffle thy demeanor and I have wondered, what lieth beneath that surface? Now, I feel it stirring within thee. It is passion and I would have it.”
“Wouldst thou? And what wouldst thou do with it?”
“Just this,” Fëanor said and kissed Manwë with such ferocity that the Vala’s world of calmness and placidity was forever knocked askew. Manwë slid his hands under the drape of Fëanor’s hair and pulled him close to devour his lips. He had never touched one of the First Born in this way before and was certain Ilúvatar would not approve. But as Fëanor’s moans became more heated, more urgent, he found he could not pull away. The sensations his touch, his taste, his smell evoked in Manwë’s body carried him relentlessly forward. He engulfed the Noldo’s mouth, sliding his tongue within it. Their teeth clashed together and Manwë bit Fëanor’s lip, drawing the sudden bright taste of iron into his own mouth. The Vala could feel a ridge between Fëanor’s legs, growing alongside his own. He pressed them together through their clothes and felt a hot rush of shock and urgency spread from that center throughout his body.
It was primitive and maddening. Within him the music had become a single heavy drumbeat, now quickening, now pounding in his ears. He sucked on those artfully curved lips, licked them, chewed them. He slammed Fëanor against a tree and thrust hard against him, not even knowing himself what he needed. A hunger had awakened, fierce and requiring satiety. He sank his teeth into Fëanor’s strong neck, heard the cry of pain as he worked his way downward; then he ripped apart the Noldo’s tunic and pushed it off his shoulders to reveal his pale chest. He curved a hand about the hard muscles feeling them flex under his palm. As he continued his downward course, his ears drank in Fëanor’s moans of desire and Manwë wove them into the music. Somewhere on the underside of reason, a small wailing voice attempted to gain his attention. He paid it no heed.
Manwë began furiously trying to wrest their clothes off, both Fëanor’s and his, piece by piece. Eru, there were so many layers. Fëanor began laughing. “Doth the High King of the Valar need to use brute force to gain his desire? Here then, dissolvest thy pretty skin.”
Manwë smiled at himself. Of course. He could make or unmake his garments with a thought, which he did in all haste, feeling them sift away like sand.
“‘Tis better so,” Fëanor laughed as he pulled off the remainder of his own clothing and cast himself down on the moss, holding out his arms in invitation.
And so it was that Manwë found himself lying naked atop Fëanor, feeling the wonder of being buried in that responsive heat, caught and held fast in delirious frenzy as they slid slickly back and forth. Manwë found joy in many things, the beauty of the world, the light of the Trees, the love of his companion, Varda, but he could never have imagined that the flesh could impart such ecstasy. Attuned to his moods, the winds overhead swelled into a roar, buffeting the tops of the trees rhythmically back and forth. Fëanor met him, thrust for thrust; then his breath quickened and he released a long wail, his nails raking a path down Manwë’s wet back. Manwë felt himself roaring to a peak, flaring bright as a star before dropping into an abyss. Its power rendered him senseless and for a long while it seemed that his spirit wandered in some unknown realm. Eru should have told him, should have warned him of the power the flesh could contain. Once tasted, he did not think he could exist without it.
When he found his earthly form again and entered it, he was lying at Fëanor’s side. Manwë could hear his own heart pounding loudly in the sudden stillness of the night. He rocked his loins gently against Fëanor’s hip, feeling himself swelling again; his hands remained fascinated by the feel of the Noldo’s flesh.
With a soft laugh, Fëanor said, “My Lord, that surpasseth even my most vivid imaginings. It was like . . . like working a sword at my forge; as if I could take the power of my hammer’s shivering ring and the flying white sparks and feel them manifest inside me, to swell and grow until I could bear it no longer. I still tingle and ache as if hollowed out. Was it so for thee?”
“Aye and more, ‘twas like the ecstasy of riding upon the unruly current of wind that forecasteth a storm.”
Fëanor ran his fingers across Manwë’s lips. “Rekindle me, Windlord. Ride me again,” he begged.
After that first night, there was a time of drunken madness when Manwë could not get enough of this insolent First Born. They met in secret, for Manwë knew that no one in Valinor would countenance the affair, least of all his most lovely and ethereal partner, Varda. But of course she suspected; and in time she found out and came to him, white-lipped with her anger. The memory of that confrontation was one of intense pain and guilt. He shouted; she wept. And afterwards, she went about their cold bedroom systematically dousing all the glittering candles, one by one.
Now he gazed far out to the horizon, gripping the stone wall in his hands. A slight moan escaped him. Looking up, he met Fëanor’s keen glance.
“I see thou rememberest,” Fëanor said. He was looking so fiercely at the Vala that Manwë had to drop his eyes, something he never had done before.
“I remember . . . in every detail,” Manwë said gruffly.
“Then thou wilt remember the day thou camest to me saying that what we did was wrong, that thou couldst never be with me in that way again?”
Another memory best left buried. That day he had found Fëanor at his forge and had come up unnoticed behind him, so intent was the Noldo upon his work. The image of power and beauty that he presented shook Manwë's resolve. Fëanor was almost completely naked but for sandals and a loincloth that rode low upon his hips. His body, made strong from years at this labor, glistened with sweat and his long hair was bound in a sloppy knot at the back of his head. He was holding a crucible with a pair of long tongs and pouring its milky contents into a mold. The substance bubbled ominously, but Manwë only had eyes for the play of muscle in Fëanor’s back and arms. He bit his lip as he watched a single drop of sweat slide down the Noldo’s spine into the cleft between his buttocks.
And unable to resist, Manwë had taken Fëanor again, for the last time.
“I do not forget these things, Noldo. I explained my reasons to thee then. Do I need to repeat them?”
“Not at all,” Fëanor said. “Carefully considered reasons, they were. Cold and unfeeling, especially when delivered after such a passionate embrace. And after that, thou didst turn thy back upon me, never considering my needs in the matter, never hearing my words. 'Twas a black day to add to a count of sorrows for me in Aman.”
“Never did I turn my back upon thee and always was I ready to be thy friend. Cold and unfeeling thou sayest, but all my overtures of friendship were met by thee with disdain and then later by ill-considered deeds against thy kin.”
“Could we be friends exchanging pleasantries in the square after sharing the heat of our bodies in the backroom? Nay, I think not. And I had good cause for my words of anger against Fingolfin, he who plotted to usurp my father’s favor, and if thou truly hadst loved me, thou wouldst have taken my side. Nay, instead I suffered exile.”
“Do not try to turn thy fault. Thou it was who disrupted the peace of Aman.”
“Thou it was who began all this, by breaking with me. Thou alone loosed Morgoth. A pack of woes thou hast dealt me, and now thou wouldst counsel me to turn aside from my path, to gainsay my oath? Thou art a mighty dissembler, Belovéd!” He spat out the endearment as if it were a curse.
White-hot anger erupted in Manwë’s heart and he turned upon Fëanor, seizing him in an iron grip about the throat. Slowly, he forced Fëanor to his knees. The Noldo scrabbled madly at the hands that held him, his eyes glittering defiantly even as he gasped for breath.
Manwë could sense that if he squeezed just that much more, he would take Fëanor’s life. With a sudden feeling of shock as if doused with cold water, Manwë released him. Fëanor took a long, wheezing breath, then sagged sideways against the wall.
“Forgive me!” Manwë cried. He pressed his thumbs into his own eyes. Why could he never govern himself around this one, only this one amongst all the creatures on Eä?
There was a long silence and then Fëanor beat his fist several times upon the stones. “Didst thou mean to kill me? Perhaps t’would be better so.” His voice rasped at the first. He coughed, and spoke again, his voice slowly gathering power. “Thou must know a truth ‘ere I go. I never told thee what our union meant to me.”
“I know,” Manwë said.
“Thou dost not. Neither doth anyone know.” Fëanor’s face softened into a look of terrible sorrow. “The Silmarils, they are the answers to the riddle. Think now about their beauty when last I wore them to the Festival of Midsummer in Valmar, how they shone with a light beyond any other save for the Trees that are no more. Remember their awful splendor, my Lord. I know thou feltest their power then. I saw thy face. Imagine now a world bereft of their light. For myself, I cannot bear the thought. It was not a lie that I spoke when I said I could not remake them. Dost thou know why?”
Manwë shook his head slightly. “Nay.” He did, in fact, remember vividly that Festival. Fëanor had come dressed in shimmering robes and wearing the Silmarils burning upon his brow. Manwë could not look, nor could he look away. The sight provoked desire in him, a longing to possess the bearer of that perfection. He had wrestled with it throughout the feast. Finally, when Fëanor refused to acknowledge him and Varda sat watching him with narrowed eyes, Manwë had left his guests, and brooded for months from the top of his mountain fastness.
“It was when first we became lovers that I conceived of creating a marvelous jewel that would outshine the stars,” Fëanor continued. “Long I studied. During that time, I married sweet Nerdanel and she boreth me my sons and still I spent time at alchemy and at my forge, making and rejecting crystals and housings. I consulted my father-in-law, Mahtan, and when his knowledge was exhausted, I went to Aulë himself. With him, I delved deep into the earth seeking rare stones and learning to unmake and remake them. When thou brokest with me, my obsession became the greater and led me to listen to thy serpent-tongued kinsman, Morgoth. I never told him what I sought to make, but he it was who toldeth me how I might infuse a part of my own fëa into a crystal. And that is what I did, Windlord. With spells and potions provided by that Great Betrayer, alone at night, I managed to create the greatest of all jewels, desired by all because I poured my own desire into them. That is why I cannot break them, for by so doing, I would destroy my own fëa and I would die.”
Aghast, Manwë sank down next to Fëanor. “Why wouldst thou do such a thing?”
Fëanor’s mouth twitched. “Dost thou truly wish to hear, Windlord? I suffered terribly when thou castest me away. Bereft of all reason, I could not eat or sleep until I fixed upon the idea of capturing forever the feeling of thy divine power surging into me during the act of love. And that is what I did. The Silmarils are the most magnificent of all jewels in Eä because they shine with the force of my passion for thee.”
Manwë felt a great pain in his heart. He pressed a hand to his chest and then rubbed it back and forth as if he could somehow assuage it. “I did not know,” he said, helplessly. Reaching for Fëanor, he drew him close and kissed his brow. For a moment he felt the proud king relax into his embrace.
“Why didst thou not tell me?” Manwë’s breath trembled through the top of Fëanor’s hair.
“Would it hath done any good if I had?” Fëanor said. “Nay, ‘tis done and now I must do what is fated. Proud they call me, reckless and fey, then so be it. But with my last breath, I shall make that Foul Deceiver pay for his misdeeds and I shall recapture what is mine alone.”
“I do not wish to see thee go,” Manwë said. “Aman will be the less without thee.”
“We cannot unmake our deeds, Manwë. Thou shouldst know that at the least.” Fëanor grasped the wall and pulled himself to his feet. “And now, unless thou desirest to keep me here by force, I shall go. I have a camp to order.”
Manwë said, “I never wanted to cause thee pain. Truly, I loved thee.”
Fëanor looked grim. “Thou knowest now the part thou hast played in shaping what will come. That shall be a bitter comfort to me in the dark nights as I lie alone, bereft of love.”
And Fëanor strode back towards the encampment. Defeated, the mighty Vala gazed after him with eyes clouded by a strange and sudden moisture.