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People of the Ice by Fadesintothewest

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Makalaurë watched as Nolofinwë, Lalwen, Findekáno, Findaráto, and some of Nolofinwë's other Lords and Ladies approached them on foot. This was Makalaurë's first glimpse of his kin, at least they had once been kin in better times. Now they were unrecognizable, so Curufinwë had warned him, though Makalaurë had believed his brother exaggerated. He had not. Makalaurë chided himself. Thirty years to cross the Helcaraxë, the Grinding Ice, a place that needed no evil overlord to kill, maim, and torture. Makalaurë dismounted his horse. It would not be wise to peer down at Nolofinwë from atop a mount that was descended from the horses that Fëanáro's host had taken from his uncle. At first Makalaurë had thought riding the horse would be message enough about his kingship, a show of his strength, but seeing Nolofinwë, Lalwen, and his cousins, made Makalaurë regret the choice. He had been too influenced by his brothers, by his own pride. Makalaurë smiled bitterly, thinking to himself, Father would be proud.

The first meeting of the Noldorin King and Nolofinwë's host was held on neutral ground, between the camps. Too much distrust and discord lay between them for any other setting to work. It was on the western edge of the lake, on the flatland that gave way to the foothills of the Mountains of Mithrim. Not too long a trek for the Nolofinwion host that did not have horses, though that mattered little, for Nolofinwë's host was used to walking, to marching, had learned to live and be a people that were on the move. Makalaurë could not imagine what that would do to a people and yet what he saw on the faces of those he had once laughed with, had named friend and cousin, disturbed him. And when he saw him, Findekáno, who had been like a brother to him, and dearest to Maitimo, Makalaurë fought the urge to look away. Findekáno, like all of them was gaunt, but there was something more disturbing about him that sent shivers down Makalaurë's spine. Hate. Raw hate. Makalaurë had never known Findekáno to hate, but with every step Findekáno took towards the group, Makalaurë could see how his body was tense, how his eyes glowed with fierceness, and the way his hands were balled up in fists at his side, near his sword.

When Nolofinwë's group halted, Findekáno's eyes settled upon Makalaurë and scanned the remainder, inspecting the group. Fëanáro was dead. This much they knew. Of course, Findekáno was looking for Maitimo, looking for the source of his deepest betrayal, but he would not find him. Findekáno wore his emotions openly and what Makalaurë saw in him did not bode well for peace between them. Makalaurë thus decided, rather impulsively, that he needed to speak to Findekáno privately before sharing words with all of them, protocol be damned! Makalaurë called out to Findekáno, surprising his brothers: "I would like to speak with you Findekáno. Please…for a moment."

Findekáno flinched, hearing Makalaurë's words directed at him. It took a great deal of strength to keep himself from retaliating physically.

Makalaurë observed how Findekáno's jaw tightened, how his eyes narrowed and shoulders hunched forward. He was sinewy now, a victim the long famine endured during the crossing of the Grinding Ice, but there was yet power, a power that Makalaurë had never seen in anyone. Indeed, Nolofinwë's host seemed to possess whatever strange aura the Ice gave them. It was disconcerting.

Findekáno stepped in Makalaurë's direction, Nolofinwë kept himself a safe distance, but not so far he could not hold his son back if Findekáno broke, for he recognized that Findekáno was riding a dangerous edge. "Say what you must in front of my kin," Findekáno whispered, afraid if he spoke his voice would echo across the lake.

Makalaurë cast a weary glance to the group, "It would be better said to you in private, only a moment." Makalaurë could hear his brothers begin to rumble behind him but a quick flick of his hand and his brothers quieted. They knew that Findekáno would need to be dealt with first, understood Makalaurë's quick decision, but they cared for it not.

Findekáno turned away from Makalaurë and marched back towards his father's group. Findaráto was furthest way, his face unreadable, but yet grim, his fairness no longer a happy sight. Nolofinwë laid his hand on Findekáno's shoulder, gently halting his step. "You can always share with us what he has told you," Nolofinwë's voice dropped so only Findekáno could hear. "I do not think you want what he has to share with you spoken aloud. Think on it Findekáno," Nolofinwë reminded his eldest that his and Maitimo's relationship was not a widely shared story.

Findekáno turned to look back at Makalaurë who had moved forward, the rest of the brothers were at a safe distance, obviously annoyed by his insistence. Of course, it was about Maitimo. Nolofinwë had asked after him when first they met with Curufinwë who had come to tell Nolofinwë that Fëanáro had died. When Nolofinwë had asked after the other brothers and if Nelyafinwë was now king, Curufinwë had simply smiled, answering that it was not his place to speak for the King, and so he would allow the King to speak for himself. At that brief meeting Curufinwë had informed the Noldor host that they could set up in the southern part of the lake and do what they would with the buildings left behind by Fëanáro's host. They had long before began building another settlement north of the lake and it was here that Fëanáro's host had moved once they had word that Nolofinwë's host had crossed the ice.

Findekáno nodded curtly. Nolofinwë urged him on with a glance. Findekáno turned and slowly walked towards Makalaurë, his eyes taking in all his surroundings, accounting for where on their bodies Fëanáro's sons carried weapons, the placement of their hands, the rhythm of their breath, the twitch of their nostrils. Though Findekáno had the power to open himself up and search for Maitimo's fëa, the hate that filled him, no longer allowed such connection. It had been broken, so Findekáno believed. Findekáno halted a few steps from his cousin, allowing his cold, blue eyes to settle on Makalaurë. Findekáno looked down his nose at Makalaurë and though he wore no crown he had guessed Makalaurë was now their leader. That only meant one thing…

Makalaurë spoke quietly but formally to Findekáno, though Makalaurë silently mourned for it seemed the Findekáno he had known in Aman was gone, lost to the ice. This person in front of him was not an elf. Makalaurë spoke, "Maitimo was taken by Moringotto. We know not whether he lives."

Findekáno drew back, but he did not take his eyes off of Makalaurë. A feeling stirred in his heart, or so he thought, but Findekáno allowed his hardened and bitter heart to reclaim whatever feelings stirred there. "We have lost many," Findekáno replied shortly. "Some have no kin to grieve for them for entire families were lost, but thankfully your father and Nelyafinwë have all of you to grieve for them." At that Findekáno allowed his eyes to linger on each of the brothers, daring them to come for him. He hungered for their blood, their healthy scent filling his nose, filling him with rage.

Makalaurë wanted to tell Findekáno, to reveal to him that Nelyo had never abandoned him, at least not easily. He should have said to Findekáno: You should know he turned away, could not, did not set fire to the ships. He implored father to return for you. He named you. He tried to keep us from torching the boats, but as soon as he stilled one of our arms, another put fire to the wood. He did not abandon you. But he said nothing. This was not the time for it. Makalaurë had to consider the political challenges of his own claim to Kingship. It was a complicated time, even within his own host. Makalaurë cast his eyes to the ground instead.

Findekáno's nose flared. His heart was ice and he used the cold to still the hand that desired to take his sword and permanently quiet Makalaurë who in that moment revealed his weakness. "Then the lot of you have lost much for it seems no honor has survived your father's host," Findekáno hissed.

Makalaurë flinched, of course Findekáno would indict him. He too burned the boats. And why he did it, why he acted against the shouting within him that said "don't' do it," that ached as the fires burned, he could not say. They were the worse for not having Maitimo around.

Findekáno turned away from Makalaurë unexpectedly, announcing to his father, "Makalaurë is King. Nelyafinwë is lost." Walking away, without turning to look at Makalaurë, Findekáno spat out, "It is him you should deal with father," Findekáno pointed at Makalaurë. Findaráto moved to meet Findekáno and bring him back to their group lest Findekáno turn and unleash his rightful anger on Makalaurë.

Tyelkormo made a growling sound behind Makalaurë and Curufinwë spoke up, the haughtiness of his voice like a nail grating on the surface, "Findekáno should show deference to his King."

Findekáno spun around enraged and Findaráto laughed aloud. Nolofinwë spat out a curse, "Do not mistake us for beggars. With one word, I can unleash my host upon your small contingent and we shall devour you and fill our bellies with your flesh. We are not the people you left behind."

Carnistir's eyes widened with disbelief. Tyelko quieted.

Nolofinwë walked towards Curufinwë, taking time to look upon each of his dead brother's sons: "We are…." Nolofinwë glanced taking in the immensity of Endórë, "hungry."

Makalaurë took a step back. He had not expected this. He needed to act quick. "Forgive us Nolofinwë," Makalaurë dared not yet name him uncle. "We are fools to forget your peoples' needs," Curufinwë shot a look at Makalaurë but Carnistir shot Curufinwë a glance that said, dare not utter a word.

"What provisions will you share?" Nolofinwë quickly questioned, not forgetting his people were in need.

"We have food that shall last you for a time."

"Yes," Nolofinwë agreed, "you have left us some, but what of the horses you stole?" Nolofinwë looked around Makalaurë to the horse that stood riderless next to his brothers.

Makalaurë had to bite his tongue. "We shall give you one-third of our herd. I believe that shall recompense the numbers from your herd that we took."

It was now Tyelkormo's turn to speak up. "That is outrageous! We cannot simply surrender the animals we have brought to flourish in these wild lands!!"

Nolofinwë turned to look at Tyelkormo. "Then we shall kill the exact number of horses you took. We need food and horse meat is hardy and shall last us the winter," Nolofinwë countered sharing an icy grin with his nephew.

Tyelkormo was horrified. Who was this person standing before him? Nolofinwë was mad, absolutely mad! He looked to the rest of the elves who accompanied Nolofinwë. All of them had the same feral look about them. Whatever they endured had utterly changed them. Tyelkormo saw them and feared them.

Makalaurë once more felt the earth shifting beneath him. "Of course not Nolofinwë, we shall bring one-third of our herd to you with enough feed to last for a few months. The hunting is plentiful if managed well. You will find the fields near your settlement to be generous. We did not harvest those grains. They await your peoples' industry."

Nolofinwë turned to look at the fields in the distance, his look softening, as if he was remembering something from the person, from the life that had long been abandoned. "You do well to offer this," Nolofinwë spoke, turning his attention back to Makalaurë. Nolofinwë did not forget who Makalaurë was, who he had been as a child, as friend to Findekáno, but that had been then, before the ice.

Nolofinwë and Makalaurë spoke like this for some time, arrangements were made, but nothing was signed, no pledge made. It didn't need to be. The very lives of the elves depended on it.

All the while Findekáno watched and heard, standing so very still as he had, as they all had learned to do on the ice, finding that stillness and quiet that would allow them to feel, to hear the subtle changes in the ice beneath him, but instead of the groaning or popping sound of ice he felt the earth beneath him, felt and heard its vigor and this gave him strength. His father made him proud. He did not bow down to the treacherous sons of Fëanáro. He was their King and he saw it on their faces, their doubt, their fears, but most of all that they were rudderless without their father, without Maitimo.

Later Findekáno would come to see that Makalaurë was stronger than he appeared, led more firmly than Findekáno cared to admit, but in this moment watching them quell filled Findekáno with a crooked joy, not a happiness for that seemed a lost story. Nolofinwë's host had lost too many to the ice: sons, daughter, brothers, sisters, mothers, and fathers. Too many. But all the names were known, woven into the lamentation the Noldor sang as they crossed the ice, a lamentation that grew long. The dead would not be forgotten.

Carnistir leaned over to whisper to Tyelkormo who was looking upon the faces of those he had known with wide-eyed disbelief. "Tell me now if you desire to see your beloved Irissë." Tyelkormo did not turn to look at Carnistir nor answer his brother. Carnistir sat back onto his mount, shifting back, allowing himself to exaggerate his comfort on his horse.

The initial negotiations were concluded. It was agreed that Lalwen would be the go between. She was hated least, if only because as a woman, Noldorin law did not reposit power into her line and so Fëanáro's sons did not perceive her as a threat in same way as the men. The ice had changed even the most conservative of the Noldor in Nolofinwë's host. Many of the customs of Aman were lost to the Grinding Ice. That wasteland imparted harsh lessons, stripping the Noldor to the bone of who they were as a people. They would no longer abide by laws and morals that did not help them survive. Endórë would impart her wisdom and they would remake themselves as a people in her image.

Findekáno stood tall, his long braid swaying in the wind. He watched proudly as Lalwen closed the initial talks. Findaráto came to stand next to Findekáno. "That went well enough," Findaráto quietly observed, "but I cannot help but feel disappointed that my hunger has not been appeased."

Findekáno grunted, laying a hand on his cousin's shoulder. "Perhaps we can hope that this hunger that drives us can be satiated." Findaráto smiled. It was not a happy thing. What was there to be happy about? They had arrived in Endórë and the price was great. Truly, they were relieved, relieved that the death march was over, that they could turn to healing and take the stillness in to mourn their lost ones.

)()()()(

Makalaurë jumped off his horse, wordlessly sending the horse to the stalls. Elves were scrambling all over the Fëanorian outpost, reacting to the barking orders of their king. Makalaurë was reinforcing the perimeter of the camp, ordering more guards. Ambarussa followed silently at his side, making note of any gaps that he would later need to account for, but as was usually the case Makalaurë missed nothing.

Once inside their private quarters, Makalaurë allowed his anger to boil over, slamming his fists against a table that sent the contents flying across the room. It was a spectacular scene as a water jug tumbled and shattered, its contents spilling across the floor. Telvo watched as his brother raged, giving him the room to curse his uncle, to curse Findekáno, to curse the lot of the host that stupidly dared to cross the ice and survive. But Makalaurë's rage could not be subdued. Telvo had enough of it. "Some poor fool will have to clean all this up," Telvo spoke to Makalaurë who had thrown himself on chair. Makalaurë jumped up to yell at Telvo but the youngest brother rebuked his brother, his king, pushing him back onto the chair. "I will not tolerate your misplaced anger Kano."

Makalaurë seethed but the feel of his youngest brother's hand on his chest gave him pause. Makalaurë seemed to remember his breath, closing his eyes to focus on the sound and sensation of it, allowing it to still his nerves. "One more word from Curufinwë and I will have his head," Makalaurë hissed.

Telvo laughed. "We shall take turns then."

Makalaurë felt the anger drain out of him. "I know he thinks his words are meant to succor. At best, they are an annoyance and at worse they reveal the depth of his unwillingness to understand the threat of Nolofinwë."

Telvo grew serious. "He has always been unwilling to see our uncle as equal to father, indeed himself. His conceit clouds his thinking, but he too will see beyond it. He is not a fool."

It was Makalaurë's turn to laugh. "You mean he will not remain a fool for long." Makalaurë allowed himself to fall back on the large wood armchair. Makalaurë remembered his earlier tirade, scanning the room for the crown he so carelessly discarded.

"Over there," Telvo offered, pointing to the corner where it had been thrown. Makalaurë picked himself out of the chair once more, walking over to retrieve the crown. Makalaurë cursed himself, retrieving the crown. It had been damaged.

Telvo looked over Makalaurë's shoulder. "Nothing Curufinwë cannot fix."

Makalaurë sighed. "Of course it can be fixed, though I do not know if the larger matter of the Crown can be fixed by as easily. Dark times await us," Makalaurë murmured, the anger replaced by despondency.

Telvo went to stand at a window, looking across the lake towards the South. They would have a few years of peace, at least while it concerned his uncle. The other encampment would be busy establishing themselves, but that would only last a few years. And what of Moringotto? Would he strike, take advantage of their conflict? This could not bode well for the Noldor. Telvo's thoughts went to Nelyo. Their meeting would have turned out different if Nelyo had been there. Feeling guilty he shot a glance at Makalaurë who was studying his brother.

"I miss him too," Makalaurë offered. Telvo tried to smile, but he could not. Makalaurë continued, "I too consider what it would be like if he were here. What he would say." Makalaurë walked towards a wooden table Maitimo had built, his hands settling on the grain of the wood, finding, tracing the line Maitimo found in the wood. "I often find myself asking him what he would do in such and such case." Turning to Telvo, who watched him silently, Makalaurë sighed: "It helps you know, to think of him in this way."

Telvo shook his head.

Makalaurë shared, "That I cannot find him, feel him, that I am constantly aware of his absence, of the void of him is a grief that has taken form, follows me."

Telvo hesitated, but his words had their own mind to speak: "That I do not know if he is alive or dead is a bigger burden. We know not if it is Moringotto's black magic that shields him from us, but then I believe if Nelyo were alive, Moringotto would revel in letting us know he lives."

Makalaurë turned to face his brother. "And yet I dare hope he fears us enough and thus would not let us feel, know that Nelyo lives." Perhaps that is what he had to believe.

"Yes," Telvo replied, "there is some hope in that." This time a small smile managed to break on his face.

Outside there was a stillness in the air, a type of melancholy that shaped itself into mist. It was not an evil, but a sorrow that would forever more become a part of the Noldor. Even upon the end of their exile, even upon rebirth, this sorrow would haunt their hearts for how could it not? To know such loss and to know that the world and its inhabitants were capable of both beauty and ugliness utterly transformed the Noldor, making them more like their kin that did not complete the Journey west.
Chapter end notes:
Its a bit rough, but I am writing again!
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