MakalaurŽ watched as NolofinwŽ, Lalwen, FindekŠno, FindarŠto, and some of NolofinwŽ’s other Lords and Ladies approached them on foot. This was MakalaurŽ’s first glimpse of his kin, at least they had once been kin in better times. Now they were unrecognizable, so CurufinwŽ had warned him, though MakalaurŽ had believed his brother exaggerated. He had not. MakalaurŽ chided himself. Thirty years to cross the HelcaraxŽ, the Grinding Ice, a place that needed no evil overlord to kill, maim, and torture. MakalaurŽ dismounted his horse. It would not be wise to peer down at NolofinwŽ from atop a mount that was descended from the horses that FŽanŠro’s host had taken from his uncle. At first MakalaurŽ had thought riding the horse would be message enough about his kingship, a show of his strength, but seeing NolofinwŽ, Lalwen, and his cousins, made MakalaurŽ regret the choice. He had been too influenced by his brothers, by his own pride. MakalaurŽ smiled bitterly, thinking to himself, Father would be proud .
The first meeting of the Noldorin King and NolofinwŽ’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 NolofinwŽ’s host was used to walking, to marching, had learned to live and be a people that were on the move. MakalaurŽ 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, FindekŠno, who had been like a brother to him, and dearest to Maitimo, MakalaurŽ fought the urge to look away. FindekŠno, like all of them was gaunt, but there was something more disturbing about him that sent shivers down MakalaurŽ’s spine. Hate. Raw hate. MakalaurŽ had never known FindekŠno to hate, but with every step FindekŠno took towards the group, MakalaurŽ 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 NolofinwŽ’s group halted, FindekŠno’s eyes settled upon MakalaurŽ and scanned the remainder, inspecting the group. FŽanŠro was dead. This much they knew. Of course, FindekŠno was looking for Maitimo, looking for the source of his deepest betrayal, but he would not find him. FindekŠno wore his emotions openly and what MakalaurŽ saw in him did not bode well for peace between them. MakalaurŽ thus decided, rather impulsively, that he needed to speak to FindekŠno privately before sharing words with all of them, protocol be damned! MakalaurŽ called out to FindekŠno, surprising his brothers: “I would like to speak with you FindekŠno. Please…for a moment.”
FindekŠno flinched, hearing MakalaurŽ’s words directed at him. It took a great deal of strength to keep himself from retaliating physically.
MakalaurŽ observed how FindekŠno’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 MakalaurŽ had never seen in anyone. Indeed, NolofinwŽ’s host seemed to possess whatever strange aura the Ice gave them. It was disconcerting.
FindekŠno stepped in MakalaurŽ’s direction, NolofinwŽ kept himself a safe distance, but not so far he could not hold his son back if FindekŠno broke, for he recognized that FindekŠno was riding a dangerous edge. “Say what you must in front of my kin,” FindekŠno whispered, afraid if he spoke his voice would echo across the lake.
MakalaurŽ cast a weary glance to the group, “It would be better said to you in private, only a moment.” MakalaurŽ could hear his brothers begin to rumble behind him but a quick flick of his hand and his brothers quieted. They knew that FindekŠno would need to be dealt with first, understood MakalaurŽ’s quick decision, but they cared for it not.
FindekŠno turned away from MakalaurŽ and marched back towards his father’s group. FindarŠto was furthest way, his face unreadable, but yet grim, his fairness no longer a happy sight. NolofinwŽ laid his hand on FindekŠno’s shoulder, gently halting his step. “You can always share with us what he has told you,” NolofinwŽ’s voice dropped so only FindekŠno could hear. “I do not think you want what he has to share with you spoken aloud. Think on it FindekŠno,” NolofinwŽ reminded his eldest that his and Maitimo’s relationship was not a widely shared story.
FindekŠno turned to look back at MakalaurŽ 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. NolofinwŽ had asked after him when first they met with CurufinwŽ who had come to tell NolofinwŽ that FŽanŠro had died. When NolofinwŽ had asked after the other brothers and if NelyafinwŽ was now king, CurufinwŽ 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 CurufinwŽ 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 FŽanŠro’s host. They had long before began building another settlement north of the lake and it was here that FŽanŠro’s host had moved once they had word that NolofinwŽ’s host had crossed the ice.
FindekŠno nodded curtly. NolofinwŽ urged him on with a glance. FindekŠno turned and slowly walked towards MakalaurŽ, his eyes taking in all his surroundings, accounting for where on their bodies FŽanŠro’s sons carried weapons, the placement of their hands, the rhythm of their breath, the twitch of their nostrils. Though FindekŠno had the power to open himself up and search for Maitimo’s fŽa, the hate that filled him, no longer allowed such connection. It had been broken, so FindekŠno believed. FindekŠno halted a few steps from his cousin, allowing his cold, blue eyes to settle on MakalaurŽ. FindekŠno looked down his nose at MakalaurŽ and though he wore no crown he had guessed MakalaurŽ was now their leader. That only meant one thing…
MakalaurŽ spoke quietly but formally to FindekŠno, though MakalaurŽ silently mourned for it seemed the FindekŠno he had known in Aman was gone, lost to the ice. This person in front of him was not an elf. MakalaurŽ spoke, “Maitimo was taken by Moringotto. We know not whether he lives.”
FindekŠno drew back, but he did not take his eyes off of MakalaurŽ. A feeling stirred in his heart, or so he thought, but FindekŠno allowed his hardened and bitter heart to reclaim whatever feelings stirred there. “We have lost many,” FindekŠno replied shortly. “Some have no kin to grieve for them for entire families were lost, but thankfully your father and NelyafinwŽ have all of you to grieve for them.” At that FindekŠno 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.
MakalaurŽ wanted to tell FindekŠno, to reveal to him that Nelyo had never abandoned him, at least not easily. He should have said to FindekŠno: 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. MakalaurŽ had to consider the political challenges of his own claim to Kingship. It was a complicated time, even within his own host. MakalaurŽ cast his eyes to the ground instead.
FindekŠno’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 MakalaurŽ 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,” FindekŠno hissed.
MakalaurŽ flinched, of course FindekŠno 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.
FindekŠno turned away from MakalaurŽ unexpectedly, announcing to his father, “MakalaurŽ is King. NelyafinwŽ is lost.” Walking away, without turning to look at MakalaurŽ, FindekŠno spat out, “It is him you should deal with father,” FindekŠno pointed at MakalaurŽ. FindarŠto moved to meet FindekŠno and bring him back to their group lest FindekŠno turn and unleash his rightful anger on MakalaurŽ.
Tyelkormo made a growling sound behind MakalaurŽ and CurufinwŽ spoke up, the haughtiness of his voice like a nail grating on the surface, “FindekŠno should show deference to his King.”
FindekŠno spun around enraged and FindarŠto laughed aloud. NolofinwŽ 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.
NolofinwŽ walked towards CurufinwŽ, taking time to look upon each of his dead brother’s sons: “We are….” NolofinwŽ glanced taking in the immensity of EndůrŽ, “hungry.”
MakalaurŽ took a step back. He had not expected this. He needed to act quick. “Forgive us NolofinwŽ,” MakalaurŽ dared not yet name him uncle. “We are fools to forget your peoples’ needs,” CurufinwŽ shot a look at MakalaurŽ but Carnistir shot CurufinwŽ a glance that said, dare not utter a word.
“What provisions will you share?” NolofinwŽ quickly questioned, not forgetting his people were in need.
“We have food that shall last you for a time.”
“Yes,” NolofinwŽ agreed, “you have left us some, but what of the horses you stole?” NolofinwŽ looked around MakalaurŽ to the horse that stood riderless next to his brothers.
MakalaurŽ 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!!”
NolofinwŽ 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,” NolofinwŽ countered sharing an icy grin with his nephew.
Tyelkormo was horrified. Who was this person standing before him? NolofinwŽ was mad, absolutely mad! He looked to the rest of the elves who accompanied NolofinwŽ. All of them had the same feral look about them. Whatever they endured had utterly changed them. Tyelkormo saw them and feared them.
MakalaurŽ once more felt the earth shifting beneath him. “Of course not NolofinwŽ, 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.”
NolofinwŽ 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,” NolofinwŽ spoke, turning his attention back to MakalaurŽ. NolofinwŽ did not forget who MakalaurŽ was, who he had been as a child, as friend to FindekŠno, but that had been then, before the ice.
NolofinwŽ and MakalaurŽ 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 FindekŠno 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 FŽanŠro. 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 FindekŠno would come to see that MakalaurŽ was stronger than he appeared, led more firmly than FindekŠno cared to admit, but in this moment watching them quell filled FindekŠno with a crooked joy, not a happiness for that seemed a lost story. NolofinwŽ’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 IrissŽ.” 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 FŽanŠro’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 NolofinwŽ’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. EndůrŽ would impart her wisdom and they would remake themselves as a people in her image.
FindekŠno stood tall, his long braid swaying in the wind. He watched proudly as Lalwen closed the initial talks. FindarŠto came to stand next to FindekŠno. “That went well enough,” FindarŠto quietly observed, “but I cannot help but feel disappointed that my hunger has not been appeased.”
FindekŠno grunted, laying a hand on his cousin’s shoulder. “Perhaps we can hope that this hunger that drives us can be satiated.” FindarŠto smiled. It was not a happy thing. What was there to be happy about? They had arrived in EndůrŽ 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.
MakalaurŽ jumped off his horse, wordlessly sending the horse to the stalls. Elves were scrambling all over the FŽanorian outpost, reacting to the barking orders of their king. MakalaurŽ 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 MakalaurŽ missed nothing.
Once inside their private quarters, MakalaurŽ 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 FindekŠno, to curse the lot of the host that stupidly dared to cross the ice and survive. But MakalaurŽ’s rage could not be subdued. Telvo had enough of it. “Some poor fool will have to clean all this up,” Telvo spoke to MakalaurŽ who had thrown himself on chair. MakalaurŽ 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.”
MakalaurŽ seethed but the feel of his youngest brother’s hand on his chest gave him pause. MakalaurŽ 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 CurufinwŽ and I will have his head,” MakalaurŽ hissed.
Telvo laughed. “We shall take turns then.”
MakalaurŽ 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 NolofinwŽ.”
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 MakalaurŽ’s turn to laugh. “You mean he will not remain a fool for long.” MakalaurŽ allowed himself to fall back on the large wood armchair. MakalaurŽ 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. MakalaurŽ picked himself out of the chair once more, walking over to retrieve the crown. MakalaurŽ cursed himself, retrieving the crown. It had been damaged.
Telvo looked over MakalaurŽ’s shoulder. “Nothing CurufinwŽ cannot fix.”
MakalaurŽ 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,” MakalaurŽ 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 MakalaurŽ who was studying his brother.
“I miss him too,” MakalaurŽ offered. Telvo tried to smile, but he could not. MakalaurŽ continued, “I too consider what it would be like if he were here. What he would say.” MakalaurŽ 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, MakalaurŽ sighed: “It helps you know, to think of him in this way.”
Telvo shook his head.
MakalaurŽ 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.”
MakalaurŽ 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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