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A Feast of Ashes by Kalendeer

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The small grove of trees is nondescript, with nothing but a small cluster of white stones to mark the tremendous importance of the otherwise peaceful spot. As if nothing had ever happened there, and nothing would ever happen but the song of the wind in the branches of oaks and pine trees.

This is the place where Finwë Nolofinwë will build his fortress. He will close the way up the mountains with grey stones carved from its sides; its walls will overlook vast plains and, when the day is clear, the High King will see the peaks of his foe’s fortress from the parapets of his stronghold. He can picture the high towers, the way he will make the Sirion River turn slightly to act as a natural barrier in front of his doors. He can see, clearly, where his builders will raise a hall, barracks for his soldiers, stables for his horses. Nolofinwë is, has always been thorough, well organized, logical.

 Yet, Nolofinwë knows Barad Eithel will not be as logical as it should. He should raze the grove to the ground, cut the oaks for the doors and the pines for the ceiling. The walls would cut the grove in two; a tower would replace the greatest tree. Nolofinwë knows, though, that he will not do so. That the walls will awkwardly shy from the grove, encircle them as it was something sacred to protect.

This, these woods, is the place where Fëanoro died.

It is nothing but a small grove, with a small cluster of white stones hastily raised over ashes and the burnt remains of his wayward brother’s weapons and armor; but for that it is sacred.

***

… and with his dying breath, his gaze turned toward Angband, he made us swear that we would never relent. Never let cowardice into our hearts, or despair lower our weapons. A fire wild and pure burnt in his eyes. At the moment of his death, his soul did not depart his body without a fight, and the sheer strength of his spirit burnt his shell to ashes.

The walls grow higher each day, and soon the grove is enclosed with them. As he stands near the white stones, turned toward the Thangorodrim, Nolofinwë cannot see anything but dull, grey stones. He can picture his nephews and with them his brother, his face contorted in anger, his silver eyes turned toward Morgoth, and wonders if by blocking the view, he somehow appeased the deceased.

He considers turning the grove into a memorial for his family; for sweet Elenwë, whose body slipped into the sea; for his youngest son, Arakano, dead before the sun could warm his face. What keeps him from doing so is the feeling that, somehow, there’s unfairness in that. Elenwë and Arakano died because of his brother’s treachery. So the walls grow and the groves stays the same, tainted by the ashes of the peculiar death and the feeling that something is just not right.

Perhaps it’s the trinkets. The Fëanorians left a few weeks ago for East Beleriand. For days and nights before their departure, women and children, soldiers and crafters wandered to the grove, leaving small gifts hanging from the branches of the trees or in the crook of their roots: painted stones, carved statuettes, coarse ribbons floating to the wind.

We commemorate our parents, Aicahendë said. Curufin wife. One of Fëanaro’s staunchest supporters’ daughter. They drowned by Uinen with their ill-gotten ships. We commemorate our friends. She had lost a fellow apprentice in Alqualondë, another one at the beginning of the Battle Under the Stars, and the last one in the mad charge that had ultimately claimed Fëanaro’s life. We commemorate our one true king, and the life we lost.

Do not even think of destroying this place.

Nolofinwë won’t; not with the feeling that it’s haunted. Haunted by doubts, regrets, anger, betrayal and tears.

And so the fortress grows, grows and grows, and it’s never, never truly Nolofinwë’s own.

 

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