Lowered them down with links of chain
Festival of Mirth, Forth Age, Valinor
Large gatherings were the worst. When the High Table was pulled out for the descendents of Finwë and the empty chairs (set out in remembrance of those long gone) stood like gaping wounds. You could forget sometimes, as the bustle of day-to-day life swept you away, that the Noldor were crippled. You could forget all the faces that should have met you in halls, old war comrades who should have shared a pitcher of wine with you as you traded the sorrows and joys of Beleriand.
Finrod rolled the stem of his goblet between his fingers as Orodreth paused in his long-winded speech. Finrod offered his nephew a hasty ‘quite right,’ before Orodreth plowed on again, confident of Finrod’s attention. Finrod wasn’t listening to a word of it.
Reveling Noldor were spread out like an apron over the rolling pasture lands at Mount Túna’s feet. The White City of Tirion had emptied for the yearly Festival of Mirth. The Noldorin city crowned the Mount which rose solitary and regal from the flat, windswept plains of the Calacirya. The sounds of gaiety and sweet harp and flute music drifted over the assembled elves, but Finrod’s heart was miles away, or rather, years in the past.
He looked upon the Noldor who dined at the canopied High Table, the one set apart for the lords of their once mighty people, and felt the empty spaces like a throb in his bones. There were ghosts eating beside them this night, as there had been every night since his rebirth. Valinor was a land of unsurpassed beauty, but such beauty only shone a pitiless light upon what was lost.
The House of Finwë sat united upon the raised dais of the High Table, their diminished but joyous people scattered in pockets of feasting, dancing, drinking, singing, and all other forms of merriment around them, filling the wildflower, sun-brunt fields in waves of flaming color for leagues about. Would that they had known such unity before Death ate them all –save only Galadriel and those who had turned aside.
His farther Finarfin sat upon the carved throne of Finwë, or what had been Finwë’s throne before he’d chosen exile to Formenos with Fëanor (whom he’d loved best), never to returned. Finrod knew the crown that lay so innocently beautiful upon Finarfin’s brow was a heavy burden, and had been so since Finarfin returned to Tirion after the Kinslaying at Alqualondë in shame and remorse. Finrod wondered what Finarfin regretted most: participation in the rebellion, or the abandonment of his children and Fingolfin in their hour of need. Finrod had never asked. The wedge of Finarfin’s Choice, horrors unimaginable, and tears uncounted lay between them. How could his father understand what those desperate, glorious, terrifying years in Beleriand were like? He couldn’t.
Finrod’s gaze traveled to his sister who sat in untouchable silence beside their father. Galadriel did not play for the gathered, curious eyes ever eager to lap up gossip on the great lords and ladies. Once she would have. Once she would have smiled false smiles at the father she would never forgive, and pretend (in public alone) that no breach existed within Finarfin’s House. Once she would have been the one pressing him to play the Game, dance to the tune of politics. Middle-earth had changed her. Not at first, no, it had taken three Ages of the world for Galadriel to peel back her haughty bearing and forsake the high ambitions that had driven and sustained her across the Helcaraxë like a secret, inner bonfire.
Their eyes met in a clash of blue. Once they would have matched fire for fire, but that light had dimmed, banked by death and the cold Halls of Mandos and endless Ages of exile. The glance they shared was fleeting as a salmon's flight, but deep as the Sundered Seas. Everything that stood between Finrod and his father joined his two children. They were all that was left. Their brothers Angrod and Aegnor had not been granted rebirth, and their father and mother were as strangers to them.
Angrod, Aegnor, Aredhel, Maeglin, Celebrimbor, Fingon, and of course the sons of Fëanor and Fëanor himself, had all been denied a second life. These were the names in the House of Finwë, but it was not a sorrow know only by their House. No Kinslayer, be he lord or soldier or confused, frightened youth upon the white sands of Alqualondë, had been granted freedom from the Halls of Mandos. There they languored, imprisoned.
Finrod shivered. Well he remembered the Hall’s from his own stay. There was no peace to be found there, only isolation and a coldness so deep it consumed the souls trapped within. And to think of so many beloved entombed within…
Truly Fëanor had spoken when he’d called Morgoth the Valar’s kin. Where was mercy? Where was justice? Must they pay for their sins all the Ages of the World? How could the Noldor, all the Firstborn, heal when the ones who had hurt and betrayed them were not given the chance to make recompense? The Valar called this justice, but Finrod named it vengeance. For were those imprisoned not also rebels? It smacked of control, and Finrod felt the shadow of Fëanor’s words creep up his spine. Were they indeed playthings of the Gods? Fair slaves the Valar would harness to their land and call to dance and sing at their feet?
Fëanor had become a name as black and cursed as Morgoth, but Finrod wondered now if what others had blamed on madness and grief was not acuteness. There had been madness in Fëanor’s heart the day he bound himself and his sons to the Oath they would become slaves to, but perhaps there had also been kernels of truth in his words.
Finrod’s eyes drifted from his sister down to Fingolfin and Turgon who sat at his side, and yet further to where Gil-galad’s flaxen head rose. Fingolfin had taken the fate of Fingon and Aredhel hard. Finrod had wept when he’d seen his uncle who had once been as unbending as a mountain top, as arrogant as a falcon, as dependable as the sun, as wise as the moon, on his knees before the unmoved Valar. Fingolfin had begged. He’d asked for his children's lives, even at the price of his own. ‘Take me,’ he had said, ‘Take me instead.’ The Valar had not heeded his plea, and when Fingolfin had walked from the Ring of Doom there had been a deadness Finrod had never seen in his uncle’s eyes before. Fingolfin was not foolish enough to ask for Fëanor’s rebirth or Maedhros’s, but Finrod knew their fates lay as heavily as Fingon and Aredhel’s upon Fingolfin’s heart. For he had loved them, betrayed though he had been in the end. Had he not swore: ‘half-brother in blood, whole brother in heart, lead and I shall follow.’
It was that day, when the greatest king of a line of kings had been turned away, humbled by the Valar, that Finrod had truly stopped believing. Even in Beleriand, living the life of an exile, he had worshiped the Gods. But no longer. Hope he had, for he had persevered and looked into the Eye of Darkness as his fea was ripped from his hoar, before that too had been torn apart by wolves. Faith, though, faith was dead in him. He shed it like a snake skin, tossed it aside and declared it no great loss. The Valar were no longer his Gods. He would not worship stone, and stone they had become.
Orodreth was still talking at his elbow, and Finrod repressed a sigh. He had found it difficult to overcome his contempt for his nephew after he’d heard the full tale of Nargothrond’s fall. Orodreth had never been strong-willed, but to bend as easily as a sapling before the arguments of Túrin Turambar and reap the destruction of all Finrod had built, was hard to excuse. But there were so few of them left, the once glorious House of Finwë, and many who had committed far greater atrocities then the crime of weakness, that Finrod had forgiven his nephew in the end.
There were some who would believe such a task easy for Finrod Felagund, the Beloved, but it was not so. It was not that he was in possession of unlimited mercy, merely a iron discipline. He’d made himself forgive Orodreth, just as he had compelled himself to forgive Celegorm and Curufin in time. It had not been an easy road, but it was better a road then the rut of retribution.
Finarfin rose now, the mithril crown forged like entwined tree branches, forged by Fëanor for his beloved father Finwë, bent the sunlight like open water upon his brow. He called for silence and it was given (Fingolfin would not have needed a crown to command the power of a king, he would not have needed to call his peoples’ attention with horns, they would have been silent the moment of his rising).
“People of the Noldor, Elves of Valor, Elves of Wisdom, Jewel-Wrights, and Skilled of Hand, we have gathered in celebration of our Land and White City, in thankfulness for the Valar's bounty and creation. As you know we welcomed the last of our kin from the eastern lands of Middle-earth this year, and I would have us celebrate this reunion with song!”
Cheering and polite applause rippled across the crowding elves who all strained their necks to get a better view of the sons of Elrond who had sailed to Aman with Thranduil’s folk this last fall. They were the last of the elves yet lingering in Middle-earth, now began the true dominion of men.
“And what else have ye not lost, cooped here in a narrow land between the mountains and the sea?” Fëanor’s mighty words echoed as sharp and fiery as the time of their forging across the Ages in Finrod’s ear. Much, we have lost much uncle, and not a small sum of which to your vengeance.
His father was not done speaking and now he called attention to his eldest and only living son, “Finrod, my son, greatest singer of our people, dueler of Maiar, come sing for us and welcome the sons of Elrond, your distant cousins to Valinor!”
Finrod stared at his father feeling a bubble of rage press against his lips, but he clamped down on it, swallowing and obliterating it with practiced ease. His father would dare ask this of him? To sing in celebration of the Valar and this not-home Valinor? And then to insult Maglor so grossly and publicly by naming Finrod the greatest of Noldorin singers?
Finarfin held no love for the sons of Fëanor nor his long dead half-brother. He blamed them for the loss of his children and the blood that stained Galadriel, Angrod, and Aegnors' hands. Finarfin strove to humiliate not only the memory of Maglor, but all Fëanorion’s, especially Fëanor.
Finrod himself held little love for most of the Fëanorions, and though he had eventually forgiven Celegorm and Curufin their betrayal, he had not forgotten. But he despised the petty, misdirected vengeance that coated Finarfin’s arrow of insult like poison. If there was one thing Finrod Felgound could not stand it was injustice, and in his heart Maglor had already paid the price of his sins.
Finrod felt a kinship that went deeper then blood unfurl within his breast as he thought of Maglor. Maglor had known horrors unimagined and shed tears unnumbered. Maglor whose memory his mind ever shied from, whose death left him with both grief and denial.
He misses Maglor’s voice more than any other part of his old lover.
The first time he heard Maglor sing it had been the pure arrogance of the sound, the bold unforgiveness, which snared his interest and refused to let go. Some bards sang in timid, gentle voices as if apologizing for their intrusion upon your time. Others added trills and runs and lines so flowery you chocked on the over-bearing sycophantness of the sounds. Those ones tried too hard to be The Best, to be admired and loved. When Maglor sang it was with a voice as uncaring and brash as an ocean wave crashing against the rocks. His voice demanded you sit up and take notice.
It was Maglor’s voice that first drew Finrod. And his voice that held him.
Finrod stood and met his father’s eyes as he answered, “I shall sing if you command it.” And so his father did.
Finrod rose and took up the harp pressed into his hands. As he moved into the musician’s circle he locked eyes with Fingolfin’s and saw the edges of a hopeless despair in them. It was a wrongness so deep it clanged in the bones of the earth, harsh and twisted. It was a defilement of Arda, the result of her Marring. Ilúvatar had not meant elves to fade, for their spirits to consume their bodies until they drifted like ghost beneath the green twilight boughs of the forests. They were meant to burn, hot, bright, and unquenched. But just as mortals’ Gift had been twisted, so too had the elves’ fate.
But Finrod would not roll over and show his belly to the Valar like a dog to its master. The Valar had done this to the fiercest and most proud of elven races. It was not the Wars of Beleriand, the loss of family and friends that had ultimately sucked the hope out of Fingolfin, but the heavy chains of helplessness the Valar had snapped about his wrists and ankles, fettering him to powerlessness in a narrow land between the mountains and the sea.
“Fingolfin sing with me. Let our voices breach the Sea, let them carry our song and love into the very pits of Mandos!” Finrod felt a rusty fire ignite his breast.
He was not beaten yet! The Noldor were not beaten yet! They had out lived Morgoth and Sauron, endured longer then Tulkas and ridden further then Oromë. Tears unnumbered they had shed, but let this not be the end! Let them not fall into Shadow and become a people of thralls. Let them stand up, throw off these shackles, march to the very gates of Mandos as they had once marched upon Angband, and demand the return of their loved ones.
Something flickered in Fingolfin’s eyes at Finrod’s passionate words, and Finrod saw the spark of the fire started in his soul mirrored in their once lackluster depths. Let this be the beginning.
Festival of Mirth, Forth Age, Valinor
One year later
Finrod’s hands fisted, but he locked his muscles and refused to give into the temper of impatient frustration that urged him to smash the wooden table he lend against to pieces. One year. An entire year and nothing to show for their labors. They had started out so strong, Fingolfin, Galadriel, and him, each desperate to split open Mandos’s belly and bring the souls trapped there to life again. But one year of endless talks and dancing between allies, trying to overcome the trenches of bloody memories that separated the Noldor from their other elven kindred, and they had nothing to show for it.
He felt Galadriel’s hand on his arm, the fingers felt cool and aloof, just like his sister’s face so often did. He knew she was trying to offer him understanding, but at times like these he wondered how his sister managed to keep such an icy reign on her emotions. It didn’t seem natural.
Of course the presence of their father on Finrod’s other side didn’t help. Finrod was far from alone in his seemingly suicidal mission to free all elven souls from Mandos’s jaws. Along with Fingolfin’s now vibrant presence, and Galadriel’s cool one, Nerdanel, Turgon, Gil-galad, and many others of the mighty Noldor had joined together in this quest. Including Finarfin. It had been a surprise when the current High King of the Noldor had thrown his lot in with the ‘new rebels’ as they had been labeled. Yet logically, it was not so hard to fathom why Finarfin would wish the trapped soul’s release. His sons Angrod and Aegnor were among the entombed, and Finrod had not ruled out the hope of forgiveness and acceptance from his estranged children as Finarfin’s motivation. As of yet though, it was only one step upon the long, rocky path of reunion within the House of Finarfin. For now the splinters dug too deeply.
“We’ll never persuade the Valar with so little support.” Fingolfin’s words cut through the silence wrapped as tight as a spring, bringing the voice of reason. Fingolfin was the most passionate, the most dedicated to their mission, yet that did not make him blind to their current troubles.
Once upon a time in a land sunken under the seas, the mighty Noldor had stormed the Gates of Angband, and Morgoth had trembled in his black halls at the mere echoing of their glory. That was a lifetime ago, and those same elves were but ghosts of themselves. There would be no storming of Mandos’s cold Halls. Which left parlay and persuasion as their only means of victory, and they had little enough to use as leverage against the Valar.
If only the Noldor were not so sundered from their other kin…but arrogance and past crimes had driven the wedge between the Noldor and other elven kindreds deep. Finrod could think of no way to breach the chasm now. How could he approach the Teleri, walk upon the shores of Alqualondë and plead for their help in freeing their murderers?
Maglor was covered in blood when Finrod realized he was in love with him.
Finrod knew he should have seen it coming, only…only it wasn’t supposed to mean anything. (Ahh, sweet, sweet, Valar! You feel so good. Turn over for me beauty. Fuck, Finrod, you’re so tight!) It wasn’t supposed to be anything more then what it was. Plain, no-strings-attached, fucking. Maglor had had other lovers, before Finrod, while he was fucking Finrod, and would no doubt take more in the future. It wasn’t supposed to be complicated. Finrod wasn’t supposed to fall in love with his golden-tongue, fiery, arrogant older cousin. But he had.
Their first time Finrod hadn’t even been of age, but that hadn’t stopped him. The House of Finarfin might not be known for its fire, but before Finrod earned the title Beloved he was known as The Zealot. Level-headed, a pillar of wisdom, aloof, none of these could describe him. He burned with passion just as fiercely as his hot-blooded half-cousins. He’d taken up the cross of peace and honor later in life, in Beleriand, but the very first thing he’d burned for had been Maglor. And just like the Fëanorions, passion had been his destruction and death.
It wasn’t until he’d seen Maglor dripping with the blood of elf-kind on the white shores of Alqualondë when he knew everything they had once shared was lost, shattered like broken glass upon the red-stained sands, that he knew he loved the man. It wasn’t supposed to be like this, but in the moment Finrod realized he’d lost Maglor, his cousin and lover, he understood the murderer before him had as good as carved out his heart and stolen it away.
“I’ll go.” All heads turned towards the unexpected offer, Galadriel’s blue eyes widening in shock and confusion as she looked upon her father whose dark head was bent as if with a great burden.
Coward, the last-born son of Finwë had been called. Faint-heated. Traitor. And many similar names had been bestowed upon the Noldor who had forsaken their kin in their hour of Darkness and need. Perhaps Fëanor would not have feared betrayal quite so madly if Finarfin had not lost heart. So more than one had whispered to the unforgiving ice of the Helcaraxë.
Finrod had called his father coward in the secret chambers of his heart (never voiced, no. Ever forgiving, wise, and kindhearted, he was to be. The Beloved). But to himself, yes, he had spat upon his father’s name in the bitter years of Beleriand, when all hope had forsaken the exiles and they knew the curse of Mandos would run its course, consuming them all.
Whether his father was a coward, or if something else had motivated his betrayal (love perhaps for their forsaken homes and lands, a mother left alone in an empty Palace, or worship of the merciless Valar), Finrod didn’t known. He’d never cared to ask, perhaps fearing the answer.
“I’ll go,” Finarfin said again, raising his bowed head, the light of determination in his eyes which in that moment did not look so very sundered from his brother’s. “My wife is Olwë’s sister, and I have spent uncounted years dwelling in his Halls. If any can persuade the Teleri King to our cause, them it is I, his own brother by marriage.”
“You would do this?” Galadriel asked, slow and soft like the trickle of a sluggish stream as she worked to understand what her eyes and ears were telling her. She had spent too many years despising the man who sired her, to be able to understand the one revealed before her now like a candle flame unveiled after a palm had concealed its light from the room.
Finarfin met his daughter’s gaze, and none could deny the flicker of hope within them, like the faint beating of a mouth’s wings. “With all my ability and every last drop of my strength.”
Festival of Double Mirth, Ring of Doom, Valinor
They stood united before the Valar. Their faces were grim, they eyes flashing with determination and the stubborn pride of the Noldor. Some had taken up shields and breastplates of old (no sword or spears in their hands), to signify their intentions. They stood before the Valar on a battlefield of peace. The Valar could call them rebels, but they had come and would leave without shedding blood this day.
A great host of Teleri stood beside the Noldor in the Ring of Doom, Finarfin standing shoulder to shoulder with his brother-in-law. Of the Sindar and wood-elves only a small number had turned out. There, beside the sons of Elrond stood Legolas Greenleaf of the Nine Walkers, a number of his people accompanying him. And there, dressed in dear-skins and rarely seen by other elven eyes in Eldamar, was Beleg Strongbow. Also gathered were elves of Lórien who answered their Lady’s call. Of the Vanyar Indis, second wife of Finwë, stood alone as the sole elf of that kindred, the Fairest and most devoted to the Valar, to lend their voice to the ‘rebellion.’
Great and fair speeches were made, catching in the chests of those gathered like eagle’s wings, and setting their blood aflame with Justice, and gathering tears of sorrow and regret in many eyes. Long did the rebels labor over words, until all that would speak for those chained in Mandos had, and the sun had come and gone.
In the end though, Finrod knew it was not the passion and truth of elven words that stirred the Valar. For even as the first stars glared out of the sky’s velvet brow, Manwë’s face was stone. Unmoved, with no cracking of pity to be found. Finrod knew all their hard months or work would have achieved nothing if in this hour of despair and exhaustion and dry mouths, Aulë, lover of the Noldor in their youth, and Ulmo, god of the seas who had never abandoned Middle-earth (nor even the exiled Noldor upon her), stood up from their thrones and spoke on the imprisoned souls behalf.
Even against the words of his brothers, Manwë might still have denied the trapped souls release, but Mandos was not yet molded of stone, and his heart softened at his brothers’ words (and many of the lesser Ainur as well), and seeing this, and how the tide had turned against him, Manwë finally, finally, gave the command and those that should never have been entombed, never been punished in such a manner for crimes they had long since reaped their justice in grief, pain, and tears unnumbered, to be released.
Finrod stood with Fingolfin at his right and his father at his left before the gates of Mandos as they waited to greet those too long sundered from their arms. To hold his brother’s again…Fingon, beloved cousin, with the quicksilver laugh, that reckless humor, and insane bravery. Aredhel, wild and as unstoppable, untamable as a panther. Celebrimbor, ever stoic, heart-breakingly shy and lonely until the end. Maehdros with his untouchable beauty, brilliant mind, and unreasonable, unshakable, loyalty to House and family.
And Maglor. Maglor…
The last time they had had sex it had been a good fuck for Maglor and one of the bitterest and most treasured moments of Finrod’s life. Finrod had no one but himself to blame for this.
It had been during the Feast of Mereth Aderthad, when Fingolfin and Maedhros had brought their peoples together for what proved to be the last time. A moment of reunion and alliance. A moment before the long plunge into darkness where the Noldor could celebrate their beauty and might, the most glorious of elven races.
Finrod remembers the flowers. The exiled elves had gathered in the North of Beleriand, at the Pools of Ivrin, and the earth had been covered in daises, like the white garment stretched over a woman’s breasts. He remembers the taste of moonlight in his mouth, mingling with the heavy red wine he’d taken too much of (or else he never would have agreed to this again. He’d sworn, sworn, sworn, during the long, bitter years across the Helcaraxë where every remembered kiss had been rot in his mouth, that he’d never, ever, again….). But when Maglor had given him that look (and he remembers that too, he’d never likely forget), he hadn’t been able to refuse.
He could still feel Maglor’s humid breath on his neck as his lover (ex-lover?) thrust into him, the weight of that glorious, moon-pale, body pressing his shoulders into the flower-dressed earth.
It had been so long, so many long long years since they had shared this, since Finrod had felt anyone’s touch. Finrod had trembled into that first kiss, weak and confused, but oh so needy. Desperate, oh gods, dying for that touch, the ability to pretend they were wrapped in silk sheets in Valinor and it was the light of the Two Trees haloing their fucking not the newborn moon.
Finrod had shaken under Maglor’s fingertips. Embarrassingly pitiful whimpers and moans drawn from his lips as his skin reacted to the touch, over-sensitive from the long absence. Finrod’s heart had been like a kicked, maggly dog starved for love and kindness, eager to heel for its master. Thankfully Finrod had learned how to hide.
He wasn’t sure if he regretted it or not, later, after Maglor had left, a few fond words kissed into the hollow of Finrod’s shoulder blades, a hand shaped for harping petting Finrod’s hair that hung unbound in the flowers about them. He still wasn’t sure.
It had been their last time, and at least it was still clear as a winter’s night in his mind (the others blended together, there had been so many of them.) It was nice to have this last one be significant in some way, even if it was only the conflicting, complicated emotions that branded it so upon his memories.
But Finrod was not the same ellon who had died in Tol-in-Gaurhoth, savaged by wolves. He wasn’t the Zealot he’d been in his youth or the Beloved he’d become in Beleriand. He was just Finrod, now. One soul adrift among thousands in this idyllic cage they called home. He wouldn’t wait for Maglor to give him a Look. This wasn’t the Valinor of their youth where Maglor had always been the elder, the one in control. Nor was it the confused mess that was Beleriand where Finrod wobbled a hazy, twisted line of alliances and forbidden yearnings. He’d stained his sword with blood in many battles. He’d been a king. He’d battled a Maiar. He’d died. He’d endured the loneliness of Mandos’s Halls, and the stale life of rebirth. He was in love with Maglor Fëanorion, and he’d be damned if death, the Sundering Seas, or the Valar themselves tired to get in his way. It was time he proved himself a cousin of Fëanorions and took what he wanted, damn the consequences.
Finrod’s hand found Fingolfin’s as the Great Gates swung open, their fingers interlacing as their hearts pounded in anticipation…any minute now... He could hear a thousand breaths trapped inside lungs, see the unconscious way the elves crowded up to the very walls of Mandos’s Halls swayed forward, desperate to catch that first glimpse of lost loved ones after so, so long.
From the shadows within two points of light appeared, like gems, like stars, like a burning, all-consuming fire, like the long lost Silmarils. And Finrod did not have to be told who led the coming reborn. Hair that shone like polished obsidian in the moonlight crowned the first head that emerged, and Finrod’s breath caught in his throat. Time had eroded memory, dampening remembrance. He’d forgotten just how brightly, how unbearably, his uncle had burned.
And then his eyes were sliding past Fëanor, and beyond Maedhros who followed at his father’s right shoulder, to land upon the face he’d not forgotten one detail of in all the Ages it had been lost. Maglor, Maglor, Maglor, with the ocean in his eyes, the summer sky, and the song of the stars in his voice.
Maglor who Finrod would not let slip away from him this time. Maglor, cousin, beloved, I am coming for you.
Lowered them down with links of chain