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Written for the LOTR Community "In the Eye of the Beholder" Challenge, inspired by Erulisse's drawing of those watching the burning of the swan ships on Feanor's orders. Beta by Fiondil.
Regrets on the Burning of Ships
“You did not stand with Atto and the rest of us upon the beach, Maitimo.”
Maitimo looked up to search his brother’s shadowed eyes. “Should I have, Macalaurë? Ought I to have stood by our father while he made of us not only murderers but also traitors to our own? I know he does not love his brothers by our grandfather’s second wife; but to have left them and our cousins and so many of our people stranded upon the shore after promising to send the ships to fetch them----How will they come, think you?”
“They can follow the path taken by the Black Enemy!” Macalaurë assured him.
“But he is one of the Valar, while they are clad in flesh and blood. What is the ice bridge of the Helcaraxë to one such as he? What will it do to those of the Noldor who come that way? Have you considered that, my brother?”
Maitimo rose from the stump on which he’d been sitting, and looked at where the rest of the party sought to make shelters out of freshly felled trees. “It is not only smithing that I studied under Lord Aulë, you must understand. He has spoken to me of the shapes of both Aman and Middle Earth, and the nature of the lands of both. I once thought to travel perhaps by foot from one to the other that I might see where it was that our people awoke in Arda, and stand by the Waters of the Awakening where our grandparents were joined. And he told me why it was that we were brought to Aman by way of Tol Eressëa instead of by way of the Helcaraxë. It is cold, Macalaurë—so cold that the water of the Sea itself is frozen into ice that can burn the flesh as surely as does fire. And the ice does not stand still, but is constantly broken by the water deeper underneath, causing gaping fissures that can open with great suddenness and close as rapidly, with deadly potential. He warned me that should I seek to come by that way, it was likely that many in my party would not live to reach the other side. And with no light but starlight, and with little of that most of the way as clouds form frequently over the ice, it could take years of toil to make the crossing.
“How many of our women and children will never live to see these lands, Macalaurë? How many men will be cut off from family and friends when they go forth from the companies to hunt for food and furs or to seek the safest paths to go forward, and never return to those they love?”
Macalaurë’s face had gone pale. “I did not know!”
“Our father knows.” Maitimo’s voice was as cold as the ice he’d described. “He was there when I spoke of this proposed journey with Lord Aulë, and at the time forbade me to consider it further, for he told me that he loved me and those who might be moved to accompany me too well to see us lost to such a foolish and needless enterprise. Yet that is what he has doomed our uncles and cousins and those who accompany them to! Why else did he seek the ships of the Teleri for our own transport, do you think?”
Again his brother protested, “But I did not know this!” shaking his head.
“How could you?” The two eldest sons of Fëanáro and Nerdanel stood looking at one another, the younger stricken and the older grim. At last Maitimo looked away, striking his thighs with his open palms as he cried out, “This is what we have been brought to—breakers of the Peace of the Valar, rebels against the Valar who only wished us good, kinslayers and the basest of thieves, and now traitors to our own. Ever has the Black Enemy hated the Elves, and particularly those of the Noldo clan; and now he had achieved his intention to destroy us utterly. And we, you and I and our brothers, must stand by our father in all he chooses to do, having taken the oath he demanded of us. And what will that oath drive us to in the future, do you think? And will we ever see Ñolofinwë or Arafinwë or any of their children again? Turucáno is accompanied by his wife and children, and Itirildë is little better than a child, as we both know. Will any of them survive the grinding ice?”
“Nothing will stop Artanis,” muttered Macalaurë, to which his brother gave a strangled chuckle, surprising them both.
“No, whatever might betide the rest, she will make it,” Maitimo agreed. “As for what the oath will make of us in the future—I dread to learn that.”
Both brothers shuddered at the thought of what that might prove to be.
This story was inspired by this picture by Erulisse that she did for the January art challenge for the LOTR Community: http://lotr-community.livejournal.com/182939.html#cutid1
In turn, my story inspired Sunny, known on LJ as Urania, to do this picture: http://urania-12.livejournal.com/
Both are beautiful! Thanks to both of you!
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