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I own nothing in this story, and desire no profit whatsoever. My only intention is to honour Prof. Tolkien's work and contribute to the community of imagination that he has inspired.
He is next.
He knows it to be true. Only two remain, and he will not let the other be taken while he lives. Not if anything can prevent it. Not if he has anything left to give. If there is any hope, any hope at all for the other, he will not be forsworn.
Even now you imagine there is hope?
A cold, mocking voice seeps from the dark stone that imprisons him and from some living darkness imprisoned in his own mind.
Your foolishness grows ever deeper, princeling. Hope? Hope fled this place long ago.
No. He shakes his head, ignoring the jolt of pain it causes. As long as the other lives, there is hope. There might yet be rescue. Thingol might yet repent, and if the gathered might of Menegroth assailed these walls...
And even if all hope fails, still he has sworn to protect the other, to save him if he can, by life or by death. He cannot give less than everything. And if that is not enough...at least he would not be forsworn.
Forsworn! You and your precious oath. It is always an oath with your kind. You Noldor never learn, do you? You are all the same. Look at you, princeling! You thought you were different. You swore no foolish rebel’s oath on the shores of Aman, not like your cousins. You defied the Valar, true, but it was different. You followed out of duty, you tell yourself. Out of care. You swore no oath.
If he had the energy, he might laugh at the irony of it all. Here he is, trapped at last in the web woven by his mad uncle. The oath, the jewels … there was never any escape. Not for his cousins, not for his brothers...caught in the web, one and all, waiting for their turn to be devoured.
Such self-pity! Such self-righteousness! You tell yourself the story of the Noldor, casting yourself as the longsuffering hero. You are not like the others—the instigators, the oath-takers, the kin-slayers. But think on this, princeling, as you wait to die: Fëanor’s sons swore their oath in ignorance. They were children playing with fire who knew nothing of what it means to burn. But you, princeling, you also swore an oath, and this you did in full knowledge. You knew the power of such oaths before you swore. You swore despite all you had seen and all you had learned. You swore after seeing your house demolished by sworn oaths. Heedlessly, recklessly you swore, binding yourself to your doom.
An oath of friendship, taken in gratitude! Life for life, help for help...I owe my life to the house of Barahir. Should I have forgotten him? Dismissed him? Should I, who am called the Friend of Men, declare the lives of Men to be a small a price to pay for the lives of the Eldar? I cannot. I will not. The oath was made in good faith.
No doubt Fëanor thought the same. You know in your heart that you are not so different. You made an oath, an oath of blood and pain and death. But you did not bind yourself alone to that oath, did you, princeling? No, you would have others follow you. You would snare others in this trap you set yourself.
He shakes his head. His eyes sting. If he had not gone so long without water, he would surely be weeping.
You drew them in, the ten of then. And now their bones lie scattered, and you yet live. Ten immortal lives, lost senselessly because you swore an oath, because you made a thoughtless promise to a long-dead mortal. Because you did not have the strength to face your fate alone.
No! It was their choice!
Did not the Noldor choose to follow Fëanor? Did not the Teleri choose to resist? Choices made or not made do not change the truth that it was Fëanor’s oath that killed them. Just as it was Finrod’s oath that killed your ten companions.
See? You are not so different, princeling. You see it now—will you admit it? You thought you had escaped the taint of kin-slaying, but you were wrong. The treachery in your blood was biding its time. The difference between you and your uncle is only this: Fëanor drew the greater part of all his people with him when he marched to destruction. You drew only ten. Think how much greater the slaughter would have been if you were better loved.
That is what he must cling to as he struggles against the cords of despair that would strangle him. Love awaits him beyond these loveless walls, beyond the sundering sea …
Love! What love do you think to find across the western sea? Do you imagine welcome? Tell me, princeling, will you seek shelter in high Tirion, the city you forsook? Will those who bowed before the Valar’s law welcome back a blood-stained rebel? Subjects, family, friends of old—do you think they want you back? You who ruin all you touch?
Mandos, at least, will welcome me.
Welcome you into a maw of darkness.
The Wise do not say there is no light in Mandos, nor that Námo has no mercy.
Námo! Do you not shudder at that name? He stood and cursed you as you marched away, and now he stands waiting for you. Do you fear no judgment, Finarfinion? What punishment awaits one who refused to repent when given such a warning?
What will be, will be.
No love awaits you. And if it did—remember where you are, where love brought you in the end: awaiting death in your own stronghold. That which you call love is no more than a trap. There is no love. There is no hope. There is only death. Do not imagine that your philosophy will save you, princeling.
And with that, the voice speaks its own silencing, for this is no philosophy, but something more.
Now it is his own words he hears—words of pain and death and love and all of them together as they swirl and mingle like rivers flowing into one another, far beyond these light-defying walls.
His own words echoing...
“It does not come from experience, but from our nature and first being.”
From the core of his being he knows there cannot be no love, not while One, at least, remains. And if love endures...
“Does no Estel at all abide?”
Even now, it must abide...
“It is not defeated by the ways of the world.”
Even here, it must abide...even in the Halls of Mandos...and beyond...
Beyond the Halls of Mandos...
He closes his eyes and fair faces fill his sight.
Brothers. Cousins. Faithful friends with flesh re-formed, bones unbroken.
Andreth, Bëor, Barahir, Beren...
And beyond all, over all, above, beside, before all...the One in whom all things hold together.
This, then, abides.
The words Finrod remembers are quoted from dialogue in Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth, which is published in Morgoth's Ring.
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