Like a Moth to a Flame by Oshun

Nargothrond, First Age c. 102

"An oath I too shall swear, and must be free to fulfill it, and go into darkness.
Nor shall anything of my realm endure that a son should inherit."
--Finrod to Galadriel in
The Silmarillion, “Of the Noldor in Beleriand.”

I watched him across the crowded room—still vain, still gorgeous—his golden hair brilliant in the light of hundreds of candles. The Nauglamír glittered in gaudy ostentation around his neck. I’ve seen a lot of the best of Dwarven workmanship and that piece is arguably the best they have ever made. And, no one could ever wear it like Findaráto does. Turning toward me, as though suddenly aware of my gaze, he lifted his tankard of Dwarven mead in a wordless salute. His smile contained a promise and an invitation. I raised my own cup and grinned back in acceptance.

It would be a short visit, his sister and his brothers would be arriving in a week to celebrate the completion of his incomparable project. I needed to be gone before they came. But I intended to make every hour I had with him one to commit to memory. Who could know when I would be able to make this trip again?

He was manifestly not the feckless, dashing prince I had fallen in love with in the tranquil Alqualondë of our youth, or even the troubled young man with whom I explored the limits of his and my own sexual boundaries for a few short years in pre-schism Valinor, until the price became too high. This was Finrod Felagund, King of Nargothrond, Hewer of Caves, revered head of the House of Finarfin in Middle-earth, friend of many, beloved mentor of others; the silver-tongued one who, amongst all of my gifted cousins and brothers, acted the part of diplomat and lordly scholar to perfection. Well, I thought, however many may think they know and love him well, I still know him best.

By the time we chose to go into exile we each had formed our own allegiances and acted out of unique motivations. I reflexively chose the House of Fëanáro out of loyalty to my father and brothers and pure dogged stubbornness and personal resentment of the interventions of the Valar into the affairs of the Noldor. Findarato had his own reasons—not so much loyalty to his father’s house and with very little bitterness against the Valar—but a need to fulfill his own desire to know the world of our antecedents and to frame his own future, to satisfy his unquenchable curiosity and his longing for knowledge, to see new lands and meet strange peoples.

I could not take my eyes off him as he worked his way through the colorfully clad throng in my direction—a hand clasp here and a rough Dwarfish embrace there. Findaráto was nothing if not adaptable. These people loved him. I myself had amicable enough dealings with the Dwarves of Belegost. Lord Azaghâl himself had made it possible for me to make this trip. He had informed me that a group of them intended to travel to visit the great Prince of the Nargothrond, Felakgundu they affectionately called him, and invited me to accompany them. He had apparently spoken of me to them in the past. My relations with Azaghâl’s people were good, our association one of respected trading partners. They knew me to be honest and proficient with numbers, that my word and my goods could be trusted. Findaráto they loved and admired. He has that way with people.

He finally reached me, only to whisper in my ear, “Go to my room and wait for me there. I will slip away as soon as I can.” He shook my hand and said for public consumption, “I cannot tell you dearest cousin how much pleasure it gives me to see you here.”

* * *

Some hours later, exhausted after making love, he asked me the question I dreaded. “And what of your oath?”

“How can you ask? You have no idea what it is like in the north. I owe my brothers. And we have people there to whom we are beholden. You and your followers are not the only ones with relations with the Sindar and obligations to protect them and their communities. We hold the line against Morgoth up there! This peace is ever a restive one.”

“Don’t lecture me, cousin. I’ve fought orcs!”

“You have no idea, Ingo!”

“My brothers have told me . . .”

“Your brothers are raising horses and planting grain.”

“You’re not a warrior either, Carnistir.”

“But I am able. We all stand ready to respond.” I took his beautiful face in my hands, looking into his sad blue eyes. “You know it’s more than that. I owe everything I am to my father. He never gave up on me. When everyone but him thought I was but a raging sport of nature, he always believed in me, when even my mother doubted that I would ever speak anything but gibberish.”

“You did it yourself!” he insisted with heat. “Not that I do not believe what you have told me of how relentless Fëanáro was in trying to reach you. Your brothers support that story as well. But you never gave up.”

“Ah, my beloved Findaráto, you’ve never cast me aside either. You’ve forgiven me when . . .”

He cut me off with a kiss. “There was nothing to forgive. Much to regret, perhaps. You do not make things easy for yourself or those who care for you.” He rolled over onto me and pinned my hands above my head. “You’re obdurate, pigheaded, difficult, contrary, perverse . . .”

“Wait!” I said. “I don’t know if I should tell you this. I have told no one. I have dreams of war and blood. My childhood nightmares, but more specific, with graphic detail and I know that they are true.” I could not bear to say that I have I seen him die a dozen times, betrayed, in the dark, wanting to live, fighting to live. That I know his brothers will die first unable to hold those vast lands they are so proud of developing. That I have seen as well how I will die a shameful death—I have seen not only my own death but those of most of my brothers. I only know my death will come without honor. And I could not bring myself to tell him that I have seen his beautiful halls despoiled, their inhabitants slaughtered or scattered.

“My darling,” he pulled me into to his arms and held me against his chest. “Do you remember what the witchy fortune-teller said? ‘No matter what the cards may tell one, the truth of them is never carved in stone.’ We cannot know whether any of these dreams are true. We can only live as though the worst of these dark auguries will never come to pass.”

So, we are all still alive. The northern front still holds. I’ve seen Findarato several times since then, but those visits will remain infrequent as long as the Black Valar sits on his throne in the north and Nelyafinwë keeps all of his pieces in place and intact maintaining the Siege of Angband. In the south they call it the Long Peace, here we know better. The Oath sleeps, but my dreams tell me it will not be for long.
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