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X - Of the Return of the Noldor - Kindred Reunited

Morgoth hears a bunch of Noldor have arrived from over the sea (quite literally, as they landed in the Echo Hills where all loud noises pick up the ghost of his scream).


After all, he has an army of orcs now, and led by veterans that have effectively destroyed a couple of plains tribes and sincerely threatened the Sindar, there are lots of them and it's not like his enemies had wars in Valinor to practice with. Hearing the newcomers are heading his way, he sends the bulk of his force to go squish them.

The orcs obediently swarm over the foothills and run straight into Fëanor. With his sons and closest fanatics. Confusion in the orc ranks at these elves who don't scatter for the treeline* soon turns to alarm, and their very numbers negate their uphill advantage. Panic sets in, and soon the vanguard of the Noldor are pursuing terrified orcs in a rout, gleefully killing everything in arm's reach.

Orcs are called away from harassing the countryside to reinforce Morgoth's suddenly-ragged army and are in turn slaughtered as the Sindar sortie behind them, taking the newcomers to be help from Valinor; Celegorm son of Fëanor's force descends on their flank. For a space that would be reckoned as ten days, the elves did nothing but chase and hunt and kill (I wonder here, whether the early orcs retained the elven ability to go without sleep and 'walk-dream' for days at a time. The possibility certainly makes them more frightening than the cannon-fodder reputation derived from mock-Tolkienian familiarity).

Fëanor, naturally, is out in front, and as time passes more and more so, until he tumbles out into the edge of Morgoth's territory quite alone, still killing, still laughing with the ease of it. Morgoth, by this point, has heard of the utter genocide the elves are wreaking on every orc they can find and sent the balrogs out to stop them now. Fëanor meets all of them.

I don't think anyone would have blamed Fëanor if he'd turned and run to regroup with his forces then. It'd be a few steps backwards, of course, away from his goal and vengeance, but these were corrupted Maiar and for all his fire, Fëanor still had a beating heart in his chest, and blood, and bones to break. No elemental power woven with the forces of creation, no literal flame at his command, just will and aching muscles and his own-forged sword in hand. One balrog would be a tough fight even for a Maiar (ask Gandalf). There was no way anything born could take on over a score of them. Then again (I picture a small smile here from Fëanor, wild, blood-soaked and alive) - he hadn't tried yet.

It...goes about as well as you'd expect, which brings me to marvel at Tolkien's grasp of what I can only call heroic idiocy. It's at once understandable and infuriating, underscored with pathos and entirely awesome, containing elements of true, character-centred tragedy and mythic doom and it is a damn hard thing to write.


Anyway, some time later the elven hosts catch up and manage to drive the balrogs and the handful of remaining orcs back down to the plains of Dor Doriath, where they beat a hasty retreat to Angband. The Noldor fail to follow, having found what's left of Fëanor and realising their leader is still alive. He doesn't make it back to camp, but urges his sons to avenge him and keep their oath to regain the Silmarils.

The text records his body instantly falling to ash as his spirit burns out of it, which is entirely appropriate if unheard-of in the Tolkienverse. Archaeologically speaking, culture heroes who vanish after their last battle tend to have been buried in high secrecy to prevent grave-plundering for relics and encourage an uncertainty as to whether they're truly dead, deterring the culture-group's enemies. Fëanor's certainly not "just sleeping", though.

Finding himself with something of a setback at the loss of his armies, Morgoth sends a messenger to parley, offering to bring a Silmaril out to Maedhros, Fëanor's heir, if they'll just leave him alone. Maedhros reasons that one Silmaril is a start, and takes twice the guard agreed to the meeting-place to see if he can take it and Morgoth together. Morgoth brings...balrogs.

Things reach a bit of an impasse at this point, since whilst Morgoth now has a hostage of status, Maedhros' brothers are still under their vow not to back down. Stuck for anything better to do, Morgoth takes Maedhros' right wrist-shackle and nails him to a cliff over the tundra.

Meanwhile, an extremely pissed-off Fingolfin arrives off the ice with the rest of the rebel Noldor (in time with the first sun-dawn and the first arctic flowers - it's an exquisite image worth reading in-text). After marching right up to Angband and giving the gates a good kicking to let Morgoth know they're there (Morgoth stays put and hides under his balrogs, not sure what to make of this) he goes off to find the Fëanorian contingent and ask what's going on.

Despite unrest from the curse of factioning, things are eventually put to rights among the Noldor when Fingon Fingolfinsson sets out to - and actually suceeds in - rescuing his cousin. It takes hacking off Maedhros' trapped hand at the wrist whilst balanced on a giant eagle clinging to the rock, which leaves the most sensible and Nerdanel-like of the Fëanorians with a constant low-level pain, almost a reflection of that Morgoth suffers from the Silmarils. It makes him colder and deadlier left-handed, but draws some suspicion from his brothers (as per the Curse of Exile), especially when he at once cedes any claim to the high kingship to his uncle.

After some minor land squabbles with the resident Sindar and Nandor (not helped by the younger generations' languages now being mutually unintelligable) and each other, Maedhros herds his brothers into a more permanent seige-settlement in the North, founding halls with their backs to the mountains. Fingolfin's kin settle further west, and Finfarin's are invited into Beriland due to kin ties with Thingol. Of the latter, Galadriel puts her plans of conquest on hold to hang out with her Maia great-aunt-by-marriage, and Finrod shares a lovely little bit of cloudy foundation myth with Turgon Fingolfinsson.

Clearly both tribes have a tradition that their great city was founded after someone slept near a stream and was inspired by the terror of half-remembered Ulmo-sent dreams to find a really safe place inland for their people, so when it comes to writing the oral cycle the heroes wander in unison, lie down in one place etc. Finrod decides a cave-city like Thingol's is best, and sets about it, whilst Turgon follows fresh water and finds a Good Place in the mountains, hidden since the last shift of land, merely sitting awhile and taking note.

Things get quiet. Morgoth occasionally sends out orcs - of the first large band, Maedhros personally chased the last survivors onto Angband's plain to turn them into mulberry smears before the gates, of the second, Morgoth sent them to attempt flanking Fingolfin over the tundra in winter, leading Fingolfin's people to chase what must have been some very sorry half-dead orcs into the sea, not deigning to call the processs of sitting there killing any that reached land again a battle - and once a baby dragon escapes Angband (the elves are astonished at the New Thing, and immediately try to work out how you kill it), but it flees back full of arrows before anyone can take much heed of it.


The Noldor get tips on crops and share new technology. Dubious relationships with local dwarves are established. People start observing festivals once more, with the nobility briefly gathering in one place now and then. Things are quiet again, in a way that can't last.


*it's noted later in the chapter that those raised in the Blessed Lands tend to be bigger, stronger and incidentally tend to darker colouration than the dark elves bred in the star-forests...not what Morgoth's dark-bred orcs were expecting at all.

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July 2016

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