So here’s the thing: Ereinion is possibly, maybe, at the very least conceivably, not his actual name.
It could be! It might. He doesn’t actually know, seeing as how both his parents managed to get themselves killed before he was old enough for what they were actually calling him to stick.
He thinks they died, at least. He’s pretty sure they didn’t just leave him because food was scarce and a crying baby’s the last thing you need when you’re trying to hide from orcs in the dark as you run -
Anyway! That’s not the point. The point is that he might have a name that means scion of kings.
And it’s not like he can go around using the first name he actually remembers being called.
Being found by a group of the Secondborn before he could die of exposure was a good thing. Being called the first elvish name they could remember was not, mainly because that name happened to be Feanor. All they knew about him was that his star was on an elvish weapon their chief carried. He’s just lucky he found out more before someone with a grudge against Feanor found out about it.
Or one of his sons. He’s honestly not sure which would have been worse.
So - Ereinion. He picks it because it sounds grand, and it makes people make assumptions that are not “possibly orphaned, possibly abandoned baby that was raised by a bunch of Secondborn that called themselves nomads, but who were, upon reflection, probably bandits.” He also gets a lot of girls smiling at him, as opposed to a lot of ticked off Feanorians punching him in the face. Between the two, he’ll definitely pick the girls.
(He shows up at Nargothrond covered in blood. Everyone he knows is dead, and he couldn’t save them because they didn’t heal like he does, and they weren’t as fast as him when they fought, and the orcs have taken everything from him again, and he can barely breathe, let alone think -
He’s barely met any other elves, and now he’s in a city of them, and it becomes painfully clear within about two minutes that he’s nothing like them at all. Thankfully, they all think it’s blood loss causing the issue.
And he grew up with a group of probably-bandits, that sometimes took and sometimes tricked, and he was raised to trick travelers into thinking he was one of them to prepare the way for an ambush, making distractions and diversions, giving out false names to confuse the rumors and doing whatever it takes to survive.
He survived before. He’ll survive this too.)
Apparently, he’s charming and novel. He can work with both.
Also apparently, there’s so many descendants of Finwe floating around that are refusing to talk to each other that Finrod hears his name, jumps to conclusions, and welcomes him.
This is simultaneously the best opportunity and the worst idea he’s ever had.
He rolls with it.
(He doesn’t understand the other elves. He hates being trapped inside. He has no idea what he’s going to do if there’s ever a big reconciliation and he’s caught out.
He throws himself into studying in the library in a desperate attempt to catch up with what everyone else already knows. They start calling him studious. Knowledgeable. Wise, even, after he offhandedly uses a legal tidbit that apparently everyone else didn’t already have memorized to solve an argument.
Finrod is very kind. He tries sometimes to empathize with whatever family trouble drove him here.
My family is dead, he thinks, trying not to remember the way the blood had covered the road, and my parents might be too. Assuming they didn’t abandon me.
He doesn’t tell Finrod that, of course.)
It works. That’s the point. It works. Even with Finrod de- gone, it works.
When Nargothrond falls, he thinks that’s it, except somehow a group of survivors have gathered around him and started calling him Gil-Galad.
His first thought is, I don’t know what to do, and then he’s almost horrified to realize that after so long using this mask, he actually does.
And he can’t just leave them, can he?
He briefly considers trying to convert them to banditry.
He leads them to Cirdan instead.
(He thought they’d be safe there. He’d thought he could hand them off, fade back into obscurity, choose a different mask. This one had long served its purpose. It was time for it to go.
Cirdan greets him as an equal, and he realizes with horror that it’s far, far, far too late to back out now.)
“I beg your pardon,” he says blankly to the messenger.
“The High King of the Noldor is dead,” the messenger repeats grimly. He’s just marched in from the ruins of Gondolin with the other survivors. He hasn’t bothered to wash the dried blood from his tunic. “The king is dead,” he repeats. “Long live the king.”
What king? he almost demands, and then the coin drops.
I’m not even sure I’m Noldor! he wants to scream. This was a con, a con, do you understand me? It was never supposed to go this far!
What he actually says is, “Surely there’s someone ahead of me in line.”
There’s … the Feanorians. But after Doriath, no one’s going to go for that.
There’s … Idril?
The messenger is shaking his head, though, so apparently no one’s going to go for that either.
He’s going to be king. Of the Noldor.
And the worst part is, part of him’s already thinking of how to help the refugees from Gondolin integrate, how this affects the war as a whole, how everyone’s going to react to this announcement.
He’s king, and he’s not sure if he’s just pulled off the greatest con of his life, or if he should find a way to go back in time and tell his younger self to just admit to his real name and let himself get punched.
He thinks of what’s happened to every previous king of the Noldor and decides that it’s definitely the latter.
There were some hilarious suggestions regarding Mandos in the comments. I am highly intrigued by the idea, but I'm not sure quite what direction I want to go with it yet. In the meantime, have Gil-Galad dealing with his court's incessant theorizing.
With peace comes time, and with time comes boredom, and with boredom comes gossip.
Or: after Morgoth is finally defeated, Gil-Galad finds that his heritage quickly becomes the favorite piece of gossip in the court whenever there’s a scarcity of new scandals.
Old instincts send him to the library whenever he has a free moment, as if something in there will secure his claim to being a proper elf in a way that centuries of becoming the mask haven’t.
As it turns out, he’s not the only one hiding there, though he suspects Elrond is hiding from the loneliness that comes from his brother’s departure rather than the gossip of the court.
Elrond looks up from his place by the fire as Gil-Galad enters. “Have they run you off too?” he asks with forced lightness. “You’d think they’d have more tact about family matters.”
Ah. It seems he was mistaken. He should have realized that Elros’s departure was just as much a source of talk.
“You would think,” he agrees wearily as he sinks down into the chair next to Elrond’s. “I don’t think there’s a branch of the family tree they haven’t tried to fit me under.”
“They seem to think I know something they don’t on the matter,” Elrond says with a wry smile. “They’ve been pestering me about it all week.”
Curiosity overcomes his better sense. “What do you say?”
“Officially, my stance is that you are obviously the son of Fingon.” Elrond’s smile has turned ironic. “Seeing as he’s the only one that wouldn’t bring up interesting questions about either the succession or the integrity of your parents.”
Elrond hesitates. “I hope you will not take offense to this - “
“Does the theory involve wraiths?” Gil-Galad interrupts.
“Then it’ll be better than some I’ve overheard. Go for it.”
Elrond’s smile turns a little more natural. “I had wondered … You do have something of the look of a Feanorian.”
Well, Gil-Galad reflects, Elrond was closer than anyone else, given that he was technically a Feanor, even if not a Feanorian.
“It would explain your wish to keep it quiet,” Elrond goes on, “and there were certainly stretches of time when they weren’t on speaking terms with the rest of the family.”
“True,” he allows.
“And you are not as uncomfortable with talk of them as many are.”
That mainly stems from Gil-Galad feeling a complete inability to judge, given his own history, but he can see where it might have given Elrond ideas. “Do you have any specific Feanorian in mind?”
“Not Curufin,” Elrond says definitively. “Even if he had broken his vows to his wife - and whatever else the Feanorians were, we cannot accuse them of breaking oaths lightly - Celebrimbor would have noticed something, and he has assured me that he did not, though he does share my suspicion. By the same token, Celegorm was so often with Curufin and Celebrimbor that he would have difficulty hiding it, and when you first arrived at Nargothrond, there would have been very little reason for either of you to do so. The Ambarussa are more promising, since their nomadic ways would have easily concealed much, but it seems likely that they would have mentioned the relation before the attack on the Havens. There was a good chance that you would manage to make it to the battle, and though they were kinslayers already … “
“There’s kin and then there’s kin,” he agrees. Those who raised him, those who bore him, those he’s lied his way into claiming … Different categories all. “I take it by that qualification that you’re equally certain neither Maglor nor Maedhros was responsible.”
Elrond shakes his head. “They couldn’t have, the way they spoke of you. Not that they disliked you,” he hastens to add as if afraid of wounding him by implying otherwise about the uncles he does not actually to his knowledge have. “But they were very careful whenever they spoke of Celebrimbor. Maedhros was … not well, and Maglor feared to wound him further. Maedhros, I think, was afraid he was losing Maglor in another way. The closer Maglor drew to us, the more he doubted the Oath, and Maedhros … I think he began to fear Maglor would leave him. He tried very hard not to antagonize him, even when he had very little patience for anyone else. You were not a topic either of them felt they had to be careful of.”
Gil-Galad counts these off in his head. “Thus leaving Caranthir.”
“Maglor told me once that Caranthir married briefly on these shores,” Elrond says quietly. “That his wife died soon afterwards and that Caranthir withdrew from all communication for a time. He was known to speak harshly sometimes. If you quarreled and left to seek your uncles, assuming they already knew and discovered the error too late to make it easy to confess … “
It’s a neat theory, Gil-Galad has to admit. Wrong, of course -
(Unless she died on a journey. Unless he has inadvertently stumbled into a legacy that was his along - but that’s fancy, and he knows it. Life is not that neat.)
The thought unsettles him nonetheless, and it makes him reckless. “Do you want to know the truth?” he asks.
Elrond considers this carefully. “Will the truth make my life more complicated?”
Gil-Galad snorts. “Even the theory you’ve constructed - rightly or wrongly - would make your life more complicated,” he points out. “Many would question a Feanorian on the throne.”
“You would still have my support,” Elrond assures him. “And my earlier question was unworthy. I should ask: Would you like someone else to know?”
“Someone else,” he mutters darkly. The only ones who know the truth are his parents and the Valar. Possibly not even them. “I would,” he says. “I dearly would. But - “ But sanity has returned, and it’s impossible, for more reasons than Elrond thinks.
Elrond takes the hint gracefully. “We’re family,” he says. “That’s all that matters, no matter what degree of cousinship it might be.”
“Quite right,” Gil-Galad says and forces a smile.
This is the last chapter that will maintain the anonymity of Gil-Galad's birth. The final chapter will contain the reveal, so if you'd prefer to stick with whatever head canon you've developed, I recommend you read this chapter and stop there.
Sauron. He’s been killed by Sauron himself.
He knew being king would be bad for his health.
He can’t quite regret it, though. Sauron has been beaten back. He might not have been meant for this job, but he thinks he’s done it fairly well, all things considered. There are things he’s left undone - like leaving an official heir, come to think of it - but Elrond will step up, and that’ll all be fine. Probably.
Maybe Elrond can avoid the fate that seems to come to Noldorin kings by virtue of being part Sindarin, though come to think of it, their kings don’t tend to fare too well either.
Regardless. That’s over now, and he’s in a great grey hall that he can only assume is part of the Halls of Mandos, particularly given the large crowd of his more recently deceased soldiers milling around. They seem to form a rough queue waiting for Namo’s judgement.
For the first few moments, his arrival goes unnoticed by the babbling crowd.
Then one of his captains turns around, sees him, and lets out a cry.
Soon the whole company’s taken it up, a long wailing lament that’s sort of flattering.
Unfortunately, they follow this up by separating so that there’s a long straight corridor straight down to Namo. Apparently they think kings shouldn’t have to wait.
This wouldn’t be at all unfortunate, his job has to have a few perks, but it’s just occurred to him that Namo is presumably going to call him by name.
And he has no idea what that might be.
He’s eager to find out, don’t get him wrong, but he’d prefer to do it when a few less of his people are there.
He can - He’ll just tell them it’s his mother name, once Namo’s safely out of earshot. They’ll buy that, probably. Assuming the name doesn’t translate to “Son of so-so” or anything like that.
A clue. He just needs a name that’ll give him a clue without cluing in everyone else.
He’s pretty sure he’s not that lucky.
He walks toward Namo slowly, frantically weighing his options while keeping his face as calm as he can.
His name. He’s about to know his name.
He stops. Namo looks down from his throne with pitiless eyes.
“Feanor, self-named Ereinion, also called - “
“Wait,” Gil-Galad interrupts. The Hall has gone dead silent. He can hear his heart beating frantically. “No. That’s the name the Secondborn gave me, they can’t possibly have just happened tp pick the same one my mother did - “
Dozens of his people are hearing this, if not more, but he can’t stop himself. He has to know. He has to.
“She did not name you,” Namo says. The words falls with all the finality of dirt on a Secondborn’s grave. “Feanor was the first name you were given, so it is your proper name.”
Gil-Galad tries to swallow and finds he can’t.
Namo continues on. Relentless. “You have served well and heroically, but you have done so using pretenses and lies, the weapons of the fallen Vala. You have shed the blood of your kin and of the Secondborn.”
They had gone after the Enemy’s servants, mainly, when he’d been growing up. Those had always been the victims of choice. But in those long winters they’d grown so hungry, and so they’d preyed on other bands like themselves, on groups of dwarves, and on the rare occasion they could find a small enough group of them, on the high and mighty elves who never seemed to want for anything at all.
He’d gone along with it all.
“And the dwarves,” he speaks up because all pretense is gone now. If justice is to be served for the crimes of his youth, then let it be done evenly and for all. “Don’t forget them.”
Namo ignores him. “Long shall you linger in these halls,” he concludes, “but for your penitence - “
Now that Gil-Galad stops and considers, he supposes that he does regret several things from his youth, but since he’s pretty sure he’d be dead if he hadn’t done them, he’s not sure he wouldn’t do them again, so he’s not really sure penitent is the right word here.
“ - and for your heroism, you will not be confined in isolation.”
He’s going to just keep his mouth shut about the penitence thing then.
“Such is the fate of Feanor, called Ereinion, called Gil-Galad.”
Two Maia open up the doors behind Namo’s throne, presumably for him to walk through.
Gil-Galad digs his heels in though. He can hear the rustling rising behind him as his people recover their voices - though they probably won’t consider themselves his people, not anymore - but he has to know. He has to try.
“Feanor son of whom?” he demands, raising his voice to be heard. “Feanor of what line?”
“My judgement is finished,” Namo says flatly.
The noise is rising behind him. He can’t stay and argue the matter. Not unless he’s ready to try and explain away all this.
Gil-Galad hears one angry cry of, “Feanor?” and decides he is absolutely not ready to deal with all this. He’s already died today. He’s not dealing with anything else.
So he falls back on a far older instinct. One he hasn’t listened to in a long time.
There are a lot of people he has to avoid in the Halls of Mandos. The rumors have traveled quickly, but there’s plenty of elves who can’t recognize him on sight. He just has to avoid his own people. And those from Nargothrond.
And anyone from the actual line of Finwe.
They don’t know him by sight, but they are probably armed with a description by now.
Unfortunately, he has only very broad descriptions of most of them, so he just avoids everyone, so far as he can.
When he finds himself in a dead end, he considers turning around, but the light is dim here, and it’s quiet, and frankly, it’s not worth the trouble. Surely no one’s still chasing him after all this time.
He walks to one of the corners instead, turns around, and lets his back slide down the wall until he’s sitting down, knees tucked up protectively to his chest. He wants - He’s not even sure what. Or who. He wants the family of his youth that alright, yes, probably deserved Namo’s opinion of them but that had loved him all the same. They’d found an infant, not yet possibly of any use, alone in the woods and taken him in, even though he wasn’t even one of their own people.
He doesn’t know where the Secondborn go. If they’re ever punished there.
If they are, he hopes they were granted mercy for that.
He wants Finrod, who had always been so kind to him, though the wish is both stupid, considering the circumstances, and impossible. Finrod is long released to walk in the Sun.
He wants Elrond. Wise, forgiving Elrond who would know what to do and might even be willing to forgive Gil-Galad usurping his place in the succession - or at least forgive enough to help.
He wants … He wants his parents. Whoever they may be.
Possibly just so that he can yell at them, but he wants them.
It feels very childish, this curling up in a corner and wanting someone to come take his self-inflicted problems away. Not at all kingly.
But there’s no one to pretend for. Not here.
That stays true for a very long time.
But not, sadly, forever.
His mind is jolted out of its drifting thoughts by a cheerful cry of greeting. He jerks back to the present and sees a bright warrior with gold woven through his dark hair that looks a little like a certain tapestry at Nargothrond.
“I’m looking for someone,” the other elf says. “About yea tall, possibly out of breath, got about your hair color - and eye color, come to think of it - and a scar on his chin, just like - “ He pulls up short and squints. “Gil-Galad?”
Possibly he should run again, but he can’t run forever. He’s learned that much.
“At your service,” he sighs and slumps back against the wall. “Were you one of mine, or - ?”
“Fingon, son of Fingolfin,” the prince says cheerily and promptly sits down beside him.
Right. So he’s doomed, then. Good to know.
“The whole family’s been looking for you,” Fingon goes on. “And trying to work out whose you are while we’re at it. We think we might have finally narrowed it down, but now that we’ve found you - “
“I’m not anyone’s!” he bursts out. He’s done with lying. What’s the point?
“Unless you’re a contemporary of my grandfather, I very much doubt that’s true.”
“I’m not claimed by anyone,” he corrects himself. “I was left in the forest. Maybe because they had to. Maybe because I was too much trouble. I don’t know. The closest thing I’ve got to kin are the Secondborn bandits that found me, and they’re all gone now.”
He can still remember every last one of their faces.
Living and - not.
“I didn’t know,” he says wearily in a futile attempt to explain. “I knew enough to know that introducing myself as Feanor was a terrible idea, but not enough to know that the name I’d picked out instead would be taken so literally. I never dreamed I’d end up mistaken for someone that important. And then once I was - “ He shrugs. “It was easier to roll with it. Right up until I was suddenly in charge, and then it wasn’t easy at all, but I did my best with it, alright? Someone else might could have done better, but there weren’t too many left. I did well enough.” He says the last part a bit defiantly, ready to fight for it. He’s made mistakes, but he got people out of Nargothrond. He saved who he could from Sauron. Even Namo had conceded that.
“You did,” Fingon agrees. “Everyone’s agreed on that, and we almost never agree on anything, so you’ve also managed to promote family unity! Well done.”
“Not my family,” he mumbles. “You realize I might not even be Noldor, right? There’s no way to know.”
“First of all, you’re definitely family,” Fingon says firmly. “You wore the crown in service to others instead of yourself, you fought Morgoth when it seemed there was no hope, you fought Sauron to his face, and you took care of the rest of the family as best you could.”
A lump formed in his throat. “Even with the rest of what I did?”
“You’re hardly the only kinslayer among us,” Fingon says dryly. “I suspect you might have less blood on your hands than I do mine. If we restricted the family to perfect people, we wouldn’t have any family left.” He pauses. “Also, you publicly claimed us. Multiple times. You’re not getting rid of us that easily. Feanor - the other Feanor that is - is determined to claim you as a grandson. He’s always been very disappointed that he didn’t up with forty-nine grandchildren, and you’re one more towards that goal.”
Gil-Galad is … not sure how he feels about that.
Fingon continues. “Second of all, there’s definitely a way to know. At least some of the Vala have to know something.”
“Namo wasn’t exactly obliging,” Gil-Galad points out.
Fingon waves this aside. “He wasn’t very obliging the first time I asked to see Maedhros either. Or the second time. Or the twelfth. Or the fiftieth.”
That’s not exactly very encouraging, but all Gil-Galad says is, “Little pity, as promised.”
“Pity’s not the trick,” Fingon dismisses. “Exasperation is. Even the Vala have to yield to that eventually. Seventy-fifth time’s the charm! Or it was for me anyway. If we get the rest of the family in on this, I’m sure we can up our annoyingness exponentially.”
“It seems … unwise to provoke the Vala controlling your release date.”
“That’s shortsighted,” Fingon reproves. “If we’re annoying enough he’ll want to kick us out of here. Or into solitary, I suppose, but what’s death without a little risk?”
A few quick notes:
First, this chapter, unlike the others, is from Fingon's PoV and begins shortly after Maedhros's death and goes from there. Don't expect it to pick up where the last chapter left off.
Secondly, I realized midway through this that Maglor's wife was going to need to appear. Rather than starting from scratch, I decided to use the version of her I created for "Can You Hear the People Sing?" If you haven't read that, all you really need to know is that she's tone deaf and that due to the place of music in Arda, this had led a lot of elves to think that it's a spiritual problem rather than a physical one.
Finally, there were a lot of different hopes for how this story would end, and it was impossible to satisfy all of them. Still, I hope all of you get at least some enjoyment out of this chapter.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Maedhros is barely a shadow when he first gets there, but Fingon stubbornly sticks around.
When Maedhros is well enough to listen and, in his opinion, in need of some distraction, he finally asks.
“I’m trying to figure out Gil-Galad’s parentage. I don’t suppose you know?”
Maehros looks startled, which is at least better than horrifically depressed. “He’s not yours?”
Fingon’s heard that from others. A lot of others. He doesn’t know why everyone keeps assuming that.
He’ll have to try Maedhros’s brothers later. For now, he’s right where he needs to be.
“Fingon,” Curufin says from his place on the floor. He hasn’t bothered to open his eyes. Fingon never did learn the trick to that. “What do you want?”
Nice to see his time in Mandos hasn’t changed him. “To talk.”
Fingon gives up and gets straight to the point. “Offspring.”
Curufin cracks one eye open and rolls over to face him. His face is shadowed through the bars. “I didn’t think you had any.”
“Yours,” he clarifies.
That catches Curufin’s attention completely. He rolls to his feet, face tense. “Has something happened to Celebrimbor? The tapestries here are useless.”
Whoever’s in charge of these things apparently decided Curufin would benefit from graphic scenes of Finrod’s imprisonment. Fingon’s been trying not to look at them.
“He’s fine,” he assures him. “Or at least he was fine the last time someone died, there hasn’t been nearly as much of that going around since the war ended. I wanted to ask about the potential for … other offspring.”
Curufin looks around the lonely confines his cell with grim amusement. The bars are set deep into the stone. If there’s hinges or a lock, they aren’t visible. “At the moment, I would say the potential was low.”
“Already produced offspring,” Fingon further clarifies.
Curufin frowns. “Why … ?” His face goes pale. “Has Nirivel … Is there a child she’s saying is mine?”
Judging by his face, if that was the case there’s no chance the child actually would be.
“No, no,” Fingon assures him. “Nothing like that. I’m just trying to figure out who Gil-Galad belongs to.”
Curufin rolls his eyes. It almost distracts from his slowly returning color. “And you couldn’t just say that? In case you’ve forgotten, Fingon, my wife stayed on these shores. Gil-Galad was born in Beleriand.”
That’s not actually technically a denial, so Fingon pushes on cautiously. “Under the circumstance, remarriage - “
Curufin stalks forward until he’s gripping the bars in a white knuckled rage. “I am no oathbreaker,” he hisses.
“The Valar know we all wish you were,” Fingon mutters without thinking.
Curufin steps away from the bars. The rage has disappeared into a blank pleasantness that makes Fingon far more uneasy. “Forgive me. I should not have been so surprised by the question. I shouldn’t have forgotten that you were of the line of Indis and have strange ideas of family fidelity.”
“Of the two of us, which of us actually - “ Fingon cuts himself off. “No. We’re not having this fight again. Or the other fight. Or any fights! I know what I need to know.” He hesitates before he heads back into the maze of winding tunnels. “Maedhros sends his love.”
Curufin actually looks relieved for a moment before the mask descends again. Fingon’s surprised he saw anything; solitary must have decayed Curufin’s skills at hiding considerably.
The relief brings to mind what had escaped him before. “You do know about - ?”
“How he died?” Curufin interrupts. He smiles bitterly. “You’re not my very first visitor. Nienna brings news sometimes.” His look turns puzzled. “How are you here? Namo sentenced me to solitary confinement.”
“I petitioned to visit Maedhros,” Fingon explains. “Repeatedly.”
Curufin makes a show of looking around. “Unless I’m very much mistaken, he’s not here.”
“Yes, well, by the time he gave in, he was far too frustrated to be careful with his word choice, and what he actually said was ‘Visit the kinslayer if you want to!’ Which as I view it, really gives me leave to visit just about everyone here.”
For the first time in centuries, he hears Curufin laugh.
He stumbles across Uncle Feanor next.
He’s … not entirely sure what he’s seeing at first when he does.
“Are you unravelling Vaire’s tapestry?” he chokes out.
Uncle Feanor leaps to his feet. “Findekano! What an unexpected pleasure. I’d been hoping for a chance to thank you for what you did for Maitimo.”
Fingon can’t tear his eyes away from the loose threads that once made up an entire wall of tapestry. Some of them have been laid out in complex patterns. “It’s Fingon now,” he manages. “And you’re definitely unravelling the tapestry. Why are you unravelling the tapestry? There’s a stone wall behind it, it’s not like it’ll get you out! Is it the scene?”
The scene is … Maedhros yielding the crown to Fingon’s father which strikes him as a little petty, but at least it explains why Uncle Feanor’s unravelling it.
Or not, because what Uncle Feanor actually says is, “Oh, no. I needed materials, and this was the best option.”
“Materials? What can you possible do with all that?”
Uncle Feanor eyes the mass of thread thoughtfully. “Well, it’s woven through with the essence of time and space, so I’m hoping for a form of transport through either.”
This terrifying image needs only a moment to sear through his brain. “Please don’t invent time travel, Uncle Feanor.” It comes out a little strangled.
“Why not? There’s a good deal that could be improved from what Nienna tells me. Anyway, that can’t be why you’ve come. Do you have news? Have you seen my sons?”
Fingon tears his eyes away from the threads. “Two of them. Curufin and Maedhros. Curufin’s well enough. Maedhros is … better.” That’s really the best he can say of that, so he hurries on. “I’ve been trying to discover Gil-Galad’s parentage. Unless he’s Galadriel’s, we’re pretty sure he had to come from your branch.”
“Another grandson!” Feanor sounds both surprised and delighted, which at least answers the question that Fingon has been trying not to think about having to ask - Namely, if Feanor had been responsible. The timeline had made it unlikely at best, but he’s trying to be thorough.
“I’d probably best delay testing this until you know more,” Uncle Feanor muses. “I’d hate to accidentally wipe a grandson out of existence.”
“Yes. Absolutely. Just - Hold off.” Please, please hold off on potentially destroying the very fabric of Arda. “I’ll let you know what I find out.”
Just maybe not until he’s figured out how to make sure Feanor’s focused on the geographical aspect of travel.
He has no idea how long it takes him to find Celegorm, but if anyone asks later, he’s going to tell them weeks. That’s certainly what it feels like. The tunnels here are far less open that most of Mandos’s Halls, and he’s starting to feel claustrophobic.
He can only imagine what it must be like in the cells.
Celegorm manages to get the first word in because Fingon is too busy gaping at the image on his walls. It’s Huan as he dies, in vivid enough detail that it makes Fingon want to cry out, and he barely knew the hound.
“I don’t know where Maedhros is,” Celegorm says. He’s sitting by Huan’s head. It’s possible that he was petting the cloth just before Fingon showed up; Fingon certainly isn’t going to judge him if he was.
“That’s alright,” Fingon tells him. “I do. He sends his love. I also saw your father, who was very eager for news of all of you.” Fingon leaves out the rest of what Uncle Feanor is currently very interested in. He’s not sure he can get through it without his terror showing through, and that could very well start a fight. “If I see any more of your brothers, is there a message I should carry along?”
“Tell them that with practice and application, it is actually possible to climb these walls.”
Fingon blinks. “And this will be … useful in an escape attempt?”
“It’ll be useful in not going out of our collective minds,” Celegorm snarls. “There’s no room to move in here.”
Fingon eyes the tiny space and remembers his own growing claustrophobia. “I see your point.” There’s really no way to gracefully segue into this next bit, so he just dives right in. “Remember Gil-Galad?”
Celegorm frowns. “Of course I do. Why? Is he dead?”
“No, thankfully.” Fingon watches him carefully for a reaction to this news, but Celegorm just shrugs.
“Good for him. What about him then?”
“Is he yours?”
Celegorm stares at him for a very long time. “You do remember the whole Luthien incident, don’t you?”
“I think everyone does.”
“Thank you,” he says through gritted teeth. “You might remember that part of that incident involved me trying to get married. So unless you’re suggesting that I succeeded, had him with Luthien, and then somehow invented time travel and sent him back - “
Fingon flinches at the words ‘time travel.’ Thankfully, Celegorm’s in full on ranting mode and doesn’t seem to notice.
His ears are still ringing when he finds his next cousin. “Amras!”
The twin looks up in desperate hope, but the light in his eyes fades quickly. “Amrod,” he corrects.
“Right. Sorry.” He should have just gone with Ambarussa.
At first glance, the walls in Amrod’s cell look fine. It’s just him and Amras eating a meal together, right after a hunting trip judging by the gear on their horses.
Then he realizes that Amrod’s backed himself up against the image of himself so that it looks like he’s sitting beside Amras, and he has to fight back a wince.
“If I find him, I’ll come back and let you know,” he promises. The corridors he hasn’t taken are still mysteries, but he’s keeping good track of the ones he has. The last thing he wants is to get lost here. He’ll be able to find his way back easily enough.
A bit of the life returns to Amrod’s face. “Would you? I just - It’s not that we were never apart. It’s just never been for this long before.” He looks down for a moment. “Have you seen any of the others? Are they alright?”
“About as well as can be expected,” Fingon says which Amrod, fairly, doesn’t seem to find all that reassuring. “Listen, I don’t suppose you ever - “
The answer, it turns out, is no.
“Amras!” he says with considerable confidence.
“Amrod,” the Feanorian corrects.
Fingon’s jaw dropped in horror. “I’ve circled back around? No, I can’t have, I - Wait a minute. Your wall hangings are a bit different. One of you’s lying,” he concludes triumphantly.
Amras - Amrod - whichever one he is has risen in the interim and crossed to the bars. “You’ve seen him? You’ve seen Amrod?”
“I knew you were Amras,” he mutters petulantly. “Yes, I’ve seen him. He misses you desperately and gave me about a hundred messages to give you. I’ll try to remember them in a minute, but first I’ve got a message of my own.”
“Of course,” Amras says and sets his jaw. “Doriath or the Havens?”
Fingon’s actually doing his best not to think about either of those messes. He’s not king anymore, it’s not his responsibility. “Neither. Gil-Galad.”
“What’d we ever do to him?” Amras protests.
“Created him, possibly. That’s what I’m trying to find out.”
“Creat- Like with gears? Because that’s really more along Curufin’s line.”
“Like with a woman,” he says in exasperation.
“Oh. No. I thought that would be a bad idea, what with the Doom and all.”
Fingon can’t exactly argue with that. “Maybe Celebrimbor managed to slip away from his father long enough to meet a girl.”
“Anything’s possible. Have you asked Caranthir yet?”
“Are you sure?” Fingon wheedles. They’re not quite to the end of the line yet - there’s still Maglor and maybe Celebrimbor - but they’re getting close. He’d had a good feeling about Caranthir.
“We tried,” Caranthir says. His voice has an edge of anger, but what’s far stronger is the longing, mixed with grief. “Right up until she died.”
… That doesn’t actually rule it out. And if he’s any judge of his cousin, Caranthir would very much like to be a father.
Firien goes on his list of people to track down.
“Maybe he’s Maglor’s,” Caranthir suggests.
“Maglor’s not dead, though, so I can’t ask him.”
Caranthir looks at him like he’s being exceptionally stupid. “Have you tried asking his wife?”
Fingon feels exceptionally stupid.
“Did Aranel actually fight at Alqualonde, or was she just there?”
“Right. Then she’s got to be around here somewhere.”
By the time he actually manages to track either of the wives down, Celebrimbor’s died. Despite what Curufin seems to think, Fingon retains enough tact to wait until he’s somewhat recovered to ask him if he’s responsible for Gil-Galad.
He’s not, but he is able to relay a series of increasingly improbable and hilarious theories that are apparently floating around the court.
Then in quick succession, he finds Aranel and Firien, and Aredhel finds him.
Aranel’s locked in with the kinslayers and is the first person who’s been less than pleased to see Fingon.
“Come to lecture me on corrupting my husband?”
Fingon has to take nearly a minute to process this. Finally, the best he can come up with is “What?”
She looks up at him. Her face is set in hard lines of preemptive anger. “That’s what Atar said when Namo let him see me. He said my marring must have corrupted the prince. Maybe even his whole family.”
Maglor used to verbally eviscerate people for saying much, much less. Fingon wants no part of that minefield. He raises his hands in surrender. “I’m not here to blame you for your husband.”
Judging by the way her eyes shutter, that probably still wasn’t the right path to take. Some marriages shattered in the long war; apparently their’s did not.
“I just came to ask about any … children.”
“Children?” she repeats blankly. “You mean the Peredhel?”
He’s surprised she knows about that until he takes a closer look at the tapestry. He’d thought it was just Sirion burning, but no. It shows Maglor claiming the twins as well. Apparently someone’s given her context.
“I don’t know why everyone keeps thinking that’s the part I should be most upset about,” she says heatedly. “He defied his Oath when he let them go when it was safe. I’m proud of him, not concerned because he was raising children while I was gone!”
“Not those children,” he corrects, because he’s not about to get in the middle of that whole mess. “I meant any children you might have had with him. Together.”
“Why?” she asks with a slow edge of suspicion.
Fingon explains Gil-Galad.
“What happens if you don’t like the answer you get?”
Fingon honestly hasn’t considered this up to now. “What do you mean?”
“What if he is mine? Is he marred in your eyes? What if he’s not, and he’s not Firien’s either? Is he not worthy of the crown? Why does this matter so much to you?”
“Honestly?” Fingon takes a deep breath. “I’m curious. I don’t have any better reasons. I’m just dead and bored and curious.”
She doesn’t believe him. Fingon can’t quite blame her. She’s been judged her whole life for the circumstances thrust upon her at her birth, and that only worsened after true marring was revealed in Melkor; it’s little wonder she fears the same for Gil-Galad if it turns out he’s not quite as perfect as everyone thought.
So he shouldn't really be surprised when she says, “In that case, you can consider it settled. He’s mine. Mine and Maglor’s.”
Fingon … isn’t sure if he believes her. “Why send him to Nargothrond? Why keep him a secret?”
“He was stolen,” she says promptly. “We thought he was dead and had no words to share our grief. I have no idea what happened in his early life. I had no idea where he even was until you explained Gil-Galad’s circumstances. That’s not what I named him.” She reels this off matter of factly with no obvious sign of grief.
Fingon is particularly suspicious of the stolen child part of this story given what she’s been staring at for these past few centuries. “What did you name him?” he challenges her.
“Fingon,” she says instantly. “Because Maglor was so grateful for what you’d done for his brother.”
Fingon is … almost certain she’s lying. Almost.
On the other hand, it’s the best explanation anyone’s been able to hand him yet.
He’s still mulling it over in his mind when he emerges back into the Halls proper. Firien immediately comes flying into him. Only her tiny height keeps him from toppling. “You found him!”
“Found who - Oh, Caranthir, yes.”
“You found him too? Can you show me where? And what do you know about my baby?”
He’d forgotten how very little like Caranthir Firien is. Also -
According to Firien, she hadn’t realized their efforts had finally succeeded when she volunteered to go with the trading caravan. By the time she realized, it seemed safest just to continue on. All had been well until the return, when they’d been attacked only minutes after she had given birth. She had died shortly after hiding the baby as best she could.
Her telling is somewhat more convincing than Aranel’s. Then again, she also used to be a performer, so …
Fingon hates his life. Death. Whatever.
Naturally, that’s when Aredhel shows up and announces that Gil-Galad is actually hers.
Her grandson, that is.
According to her, Turgon had pressured Maeglin to marry someone to turn his mind away from Idril. He’d given in and married a girl who’d gotten tired of always coming in second place and run off, apparently while pregnant.
Fingon has no idea if any of that’s true and has no way to check it because Aredhel’s the only one who actually knows where to find Maeglin, he doesn’t have a name for the girl, and Turgon’s already gotten early release for good behavior.
Namo’s been hinting strongly about good behavior lately. Fingon, increasingly convinced that he’s the only reason that his Feanorian cousins are still sane and that his uncle hasn’t gone ahead with his plans to possibly erase them all from existence, cheerfully ignores him.
That’s the short list that at long last he’s able to present Gil-Galad with. If Gil-Galad is in fact part of Finwe’s family tree - and judging by his power and a certain resemblance, Fingon is inclined to think he is despite Gil-Galad's doubts - than those are his most likely options.
“Firien’s story is remarkably similar to a theory Elrond came up with,” Gil-Galad says wistfully. “He has an uncanny knack for being right about things, you know.” He sighs.
“Cheer up,” Fingon tells him. “Like I said, we can always pester Namo into telling us eventually. Or you might feel something when you meet them! And really it’s only two options since we know Aranel has to be lying since she claimed to actually name you … Although Maglor probably wouldn’t mind claiming you, given his track record, so we could always just pretend you were and go with it.”
“No,” Gil-Galad says firmly. “I want to know the truth.”
“Let’s start with the ones we won’t have to sneak you in for then, and then I can introduce you to the rest of the family.”
Fingon’s money’s on Caranthir.
… Which means Feanor will now feel free to resume his experiments.
Oh, well. He hasn’t gotten this far by being cautious. How badly could it possibly go wrong?
Fingon shuts that thought down quickly and drags Gil-Galad through the Halls to Firien, who takes one look at Gil-Galad and throws herself at him, wrapping him in the tightest hug she can manage, even though her head barely comes up to his chin.
She’s crying. Gil-Galad, who’s holding her like she something fragile, looks like he might start.
Fingon feels a bit like crying too.
Due to my complete inability to ever completely let go of an AU, I can't promise that this is the last time I'll EVER return to this, but I do intend for this to be the conclusion, at least for now. Thank you to everyone who's been following this story!
Fingon isn’t really sure how to share the news with Caranthir, so it’s something of a relief when Firien all but flies ahead of him and throws herself against the bars.
Caranthir is on his feet and in front of her in an instant, his hands reaching as far as they can through the bars to wrap around hers, his lips pressed against every inch of her face that they can reach.
It’s the happiest he’s seen his cousin in . . . possibly ever, come to think of it, so it takes a long moment for him to tear his eyes politely away and look at Gil-Galad instead.
Gil-Galad is still half-hidden in the shadows and looks very much like he would prefer to melt away into them entirely. “Maybe I should - “
Oh, no. They had come too far for him to back out of this now.
“He’ll be thrilled,” Fingon assures him. “Trust me.” He grabs Gil-Galad by the wrist and drags him forward before the other elf can protest.
Firien is now somewhat breathless, but she pulls away from Caranthir just enough to beam up at him and say, “I found our son.”
Caranthir’s eyes widen and he takes in the full scene for the first time, gaze locking on Gil-Galad.
Firien spills out the whole story, one hand reaching out for Gil-Galad even as the other remains locked around Caranthir’s.
Gil-Galad steps forward with a far more nervous clench to his shoulders than Fingon had seen upon his meeting with Firien, but that’s probably understandable. No one gossips about Firien in horrified whispers.
“I have a son,” Caranthir says, and he sounds stunned and wonderstruck and very much like he badly needs to sit down. “All that time, and I didn’t know.”
The strong implication that had he known things would have been very different seems to strike some part of the desperate need that’s been so obvious in Gil-Galad’s eyes, and he steps forward again, shoulders loosening a bit, now close enough to touch.
“I want to know everything,” Caranthir says. “Everything I missed.”
Fingon decides this is probably a private moment, and he slips away into the shadows Gil-Galad had been hiding in before ducking round the corner into another hall.
He decides to go see Maedhros, on the grounds that he’ll need to start spreading the news somewhere and also on the grounds that it’s been too long since he’s seen Maedhros.
Maedhros is doing push-ups when he arrives, which is somewhat pointless, seeing as they’re dead and can neither gain nor lose muscle mass, but also a good sign, since it means he’s alert enough to be bored.
“Congratulations, you’re an uncle,” Fingon announces, plopping down on the floor just on the other side of the bars from Maedhros. “I think. I’m pretty sure, at least.”
Maedhros sits up. “I’m very sure,” he says wryly. “Unless Celebrimbor has found some way to fight with his father even here and has disavowed us again, I suppose.”
“You know what I meant,” he grumbles. “I think we’ve resolved the Gil-Galad situation. We think he’s Caranthir’s.”
Maedhros raises an eyebrow. “You think?”
“That’s right, I never told you about that whole mess,” Fingon realizes. “See, Aranel, Firien, and Aredhel all tried to claim him, but I know Aranel’s lying, and Firien’s story fits the best, and Gil-Galad just seems to - fit with them somehow, so Firien and Caranthir. Probably. Only don’t say that where anyone else can hear because I’m pretty sure Caranthir would punch me.” Another thought occurred to him, and he added, “Also, please don’t tell Maglor that I called his wife a liar because he would probably do worse than punch me.”
That last bit might have been a misstep because Maedhros’s face fell a bit at the mention of Maglor, who no one had seen since the First Age, and who Maedhros probably wouldn’t get to see even if Maglor did end up here.
“Have you told Father yet?” Maedhros asks instead of pursuing that point, and Fingon is grateful for a split second before the full impact of that question hits.
“You realize that ambiguity about Gil-Galad’s heritage is the only thing preventing your father from experimenting with time travel.”
Maedhros says nothing. Possibly he considers time travel worth the risks. Seeing where they are now, Fingon has a hard time blaming him, but - Still.
Time travel. Uncle Feanor.
He has a right to be concerned.
Fingon groans in the face of Maedhros’s continuing silence. “I’ll tell him,” he concedes before he hits upon a brilliant delaying tactic. “But I’m waiting until I can take Gil-Galad with him. I’m sure he’ll want to meet his new grandson.”
Gil-Galad and his almost-certainly-parents have a lot of catching up to do.
And when it comes to not destroying the fabric of reality, every second counts.
Unfortunately, all good things must end, including stalling tactics.
Fingon is eventually forced to make good on his promise and introduce Gil-Galad to his grandfather.
“Uncle Feanor, meet Feanor,” he announces, because that opportunity is too good to resist. “Though he goes by Gil-Galad these days, mostly.”
Uncle Feanor is thrilled to meet his new grandson, thrilled to hear that the new grandson is named after him, and even more thrilled to hear all about what happened to this new grandson, particularly regarding the circumstances of his birth.
Gil-Galad looks a little overwhelmed.
Fingon looks at what appears suspiciously like an almost completed time travel project and decides that Gil-Galad isn’t the only one.
“Though all who were wronged by him should weep for him, still little pity would he find,” Namo intones, his voice reverberating through the halls into Fingon’s very bones.
Well. If he still has bones. Does he have bones right now, technically?
That’s really not the point, he reminds himself and gets back to it.
“I understand that,” he says. “I do. I’m not asking for pity for him. I’m asking pity for the rest of us, and by rest of us, I mean the rest of Arda.”
Namo frowns. “What mean you by this?”
“I mean,” Fingon says through gritted teeth, “Uncle Feanor is about two hours away from using time and/or space travel and personally, I find this slightly disturbing.”
Namo doesn’t doubt that this is possible which Fingon also finds slightly concerning; he’s been holding out faint hope that it can't actually be done.
Apparently it can.
“Then we will remove his means to do so,” Namo says firmly, like that’s the end of it.
“And when he makes another one?” Fingon demands.
“He will be unable to do so in an empty cell,” Namo says.
Fingon takes one short moment to imagine that - Uncle Feanor alone in a plain stone cell with nothing to do or see or plan except for an occasional visit from Fingon, and he wonders exactly how long it would take Uncle Feanor to go utterly, hopelessly mad.
“If you do that, he won’t have to invent time travel,” he says, and he almost can’t believe he’s saying this, but, “because I’ll have taken his design and done it for him.”
Namo’s frown deepens. It almost looks like he’s considering it, though.
A sudden ripple goes through the world. A moment later, a Maia bursts into Namo’s audience hall.
“My lord!” she says. “Feanor has escaped!”
“Of course he has,” Fingon says, and he lets his head fall into his hands with a gentle thunk.
(It is, he learns a little later, at least travel in space and not through time, which is, he supposes, something.)