Morifinwë had never liked his Arafinwion cousins. His father held a particular disdain for the children of Nolofinwë, but for Moryo it was Findaráto's thoughtless dalliances, Angaráto's rigid self-importance, and Aikanáro's unfocused sincerity that irked him to no end. That was not to even mention their sister Artanis and her haughty, piercing gaze—she had always thought herself better than them all, and now even more so, having been the only one of their generation to survive three ages of Middle-earth and return to Valinórë with something of her pride intact.
It was strange, then, that of all his relations he sought Aikanáro's company in his distress. Moryo did not relish the idea of baring his soul to one of his least-favorite cousins, but Aikanáro had a unique insight on his current and eternal predicament. He, also, had been sundered from a mortal lover—and he, also, was the father of a peredhel he barely knew. There was no one else like Aikanáro save Morifinwë himself, and considering the relationship between Aiko's son and Moryo's child...
Well. If Gil-galad would not speak to him, perhaps his father would. Tyelpë seemed to think so, and it was he who had urged Moryo to come this far. Tyelpë would have come himself, had accompanied him halfway to Lórien before running into one of his friends from the Mírdain newly-returned from Mandos and had decided to celebrate their return with them and speak with Aikanáro at some other time. Moryo had almost turned back, then, but Tyelpë swore he would interrogate him for every detail of their conversation, and he had at last relented.
Even despite his healing, Moryo felt uneasy in the gardens of Lórien. This was not a place he was meant to be. But it was where his grandmother dwelt, and where the cousin he sought against his better judgement was rumored to hide, and so thus it was to Lórien that his path led.
He had been to visit Míriel once before, led by her servant Daurin Tórin, unable to focus on anything save his own paranoia. Now he stepped more sure of himself, for all he was uncertain of the way, but the garden paths seemed to wind straight to where Míriel lived and worked, as if they knew his intentions. Perhaps they did. He thought it best not to dwell on that, lest the obsessive fear creep back into his thoughts.
A last he arrived, the setting sun filling the gardens with warm golden light, just as a silhouette rose to walk out of the shadows of Míriel's gazebo.
"Grandmother!" he called—but it was not Míriel who greeted him. No, it was the woman he had been raised to despise for his father's sake.
"Morifinwë?" Indis said, astonished. "You have never addressed me as such."
"I—" He blushed viciously. "Lady Indis. Were my father living to see me now, he would disown me on the spot."
She laughed, but it was forced. "You are here for Míriel." It was not a question.
"Yes," Moryo admitted. "It was to her I called."
"Well, I expect no less from a loyal son of Fëanáro." Indis nodded coolly. "She is in her gazebo, finishing her stitching for the hour; we were about to embark upon a stroll through the gardens."
Morifinwë narrowed his eyes. "You are here for her?"
"We were friends," Indis said, lowering her lashes, "before our husband came between us. We are again friends. Who but us can know the pain of a spouse lost forever?"
"I can think of many," Morifinwë snapped. "That is why I am here—to speak with your grandson, who is sundered from his lover by a divide even greater than the Statute of Finwë."
Indis smoothed her skirt. "Yes. Aikanáro."
"He is in the next grove," said Míriel, who now approached. She smiled. "Carnistir. It is lovely to see you again. Tol Eressëa was good for you?"
"It was," he said, glancing to Indis. "Lalwendë and her family welcomed me more warmly than I deserved. I am grateful for their hospitality."
Indis' smile reached her eyes this time. "She has ever been the most free-spirited of my children," she said. "Arakáno held grudges, Findis kept her moral high ground, Ingoldo forgave but never forgot. But my Lalwendë could even play with Fëanáro, when she was young. No matter how rough their tumbles got, she always came back for more. I dare say she preferred him to Arakáno!"
"Perhaps that is why, then," Moryo said awkwardly.
"Forgive me," Indis said. "I have always wished for better blood between us, Morifinwë; at least, between my line and and my darling's." She took Míriel by the arm, and he watched in astonishment and Míriel beamed, accepting the kiss Indis placed upon her brow.
"Ah," he said, unsure of how to react.
"Aikanáro is over there," Míriel said, as if nothing had happened, though Moryo could not comprehend what he had just seen. She laced her fingers with Indis' own, and together they began to walk away.
Moryo knew a dismissal when he received one. He nodded to the two women—the beloved grandmother he had never known in his first life, and the hated step-grandmother he had always believed to have stolen Finwë's heart—and bit his lip as they passed him by.
Well. This was not what he had come here for. He could consider the subtle romance of Finwë's wives at some other time; right now, he had a cousin to confront.
Morifinwë strode to the next grove over. This was different from Míriel's gazebo, a simple tent where her dwelling was ornate and full of her tools and thread, and he was surprised to find Aikanáro deep in slumber. With his blond hair splayed loose around his shoulders as he breathed and his face covered by the pages of a sun-bleached book, he looked as if he posed for someone's painting. Moryo looked around, half-expecting Nelyafinwë to be standing off to one side with a brush in his golden hand; his eldest brother had taken to painting more than just his own skin in recent years.
But the clearing was empty save for Aikanáro and Moryo. He thought about turning back, visiting his cousin at another, better time—but no. He had come all this way, under no small duress. He would simply have to wake Aikanáro.
Moryo reached out a hand, but before he could shake Aikanáro's shoulder his cousin's fingers wrapped around his wrist.
"What are you doing here?" Aikanáro demanded, clutching Moryo's arm tightly. "And don't you know it's rude to startle someone to wakefulness?"
Moryo wrenched his arm free, glaring. Well, he didn't know what he'd been expecting from all this.
"I wasn't going to waste away waiting for you to get up," he snapped.
"I was only dozing," Aikanáro said, sitting up all the way. "And you only answered half my questions. Why are you here? You hate me, unless your time in Mandos has radically changed everything about you. Which, after my own stay there, I find rather unlikely."
Moryo gritted his teeth. Aikanáro was not making this easy for him.
"I am here," he growled, "at my nephew's insistence."
"Tyelperinquar?" Aikanáro scoffed. "He seems to be off by a few brothers. It is Curufinwë and Tyelkormo who should be apologizing to Findaráto, not you to me. Unless you have already grovelled at Angaráto's feet, and I am next."
Moryo considered hitting him to underscore the point that his feelings on the Arafinwions had not changed, but that would undermine the work that Curvo and Tyelko actually had put in, if the news was to be believed.
"You must not have many visitors," he snapped. "Surely you know of my brothers' visit to Avorndor, and their reconciliation with Finrod? Or do my grandmother's tapestries bore you?"
Aikanáro sniffed. "Your grandmother is working on the deeds of my house in Beleriand, not on the squabbles of yours in Aman."
"Does anyone visit you?" Moryo asked. "Even Angaráto? Even Artaresto?"
At the sound of his own nephew's name, Aikanáro flinched. "Orodreth has only come to see me once since I was reborn."
"And your son?"
Aikanáro stilled. "How do you know about that?" he rasped.
"I met him," Moryo said. At last, they got to the point. "Were it not for him, I wouldn't be here."
Aikanáro sighed. A distant pain overtook him, his eyes losing their focus: now he looked like the dreamer Moryo had so despised, adrift amid untold visions and unheeded griefs. Moryo was glad his own dalliances with a mortal had not scarred him so. At least, not like this.
"Come," Aikanáro murmured. "There is a hill nearby. We can speak, and watch the stars as we do."
Oh, the stars. Moryo bit back a retort, reminding himself that he was perhaps alone among elves fonder of a cloudy, moonless night than a clear and starlit sky. The stars had certainly never done him any good.
But he followed Aikanáro and sat beside him, staring up into the darkening sky. The moon was new tonight; in the absence of direct light, the sky was filled with Varda's stars, stretching endlessly through time and space, to worlds beyond Arda. Worlds where, perhaps, the fëa of Morifinwë's lost lover now dwelt.
But brighter than those distant worlds shone the Star of Eärendil. It brought hope to most who saw it, but for Moryo and his brothers it was a painful reminder of their failure. Yes, they had been released from the Oath when they were released from Mandos, but there was the jewel they had not reclaimed even for a moment. There was the jewel for which he had died in vain pursuit.
And there also was Eärendil himself, a peredhel like Gil-galad, like... Moryo could barely bring himself to think their name. Half man, half elf: why did Eärendil, a scion of kings in his own right, get a happy ending? Why was the child of Nolofinwë's line blessed, where Fëanáro's and even faithful Arafinwë's was cursed?
Thinking of Eärendil's parents made Moryo go blind with rage and something akin to jealousy; it was Itarillë who got her happy ending with a mortal husband granted eternal life in Aman, which none of them deserved, while poor fools like Aikanáro and Morifinwë himself were left bereft and ever-mourning!
But even as his anger rose, he felt a hollow emptiness within him. He didn't know why he'd come here, aside from appeasing Tyelpë; he and Aikanáro could not be more different in regards to their mortal lovers. For Moryo could tell that Aikanáro truly loved his adaneth, yearned for her and kept her in his soul, while he...he and Haleth had never been like that. Their arrangement was practical, enjoyable, exciting—but there was no romance in it, he did not think.
He didn't know where to begin. He was of half a mind to just leave, until at last Aikanáro spoke.
"Is it true, then?" he asked. "That you and Haleth—?"
"Yes, yes," Moryo muttered. It was not easy to admit he'd been conquered by a mortal woman. Or maybe the hard part was speaking what had been kept secret for so long.
"Ah. I...well, I thought that might be why you were here." Aikanáro picked at the grass beneath his feet. "I don't know why else you'd seek out an Arafinwion, unless it was because of...that."
"So...you and Andreth...?" He didn't know why he asked; he already knew they had produced a son together. But it seemed the polite thing to do.
"Yes," Aikanáro sighed. "We met by Tarn Aeluin—"
"I know the basics," Morifinwë interrupted. "Tyelpë filled me in, and I heard rumors..."
"We were not...together...for very long," he said softly. "Angaráto warned me against her, and my heart had led me into trouble so many times before...I let him convince me it was unwise to wed her. We were the first, you understand; this was before Beren and Lúthien—"
"Not the first," Moryo said, cutting him off again. "The Haladin were already established at that time. Haleth died before the Bragollach."
Aikanáro flinched. "It is not as if your story was widespread," he said stiffly. "I did not learn about it until well after I died. You kept your secrets better than we did, I suppose."
Moryo bit his lip to stop himself from snapping back. He had talked too much already.
When Aikanáro decided he wasn't going to interrupt again, he continued: "But just because I could not wed her did not mean I could keep myself from her... Findaráto encouraged me, but he has always been...like that."
"A slut," Moryo muttered, and Aikanáro only rolled his eyes.
"We made love," he admitted. "Several times. I had never—but she was so good to me, she—"
"Please get on with it," Moryo said in disgust. "I do not want to hear the details of your fucking."
"It wasn't...like that," Aikanáro snapped, at last losing his mournful air. "She was the best thing that ever happened to me, even if our sundering brought—brings me so much grief—!"
"I do not doubt it." Moryo glared at him. "So. You fucked. You knocked her up, as the Edain say." His lip twitched slightly; Haleth had explained that phrase to him, when her nephew came to her contrite with the news of his sweetheart's condition. He had not known, at that point, that he had done the same to her. Had she?
"When we learned she was with child..." Aikanáro took a deep breath. "I didn't intend it. There was no precedent—"
That you knew of, Moryo thought darkly, or even that I knew of... He realized with some astonishment that his child was quite possibly the first peredhel ever.
"—and I did not realize that mortals could become pregnant without meaning to!" He shook his head. "I think Andreth may have wished it, to have some memory of me after...after I left. But the thought did not even cross my mind."
Morifinwë grimaced. It certainly hadn't crossed his.
"When we found out," Aikanáro continued, "we were so worried. Worried for the child. For our son. Half Elda, half Adan...where would he fit in? Andreth was unwed, and the chieftain's daughter; I was a lord, and children out of wedlock do not happen among our folk! What story could we weave? What tale could we tell?"
"So you gave him to your nephew," Moryo said.
Aikanáro nodded. "Tol Sirion had not fallen. It was safer there than in Dorthonion. And Orodreth had just married, and his wife had just borne their first child—it was no stretch of the imagination that they would have another. And when the child was born...he was too elvish to pass as a Man. He had my ears, my eyes. But...his mother's hair. Thankfully Amathluin had Sindar coloring, and Orodreth and I both took after my father even though Ango looks like my mother—" He stopped, taking a deep breath. "But the short of it is...yes. We gave him to Orodreth and Amathluin, and they promised to raise him as their son, an elvish son. A brother to Finduilas."
"Did you give him a name?" Morifinwë asked. He knew the lad had several. What would he had named his child, given the chance? Haleth had done that for him.
"Andreth called him Gil, her little star." Aikanáro smiled. "Amathluin lengthened it to Gil-galad. Arto and I gave him his father name, together, since he is both our son. Artanáro—Arta, after Artaresto. Náro, after Aikanáro. Ereinion came later, when he claimed the kingship." He looked at Morifinwë, more vulnerable than Moryo knew how to deal with. "I've...never told anyone that. The whole story, I mean. Just that...we knew we couldn't keep him. At least, we thought we knew."
Moryo sympathized despite himself. "You did what was most practical." He could respect that.
"But was it?" The warmth of his smile vanished. "It would not have been so foolish to keep him. To wed Andreth properly. It was wartime, yes, but...Artaresto did it. We could have had years together, instead of so many apart...I was always going to lose her, Moryo. Why did I choose to do it so soon?"
"It would've taken the charm from Beren and Lúthien, that's for sure..." Morifinwë mumbled under his breath.
"It's just—" Aikanáro let out a wretched sigh. "Maybe it would have worked. It did for others—Tuor and Itarillë. Beren and Lúthien. But I didn't fight for her, for our son, and now I'll never know. I could have loved him, raised him—and I didn't. How can—how can he ever forgive that of me?"
Morifinwë frowned. He knew Aikanáro was still in mourning, despite being returned to life, but he hadn't thought he was still estranged from his son. "Have you asked him? Spoken with him, even?"
"No..." Aikanáro admitted. "I just assumed... Well, he knows I am alive, and he knows who I am to him. But he hasn't sought me out."
Moryo pinched the bridge of his nose. Arafinwëans! "Have you spoken with Artaresto? Gotten his opinion?"
"Arto? His real father?" He laughed bitterly. "Yes. He came to see me, once. But he says—well, Arto has always been too kind for his own good."
"Agh, you Arafinwëans and your self-sacrificing mentalities!" Moryo snapped, unable to stop himself from smacking his cousin on the shoulder. "You are an idiot, Aiko!"
"Excuse me, Morifinwë, if I do not see it that way!" Aikanáro cried, shoving him back. "What would you do in this situation, hm? Your mortal wife, for if you had better sense than me surely you did wed her, did not give you a half-elven child—you do not have this situation to deal with—"
"She was not my wife," Morifinwë spat, "we were not in love, or anything foolish like that, but she did give me a child, you dolt! Why do you think I'm here?"
Aikanáro gaped at him. Moryo continued, growling, "Whatever you had with Andreth is not what I had with Haleth, and I could care less about your broken heart. It's my child I have in common with you!"
"Wh...?" Aikanáro just stared at him. "You—you too?"
Moryo fidgeted, catching himself picking at his nails and diverting his restlessness to the hem of his tunic instead. A few frayed threads could be resown; he did not want his fingers to bleed as they once had back in Beleriand, when he could not bring himself to stop.
He forced himself to calm down. "Yes," he said, softer now. "I...I did love Haleth, if not in the way one loves a wife. I have never felt that pull, nor had she. But she was a good woman. A good friend. She didn't take my shit—she wasn't afraid to call me out, rein me in. I needed someone like that. And...I miss her. Even if—even if we fought, toward the end."
And maybe that was why she never reached out to him about his child. Maybe she didn't think he could have loved them. He would have, of course he would have—but there was the Oath to consider, and Thargelion so far from Brethil, and his brothers and a thousand other things... He thought maybe he understood her reasoning a little better, now. And at least his child had known their mother, and not been sundered from both their parents as Gil-galad had.
"And...your child?" Aikanáro murmured.
"Rýndil," Moryo choked out. "Their name was Rýndil. They lived with Haleth in Brethil, but they were one of the ranger mercenaries I hired to fight in the Nírnaeth Arnœdiad—"
"Oh, no," Aikanáro breathed, but Moryo shook his head.
"They lived through that," he said, "and past my death—they went to the Havens of Sirion, with the Nargothrondrim, with Gil-galad and Tyelpë, and—" He couldn't hold back the tears anymore. He was weak and furious; airheaded Aikanáro had kept himself together, why couldn't he? But Aikanáro's pain ran deep and old, and his was freshly discovered, and it was too much, too much, why had Tyelpë convinced him to do this—
Aikanáro laid a hand on his shoulder. Instinctively Morifinwë grabbed him and slammed him to the ground, scrambling for a knife at his belt that wasn't there, and it wasn't until his hands were wrapped around his cousin's neck and Aiko was clawing at him and wheezing that he realized what he'd done.
"Oh—fuck," he sobbed, releasing Aiko and falling backwards into a heap. "Fuck, Aiko, I'm—I'm sorry, I didn't mean to, you just, you surprised me, and I—"
Aiko gasped for a few moments, rubbing at his throat. But he didn't jump to attack Moryo—he actually reached out his hand a second time, more hesitant, but the offer was still there. Moryo held himself, rocking back and forth and scratching at his own hands, when Aiko murmured, "Hey, hey, Moryo, it's alright...I'm sorry, I didn't mean to startle you, I should've asked... Do you want me to go—?"
"No," Moryo snarled, and fuck why did everything he say sound harsher than he meant it? But Aiko only stretched out his other arm and what was left of Moryo's resolve broke: he needed to be held, and his mother wasn't there, or his older brothers. He collapsed into Aiko's embrace, sobbing into his cousin's shoulder.
The sun had fully set by the time Morifinwë came back to himself. He wiped his eyes and leaned away from Aikanáro, staring firmly at the ground. "Sorry," he said gruffly. "For...all of that."
"It's okay," Aiko said softly. "It's fine. I understand. Believe me, I do. Did you know—of course you don't. I never told anyone, except the Fëanturi... But—they killed Ango first. He died clean, in battle. I lost it, after that. I forgot about anything but him, dead, and I went mad. I killed so many of them, but they got me...they chained me. Would've dragged me to Angband, but...I knew what they did to captive Noldo princes, and I...didn't have Maedhros' resolve. Soon as I had the first chance, I attacked the guards, and...let's just say, after I was reborn, it took me a long time before I let anyone touch me. There's a reason I'm still in Lórien, and not just because I'm mourning. I...I should've asked."
"Yeah." Moryo wiped at his eyes again. "Damn it. I was getting better. Working with Ilfrin, on Tol Eressëa...he's been helping me. Lórien won't—it's the Ainur. I can't...with them. Fuck. I did the same thing, you know. Walking into death, wanting it. I wanted out of the Oath. It didn't work—but at least I died first. At least of all my brothers, I have the least blood on my hands."
They sat in silence for awhile. Aiko looked up at the stars, Moryo down at the ground. Even despite everything, Aikanáro had more hope than him, more faith. Well—he was no Fëanorian. And Moryo's shadows had followed him all his life, not just into his death.
"Do you want to talk more?" Aiko asked gently. "About...your death? Or your kid? Rýndil?"
Moryo considered. "Yeah," he said quietly. "I think so."
"I'm listening." Aiko shuffled a little closer to him. "Is it alright if I lean against you?"
"Mm. Yeah." He looked up at his cousin, eyes narrowed. "You never tell anyone what just happened, okay? No one. I have a reputation to maintain."
Aiko cracked a smile. "Of course. I wouldn't be caught dead hugging a Fëanorian."
"Poor choice of words," Moryo said drily, but he smirked as he said it.
"So...Rýndil?" Aiko prompted. "You were telling me about...the Havens. I assume they...uh..."
"They died there," he said bluntly. "In the Third Kinslaying. They—" his voice shook— "they killed Pityo. At least they were defending Sirion, but...my child killed my brother. My baby brother. And what's worse it—one of my brothers killed them. We don't even know which one, Nelyo and Kano are equally culpable...! We're—we're monsters, all of us, even if they lived, I couldn't—"
"Hey," Aiko interrupted before he got too worked up again. "Can I put my arm around you?"
He nodded, gritting his teeth. He wished he weren't so weak...but it felt good to be held. It was...grounding.
"They're dead, then?" Aiko asked, his voice soft. "Even still? Have they not been reembodied?"
Moryo let out a bitter laugh. "No. And they never will."
"What do you—oh." Aiko tightened his grip around Moryo's shoulders. "They...chose the mortal path?"
"Of course they did." Moryo bit his lip. "They only ever knew their mother. Their elven kin murdered them. They must have hated me, hated all of us Fëanorians, except for Tyelpë. He was always the best of us—and Rýndil was, too. Of course they were friends. He—Tyelpë was on Balar, that day. But not Rýndil. Not my child. And now they're gone, forever."
Aiko squeezed his shoulder. Morifinwë shrugged his way out of his cousin's grip, turning and glaring at him. "So you see, Aikanáro, what you have and I do not?"
Aiko only bit his lip, not meeting Moryo's eyes.
"You have an opportunity," Moryo pressed, "one that I do not. You didn't get to know your son in his first life, but you can know him now. You're an idiot for letting this chance slip by!"
Aiko bowed his head. "He wouldn't want me. I abandoned him."
"At least you made a decision about that," Moryo growled. "I didn't even get that chance."
He laughed bitterly; if he didn't, he thought he might cry again. "Haleth never told me about Rýndil."
"What?!" Aiko's jaw dropped.
"Did I not mention that?" He sniffed, turning away so Aiko wouldn't see the tear that slipped from his eye. "No, we'd ended our affair by then. I was completely ignorant of their existence. Even at the Nírnaeth—I met them then, I must have, but they didn't tell me who they were, even though they knew who I was. But I don't remember. I don't even know what they looked like."
"But then...if they died at Sirion..." Aiko murmured. "How did you find out about all that?"
Moryo narrowed his eyes. "Your son."
"I met him on Tol Eressëa," Moryo explained. "I've been spending my days there, with your Aunt Lalwendë and her son."
"Lalwen!" Aiko smiled. "She's wonderful. I miss her, I haven't seen her since...it must have been shortly after the Long Peace began, when she visited Dorthonion as Fingolfin's envoy..."
"You should visit her." Moryo snorted. "Just make sure you know if you want to see Gil-galad or not. He likes to visit; he's friends with her husband, Círdan."
"And he...what?" Aiko said. "He knew your Rýndil, and told you about them?"
Morifinwë took a deep breath. "My child and yours—they were lovers."
If Aikanáro had been shocked before, that was nothing to what he was now. He stared at Moryo like he was speaking Valarin, completely flabbergasted.
"I don't know the details," Moryo said with a quirk at the corners of his mouth, "so don't ask me for them. Talk to your son if you want to know." He paused. "I wish I knew...some of it, at least. But Gil-galad was not in the mood to talk."
"What do you mean?" Aikanáro said when he found his voice.
Moryo grunted. "He cursed me from the Void to the Flame Imperishable, in sum. He told me enough that I realized Haleth had a child by me, and that their name was Rýndil and how their doom was entirely my fault, but not much else. He said I brought out the worst in him."
"Oh, Eru," Aiko whispered.
"If that's his worst, though, he's a good lad," Moryo said gruffly, not wanting to slander his cousin's son. His own child's lover. At Aiko's frown, he added, "It's not your fault, Aiko. Besides, it's not as if he had to deal with being a Fëanorian on top of being a peredhel!"
That startled a laugh out of him, sharp and airy. "He did have to deal with being the High King!" he exclaimed, shaking his head. "How was I to know I would be the father of the High King of the Ñoldor? Before the Darkening such a thought would have been ludicrous! I am the third son of the third son of Finwë, and yet my child took the crown after Turukáno...!"
"At least him being the High King is something of which you can be proud!" Moryo teased, elbowing him. He caught Aikanáro's eye and laughed along with him, baring his teeth in a smile.
Wait a moment. Morifinwë blinked, catching himself off guard in his mirth. This...was he enjoying this? Was he having a good time, baring his soul to an Arafinwion?
He looked down at his hands, guiltily realizing he'd been picking at his nails again. Aiko's laughter trailed off, and Moryo bit his lip.
"I wish I could have met them," he said quietly. "I wish—" He sighed. "They died at the Third Kinslaying. Fighting against my brothers. If I had been there—"
"But you weren't," Aiko interrupted gently.
"I would have killed them." Moryo pinched the webbing between his forefinger and his thumb, not quite hard enough to draw blood. "I know I would have. I would've hated them and rejected them, like Curvo did Tyelpë—"
"Curvo...loved Tyelpë," said Aiko slowly. "And Tyelpë, he wasn't Oathbound like you and his father. Maybe Curvo was trying to push him away on purpose, to keep him safe."
"Maybe Rýndil really was better off without me," Moryo said bitterly.
"You don't know that. Maybe you would have stood between Rýndil and your brothers."
Moryo didn't respond. He was free of the Oath now, but he remembered how it had consumed him, turned his every thought and action to blood and darkness. He wouldn't have.
"I'm so proud of them," he rasped. "For being so unlike me. Not that...I didn't want to be the way I was, at the end. I know it was your kin I slaughtered in Doriath, Artanis was there, I don't expect you to forgive me—"
Morifinwë looked up at him, astonished. But Aiko's gaze was steady, his words firm. He...he meant it.
Moryo blinked. "I... Thank you."
"You've suffered enough," Aiko said. "I don't need to hate you for it anymore. Not even for Alqualondë, or the Ice."
Moryo still could scarcely believe it. He didn't dwell on the Kinslayings, or the burning of the ships, not any longer, not if he could help it, but—he still hated himself for those things, when he remembered. "You're a better person than me," he muttered. Not that he hadn't already known that—it was part of the reason why the Arafinwions rubbed him the wrong way, they were so good and he was so...dark.
"You can be better, if you try," Aiko insisted, and for some reason Moryo could almost believe him, when the Fëanturi had never been able to break through to him, when it had taken years of long talks with Ilfrin to take his other cousin seriously. But there was something so earnest, so honest about Aikanáro, that it was impossible to see him as a liar. "You already are better, you know. In your first life, you would never have come here to talk to me."
"I...yeah," Moryo admitted. "That's probably true."
"I'm sorry you had to go through so much before you could learn that," Aiko said. "I know that what you and Haleth had was...different than Andreth and me, but...I lost her, and you lost Rýndil, and that's not fair. For either of us."
At last he found the strength to raise the question that had been on his mind since he learned of Rýndil's existence. "They say the Secondborn pass beyond Arda in death," he whispered. "Do you think that's true?"
"I don't know," Aikanáro admitted, bowing his head. "But I would not have been able to leave the Halls if I thought Andreth was still there."
"Is she here, then? Perhaps—in some far corner of Arda?" He clung to his hope, however desperate, that if he could just know Rýndil was here, somewhere, even if he couldn't see them...
Aiko shook his head. "I don't believe so. But staying there...it did me no good, after a while."
"I feel the same," Moryo murmured. "Even about being here, in Lórien."
"I have to act as if I will see her again," Aikanáro said, looking back up at the stars. "Someday, when the world is remade, and Arda is unmarred..."
In the past Moryo might have made a snide comment about Aikanáro's very existence being the product of the marring, of Míriel's death and Indis' usurpation. But what Aiko said brought him pause: he had not thought that far ahead, and despite himself he felt his fëa spark to life at the thought. The Second Music was a long time to wait, but it was something.
And so how could begrudge his cousin's birth when his faith lifted Moryo's heart and gave him some measure of hope that he could see Haleth and Rýndil again? After all, Míriel was reborn, and walked hand in hand with Indis beneath these very trees as their grandsons spoke—a fate they had never thought possible. Perhaps there was a chance at reunion.
"That gives me comfort," Moryo said softly, "more than you can know."
"Shall we put aside past enmity, then?" Aikanáro asked. "I know you hold little love for my father's sons, but...we could be friends, perhaps. It was not unpleasant to speak with you, though we picked at each other's oldest and deepest wounds."
Moryo snorted. "Would that my past self could see me now, breaking bread with Angaráto's brother!"
"There are times where I wish I too could yell at him," Aiko said wryly, "although had you possessed any patience with him in Beleriand, many things could have gone differently."
"You mean Quenya wouldn't have been banned?" he quipped.
"Perhaps." Aiko smirked. "But even if the two of you were sworn brothers, I don't think he could've kept his fat mouth shut when our uncle Thingol riled him up!"
They laughed, then, and Moryo admitted to himself—perhaps Aikanáro wasn't so bad, after all. Perhaps even Angaráto wasn't, also.
"Thank you for talking to me," he said gruffly. "And...I'm sorry. For...everything."
"Me too," Aiko murmured, resting a gentle hand on his arm.
They sat in silence for some time, and Morifinwë allowed himself to gaze up at the stars. Eärendil had passed them by, and Varda's lights glimmered at him, winking like they knew a secret but wouldn't tell. Perhaps they did. There was a lot Moryo didn't know, a lot he was learning to hope and believe.
"What now?" he wondered. "I don't think I will return to Tol Eressëa, but...aside from my mother's home, I do not know where to go. And you—you can't hang around Lórien forever."
"For now, I look with hope to the future," Aikanáro said thoughtfully. "In grief and doubt I have found no solace. You're right, Moryo—I can't take for granted my son's life and his presence in Valinórë. I think...I think I'll leave these gardens, and travel to Alqualondë where I was once happy."
"You'll seek him out, then?" Moryo asked. "You...aren't afraid to, anymore?"
"Terrified," Aikanáro admitted. "But like you said: I have a second chance, and I should take it. Gil-galad is Orodreth's son...but he's mine also, and I have the opportunity to build the relationship we were robbed of in our past lives. I hope I can make up for that. I hope he can forgive me."
"If you would, send him my apologies," Moryo said. "He blames me for Rýndil's death, and...he's not wrong to do so, for it was my brothers who killed them. But it hurts, that the one person who knew my child best despises me. Please—if he softens his heart to me, let me know."
"Of course," Aikanáro agreed. "Perhaps he will listen to me, eventually, if not to you. And...Morifinwë?"
Aiko smiled, clasping Moryo's shoulder one last time. "You will have this chance, too. I believe it."
"Thank you," Moryo murmured.
Aikanáro departed then, leaving Moryo alone in the shadows of Lórien's garden. A strange feeling settled over him: peace. It was foreign, to be so calm, especially in the realm of a Vala, and yet here he was.
"Yes," he murmured to himself. "There's no use carrying regret, not when I've been granted a second life."
When he had died, walking purposefully into Menegroth, he had hoped for the Void—but instead he had been greeted by his father, the first of his sons to die, and joined with all his brothers save Kano who yet lived. Things he had believed to be impossible had happened before: they were released from the Oath, reborn, and even Fëanáro and Makalaurë would not be sundered from him forever. Why, then, would Rýndil and Haleth be?
If Aikanáro, who loved his adaneth, could move on—then surely Morifinwë, who barely knew his, could also!
It was potential he had lost with Rýndil; potential Aikanáro sought to regain with Gil-galad. There was no use in mourning what could have been, Moryo rationalized, only faith that he could have it in some far-flung future.
"Will I meet them in the Second Music?" he asked the stars. They didn't answer, but he didn't expect them to. Their light was distant, indirect—and yet it was still there, just like his newfound hope.
"I don't know," he murmured to himself. But there was a part of his fëa that lived within his child, and it lifted at the thought, though they and their mother were beyond the borders of Arda. "But I can hope. And so, in spite of it all...I choose that. I choose to believe."