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The Foundations of the Sky

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There is rain often in the Andustar during this time of year, in the high summer. What splatters across the rooftops and windowpanes of Andúnië this night is not some gale or wild hurricane. No work of Ossë's (or if it is, tempered by Lady Uinen), but instead simply a gentle, steady rainstorm. It came this morning, and has shown no signs of abating since then.

Elatan and Valandil do not mind it. They were both born and raised in Andúnië and even if the family makes fairly regular visits to Armenelos Andúnië is still the only place either one of them could ever call home. On the other hand, Silmariën is still a child of the inland, and it still amazes her, even after all these years, how long the rains can endure. In the Arandor, it is rare for a storm to last more than a few hours. Never does it rain without cease for days on end in the capital, even when a hurricane is blowing.

"Can I have a story?"

Valandil does not ask so much as he demands a story out of his mother, but they have not seen each other all day, so Silmariën has not the heart to scold him. She does not remember having the most graceful manners at the age of five herself. There will be time enough later for improving the graces of Valandil's tongue.

She smiles warmly down at her young son. "Alright, love. One before you go to bed."

"Thank you, Mama!" Valandil rushes over to his bed, pulling up the quilt and the sheets and burrowing under them, staring expectantly up at her. Silmariën nods her head and goes to sit at the edge of the bed, smoothing down her skirt, wondering what to say.

It's usually Elatan who tells bedtime stories in this house, if and when Valandil wants one. Usually, both of Valandil's parents are on hand, and it falls to Elatan to tell the stories. But Elatan is not here tonight; he's preoccupied with work. So Silmariën can't help but feel a little out of depth, but then, even after growing up with two younger siblings, she still feels out of her depth sometimes with her son. I wish there was a book somewhere that could teach me how to be a mother. Oh well. I am never going to find that book.

"Mama?" Valandil shakes her arm with his tiny hand. He looks up at her, brow furrowed, impatient and wondering, clearly wondering, what's taking her.

Silmariën laughs quietly. "So impatient, love? Give me a moment; I need to think of a good one. I'm afraid that this probably won't be up to the standards of your father's stories."

"I don't mind," Valandil says earnestly. No need to risk alienating her and getting no story at all, it seems.

Silmariën listens to the rain falling on the roof of the house, closing her eyes. Sometimes, if she listens hard enough, she will hear a voice speaking to her out of the rain. At times, it sounds like the voice of her grandfather, dead these past thirty-three years. At times, the voice sounds like someone Silmariën has never known, but feels as though she should know. The voice sounds very much like her grandfather, and yet not so. This night, she hears no voice, but eventually, Silmariën comes upon a story she does not think Valandil has heard before.

"Valandil… Have you ever heard the story of the Elda who holds up the heavens?"

He shakes his head silently, eyes open wide in curiosity.

"Hmm, I hadn't thought you had. Well, love, the story is an old one amongst our people, dating to our earliest days. It starts thousands of years ago, in the Undying Lands. Have you ever heard of the Elda named Fëanor, Valandil?"

"Yes, Mama!" Valandil's eyes light up. "He was the one who made the Quenya alphabet we use here in Númenor."

"Yes, he did indeed. He made many other things as well. In the Undying Lands, or Ammathāni as many of the people here call it, there is no fear or war and bloodshed, so the people of that land can set their minds to other pursuits. Fëanor was the son of Finwë, the King of the Noldorin Eldar and his first wife, Míriel Þerindë. He made many innovations besides making up the written language that the royalty of Númenor uses today. But by far his most wondrous invention was the creation of the three luminous gems, the Silmarils.

"Now—"

"Were you named after them, Mama?" Valandil interjects curiously.

Silmariën shrugs and smoothes down her hair self-consciously. That's always a rather awkward question, when history comes to be the topic of the hour. "I suppose you could say I was. My name and the name of these jewels were both derived from the same source. Back to story.

"Now, the Silmarils were made of silima, a miraculous element that was as hard as crystal, and could yet be moulded into myriad shapes, if you possessed the skill to do so. The Silmarils were wondrous fair to look upon, being imbued with the light of the Two Trees of Valinor, golden Culúrien and silver Ninquelótë, who lit the world before the days of the Sun and Moon. Nimloth, our White Tree, is a scion of fair Ninquelótë. It is not known how Fëanor came to imbue his Silmarils with the light of the Trees. It is said that he stole the light to pour into his jewels, incurring the anger of the Valar.

"There came a day, when the Enemy, whom we name Morgoth, assaulted the Two Trees, aided in this crime by the great spider Ungoliant. Morgoth smote the trunks of the Trees, and Ungoliant drank them dry, until they were left as nothing more than withered corpses. The sky went dark, and the world was plunged into a terrible darkness.

"Morgoth slew Finwë and absconded across the sea into Endóre with the Silmarils. The Prince, Fëanor, was deeply aggrieved by the murder of his father, for his mother had died when he was but a babe, and he had never loved his step-mother, nor her descendants. The Valar knew that Fëanor had stolen light of the Two Trees to pour into his Silmarils, and they deemed it a matter of the greatest urgency to retrieve them from Morgoth, to determine if their miraculous light could be used to revive the Trees. So they asked Fëanor if he would give them his wondrous jewels.

"Now, Fëanor did not yet know of the theft of his jewels. He was mighty and quick-witted, but also rash. Moreover, he was proud and quick to anger, fell and fey. He had neither love nor trust for the Valar, and he refused their request, accusing them of wishing to steal that which he had made with his own hands. He even went so far as to accuse them of using his grief against him, believing that it would make him weak to their wheedling. Only then did the Valar tell Fëanor that Morgoth had stolen the jewels he had made with his hands and absconded with them.

"Fëanor's wrath was great, greater even than his grief. With his seven sons, he swore a terrible oath in the square of the city of the Noldor, that they would recover the Silmarils at all costs. No deed would they shrink from, no matter how impossible nor how vile, if it meant the recovery of the stolen jewels.

"Fëanor led a great host of the Noldor out of the Undying Lands, to Endóre, on ships he had stolen from the Swan-Elves after the cruel murder of many of their mariners. Fëanor did indeed challenge Morgoth, but from Angband Morgoth sent a great force of Balrogs, fiery spirits, and Fëanor was slain. With his dying breath, he bid his sons to abide by the Oath they had sworn, and retrieve his Silmarils, no matter how dear the cost to them."

And it was dear indeed.

Silmariën takes a deep breath before going on with her story. It is odd, how much the telling affects her, even though she knows this to be a matter of history and not memory, even though she never knew any of the players in this tale. Valandil seems to have been affected as well; he stares at her, silent as he so rarely is, waiting with bated breath for her to resume her tale. Eventually, she resumes her tale, her voice exceptionally soft.

"Meanwhile, in the Undying Lands, the Valar endeavored to produce a light source for the world again. Eventually, they succeeded. From the last blossom of Ninquelótë we have Isil, that which we call the Moon, which shines even now in the sky above us, though you can not see it through the clouds. From the last fruit of Culúrien, we have Anar, that which we call the Sun. The Moon and the Sun were set in the sky to light the world now that the Trees were dead.

"But there was a problem, love. The Sun and the Moon were too heavy for the foundations of the sky; they threatened to tear down the firmament and crush Arda beneath them. So the Valar wondered how they would keep the sky aloft, and eventually they settled upon an answer.

"The spirit of Fëanor was recalled from the Houses of the Dead. As punishment first for stealing droplets of the light of the Trees to light the Silmarils, second for refusing to give them to the Valar once they were recovered from Morgoth, third for the murder of the Swan-Elves and fourth for sailing across the sea in defiance of the will of the Valar, he was to hold up the sky. He was to hold up the sky upon his shoulders, to support the weight of the vault of the heavens, the stars, the Sun and the Moon, that they might not fall to the Earth and crush all beneath them. That is his doom. That Fëanor does to this day, without succor, without aid of any kind," Silmariën says very quietly.

For a long time, Valandil is silent, staring wide-eyed at her. Silmariën can not say whether he enjoyed the story he's been told or not; he seems more… stunned, than anything else. Then, he asks in a hushed voice, "Will Fëanor always hold up the sky?"

Silmariën smiles tiredly at him. "Yes, love, he will. That is his doom, to bear the weight of the heavens until the end of time. Only when the breaking of the world comes, only when Morgoth breaks free from the Door of Night and swallows the light of the Sun and the Moon will he be allowed to relinquish the weight of the sky. Then, he will be called upon to fight Morgoth, and ultimately to deliver the Silmarils into the hands of Yavanna, Queen of the Earth, and she will break them open, and use their light to re-kindle the light of Culúrien and Ninquelótë."

"Oh," Valandil whispers, eyes still wide. But those gray eyes of his are sleepy and fogging, he is sagging backwards into the pillow, and Silmariën leans down to kiss his forehead.

"Now, love, go to sleep. Know that the sky will never fall upon your head."

She leaves him in silence, the rain singing gently against the roof.