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The Great Escape  by Calairiel Malromiel

~Halls of Mandos~


The elf was dead. He felt bereft with the loss of his physical form. His hröa. And his fëa wasn’t faring much better. He felt as though he’d been shredded and the rage that had sent him on his foolish quest had long since dissipated. He was just so, so tired.


So when he felt, rather than heard, his name called with the corresponding Pull from the West, he followed it. He could feel that the one he’d battled trying to lay claim to him, but the call of Mandos was stronger and he could feel the sullen capitulation of the Other as his tentacles reluctantly released him.


He was then drawn into what he could only describe as a kaleidoscope of swirling colors with the sound of rushing wind, though he felt no such wind. Then, with a light like a sudden starburst that flashed in front of his eyes, he found himself standing before the Doomsman, himself.


“You have made your way to My Halls and your Doom, Ñolofinwë Finwion.”


“Well, get on with it then.” Fingolfin replied wearily.


“You don’t sound at all contrite. Do you not repent of your rebellion?”


“I swore an Oath of Fealty to my King. It would have been rebellion to defy my king.”


“But he abandoned you. Why did you not return?”


“His actions did not release me from my Oath of Fealty.”


“Hmm, well, as you did not participate in the slaying of your kin and your actions were honorable as the King of your people in Beleriand, I am prepared to offer you a boon.”


“To be re-embodied and released?” he asked hopefully.


“Except that.” the Doomsman replied.


“Then I want to see my son.”


“That is usually not permitted, but for your bravery I will grant this.”


“So kind…” and Mandos looked sharply at the elf before him but the spectre's face was carefully bland with no discernable expression.


“Very well - you are dismissed.” and a pair of maiar arrived and escorted the new arrival to be reunited with his son. 


But Mandos was disturbed. This ellon was going to be trouble. He could feel it in the very depths of his ëala! A different kind of trouble and perhaps a greater danger than the open hostility and rage of his older sibling. His last act of recklessness aside, he’d learned patience and prudence while in Beleriand. He’d learned to be cunning!


~Somewhere specific in Aman~

(pardon the time jumps)


Finrod led the wagon down the ever widening road, pleased at the progress they’d made. This road project had been in the works for nearly a century - give or take a few decades - and it had started almost as soon as he’d been released from Mandos.


After returning to his home, he’d been glad enough to be welcomed into the waiting arms of his parents who had been standing outside the mighty gates of the Halls of Mandos when he’d been released. But it had still taken him some time to recover from the stress of re-embodiment. Really! It had been easier to leave his hröa than he’d thought possible! Surely it should be just as easy to re-enter it? 


And it hadn’t been like there was a body waiting for him to enter. One moment he was fëa only, minding his own business, fellowshipping with his kin, the next moment he’d been thrust out the doors into the waiting arms of his parents. As soon as he’d passed the threshold he’d become solid - slammed into physicality in an instant that had sent him reeling.


He hadn’t been the first to be released from the Halls. Those had been the Falmari from Alqualondë - who had been very much surprised that they’d been met by not only their family, but by the denizens of Tirion who had provided logistical support for their travel and comfort. They’d also been surprised to find a repaired and rebuilt city and port, replete with swanships, upon their return. 


Despite still feeling put out that they’d died at the hands of their kinsmen, they’d been met with stories of how the outraged and contrite populace of Tirion had come to their aid when they’d heard what had occurred there, led by Arafinwë Finarfin.


But it was when Finrod had been released and he’d shared the tales from the nightmare that was Beleriand with his parents, that a grain of an idea began to germinate between the ellyn. Eärwen had strongly objected - until they explained what they had in mind. While not thinking it a particularly bad idea, she still resisted. That is until the call came for war to be brought to Beleriand to deliver the beleaguered there from the malice of Morgoth!


The Noldor and Vanyar answered the Call, but when Finarfin had brought Finrod with him the Valar had refused to allow him to accompany them. When Finarfin argued that his son had been there and could provide intelligence for the land they were going to, he’d still been refused. 


And standing with her son to watch the swanships ferry her husband to a strange land to fight a war alone and without comfort, a kernel of anger had been planted within the heart of Eärwen. And knowing her other sons were still rotting in Mandos and not knowing the fate of her only daughter….Then it was that the heart of Eärwen had changed and she’d become a willing accomplice! 


It gave her and her son something to work towards while they waited through the decades of a war they received no news of, save the horror stories of kin who knew the Halls of Mandos were filling to a frightening degree.


So began the Great Work!


And when Finarfin returned victorious decades later leading a flotilla of their returned exiles, he’d been forced to attend ceremonies and celebrations lauding his bravery and service. And he endured it all without complaint. Those who knew him wondered why he was so stoical and put it down to the horrors of war, but once he left Alqualondë he rode all night alone until he returned home in the early hours, just before Anar rose. He saw his son was already up and asked how the project at Formenos was progressing.


Ignoring the question, his son wrapped his atar in a fierce embrace, saying, “I’m so glad you’re home, atar! They told us to wait until you returned to go and see you. That we could hold our own celebration here.”


“I’m not up for yet another celebration, son. They can throw one without me. They’ll not even miss me, I’m sure.” he smiled wearily, “Now tell me how things are going?”


“It is going well, atar. We’ve repaired most of the original fortifications and have made great progress in restoring it to a habitable structure. In fact, many families have already relocated there so they can continue the Work.”


“Good!” and going to his chambers, he began pulling his clothes from his wardrobe and throwing them haphazardly into the nearest trunk, refusing requests from both wife and son to know what he was about. 


Eärwen finally put her foot down and demanded to know what he was about, “Ingalaurë! Cease this madness at once!” she said firmly and Finarfin stopped midtoss and blinked at her in surprise. She hadn’t shouted, but she’d slammed into his mind, all the same, gaining his attention. In a softer tone she asked, “What has happened, beloved?”


Sitting down on the bench at the end of their bed, with one of his robes still clutched in his hand, he lowered his head as sobs wracked his body, grown hard and thin by his long years of deprivation during the war. And when the storm passed, brief though it was, he looked up in anguish and said, “They wouldn’t let our little girl come home. They said she hadn’t repented enough. They wouldn’t even let me talk to her! Wouldn’t even let me tell her that I loved her and we await her return. And when I would shout it out in defiance they stole my voice.” taking a deep breath, he said, “I am done with it. The Noldor can find their own king, for they will no longer have me to praise or condemn depending on their mood. Those the Valar allowed to return are exiled on Tol Eressëa until they decide they may return to their homes. I tell you I am done.”


Having listened to his atar in growing anger, Finrod entered, ignoring his amil when she tried to shoo him away, and sat on the other side of his father and wrapped his arms around him. “Whatever you decide, atar, I am with you. I will support all you decide though it be to storm the gates of Mandos itself to liberate our people. Whatever you will, atta.”


That last had caught Finarfin’s attention and he peered down at his son with a lifted brow, saying, “Right now all I wish to do is leave this city and go to Formenos.” but reconsidering, added, “Though I might have something for you to do first.”


“Whatever you want, atar!” Finrod declared and sprang to his feet to pack his own belongings, until he was halted by his father’s voice.


“Stop!” and as his son halted and turned to face his father, Finarfin continued, “We will speak of that other part later. For it sounds to me like you have given much thought to this.” and as the color rose in his son’s face, he added dryly, “Before we besiege the gates of Mandos, I want to know everything you gleaned about the Halls. Everything.”


And grinning, Finrod said, “Yes, sir!” and sprinted from his parents rooms.


Turning to her husband, her eyes hard, “I am with you, my husband. Where you lead I will follow.” and then kissing him lightly and rising, added, “But I’ll not go anywhere with you smelling like a stable and an empty stomach. I’ll have our belongings packed while you bath. Breakfast will be ready for you by the time you finish your bath.” And as he sat looking dumbfounded at her, she pointed to their bathing chambers and said, “Your bath awaits you, my lord - march!” and grinned as he complied.




“Ha! Found you!” the elf cried in triumph.


“What are you doing here, Ñolofinwë?” the other said, wearily.


“That’s a silly question! I died - obviously. I wish I’d found you sooner. Finrod is already gone.” and as his brother stared at him slack jawed, he took the opportunity to grab him and haul him through the walls containing him. Fëanor stared about him in shock, unable to believe his nonexistent eyes and found himself smothered in the embrace of his sons.


At one point Fëanor’s dark head surfaced from the maelstrom of hugging Fëanorions and as he met his brother’s pleased face he mouthed the words, thank you, before the head submerged again into the waves of embracing arms.


Now all he had to do was to find their atar and then they could find a way to break out of this place!




As it turned out, leaving on a whim wasn’t allowed for the High King. So Finarfin made the best of it and decided to take the time to make some concise plans. Finrod joined his parents for lunch where he fell on it like a ravenous beast and only after he’d slaked his appetite and leaned back, asking, “So what is the first thing you’d like me to do, atar?”


And swirling the wine in his glass, Finarfin smiled and said, “I want you to liberate all our people stranded on Tol Eressëa and bring them to Formenos. Eventually.” and grinned as his son spewed his mouthful of wine in his shock, looking incredulously at his father. “You want me to defy the Valar?”


“Nooo! I want you to go to Tol Eressëa and load all our people on ships - hired of course - and sail them to the western side of this land.”


“Do you have any idea how long that would take?”


“None. I am hopeful that Ulmo and his maiar will assist you when they know of your intent. Regardless, my goal is for you to reach a substantial bay or cove on the northwest side of this land. From the maps I’ve seen there appears to be a fairly large one that is in a direct northwest line from Fëanor’s stronghold. It looks to be about three hundred leagues. From there I want a road carved from there to Formenos. I will provide a map to you so you have some idea of where to look.”


“But isn’t that defying the Valar’s restriction, beloved?” Eärwen asked, worriedly. She didn’t mind rebelling… long as it didn’t involve actual rebellion.


“The Valar’s restriction was for the Noldor to remain on Tol Eressëa so they would not be able to enter Tirion. If these are to come to us, they must be made aware they will not be able to leave and go to the city. They must agree to remain on the northwest side of the land. Technically, this is much farther away from the city than their current location, so it shouldn’t upset the sensibilities of the Valar.”


“I’ll do anything to take a poke at the Valar. Never in my life would I have thought them so capable of being so petty. That changed when they refused to allow me to help in their war against Morgoth.”


“Indeed. It was like they refused to allow you to have any satisfaction against those who took your life. And as it turned out, they allowed that curse to cause one more kinslaying when Lord Eönwë not only refused to defend the Silmarils they captured, thus allowing Maedhros and Maglor to kill more people and steal them, but he also refused to take Sauron into custody when he surrendered! Of all the idiot moves...”


"They said it was because he couldn't judge him because they shared the same rank." his wife offered.


"Rokkomuk! You don't need to judge! You just arrest and turn them over to those who will pass judgement!"


“Aye! Though, I have to say that while I’m in sorrow for those left to deal with that foul creature, I’m glad I don’t have to share a land with him.” It was clear he was still upset at his defeat at the hands of the maia and it rubbed him the wrong way that he’d had no part in bringing that smug bastard down!


"Don't worry, son. I'm sure he'll get his in one way or another." and getting up, he announced he was going to file the paperwork to name his successor.


After he left Finrod asked his mother, "So, who is he naming?"


"Findis." she said succinctly.


Wide eyed, Finrod said, "Wow! He's still mad at her, isn't he? Is he ever going to let that go?"


~On the Road Again...~


With all the proper paperwork signed, witnessed and certified - in triplicate - Finarfin officially abdicated in favor of his elder sister, Findis, who only agreed if their amil, Indis, would rule with her. And Indis would only agree if Nerdanel was allowed to advise. Findis enthusiastically agreed and Tirion was now ruled by Three Queens. Order was established with the firm hands of those worthy ladies.


Or rather, they were going to be ruled by the Three Amils! This amused Finarfin immensely. Indis had once interrupted one of his counsel meetings with something he couldn’t even remember her wanting. What he did remember was she’d dabbed her kerchief on her tongue and had wiped a ink smudge off his chin! 


It had taken thirty years for that wound to fade! He didn’t envy Tirion!


But he put his petty amusement aside, for they were finally ready and the long wagon and carriage train left the city bearing the former king, his son and those of his followers that wished to accompany him. These also included those who were loyal to his sons’ and their families and those who supported his older brothers. For word had spread that Finarfin was planning to reestablish Fëanor’s stronghold of Formenos.


It wasn’t long before a small contingent led by Finrod broke off and headed towards the Calacirya and then on to Tol Eressëa.



~Stronghold of Fëanor~


Six weeks later they were at the base of the stronghold that was Formenos. When they first beheld it, they were a little daunted and Finarfin stood looking at it as though he was trying to figure out if it had any potential. “Well…” Finarfin sighed, “That’s my brother all over, isn’t it? Complicated, with high defensive walls all about but with an austere beauty all the same.” and then he was silent a moment before saying with determination, “I’m going to do to this stronghold what I wished I could do to my brother! I’m going to blast holes in those walls and open it up to all the love I can pour into it.” 


And then turning to address the people who had followed him, he announced in a clear voice, “We are going to make this a place of beauty. A place of accomplishment to rival the Halls of Aulë and more learned than the Halls of the Lambengolmor. And once we accomplish that we are going to carve a road to the western sea and create a fleet of ships to rival that of the Falmari!”  


And while his words received cheers and enthusiasm, he could never be said to inspire his followers the way his brother could set a burning fire within them. But then he smiled, “But perhaps we should start by entering this stronghold and finding ourselves some rooms, baths and a hot meal!” 


And by the cheer that met his words Finarfin laughed and said, “Let us go then!” and they continued their trek up the winding road up to the imposing gates that opened to receive them. 


Inside they were met by a hastily assembled staff who were very helpful in directing their new lord, who immediately assured them he was only caretaking until his brother’s return. And when his wife asked him sweetly, “And where will we live, husband?” she nearly squealed in delight when he answered, “I thought we could enjoy ourselves with a seaside palace, my love. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a quiet seaside view from a vantage point where we can watch as Arien sets Anar down and Tilion launches Ithil every night?”


“Oh yes, Ara! That would be wonderful!” she exclaimed, her blue eyes suspiciously shiny in her joy. After they’d been shown to their rooms, they found warm baths and tables laden with a minor feast awaiting them.


~Meanwhile...The Halls of Mandos~


“Ñolofinwë! You simply can’t lay claim to everyone within these Halls. This is my Domain.”


“Even a jail requires a leader. I have taken care of that for you.” Fingolfin said wryly.


“It is my job to judge you all. I am the Doomsman.”


“You are our gaoler. Nothing more.”


“You are impertinent.”


“Not a crime.”


“Why do you persist in your rebellion?”


“I didn’t rebel. I followed my king.”


“A marred creature who abandoned you.”


“That’s my business. And you really need to stop calling people marred. People will begin to think there is something marred about your thinking.”


“I don’t understand you at all.”


“That is not only abundantly clear, it is also a gross understatement.”


“What do you want?”


“Out. All of us.”


“I can’t do that.”


“Why not? You just said this was your Domain. Who but you decides such matters?”


“You are dismissed.”




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