Author's Chapter Notes:
The wind whipped stinging cold salt spray into his face, though he barely felt it. He was occupied with thoughts of other physical discomforts – no food, no potable water, the cold that would freeze blood marrow-deep if they did not move soon. His half-brother had left them with nothing more than personal possessions folks had secreted on themselves, jewels of great value, heirlooms worn close to the heart rather than packed away in some trunk. All aflame now across a bay so great his heart rather than his eyes perceived this additional travesty perpetrated by Fëanor.
He should have known. After Alqualondë, he should have known; should have expected further treachery. But in his heart he had been able to assign all the blame to his brother. He had followed, albeit unwillingly.
The leaden skies reflecting the fire of burning vessels barely visible across the vast gulf of water bore down equally upon his blighted fëa. How could he hope to bring his people to safety again, much less replace all they had lost in their ill-considered flight from the supposed beguilement of Valinor? What could he do to win back the honor lost in haste and bitterly repented in the anguished hours since the Kinslaying? How could he possibly atone for his own betrayal of the host that had willingly forsaken hearth and home to follow him into this barren wilderness? Had he resisted and stood firm in Valinor, the majority of his people would have been spared the ordeal of his brother’s insanity.
The Encircling Sea gave no answers; Ulmo heeded not his pleas, nor sent Ossë to answer the cries of the children for water. The pall of their deeds must hang like the lowering clouds over the entirety of Arda, muffling all sounds except the mourning of the earth for the innocent lost.
They were an abandoned people. By the Valar…their kin…their own loss of hope.
In those moments beside the sundering sea, when the weight of the losses born by his people drove him to his knees at the edge of the water, there kindled a tiny spark of defiance among the slag and ash left by the bitter abrogation of all hope. He would not turn back as Finarfin and his people had done; Fingolfin would admit no such defeat, nor humble himself to accept the judgment of the Valar. There was one way only, and that was forward, whether over sea or ice.
Drawing a long elven knife from its sheath in his boot, he regarded the blade for several moments, seeing not the reflection of his own features in the highly polished sheen, but the night-dark lineaments of another whose silken voice had whispered words of enmity among his people. The one who had so subtly plucked at the chords of the Song, disaffecting the harmonies, tuning the chords to ring sourly in the ear of the listener.
Fingolfin gathered the strands of atramentous hair blowing about his face into his right hand; the knife arced up, slicing cleanly through the silken skein, leaving his neck unusually bare as he thrust his closed fist high above his head.
“As the hairs of my head are born over the sea,” he shook the fistful of raven tail savagely, “so will our company find crossing, to your doom, brother! Neither oath nor bond will bind me, save this one to you. You will answer for the deeds with which you have doomed our people! May the Halls of Mandos empty you of Song and trepidation hollow every step you trod upon the earth that cries out with the despair you have wrought with your arrogance and pride.”
He drew back his powerful arm, flung the hank of hair as far into the dismal sky as it would fly, and watched as the wind caught individual strands, wafting them beyond even his keen elven sight to fly over the sea where he could not.
The spark became an ember; the ember a small flame, and the flame, once burning, would not be extinguished. He would defy the gods themselves to come again into the presence of the one who had extinguished the light of his fëa.
He could not undo what was done, but he would find a way across and his people would go forward. He turned to greet an astonished Aredhel picking her way carefully down the stony shore.
“Ada! What have you wrought upon yourself?”
“Fear not, daughter, I need not the mane.” Fingolfin took the fingers stretched out to him and tucked them in the crook of his arm, drawing her close as he turned them both to head back across the wide expanse of beach. “I have given it in pledge to find a way over this.” He flicked a dismissive hand at the churning sea as though it were a mere pond to be waded across. “We will yet win our own kingdom and the freedom we have sought from the beginning will be ours until the ending of the world.”