When Tyelkormo had been still a small child, Grandfather Finwë had told him of the wildfires that had sometimes raged through the vast forests near Cuiviénen.
Well, technically Grandfather had told the story to him, Nelyo and Káno, and Mother and Father and the new baby Carnistir as well, but Tyelko had been the one to ask for the story. He’d seen it all in his mind’s eye as Grandfather spoke, elves running from the flames to the Great Lake and the vast inferno swallowing everything in its path; trees, houses and all creatures who’d been too slow to flee. Such forces of nature would’ve been out of the question in Aman, since the Valar would never have allowed unchecked fires to disrupt their realm. They wouldn’t have allowed anything that dangerous, for that matter. Arda sounded so wild in comparison and he loved hearing any stories about it, but the wildfires had always been his favourite.
Only a few years later, Tyelko had almost died.
He’d given his nursemaid a slip, snuck a horse out of the pasture and gone for a ride. He’d never ridden a real horse before, only small and sensible (and boring) ponies, but the horse hadn’t known that he was a novice, or maybe she just hadn’t cared. She’d almost exploded into a gallop when he’d urged her to a run, and for a while, he had flown. Muscles rippled and surged under him, hooves beat a staccato on the ground as the horse ate up distance and he’d laughed like a madman, drunk on raw power and freedom and wild, fierce joy as the wind whipped his hair and brought tears into his eyes.
The last thing Tyelko remembered was losing his balance as the horse jumped over a fallen tree branch.
He’d regained his consciousness in his own bed half a day later, with a splinted arm, bandaged head and quite a lot of parental disapproval as souvenirs from his riding trip.
Mother had yelled, which was a surprise, because she didn’t usually lose her temper over anything. Father hadn’t uttered a single word for the longest time, which was even more of a surprise, because Father didn’t ever hesitate to make his displeasure known. But he’d just stood there, white as a sheet, and stared at him. When Mother had finally left to tell the others that Tyelko was awake, having finished explaining in detail what she thought of his brilliant idea, Father had stayed.
“You could have died.”
Tyelko would’ve preferred if Father had yelled, too. His voice had been all quiet and strange, and that had shaken him almost as badly as his words.
He wouldn’t have died. People didn’t die in Aman, everyone knew that.
Father had seen his thought and scowled.
“Your Grandmother died. You know this.”
Tyelko might not have been as smart as Nelyo or Káno, but he wasn’t an idiot, either. Of course he’d known about Grandmother Míriel. But he hadn’t really, properly known, not until then. What had happened to her had been wrapped in so many different words and mythologies that they’d obscured the fact from view altogether, almost as if it weren’t actually real at all, almost as if it didn’t really count that Grandmother had died.
Died, died, died in Aman; the thought got stuck in his head and wouldn’t go away. Died, no matter what everyone’d always said.
And everyone knew, they were just pretending that it wasn’t so. Just like Father had pretended that he was happy to see uncle Nolofinwë in the feast the month before, and everyone’d pretended not to know that it was because Grandfather had made him try to be nice to his half-brother.
Tyelko remembered being so shocked that it had dulled the pain from his injuries, at least for a while. He’d felt angry too, and betrayed. His entire world had shifted out of balance and it’d refused to shift back again. Father had smiled at him, little sad and a little satisfied, and they hadn’t spoken another word about Tyelko’s forbidden ride, then or ever.
Tyelkormo had been an adult for years now, but he found himself thinking of the aftermath of his unfortunate first ride more and more often of late.
He’d learned more of death since then, perhaps more than anyone among the eldar. As soon as he’d opened his eyes, it’d been impossible to avoid seeing that death was everywhere around them, even in Aman. The beef and venison in their tables didn’t spring out of thin air and Manwë’s eagles didn’t survive on his grace alone, and although some believed that the lack of fatal accidents was due to the protection of the Valar, Tyelko rather suspected that it was due to sheer dumb luck.
Befriending Oromë had opened his eyes even further. Tyelko wasn’t sure whether the Huntsman actually needed the meat he killed and ate, or whether it was all about the joy of the hunt. It wasn’t really his business, though, so while he asked a lot of questions about tracking, shooting and butchering, he never asked about that. Oromë had taught him all the languages of the birds and the beasts as well, and although Tyelko wasn’t squeamish by nature, he’d had trouble with that at first. Not with the languages themselves, since he’d inherited Father’s linguistic abilities, but with shooting and eating a deer when he could understand its last words. Seeing Oromë happily converse with a mouse, and then moments later chat equally happily with a hawk who was ripping bloody bits out of that same mouse and swallowing them mid-conversation had been even harder for him to stomach, somehow.
He’d learned not to be bothered by that though, and a good thing that he had.
Tyelko was quickly reassessing his childhood belief that the Valar wouldn’t allow wildfires in Aman. He wasn’t as good with people as most of his brothers, but he’d learned a great deal about politics in the last century or so, and even a blind moron could’ve seen that Tirion was a tinderbox ready to explode. All it needed was the slightest spark and it would go up in metaphorical flames. Not that Tyelko would’ve objected, not for his own sake. The city and the surrounding lands had become stifling and he often felt trapped and suffocating for the lack of space, even standing under the open sky, as he thought of the countless centuries that he would spend here, treading the same old paths until he grew to hate all that now brought him joy. But he felt bad for Mother. Father was sure to be standing at the heart of the upcoming inferno, there was no escaping that, but Mother wasn’t restless or contentious by nature and Tyelko didn’t want her to get burned in the process.
Still, when Father called his sons to his workshop and showed them the weapons and armours he had made ready for them, Tyelkormo was the first to reach for a sword. Not hastily at all, only without any doubts. He straightened his back and looked Father in the eye, saluting him a little with the sword he had chosen.
Are you ready?
He heard Father’s voice in his head as the others moved to take their weapons much more slowly and hesitantly. He knew every one of them would be asked the same question, in the same way.
Tyelko almost laughed.
He had killed countless of creatures whose language he had spoken. His boots were made of a deer he had saved from drowning as a fawn and his heavy winter cloak was the pelt of a wolf he had known by name.
If it came to that, elvish blood shouldn’t be that much harder to spill.
I have been ready for years.