The Wisdom of Men by Jenna the Evil Pixie

Story notes: Warnings: Blatant re-arrangement of events to suit self; other than that, not much. If you haven't read the Silmarillion, this won't make much sense. If you have, it probably still won't make much sense.
Chapter notes: The quote that started me off: "Long Felagund watched them, and love for them stirred in his heart;" – Chapter 17 of the Silmarillion, 'Of the Coming of Men into the West'
Hunting with the sons of FŽanor, Felagund thought as he rode away from them at an easy pace, the peaks of Ered Lindon in the distance his guide, was as much of a trial for him these days as it was a respite from the duties of his kingdom. Maglor's singing would have been tolerable enough if Maedhros hadn't insisted in joining in; and if both of them had stuck to traditional songs rather than inventing humorous rhymes as they rode along, inevitably descending into vulgarity as the day continued. Kin they might be, but his tolerance for their company was much lessened these days.

So he turned away from his cousins and their companions, riding on alone; perhaps a little foolish, but was he not long past the age where he needed a keeper? Usually on bright days such as this his thoughts would turn to the west, to Valinor and AmariŽ, who he had loved. Did love. But the sharp eyes of his sister, her mind reaching out to him from Doriath where she resided with her own love, the nice but terribly dull Celeborn, had seen the truth of what he was now admitting to himself, in the quiet places of his soul. "You will not wed?" she had laughed, tossing her hair about her in golden disarray. "And what reason will you give? Will you lie to me, tell me AmariŽ of the Vanyar is the reason you refuse a wife?" "And you think there is another?" he'd replied, a little defensive. "You have a strange fate, brother. I cannot see the end of it. But not for want of the love of AmariŽ shall you fade, although it will be love that shapes your end." "And you, dear sister, spend too much time with Melian the Maia. You are beginning to speak like her, in riddles and half-truths." Celeborn had arrived then, bringing some of his kin to meet them, and Galadriel had simply added "Your choice is a right one, brother. Be at peace."

Thoughts of that conversation continued to haunt him. It was true, he had grieved long for the loss of his love, but it was a wound that was now healing, at first slowly, but in recent years he had thought of her little, the ruling of Nargothrond taking up almost all his time. The river Gelion quieted as he reached the ford, and as he crossed it seemed to him as if the whole world was somehow beckoning him into Ossiriand, towards the mountains.

It was in the depths of the still night that he first saw the fires, the sound of singing spilling out of the camp up into the trees, and there he watched them. Dark haired and grey eyed, their songs were wild and they danced with wild abandon. Their language was strange yet familiar, and as he watched understanding stirred in his mind, and longing in his heart.

At the centre of the circle was the tallest of them, and it was upon this man that Felagund gazed the longest. He held himself with regal bearing, although to the eyes of an Elf he appeared unkempt; his hair was short, cut crudely, his clothes (what there were of them), were awry, and although he was shaven-faced, tightly curled hair grew across and down his chest, a trail of it leading downwards and disappearing into his leggings. The fire was reflected in his eyes, but it was that trail of hair, so foreign a sight, that somehow called Felagund's gaze back to it, and he found himself wanting to reach out and touch it, to know its texture, the feel of it beneath his fingers. He blushed, although there was none there to see it, for his leggings had suddenly seemed to tighten at that thought, and now bound him too close.

Often the others would call to the tall stranger, "Balan! Balan!", and Felagund supposed this to be his name, or at least a title awarded to him by his folk. As the dancing continued, Balan shed his loose shirt; the women and children filtered out to the sides, sitting by the fires, as the men joined in what was more a competition than a dance, led by Balan, each seeing how high they could jump and fast they could turn as the slower and older were left behind and a fine sheen of sweat developed on the remaining dancers.

He was a king of Elves, Felagund reminded himself, and should not be skulking around in the shadows like this. He should go down and greet these people, find out where they came from, how they had come to be in the land of the Green-Elves. He did none of these things. Instead, the trees assuring him with their quiet rustling of leaves that he would not be disturbed, he slipped out of his leggings, the rhythm of the strange wild music throbbing through his blood. His eyes never leaving the tall stranger as he whirled around the circle, Felagund let his hands drop to pleasure himself, biting his lip to keep from crying out, although it was unlikely that anyone would hear him.

He wanted to be heard. He wanted Balan to hear him.

The man was dripping with sweat now, his eyes fierce, every muscle tense and visible, straining against his skin. The strength in him! The Eldar were tall and slim, strong and agile but not like this. Felagund's hands moved in time with the movements of Balan, and he moaned quietly, yearning for something he could not even put a name to. For Balan was male, and love between two who were alike was unknown among the Quendi

The dance grew ever faster, and as Balan's last challenger dropped back, gasping for breath, Felagund felt the beginnings of his release. The camp broke into cheers, calling "Balan, Balan!", and unheard by those by the fires that name also issued from a pair of Elven lips. Shaking, tears glimmering at the corners of his eyes, Felagund dressed himself in silence. It was the first time an Elf was so undone by a Man, although certainly not the last, and forever Finrod Felagund would remember it as the night he fell in love with BŽor, as a silent and lonely watcher in the night-shadow of the trees.

When they slept, allowing most of the fires to burn down without care, Felagund at last gained the courage to walk among them. Not daring to touch Balan, he did yet sit as near to him as he could, examining the one who had captured his attention. They seemed a crude people, but there was a quality about them, and about Balan especially, that he could not put a name to, but he understood it was this that drew him to them.

He would have left then, would have fled from the ache in his loins and the cruel longing in his heart, but in the dying light of the fire he saw a harp that Balan had cast aside that evening, a crude thing, but with the same wild beauty that its owner possessed. So he took it up, and found his fingers moving across it of their own accord, playing a song of Elbereth, and the making of the stars, and he remembered the words and gave voice to them.

It was Balan that woke first, and looked upon him with no fear but much wonder, and as the others came to listen to Felagund's song, and those that followed it, it was Balan's gaze that held him there, and kept the songs flowing, until finally Felagund laid down the harp and cried "Enough, enough!" "Indeed more than enough, friend; I am Balan, and I lead these people. I call you Nům, Wisdom, for you have given us much of that tonight. You are invited to stay among us, for as long as you should so wish." "I am Finrod Felagund, but I will take the name you give me, and gladly stay a while."

At these words, Balan embraced Felagund, allowing him to feel the strength in those great arms first-hand, and although the people of Balan were quick of mind and hand, and learnt well of all he had to teach them, and showed him all respect, rest did not come easily to the king of Nargothrond in the camp of Balan.
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