As children do follow their fathers' deeds
with no thought of profit or mockery,
so to thee, Elf-friend, Great One,
do I offer this humble story:
The work of my heart, that comes of thine,
for love of thee, and Arda's greater glory.
Note: A huge THANK YOU to Nemis, who is a patient writing teacher as well as a fabulous writer, to Joan Milligan, who gave me not only the idea but also encouragement, and to Darkmage, for the wonderful insights about Fëanor. I apologize for my presumptuous disclaimer and the short chapters, as well for slightly disregarding the Annals of Valinor.
The Elf-woman stood by the window, motionless. Outside, darkness lay heavily upon Tirion, the fair city of the Eldalië. The first shock of terror and grief had passed, leaving the city forlorn and eerily quiet. It was so dark that, had she been trying to gaze out, she would have seen nothing, except the candlelit reflection of her own face in the windowpane. It was a pale and delicate face, framed by masses of coppery hair. Her eyes, large and grey, were filled with a thoughtful light, as they always were these days. By Elven standards, she was no great beauty, yet she was lovely, because of the eyes.
But now she stood with her mind far away, her eyes seeing nothing, not her reflection in the window, nor the occasional torch or lamp flitting by in the outer darkness, nor her father, the great smith Mahtan, pacing back and forth in the room behind her, the candles throwing distorted shadows of his form on the walls. She should not be here, her mind repeated bitterly. She should not be here, in her father's house, much as she loved him, but with her husband. She had failed, and darkness had fallen.
Her husband. The Skill of Finwë, the Spirit of Fire, now standing before the Valar in the Ring of Doom. Her husband, whom she had last seen long years ago. He had stood before the Valar in the Ring of Doom then, before being banished. Nerdanel's hands clenched, as she recalled the scene of her most recent defeat. At the time, she had already been back living at her father's house, but as soon as she had heard the sentence, an awful anxiety had taken hold of her, and she had gone to him, and asked, indeed pleaded to go with him into exile. It had been a hopeless mission, a fool's errand, but a part of her Noldorin heart had not yet give up hope, for she loved him still.
She loved him still...And she knew that she had touched him at that time, that there had still been something of their old love within him, too. But then her greatest enemy, his terrible debilitating pride, had reared up, a dark light coming into his eyes. "Why do you wish to come with me?" His voice had been soft, full of mockery. "Do you not think me unwise? Do you not pride yourself upon your wisdom?
She had reeled under his attack, but withstood it. "What wisdom have I, that you yourself do not have also, within yourself?" At that moment, she had looked up into his face, so handsome and fair, yet at the same time so hard, and all of a sudden her heart had felt as if it had burst into flames. So she had replied quietly and truthfully, her eyes locked with his, "There are times when love must overrule wisdom--"
Nerdanel shuddered inwardly, recalling the words that followed. "Spy of the Valar, you wish only to gloat over me!" And many other words like these. They had parted in anger and sorrow.
Perhaps it had already been too late then, perhaps they had been too far gone in their estrangement. When had it all begun? Once again, she remembered their arguments and reconciliations, her endless battles with his strange moods, his pride, and the ever-lengthening shadow upon him. And as the years of their marriage went on, those battles had ended more and more often in her utter defeat, until she had finally fled from his presence. She had failed him, and now he stood alone. And she had failed their sons, a voice in her mind added mercilessly. Her sons, who had embraced her with love and tears in their eyes, and followed their father, with sadness and regret but without hesitation.
But it had not been always thus...How bright and full of hope had been the young prince, whom she had met in the green hills beyond Tirion's gate! When she first looked upon him, it had seemed to her that he stood in a great light, while all else were dimmed. And the renowned smith, her father, had welcomed him with open arms, filled with wonder and delight at the quickness of his hands and mind, at his boundless creativity. The smith's daughter had been a young maiden then, gentle yet not without pride, and he had swept her off her feet with his passion and his joy. They had wandered far together in the hills and by the shore; all his words had been as marvels to her, and each glance and touch from him had burnt and uplifted her...Had the seeds of their later grief already been present then? How radiant had she been on her wedding day, a bright jewel of Aulë upon her brow, and garlanded with Yavanna's flowers! On that day she had looked upon him, standing beside her in the mingling light of the Trees, the fairest and best of all Eru's children. And how happy had they been at the birth of their sons! She recalled cradling little Maedhros at her breast, singing to him softly, and her husband watching her quietly, for hours on end...Had the seeds of their later grief already been present then?
A single cry sliced through the night, tearing her out of her bitter thoughts. "The King! Oh the King!" All at once, a new wave of cries and lamentations arose in the streets below. Nerdanel started in horror, and Mahtan stopped in his tracks, standing dead still. Finwë! What new sorrows had the night brought?
News came almost immediately. The door of the room was flung open, and Arinthir, her father's newest apprentice, stood in the doorway, shock and anguish written over his young face. "They say--they say there was a terrible Darkness come to Formenos, and there was some thing, huge and hideous--but he was there also, and the King--the King is dead, and the Silmarils he stole, and...."
His voice trailed off into a sob. Nerdanel stood transfixed, as jumbled memories of her father-in-law, and of all his deeds of kindness great and small, came rushing to her, flooding her soul. Despite having taken his son's side in their quarrel as he had done in all things, he had never withdrawn his kindness to her. She wanted to scream, or to wake up, yet all she could manage was a broken whisper, "Oh father...." But she blinked hard, taking control of herself. "And what of the others?" She heard herself ask. "What of Fëanor? And his sons--my sons?"
Arinthir lifted his eyes to meet hers, as if seeing her for the first time. Pity appeared on his face. "Your sons are safe, Lady Nerdanel," he answered softly. "They were the ones who brought the news from Formenos."
"And my husband? Fëanor?"
Arinthir hesitated for a second before answering. "He has gone, so they say. He took off as soon as the news came, and they know not whither he went."
An ice-cold wave of fear rose up and swallowed her. But she did not remain terrified for more than a moment, as almost immediately it came to her that she needed to find him. At that very same instant, she felt his presence in the city, his anguish burning and pulsing in her mind, but she pushed the pain away. What would he do? What would she do? She knew not. The only thing she did know, with complete clarity and certainty, was that this time she must not fail. She had to find him. She did not quite understand the thought, but somehow, somehow it seemed as if his very life depended on it.
Rapidly Nerdanel made her decision, and moved to the door. "Father?" she called out to Mahtan, who now stood in the middle of the room, his head bowed. "I am going out, father." Her voice sounded hoarse to herself.
"Wait, Nerdanel!" Turning around, she saw Mahtan catch up to her in a few long strides. For a long moment, he peered into her face, his expression unreadable. But when he spoke, she heard a note of anger in his voice. "Do you go seeking him, daughter?"
She lowered her eyes sadly, but instantly raised them up to his again. "He needs me," she replied.
"For what, Nerdanel? After all that had passed, do you believe that he would listen to you, even if you do find him?"
She shook her head slightly, but her eyes remained steady. Her father's anger at her husband was long-standing, but it was because he could not bear to see his daughter in pain. She did not know whether he would listen to anything she might say. Perhaps he would not. Almost certainly he would not. But that she would find him, she had no doubt. "But I must, father," she finally answered gently, and exited the room.
Stopping only to collect her cloak lying on a bench in the hall, she quickly left the house, crossing the tree-lined courtyard. At the street gate, she heard her name shouted again, and turned to find her father hurrying after her. He carried a lamp cunningly and elegantly wrought of the finest metal, his own handiwork, and placed it in her hand. A silvery flame, small yet bright, burned within it, protected against the elements by panes of glass.
"It is dark outside," he said simply.
Nerdanel felt something blurring her sight. She squeezed her father's hand, then slipped out of the gate, into the dark streets.