Discussion in 'Non Star Wars Fan Fiction' started by Mira_Jade
, Jan 31, 2013.
Lovely insight in the life of Arahael, living just like Aragorn in Imladris
Delightful moments with Celebrian/Elrond... their affection and wisdom shine through beautifully and their caring and compassion for others. I also liked a lot their wistfulness over having another child of their own.
Enjoyed Arwen with her mother as well. Very concerning though Arwen's sense that great pain and sorrow will come to her father specifically.
I am impressed all over again about how you weave all the ages past with the present and those to come in a tapestry of connections and intersecting paths. A very poignant read about choices and celebrating the time together.
earlybird-obi-wan: Just like Aragorn, it's true.
Nyota's Heart: The way threads of story are woven together throughout the Ages of this world never fails to fascinate me, it's true! And, I have such a soft spot for this family to boot. As such, I am thrilled that you enjoyed this last update.
Now, this next update is the first of a batch of a ficlets in my Greenwood-arch that I have been working on for a while now - the idea itself is one of the oldest in my notebook, at that, so I was excited to have finally worked up to a point where I could write it! This prompt is the next of the 50 Sentences, but it will lead up to the Tangled prompt awaiting me - the length of this first part merely disallowed my posting it all together . . . again.
I have quite a few notes waiting at the end of the text, both to explain my head-canon, and my use of book-canon, so if you run into anything you want further background on, odds are that it's there below - I just don't want to spoil you too much going into this ficlet.
Lastly, I need to disclaim: the title for this is an Emily Dickenson grab from the poem of the same name - which really could be the entire theme for this world as a whole . Now, that said, may I present to you Thranduil vs. the Dwarves of Erebor, Round I . . .
“our share of night to bear”
It begun as an ill whisper in the wind; a trembling in the trees; a rippling upon the water. The land hushed, as if holding a breath, it mourned, and all they could do was hold a hand to the trees and wonder what new evil had awakened in the lands beyond their own.
Disquieting was such a whisper, for not even five years had passed since the Witch-king's final flight from the ruin of Arnor, and now, for this new shadow to touch their eaves in warning. . .
It did not take long for news to reach them from Lothlórien, revealing that the long unheard from King of Moria had finally delved too deep for the mithril they so prized, and thus awakened the evil they had long known to slumber there. The Valarukaur had opened his eyes of flame, and taken his vengeance for his sleep being so disturbed by the unthinking axes of Durin's line.
When he read the news in one of Celeborn's letters – explaining how warnings that Galadriel had placed in the time of Narvi were set aside when wisdom fled Moria's king, and detailing the sad fate of the many who fled the woods of Lothlórien for being so close to that awakened evil - Thranduil first thought the woes of Durin's folk to be far and beyond his own. He had paid little heed to where the Longbeards would settle next – assuming that they would seek out their kin to the west in Ered Luin, or settle far to the east in the mountains of Rhûn, where the ancient clans of Ironfists and Stiffbeards had awakened and settled. What he did not expect, however, was for the bold workings of Thráin, son of Náin, son of Durin VI, to make his home in the silent, solitary peak that was but leagues away from their own forest home – eager as Thráin was to settle a new land for his people, rather than one long mined and already picked through for its riches.
For some years Thráin's people had been delving in the mountain and carving out their kingdom of stone. Already there were Men of Rhovanion making their way north and settling in the shadow of the Lonely Mountain, eager for the wealth and trade there was to be had with so close an alliance with the Gonnhirrim – for never did Dwarves grow their own food or spin their own wool, and they were known to be generous in trade with those who supported them in turn.
Thranduil allowed the Dwarves to pass through his realm on the Forest-road that the Northmen themselves used, so long as they paid their tolls to the Carrock and his own wardens for their defense of the ever darkening wood. The shadow covering the Woodland-realm had fluctuated madly with the trouble Angmar was causing from further north, but since the removal of the Nazgûl to Mordor that darkness had stayed a hand in its spreading. And yet, with the Nine accounted for and Saruman's ruling of the dark spirit inhabiting Dol Goldur now proved false . . . ever the more so did the answer to their woes seem apparent, yet few were brave enough to speak that dread name aloud, even so.
Soon would the White Wizard return from his wanderings in the East, and then Thranduil could beseech the Wise on behalf of his people once more. And yet, until then . . .
Until then, they carried on much as they ever had, little bothered by and little bothering their new neighbors. That, however, came to a sudden end when he had the dubious privilege of being summoned to Erebor by letter. They wished for the Forest-king to pay his respects to the newly anointed King Under the Mountain as an equal in sovereignty between their races . . . and not the other way around, with the newly throned king seeking out the one long settled in his place and power.
Yet, petty indeed would it look for the longer established Woodland-realm to turn down such a summons out of wish for the Heir of Durin to first seek out their goodwill, and so, it was with a clipped manner and annoyed disposition that Thranduil readied his family and foremost advisers to respond to the Dwarf's offer of hospitality as a gracious ally would.
Though he agreed to the invitation, he could not say that he did so gladly, and his mood was sour as he rose and readied himself for the journey.
“I could ignore the slight when Thráin sent Víli his brother to negotiate use of the Forest-road and rights to harvesting the trees as fuel for their forges,” Thranduil muttered as he did up the fastenings of his overcoat. “For the King was then busy with his own, and he had his people's welfare to see to before he could worry himself for such a trifle thing as gracious relations with his neighbors. And yet, now - ”
One of the fastenings snared, and he tugged on it with an annoyed gesture. Beyond him, where Calelassel was straightening her crown of twining yew and flowering hazel, his wife raised a brow at the cross shape of his words. Against his spirit, her presence was as a gentle ripple upon the eddy of a deep current, and she instinctively set her fëa against his own to sooth.
He caught a distant thought in her mind, remembering their first days reigning together – how he had faltered in knowing his father's people, his father's realm, and spent many such mornings venting his fears and frustrations to her. Ever a strength for him, she had calmly bolstered his confidence with her belief and furthered his learning with her own wisdoms – for she had known his father's realm for centuries longer than he. He had thought his love impossible to further when first he wed her, but in those early days his appreciation and affection had grown in leaps and bounds as they each settled into their new places. Now, this was a tradition that had yet to give way, even these many centuries later.
The fastening at last slipped into place, and Thranduil tried to hold onto the pleasant shape of those memories as he continued, “It is not enough that they awakened such an evil in their own land, but now, to come here with that same summoning force worn so boldly upon their King's finger, and dare to settle so closely to - ”
“ - if your people were displaced, would fear of an ill approving neighbor keep you from seeking out the best possible home for those in your following?” Calelassel gently interrupted, raising a pointed brow in reply to his words. “The memories you personally hold are but old tales to the Dwarves, and they would see no difference in settling next to your folk as they would beside Thingol himself.”
Thranduil narrowed his gaze as he met her eyes through her looking glass.“It is still an insult,” he uttered crisply, “to be summoned as some paltry bit of nobility to pay homage to a liege-lord -”
“ - they wish for us to see what they have built,” Calelassel again returned, a wry twist upon her mouth. “After recovering what they so grievously lost – be it even by their own hand - I do not see the insult in that. Eagerness, perhaps, but no insult.”
“They wish to boast over what they have built, perhaps,” Thranduil retorted. “That I would believe of the Naugrim in its entirety.”
Another fastening proved to be quite behind his ability to nimby secure, and with a bemused glittering to her eyes, Calelassel rose from her place to come to his aid.
Letting out an agitated breath, he let his wife help him, ignoring her amused teasing, saying that it had been years since she last had to help Legolas with such - let alone her husband who was thousands of years older than even she. Thranduil let loose a frustrated breath at her thoughts. He then inhaled deeply, trying to calm the disquieting course of his own mind, even now reflecting on the ever darkening shape amidst their own trees, stemming from the evil taint of Dol Guldur. Too closely did this fear arrive side by side with their trials against the Witch-king . . . with the resurfacing of one of the long unseen Valaraukar . . . with the renewed activity of the Nine as they even now laid siege to Minas Ithil in the south . . . it was connected, all of it, and the Dwarves of Durin, along with their Ring of Power, had unconsciously given heed to the growing shadow in every way. He had not the gift of foresight, but his relation to Thingol did grant a whisper of knowing to his veins, and he knew . . .
“Well placed are these fears,” Calelassel whispered as she finished with the last fastening. She ran her hands down the front of his chest to smooth the wrinkles in his overcoat, affection in her fingertips. “Yet, ill would it be for you to allow one fear to affect another,” still she quietly counseled. “Thráin will see only the one, and fail to understand the other; he will see only insult, and take insult in return.” And, she left unspoken, a Dwarf left brewing in insult was never a wise neighbor to keep – this he knew as few others alive would know.
Thranduil covered her hands with his own, stilling her of motion. Underneath their entwined hands, he could feel his heartbeat thunder, traitorous organ that it was. “You were not there,” he said lowly, his voice falling as a whisper between them. It had been many years since he thought of those final days in Doriath, refusing to remember the bitter for fear of it tainting his memories of the sweet. Even though the years had passed in their thousands, he could still recall Lúthien's smiling eyes . . . he could still remember her laughter and light and life. He could still remember the shape of Thingol's hand upon his shoulder, his uncle's approval something he had one time sought as eagerly as his father's; just as he could recall the incredible might and majesty of Melian, the awesome divinity of her countenance softened by her kindness and affection for her husband's kin. More somberly, he could remember the way his own father had laughed in those days – laughed truly, with love and pride for all of his family before the dark years underneath the Sun came. And yet, then . . .
“You did not see . . .” after a long moment, Thranduil had to work his voice to find his words. He could not first utter them. “You did not . . .”
“No, I was not there,” Calelassel softly agreed. There was a furrowing between her brows, and he read her concern from the depths of her eyes. Gently, she wrapped her fingers about his own; she squeezed, imparting what strength and peace she could. “But, husband, neither were they.”
Neither were they . . . he had to force himself to hold onto that one fact, that one certainty. No, the Dwarves of Nogrod were long since extinct, with the remaining blood of the Firebeards intermingled with the blood of Durin until it was only known by the few red heads of hair left amongst the Longbeard's line. Nogrod was gone, and yet . . . their greed . . . their arrogance . . .
These still remained, Thranduil feared, and for those traits to settle so closely to he and his own when they had their own demon to face, their own shadow to fear as it grew . . .
He sighed, and leaned forward to touch his brow against her own, feeling suddenly weary in his place. When he exhaled, he shared her breath. “Yet,” he whispered, “The First of the Seven Rings was force enough to awaken a Balrog. If the Heirs of Durin did not learn from that experience, but instead consider themselves put upon, a people unjustly removed and then placed far from their home . . . It is a fear I hold, a nameless one, but one I can well enough guess the outcome for its shape.”
“Yes, deeply did the Dwarves delve, without caution or regard for the force sleeping beneath their feet. For that heedless decision, Durin payed for with his life, and I would hope that his death now rests as a lesson learned within the mind of his grandson,” Calelassel sighed, and he could feel a matching foreboding pulse in her mind. “And yet, what is an even more disquieting thought to me . . . Was that force summoned merely by the axes of the Dwarves, or was it already stirring from its slumber . . . was it already hearing his Master as a far off cry, and thus awakened?”
Her words touched that which was a wound in his own mind, a scab scoured open and rubbed raw since he'd first read Celeborn's letter. Their wars against the Witch-king; the return of the Nine; the Shadow of Dol Guldur, ever pulsing as a heartbeat in the middle of a cancerous organism, so much so that he feared . . . His fears were those shared by their allies even, with one name constantly returning to their thoughts as the only possible explanation for -
Sharply, he let out a breath, and frowned when Calelassel leaned against him, not in comfort for his nearness, but rather, for weariness in standing. Concerned, he let his spirit rise to buoy her own, feeling where she had once again passed a fruitless night in sleep, filled with dark dreams from the wood beyond. She had slept but little since the trees bloomed that spring, suffering from the same malady that touched so many amongst their people – as those who were especially bound to the trees felt the taint of the wood as a physical pain the closer the shadow crept upwards from the hill of Amon Lanc and Dol Guldur upon it. Even his own people tended to call the forest Taur-e-Ndaedelos now . . . Mirkwood, Forest of Shadows, and acutely was that shadow felt by all.
Subtly, he shifted his weight, encouraging her to lean against him as much as she needed to, all the while trying to lighten the weight of her fëa from its place against his spirit. He was no healer, but her mind was as known to him as his own, and it was but second nature to give of himself so that any discomfort she bore was shared between them, and dealt with in turn.
“Are you well?” he at last asked aloud, his voice deepening with his concern. He lifted a hand to touch the side of her face, and found her skin cool to the touch – too cool, the healthy pink of her complexion now touched with a pallid white. He passed his hand back into her hair in a soothing gesture, and found the nape of her neck damp with sweat enough to counter the coolness of her skin.
“I am merely weary,” she answered with a wavering smile.“I did not sleep well again . . . she was whispering to me in the night, and it was all I could do not to share her dreams.” Calelassel looked up, her eyes finding where the cavernous ceiling of their chambers was defined by the roots of the Great Tree – the Mother of the forest able to feel the pains of all her children in the wood, and share with the soul of her Queen in turn.
Thranduil frowned at her answer, for while he was able to feel the power of the forest as an ichor running through his veins, his bond with the wood had ever paled in comparison to his wife's empathy with the trees. Yet, as the forest continued to darken . . .
. . . but that was a thought he could not think through to its end. Not yet.
“Perhaps it would be best if you stayed here,” he offered as gently as he could, wanting her to know of his concern without feeling as if she was being pandered to. “Rest may do you better than traveling.”
“And insult Thráin with my doing so?” Calelassel returned with a raised brow, little enthused for the idea. Even more subtly he heard her mind's voice whisper how she would rest but ill away from him as it was, with his presence as an anchor to cling to when the forest turned clamorous within her dreams. Yet she gave voice to none of those thoughts aloud. “You are right, at least, about the ease of a Dwarf taken to insult, and I would not start our relationship with Erebor off as such.”
Thranduil set his jaw in distaste. “I care not about the opinion of -”
Calelassel shook her head, and placed a finger against his mouth. “How would you explain to a Dwarf, an immortal Elf laid low by any malady? Such sickness is supposed to be foreign to our people, and you would not have a kind ear to any reply you would try to make. No,” she stepped back from him as if trying to prove that she was well enough to stand on her own – and, for the moment she was, with her bouts of weariness being unpredictable things as the forest grew and swayed and ached above them.
“There,” she finally said, forcing a cheerful brightness to her words. “I am well enough for whatever is needed of me. For you know as well as I that if this alliance starts for ill, then little hope do I see in it ending any differently. The Dwarves do not know it, but they now have the benefit of a neighbor who is, unfortunately, at the heart of the Shadow's return to this land. If they let themselves, they shall benefit from our wisdom, and better will the north of this land be for all with their doing so.”
“Have you ever tried to provide counsel to a Dwarf?” Thranduil pointed out wryly, having not completely made her determination her own. Carefully, he watched her as she moved to don her own overcoat, resolving to stay as close to her side as he could during their time in Erebor.
“I would suspect that it would greatly depend on the tone in which that counsel was given,” Calelassel dryly returned. Much as I have learned from swaying your own thoughts over the years, husband mine, she added playfully, and only years practice at keeping an untouchable mask upon his face kept him from narrowing his eyes in reply.
“Thráin does not know it, but he should be grateful that such a Queen reigns in the Woodland-realm, with your mind constantly calling my own back to reasonableness and grace,” nonetheless, a note of teasing entered his voice as he took her counsel in stride. He returned to her side to help her with the garment's fastenings, much as she had first aided him. This time her smile was sincere, and he felt her fondness rise higher than her weariness.
“I am quite the gift,” Calelassel returned with her eyes glittering green. “It is true.”
Though her words were playful, they were the truth to him in every way. “I do not know what I would do without you,” Thranduil admitted in a voice that came out as little more than a whisper. Her expression was soft as he gently cupped her face in his hands, her flushed cheeks returning a healthy colour to her skin once more. Yet, when he leaned down to kiss her he could not quite tell who was drawing in strength from who.
Erebor was, simply put, a wondrous feat of creation worthy of the Dwarf-kingdoms of old in terms of opulence and great, awe-inspiring, beauty and wealth. All around them were soaring halls of green marble, lit by clever crystals that let in the light of the sun and reflected it down into the belly of the mountain. Even in the grand Halls of the King they could hear the far off thunder of the forges and the chime of the smith's hammers, singing the song of the Dwarves in a melody as old as Aulë himself.
It was amazing what the Longbeards were able to accomplish in but a few years, and Thranduil did not begrudge himself telling King Thráin as much, even going as far to say that his halls were equal to those of King Ginnar's in the beginning of Belegost's days in the Blue Mountains.
From his left, where Calelassel walked arm in arm with him, he caught sight of her smiling in subtle approval as Thráin's chest puffed up in pride for the compliment. Thráin was young for a dwarf, being but years away from his first century of living, and his thick, curling mane of hair and neatly braided beard were black and glossy as a result. His brow was unlined by time, and his eyes were the clear, pale blue of the sky after a winter storm. To have accomplished such a building with so few years to his living was a credit to his name, Thranduil acknowledged grudgingly, pushing aside the voice that whispered that Thráin's efforts were aided, and seen through to early a completion, by the Ring he even now wore with more pride than the great weight of Durin's crown or any of the sparkling bits of gold and diamonds woven into his cloak and doublet.
Trying to settle his thoughts lest they showed through to their host, Thranduil looked down as they passed over one of the high bridges, seeing where Thráin's son Thorin led Amathelon and Legolas on their own tour of the mountain halls. The three were talking easily enough, even though only he would would notice the stiffness in sons' expressions for his knowing them so well – they, perhaps, remembering his tales of Doriath's underground halls for the wistfulness with which they had first been told. Behind them, her position as the Elven-king's ward allowed Tauriel to follow more slowly, her eyes wide and awe-struck as she took in the grandeur of her surroundings, having seen nothing like them yet to compare. For a moment, Thranduil blinked – remembering trailing behind Lúthien as she marveled over the halls of Belegost the first time they were shown to her. The brightness of her laughter and the light of her timeless beauty had been mesmerizing enough, even before she was fully a woman grown, to inspire the Dwarf-smiths to craft their greatest works in the earliest of days.
Even as he thought so, Thranduil watched as Amathelon's gestures turned more animated, and both Thorin and Legolas turned to his words in interest. With a quick brush against his sons' minds, it was revealed to him where Amathelon shared tales of his time marching against the Witch-king of Angmar. When Galadriel and Celeborn sent as many of the Galadhrim as they could spare to aid the armies of the north on the western side of the Misty Mountains, Thranduil had added five score of his best archers to their aid – and Amathelon had headed that unit to know true war for the first, far as such an experience was from the skirmishes he had known from the Spiders and other such foul creatures in the forest until then. Those years had been filled with long, harrowing days, while they anxiously awaited the return of their son in dread and uncertainty. Remembering that time, Thranduil did not quite care for the anticipation in Legolas' eyes - he having been much put out that he could not follow his brother then, and eager as he was for such a chance to prove himself now.
Their conversation soon turned to the merits of axes and the heavy swords the dwarves favored over bows and slim elven-steel, and when Thranduil was confident that the conversation would only move to break the ice between the younger generation, the debate for now remaining friendly, he turned back to his own conversation – Thráin having not yet ceased speaking about the particulars of their building since Thranduil tuned him out.
“Our building would have gone quicker had the Horse-lords given to us what was rightly our own from underneath Scatha's claws,” Thranduil became aware of the Dwarf-king's words, and fought to keep a frown from his face in reply. “The fire-drakes have been stirring all the more so in the north these last hundred years, and our kin in the Grey Mountains have ever been standing as their equal to protect their hordes.”
Nearly two summers ago, Thranduil heard from his own scouts how the son of the Lord of the Éothéod had slain the great dragon who harrowed his people in the North – stealing sheep and horses and even the unfortunate mortal soul or two. Sickening of the countless burned farmsteads and lost lives, Fram had climbed the peaks to slay Scatha with one of the black-forged swords the Dwarves had horded there. News of the young man's valor had spread like wildfire through his own eaves, and even he had toasted the mortal in thanksgiving for his doing away with one of the threats hanging over all of their heads. Scatha had sat the peak of Ered Mithrin in the north, where it was rumored that the Dwarf-horde there had been the result of another of the Seven Rings working their foul wonder, and now the wyrm was no more – prompting more than one of the Wise to let out an uneasy breath in relief, even as he . . .
. . . gold called to gold, Thranduil could not help but reflect uncomfortably, forcing himself to complete his thought. Once again did one of the Enemy's creatures stir after sleeping for so many centuries, answering the call of that which, perhaps, should have been shunned as thoroughly as its maker should have first been shunned.
“That human maggot sent to us Scatha's teeth upon a leather cord when we tried to claim the lost treasure of our people, proclaiming them to be the equal of any jewel – and far more priceless for their rarity, at that!” Thráin all but spat the words. “But the filthy horse-folk may keep the Horn they so prize, for someday shall I have the bones of Fram Frumgar's son to set next to the teeth of Scatha, and that is all that I shall say on the matter.”
Thranduil set his mouth, ill set with the turn of the conversation. At his side, he could feel Calelassel's eyes focus on him in warning, even as he felt her spirit gently pulse against his own, soothing him from the words he first wished to say in temper.
Yet, he could not wholly remain silent on the matter. “This son of Men ended the life of the wyrm who was plaguing his people – succeeding where even your own people could not,” Thranduil formed his words carefully, aware of where Thráin turned an eye on him as if daring him to say anything in reply to his resolute opinion. “I would think that gratitude would have been bestowed upon the boy, rather than such a demand for blood.”
Thráin huffed. “Had Fram shared back with us the hard-earned wealth of our people – especially its founding piece - perhaps we would have been moved to make reparations to the Éothéod for what they lost underneath the scourge of the dragon's flames. Yet, now we will never know, for once the good opinion of Durin's folk is lost, it is lost forever.”
He could feel the pressure of his wife's fingertips, and so he swallowed his words as well as he could, losing his chance to reply completely when Thráin continued: “Let me show you what my people have been able to unearth in these scant few years, Lord-elf, and you shall then understand how there was more than enough within the horde of Scatha to share.”
Thingol had seen such hordes in both Belegost and Nogrod, and inwardly he sighed against the idea of seeing yet another. He appreciated fine things, true, but he'd never held the Noldorin fascination with things mined from the earth and set into rich shapes through toiling of hammer and forge. He appreciated their beauty, yes, but to him a white crystal was as fine as any diamond, and he had well learned the pains of holding tightly to such riches for seeing the Silmaril worn first by Thingol . . . and then by Dior his heir . . . and finally by Elwing, the last Queen of the Sindar . . .
But those days were gone now, he reminded himself, and the long halls of his memory would only serve him for ill within the halls of Erebor. As they turned, he heard the sound of laughter below, and for a moment thought he could hear an echo of Lúthien's joy, even though she had not laughed in many such lifetimes. He closed his eyes against the sound, and held on tighter to Calelassel's arm in reply to his ghosts.
They walked further down into the belly of the mountain, until he understood that they were now some levels underneath the King's Halls. When they came to a stop behind two massive doors, gilded in gold and inlaid with precious stones, depicting Durin the Deathless awakening in all of his glory, Thráin gestured, and two burly door-wards struggled to open the intricate lock system. A massively groaning sound filled the corridor until the doors at last opened to their labors, revealing the gleam of a golden light within.
The treasury was already lit by more of the cleverly placed crystals all around the gaping maw of the chamber – which was even now filled with massive piles of riches and every treasure imaginable. Mithril, gold, lesser silver, copper, bronze, precious stones beyond the counting – all of it was laid in shining patterns of Dwarven ingenuity and proof of the fruitful womb of the mountain that succored them. Thranduil blinked, inwardly taken aback by just how massive a collection Thráin's people had been able to produce in so short a time. It sat ill with him, he thought plainly - it unsettled him as the Dwarf looked on all that he had horded, and stroked his beard with a pleased, thoughtful expression in reply.
Upon his hand, the First of the Seven Rings gleamed, and after a long moment, Thranduil looked away.
“The majority of this was retrieved from Moria, I take it?” still Thranduil tried to reason out the sheer size of the Dwarves' wealth in his mind, hoping that to be the reason for the richness of the collection he stood before. And yet, still his inner voice warned, there would be more mithril, and less gold, if that were so. Such was not the case.
“We were only able to recover the richest of our heirlooms from Moria when we fled my grandfather's bane,” Thráin said, a low note touching his voice for the words. In an uncharitable moment, Thranduil could not tell his mourning for the people they had lost or the riches they had been forced to abandon.
“Such as this,” Thráin steered them towards a pedestal, upon which sat the largest pearl Thranduil had yet to see in his long life – equal to the size of an ornate helmet that sat on a nearby stand – and, a familiar one, at that, he reflected after a moment's surprise.
“Nimphelos,” he muttered aloud, his words seemingly falling as ghosts in the still air of the cavernous chamber. He reached his hand out to touch it, before stilling himself, and thinking the best of it. “How came you by this?” he turned to Thráin, failing to hide the awe in his voice.
“This was saved from Moria,” Thráin said again. “But it was taken from the Blue Mountains after our halls of old were lost in Beleriand's destruction, far before my own time.”
“I remember the day my great-uncle, Thingol the Elven-king of Doriath, gave this to the Dwarf-kings of Belegost and Nogrod in payment for their aid in building Menegroth. Many lesser things did we also give, but your folk were amazed by this – a jewel of the sea, and thus far from your own ability to mine.” At his side, he felt where Calelassel leaned forward in wonder, a name from history and legend now made real before her.
Thráin's eyes widened just subtly about the corners, and for the first, Thranduil felt the Dwarf's true interest in any words he had to say as to his collection. “Forgive me,” Thráin started slowly, “but while I have long heard of the agelessness of the Elves, I did not first realize your years to be so many. When you spoke of Ginnar's halls, I assumed that you had seen them later in the First Age, before they were lost.”
Thranduil gave a low chuckle. “I saw Ginnar's halls when the stone was still fresh-hewn, and the Sun and Moon had not yet shed their light upon the land,” he revealed, “And I was then already some centuries old, at that. Great was Belegost in friendship with Doriath in those days, even if that friendship faded, somewhat, with each King who took up the scepter after Ginnar First-father of the Broadbeams.”
Yet, Belegost did not take up the sword in memory of that friendship when Nogrod was angered to take blood in return for the blood they believed to be unjustly spilled - but that Thranduil wisely kept to himself. Even so, Calelassel looked up at him with sympathy in her eyes, hearing his mind as clearly as if he'd spoken his thoughts aloud.
But he shook his head subtly, and turned his own gaze ahead. He had not been so ensnared in memory in many, many centuries, and he did not wholly care for the intensity of his recollections. Time moved on and changed all things so that they were unrecognizable from that which once they were – but such was the nature of life. Death and birth and time and tide – it was to the Elves to watch it all, and, someday . . . Thranduil distantly wondered where his own kingdom would be in a hundred years, in a thousand years, in ten thousand years . . . He wondered if he would continue on and survive, being one of but a few who remembered this time, let alone a time so long ago.
He felt Calelassel's hand tighten about his arm, and focused on the tangibility of the moment, of the now, and turned back to Thráin's tour of the treasury only when he felt a familiar light touch his face. It was a light he had not felt in centuries, and one he had been quite content to never feel again, unless it was in the form of Gil-estel's star, sailing far in the firmament above them.
Distantly, he heard Thráin boast that they were led to the heart of the mountain, and there they found that heart in crystalline form – a sign from Aulë himself that their taking of the mountain was fated, and the line of their kings approved by the Valar themselves. The Arkenstone, Thráin called the great gem in a low, pulsing voice, and yet . . .
Thranduil looked on the gleaming casings of the gem, and could have first sworn that he looked upon the light of a Silmaril for the pulsing, mesmerizing beauty of the stone. He blinked, and could only see Thingol's mesmerized eyes as he coveted what his daughter had died to possess at his command. Yet, when he tried to force that image from his mind, he next saw Dior's consumed gaze as he held close his parents' legacy to the detriment of all . . . followed by the terribly sad, possessive glow that ever haunted Elwing's eyes. Then, to follow . . . swords and blood, without fail, every time. Every single time.
It was not possible, he told himself – for one Silmaril soared in the heavens about Eärendil's brow; while the second was lost to the sea for Maglor casting his Silmaril to the waves. While, for the third . . .
Maedhros Fëanorian cast his Silmaril – and himself - into one of the fiery chasms torn into the mantle of the earth from the violence of the War of Wrath and the reshaping of the very land of Middle-earth. Even the ground itself had been in such turmoil then . . . could the Silmaril have traveled through the belly of the world to turn up here, of all places?
Thranduil swallowed, and told himself that such a thing was farfetched – impossible, really. And yet . . . above the Dwarf-king's head, the gem pulsed – if possible, made all the more beautiful by the centuries it had spent in the belly of the earth, being hardened by fire and pressure and force.
Thranduil inhaled, and let his next breath out slow. Calelassel went very, very still next to him, she having seen the remaining two Silmarils, newly torn from Morgoth's crown, only when Eönwë brought them into their camp, and then from afar when the last two sons of Fëanor leveled their final, desperate grab for the hallowed gems. But, even that glimpse would have been enough to stay bright within her memory, no matter the passing of the years, and she too looked on the jewel with a troubled glance.
And Thráin looked on the Arkenstone as if it were the face of Aulë himself; as if it were priceless and invaluable a prize. In his eyes Thranduil could see a reflection of Thingol and Dior and Elwing, and even were it not the long lost Silmaril, a part of his heart warned for such a look turned on any such treasure for the ill deeds that inevitably followed.
He turned his eyes down, and when he did so, he saw on a pedestal beneath the Arkenstone . . . something more curious to his own eyes . . . something personal.
And Thráin noticed his look, and how he stared.
“Ah, dispassionate have your eyes been this whole time, but it seems that we have found that which even the Elven-king desires – crystals of starlight and stones of pale blue brilliance!” this Thráin seemed delighted to see. “I had thought this piece to resound with you.”
“The Nauglamír,” Thranduil whispered, and this time he did reach out to touch the necklace of gems with starlight in their casing, awe in his hand and disbelief in his eyes. Elwing had cast this into the sea along with the Silmaril, and while the Silmaril had been returned through Ulmo's grace, the Nauglamír . . .
Thranduil took in a deep breath, but could no longer be truly surprised by such unexplained occurrences. No longer. Not any more.
“Forged by the smiths of Belegost – by Ginnar himself, some say,” Thráin continued.
“Inspired by the beauty of Lúthien, I can confirm,” Thranduil whispered, “whom Ginnar was enchanted by. He wept when she sang, and sketched out his ideas for this piece that same night.”
“It was forged by the hands of a Dwarf, though,” Thráin still returned in a hard voice, as a child defending something they wished not to give up. Thranduil had not even acknowledged his own wanting of the piece until Thráin spoke with such a defensiveness in his voice.. “With our own arts did we capture the stars that reigned over our Awakening, and set them within crystal and stone.”
“Yet, it was forged in honor of an Elf, and then later gifted to an Elf,” Thranduil said in a hard voice, remembering the smiths of Nogrod – how they had known insult for Thingol asking them to set the Silmaril into the Necklace of the Dwarves, and their arrogance in demanding that necklace with the Silmaril as payment for their toils. Thingol had hardly been able to laugh and order them gone from his sight out of incredulity for the unspeakable ridiculousness of such a demand . . . and, as soon as his back was turned, stewing in insight and slighted pride, urged on by the Silmaril they had too long coveted . . .
Thranduil fought to keep his face fair and expressionless, not flinching at his memories of blood; both that of Thingol and that of the blood he had spilled in turn when he too marched behind Beren the One-handed and the Onodrim of Ossiriand to avenge Lúthien's father. On his arm, Calelassel's grip had turned white. Yet, even her fëa rushing forth to sooth and restrain his own was as a tree protesting the opening of the heavens above for a storm. For a moment he could not speak for the return of a rage so many centuries old, and so deeply inflicted.
“Our tales tell differently,” Thráin said, his tone expressionless - as if the story of Doriath and Nogrod was so old that it meant but little to him. “We were denied fair payment for our honest work, and so we took what was owed to us. For that taking, Nogrod was crippled, and one of the Seven Families is now all but extinct in these latter days. You cannot imagine what such a blow means to my people, both then and now.”
Does he think I cannot? the thought was as the cut of a blade, tearing savagely through his mind. With Doriath destroyed and Doriath taken, first ripped open by Dwarvish swords and then cut down irrevocably by the Sons of Fëanor . . . how many walk alive from Doriath now? Does Thingol now laugh; does Lúthien now sing? How many hundred, thousands, of immortal lives were snuffed out, all for the greed of a mere jewel, no matter how hallowed?
“However, you forget that I was there,” Thranduil said lowly, fighting to keep his words level from his mouth. “I saw it happen; I lived through it.”
“Perhaps you did,” Thráin tilted his head up haughtily. “But, you saw those days through the eyes of an Elf, and such a view is by its very nature askew in the simplest of ways.”
The ghosts that had been close enough to touch throughout the day then seemed all but tangible to him. It all blurred before his mind's eye – Thingol's warmth and Lúthien's laughter and Melian's wisdom and his father unburdened enough to look on his son in love and pride, and -
He stepped forward, to what end he knew not, only knowing that his blood was rising fey and incensed within him, demanding that he act, demanding that he force the stunted being before him to understand in blood, if need be - and was stopped only by a surprising show of his wife's strength, holding him back and forcing him to keep to his place.
Do not dishonor the dead as he now does, her mind was a battering force against his own. Long has this feud taken life for life many times over, and I will not allow that pattern to continue here. Remember yourself, husband.
“Such histories matter not any more,” Thráin shrugged, unaware of the very real danger he had so unwittingly placed himself in. “We were led to find the Nauglamír in the underground waters, just as we were led to find the Arkenstone in the deepest rock; it is ours, a gift to see restored that which was taken from us in the halls of Moria in the most unjust of ways. Your claim to it means nothing now.”
The Ring speaks through the mouth of the Dwarf-king, Calelassel hissed into his mind, and the Ring wishes for discord in all things. Yet, you are more than the Shadow, just as I believe Thráin himself is - had he only the eyes to see. But he does not, and you must see for the good of both your peoples. You will not be able to touch his mind if you act in violence or harsh temper now, and his heirs will remember too, when rather may we need the aid of all our peoples in the days to come.
And so, Thranduil let her words touch him. He inhaled . . . and let his breath out slow. Doing so was as a ripping through his lungs, but he at last forced his blood to calm and his fëa to retreat underneath the higher power of his mind once more. He calmed, and when he opened his eyes, the fey aspects of his spirit were underneath his control once more.
Glad indeed should Erebor be that such a Queen reigns in the Woodland-realm, Thranduil at last forced his thoughts to form, thanking his wife for her presence of mind and unerring wisdom without words, grateful that she truly complimented him in every possible way. I . . . in that moment . . . He swallowed, unable to complete his thought, knowing that he would have been able to act in violence equal to the days of old, and felt but little regret for his deeds following.
. . . just as the Ring would of wished of him, he then reflected . . . just as the Shadow no doubt would have hoped, as well. The next time he inhaled, his thoughts were touched with shame. His anger was not completely gone – he did not think that it would ever be - but for now, he would let his words sleep, and when he could -
- by his side, Calelassel missed her step when they turned to continue on through the treasury. Only her arm being laced through his own, and her firm grip to continually assure him of her presence, kept her from stumbling. Immediately, Thranduil went to support her with both hands, concern quickly pushing aside every ill thought that had lingered in his mind until then.
“Calelassel?” her name was a breathless exhale, enough so that even Thráin turned and looked on the Elven-queen in concern. “Are you well?”
“I am,” she blinked as she replied. Yet her breath was strained, and the pink had faded from her cheeks to give way to a wan pallor once more. “I merely missed a step, and I need only a moment . . .” she leaned forward, discreetly bracing even more of her weight against him, which he gladly took.
Her words were genial for Thráin's sake, but he could feel her bafflement and her deeper unease through his place within her mind. Immediately he felt a rise of self-deprecation fill him - for her so strongly influencing his own fëa had taken away from where she was trying to sustain her own, and she had suffered for it.
I am sorry; earlier I did not think . . . he passed his thoughts to her, along with a surge of his own strength – enough so that she would be able to carry herself back to the guest's halls, and recover further away from the eyes of the Dwarves.
Just as the thought crossed his mind, Thráin stepped forward and inclined his head. “I fear that I have kept your lady for too long,” he said to Thranduil, and he felt a wave of Calelassel's annoyance that she should appear as such a wilting wallflower before so new an acquaintance – enough so that he was assured by the return of her wellbeing more so than anything else.
“There is to be quite the feast this night to toast the alliance between our peoples,” Thráin continued, “If you'd wish to rest until then to fully enjoy the hospitality of Erebor, I would encourage you to do so.”
“I thank you,” Calelassel inclined her head as regally as she could. “I would take you up on your kindness, Good-king.”
Thranduil did not pause to see if Thráin meant to depart with those words spoken; he simply turned, and as quickly as Calelassel could manage, he helped her from the treasury.
Such was the greatness of Erebor's halls that it took them some time to return to the quarters Thráin had extended to them. By that time, Calelassel was weary enough to not protest his encouraging her to lie down and rest – taking her crown and her overcoat to put them safely aside while she wasted not a moment in taking advantage of the well appointed furs and feathered pillows covering their bed. For all of his returning ire with the Dwarves, they did know how to appoint a room in comfort, Thranduil could at least admit - and it was but a moment until she was closing her eyes, even while her spirit pulsed against his own to assure him of her being well, insisting that she needed only the rest that was offered to her.
Thranduil watched her for a long moment, concern for her health turning his mind aside from wounds so many centuries old . . . at least, for a little while.
He found a matching peace slow to come to him, rather, he sat on the edge of the bed and leaned forward to rest his head in his hands. His temples were throbbing after such an effort in constraining the violence of his fëa, and his mind was still a turbulent eddy of past memories and future dreads, so much so that -
“The Nauglamír is as much an heirloom of their people as it is of our own,” Calelassel whispered, still attuned to his thoughts, even when he would rather her focus her energies on her own mind, her own healing. “You will do yourself a harm if you begrudge the King this, and dwell on it in turn.”
“Yet, they will not offer it as a gift in respect and good faith between our peoples because of that . . . that thing worn so boldly upon Thráin's hand,” Thranduil sighed, finding his thoughts churning around this one irrefutable point; this one certain truth. “Gold attracts gold,” he repeated, “and if wisdom does not reign alongside Erebor's king, as wisdom so failed the Kings of Moria . . .”
He sighed, even when Calelassel reached up to tug his right hand free from his temples, drawing him to instead rest his hand on the mattress so that she could entwine her fingers through his own. As always, she was an anchor and strength against his worst thoughts and fears, and yet . . .
“We needs must find the White Wizard,” he finally voiced aloud. “Have Mithrandir press upon Saruman and force him to return from the East – I care not how he goes about it, but this has gone on long enough, and we know . . . we all know who it is we are facing once more. We need no longer hide our words, and speak in riddles and whispers.”
Even so, he could not say the name aloud; he could not force the syllables past his lips. But, rather . . .
It is Sauron and his spirit that has returned; it is Sauron and his will that taints our forests – that spurred forth the Witch-king; that directs the Nine as we speak; that summoned the Balrog; that even now pulses from the Ring of Durin, he instead let that thought – that certainty touch the forefront of his mind as a single truth, for a truth it most certainly would remain. We can deny it no longer.
Yet, for centuries have our eyes been slowly opening to this fact, Calelassel returned, her thoughts weary against his own. Turn your mind from it until we return to our own halls, for your sake as well as my own.
He squeezed her fingers in reply to her words, knowing her to speak wisely. He knew not how long it would take for the White One to return, or for the Wise to convene once more. Yet, until then . . . he would hold his hands tight over all that was his, and endeavor to keep it as safeguarded as he could, this he could vow and uphold absolutely.
He looked down on his wife, seeing where her eyes were even now closed and her breathing deep and even. Only a lingering paleness to her skin gave away her malady, rather than simply proclaiming her to be in comfortable repose. Feeling a twisting in his chest, he lifted a hand to gently touch her cheek, to tuck her hair back from her face and behind her ear once more. With the hand she still held, he felt her fingers flex in reply, and then turn still.
I will be no Thingol . . . no Dior . . . no Elwing, he nonetheless thought as her consciousness faded from his to sink into a true, exhausted sleep, I will not allow myself to be entranced by treasures that pale to the true wealth of that which I hold before me.
Thranduil squeezed her hand one last time, before abandoning his stiff posture on the edge of the bed to lay down next to her. He did not intend on sleep, but if he could hold her and ensure that her dreams stayed fair in the few hours she would have to rest . . .
He let out a deep breath as she instinctively sought him out in her sleep, molding her body to his own in a comfortable tangle of limbs. He held her even tighter as her sleep deepened, ready to begin his vigil. He kept his eyes open, fixed on the ceiling above as the far off thunder of the forges pounded as a counterpoint to his own heartbeat. The ceiling above them was a rich mosaic of dark sapphires and gleaming diamonds – a gaudy display of wealth that nonetheless unerringly mimicked the glory of a starry night sky in the beginning of all things.
And, with a flickering of knowing, he acknowledged the truth as he knew it to be: Unless Erebor's king reigns in wisdom, and casts the Ring aside, these halls will last no longer than Moria. And . . . upon that day, I will not mourn when such a power falls.
Scatha and Fram: Unfortunately, I did not make a word of that up. The Éothéod – the earliest people of Rohan, when they lived in the north – were hazed by the dragon Scatha, and Fram Frumgar's son finally slew the dragon in defense of his people. The Dwarves, however, claimed the horde Scatha slept on as one of their own, and demanded it returned. Fram refused, and gave them only the teeth of Scatha as a 'jewel beyond compare' in reply. The Dwarves did later kill Fram for this insult (or they claimed too), and thus, there was never any love between the Dwarves and Rohan – as you can see with Éomer's first encounter with Gimli in TTT. While it may have seemed as if I was being harsh on Thráin in the text, I was actually giving him the benefit of the doubt with their intentions of sharing that treasure.
Speaking of . . .
Thráin I: Son of Náin I, and not to be confused with Thráin II Thrór's son, father of Thorin II Oakenshield. The history of Erebor as I related here is straight from canon; mere years after the defeat of the Witch-king, the Balrog took Moria when the Dwarves mined too deep, and the surviving Longbeards relocated to Erebor. Also canon is their use of the First of the Seven Rings – which was no doubt waking up at this time, as Sauron's spirit was also growing, and most certainly the root for many of the problems that befell the folk of Durin from that point on. I do think that Thráin would have presented himself better, had he not been wearing the Ring – as we see with both Thrór and Thráin II in later years.
Doriath vs. Nogrod: Is just how I relayed it here and in other chapters. While you can blame the rashness of the Dwarves' actions on the influence of the Silmaril, it was still one of the worst deeds of the First Age, and the only fault of the Elves I can see is how they dealt with their hate and prejudice in later days. Thranduil is getting a grip on himself here – just barely - but, unfortunately, when things continue to go downhill for his people in later years, you can see how his patience with his Dwarven neighbors will wane as well.
Ginnar First-father: I wrote him as the first King of Belegost in my Melian/Thingol arch of stories, and here he is in memory again.
The Arkenstone: Sorry, you cannot tell me that the 'heart of the mountain' it is not Maedhros' Silmaril! That has been my head-canon for years, and while I have avoided writing about it until now, here it is. The very shape of Middle-earth was altered after the War of Wrath – which was the entire reason Maedhros was able to pull off his suicide via heart of the earth in the first place. I could see the Silmaril being lost in the core/mantle of Arda and then resurfacing thousands of years later when the Dwarves mined Erebor; and it most certainly also explain the fascination and luring qualities that the Arkenstone bears on its possessors. Poor Thorin never had a chance in the light of the forces stacked against him and his line!
The Nauglamír: When I first came up with this plot arch, only AUJ was out, and I was fascinated by the necklace Thranduil wanted from Erebor – as it would also explain the line from the Hobbit that said that the Elven-king was greedy for white crystals and blue stones. While I saw what Jackson tried to touch on in BoFA, taking Thingol's story and giving it to Thranduil underneath copyright constrictions (changing the tale to Thranduil commissioning the necklace for his wife, and the Dwarves refusing to give it to him when payment was disputed – and Thranduil becoming obsessive with the necklace after his wife's death. Unfortunately, this was a plot which was lost, as so many plots in that movie were, underneath the hours of battle-footage ), I still decided to keep my original idea, even if it was technically the more far-fetched of the two.
. . . but, if the Silmaril could make its way to Erebor, then why not the Nauglamír too? Especially if the Dwarves had the Ring of Durin leading them to riches in the mountain? My own history for the necklace is a bit different from the published Silmarillion - where it was made by the Dwarves of the Blue Mountains, then gifted to Finrod, then taken by Húrin from the ruins of Nargothrond and given to Thingol in mocking 'payment' for Doriath's care of his family. (I know, that's a mouthful! ) My version of its history is simpler, and stumbled upon, once again when I wrote Ginnar's bit part in my Melian/Thingol plot arc. You can take it or leave it as your own.
Calelassel's Sickness: I wished that this was touched on more in the Hobbit movies, but just as the Dwarves were bound to their ancestral homes, the Elves were bound heart and soul to their forest, and as their forest sickens . . . well, you can fill in the blanks from there. The Greenwood is not a happy place to be in the next thousand years, sad to say, though we will touch more on that in ficlets to come . . .
Mira_Jade - your writing is so eloquent & gorgeous! Calelassel's sickness ouch, ouch! She is another bit of proof that behind every great man is an inspiring woman.
Bravo on showing the facets of the looming threat and the tensions between Elves & Dwarves.
On a techie note, I see the title bar update thingy is still a problem.
Wondrous insight in the Elves and their relations with the Dwarves.
Mira_Jade - I got page 1 again! They did a server reboot about 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time and it seems to have cleared things up, according to the techs.
Ahh, it has been too long since I wrote one of these. Almost a month.
Nyota's Heart: There are no truer words than that! I have had a blast writing Calelassel's story, that's for sure. As always, I thank you so very much for reading, and taking the time to leave your thoughts.
earlybird-obi-wan: Thank-you. It is a most turbulent history, that's for sure!
I am skipping over the Tangled prompt (which is turning into a beast, so I need to step back from it for now ), to write for the Thaw prompt. When writing my epic of a Celebrimbor one-shot, [link=http://boards.theforce.net/threads/...se-years-celebrimbor-epic-one-shot.50029482/]"I have been hungry all these years"[/link] - which was originally intended for this thread before the word count rose past the point of no return , I had a stray idea for a scene hit me, and this came out as a result. This was my first time writing from Curufin's POV, and also my first time dabbling in this time-period - after the Fifth Battle and before the Second Kinslaying, so both were a fun exercise for my muse.
That said, I hope that you enjoy my latest ficlet, and I thank you for reading!
(Also, just a few names for this one . . .)
“and came my way no more”
At first, the whispers from Nargothrond were such that could not be believed.
Yet, more and more were those who'd once welcomed Fëanorian dominion over their heads trickling into their last stronghold of Amon Ereb; ill at ease with Orodreth's compliant leadership, and uncomfortably certain that the insistences of the mortal man Mormegil would lead the kingdom to its doom. Curufin had held his own disbelief at the first – for their half-cousin was not one who favored such rash methods of open warfare, and the idea of quiet, practical Orodreth arming his men for marching against Morgoth - long after their efforts would do any good – was all but laughable to any who knew him well.
Yet, in the last days of autumn, news of Nargothrond's fall finally came. Such was the unexpectedness of the scout's report that Celegorm's disbelieved, delighted laughter in reply was a startling thing to them all. He toasted the uncertain looking scout, and spat on the floor in memory of the kingdom where he'd known his biggest disgrace; proclaiming his satisfaction for Finrod's dear realm meeting such an end for all in the Great Hall to hear. Such was the suddenness of his outburst that many of the supping elves looked to where the sons of Fëanor sat on an upraised dais at the head of the hall – for but a scant few years had passed since their absolute defeat in the Fifth Battle, and rare had laughter been heard since then, true or otherwise.
Maedhros looked askance at his brother, as if Celegorm's cruel brand of amusement was an affront to the pall he'd seemingly worn about his shoulders since their defeat and Fingon's death. The harsh lines of their eldest brother's face sharpened, but even his hissed rebuke of Tyelkormo, cease did little to quell Celegorm's mirth. Nargothrond was one of their last hopes for allies when – (and more accurately if, Curufin was pragmatic enough to admit) – they mustered themselves to march on Angband anew. Now their hope of reclaiming Morgoth's crown and the remaining two Silmarils therein was further away than ever, and everyone in the hall acutely felt the precarious position of their power, balanced upon a knife's blade as it was.
Curufin did not need the sharp dexterity of his mind to know where Celegorm's argument would next turn. Since their losses suffered at the Nírnaeth Arnoediad – losses that Thingol's might would have prevented, had his alliance with Lúthien come to fruition; losses that Nargothrond's full aid may have prevented - his rage had been hot, and his eye had ever been turned upon Doriath, wanting as he did to lay the Hidden Realm low and take the Silmaril of Lúthien - by force, if necessary. While Maedhros' hopes of Thingol's returning the gem out of gratitude once they vanquished the threat of Morgoth had since proved to be for naught, he was still slow to turn his hand in violence towards another elven realm, no matter that they all knew where their course would eventually lie. Not until Lúthien found peace in mortal death would they strike – for this Maedhros tried to stall, not wanting their House to heap any more pain or indignity upon her shoulders until such a time had passed. And so, for that day Celegorm would wait, and Curufin . . .
While he too wished for the fulfillment of their Oath – such was a wanting he could feel with every beat of his heart and every pulse of his blood – he did not care for the hold the Sindarin witch still held over his brother's mind. First and foremost was his concern for Celegorm's health and happiness, and this mere woman - just like the one before her, whose name he would not mention, not even within his own mind - had done much to take both from him. If Curufin could stay his course as long as he could, he would.
Yet, this time he did not need to fabricate an excuse to distract his brother. For, almost without thinking, the words slipped from his mouth, and he asked, “What news have you of survivors?” in a voice that held little of the bland disinterest and haughty command he'd first intended for it to.
The scout looked up to him with apologetic eyes. “We know only that Orodreth Finarfinion was slain in battle, and Finduilas his daughter was taken as a thrall for Angband. Such is the onset of winter that I could not risk sending more of my men out to search for further news.”
Even to the relative south, the hills were bemired with cold storms that were already giving way to ice and snow – even before the technical onset of winter. It would be a fierce season, this was a truth they could all feel in their bones; the worst winter they had yet to see in their years upon Endórë.
Curufin frowned, and pressed his palms flat against the table. He looked down, but found that his meal had gone cold to his eyes. His wine held no temptation within his cup. He . . . he did not feel the sort of sundering in his spirit he'd felt when his father had died, and even though his son had foresworn his name and cast aside the blood that bore him, Curufin still felt that he would know if something had happened. He was still his father; such remained his right.
It was Maglor who looked on him with understanding in his soft grey eyes. “If there were survivors, I am certain that Telperinquar would be amongst them. He is still of our father's blood, and he would not have fallen so easily.”
Even so . . .
Curufin forced his expression into a dull mask of apathy, and picked up his knife again. “I know not of whom you speak,” he stated tersely, his voice brokering no room for argument, and went about cutting his quail into bite sized pieces once more. He did not look up after that, and his brothers' eyes eventually turned away from him – they each thinking to leave him to his grief.
Yet, Curufin simply took a long swallow of his wine before gesturing for more. He did not bother to correct them as an anger, hot and potent, stole through his veins as fire. Foolish, stupid boy, he nonetheless berated within his mind, unable – and unwilling – to let his thoughts stray any more than that.
It turned to be a fierce winter indeed, a Fell Winter, with ice and snows and freezing temperatures turning the land inhospitable to Orc and Elf and Man-kind alike. By the time the spring hesitantly came upon the land anew - as a hush after a storm - Celegorm was all but bristling within his skin, and Curufin held a restlessness in his bones to match. Before the snows wholly melted, they were already saddling up their horses and preparing to descend into the wild once more – the only place where Celegorm could quiet the restless, fey cast of his blood with the thrill of the hunt and the comfort of the wilderness he had been born to. Curufin came, not out of a matching love, so much, but because he would not let his brother suffer through his fell moods alone. Instead, he would be able to watch over him out as a shield and a companion both – as he had done so a hundred times before, and would do so a hundred times again.
They left the fortress of Amon Ereb behind before the sun wholly rose over the thawing land, but when Celegorm wished to push east to the River-lands (where she dwelt, this Curufin plainly understood), he instead angled his horse to the west – telling himself that he only wished to keep his brother from her, and nothing more.
Days passed, and they followed the hills of Andram to the west. The game was scarce, but that mattered little to Celegorm, who instead gloried in the cold sunlight upon his face and the surety of a horse underneath him; basking in the freedom of the land open and waiting before him once more. This was an empty country; a no-man's land, as so much of Beleriand was since Morgoth broke their leaguer in the North. The remaining Men and Elves lived in secret clusters while the Dwarves kept to their mines; with the very land itself seemingly holding its breath for what would happen next. For the first, Curufin was unsure of the fate of Middle-earth as a whole, and told himself that he cared only for one thing: the fate of his Oath. The rest of the world could live and die from there, and he cared not. He could not.
The passed the gates of Sirion, and spent many a day by the high tiers of waterfalls there, watching where the rushing silver-blue waters pushed through their thick veils of melting white ice. The sight of the breaking freeze was dramatic and stirring, and once, years ago – a lifetime ago – Curufin would have fought the urge to capture the scene in some form of art or another. For now, he simply fiddled with the reins in his hands, and cast his eyes away.
The mud on the riverside was thick from the melting of the snow, and it sucked at the hooves of their horses as they made their way down the path. Around them, hardy shoots of grass started to peek through the mire, while the trees budded as if hesitant of their right to do so. The sun was just starting to warm over their backs, waking the world anew, and though Curufin would hardly admit his hope - even to himself - he nonetheless wondered, and from that wondering knew . . .
If there were survivors from Nargothrond, some far, distant part of his mind reasoned, they would not have been able to make their way to the shore and Círdan's folk with such a winter preventing their traveling. Rather, they would have hidden in the caves surrounding the falls of Sirion, and from there waited for the spring, hopefully surviving to make that final, desperate push to Balar and relative safety in the court of the child-king Ereinion – who was just now being known as Gil-galad. If his suspicions were correct, they would just now be moving from their hiding places, and for such, his senses were ever turned to the path before him - as if he could conjure that which he wanted to see into existence through force of his will alone.
Curufin frowned when each passing day revealed more of Orcs and other unsavory creatures than of the natural residents of the forest. Nargothrond had been a key strategic point in their continued defense against Morgoth, and now . . .
. . . but he squared his jaw, and let his mind wander down that path no more.
“I do not know what you hope to find,” Celegorm muttered when he bid them spend just one day more in that unkind country. “Or,” he added, neither cruelty or hope upon his lips, but rather a blunt, uncomfortable honesty, “what welcome you expect if you do find him.”
But Curufin did not acknowledge his brother's words. He was only silent as he stared into the dark, certain that just beyond them . . . somewhere . . .
His bond with his son had been dim since that long ago day in Nargothrond, when Celebrimbor had thrown his name and his heritage back at his father and proclaimed that he wanted not of a place upon his path, not any more. With a vengeful sort of anger, Curufin had hoped that the loss was more a wound to his son than to him, but now . . .
. . . he sought out that dull place in his spirit, as if moving ashes to stoke the remnants of some stubbornly burning ember. The connection was still there, no matter what words had been spoken aloud; for his son would be able to truly disown his name only if he somehow found a way to cast aside every drop of blood flowing within his veins. Curufin could feel his child as if through a haze, sensing him through a thick fog – never mind that there were moments when he imagined that their connection strained, as if tugging. Distantly, he remembered the faint tightening to his senses that was always followed by his son seeking out he and his wife after black dreams in the night, and this was so similar that for a moment he was unable to breathe – before swallowing, and pushing his memories away with a practice long born out of determination. Memories of his wife, based in mourning and missing; memories of his son, were an affront to his Oath. Even more so, they dishonored the father who had loved him, and whom he had all but worshiped in return. He would not turn aside from Fëanor's path, not when they were at last so close . . .
. . . but so close to what? The thought was an ominous one, brushing against his senses with a telling sense of foreboding before he forced his mind to stillness once more.
They came as far west and south as Nan-Tathren – the Land of Willows where the rivers Narog and Sirion met in a rush of white water and breaking silver ice. There they camped, and determined that they would turn back east come morning. Curufin settled down for a long night, little noticing the cold that settled into his bones when he felt it again: that tightening upon his senses. That tugging.
. . . and he knew.
His eyes snapped open, and wordlessly he found his feet again. He looked to see that Celegorm was already awake – he having never tried to sleep in the first place – and inclining his head towards the west.
“Just on this side of the river Narog; no doubt waiting to cross come the thaw,” Celegorm muttered. “But,” he added, just as Curufin felt another presence on the wind – fell and ominous and hungry, “they are not alone.”
Tightening his jaw, Curufin sighed, not yet ready to form his reply.
“We would do best to depart tonight,” Celegorm rolled his shoulders in an apathetic shrug. “Let the survivors of Nagothrond live or die; it matters not to us.”
Still Curufin was silent. He did not move.
“Soon,” was all he said to his brother. “But first . . .”
“Curvo,” Celegorm exhaled through his teeth, understanding his intentions. “This is not -”
“ - healthy?” Curufin returned, his eyes flashing as he turned on his brother. “Just as I would say if you haunted Lúthien's isle as you originally intended to do; yet, would you have listened to me? Telperinquar is of my blood, he is born of me, and I've a right to see if he lives and fares well or not.”
“Telpe is no longer of our blood by choice,” Celegorm snapped, his eyes terribly grey as they narrowed, meeting his gaze over the scant warmth of their dwindling fire. For many years, not a flickering of green had been therein to see. “He will welcome his Kinslayer father not, and I would not see you put yourself through such an encounter if I could prevent it.”
For a moment, Curufin was silent. He paused.
“Just a glance,” he at last decided. “My mind will not let me a moment's rest otherwise.” His pretending – his years of careful masks - they gave way then, and he knew the truth of his words as a wanting that nearly rivaled his desire to see their father's Silmarils returned to their hands. He only knew that he needed . . . and in that moment he was ready to do nearly anything to see that need fulfilled.
Celegorm held his jaw stiffly, but he nodded, albeit grudgingly. Curufin did not wait a moment before saddling his horse, and he did not glance behind to see if he was followed. A moment later he heard the steady hoof-beats of his brother's courser, and knew that Celegorm would continue on where he led, at least for a little while longer.
They finally came upon an encampment of nearly five dozen elves amongst the willow trees. Each looked weary, with clothes and supplies that had seen better days before the Fell Winter they had endured in the wild. For a moment, Curufin was surprised to see that so few had survived from Nargothrond's once teaming populace. He ground his teeth together, cursing first Finrod and then Orodreth as he remembered the beautiful kingdom of carven halls. That impregnable realm could have been such a strength, such an asset to their continued siege of Morgoth in the North. And yet, now . . .
But his thoughts of pieces upon the larger board of shifting power in Beleriand were interrupted by the warm tenor of a familiar voice, speaking through the moonlight. Curufin inhaled, and did not let out his breath as he kept himself perfectly still, not wanting to move lest he missed . . .
His son, walking through the camp of Nargothrond's survivors. He looked, and with greedy eyes, he saw that Celebrimbor was apparently untouched and healthy to his eyes. As he had the day he was born, Curufin looked and saw four perfect limbs, with fingers and toes to the counting; taking in the eyes that were caught between his own grey and his mother's blue, burdened by the changing of the seasons, but otherwise unharmed and untouched. Celebrimbor had suffered not from the battle in any physical way, and Curufin let loose a breath he had not known himself to be holding – for while he had known that his child was alive, there were worse horrors to be endured than merely death alone, and if Celebrimbor had born scars, or worse, been one of those taken to Angband alive to endure a living death . . .
. . . how Morgoth would have delighted to have a son of Fëanor's blood within his clutches once more, Curufin sickened to imagine. How sweetly the dread Vala would have rejoiced, and for that rejoicing . . .
Curufin found his fists tightening without his realizing that he curled his fingers in the first place. He felt his fëa lick against the surface of his skin; his fey spirit aggravated for even the thought, before he let his breath out slow. His lungs ached around the motion, no matter how necessary it was for life and its living, and his heartbeat was a racing thing within his chest.
He looked, and though his son was dressed in thread-bare clothes, wrapped in a bear-skin that was freshly hunted, his hair dull and no finery worn about him, those he passed looked up at him with respect and gratitude shining from their eyes. It took Curufin a moment to realize that his son was the de facto leader of this small group, and they credited him for their rescue and even now looked to him for their continued survival in the wild. It took him several seconds to recognize the fierce lighting in his veins as pride, but pride it was, even if the emotion was not enough to move him from his place – to push him through the trees and force him to hold his son close and whisper his apologies for ever letting anything come between them.
Instead, he merely held himself stiffly; as one with the swaying fronds of the willow trees and the slowly thawing land, his heart yet untouched by the hesitant warming of the spring.
When Celegorm touched his arm, he turned, and though it was a painful thing not to look back and stare, he kept his eyes straight ahead, his vision resolutely centered. He would not let himself be moved.
“They are close,” Celegorm remarked simply. “You do not want to retreat, do you?”
Sharply, Curufin shook his head. “You wanted to hunt, Tyelko, did you not? So let us hunt,” was all he said in reply, but he knew that his brother understood. He would do this one last thing for his son; this one last thing before turning his eyes back to the path his Oath set out before him, and for his doing so . . .
Perhaps Celebrimbor would notice, a small part of him whispered, and through that noticing, know. And, at the very least, his son would be safe to face another day, even while knowing not of the measures taken to secure his well-being. For, such was what fathers ever did for their sons.
And so, Curufin rode close by his brother's side, his hand already making a fist about the hilt of his sword, and did not once look back.
Superb! The drama of greater conflicts mirrored in personal ones and losses and griefs. Excellent selection of a moment in time to focus on. I love also the description of the landscape you provide, of returning spring.
As for the ginormous "Tangled"
tangled indeed, perfect piece
Nyota's Heart: Thank-you! This family is such a tangled knot of conflict and dysfunction, and I love unravelling it. As always, I thank you so very much for reading.
earlybird-obi-wan: That is definitely the best way to describe it.
Tangled is still collecting words (), so I decided to move on to the next NSWFF prompt before I fell behind again tomorrow. For Crescendo, I finally wrote for Maglor and his wife-to-be during the Time of the Trees, with some added Fëanorian drama and heavy foreshadowing to boot. (Such was requested here and elsewhere, and only took me this long to figure out. The musical prompt helped, though. )
First, some handy dandy translations:
Essecarmë: Naming ceremony for baby Elves.
Cooking and Gender: Yep, it's canon, according to the Laws and Customs of the Eldar, that male elves cook, while female elves task themselves with bread-making - mostly, for such is never an absolute rule. Look at Tolkien, being all feminist during a time-period where a woman's place was - for the most part - expected to be cooking and cleaning and minding the children! You gotta love that man.
Nerdanel and the Twins: I have mentioned my head-canon about the toll the twins being born placed on Nerdanel, and the one soul shared between the Ambarussa, more than once - and I actually have a ficlet or two coming up that should explain precisely why that is. But for now, here is this next piece of the puzzle.
“love will see us through our dark, dark days”
It was with a certain amount of trepidation that he stared down his foe. With an ease born of long practice, he stilled the frantic beating of his heart; he forced his hands to stillness. With the same easy grace he knew for a lyre and its strings, he raised his hand, ready to strike -
- only to find that he could not follow through on the blow.
At his side, nimble fingers threaded through his own, granting him both courage and fortitude for the battle to come. He glanced to see Nyarissë smiling a gentle smile, her eyes glittering impishly in the warm light of the late noon.
“You act as if you stand ready to face a foe,” she raised a brow to say. “These are your family, yet you bore less nerves for approaching my father and brothers with your suit. Let me then assure you: I am ready to face them, even if you are not.”
“If you knew my kin,” Makalaurë responded sagely, “you would well understand my trepidation, and share it in kind.”
“Yet, it is a good thing that causes you fear,” Nyarissë only smiled to say. “And I am through with waiting – you have put this off for too long as it is.”
“Today will be a good thing only if you are still by my side when the night is through,” Makalaurë disagreed in a grave tone. “If you were to run, I would understand, and only wish you well on your flight.”
“Such dramatics,” she chuckled to say. “Yet, I already have met your one brother -”
“ - Maitimo is not my brothers,” Makalaurë said cryptically, fighting the urge he had to shudder. “I'm not yet convinced that Nelyo is not half Maia, at that, and if he asked me to walk on water, I would. But . . . sweet Eru, Carnistir alone would be enough for you to -”
“ - want for my place beside you even more?” Nyarissë returned, a quiet strength lining her voice. She held his hand tighter, her thumb passing over his knuckles soothingly, no matter that their words were spoken mostly in jest . . . mostly. “No words, nor actions, from your kindred would be enough to dissuade me of that,” she vowed.
Her words were playful and affectionate, but he could feel the brush of her spirit against his own, and knew that she meant her every word. He felt his own look soften, still quite stupefied as to how he had ended up here - with her – in the first place. He was still amazed, and unsure what he had done to deserve such a blessing in his life. During his first, awkward days in Alqualondë at the Lindar's colleges of music, he had all but ran her over in his attempt to find his scheduled lecture – and for helping her pick up her spilled sheets of music he had most certainly ended up late. But his tardiness had earned him her attention – so much so that he did not even mind when the Master-harpist berated him in front of his fellow students, still as dazed and wondering as he had been.
To his further surprise, Nyarissë's family was one of the main patrons and founding members of that school; her parents were instructors, and she and her brothers were all learned in one form of music or another. Her soul had seem to pluck at his own like the strings of a harp, and their courtship had been fast and breathless from there. Only a sennight ago had he braved the forge to craft the ring he would ask her to become his wife with, and now, if all went well this eve, he would then be free to . . .
He swallowed, feeling a wave of trepidation fill him for his family's approval. His father had been less than thrilled when he finally turned irrevocably against Aulë's path, and while Fëanáro had never disapproved openly, Makalaurë had never once heard him speak of his pride or interest in his decision otherwise. Maitimo had been the only one of his brothers to come and visit him during the last ten years he'd spent in Alqualondë, enjoying Arafinwë and Eärwen's hospitality while he did so, and while he was more than proud to present his (hopefully) soon-to-be-wife to his dearest sibling, for the rest of his brothers . . .
Makalaurë sighed, and finally summoned enough courage to rap the bronze knocker one, twice, and then three times.
He stepped back to wait, glancing to his right to see Nyarissë's nodding in approval. Underneath the warm light of the Trees, her pale blonde hair was the shade of a sandy shore at Laurelin's waning, and the one lock of white hair that grew from her right temple (the result of a childhood accident on the sea-cliffs; the hair had never grown back with pigment after she was healed by Estë's Maiar) was a bright flare of colourless light. Her skin was bronzed by the reflection of the Treelight on the ocean, making the deep-water shade of her eyes even darker than usual. He fancied that he could feel the song of the sea in her soul, even as far as Tirion was from Alqualondë, and locked by dry land as it was. As long as he was with her, the melody of the tide was ever a song that brought him comfort and peace.
. . . such as he most dearly called on now when the door opened to Curufinwë's disinterested stare. Though his fortieth begetting day was only just approaching, his younger brother was already studying to test for the rank of Master-smith underneath Aulë's knowing eyes. While Makalaurë and his brothers each bore their own talents, their skills were the result of hard-work and studious application - only for Curvo did his skills come as easily as breathing, so much like their father, in every way, as he was.
Even now, the younger Curufinwë's mind was clearly somewhere else as his eyes flickered past him to look Nyarissë over once, before turning away, little impressed.
“Laurë is here!” he only paused to shout over his shoulder, not bothering to give them any further greeting than that. “And he brought company.”
With that, he turned and left without waiting for an introduction, his thoughts already clearly returning to whatever task they had interrupted.
Makalaurë flushed as he stared at his brother's back, wanting to explain his sibling's rudeness, but Nyarissë merely tilted her head curiously to the side, and remarked, “He looks astoundingly like . . .”
“My father?” Makalaurë finished for her. He swallowed uncomfortably. “Yes . . . very much so. Only, do not tell him that. Curvo's head is already too big for his shoulders as it is.”
Nyarissë tucked away a smile, and wrapped her fingers more securely about his own. They followed Curufinwë inside, and she glanced this way and that as they walked – finding the residence of Curufinwë Fëanáro less than the intimidating mansion-homes of Tirion; statuesque and untouchable in their pristineness. Rather, his childhood home was an airy and open feat of architecture filled to the brim with comfortable furniture and potted plants and laughing fountains showcasing his mother's work. The design was sprawling and wide, for with every child – or developing interest that child showed – Fëanáro had merely decided to add on to the existing structure, rather than building anew – as if eager to bend his mind to the properties of space and its use.
As ever, Makalaurë inhaled deeply, already feeling the embrace of home wrap around his senses when he smelled the herbs from his mother's summer garden, alongside the warm scent of freshly breaking bread from the kitchens. The kitchens, where -
Sure enough, Curufinwë ducked under Tyelkormo's attempt to ruffle his hair as he passed. “Thanks for that, little one,” Tyelkormo teased – an endearment that had failed to leave Curufinwë with age, as he was the still the shortest of all of the brothers – something that he'd inherited from Grandmother Míriel, if the stories were to be believed.
In contrast, Tyelkormo was the tallest of Fëanáro's sons besides Maitimo – but he surpassed his lithe eldest brother in breadth of frame, as well as nearly matching him in height. His white-gold hair was tied back in a loose braid to prevent it from getting in the way of the vegetables he was cutting, while at his side, the dark haired Carnistir was peeling potatoes with a studious expression.
“We were not expecting you for another hour, Káno,” Tyelkormo greeted brightly, his eyes flickering from him to his guest. Leaning over to wipe his hands on his brother's apron – for Carnistir ever did take his cooking too seriously – he then walked over to wrap Makalaurë in an embrace, before turning to Nyarissë with a lazy smile worn upon his handsome features – turning him from stunningly attractive to devastatingly so. Makalaurë frowned, feeling strangely affronted by the look.
“The roads were fair from Alqualondë,” he replied, stumbling over his suddenly thick tongue as he forced his features from a glare. “We made good time.”
“Yet you still took too long if you were hiding such a beauty from us!” Tyelkormo chided. “Were you afraid of who'd she choose if she met us all earlier than now?” He bent over to kiss the back of Nyarissë's hand, his green-grey eyes glittering wickedly as he did so. “I bid you welcome to the house of Fëanáro, good lady, and hope that you find everything to your liking during your stay.”
Makalaurë only continued to glare, even as Nyarissë gave a patiently amused expression, backing an appropriate step away only when his brother did not immediately let her go. “Tyelkormo, meet Lindananiel Nyarissë,” he nonetheless made the introductions, his tone terse. “Nyarissë, this is my first youngest brother, Turkafinwë Tyelkormo.”
“Though the lady may call me whatever she wishes,” Tyelkormo winked before turning back to the cutting board – wisely moving out of arm's reach before he tempted his normally passive elder brother into hitting him.
“If the lady is wise, she will call you nothing at all, and you will stick to wooing your horses,” Carnistir retorted with a snort. “It already appears as if she has refined taste if she prefers Makalaurë's company.”
“At least I am beloved by my horses,” Tyelkormo was nonplussed to admit. “You, however . . . what was the name of the last girl you tried to court? The one who fled in tears from Ingwë's ballroom last solstice?”
“I was trying to compliment her. It's not my fault if she did not take it that way,” Carnistir muttered under his breath, his expressive face reddening.
Makalaurë shot Tyelkormo a reproving look. “And this,” he pointedly interrupted, “is my second youngest brother, Morifinwë Carnistir.”
Carnistir saluted her with his potato peeler, still glaring at Tyelkormo as he did so. Tyelkormo only snorted, little impressed by his younger brother's ire.
“I see that we are early,” Makalaurë broke in before any more bantering could be traded. “Is there anything we may do to help?”
Carnistir, who had returned to peeling his potatoes with a certain amount of violence, looked mildly alarmed. “By Manwë's bowels, no. You are not to be allowed near any of this.”
“Ay, but I am not that -” Makalaurë protested when Nyarissë blinked, curious as to the sudden vehemence in his brother's voice.
“ - except that you are,” Tyelkormo agreed with Carnistir. His tried, and failed, to suppress a shudder.
“The Crab Cake Disaster of Grandfather Mahtan's begetting day?” Carnistir was all to quick to remind him. “When you poisoned over half of the gathering?”
“And the Midsummer's Massacre of the Pasta,” Tyelkormo added. “Amil could have used those noodles to sculpt in place of her marble, and they would have never given up their shape.”
“Those were not . . .” Makalaurë tried weakly, but he did not have a defense that would come to him.
“It was inedible,” Curufinwë did not look up from where he was sitting at the counter, pouring through a thick textbook, to say so. He blew delicately on his steaming mug of strong black tea before taking a sip, unknowing of – or unaffected by - Makalaurë's venomous look in reply.
“You are one to talk, Curvo,” Makalaurë still found it within himself to return. “You fare little better in the kitchen than me.”
“Which is why I do not cook,” Curufinwë returned simply, still not looking up from his text.
“He can clean a mad dish, though – sparkling glass and sterling silver, every time,” Carnistir continued lightly. “Which is all that you will be allowed to do, Káno.”
“May I help?” at his side, Nyarissë cut in to offer. He felt a glimmer of determination from her spirit, and knew that she was eager to include herself in any way she could.
Carnistir gave her an uncertain look, clearly weighing her ability to contribute to his culinary efforts against his wish not to appear rude in declining.
“I have three brothers, a Telerin father, and a grandmother who is a baker for Olwë's household,” Nyarissë tilted up her head to say so. “Odds are that I can best even you in the kitchen, Morifinwë Carnistir.”
Tyelkormo laughed outright at her challenge, clearly amused as he looked at his darker brother – who too appeared to be tickled by her claim.
“You'll have to forgive me for my dubiousness, good lady,” Carnistir nonetheless recovered himself. “In our family, the fairer sex rarely stands in the kitchen – not even for the bread making. Between Amil, Aunt Findis, and, dear Valar, Irissë -” he shuddered.
“ – mind your tongue about Irissë,” Tyelkormo warned, lifting his knife to point it in a vaguely threatening manner at his brother.
“And you watch your knife-work,” Carnistir returned, glancing down at the cutting board. “The vegetables will not cook evenly if you continue to butcher them as you are.”
“Say a word about my skills with a blade again, and I will see that you are given a true demonstration, Moryo.”
“Is that what you wish Irissë would say?” Carnistir returned with a harsh cackle, and Makalaurë sighed – deeply – and counted to ten.
Predictably, Tyelkormo slammed the knife down, but before he could move to overturn the bowl of potato skins on his brother's head, Maitimo walked into the kitchen. With an ease born of long practice, he pulled Tyelkormo back by the collar of his tunic without even asking what the disturbance was for, keeping him from violence.
“Mind your manners in front of the lady. You do not want to scare her away,” Maitimo counseled out of habit as he swatted at the backs of their heads – for which Tyelkormo and Carnistir both uttered halfhearted protests in reply.
“It would take more than mere words to do away with me,” Nyarissë turned her nose up to say, and after a continued moment's amusement, Carnistir passed her his potato peeler with the utmost seriousness.
Maitimo smiled upon seeing the interaction, and said, “He likes you, if he is trusting you with supper.”
“Peeling potatoes is hardly supper,” Carnistir objected, but he did not disagree with his brother beyond that – for which Makalaurë was quick to notice, and take comfort from.
Maitimo's eyes glittered for his saying so, and he passed behind Nyarissë, touching her shoulder in greeting so as to not distract her from her task before coming to clasp him in a quick embrace. It had been too many months since last they'd seen each other, Makalaurë thought, returning the gesture with affection. His older brother was still dressed in the trappings of the court; with his heavy burgundy robes and his golden circlet still nested upon his braided scarlet hair. From such, he suspected, there was a darker shade to the normally silver-grey shade of his eyes, and his brow was lined with heavy thoughts.
His place in court had fallen on him, for rather did he know that his brother would have preferred to continue upon his path as a lore-master – perfecting his father's alphabet and committing the ways and learnings of their people to writing as he had been doing for years – but the tempestuous cast of Finwë's court as of late had benefited from his sage hand, and he had not been able to turn away his grandfather's request during such a time.
“Trouble in the court of Finwë once more?” Makalaurë asked, and although his words were light, they bore an undernote of concern.
“Nothing more so than usual,” Maitimo would not speak in greater detail; not then. “Today was merely an interesting day – as it ever is when both Atar and Uncle Nolofinwë decide to appear at the same time. Somehow they each got it into their minds that one was being asked to council while the other was not – though Eru knows who started that whisper - and Grandfather was hard pressed to keep their squabbles down. Finno and I ran interference, but, one of these days, their rows will end in violence, of that I am certain.”
“But not today?” Makalaurë asked, raising a knowing brow.
“Not while I have anything to say about it,” Maitimo confirmed, before looking over to where Carnistir had taken the potato peeler from Nyarissë to properly correct her technique. “But we shall speak more about this later. For now, enjoy your time with my soon to be good-sister. I need to change out of these clothes before they suffocate me, then I shall join you.”
Maitimo did not give him time to denounce or confirm his assumption, and Makalaurë felt a curious sort of tightening about his chest as he watched his intended-to-be interact with his brothers – subtly dodging Tyelkormo's harmless flirting and bearing up under Carnistir's prickly demeanor with a grace that even had Curufinwë looking up from his books to observe. It looked right, he could not help but think, as if she was always supposed to be apart of their household, and he stood there watching his family with a soft expression on his face. He reached into his pocket to touch the ring that even now rested there – as if doing so was a talisman against any foul thing that the evening could have thought to throw at them.
Such was the high spirits in the kitchen that Carnistir even let him stir the sauce – not anything more than that, of course, else the unanimous certainty was that he'd find a way to botch supper for them all. Makalaurë bore up under their teasing with good humor, and not even an hour later he joined Curufinwë in setting the table – making sure to set extra places for the two of his fathers apprentices living with their household at the time. He frowned, noticing that there were no places set for his mother's students.
When he asked about the irregularity, Curufinwë was silent, and Carnistir sighed as he sat down his platter of sauteed vegetables. Since the birth of the twins, Carnistir was the eldest of the brothers to live consistently at home, and he had his finger on the pulse of their family more so than the rest of them combined.
“Amil has not taken a new apprentice since the twins were born,” Carnistir said carefully.
“But the Ambarussa are over six months old,” Makalaurë did not understand. He remembered Nerdanel balancing Tyelkormo in her arms when he was but weeks old, attending to her newborn son as she walked around her studio and continued to instruct her students to the best of her abilities – ill as she was to leave them alone for too long.
But longer did she take to return to her duties following Carnistir's birth, Makalaurë recalled with a ghost of memory. And after Curufinwë . . . Nerdanel had not quite been the same since then, and though she had seemed wearier than Makalaurë had ever seen her to be when he returned home for the twins' Essecarmë . . . he'd thought that to be a weariness to pass with time, as it ever did.
He frowned, but was kept from asking of his mother's health – wanting to know more than the vague pleasantries letters had since conveyed – by the arrival of his father.
“Something smells good,” a rich, warm baritone declared – a voice that had he and his brothers lining up behind their places, even as his father's apprentices scrambled to stand at attention at the end of the family line, their bearing rigidly straight and their fingers white-knuckled upon the backs of their chairs.
Fëanáro's presence was one that could be felt, even before his father was seen or heard. The massive cast of his fëa was as a flame, hotly burning, and, as ever, his presence danced across Makalaurë's senses the same as Treelight at the Mingling hour. Better was he able to hold the eyes of the Ainur than his father's gaze for the way the silver-light there burned, for Fëanáro had a way of not looking upon him, but rather through him, seemingly into marrow and vein. When he was a child, young in his days, there had been comfort in the heat of that gaze, but now . . .
He kept a polite expression to his face, and glanced to his side to see how Nyarissë fared. She had wiped her palms on her dress, and was standing poised and tall, doing her best to smile her sincerest smile and look at her someday – hopefully – good-father with the aim to gain his approval. He watched where she blinked, and her spirit tinged with a moment's fascination when Fëanáro entered the dining room – a fascination that Makalaurë could not wholly blame her for. There was a devastatingly terrible beauty about his father – something that was more than the arrogant sculpt of his features and the perfect alignment of his body. Rather, it was the way he was seemingly torn from the belly of the earth – something molten and primal given breath and flesh and form; it was the dangerous sort of grace that seemed to drip from his every movement, and the all but tangible might of his spirit that flooded out to overwhelm everything he all but looked upon. For years Makalaurë had constantly been aware of his father's greatness in both body and mind, and for trying to replicate a similar such greatness, to earn his right to be called the son of such an elemental force of a being . . .
He wiped his own hands on his tunic, and tried to hide that he was as apprehensive as Nyarissë felt.
As was tradition, Fëanáro greeted Maitimo first – which was cold and strained, their interaction no doubt a remnant of whatever incident had occurred at Finwë's court that day – and when his father turned next to him, Makalaurë bowed his head, and said, “Atar,” in a formal greeting.
“Kanafinwë,” Fëanáro blinked, as if surprised to see him. With the events of the day in mind, he was sure that his father had more pressing things weighing upon him, Makalaurë reasoned – it was understandable for something as trifle as a dinner date to be forgotten.
But, whatever disappointment he felt for his father's forgetting was passed aside when Fëanáro ignored his deeping bow to instead wrap him in an embrace. He smelled of smoke and iron – he no doubt having worked out his frustrations in the forge before washing up for dinner, but there was familiarity in the scent; comfort even. His father's body gave off heat like a furnace, and as if he were a child once more, he closed his eyes as he sank into his embrace – for his father never gave such affections halfheartedly, and Makalaurë clung to him, needing that moment to steel himself, to ground himself on the assurance the affection provided, longing as he did to believe that he was as missed as he'd hoped himself to be.
“I had thought that the Lindar would never let you go once they heard you sing,” Fëanáro at last pulled back, smiling to say so. “But, it seems that you have brought one of the Singers away from the sea with you. Such is quite the feat.” He raised a dark brow in interest, his eyes clearly weighing his companion.
And Makalaurë did not have to force himself to stand up straight and tall when he introduced Nyarissë, for his pride in her was real and all-encompassing. “Yes,” he cleared his throat to say. “Atar, this is Lindananiel Nyarissë. Nya, this is my father, Curufinwë Fëanáro, son of Finwë Noldóran and crown prince to his rule.”
“It is a pleasure to meet one of Lúcnando's children,” Fëanáro bowed his head to say in greeting. “Your father is one of the most accomplished harpists I have ever had the pleasure of hearing.”
“He would be honored to hear you say so,” Nyarissë's face flushed prettily as he leaned down to kiss the back of her hand, his every movement as graceful as a flickering tongue of flame.
“And, someday, she will surpass even her father in talent,” Makalaurë could not help but add, pleased to see her blush deepen with his words.
“A match you are for my son, then, for someday I think that he will surpass even the Ainur in propensity for song,” Fëanáro smiled to comment. But he was kept from saying anything more when Carnistir pointedly cleared his throat – no doubt fretting for their dinner cooling overly much, and Fëanáro obediently continued down the line to greet each of his sons.
When he came to Nerdanel's empty place, he stopped and raised a brow. “Is your mother coming down?” he asked, his voice cool and unreadable.
After a moment's hesitation, Carnistir was the one to reply, “No,” in an uncertain voice. He had turned his gaze down underneath the heavy eyes of his sire, and only briefly did he sneak a glance back upwards again.
Fëanáro said nothing, but Makalaurë could feel the churn of his spirit as heat over kindling.
“She had a long night with the Ambarussa, and she is weary,” after seizing his courage, Carnistir took the opportunity to elaborate. For saying so, he boldly stared his father in the eye, but his moment of subtle critique did not last long before he looked away again, his defiance forgotten.
Fëanáro merely held his jaw tightly in reply, and made a sharp gesture to the table. “Your efforts are going cold,” he turned the conversation, and that was that.
After taking a moment to thank Eru for their meal, they sat down to eat, and Fëanáro turned his attention to patiently listen to Nyarissë as she spoke about herself and her family, detailing their work with the colleges and her own accomplishments and ambitions as a musician. Makalaurë listened to her speak with warmth and pride lightening his spirit, near certain that his fëa was rising to glow atop his skin as a light for all to see.
Yet, Fëanáro's eyes were only ever politely interested, and as soon as it was not rude of him to do so, he turned to Curufinwë to ask him about his day's studies, eager as he was to quiz his younger son's mind, and thus judge his readiness for Aulë's trials to come. Makalaurë tried to fight back a wave of disappointment at his doing so – for he had not seen his father since the twins were born, and though he'd kept up a written correspondence with his family, he had hoped . . .
Perhaps sensing his wound – and being truly interested, and desiring of his company, at that – Maitimo was careful to keep up a steady line of chatter, asking about his days in Alqualondë with interest, and sharing about his own time in the court of Tirion in turn. Nyarissë listened attentively, and his brother was mindful of keeping her included – something which he only regretted when Maitimo grinned to share a childhood anecdote or two that were not flattering, in any sense of the word. Yet, there was a naturalness to the conversation that gladdened his heart to see, so much so that Makalaurë imagined that he could not want anything more from that evening. That was, until -
- there was the sound of a baby crying from further within the house.
At first, they paid the sound little heed – for the Ambarussa were still babes in swaddling clothes, and such was to be expected of their few days.
Yet, the crying did not stop as they finished their plates – not even as their dinner was cleared away, and Carnistir and Tyelkormo brought out their dessert of sweet ice. If anything, the crying seemed to turn louder as time went on by, and although everyone at the table tried to keep up a steady chatter of conversation in reply, their topics took on a forced quality as Fëanáro turned all the more silent, his mood visibly darkening with a brooding strain the longer his youngest children cried.
Until, finally, Carnistir stood. “I should see if Amil needs assistance,” he excused himself, but, unexpectedly, Fëanáro slammed a closed fist down on the heavy wooden table. The polished mahogany was of Yavanna's own forest, but even that splintered underneath his blow as the delicate dessert crystal leapt and shook alarmingly in reply.
He said nothing, but the bright grey of his eyes was alight as the white-hot center of a flame as he stood in an abrupt motion. His fëa was as the lashing of a storm against their own spirits, overpowering in might as he turned and left the dining room without a word said for his leaving.
Carnistir glared at his father's back, and looked as if he dearly wished to follow him and speak in his anger. His spirit rippled with a bristling ill-content, yet Maitimo was the one to wisely hold him back, saying, “See to Amil. I will go after Atar.”
Carnistir bit his lip, and fisted his hands. “This is all his fault,” he snapped in a low voice. “This last birth nearly killed Amil to bear – really, he should have known better after Curvo. Yet, he does not care that she suffers now – he just runs like a coward to stare at his Silmarils for hours on end while she wanes before his eyes. It sickens me to -”
“ - Carnë,” Maitimo's voice was sharp as he interrupted. His eyes flickered from where Fëanáro had disappeared, to where Makalaurë still sat in stunned disbelief, his hand white knuckled in Nyarissë's hold. “Now is not the time. Please, see to Amil.”
“Because that is all I ever do,” Carnistir returned hotly, his eyes flashing fire before softening – ever unable as he was to hold onto his rancor against his mother, or youngest brothers, for long. He glared over at Curufinwë. “You should go after Atar. You are the only one he cares to see when he's like this, and Maitimo does not deserve to bear up underneath his temper anymore than he already has today.”
“Why should I?” Curufinwë returned blandly, raising a sharp brow. “It is not my fault that the twins were born outside of sense and reason. I should not have to -”
“ - Curvo,” Maitimo interrupted harshly, his fëa licking with a white-hot flare of anger – almost enough to match their sire's in shape and potency. “You will come with me. Now.”
The wailing cry of the twins punctuated his saying so, and with an oath spoken underneath his breath, Carnistir turned without another word towards their mother's rooms.
Curufinwë too turned, and with a bored expression of indifference, walked off the opposite way. Tyelkormo looked between the feuding parties, for a moment uncertain, before following his younger brother out.
After a moment, Makalaurë slowly stood, Nyarissë's hand finding his arm to rest as an anchor as she followed him in kind. He found Maitimo's eyes, but felt as if it took his brother a moment to truly see him, needing as he did to hesitantly touch Maitimo's spirit with his own for him to focus on him once more.
“Nelyo,” he muttered slowly – hating the words he needed to speak, but unable to push their speaking aside. “What . . . what is it that I do not know?” Or, simply have not admitted, he amended, even if only to himself.
Maitimo looked down, the silver of his eyes darkening as with storm light. “This last pregnancy was difficult on Amil,” he answered slowly. “The twins . . . they are not as they should be, and Amil has not recovered since their birth. Atar . . . I am certain that he blames himself – for surely he must see a reflection of Míriel in this, even though he can speak of such things not. Yet, rather than helping Amil through this . . . all I can say is that he has not been as he once was. After creating the Silmarils . . . with Melkor's incessant visiting and meddling . . . the ever growing frictions in Grandfather's court . . . all of it is building as a crescendo – brewing like a storm from the summer heat, and yet . . .” Maitimo tapered off, helpless as he ran a hand through his hair, clearly overwhelmed.
“I . . . I am sorry,” Makalaurë said after a long moment, guilt turning his voice. “I have been gone while you have had need of me, and I've left you to . . .”
“No,” Maitimo interrupted in a hard voice. “You should have been sent to Alqualondë years ago, and I am glad that you've been able to make your own path – far from the one Atar originally had picked out for you. You've every right to seize the happiness you can.” He turned and looked on Nyarissë significantly, but even the normally comforting cast of her spirit seemed to be far away from him – felt as if from an ocean away - and he instead regretted . . .
“The only thing that can fix Atar – that can fix our parents and their relationship – is they themselves,” Maitimo said firmly. “Now you know, and you can move onwards from there, but there is no sense in lamenting the past – nor in fearing the future, no matter what . . .” but Maitimo could not finish his own words, oppressive as the weight of their foreboding was.
There was then a sharp wailing noise – sounding unnaturally pained, and Makalaurë started to hear it. He turned towards the sound, and said, “I too wish to see Amil,” with determination lining his voice.
Maitimo gave a weak smile in understanding, and touched his shoulder once before following where Fëanáro had left - no doubt to disappear into his workroom once again. And Makalaurë turned, his thoughts distanced and dazed, but still noticing that she had yet to leave his side. Nyarissë's hand remained firmly clasped about his arm as they left the dining room behind, and headed towards his mother's rooms. Never once did she waver.
They arrived to see Nerdanel's sitting room flooded with the waning light of Laurelin. His mother sat by the window, gazing outside without truly seeing – without even blinking as the Trees painted shades of gold over the scarlet flame of her hair and turned the green of her eyes something earthen with the flare of their light. But even the soft lighting could not conceal the shadows darkening her eyes as bruises, nor could it hide the thin, unhealthy shape of her body. Her elbows and wrists were sharp, while her cheekbones were sunken and hollow, at odds with the strong and voluptuous form he'd long since known his mother to bear. Now . . .
Carnistir was trying, unsuccessfully, to rouse Nerdanel – for in a cradle only a few feet from her the Ambarussa were crying – screaming, really – and she did not once blink, she did not once look on her children, let alone move to console them. Such was so far from the warm and caring mother he had always known that -
- Makalaurë turned, and could not bring himself to enter the room.
He held a hand over his eyes, and leaned back against the wall before the entryway, as if he did not enter, then the sight within would not be real. When he looked again, everything would be as it should have been, and he would see . . .
Yet, even as he tried to blind himself to the truth, he could hear Carnistir call out for Nerdanel within. He sounded equal parts frustrated and unsure, and yet, she did not answer him – her son, who was still little more than a child himself, just past his fiftieth year, and already taking so much onto his shoulders . . . After a moment, Carnistir gave up trying in favor of turning to the two babies she was deaf to, shushing and trying to sooth both their aggravated cries as one.
And Makalaurë closed his eyes tightly, wishing that when he opened them again, all would be well, all would be fine, as it once was . . . as it should be now.
. . . but when? some terribly honest voice inside of him whispered. When had his family ever been perfectly normal, perfectly as they should have been? Ever had these fracture lines sundered his family, and now there was simply a harsh light shining through them, showing where they were flawed and wanting in so many ways.
He felt Nyarissë by his side, but wondered – devastated: how could he ever ask her to bind herself to such a family? How could he ever expect to be different than those he was born of; of the name and flaws that ran through his own veins as something barbed and terrible and wanting? How . . .
He did not open his eyes when Nyarissë came to stand next to him, not even when she leaned against the wall by his side and pushed her shoulder against his arm, letting him know of her presence without saying a word. Her spirit gently cradled his own, as the sea-shore hugged the sea, and yet . . .
“If you should not want to stay now, I would understand,” his voice was a low breath of sound, absent of the beauty and might it normally held. He opened his eyes, but could not bring himself to look at her. “After seeing this . . .”
“After seeing what?” she gently returned. “Every family has their imperfections; their good parts and those flawed. This is nothing more than that.”
But it wasn't that simple, it was so much more, he thought as the Ambarussa continued to scream within. It was a broken, helpless sound the babies gave, and it was all the worse for how they cried perfectly in sync, perfectly in harmony with one another, shared as merely one voice was between them.
“You cannot want to bind yourself to this,” he couldn't stop himself from whispering. “You cannot want to . . .”
“Your family is not you; they are merely a part of you,” Nyarissë returned, her voice turning with a low sort of fierceness. “I would not turn away the whole I adore for a mere part that I do not fully understand.”
“Yet . . . you can see as well as I: something is not right, it is not . . . it should not be like this in Aman. We should not be like this here -”
“ - but you are what you are,” Nyarissë returned simply. “As such, you can either confront it, and aid it, or you can close your eyes to its existence and willfully ignore the truth. But,” her hand moved to trail a gentle caress up and down his arm, “if you chose to accept that Arda marred is still Aman within that taint, and see fit to mend what is torn, then you shall not do so alone. When you ask me, I will gladly – and proudly – stand by your side. In this and all things.”
He opened his eyes, and was surprised to find her staring straight at him, holding his gaze with a fearlessness that humbled him to see. Noticing his shock, she smiled a half smile – a sad smile, no matter how true it was. “Do not think that I have not noticed the ring you've been carrying with you,” she was nonetheless happy to point out. “I did not want to rush you, but before your own mind could interfere, I had to seize my moment and tell you that I accept – I will consent to become your wife when you ask me properly. Do not think this to count, Fëanárian.”
She stood up on the tips of her toes to kiss his cheek, before kissing his mouth once, softly, and then standing down again. When she turned from him to enter his mother's rooms, her gaze was very, very bright, and he could feel her spirit against his own as something seeking – and, finally, he let his own answer. He stood up straighter, and opened his eyes – to all that he would see.
He turned, and lingered in the doorway to watch Nyarissë stand next to Carnistir. She reached down into the cradle to take the second of the twins, saying, “Here, allow me,” as she did so.
“No, I -” even so, Carnistir protested. But his brother sounded weary to his own ears, and so, so young as he spoke. Makalaurë felt his heart twist at the sight, wondering how often Carnistir slept or sought his own path for his constantly being devoted to his mother's side in place of his father. He felt his brow furrow at the thought, liking it but little.
“ - yet, you do this often, do you not?” Nyarissë interrupted gently. “It would please me to help. My youngest brother was a fussy baby, too.”
Carnistir looked as if he wished to protest further, but she pointedly turned away from him in favor of glancing at the door and gesturing for him to come in. Understanding her wish, he came in to take the second baby from his brother, his long practice with younger siblings and too many cousins to mention having him automatically know how to hold and how to sooth. This child was no different, he told himself, and he smiled down at the poor, unhappy face, seeing the babe's pale grey eyes blink through tears as Pityo waved his tiny fists in wordless frustration.
He looked, and noticed that the baby Nyarissë held moved in the exact same way . . . at the exact same time as the one he held . . . and tried to accept, rather than judge the strange bond that linked the twins they held.
And so, he did as softly, beautifully, Nyarissë began to sing.
The first time he'd heard her sing, he had not been able to do anything else but listen; struck as he was by the way her voice seemed to wrap around his bones and settle behind the pulse of his heart to seep into his very spirit. He had thought that he first knew his love for her through her song, and his youngest brothers were as immune to her voice as he'd first been – with first one of the twins slowly quieting, and then the other, they each giving matching little hiccups as their identical faces rippled with frowns and then a hesitant sort of peace – as a lull after a storm.
Gently, he added his voice to her wordless song, finding that the dips and turns of her melody came as instinctively to him as breathing. He followed her in harmony as a hushed sort of peace came over the room – so much so that even Nerdanel turned, and took Carnistir's hands in her own to squeeze when he came to sit next to her. Exhausted, his younger brother laid his dark head against their mother's shoulder when awareness came upon her again, and Nerdanel blinked before running her hand through his hair in a comforting gesture.
And, holding Nyarissë's eyes, he continued to sing, slowly warming to the belief that everything, someday, would be okay, so long as he had – and continued to hold onto – what he had right there before him.
Absolutely stunning! Duh.
I love this pairing and their mutual support and courageous love. Nyarisse is a wonderfully wise and gentle life-mate choice!
Maitimo is a strong bulwark of support, as well.
Poignant and gorgeous use of Crescendo.
excellent use of crescendo
Nyota's Heart: These two just grew on my something fierce while writing this - and I'm looking forward to writing more about them in the future, that's for sure! As may be apparent from this beast of a collection, I have quite the crush on Maedhros - my beautifully doomed darling - and writing him trying to hold his family together here was both bitter and sweet.
Because I am once again writing out of order for the NSWFF prompts, we have you set my heart on fire with a bit more abstract use of the prompt. But I was still in a House of Finwë during the years of the Trees mood after the last entry, and so, to explain my head-canon a little bit more I have two ficlets for your reading enjoyment . . .
“stars hide your fires”
Indis had not seen Tirion since her people left its white walls to settle Valmar at the foot of the Holy Mountain; but Finwë had written to her brother, specifically requesting her presence . . . and, while she could find the strength in her heart to deny any wish of his, she was another matter entirely, and when Míriel beckoned . . .
She gathered only what she needed to carry with her, and set out from Valmar without pausing to answer the questions hidden in Ingwë's eyes. She could not speak when she did not have answers herself – or, rather, the voice to utter the truths she knew to be inscribed deep within her, seemingly written on her very bones.
When she entered the Queen's chambers, Finwë was thankfully not there. Instead, there was only Míriel, sitting on a cushioned couch by one of the floor to ceiling windows and staring out at the waning light of the Trees. There was no other light in the room but for the Mingling, and Indis watched as Laurelin threw flame against the white-gold of her hair and Telperion painted silver in the soft grey of her eyes. She thought, for a moment, that their light was the only colour Míriel possessed, dressed as she was in white and pale, so very pale – as if they dwelt underneath the Starlight once more, with naught of the true Light to darken their skin with its vigor and life.
But Indis' eyes fell to where Míriel had paused in her weaving – an outfit for an infant, her bruised heart noticed – in favor of placing her hands over the swollen bulge of her stomach. Her fingertips were white, however, as if she did not touch to sooth the child she carried, but, rather, endeavored to hold both herself and the baby together. Indis paused by the door for seeing so, uncertain.
“It smells as the clearing did the first time Imin decided to play with spices,” Indis nonetheless forced her own feelings – her own petty longings – aside in order to smile and say. She raised a pale brow when Míriel turned to meet her eyes, fondness lightening the weary expression upon her face.
“It is an incense my midwives tell me the Teleri burn in the south,” Míriel confessed dryly. “To sooth the fëar of the unborn.”
“While caring not about the nose of the mother?” Indis returned playfully.
Míriel's eyes twinkled. Indis came closer, and noticed the dark shadows underneath her gaze with a sinking feeling. Her once strong and healthy form was now thin, with her elbows and wrists poking through the sleeves of her gown and her cheekbones hollowed out near to cutting. It looked, Indis thought with a glimmer of dark thought, as if her child was sucking everything from her, and keeping it all for himself – allowing nothing of her own for his mother to keep.
“If it soothes him, I would count any such assault on my senses a worthy sacrifice,” Míriel admitted, noticing her stare. She winced before she could respond further, however, and Indis looked down to where her child was active – able as she was to see a strong foot kick, the thin cloth of her dress disguising the rippling across her stomach but little.
“There is a need for such soothing?” Indis asked carefully, delicately – what was whispered as rumor from Tirion to Valmar suddenly made real before her.
Míriel was quiet for a moment, a long moment, and Indis took her seat next to her – feeling once more as if they both slept on the ground across the Sea, and whispered of their hopes for the future, wondering what fair Aman would grant to them as Finwë told them tales of the glory of the Trees over and over again. So full had Indis felt in those days, so complete, and now . . .
Ever a three fold strand had they been, and though she knew it was wrong to feel so, to want . . .
She swallowed, and hated that there was a pain her friend suffered that she could not sooth; that there was a hurt afflicting her that she could not assuage. And Míriel only smiled a sad smile in answer to the unspoken, and reached over to grasp her wrist. With a moment's question in her eyes, Míriel drew her hand to rest on the curve of her stomach, to feel . . .
Indis flinched at the scalding sensation that met the palm of her hand, momentarily taken aback. “Such a warmth . . .” she muttered, astounded. She had not been around expecting women enough to know the norm from the not, and yet, this . . .
“Such a heat is my child,” Míriel defined more accurately. “There are days when I feel as if he shall burn a hole through me. When his light leaves me I am certain that all will be dark again . . . as it was before, and I fear . . .”
But Míriel closed her mouth, and narrowed her eyes with a hard determination - one that Indis was more familiar with. Ever had Míriel been a stubborn flame, brightly burning, and now . . .
“What have Estë's Maiar said?” she asked, her people's faith in the Ainur then shining bright. “For, surely . . .”
“They are as baffled as we are,” Míriel confessed. “Somehow, my child has simply taken too much of my soul – such a thing is unheard of, and should be as far from the night as the noon. And yet . . . Aman is still Arda, and so long as this land bears its taint . . . even something as simple and joyful as bringing a child into the world is now marred as Arda is marred, and it is left to us to bear up underneath that burden.”
Her fingers pressed against her own as Indis felt the child within give a mighty kick, and even she could feel how the movement of the child burned. It was as if her friend held a flame in her womb, a star; incandescent in its glory and light.
“Finwë bears through beside me with good cheer, but I can see that it is at times forced,” Míriel's voice fell to a whisper to confess, honesty creating a terrible truth from her mouth. “Already he holds me as if trying to keep me with him by force, and someday I fear . . . I fear that it shall not be enough.”
She leaned forward, weary, and Indis shifted to let her lay her head against her shoulder. Automatically, she reached up to run a hand through her friend's hair, wanting so dearly to sooth that which was as a wound before her. She closed her eyes, and felt that they were burning. Her eyelashes closed against tears.
“I am so tired,” Míriel confessed, her whisper so soft that Indis felt the thought from her mind, more than heard it spoken aloud. “I am so very tired, all the time now . . . There is naught I want to do but sleep, it sometime seems.”
“Then rest,” Indis shushed her. “Rest. . . . close your eyes, if you wish. I will remain here.”
She felt Míriel's hands fist in the material of her gown, as if she were an anchor on a swelling sea. Though doing so - being here at all - was as a tearing in her own heart, if she could but provide solace and comfort in the smallest of ways . . . she would. She would be strong enough for her friend – for both of them.
Marred . . . mistakes . . . she reflected. And yet, she could not quite believe that the love that defined her was an adverse effect of creation. The One could not disapprove what was the center of her very existence; the root of her being, and her reason for belonging. She did not know how she could exist without her love, even as unfulfilled as it was.
“You have been away for so long,” Míriel found it within her to whisper. “We had such dreams for reaching Aman, such expectations and plans . . . but, now . . .” She swallowed, and a long moment passed before she asked, “Would you sing for me? He quiets for songs, and you always did have the most lovely voice.”
Indis could deny Míriel nothing, and so, softly, she started to sing – not one of the polished and pretty songs of devotion and grace her kindred sang to the Valar at the foot of their mountain, but rather, one of the star-songs from across the Sea. The song was composed when their language was still young, and the words were raw and unpolished as a result. The feeling the song carried with it was more primal, more real, as everything had then seemed new and ripe for the picking. There was hope and wonder in the song for the idea of the Light across the Sea, even if, now . . .
When Míriel further relaxed to rest her head against her chest, Indis could feel where she wept silent tears. She closed her own eyes in answer, merely holding her closer as her child continued to burn as a star between them.
The coolness of the day was refreshing; this being as close to autumn as the central regions of Aman ever came to experiencing. Yet, Nerdanel felt sweat bead on her brow as if she instead walked through the heart of her husband's forge on a hot summer's day.
At last, she had to pause and take a moment's rest – stopping in one of Tirion's bustling market squares to sit on the rim of the large, ornate fountain that dominated the center of the space. She glanced up at the sculpture of Vairë in the center of the pool, where, from the dozens of threads she held, laughing jets of water leapt and played as they splashed down into the pool below. At Vairë's feet, listening to all the Vala had to say with a beautiful and fierce pride, was a woman Nerdanel knew only by the shadow she left in the face of her husband. In death, Míriel Þerindë cast a shadow that was as potent as the one she bore in life, and Nerdanel wondered at the coincidence of her body needing to rest here, of all places.
She sighed, and reached up to move a loose curl of fiery red hair back from her face, escaped from the haphazard tie she had restrained it in. Her hair stuck to her forehead, and she had to breathe in deeply, feeling as if she had just run from her father's forge to Tirion and back. Once, she reflected grimly, such an endeavor would not have wearied her, but now . . .
Nerdanel winced, and settled herself so that she was not sitting in such a way to strain her back. She then glared at the package that had caused her fatigue – inwardly cursing her stubbornness that had wanted to start sculpting the beautiful block of red onyx that afternoon, rather than waiting for one of Alasto's workmen to deliver the stone to her the following day.
Once was, she could carry three times as much stone without breaking a sweat. Yet, now . . .
She sighed – again – and nudged the block of onyx with the toe of her boot, disgruntled.
When her body temperature still refused to cool, she turned her torso so that she could run a hand through the cold water of the fountain. She glanced, and found Míriel to be staring at her as she did so, her eyes of stone knowing everything without her speaking a word aloud. Nerdanel looked away after a moment, but the once-queen continued to stare; she felt her gaze as a burning between her shoulder-blades.
Sighing, Nerdanel pressed her opposite hand to her still flat stomach, and bit her lip, feeling as if there was already a leaping flame burning underneath her skin. Such was as she had not felt with any of her children until Curufinwë – who had been his father's son in every possible way - and now . . .
She looked up, suddenly self-conscious for the gesture being noticed – not at all caring for this particular news to be public knowledge just yet. But she was interrupted from her pondering when a familiar shadow paused before her, blocking the Light of the Trees, even as his smiling eyes leapt with a warmth of their own.
“This always was one of my favourite sculptures of Míriel,” Finwë said by way of greeting. “She had not cared for it much in life, and yet, she ever was unimpressed by anything that bore her likeness.”
“This was one of the sculptures that made me first want to pursue my art,” Nerdanel confessed, matching the fondness in her good-father's voice. “Though such is a calling that I am now regretting at the moment.” She looked down at the onyx as she spoke, her gaze hardening to match the stone blow for blow.
“Ah,” Finwë said, glancing down at the raw stone in understanding. For a moment, his expression was unreadable, and she saw a shadow touch his brow underneath the weight of his crown. He looked startlingly like Fëanáro as he frowned, she thought - though he was the heat of a star's core, where her husband was something seemingly torn from the mantle of the earth to her senses. “Amongst the Teleri in the south, onyx is said to be nocuous to expecting mothers,” he remarked slowly – carefully.
So Fëanáro had told him. She sighed, and looked down, unable to meet the Noldor-king's eyes. “Amongst my mother's kin in the north, onyx is a talisman said to ease pregnancy,” she countered with a forced brightness to her voice. “We shall see which superstition proves true by the time this child is born.”
She frowned as she felt the light of her son – another male, she thought with a flare of fond long-suffering – fluctuate at her saying so. So bright was this child of hers already, with a fëa that was more flame than the warm little spirits she could touch and be touched by through all of her pregnancies to date.
Already did this child seem to burn through both her fëa and hröa as something living, and she wondered what would be left of herself in his wake. Nonetheless, she pressed her hand against her stomach, feeling a queer determination fill her. No matter the dangers, the fact remained that this child was here now, and she would give very life in order to care for him to the best of her ability. Nothing else could match that truth in her heart.
“I knew my son to be ambitious,” Finwë remarked after a careful moment. “But I expected no more grandchildren from my eldest after the pains Curvo's delivery brought you. I had thought my son to know the wisdom in this too.”
There was a subtle rebuke in his voice, and Nerdanel bit her lip at his tone. So, Fëanáro had not told him that, then. She sighed, and fought the urge she had to rub at her temples, weary as she was.
“Ambitious?” she repeated, forcing her voice to a level tone. “My mother called me foolish, along with a few choice words for my husband over my condition. And yet . . .” she opened her mouth to say more, but doing so felt like a betrayal, and she could not find the words.
“What more is there?” Finwë asked gently, taking a seat next to her on the rim of the fountain. “I felt that Fëanáro was holding back from me, and yet, I . . . I hold experience in this regard, and if my worst days can but lessen his pains – your pains – I would count them to be worth the shadow they cast, once more.”
For a moment, she thought that she would not speak – that she could not speak. Yet, she'd held upright underneath this burden for so long now – trying to stand for two as she soothed her husband's mind and fractured fëa with the grace of her own light and strength. Now . . .
The last few decades had been such a strain upon their marriage and their family as a whole. She knew not what her husband's mind was consumed with at times, and ever since he had locked himself away – for nearly six months time – to birth his Silmarils in a fit of seemingly divine inspiration . . . During those days, all she had been able to feel from her husband was such a devouring light. She could not reach him - not through speech, nor through the bond that connected their souls. She could not move him from his labours, not even for food or rest for the trance that had taken him, and so, when the Silmarils were at last created and he brought the child of his heart to her with the same love and awe he'd held for the birth of his flesh and blooded sons . . .
Nerdanel had been willing to do anything to return her husband to her then, unsettled as she was by the violence of his soul - taken aback as she was by the incandescent, fey shape of his mind and spirit. So, when he had kissed her, she had fervently kissed him back, wishing, hoping that he would feel her somewhere behind his haze, and remember . . .
But now she bore the fruit of that union, and Fëanáro had retreated even further from her upon learning of their status as expecting parents once more. Though she knew her husband's fear – for her, and disgust – for himself, for putting yet another woman through such a danger – the simple fact of the matter was that she missed him, and felt as if he would just help her through this, then they would come out the stronger for it on the other side. Together.
She would be no Míriel, Nerdanel thought fiercely; not now, not ever. She was strong enough to stand upright underneath the consuming fire that was her husband. She had to be.
“This child was not planned,” she found herself blurting – sharing the secret-most aspects of her marriage as she had not even been able to with her mother. For such was unheard of amongst Elven-kind, with children being a conscious effort and mingling of spirits on behalf of their parents. For his soul just to take, drunk on the creation of the Silmarils, and for hers to so easily give . . .
She found her words gushing forth after that. “The Silmarils were but hours old, and such a fey trance still clung to him . . . I wanted only to break through to him, and from that . . . We had decided for no more children after Curvo for the dangers involved – and our fears are already proven for how this child seemingly burns through me as if seeking to consume. Fëanáro cannot hardly look at me now, and I know that it is his own guilt and fear that causes such coldness, but I am tired of standing strong; I am tired of being the supportive one, the one who holds as a caryatid underneath his weight and understands. This child is here now, and I need his father to be so too. I cannot . . . I cannot do this alone.”
Her voice faltered, and she felt frustrated tears prick at her eyes like hot pins. “And then . . . I cannot reach my son as I could each of my children before – as I even could for Curufinwë on the worst days of my pregnancy. I cannot touch this child's spirit, and the idea that my son may not be whole or healthy terrifies me. I cannot sleep; I cannot eat for sake of my fears, and alone I am left to suffer through them.”
For her bed was cold of even her husband's companionship, and the bond that had defined her mind for the better part of her existence was now cold and dead of shared thought and tender feeling. More than her husband and mate, she missed her dearest companion and friend. Now, to be abandoned to bear up underneath her doubts and fears when she needed Fëanáro as he was, more so than ever . . .
When she looked up, Finwë's eyes were soft, even though he must have thought of Míriel – much as Fëanáro so constantly did. There was ever such a desperation about her husband to prove that he was worthy of the overabundance of spirit his mother had died to give to him. Always desperate had he been to prove himself equal to the loss of a wife to his father - a desperation he felt all the more so when Finwë took his second bride, and fathered children who did not devour their mother in their wake, and from that alone his cold relationship with Indis and her children had stemmed. This she knew – as well as Finwë, she suspected – for the Unbegotten-lord merely looked weary now; quiet and pensive for the fractured lines in his family once more.
“May I?” Finwë nonetheless asked of her, and, understanding his intentions, she took her own hand away from her stomach to make room for his. She let him touch her womb, feeling a comforting coolness seemingly settle on her body for the touch of his spirit, searching, and for that searching, finding . . .
“The reason you cannot touch your son's soul is because you do not carry one child,” Finwë said after a moment, a low, awed note to his voice as he said so. “You carry two; and your searching for one merely confused the children, thus preventing them for answering.”
Nerdanel blinked, taken aback at the news – stunned as she was. Her jaw fell open, and her hand came down to rest next to Finwë's as he guided her, and she felt . . .
“This was one of the things Estë's Maiar first searched for with Míriel, wondering for the inordinate spirit she carried,” Finwë explained. “I will not lie to you and say that yours will be a safe and normal pregnancy, but you may at least assure yourself that your children are healthy. Different . . . unique, perhaps . . . but healthy. As you will be, my daughter, for you are strong, and I have faith that you can do this.”
The tears that had been building in her eyes gave way then, relief for her son – her sons – then overriding her fears for her own well-being. She felt as a bowstring pulled tight and finally released as she gave way to her crying, feeling as Finwë pulled her close, and ran a strong hand through her hair as she buried her head against his chest. Within her good-father burned a fire so much like her husband's that, for a moment, she let the familiarity of his spirit comfort her, and from that comfort she found her strength returned.
A moment later, she drew away again, and wiped at her eyes. She felt determination then fill her anew – for no matter what one would call marred, a mistake, she would never think of her family as such. They were simply uniquely her own, and for the love she held she would continue to fight – even until she had nothing left within her to give.
When Nerdanel stood again, she felt well enough to carry on. She still held a hand to her stomach, greeting the two little lives within her – two – as one awed. Two sons did she now have to carry on and be strong for, no matter the manner in which they were begotten, and she felt the two tiny beings stir as one against her summons. They answered as one, they brushed against her thoughts in a wordless flare of feeling as one, but that too was only something different – something unique – and not to be feared.
Nerdanel breathed in deep, and let her breath out slow. When she bent down to pick up the onyx again, her hands were strong.
She turned, pleased when Finwë fell into step next to her, and offered to carry her burden for her to the gates of Tirion, while, all the while, the stone gaze of Míriel seemed to follow them as they went.
Miriel with Indis - touching, wonderful friendship! I love the backdrop of the Trees. The use of this prompt in this context - very intriguing!
Nerdanel with Finwe - heartbreaking about her and Feanor's bond not being a source of joy and strength.
You can really grasp that the Silmarils were ever a consuming thing and overshadowed even family ties.
His feeling guilty and her resolving not to be like Miriel - these are compelling undertones to her situation. Cool stuff about the twins responding as one.
each chapter you write enhances the depth of the Tolkien stories. I like what you reveal about the characters
The Silmarils are influential
Nyota's Heart: As always, I have to thank you for the kind words! The whole Míriel/Finwë/Indis dynamic is always one that has intrigued me - Elves are naturally monogamous, and yet, for Míriel to fade and for Finwë to even feel the desire to remarry - a part of me always wondered if, as all things are 'tainted' in Arda marred, their souls were split three ways, rather than two, and they all needed each other, but ignored that need due to the LACE - and suffered for being apart. It's a popular fan theory, and it has credence to me.
Then, Nerdanel is just Nerdanel. The whole situation with Fëanor and the Silmarils is just a downward spiral, and it's heartbreaking knowing its end. But, as always, I thank you so very much for reading, and taking the time to leave your thoughts!
earlybird-obi-wan: I thank you so much for saying so! The Silmarils are definitely their own entity, no matter how wondrous they are to behold.
I haven't had time the last few weeks to write anything new - but, on my hard-drive I had answers to the Block Breakers over in Resource that I never finished. So, I decided to spend my morning cleaning up a few of those ficlets so that I would have something to share. The first two ficlets are set during the Years of the Trees, using the single word prompts, and the last one is a Haleth/Caranthir snippet from the Idea prompt in Block Breaker 4.
First, just a few translations:
Ar-Fanawen: Quenya for Ar-Feiniel, an alternate name for Aredhel meaning noble-white-lady.
Curufinwë, Curvo: Curufin
Urqui: Quenya for Orcs
Laiquendi: Green-elves, the Nandor, who were a secret and reclusive people of the River-lands, akin to Thingol and the Teleri in Aman. By the Third Age, their way of life was extinct, and those who remained merged with the Elven realms of Lothlórien and Mirkwood, where the old forest-ways were still observed.
“lay me down to sleep”
Since his earliest memories, Fëanáro found it difficult to sleep in his father's house.
When he was a young child, a sort of all encompassing panic used to come over him during the night. When he was asleep he could not feel his father as he could while awake, and with the irrational fears borne by his child's mind he worried that his father would fade away in the dark, the same as his mother had. No amount of reasoning could sooth him from this belief, and he only stopped visiting Finwë's rooms in the dead of the night when she took up occupancy there.
The first time he found them together, his father had stuttered to explain that he had merely fallen asleep while talking to an old friend – but Fëanáro had been unmoved, only able to quietly shake with an anger that had then seemed too big for his bones as he glared at the hatefully beautiful woman who sat on the edge of the bed where his mother should have sat. Indis had not lowered her gaze in shame or guilt, but rather, had looked him fully in the eye with such a sympathy that it had been as a blow to see. He did not grant Indis the respect of looking her in the eyes after that, hating how she seemed to always to be looking for . . .
. . . but Míriel was gone now, didn't she know? Fëanáro had burned her up until she was nothing more than smoke on the breeze, and now his father had perverted the laws and customs of their people to take a new wife to replace her, to sire new children who would not burn and consume, but rather love and adore as children should. Always overly sensitive, the too-hot cast of his soul could feel them even now; he could feel his father as he stared at the ceiling, pondering some petty squabble of the court while still holding Indis, who dreamed about a starlit land across the Sea. Their spirits mingled together as a white light to his senses, even though they never truly merged, lost as a piece would ever be between them. Fëanáro never paused over them for too long – truly, such awareness on his part was why he preferred dwelling anywhere but his father's house whenever he could – but, unsummoned, his breathing matched Findis' as she tossed and turned in the night, soothing his half-sister's sleep without truly meaning to do so. Then his eyes snapped open when he next felt his half-brother, not in his own bed, but rather -
“I,” he summoned the most imperious voice he could, though his efforts were made groggy by the lingering hands of slumber, “am asleep, child.”
“Yet,” as wise as his name would imply, Nolofinwë sagely pointed out, “you are speaking to me. Thus, you are awake; I can feel you.”
Unmoved by the child's logic, he pointedly turned his face into his pillow. “If you need something,” he rumbled, wincing as he tried to remember if Nolofinwë's control of his bladder had matured since the last time he dwelt in Tirion. There he most certainly drew the line in aiding Indis' offspring – his father's blood or not. “Perhaps, your mother . . .”
“This is not something for Amil to tend,” Nolofinwë whispered in reply.
“Then,” Fëanáro fought the urge he had to sigh, but lost, “your father.”
“Atar . . .” Nolofinwë started in an unsure way. Finally, Fëanáro cracked one eye open, and saw his brother with his gaze downcast and his little face twisted into a mask that tried too hard for grave serenity. His thumb and middle finger tapped together restlessly in a trait Fëanáro recognized from their father when he pondered how to say something ill to the asking. “I do not want to rouse him, merely to say that I am . . .”
Fëanáro felt a wave of misery from the child, fast on the heels of an acidic spiral of fear – one that battered his senses and drew forth the barest wisp of concern, no matter how quickly he moved to swallow the sensation away.
“There are Orcs underneath my bed, I am sure of it,” Nolofinwë revealed on a whisper. “They are waiting for me – and I cannot tell Atar. I do not want him to think . . .” that he was less than his older brother, than he was not equal to her son, Fëanáro felt from his half-brother's mind, such as could never be spoken aloud. The boy truly thought that he had never sought out their father in the dark hours of the night, he gleaned with a black sort of humor. He did not intend on adjusting the child's knowing any time soon.
“There are no Orcs this side of the Sea; the Valar would not allow it,” Fëanáro settled on saying. Pointedly, he closed his eyes – again. “Now leave me be, and go back to sleep.”
“But I asked Findis,” Nolofinwë's words took on a desperate edge as he entreated. “She said that you were right – that you were not just telling stories. She said that some of the Quendi were stolen on the Great Journey, and they were . . . ” he drew in a deep breath; Fëanáro could feel it rattle in the child's lungs. “I dreamed that you were taken,” he continued in a small voice. “I dreamed that you were scarred and nearly unrecognizable in your ruin, with true fire in your gaze. You . . . you tried to take me too to Utumno . . . you did not hear me say that I was your brother, no matter how I shouted.”
Half-brother, he swallowed the automatic correction, feeling it rest on the back of his tongue like the flat of a blade. “Wouldn't Indis tell you to simply pray to Irmo for better dreams?” he returned instead, the edges of his syllables cutting.
“I tried,” Nolofinwë replied simply, unhearing to the thinly veiled scorn in his voice. “Irmo is not listening to me this night. But, you can . . .”
He looked at him, and his eyes were very, very wide, filled with such a trust and adoration that Fëanáro could not first understand. He had done nothing to foster the child's love for him – truly, he had done all that he could to stay far from his father's halls since Findis' birth, first staying with Rúmil the Lore-master and then King Olwë on the seashore. Now, with his appeal to Master Mahtan, asking the copper-smith to take him on as an apprentice . . .
He swallowed away the flame rising from the core of him, the molten fire of his spirit seemingly settling in his hands and in his mind, ever driving him on and on and asking for more, ever more. Sternly, he told himself that he only had a little while longer to wait, and then he could leave his father's second family behind again. Such thoughts curbed that flame, banking the fires of his fëa, but only just barely, and someday he feared . . .
. . . would his fire burn out like Míriel's had? What, first, would it consume in its wake?
But such thoughts were macabre, and they did not bear thinking about during the unwaking hours. Instead, he merely sighed, and looked on Nolofinwë's hopeful face again.
He would not allow Indis' son to stay the night with him, but neither did he want his father to know that he was telling a child so young tales about Orcs and the dread Vala even now locked away in Námo's halls. No, that would not do at all.
Sighing, Fëanáro pulled himself upright, and reached in the dark for his tunic. When he glanced, Nolofinwë's eyes were very bright in the shadows, looking at him with an unsullied adoration. He could not bear such an expression for long, and after a heartbeat, he turned away.
“You will vanquish the fiend, then?” Nolofinwë chirped as they left the room, and Fëanáro fought the urge he had to roll his eyes and call the child a fool.
Instead, he said nothing as Nolofinwë trotted dutifully behind him, carefully walking only where the darkness of the night was lit by Telperion's light; streaming through the large, yawning windows in dancing ribbons of silver and blue.
He gestured to the bed when they arrived in his half-brother's rooms, and Nolofinwë dutifully climbed in again. He held himself very stiffly, however, and he determinedly stared at the ceiling as Fëanáro knelt and looked underneath the bed. There was nothing there, as expected.
But Nolofinwë's eyes were still tightly shut, and his small fingers were white about the sheets he fisted in his hands.
“There is nothing there,” Fëanáro reported drolly.
“They will come as soon as you are gone,” Nolofinwë whispered, little placated. “They always come back.”
Fëanáro looked down, torn between leaving the child to his fears, and . . .
Sighing, he raked a hand through his hair before moving to light one of the small candles on the bedside stand. Curiously, Nolofinwë opened one eye to watch him, and then asked, “What are you doing?”
“Creatures of the dark ever fear the light,” Fëanáro answered after a moment. “This will stop Orcs or anything else from causing you harm.”
“Truly?” Nolofinwë asked, looking on the candle as if it was one of Varda's own stars.
Fëanáro set the candle down, and inclined his head. “It is what Atar used to do for me,” was all he would say. That small light, the tiniest reflection of the inferno that burned inside of him – that matched the great fire of his father's Unbegotten soul - was an assurance in the night, a promise, and now . . .
Fëanáro told himself that he did so only so that he could sleep in peace, but he could not so easily explain why he sat in one of the nearby chairs, and gestured for Nolofinwë to lay down again.
“I'll stay here until you fall asleep,” he said, all the while telling himself that such was his duty, and nothing more. “After I am gone, I will leave the light on.”
And Nolofinwë looked very small against the expanse of his bed, he thought, with the sea of sheets all but drowning him. “Promise?” even so, the child's voice trembled.
A heartbeat passed, long and waiting. “I promise,” Fëanáro nonetheless swore his oath, and settled in for the night.
His daughter was certain that there were monsters in her closet.
He opened his eyes as he felt Irissë's distress; drawing himself up from the comfortable oblivion of sleep, even as Anairë's hand lightly touched his shoulder and encouraged him to return to his dreams.
“I am sorry, Amil,” Irissë whispered solemnly when she noticed her mother doing so. “But Atar must see to this.”
Nolofinwë touched Anairë's hand in return, thankful for her efforts, and caught a wry thought from his wife that said that while her prayers for a daughter were finally answered, the Valar seemed to have given her three sons who adored their father, even so.
But at least she wears her dresses while she tromps through the mud and brings home baby squirrels to raise in her room, Nolofinwë could not help but tease, and he caught a wave of long-suffering amusement from Anairë. She is ever asking you to braid ribbons in her hair.
She is ever wearing her white dresses as she treks through the mire, and she has long professed that Findekáno can braid her hair better than I. She has no need of her mother, Anairë returned with fond exasperation. Sometimes I think our daughter is a Changeling; a Laiquendi child from across the Sea, stolen in amongst our own children.
Then, Nolofinwë could not help but return, blessed are we that Oromë left her amongst our fold, are we not?
In reply, he felt only a wave of affection from his wife, one that lingered with him even as he rose to dutifully escort Irissë back to her rooms, ready to slay whatever beast was lurking in the shadows.
“Which is it this time, my Ar-Fánawen?” he asked into the darkness of the corridor. “A dragon? A warg?”
Her small fingers flexed where he held her hand in his own. Very solemnly, she stared into the night, glaring at whatever unseen foe may have been lurking with untoward intentions. “There are Orcs in my closet,” she revealed, but for all of the forced strength to her posture, her voice trembled over the revelation.
Nolofinwë blinked, wondering where she could have heard tales of their mutilated kindred across the Sea. Besides the time or two Turukáno had called his little sister an Orc in irritation whenever her exuberant ways infringed on his rather meticulous habits – and been suitably reprimanded, in return – he could think of nothing . . .
“Tyelkormo told me that the Hunter would take Quendi from the Great Journey, and twist them into . . . into monsters,” Irissë whispered on the wings of his thoughts. “After, they would come back, looking for others to ensnare as they were so ensnared.”
Nolofinwë sighed, resigned to having – yet another – talk with his half-brother about his son's influence on his daughter.
“Which,” Irissë tilted her head to the side, “I would not immediately believe, because Tyelko is Tyelko, but Curvo agreed with him, and Curvo knows everything. They even had scrolls from Grandfather's study proving such a thing – Rúmil penned them in his old script, and Rúmil is . . .” she faltered, unsure how to phrase what she wished to say.
Rúmil had escaped the clutches of the Hunter through efforts of his own father and Elwë, but not before glimpsing the fate of their stolen kindred. Ever was that knowledge a burden on the Lore-master, his father had explained when he first learned about the Urqui in his own childhood. At the next feast, Nolofinwë had been hard-pressed to look on Rúmil without staring at the upraised welts on his face, knowing that his long sleeves and too-high collar hid even more than that – with each mark standing as a memento of the process that would have distorted both his hröa and his fëa had he not been delivered from the Dark One's hands.
“And now they are in my closet, and I cannot close my eyes knowing they are there,” Irissë whispered, the pulse of her spirit quite miserable as she confided in him. “They are waiting for me to fall asleep so they may take me away too; I know it.”
“Yet, Aman is fenced against such an evil, my child. Their shadow cannot touch you here,” Nolofinwë gently assured her as they turned into her room. As she returned to her bed, scooting as far back from the closet as she could, he dutifully opened the doors and looked about, seeing nothing but for the natural shadows of the night.
“Yet, we can swim, so why not Orcs?” she asked with a child's logic. “If they were Quendi, they cannot forget everything they once were.”
“Yet, even the strongest Telerin swimmer cannot cross the Sea, and, more than that, the Valar protect us here; they keep us safe. We have nothing to worry over, nor concern ourselves for, so long as we dwell underneath their care,” the words fell off his tongue by rote, and he swallowed away the aftertaste they left.
A heartbeat passed before he closed the closet doors again, and came to sit on the edge of his daughter's bed. Irissë looked doubtful, but said, “I suppose that's true,” nonetheless. Even so, she kept her eyes trained on the door of her closet, and narrowed her gaze as if staring down a foe. “You are certain there was nothing there?” she asked again, biting her lip.
“I am absolutely certain,” Nolofinwë assured, reaching over to turn her head so that he could meet her eyes. While she was still watching him, he then leaned over to light the small candle waiting on the bedside stand. Its small, warm glow lit up a corner of the night, and illuminated his daughter's blinking eyes as she adjusted to the light.
“What are you doing?” Irissë asked curiously, leaning towards the flickering of flame.
“This is merely a precaution,” Nolofinwë answered. “Creatures of the Shadow do not care for the light. And this,” he gestured to the candle, “is but a reflection of what you hold inside of you. Here.” He tapped the left side of his chest, even as he reached out to brush his daughter's spirit through their bond, ensuring that she understood. “And your soul is a bright, bright light – the brightest such light you may use when you wage such a fight. Never forget that when you are lost in dark places, even if they be only within your mind.”
For all of her bold, indomitable ways, his daughter had never cared for the dark – even in the slightest – and though she was of an age where she would force herself to keep to her own bed the whole night through, the simple fact remained that when he awakened in the night and instinctively reached out to assure himself of his family's wellbeing, she was often awake and staring at the shadows as if waiting for them to surge forward and consume her. Often were the nights when he would touch her spirit with what light he could, and wait for her to succumb to sleep and dreams before finding his own rest once more.
Irissë leaned forward, and the candle painted shapes of gold over her pale skin. Thoughtfully, she tilted her head. “Did your Atar used to do this for you?” she finally asked, glancing up at him.
“Fëanáro did once,” he answered without first considering his reply. “Though I think that my Atar used to do so for him,” this he muttered, mostly as an afterthought.
Even so, Irissë looked dubious as she said, “Uncle Fëanáro cannot be afraid of anything," she protested. "He is . . .” she waved a hand, unable to articulate her thoughts with the words she had available to her. Yet, he understood.
“He was a child once, just as you are now,” Nolofinwë countered, knowing that it was a foolish, blind person who believed that Fëanáro knew no fear. Sometimes his half-brother's fears seemed fit to drown them all, and ever were those fears a shared reflection - a mirror, thrown the opposite way as they bent the light – in his own mind.
Irissë still did not look as if she believed him, but she settled back down dutifully, arranging herself so that she laid on the very edge of her pillow – as close as she could get to the light on the bedside stand.
She clearly hesitated, and so, he did not make her speak of her wishes before vowing, “I will stay here until you fall asleep.”
“Promise?” her voice was a small wisp of sound. She stared at the candle with an unblinking gaze, watching the small, brave light as it fought back the night.
“I promise,” he replied, reaching over to touch her brow and comb a hand back comfortingly through her hair. “Nothing will harm you while you are mine to protect.”
Irissë inhaled, and when she let out her breath, it sounded easier from her lungs. Her tight grip on her sheets relaxed, and after a long moment she closed her eyes. Eventually, all of the coiled stress left her tiny body, and her face softened into a peaceful countenance that spoke of a truly deep sleep. Reflexively, he reached out to Irmo, asking the Vala to watch over his daughter though her dreams, and protect her where he could not follow.
After his prayer was finished, he felt a hand rest on his shoulder as a wave of greeting gently brushed against his spirit.
Reflexively, he reached up to cover his wife's hand with his own, and smiled a tired smile to say, “I spoke truly when I said that I did not mind staying up with her. You need not have stirred yourself.”
“I had to make certain, even so. I could not find my own slumber without first doing so,” Anairë whispered, kneeling by her daughter's bedside as she spoke. Much as he just had, she touched her daughter's brow before soothing back her hair, and he felt as she too entreated Irmo, wishing for nothing more of the dark to touch her child that night.
When she glanced at the flickering candle, the flame caught in her eyes, and she tilted her head.
“To keep away untoward creatures until dawn,” Nolofinwë explained, and Anairë nodded.
“A wise solution,” she approved, gleaning the memory from his mind even when he had not intended to share it. “It was a kindness to do so for you.”
“It wasn't kindness, but duty that moved him,” Nolofinwë did not quite agree. He frowned before trying to lighten his thoughts – not wanting to unintentionally press down on his daughter's spirit with the weight of his own burdens. “And yet,” still, he could not keep from whispering, “he was not required to stay the whole night through. I try to remember that when . . .” He swallowed, and shook his head. “Yet, it does not matter; and tomorrow any such inklings of prior kindness will most certainly be forgotten - I must speak with Fëanáro about his son's behavior, once again.”
Anairë's dark brow furrowed, and she sighed when he shared Tyelkormo's tales of Orcs with a brush of thought. She shook her head, and though her frustration was a cool thing, it was still a true anger, nonetheless. She exhaled, and tucked away her feeling so, much as he had.
Rather than voicing her thoughts on their daughter's strange attachment to her half-cousins, she touched Irissë's brow one last time before arranging herself so that she could fold her arms and rest her own head against the mattress. Reflexively, he went to run his fingers over her shoulders in a soothing motion, moving her long hair away so that it would not tangle.
“You need not stay,” he whispered. “You will regret sleeping in that position by morning.”
“I have borne worse discomforts for my children before,” Anairë dismissed his concern with a voice that was already lined with sleep. She closed her eyes. “And few will be the times to come when I can aid my daughter in such a way; this even I can foresee.”
Nolofinwë inclined his head, but did not protest her presence more than that. Instead, he felt a flare of affection fill him – such as he had not first expected to find in his marriage, and had considered himself blessed to know since then. Swallowing away his words to the contrary, he continued to run a gentle hand over his wife's shoulders, and waited for her too to fall asleep. All the while, he lingered as the night continued on and the candle burned itself down; remaining as a silent sentinel against the darkness and shadowed dreams.
"until the frost steals the bloom away"
In the first days of the following summer, he returned to Haleth's dwelling from a short trip to Amon Ereb to find a veritable sea of yellow flowers awaiting him when he opened the door.
The small, happy blossoms were everywhere – carpeting the floor and perching merrily in vases on every possible surface. Wreathes of the gay blooms hung where the flowers could not be laid or placed in vases, and loose petals were strewn everywhere that remained; turning the view from the doorway into an overwhelming wash of summer yellow and merry green. Their strong, floral scent wafted towards him, assaulting his senses in a wave of unexpected sweetness. Bewildered, Caranthir took in the sight, his eyes seeing, but his mind not quite comprehending what he saw.
Blinking, he set down his bags – his gleanings from Amon Ereb were mostly spices and such fare that the Haladin did not have readily available for their use, for if he was going to cook for his lady, he would do so properly – wondering what . . . and, more importantly, who . . .
“Is this your work?”
He heard Haleth's voice speak in wry amusement from behind him, and he turned in time to receive her kiss in welcome. But, distracted, he could not hold the affection as he instead stepped back and looked on the flowers with a slow suspicion starting to build in his mind.
“This was not my doing,” Caranthir answered slowly. His voice sounded stiff to his own ears, and he felt his face flush when Haleth let loose a sigh – a sigh that was more long-suffering than true annoyance, or so he first thought.
“Mundor,” she let out underneath her breath, passing a hand through the messy plaits of her two braids. “Apparently he understands that his simply negotiating for rights to our northern-most fields will never work; now he seeks a more subtle path to seeing his wishes fulfilled.”
Darkly, Caranthir thought to understand what she implied. Mundor was a widower of three years, and he had two sons grown to his name. Time enough had passed – by mortal estimation – for him to take a new wife, and though Mundor had no need of children or a mother for them, he did, however, have interest enough in Haleth and the power she wielded that . . .
Caranthir had suspected such of the other Chieftain last autumn, when a few of Mundor's jests amongst the men had turned only just too personal. Then, Caranthir had to constrain his own flame of a temper, telling himself that putting an arrow through the mortal's eye would not be viewed as an accident of the hunt, and cause Haleth more trouble than it was worth – no matter that doing so would have satisfied him greatly.
Even now he let loose a sharp breath and stared at the happily smiling blossoms as if they were Morgoth's vilest of machinations. He made fists of his hands, but upon realizing that he did so he relaxed his fingers one by one, trying to smooth his expression and hide away just how his fëa had spiked as a flame against the underside of his senses, so much so, that -
He inhaled sharply when Haleth let loose a low chuckle of laughter. He turned on her, for absolutely nothing about this was amusing, not even in the slightest -
“ - yet, the look on your face is,” she chirped merrily in reply, hearing the thought from his mind as clearly as if he had spoken it aloud. “The One be good, but you are jealous, are you not, Carnistir?”
He was most certainly not jealous, he wanted to protest – offended as he was at merely the thought. But there was a low, dangerous feeling simmering in his veins, and he could feel the worryingly bright cast of his fëa, burning in a way that reminded him too much of his sire, and just how easily he too could burn if he -
- but no. He clenched his fists again, and forced his more fey emotions down – far down; down until they lined his bones to be forgotten in the darkness of his body. He would think of them no more than that, not even when . . .
But the yellow flowers continued to smile at him, and he simply glared in return, little taken by their charms. “You do not even like yellow,” he muttered, rather than replying outright, and his voice was petulant to his own ears.
At that, Haleth laughed, and when he looked, her eyes were glittering with a bright light. “You are jealous,” she all but crowed, and he turned his glare from the flowers to her.
“I most certainly am not,” he sniffed, offended for her pointing out the truth. He summoned the look of haughty indifference he'd long since perfected for such tortures as the Noldorin court and family gatherings, and used that here now – yet, it did not matter. Haleth was little impressed. She had ever been little impressed by such a countenance, he recalled in a moment of unsummoned fondness.
Shaking her head, Haleth headed further within to touch the petals of one yellow flower. She paused to stare thoughtfully at another rather full vase at eye level. “You know, now you've had but a glimpse of what I have to contend with on a seemingly daily basis.”
“I have no idea of what you speak,” Caranthir followed her to say. Though, when he turned a moody look on the flowers, he would deny it as sulking to the end of his days.
“Do you not?” Haleth raised a brow in question. “You are an exotic specimen to my folk; beautiful even by your own people's standards. If I had a coin for every time a woman at the market turned and giggled, or spoke in whispers while looking – never mind those who actually try to entice your eye, then the coffers of the Haladin would be five times what they are now. Your laws and customs are not known here, and there are many who would be more than happy to have you for a night – or more – and have set that as their aim. From Halil to Gweadhes, the latter of whom, you remember - ”
“ - that was an unfortunate misunderstanding. One that was quickly set to rights,” Caranthir felt his face flush red, remembering the particularly bold woman who had cornered him in the stables. He had not been as kind as he could have been in turning her advances away; but his bond with Haleth made even the idea of another woman's touch manifest as a physical discomfort - even pain - and he had not had the presence of mind to turn away her assumptions in a more diplomatic way.
“It was a misunderstanding that I would have liked to address myself,” even now, at merely the memory, Haleth's smokey blue eyes darkened with a fierce light, and her features tightened. “Then, there are women such as Herieth -”
“Herieth?” Caranthir interrupted, bewildered. “She is one of your students; I thought you to be fond of her.”
“I see potential in the girl, and am happy to train her – as I am any girl who aspires to learn the sword and shield,” Haleth said. “But you too saw her talent, and encouraged -”
“ - I,” Caranthir interrupted carefully, feeling as if he suddenly walked a treacherous way, with unsure footing to his path, “was simply aiding with her spear-work. As her learning is a reflection on you, I wished for that reflection to be the best.”
“And the girl is now besotted for it,” Haleth pointed out. “Did you not hear her: Oh, how kind you are, my lord, to take such an interest in me,” she pitched her voice in a simpering and ridiculous way. “Do you ever think I'll ever be as skilled as you? Perhaps, I shall benefit with more one on one attention, my lord? Are all the Elves as attentive to their arts? Are all of your people truly so fair as - ”
“ - the poor child was simply being kind,” Caranthir interrupted before she could say more. “And did she truly say all of that?” this he had to ask - for he could not remember himself, distracted as he had been from where Haleth had been showing another girl through her sword forms. The unseasonably warm day had them shucking steel and leather, and he had admired how thin linen she wore moved and clung to her body as -
“All the while fluttering her eyes and leaning forward like so?” Haleth interrupted his fond recollections to demonstrate a truly ridiculous exaggeration of what he supposed was to be a beguiling pose.
“I did not notice anything so ridiculous from Herieth,” seeing so, he could not help but tease.
“Yet,” Haleth pointed out, pushing at his shoulder in retaliation for his teasing, “I did.” Her look then softened, and her tone sobered as she continued in all seriousness, “And she . . . Herieth is young, and she is beautiful – more beautiful than I ever could have claimed to be, even in my youth. And her beauty is more than the physical – she is strong, loyal, and caring – any man would be lucky to be the object of her affections. And . . . though I know there will only ever be one for you, my claim to your heart is one that no one else knows, and to simply watch, while able to say nothing . . . it is as a burning, sometimes, and it chafes against me.”
For that, he could not speak in reply – for there was a part of him that was still selfish in his longing, and with a fey possessiveness, he wished for more than she could give. But that part of himself would only ruin what blessings he did have, along with the time in which he had to enjoy them; as such, they were thoughts he tried not to dwell on whenever he could prevent it. He'd needed not say anything, however, when Haleth instead felt the truth from his mind, no matter his intentions for silence.
“I am bound to you for the rest of my immortal days,” Caranthir said instead of addressing the thought she had gleaned – the thought that wanted for more than their stolen moments, their mere fraction of the already few years they had allotted to them. “I can never choose another; and never do I wish to. But Mundor . . . you . . . if you wished it to be so . . .” He faltered, but could not quite force the words from his tongue, impossible as they were to speak.
Yet Haleth understood him nonetheless. Her look turned closed, and her eyes narrowed with a hard edge. Her body took on a stiff, brittle demeanor – allowing him to tell her hurt only from the way her spirit flickered against his own as if bruised. “And you think that because such is not a physical impossibility for me I would be so faithless as to abuse the gift of your love, even while being aware of the full implications of your binding yourself to me? You think that your doing so is something I do not cherish, and look on in awe for, even now?”
He believed no such thing – truly, it was not even a flickering of doubt for him, not even in his darkest moments. Yet . . . “You would do what is best for your people,” he returned as a truth, his voice falling strangely flat as he spoke. “What you wish, what I wish, will ever fall second to that. Such is what I thought to long understand, and accept. Yet, if your doing so includes one such as Mundor . . .” Caranthir swallowed, but could not finish his thought; not for how it burned against him as something consuming – the sort of spark that spawned the fires that swallowed forests. If ever she did so, he did not know how he would react, and he hoped that it would never come to that.
Her look softened for his words, and he then felt as a different sort of weariness settled over her. Her shoulders slumped, and for a moment he was left to notice how much time had touched her since first he met her, showing where, someday . . .
“Mundor fights a paltry skirmish where a war has already been waged and won,” she finally settled for saying. “I have given much for my people, and this I would selfishly keep for myself for as long as I may. I honor my father and brother by leading the Haladin as best I may, but please believe me when I say that you are my joy in this life, and for knowing such when I so long gave up on ever . . .” she faltered, but he could feel the breadth of her affection rise from her spirit. He turned his senses, letting himself bask in her love and contentment and belonging – soothing every raw and pained place his fëa had known but a moment before - and he exhaled with a matching peace of his own. He breathed out, and let his doubts and flickerings of discontentment go.
He had no words to answer her, but he did let his spirit wrap comfortingly about her own, and when he leaned down to kiss her he felt relief wash through her mind like rain after a hot, dry day. Perhaps such thoughts were a circle they would ever find themselves returning to, but for now . . . for now, he was here, and she was with him – warm and welcoming and Haleth – and he held her closer as if he could drink her in and keep her there forever to stay. It did not matter that the yellow flowers stared, pressing in around them, for she had chosen, and for as long as he was so blessed, he would cherish the gift of that blessing.
Even so, he pulled away sooner than he would have liked – smugly noting how Haleth made a noise of protest in the back of her throat, and moved as if to draw his mouth back down to hers again. But he evaded her, and could not help but smile as he said, “Later,” in a low voice, rich with promise. “For now, the scent of these flowers is offending me. And I want them gone.”
The inocence of children and their dreams is perfect in these stories
Loved the parallels and intensity in the first two scenes. But the final one - "The Gift". Squee! SQUEE!
Breathtaking and amusing and tender all at the very same time!
You really do the bond-thing and its implications superbly. I love how their candid feelings of love, trust, and yes, jealousy are shared.
earlybird-obi-wan: And all the more heartbreaking for how we know the story ends! But, as always, I am grateful for your continued reading, and enjoying of, these snippets.
Nyota's Heart: Oh, you know me! I just adore these mind/soul bonds, and it's a treat to dabble with so many wonderful characters who share them. As always, I am thrilled that you are enjoying these drivels as much as I am enjoying writing them!
Alrighty, DRL has been a crazy whirlwind as of late, so I have one more old viggie that I cleaned up from the Block Builders' overindulgence prompt, and then I see a light at the end of the tunnel - where it looks like I can finally settle down and kick out a few of those NSWFF prompts that I've fallen behind on.
But, for this one, we have a couple that I dabbled with very early in this collection, but wanted to return to in order to give them more justice now. Poor Turgon gets the short end of the fandom stick for, well, not being Fingon, at times - which I find to be outrageously unfair. (As much as I love the House of Fëanor, warts and all, hating on the characters who take issue over their actions - with darn good reason - is something I will never understand, and take the utmost annoyance with.) So, to weigh a bit on those scales, I give you Turgon, Elenwë, and their first meeting during the Years of the Trees (with lots of Vanyarin headcanon for spice ).
As ever, first we have a few translations . . .
And now, here we go . . .
“shall chase us round and round”
There was, admittedly, a rather impressive throbbing building in his temples; one that would not leave him be as Telperion waned and Laurelin waxed to take her place in the morning sky above Valmar.
For all of the soft, demure gatherings that King Ingwë's court professed to enjoy, there were rather strong spirits in their cups to battle such a quiet reveling – stronger than those preferred in Finwë's court, even, which Turukáno had learned caution for early on in life. Normally, he knew to sip on one glass and one glass alone the whole night through, but busying himself with his goblet of wine had been an apt distraction the night before – a very, very apt distraction, indeed, to keep himself from staring overly much at her.
It became a pattern with him: avoid her eyes, which he could not tell for a shade of green or brown from the opposite side of the hall – take a sip of wine; avoid staring at the dark gold of her hair, with the crown tightly braided in the Vanyarin style while the lower mass was left to flow freely – take a sip of wine; avoid looking up every time she laughed, every time she smiled, every time her pale yellow silks fluttered and -
Turukáno took yet another sip of wine, and stood awkwardly off to the side of Ingwë's ballroom. He was alone, abandoned first by his friend when Findaráto noticed his own Vanyarin maid in the crowd, and next forsaken by his siblings when they sought out their half-cousins - this eve being a peaceful cease-fire between their families with Fëanáro refusing to step foot in the court where Indis had once led at her brother's side, though his convenient excuse of the younger Curufinwë's preparation for Aulë's trials was the more diplomatic reason he offered their host for his absence. The great hall was all shades of warm cream and blushing gold, famously lit by fourteen-thousand candles, floating in spiraling chandeliers to throw long shadows from the dancing couples upon the rose veined, marble floor below. Though he had never been particularly fond of dancing himself, he had the strong impulse to ask her to dance, even without knowing her name. Strangely, he felt as if there was a tether binding him to her, drawing him forward when he would much rather stand still and let the evening pass in peace.
He was taking another sip of wine, contemplating just when – and if – he should make a move to actually engage her in conversation, when he felt a familiar presence come to stand next to him.
“You have fine taste, little one,” although he had long since grown to be more than a full head taller than Findekáno, his elder brother still delighted in addressing him as such, and Turukáno merely stood very, very straight as his sibling looped an arm about his shoulders and squeezed affectionately. Unlike himself, Findekáno was more than happy to partake in the Vanyar's honey-wine to excess, and he was already well into his cups – with his eyes shining and his mouth quicker to give smiles than usual. Yet, from experience, he also knew that his brother would be just fine come morning light, with none of the night's revelries lingering to plague his health upon the morrow. It was, Turukáno reflected, quite unfair.
“She is one of Hellendur's daughters, is she not?” Findekáno continued in a merry tone of voice. “Ingwë speaks highly of him, as does Grandfather – he is one of the few of Manwë's priests who sing out of true reverence, rather than to see whose voice can raise the highest during morning prayer. Such an unfortunate faulting has kept him from the title of High-priest for many years, now.”
“Yet,” at his brother's side – not imbibing himself, and carefully standing as a sentinel for when Findekáno would inevitability imbibe too much - Maitimo could not help but wryly point out, “half of the bells in this city are Hellendur's doing, and while Makalaurë can go on and on about the genius of their arrangement, I must confess that three days of their tolling is already three days enough for me.”
“Spoil-sport,” Findekáno waved a hand in dismissal. “Your penchant for ill-placed gravitas and brooding unfit for company is only matched by Turvo here. Take another sip for courage, brother, and then ask the maid to dance.”
“There is no need for courage; for I was not staring, and I am not keen on dancing,” Turukáno nonetheless rumbled into his goblet. If he looked up again, he knew his eyes would betray him.
Predictably, Findekáno frowned. “Even Amil is dancing with Atar,” he protested. “And no one cares more than you about not musing their garments or stirring a hair from its place than our mother.”
“There is nothing wrong with wanting to present an image that will reflect well onto our father and grandfather,” for that, he looked pointedly at his brother, who was slouching in an undignified way as he restlessly swirled his wine in his glass.
“The only image that your dancing will disprove is the one that paints the House of Nolofinwë as a stiff bunch of unfeeling prudes,” Findekáno snorted to say.
“Forgive me for saying that we already have Irissë to disprove that for us,” Turukáno returned drolly – for their sister had already dragged Tyelkormo away when Ingwion mentioned his father's collection of antique spears from the Great Journey, and she had been quite vocal and pointed about her doing so. Tyelkormo – little interested in seeing anything of worth amongst Indis' kinsmen - had been unmoved until Irissë's sharp tongue had him rethinking his courtesies. Such had amused the Vanyarin prince, but, others . . . “You,” he recovered himself, looking his brother up and down, “are a debatable reflection one way or the other, as always.”
Findekáno shrugged, little touched by the censor in his voice. “I am a true reflection, at least - not a mask donned for the sake of others. I will bring honor to my father's name, but I will also dance and drink and enjoy myself on nights held specifically for such a reason. Perhaps I will ask your pretty Vanya to dance; we look well enough alike, and if she ignores the mere difference of our heights, she may even pretend I'm you.”
Even the idea brought an unexpected flare of brightness in his spirit, and he had to fight the instinct to curl his lip and narrow his eyes, fey as it was. He settled for merely clutching the stem of his glass tighter in hand; the fine crystal pressured, but not breaking, from his strength. Findekáno smiled when he felt but a shadow of his aggravation, triumphant.
“I do not know how to ask her,” at last Turukáno sighed to say. His words were more muttered into his cup than spoken to his brother.
“Oh, but that truly is the simplest of endeavors. You do like so,” this Findekáno patted him on the back to say, all of the good humor returned to his voice. Still expertly balancing his wine glass in hand, he turned to Maitimo and bowed with an elaborate flourish. “Dear maiden, but your beauty has caught my eye this eve, and I would enjoy nothing more than leading you in the next dance if you are not otherwise engaged.” He smiled a devastating smile, and his pale grey eyes glittered impishly as he waited for a reply.
“I do not make a habit of dancing with men who smell like distilleries,” Maitimo raised a scarlet brow, sounding bored as he took up his role. Findekáno straightened with a scowl – the slightest bit uneasy with his balance. “My mother raised me better than that, you know.”
“You see?” with a glower, Findekáno ignored his friend in order to turn back to him. “Simple.”
“You are drunk, Finno,” Maitimo sighed to counsel, “And Turvo is right, in the very least, that our siblings are already reinforcing the rather . . . flamboyant reputation held by the House of Finwë this eve. You need not add to their tales.”
“I am not drunk yet,” Findekáno protested. He took a step as if to prove himself true, and stumbled in an unflattering way. “Alas . . . perhaps I should seek out water the rest of the night,” he finally admitted, pinching the bridge of his nose as he blinked in an attempt to clear his head. “I always seem to underestimate the potency of Vanyarin spirits until they quite literally land me on my back.”
“Unless you want a repeat of the spring meet at Olwë's halls, perhaps some fresh air will do you good?” Maitimo suggested, and upon meeting his older cousin's eyes, Turukáno understood that the distraction was for his own sake, as much as it was for Findekáno's well-being.
“Yes, yes,” his brother gave a long-suffering sigh, the candlelight catching on the gold in his braids as he shook his head in lamentation. “Here, brother,” he turned to give him his still half-full glass. “This will do you more good than I, it seems.”
Rolling his eyes in amused exasperation, Maitimo then turned Findekáno towards the exit. But, as his cousin passed, he whispered, “Nonetheless, you should ask her, Turvo,” and touched his shoulder briefly in fondness before steering his brother out.
Turukáno watched them go, gathering his courage all the while. Yet, when he glanced back to where the Vanyarin woman had been standing, he was dismayed to notice that she too was gone. He looked, but could not find the shape of her smile or the light of her eyes anywhere else in the crowd. Fighting away the sinking feeling in his stomach, he threw back the rest of his glass before finishing his brother's too. The gathering then lost much of its luster for him, and he saw no reason to linger for long afterward.
The next morning, he was awakened from his rather massive headache by Findekáno shaking his shoulder in an all too cheerful manner. While Turukáno was certain that there was one of Melkor's Maiar of Flame dancing behind his skull, Findekáno looked sickeningly untouched by the night's festivities – with clear eyes and a healthy color to his cheeks as he merrily proclaimed that they would be late to the Changing of the Trees if he did not get up and ready himself.
Groaning, he turned further into his pillow, content to ignore Findekáno completely – that was, until his brother threatened to send Irissë in to wake him, and at that Turukáno grudgingly conceded the need to leave his bed behind – that was, as soon as he could convince his limbs and befuddled mind to cooperate with him.
When his brother asked about his maid from the night before – truly, even, with no humor assigned to his voice – he frowned and shooed his sibling away with a supreme effort, given the way his stomach was still turning sickly.
Unfortunately, the endless tolling of the bells and the numerous singing voices that accompanied the Vanyar's morning worship wreaked havoc on his head, no matter the wonder of the Trees right before his eyes. Though he knew the ways of the Vanyar from his grandmother, and appreciated the beauty of their devotion, he was not inclined to such abasing piety himself – indulging in rituals they had created to honor the Valar, but were never asked to observe outright. It sat oddly with him, worshiping the Ainur in such an obsessive way, and rather would he incline his head to Eru and quietly thank the One for his gifts than spend hours in prayer and devotion to those who had welcomed the Firstborn to the West as friends; who served the Creator just as their fellow creation served. Hating that he looked to be an ungracious guest, he turned from the daily ritual and walked back towards the city gates before choosing another path completely – suddenly eager as he was for the fresh air and blessed naturalness of the hills just before the Holy Mountain, certain then that he needed nothing more to clear his head.
Yet, his path that day seemed to be a doomed one. There was thunder coming from where the clouds darkened to obscure the summit of the mountain, and he felt the telling first drops of rain when he continued on the path through the steep grassy hills and their blankets of wandering wildflowers. Yet, as close to Taniquetil as they were, even the storms were beautiful, awe-inspiring things. The sky never truly turned grey as it did in the north and south of Aman; instead it merely flushed a dark shade of gold as every falling drop of water glittered and caught the light of the Trees as if they were gemstones, dancing to meet the ground below. The land was alive for the blessing of the rain, singing in thanks to the heavens as the trees stretched their roots and the flowers turned their faces in welcome to the life giving water.
As such, Turukáno refused to turn around. Instead, he too welcomed the rain, content as he was to focus on the pulse of the world around him, rather than the throbbing of his temples - so much so that, when he came to a bend in the path, he almost did not notice the woman already sitting there.
Well, perhaps sitting was not the precise term he could have used. The poor woman was soaked from head to toe, with green staining the fawn tones of her dress, and mud spattered onto her face and hands. She had one boot off to examine her ankle, which looked swollen and red, even from a distance, and was muttering underneath her breath all the while. Glancing, he noticed a path of crushed foliage that told of where she had slipped and slid from the crest of the hill above them.
Finding that his head rapidly cleared for the possibility of there being assistance he could provide, he came closer to her and asked, “Good lady, are you well?”
She did not turn to him to reply, “All but for my pride, I fear. I have walked these hills a hundred times before, and never once have I - ” but she then turned, and her voice faltered as her eyes widened, and she stammered out, “You.”
He blinked from where he had been enjoying the warm Vanyarin lilt to her voice, and was only then struck by the familiarity of her features. Here was the woman from the night before, with her honey coloured hair crinkled from the braids she'd earlier worn, though the rain was making quick work of chasing her curls away, and her eyes a stunning shade of green now that he was close enough to see. No, they were green and a golden shade of brown, he amended after a second glance, like Laurelin's light shining through a leafy canopy.
“My lady,” he stammered a bit awkwardly. Absurdly, he gave a half bow in greeting, no matter the steady pulse of the rain and her prone state on the ground before him. “Forgive me for not first recognizing you, I did not think that one of Hellendur's daughters would be far from the Changing this morn.”
“You have heard those bells toll for three days time; try a lifetime of them,” was her wry answer in reply. She raised a dark brow, and he hoped that it was bemusement he saw in her gaze, more so than outright amusement. “And, besides, who is to say that I am not at worship? Albeit in a different way, I grant you.” She looked back down at her ankle again, and winced when her probing fingers found a particularly tender spot. “Though,” she could not help but add, “perhaps I am being rewarded for my heathen ways as we speak.”
She winced again, and returned her attention to her ankle. For seeing so, Turukáno did not think before kneeling down next to her, quite uncaring for what the wet hillside would do to the white of his robes. She looked up as he did so, a question in her eyes.
“I am quite unfamiliar with such injuries, so I do not know if it is strained or broken. All I know is that I cannot walk,” she admitted with a flush to her cheeks. “I must confess that this is the most adventure I have had in quite some time, you see.”
“I have a younger sister who has been getting herself in and out of such trouble since she learned to walk, or so it sometimes seems,” this he smiled to say, unable to wholly keep the fondness from his voice, long-suffering though it was. “For some reason she tends to come to me with cuts and scrapes, and for her doing so I have some experience with such injuries, if I may?”
The woman blinked, and after a moment's hesitation she moved her own hands aside so that he could see to her wound. Taking in a deep breath – for the thoughtless ease that ever came with seeing to Irissë and her injuries was now strained as he became acutely aware of the delicate shape of her ankle and the long stretch of her calf, visible nearly to her knee from where she had raised the hem of her dress. Exhaling, he softly touched her skin, trying to clinically discern between a sprain and a break without trailing his fingertips and marveling over the stolen sensation of touch, even to an appendage he would not have remotely considered sensual before. This close, he was painfully aware of how the rain and the drenched grass had turned the modest lines of her gown wet and clinging to the curves of her body, and he tried to keep his gaze to her ankle and her ankle only as she leaned forward to see what he saw. He was helped, in part, by her discomfort at his probe; for her skin was red and warm to the touch, and though she hissed in a breath when he found a particularly tender spot, he did not yet feel anything truly severe to worry over.
Pleased that his touch did not shake, and to further distract himself from the softness of her skin, he said as the thought came to him, “I have been remiss in asking for your name, I fear. Normally, I would first ask before . . .” but he bit off his words, not wanting to imply that he was this familiar with other women, even for innocent intentions. On cue, he felt his face flame, and the tips of his ears burned.
“The gossips gave you my father's name, but not my name? How sadly typical.” This she smiled to say, gracefully letting his moment of inelegance go without comment, though the glittering of her eyes said that she'd heard it clearly. “I am Elenwë Mistenis, daughter to Hellendur Manwedil and Sanwë Wilindis, apparently erstwhile hiker, newly inducted acolyte to Manwë, and unfortunately terrible harpist, no matter my love for the instrument.”
She took in a shaky breath, and he lessened the pressure of his touch in reply - though, when he looked up, she did not appear to be much pained.
Elenwë Mistenis, he found himself slowly savoring the sound of her name within his mind, fighting the urge he had to repeat it aloud. Elenwë Mistenis, his spirit gave a lurch, coming to brush against the underside of his skin so much so that he was hard-pressed to hold back its light from rising from his pores.
He flushed, and ducked his head so as to avoid meeting her eyes. “It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance, my lady. I am Turukáno -”
“ - Nurtafinwë,” she smiled to say. “I needed not seek far to learn more of you, you see, for my people love their tales as much as they love their bells.”
“Such is not purely a Vanyarin trait,” he commented wryly. “My mother's Noldorin circle of ladies is a terrifying thing, and my Grandmother's are even more so.”
“An army ever at the ready with sewing needles and words as sharp as swords; enough for even the dread Vala to shake in his place and wish for his return to Námo's keeping,” this Elenwë provided wryly, biting her lip to avoid a flinch as his fingertips moved.
“Precisely,” Turukáno agreed, thinking only briefly that he was glad that Melkor's parole did not extend to the hospitality of Ingwë's halls. Every time he was in the presence of the disgraced Ainu he felt as if there was a weight upon his spirit, smothering him, and no matter Manwë's hopes and love for his brother, he did not care for the smile Melkor wore in his fair cage of flesh, ever failing as it did to reach his eyes.
But he would not think of such things with Elenwë sitting before him, and Elenwë looking him boldly in the eye, even when he could not bring himself to wholly meet her gaze. There was a flush to her cheeks when he finally released her ankle, and for a moment he wondered if such was wholly from her discomfort, or did she too feel -
- sternly telling himself that his thoughts were unbecoming did not help the interested light of his spirit, however, which seemed to surge forth as a tide for hers at the thought, and through the greatest of efforts, he reined in the cast of his fëa, quite vexed with his lack of self-control - no matter how lovely the woman before him was.
“There is nothing broken,” he was pleased to report, shaking his head in a further effort to clear his mind, “but you have managed to twist it rather badly. A cold compress and limited use should have it set to rights in a few days time. Which only leaves us with the conundrum of getting you back to the city.”
“I can walk,” determination thickened the lilting cadence of her voice. Her bangs had fallen to hang in her eyes, and she stared through the golden haze of the rain as if the force of her will alone would be enough to carry her home.
“I have no doubt of it,” Turukáno inclined his head, most certainly reminded of Irissë then. “And yet, perhaps the most sensible solution would be if -”
Not wanting to give himself time to second-guess his decision, he held his arms open to display his intentions. For a moment her face twisted in surprise, and hesitation creased her features. But he would allow no other course, and she only uttered a halfhearted, “you shall ruin your robes,” in protest as he scooped her up, supporting her weight behind her shoulders and underneath her knees as her arms came to rest quite naturally around his neck.
Distracted by the way her left hand threaded through his hair to better stabilize herself, he almost missed her saying, “it is a long walk back,” in a worried tone of voice. She bit her lip, drawing his gaze to her mouth before he sternly told himself to look away.
“Not terribly so,” he countered. “And you are no burden to carry.” Such was true, he thought, for he hardly noticed her weight when he was instead focused on the warm sensation of her body pressed against his own. His spirit was then a pleased, eager shape as it pulsed against the constraint of his hröa, pushing him on and urging him to be of aid to her in any way he could. He narrowed his eyes against his more fey sensibilities, and told his baser self that his slipping while so distracted would benefit neither of them. And so . . .
The rain was nothing more than a fine mist by the time he walked through the gates of Valmar with Elenwë still in his arms. As Ingwë's halls were the closest of his options, he took Elenwë in to the guest's suite his family was sharing, shooing away the attendants and guards who were eager to help him with his burden, before setting Elenwë down on one of the low couches in the sitting room. His arms felt empty as soon as he let her go, and he inordinately missed her warmth, only then noticing the chill he bore from the rain and the uncomfortable way his wet robes stuck to his body as they dried.
But he was grateful that Irissë had sensed his approach, and had rushed back early from the Changing in order to have one of her dry gowns ready in hand. By her side, Findekáno too was waiting with bandages and a cold compress, his eyes wide as he took in his appearance – from the ruined plaits of his braids to the liberal streaks of green marring the usually impeccable white of his dress. He narrowed his eyes at Findekáno's look, daring his elder brother to say a word.
“Normally, it is my job to bring home strays, not Turvo's,” this Irissë could not help but say, biting back her need to hear everything as she instead stepped forward to warmly welcome the other woman. “I bid you welcome, Elenwë, to the House of Nolofinwë – temporary though it may be.”
Though Elenwë's face was pinched and white, she smiled for meeting his sister, and Turukáno felt something warm inside of him build at the sight – so much so that he did not notice Irissë staring at him pointedly, her eyes blade-sharp as she took the medical supplies from Findekáno's hands.
“I am sure that your guest would like to change into something dry,” she finally cleared her throat pointedly to say. “And you too are doing nothing more than dripping onto the tile as you ogle. Go and change, and she will be as right as rain by the time you return, Turvo.”
On cue, he felt his cheeks flame red – for which Irissë's smile was only just too triumphant to be called innocent. Findekáno too looked as if he was trying not to grin too widely, and though Elenwë's face did flush to match his own, there was a twinkling in her eyes that put him at ease for his siblings' humor.
“I leave you in the best of hands, then, my lady,” at last, he recovered himself enough to say. However, he did not deny himself the pleasure of leaning down to kiss the back of her hand in farewell. Elenwë's eyes were very, very green as she stared at him, and he once again felt his spirit brush the underside of his skin as a near tangible wave of light.
“Nearly,” Elenwë did not quite agree. “And yet . . .” With a boldness he could not yet claim for himself, she tugged on the front of his tunic to pull him down to her, and she brushed a kiss across his cheek. After a moment's hesitation he felt her smile, and her lips just barely caught the corner of his mouth as she released him. It could not properly be called a kiss, but he felt the intention of it, even so, and when he gaped down at her, her eyes were glittering.
“If the Valar sought to chastise me for my lackluster worship this morning, theirs is a peculiar form of punishment,” she said softly, so softly that he did not think that she first intended to speak her words aloud. He squeezed her hand once in reply before letting her go, ready to leave her to Irissë's care.
But a heartbeat passed, and her voice once again summoned him before he could wholly leave her behind. “Next time, my lord, do not wait for such circumstances to speak to me,” she let out boldly. “Ask me to dance,” he swore that he could feel her spirit smile to say, “I would not have - I will not - say no.”
Delightful. The beginning and sparking of mutual attractions is always a thrill, and in your more than competent hands, indescribably so.
Nyota's Heart - I am thrilled that you enjoyed my take on them! It was such a fun, sweet moment to write.
Alrighty, I am finally kicking out one of the NSWFF prompts, this one being for the memories best forgotten/memories held dear prompt. To do so, we are looking in on Idril and Tuor, early in their knowing each other in Gondolin . . .
“who refused to breathe in water”
The summer day was a warm, hot thing against their skin, even as high in the mountains as they were.
Dominating the skyline, the white peaks of the Echoriath were blinding underneath the sunlight, and the blue mountain lake filling the dip in the terrain, just south of the Cristhorn, was as a mirror as it returned the high light of noontide blow for blow. There was a laughing waterfall feeding the lake, pouring out from a hidden river within the rock, and the merry cadence was an inviting sound - so much so that it was not long until her companions proposed a swim – or, more accurately, Glorfindel mentioned his intention to swim before turning and nonchalantly pushing Ecthelion from the rocky overlook into the awaiting water below. The dark haired elf spat and sputtered in protest as he surfaced again, little amused by Glorfindel's saying that, as Lord of the Fountains – and his being half-Telerin, at that - he should have appreciated his return to the water. Wise as to what would next transpire, Idril deftly stepped out of the way before Ecthelion decided to live up to his name and gravely set himself to the most serious task of seeing his friend as drenched as he was.
Content to watch at a distance, she could not help but laugh when the two elves turned from each other in favor of dragging Maeglin to the water. Such was good for her cousin, she could not help but think – and one of the reasons that her father had insisted they bring him along in the first place. All too often were his days spent in the dark of the forges and the shadows of the mines, and his brooding silences and grave fits of temper were little helped so far from the sunlight and the warmth of the natural day. To see joy returned to his sister-son's countenance, Turgon was determined to do nearly anything in honor of Aredhel's memory, and Idril would help her father in that regard, even ignoring her own sense of foreboding to do so, little caring for the way Maeglin . . .
Yet, she refused to think on such things with such a beautiful day around them - not even when a drenched Maeglin finally escaped from the water like an angry and hissing tomcat, his ire snapping from his fëa like a lash at those around him. His too-fair skin had already turned pink and blistering during their short journey from the Seventh Gate, and his wildly long black hair now clung to his face and the absurd black robes he had insisted on wearing in spite of the summer heat. With more overbearing pomp than she had ever seen her father don with his most difficult courtiers, Maeglin had spluttered about the insult done to his royal person, demanding the respect and the gravitas due to one of his blood and lineage. Yet, when Glorfindel finally did bow his head and apologize for his lapse in protocol to preserve peace amongst their party, Idril had seen the way his words were only that – words. As a cousin to her mother, Glorfindel was tied to her House through Elenwë's marriage, and his centuries of following her father in friendship, as well as fealty, had him little impressed by Maeglin's airs - and even less inclined to view a line between himself and the family he loved so dearly. Idril would not have it any differently, at that, and knew that her father felt the same as she.
Maeglin now walked the further side of the lake, sulking, and Glorfindel ignored him in favor of dozing on the sun-soaked rocks like a large and lazy lion, drying in the heat. Now that he did not have to worry for Glorfindel's exuberant love for water-sports, Ecthelion was making use of the deeper end of the lake by the waterfall to swim laps in peace – this being a favourite spot of his due to his Telerin blood, much as Glorfindel had first teased, while Tuor . . .
Though she would deny it to any who asked, her eyes found the mortal man more often than not. Though only months had passed since Tuor Ulmo's Voice came to Gondolin, he had recovered from his long journey - first escaping Lorgan, only to live as an outlaw until Ulmo's favor found him, thus forcing him to survive the violence of the Fell Winter in his quest to find the Hidden Way to Gondolin and her father's listening ear within. Now, a constant seat at Turgon's table and regular exercise through his sparring with the Guard had him filling out his large and tall frame admirably well, with healthy colour returning to his skin and luster to his strangely yellow hair. Though she told herself that she would not stare – for a shirtless man was certainly nothing new to her eyes after so many centuries – she nonetheless found herself turning to where Tuor swam by himself during the playful exchange between their companions. In the beginning of any such outing by the water, Tuor was always solemn, and the deep respect and friendship he bore for the Vala of the Seas never failed to move her. She watched him now, unable to look away, no matter what was going on around her.
Then, there was the simple novelty that was a Man to her eyes. Unlike the tall and lithe men she knew of her own folk, Tuor had a strange breadth of form to match his great height, and the extra bulk, rather than making him awkward and ungainly to her eyes, was strangely pleasing to look upon. His physique was toned and rippling with strength, and she did not know if it was that which caught her eye, or the strange way his body was covered with a fine fuzz of hair. Fascinatingly, it grew from his face in a beard that he shaved less and less often as of late, and it noticeably dusted his chest to darken in a thin line down the center of his torso – which she most certainly did not stare at more than she should have. Even the scars he bore in healed white lines from Lorgan's cruelty were an enticement, rather than a brand of ugliness to her eyes. Even now she followed one particularly pronounced welt with her gaze, trailing across his abdominal muscles before curving around his side and turning down his back to disappear beneath the waistline of -
- of course, his eyes would turn to her find her then, just then, and no matter how quickly she looked away, the fact remained that she had been caught looking, and he knew. She felt her cheeks flush, wondering where her countless years – her normally effortless serenity – fled off to whenever he was near. Far from being as a child to her years, there were often times when she felt the youth around him, and while Tuor had never taken to teasing her outright, there was a strange sort of light in his eyes whenever she was near, so much so that she . . .
Idril merely swallowed, and told herself that such thoughts were foolishness, destined only for heartbreak, and resolved to think on them no more.
. . . which was why she most certainly did not hold her breath when Tuor came to sit on the sun warmed stones next to her. He always did sit very close to her, she thought, with only a hand's breath between their bodies to be found. She held herself the slightest bit straighter in reply, a strange sort of awareness tingling through her limbs at the knowledge.
“I do believe that this lake is my favourite part of Gondolin yet,” Tuor was the first to speak, his eyes glancing from her to look out over the bright blue water again. The sharp glow of the sun against the lake settled atop the highlights the summer bleached in his hair, turning it alight with color to match. She stared for a moment, watching the way the wet strands against his neck curled as they dried, before determinedly looking away.
“It is this that entrances you so? Not the famous white spires or the laughing fountains?” she found her voice to ask, raising a dark blonde brow in exaggerated surprise. “It is for they the poets wet their pens, and the minstrels string their harps, I have come to find.”
“The white spires and laughing fountains are fair enough, I grant you,” Tuor returned. “I do not think one could ever call Gondolin displeasing to the eye, but this . . . there is something natural about this place. Something contented and right in its belonging. Yes, I do feel a kinship with it, I confess.”
“Huor too loved this spot,” she said, ever glad as she was to mention their previous mortal guest to him. As always, Tuor turned quiet at the mention of the father he had never known, as if by concentrating all the more so he could inscribe each word she said to his memory, and never let them go. “He could swim for hours on end, and never tire of the water. Often we would come with him, Glorfindel and Húrin and I watching while Ecthelion raced Huor back and forth until they were both wrinkled and pruned from tarrying too long in the water. Those were fine days to my mind, and much beloved amongst my memories.”
“My father taught me to swim in the pools of Androth,” Tuor was happy to return her shared memory with one of his own, differentiating not between Annael and Huor in his heart, and thus, seeing no need to do so when speaking aloud. “He was of like kin with the Falathrim, you see, and reverent for the life that could be felt in the water. He taught me that the same water that touches us also touches the Western shores, thus allowing us to feel an echo of the Song that birthed all in the cadence of the waves and the pull of the tides. Perhaps such is merely the Elven way, but there are times when I too like to imagine . . .”
He faltered from saying anything more, unsure how to phrase that which was without words. Yet, in the blue of his eyes she did not see a reflection of Hador and Haleth's might, as so many professed, but, rather, of the ocean itself. Just barely, she thought that she could understand that of which he spoke.
“Do you swim?” Tuor finally returned his gaze to her. His eyes were very bright, reflecting the water and the sunlight both. “It has just struck me that I have never once seen you take to the water, not even to run a hand through one of the fountains your minstrels love so much.”
“ . . . no,” she had to force the one syllable to take shape, and her voice came out as a stiff, ungainly sound. She fought to keep herself from frowning, ill at ease as she was with even the thought . . . “I have not swam since . . .” she faltered, refusing to count that time, no matter that she could still remember the icy shock of the water that was nearly her tomb. Even now she could remember the way the frozen sea had pummeled her from all sides, filling her lungs and choking her breath until strong hands pushed and pulled, at last freeing her from the water's stubborn embrace at the cost of . . . “I've not swam since Aman,” Idril finally forced herself to finish, “as a girl.”
Tuor blinked, his eyes widening as if he could not fathom so long a time spent away from the water he so adored. “Yet, that has been . . .” he faltered, his mortal mind tripping over the knowledge of her centuries, no matter that he had so long been raised amongst, and found a belonging, with Elven-kind as the kindred of his heart.
“Many, many years, I grant you,” her mouth was a thin line to say so. Though she tried for wry humor, she could feel where her face was slow to leave its grim countenance behind.
“Many such,” Tuor frowned to agree, and she felt something dangerous seize in her chest when she realized that his gaze was considering, puzzling over the why of her not doing so, and, concerned, looked to find . . .
She saw where his face softened, and though he did not speak aloud, she knew that someone had told him the story of her family's tragedy. Glorfindel, more than like, she guessed, who would wish to let Tuor know before he asked questions in innocence that would have been painful for the answering.
“I am sorry,” Tuor inclined his head to say. “I did not consider my question before asking, and for that I know regret.”
“Please, do not cause yourself such worry,” she did not want him to know grief on her behalf for a wound that was so very old to her spirit - not on what had first been such a pleasing day for them all. “Such a wound is a very old grief for me, and I do not wish for it to mar this day,” she shared her thoughts aloud.
“No matter its age, the grief is still fresh if it keeps you from something that it so sacred to your people,” this Tuor was resolute to say. There was a strange sort of determination to his voice, and she did not know what to make of it at the first.
“The memory still causes pain,” she swallowed thickly to say, wishing to speak of something else then – anything else. “Which is why I do all I can to avoid its reminder.”
She looked at the water then, unable to hold Tuor's eyes. For a moment, she hated the way the lake seemed to ripple in innocent serenity. First Alqualondë with its white sands and pearlescent surf stained so very red by those she had known as her kinsman, unable as her child's mind was to wholly understand the great wrong done that day . . . and then the water claiming and tearing her mother away, no matter how she reached . . . no, she did not care for the water at all.
Idril inhaled, even now able to remember the raw sensation that had been her mother fading from her fëa . . . followed by her father's grief and disbelief burning through her spirit as such a pain before Galadriel's presence of mind had shielded her from the psychic outpouring. Even now she could remember how Fingon and Finrod had to fight to physically restrain her father in order to keep Turgon from drowning himself in trying to reclaim Elenwë . . . She had seen, and she had known, no matter how Glorfindel had turned her face into his chest so as to keep her from seeing her father in such a state . . . and it had all been her fault. If she had chosen any other step . . . if she had foreseen the shatter-point in the Ice, just as she Saw so many other things . . . if she had been that much stronger, that much faster, that much wiser, as she was so-called now . . . then her mother need not have fallen to the Helcaraxë's merciless claws, and her father may still, even now, have his wife . . . and she her mother.
But she sucked in a breath, her logical mind knowing that it was only the remnants of her child-self's grief that felt as such. Even so, it was a fearful knowing, a terrible guilt, that lingered with her throughout her adult years, and she could never seem to shake it wholly away.
She frowned, and bit her lip, glancing over only when Tuor sucked in a shaky breath. His bright eyes had taken on a shadow, and his strong hands made fists where they rested in his lap. She then felt his hurt, and it took her a moment to understand that he felt as such for her hurt. Hurriedly, she shielded her mind, unaware that she had been projecting in such a way - for she had ever been able to influence the minds of others much too easily, and Tuor was strangely in tune to her thoughts, even more so than her closest friends amongst the Eldar.
Idril faltered, unsure how to apologize for something she did not even know how to explain with words spoken aloud. But to her surprise, Tuor only reached over and took one of her hands in his own. There was strength in his touch, she thought - sympathy too. Yet, it was not a sympathy she drowned in, as she often felt when she was offered pity and condolences for her mother, but rather, something that buoyed her . . . something that held her afloat on the sea of her own grief and memories.
“Then,” Tuor said slowly - carefully even, “if you are amiable, my lady, I would wish to help you form a new memory to replace the ones which pain you.”
He was not the first one to ask such of her, she thought. Aredhel had tried many times before she was . . . before her death, and Glorfindel too had tried once in his kindness, though not again. But she had never been able to return to the water. As far as she knew, her father had not, either.
But now . . .
There was a strange sort of tugging she felt, deep within her spirit; the same as the tides responding to the draw of the moon, she imagined. Tuor then stood, and she immediately missed the loss of his hand about her own - that was, until he leaned down to offer her his hand again.
“If you would trust me . . .” he beckoned her, and the cord she felt, seemingly connecting her spirit to his, drew her to move before she even made the conscious decision to do so. She bit her lip, and something inside of her felt small and desperate – filled with a child's remembered fear – but she swallowed that feeling away to place her hand in his, and let him help her to her feet.
She was wearing a long, sleeveless blue tunic that went nearly to her knees in the front, and all the way down to her calves in the back, with slashes in the sides for easier movement, over pale grey leggings and thin summer boots – a style her aunt Aredhel had favored, and one she had adopted in turn whenever she left the city walls behind for the mountains, where the court's finery would not do at all. Eying the water pensively all the while, her hands trembled as she undid the laces to her boots, before next loosening her belt so that she could slip off her long tunic in favor of the thin linen shirt she wore beneath. She took more time than was necessary in rolling up her leggings, only glancing over when she felt Tuor's eyes upon her – or, more accurately, the pale skin from her knees down she had revealed – before he turned away, the tips of his strangely curved ears turning pink. In any other circumstances, such would have caused a matching blush on her face - had her mind not already been so otherwise occupied to be pleased by his regard.
From further down the shoreline, she saw where Maeglin had turned to watch them, and his was a gaze she felt as a weight as it lingered. Ignoring her cousin, she allowed Tuor to take her hand once more, then eager for the shielding embrace of the water for more reasons than one.
They came to where the surf kissed the pebbled shore, and Idril looked down at the calmly lapping water as if it flowed from Morgoth himself. Her logical mind knew, and understood, the absurdity of her trepidation, but no such understanding from her higher reasoning was enough to hide the way her body suddenly took on a stiff cast - as if her limbs had filled with molten iron and then rapidly cooled, preventing her from moving forward.
Tuor stepped into the water first, and he said nothing to coax her further. Instead, he merely waited, and with the look from his eyes . . .
. . . finally, she took that first step . . .
. . . and then another as she left the comfort of the shore behind.
The water was cold – not too cold, she had to firmly tell herself, not icy – but instead soothing as it combated the heat of the day. Her feet sunk into the lake-bed, and the gentle current tugged against her ankles as she stood still, acclimating to the feel of the water once more.
Next to her, there was a serene expression on Tuor's face, and she could feel the way that the embrace of the water was a home superior to him than any other he had ever known. The water seemed to mutter around him, to hum in welcome, he truly being Ulmo's favored one in every way.
So, she squared her jaw, and went in deeper.
By the time the water came up to her waist, she was repeating to herself over and over again that she was safe, that this was still Gondolin, secure and guarded and far, far away from the icy tundra that had taken so much from so many. She was safe, she was well, and if she would only allow herself, she could even enjoy herself, as well.
Her mother would not want her to live in fear for the rest of her life, the thought struck her, quite unsummoned, and rather than the thought being a relief, she strangely felt tears touch her eyes, even though the loss of Elenwë was one centuries old to her heart.
All the while, Tuor's hand was firmly wrapped about her own, standing as a steady weight, a comforting presence. She squeezed his fingers tighter and tighter the deeper they went, holding onto him as if he were the anchor keeping her from drifting. He would not let her come to any harm, that knowledge - that truth - was then a comfort of its own. With such in mind, she then let herself exist separately from her memories, instead enjoying the coolness of the current and the murmur of the rippling waves. There truly was life in the water, Tuor was wise in saying, and she listened, certain that she could then hear . . .
Seized by a moment of boldness, she let go, and dove forward to submerge herself completely beneath the water. For a moment, the water was cold - too cold – and she felt panic rise up in her as she remembered the Ice swallowing her, with Elenwë pushing her up while hands searched for her from above, pulling her to safety, even when – but no, no. She held onto Tuor's hand, and pushed the memories away. Instead, she forced herself to focus on the buoyant feeling of floating, of the peaceful undulation of the water as the sunlight danced on the surface above her head. She held on for a moment and then a moment more, forcing herself to stay under until her lungs burned and air became a necessity she could not ignore.
When she swam up to break the surface again, Tuor was still right there by her side, smiling widely at her for her moment of fearlessness. She too was smiling then, even though tears flowed from her eyes - tears, not from fear and grief, so much as from missing and mourning. They were indecipherable from the water still dripping down into her eyes, however, and to anyone else she would simply appear as a woman enjoying the water – something simple and natural, and so, so . . . her thoughts faltered, and she glanced to the shore again. Ignoring the too close way Maeglin was watching her, she instead saw where Glorfindel had awakened from his doze to watch her, he well knowing what a leap such a venture had been for her - and he looked away only when he was certain that there was joy in her gaze, rather than fear. Further in the lake, Ecthelion too had paused from his swim to tread water and watch her, and she inclined her head to them each before turning back to Tuor – Tuor, who was looking at her as if she were the sunlight on the water to his eyes. She then felt joy enough to splash him, and that joy turned tenfold when he pushed her down and none of the all-encompassing panic she would normally feel rose up to consume her when the lake swallowed her again.
Idril was shivering and her fingertips were wrinkled by the time they returned to the rocky shore, but the hot sun above was already making quick work of her chills as they both settled down to dry before continuing on. She was still unable to keep from smiling, and her happy contentment was shared by Tuor as he tilted his head, making no effort to hide the way he stared.
“I had forgotten,” she said, unable to wholly put into words the way she felt, “just how pleasing the water could be. I thank you for returning that joy to me, Tuor, son of Huor.”
His look softened as she spoke, and though it took him a moment to reply, at last he said, “Such was a joy I could not go on without ensuring you knew as well. Perhaps it is merely a sign of Ulmo's favor, but the water has always blessed me . . . it has led me to everything I hold dear in this life.” For this, he met her eyes, and she was aware of a strange heat in his gaze, a strange warmth, and though he hesitated, he at last summoned his courage and finished by saying, “For it has led me to you, after all, has it not?”
She did not have the words to answer him, but he did not seem to expect a reply. Instead, he laid down on his back, already closing his eyes and content to laze in the sun until they were ready to carry on again. For a long moment, Idril stared down at him, wanting so very dearly to say . . .
But such words were so much more than taking a plunge into cold water. There was still courage for her to gather, and until she could find a way to speak then . . .
She simply laid down on the stone next to him, and closed her eyes to the warmth of the sun and the murmur of the water just beyond them. Contentment then seemed to fill her heart, and it was that and only that she let herself dwell on as the sunlight continued to dance on the lake beyond them.
Thank-you for this gift! This exquisite gift! I love the connection between them, the beauty of the lake, the courage of Idril in finding new memories and healing. Tuor is integral to that whole process.
I do not want to spoil anything LOL if you haven't read up in "Necessity Beyond Sway" but anything that smacks of reaching out beyond pain and loss to something bright and new - it resonates. I truly, truly embrace it for Ayesha.
Love the depth of the details in your vignettes. Beautiful as always and enhancing Tolkien's world
Nyota's Heart - I am thrilled to hear this resonated so strongly with you! Healing and recovery after loss are themes that I will never not enjoy exploring in fiction, that's for sure. And as for Necessity Beyond Sway - I am but a few chapters away from being caught up, and then I'll be on track again. Ayesha is an amazing character, and it really is something watching her pick herself back up again.
earlybird-obi-wan - Why thank-you so much!
Since all of my updates to the prompts I am catching up on are looking to be longer ones, I decided to cleanse my palate with some short ficlets, randomly taken from the December 50 sentence table. (They were supposed to be drabbles, but clearly that didn't work. ) I didn't want to post them separately because of the length, but then decided that the awesome ladies staring in each of them should be enough of a binding theme to post them together. So, here you have it: a grab-bag of ficlets focusing on women, and their strength in different ways . . . Enjoy!
A few of these are characters I have mentioned in passing, but have not written for in detail as I would have liked, so, to first refresh your memories . . .
Rían: Mother of Tuor, who would leave her son to be raised with the Elves when she instead fades from grief at her husband's passing.
Emeldir: Mother of Beren.
Finduilas Faelivrin: Daughter of Orodreth. When Finrod was slain, Orodreth his brother (or nephew, depending on what family tree you use) became King of Nargothrond, and led the kingdom to its ruin due to Túrin's counsel and curse. She ended up developing an unrequited love for Túrin (Adanedhel here) that led to much heartache.
Ar-Zimraphel/Tar-Míriel: The last Queen of Númenor, who was still faithful to Eru, and fought against her husband's obsession with Sauron (the Zigûr, here) in what few ways she could. Amandil was Elendil's father and Isildur's grandfather, who attempted to sail West and beg the aid of the Valar against Sauron's corruption, but was never heard from again - for good or for ill.
Fíriel of Gondor: Was the mother of Aranarth - whom we met a few vignettes ago, the first Chieftain of the Dúnedain, rather than the next King of Arnor. Her bloodline, along with her husband's, was the one that gives Aragorn his ability to claim both the lines of Isildur and Anárion in his blood. After her marriage to Prince Arvedui of Arnor, her father and brothers died in battle, but Gondor refused her claim to the crown – wanting not of the North-kingdom having any say in how they governed themselves - and instead gave the Kingship to a cousin. After the death of that cousin in battle against the Witch-king, Gondor turned to the leadership of Stewards.
Dís: Sister of Thorin and mother of Fíli and Kíli.
“I have no weapons of ocean or wood”
There was no doubt in Emeldir's mind what plagued her niece; for Rían sat before her, curious and bewildered as she explained her symptoms, only to stammer in disbelief when Emeldir voiced her suspicions – understanding then dawning in her eyes as she reflected, and through that reflection knew . . .
“Yet, we spent hardly two months together as man and wife. Now . . . a child . . .” this Rían stammered to say, her disbelief then greater than her joy.
“These things only takes once,” Emeldir remarked wryly. “And for this blessing you will now have a child to present to your husband when he returns home from the battlefield.”
“Yes . . . when Huor returns to me . . .” Rían echoed, her large brown eyes then terribly soft and sad. She moved a hesitant hand to touch her still flat stomach, her fingertips barely grazing the fabric of her dress as her eyes turned listlessly to the north. Staring far away, she whispered, “yet there are days I fear . . . I feel certain that never again shall we . . .” she faltered, and Emeldir watched as her hand fell away from her womb, her half-hearted caress ending before it truly begun.
A nameless fear then rose within Emeldir, whispering and noxious, and she leaned forward to firmly place the girl's hands over her stomach, covering them with her own aged and strong grip to ensure that she did not let go.
“This is life you carry within you, Rían Belegund's daughter, and with that gift comes the most sacred of obligations,” Emeldir stated fiercely. “It matters not whether your husband falls in battle or lives on to return to you; for you now hold this part of him, and it is to you to live and love for your child, no matter the fate of its father. Your child will be your light in any dark days to come, but only if you open your eyes to see it.”
“Yet . . .” Rían whispered softly, so softly that Emeldir had to strain to here. “Huor . . .”
“Would want you to dry your tears,” Emeldir whispered, her voice gentling, “and love this child enough for the both of you. For, overjoyed with this blessing your husband most certainty would be, would he not?”
Still she frowned, but when Emeldir let her hands fall away, Rían's own hands remained protectively clasped over her womb, a slow determination dawning in her eyes - one that Emeldir hoped, and prayed, was enough to carry both mother and child through any dark days to come.
For all that Adanedhel did not first seem like other men to her – even other elven-men - the fact still remained that he could bleed, and bleed true when struck.
The arm wound was not terribly severe, however, and though it would need stitches, it would not pain him overly much as it healed. Though they were sparring with blunted steel, he had taken the wound in order to get closer to his opponent and land his 'killing blow' - caring not that the dull sword would have taken his sword-arm in true combat if it meant slaying his foe. This Finduilas had seen while watching with a close eye – for, though she would deny it to any who asked, she watched the mortal man more than was perhaps appropriate, looking when none could see her eyes wander, and there letting her gaze linger . . .
Yet, she surprised herself with a bravery she would not first have claimed when she offered to tend the wound to him.
“You do not turn faint at the sight of blood?” She had come to recognize the dry sort of humor that cut through Adanedhel's somber demeanor in flashes. His mouth did not smile, but there was the slightest softening of his features – which were always hard and severe, but nearly elven-fair, even for their seemingly being cut from stone.
“I am useful for more than weaving tapestries and planning suppers in the Great Hall, my lord,” Finduilas summoned her strength to retort, even though her voice remained soft. “What's more so, I am not unfamiliar with the Healer's songs, nor with the way a needle may mend flesh as surely as it does cloth.”
Her lessons with their few true-healers had been few, she did not add, and though she had been told that she had potential, it was a talent she had not properly encouraged to grow – though she had returned to it all the more so after Gwindor's return, wishing as she did to help him with his wounds both seen and unseen, in any way she could.
“I'd never have weighed your worth by the mere mending of tapestries before,” Adanedhel returned wryly. “It is a fool who solely would.”
She felt a queer sort of fluttering in her chest for his words, and found that she could say no more as she retrieved what she would need and set about first cleaning his arm for the needle. She hummed underneath her breath as she worked, the soft notes encouraging the skin to weave together and the pain to sooth for what was to come.
When she reached for the poultice to numb his skin, she was surprised when Adanedhel waved her on. She raised a brow, but did not protest his wishes.
Finduilas glanced, but he did not flinch when the needle made its first pass. She fought the urge she had to hesitate, before carrying on, not wanting to prolong the process due to her own uncertainty and unease.
“Gwindor has said before that you fight like a bear, a crazed one, at that,” she commented, wishing to distract him from the movements of the needle. “I did not quite realize how true his words were until today.” For just the accidental draw of his blood, he had turned on his sparring partner tenfold, and before the Elf realized that the Man was about to cause him a serious harm and fought back in turn, Adanedhel had nearly ended the bout with more than a few inconsequential stitches being needed.
“I have had many such reasons to fight so,” Adanedhel rumbled, more to herself than to her. “War is not a jest, even in the mock matches your kin make sport of here.”
He then fell silent, lost to his own thoughts, but she nonetheless felt compelled to continue as her stitches wandered down his arm. “I have never felt the call to arms myself, especially after mending the hurts steel has caused. But the idea of someday, perhaps, leading those fighting men . . . there are times when it intimidates me, and I do not yet feel equal to the task.” Following her confession, she felt her too-fair skin flush, wishing that she had not given away such a personal piece of information to a man she hardly knew.
But he fixed those strangely intense grey eyes on her, and there was a heat there to rival the star-gazes of her own people when he said, “You carry more bravery than you think, princess. Perhaps you only need the opportunity to show it.”
She looked down, then unable to hold his eyes as she processed his words. He was the first man who had spoken thus to her, she reflected . . . for Gwindor would simply pat her hand and say that he would protect her through all things, and her father would insist that she was safe and secure behind Nargothrond's walls . . . Never would she need such courage, with others ready to see to her well-being.
Yet . . .
She finished the last stitch, and forced herself to meet his eyes again. “There, it shall be as as if the wound never happened in a sennight's time.”
“With not even a scar to show,” Adanedhel inclined his head to her, absently running the fingers of his opposite hand over the upraised row of twine. His eyes still lingered on her own. “I thank you, Finarfiniel, and bid that you remember this – many are the men who can lead in war, but few are those who can heal the hurts caused by its scourge. Yours is a gift, and men will follow you for it – for more reasons than one.”
Finduilas could not quite seem to meet his as he spoke, her cheeks flushing as she instead stared at the neat row of stitches, considering his words until he rolled his sleeve down, and she could see them no more.
It was raining the night Amandil set sail for Valinor.
Though the risk to herself was great, Zimraphel cloaked herself in darkness, and set off to see him away from Rómenna. The lies and intrigue came easily to her – too easily, she yet mourned - to deceive her husband as to her true intentions. But, in the end, she need not have worried - for Pharazôn's mind was much too consumed with the golden Maia at his side and his impending assault on Valinor, so much so that he spared not a second thought for her 'pilgrimage', or where she may have truly been going instead.
His disinterest suited her well enough, however. The rain suited her even better, as it meant that the docks were empty as night fell and Amandil checked to make sure that everything was ready to sail, one last time.
A part of her heart was heavy as she watched him prepare to leave, for Amandil had been a constant in her life since her earliest days. She remembered playing with him and Calion – Pharazôn, she lamented bitterly – as children in the surf, their future then so very far away with their days being nothing more than the sand and the waves and the seashells that both of her friends brought to earn her favor. Even as she grew into a woman, and their respective marriages and her husband's maddening obsession with immortality and that creature turned away everything good and fair that Númenor once held, Amandil continued to hold a special place in her heart. She could never quite let him go.
For so long she had quietly fought and rebelled against the Zigûr and his influence, much as Amandil had fought, and now . . . his journey was their one last desperate hope that somewhere, somehow, the Valar and the One himself were listening to those who still loved and worshiped them, and would protect them in return. And yet, when he was gone, she would be alone, truly alone . . . and her weariness for her years of standing upright underneath the Shadow then weighed upon her as an anchor, holding her down in the deep.
“We are ready to leave, Your Grace,” Amandil's warm voice spoke from behind her, and Zimraphel turned at his words.
“You have known me since my girlhood, and never once have titles stood between us, my friend,” this she smiled wanly to say. And it was true; though Amandil's hair was greying and heavy lines creased about his eyes, he was still Amandil, and never had she thought of him as lesser for the order of blood between them. In some ways, she reflected wryly, he could claim a closer tie to Elros than even she, if worth had been seen in the female line in those earlier days . . .
“Yet . . . I cannot use the name he gave to you . . . you know that,” Amandil said softly, a long moment first passing, heavy in its pause. The rain continued to fall between them, but she paid it no heed, feeling as if the pouring heavens instead hid them, shielding them from the world as the water returned to the sea . . . ever to the sea.
“Then do not use that name . . . not now,” her voice was strangely thick as she spoke, “not when . . .”
“You have never been Zimraphel to me. Rather . . . Míriel,” Amandil did not have to be prompted twice to say her name, her true name. His voice was low and reverent over the syllables; little more than a whisper. “Míriel . . . you must know that I have long . . .”
But she ceased his words, placing a hand before his mouth to keep them from falling onto the air between them. Whatever more he would say, she did not think that she had the strength to hear. She had given up on the idea of him a long time ago, and he now had sons and grandsons to his name while she remained barren by choice and chained to the likes of him . . . No, she could not . . . not if she wanted to continue on to pretend at any sort of strength when he was gone.
“May the wind be ever strong at your back, and the waves calm at your bow,” she had to swallow in order to say. Her words were half given to the rain. “I pray that Ulmo guides your way, and that you find . . . that you find a way to deliver all of us who remain behind.”
Amandil looked down at her, and she held her head up high and let him look, no longer afraid of what he would see. In return, she let her eyes drink in their fill until he turned, and for the last time she watched him leave, the rain taking her sight of him long before the horizon swallowed him away.
Zimraphel then turned, and resigned them both to the whims of the sea. She did not look back again.
Her lord husband was pouring over maps and letters from the front-lines when she came to him. For a moment, Fíriel stared the line of his back, biting her lip and yet uncertain of her place, no matter that, for nearly three months now . . .
Were you a son, you would have been the greatest king Gondor has yet to know, and hard pressed would your sons be to follow in your footsteps, her father's voice rang through her mind, and Fíriel clenched her jaw, telling herself that her father – that dear, most beloved Gondor – was now far behind her. The cold and wild north was now her home – her duty – with her worth being weighed only by the blood of Elros in her veins and her ability to bear sons who would share that blood. And now, to that duty . . .
Ignoring the missives piled high on the desk, and telling her suddenly itching fingers to remain still, she instead announced her presence by saying, “My lord, Gunthor informed me that you were in council with Malbeth and your father the King the whole night through, and as I was certain that you had not taken the time to break your fast . . .”
Arvedui turned at the sound of her voice, and his clear grey eyes were most certainly clouded by a long night spent pondering and debating the welfare of their kingdom. Yet, there was also surprise in his gaze when he looked at her offered platter of tea and black bread and summer fruit, and the shape of that surprise was as a sudden sort of wound to her. For a moment she wondered why it pained her so.
“I thank-you,” Arvedui managed to say, and she'd now known him long enough to recognize the slow sort of curiosity in his eyes, along with . . . “Angmar grows more and more bold with every season,” he explained the papers spread out before him. “As such, I find myself to be . . .”
But he did not finish his words. Frustrated, he instead ran a hand through his inky hair – longer than it had been when they wed, and now in need of a trim, she noticed – and sighed.
“Then I will leave you to the affairs of the realm,” Fíriel bowed – dutiful and poised – and turned to leave her husband be. She made it one, then two steps to the door, before Arvedui's voice stopped her.
“ - wait, my lady,” he faltered awkwardly to say. “I must confess that my eyes are in sore need of a fresh gaze, and I have heard tales of your prowess in such matters as these. I would see so for myself, if your morning is not otherwise engaged.”
At first, Fíriel could not quite believe what she was hearing. She turned, and hesitantly eyed the maps and letters, wishing . . .
“You are certain . . .” she could not quite phrase her words, wanting, but unsure if her wanting was allowed – or appreciated - recalling then how often her father had sighed, and her brothers had turned her away with laughter and scorn. The idea of such a response from her husband was one that she was strangely reluctant to bear.
But Arvedui's eyes were soft with something she could not quite name, and when he opened a hand to encompass his work, she wanted so very dearly to trust the welcome in his voice. “These lands are now your lands, and I would hear your voice in this . . . as I would in all things.” Though his words began hesitantly, they were strong by the last syllable, and she wished . . .
And so, Fíriel walked forward with the grace of the queen she could have been, and sat down with her husband to add her voice to his.
Such was the work in settling Ered Luin anew that even those born of their ancient Kings got down on their hands and knees to do the most remedial of tasks.
Sometimes, Dís thought that her brother did so on purpose. No task was too big or small for Thorin - from carrying stone as a laborer, to scrubbing in the forges on his hands and knees as he was now. Sometimes, she thought that he had to keep himself moving, else-wise the memories would rise up and overtake him, and then, looking around him, he would only see . . .
. . . what was missing, she forced the thought to completion within her own mind. More than the iron they now mined and the iron they now forged, more than the stolen gold and green marble glory of Erebor, were those who no longer walked these halls – or any hall, for that matter. From their grandfather . . . to their father . . . to . . .
. . . so many, she simply amended, the loss of Frerin still as a bruise she felt more acutely than any other wound. For such she felt as if she – as if they all - needed to embrace the home and second chance she truly felt the Blue Mountains to be. These mountains had been an ancient and most hallowed seat to both Nogrod and Belegost in the elder days, and now, if any of the Maker's blessing was left in these stones, she was determined to find it and hold it close where she could.
Still thinking as such, she carefully peaked over, trying to gauge her brother's mood as Thorin scoured a place on the floor that she was certain was clean by now. Even in something as remedial as scrubbing the floors he still managed to hold a dignity and regal bearing that she sometimes envied. No one would doubt that he was Durin's heir, even with his hair tied back in a graceless mass and wearing rough-spun clothes so as to not sully the few pieces of royal weave they had left to them. He wore no riches from the earth's belly, nothing but for the two iron studs in his ears – the first crafted in Ered Luin, standing as a reminder, as a penance, she could not help but think, and, as such, they did not hold her gaze for long.
Dís sat back on her knees, and watched her brother as he simmered in his memories and his missing and his anger, then wishing . . .
“If you need clean water, I am not Ríli to fetch it from the river for you,” Thorin's voice was a low rumble of sound. “Pick up your feet; there is much still to be done.”
She frowned, and looked at the bucket awaiting her. The water was still relatively clean, she reflected, suddenly thinking that . . .
. . . if Frerin were here, she knew what her brother would do to lift Thorin from his melancholy. Frerin, with his constant smiles and easy laughter, would -
So, without giving her impulse any more thought, she picked up her bucket and dumped it unceremoniously over Thorin's head without a word spoken beforehand in warning.
For a moment, he simply blinked, stunned as the water soaked his hair and dripped down from his beard onto his chest. Dís could not help herself, she laughed as he glared at her. She laughed, and laughed, and laughed, until, finally -
- she could not say that she was surprised when Thorin retaliated by splashing his bucket at her. She, in turn, flung her wet rag at him, satisfaction filling her as it smacked his face with a wet and sploshing sound.
Of course, such an action meant war, and though she protested through her laughter, she was unable to battle her brother's strength as Thorin dragged her to the underground river and ducked her in – clothes and all. But, she thought as she surfaced - then seeing not of the plain iron or simple linens they wore - Thorin was smiling, truly smiling for the first time in what felt like far too long. She would let him dunk her in the river a dozen times again if such was the price she needed to pay for such a smile. Yet, that did not stop her from splashing him in retaliation, and their battle merely escalated from there.
Wonderful glimpses of strong, caring, courageous personalities. I like seeing them in the midst of crucial relevant relationships.