Nerdanel's Story - Part 10 Wedding Gifts #1
(Disclaimer: all characters are JRR Tolkien's. Narwasar belongs to my beta reader, Elemáine. Serewen, Mötamë, Arnónë, Failë and Artuiel are my characters. All references are from The Silmarillion, and HoME 1, 10, 11 and 12.)
"Among the Noldor also was it the custom that the bride's mother should give to the bridegroom a jewel upon a chain or collar; and the bridegroom's father should give a like gift to the bride."
( HoME 10 Morgoth's Ring. `The Later Quenta Silmarillion.')
The house of Sarmo Urundil Seventh Age
"Here, in this memory am I always with thee ----" had Fëanáro said before he died! I think on those words at times, and ponder still what he meant! That I know not which particular memory he was thinking of in his last moments is a cause for sorrow, though it was of certainty one connected with the Green Stone! To that end does my mind most frequently turn to our wedding day, or to that time we spoke in the deep vault --- the chamber of iron --- and looked anew to the future that I believed Manwë offered us. Although I still walk the hills with him in memory, and with our sons also, he has not been with me in any real sense of the word through all Seven Ages. Do not all the writings say that he sits now in the Halls of Awaiting, and may come no more amongst his kin! Indeed, not until the End, does it say, shall he return, and that the end of Arda! So long to wait, it seems, and what I shall then find him to be -- what he shall find me to be -- I know not! Though we are sundered, he and I, our union remains while we both will it. I may seek an end to my marriage, I may seek for the union to be dissolved, the Valar say. Even though their words do but confirm that Fëanáro will not be allowed to return, I will it not! To what end should I wish to wed again? Am I after those events to bear more children or seek the embrace of another?
And always have there been my memories! My family are all so often with me in memory, for how could I forget such as he and our sons, even if I so wished? But there was something else he was trying to tell me with his last thoughts to me, and I know not yet what --- not for a certainty!
"I love thee, lady. I have always loved thee!"
In Alqualondë were those words spoken to me, on a bright morning near the beginning of the Second Age, and by another!
"Wilt thou not beseech Aulë, that he may bring thy petition before all of the Valar? For certain I am they know of thy grief, and will deny not thy supplication. Even as they denied not Finwë's! Thy bond with Fëanáro may be sundered by the pronouncement of doom by Mandos!"
"Míriel would never return. Finwë's bereavement was unjust!" stated I in response. "Marriage is once, and it is forever. A union is not ended while the dead are in the Halls of Awaiting, but only should they refuse to ever return."
"Fëanáro will never return! Never will he be so permitted," did my companion persist, determined to make me realise the truth of my situation. "And even if he were permitted, why should he so choose? What is there for him to return to? His parents? Your sons? Yourself? The Silmarils are out of his reach, as is Morgoth, who is cast beyond the Walls of the World. His role and power are now taken by one more fitting to rule the Noldor, and, though the Teleri have forgiven their ancient grief, many Noldor there are who curse him still! It is not a marriage, that which may never again be realised in hröa, and that within the life of Arda! For thou shalt not meet with him until the end of time! Please, Nerdanel! I will wait as long as thou doest require of me, but at least grant me some hope in this matter!"
"Fëanáro's wife am I!" I had cried stubbornly, and the day had suddenly seemed not so bright to me. Though still did I have no wish to hurt this friend of mine, I would not give him a hope that was false." Now, and until the end of time, am I his wife ! I will not do unto him that which his father did unto his mother! Marriage resides in the will of the fëa, not just in the hröa, and it cannot be ended while that will remains!"
At those words did Gaerion, who had then but recently returned with the Teleri fleet from the carrying of the Vanyar and faithful Noldor to and from the Hither Lands, frown sadly, and depart my company for some years. Though always did I love that Teler well, never did I love him as he wished, and that, alas, is another grief to me.
This is the last portion I will write in this house of my parents. I need to be away, and to Tirion. I would roam again the fair city, and speak with old acquaintances. I would spend a little time in the home that contains so much of my past. I would walk through those rooms where my sons lived and laughed and argued. I would touch again those artefacts that were made by Fëanáro, or myself, our one of our sons, and fill myself to overflowing with thoughts of the golden days. But it is in my mind that I do not deal with my task adequately, and this vexes me. For what reason do I remain in hröa, but to record the tragic events whereby my husband and sons became nigh vilified, and to show how much of that was Morgoth's plan alone! For who amongst us could have withstood that barrage of twisted half-truths aimed at destroying them, and remained unaltered?
And what after Tirion? I would that I could walk again some of the paths of old, and then shall I seek the Gardens of Lórien. So I will write and after that is done, take my leave of my parents. Painful shall that parting be. They have known this journey was forthcoming for many a year, and I hope that they understand. Mayhap we shall meet again, at the End! Also shall I make my farewell to those oldest of my friends who remain; to Tulcon who ever stood by me, (though Mötamë was never to return with the exiles!) to Narwasar who almost lost his daughter, and to others amongst the Aulenduri who know well of my plight.
But there is still time for explanation. Still do I have time to show what Morgoth did, and to many of us --- to me, aye, even to Artanis! I am not at my journey's end yet!
I had not thought in my youth that I would ever be one to enjoy overly the company of other nissi. For the most part, those that I knew were busy about embroidery and tapestry, and the making of garments. All these things did I much admire, but they were not areas in which my skill lay. Neither did many other of the nissi amongst the Aulenduri greatly enjoy long periods of exploration, preferring the tending of their homes and gardens and fields. Good things all, and ones I also enjoyed. But for me, and at that time, it was not enough.
That I was to find good discussion and challenging ideas in the company of the Lady Indis and Serewen, and even in time, Mötamë, was an unlooked-for pleasure. That we came to have much joy and laughter together was also true.
I was my father's daughter! I was born to a household that epitomised the skills of the neri, and I was an only child. In many things did I try to be both daughter and son to Urundil, whom I loved and admired greatly. Never did my father say for me to so do, and although I made him proud, so very proud when I became an Aulendur, yet never did I see him look more honoured that I was his daughter than on my wedding day! And that, in response to words and a gift from Fëanáro that influenced us all!
The halls of Aulë were a welcome respite from the attention I had been receiving (nay, enduring!) in the halls of King Finwë. There had I been a focus for the nissi of the King's household, those attendants and those who had once been Míriel's ladies had thought to preen and garb me in a manner like unto themselves. That I had not accepted their well-meant offers with any true grace, I knew. I was ashamed of my sharpness with them, just a little. But then in the familiarity of Aulë's house could I breath freely again, could I wander at will without an entourage of folk who seemed each to be trying against me a different shade of silk or taffeta, or other such.
"I will wear my best gown for my wedding! Let that be an end to it," had I said, though not meant, for I was determined to be no disgrace to the house of Finwë. They had departed my presence, bemoaning my lack of interest and appreciation. But at that time did I feel most the awkwardness of not being highborn myself, of not knowing by upbringing the nuances of court life
Fëanáro was little help to me, having sought refuge again in his work! He had avoided Silwë and those other officials who wished to remind him that it was but twenty days before the wedding, by asserting that he had a house to build, and that took precedence now! We had gone over the plans for the house, he and I. We had paid visit to the site that would be our new home on several occasions. That he had chosen well was a forgone conclusion. There were areas in which he had shown obvious thought of me, and knowledge of my preferences. We were both to have workrooms in which to pursue our skills. On the ground level were we to have our own studies, as well as there being a scriptorium for both our use. The main hall had he designed to have a high ceiling with many intricately arched beams, overlaid with webs woven of copper such as were found in Aulë's house, and within the beams were to be set very many diamonds, that would sparkle as the stars of Varda in the hour when the light grew less. Nine high arched windows were to look out to the west, over the nearby hills, and bring light as well as beauty into our home. A hall for entertaining it was to be, a hall that would give room for a large number of folk to gather together without a feeling of confinement. There was to be an upper story, with a galleried landing, and a variety of rooms that could perhaps be used for guests. And a high tower, like unto the one at my home, had he planned, that we might look to the plains of Valinor, to the Trees in one direction, and to the Sea in the other.
"It is most wonderful a plan, Fëanáro!" said I, as Narwasar had passed us by, already grim-faced at the new prospect of working, with four other Aulenduri, to my betrothed's orders. "But is this house not overlarge for us? So many rooms! I will not be able to find you!"
He smiled at me in those days most indulgently, for the house and I were his main focus. "Aye, you will, lady! I shall be in the workroom, as ever! Or the study! And I think we shall have a place that is suitable for the status of our family, a place we will not outgrow, even when our children are in this house, and their children's children. To that end, may you also find me in the bedchamber on occasion!"
I had blushed slightly at those words, though the colour rose less often to my face than it had done before our betrothal. We had not spoken of children, other than to know that we both wished them to be added unto us. Also did I think that he viewed this matter in a similar manner to Finwë, wishing for us to bring forth not a few sons and daughters. (So did I then think, knowing not his thoughts upon daughters! For when Indis' firstborn was a nís, did his mood change most swiftly from one of growing resentment at a prospective sibling, to one of nigh humour! `So, King Finwë has a daughter!' had he said sardonically when we received the news. I did not look to find him in the bedchamber or anywhere else for a few days after that slight to my kind! He was not so complacent when, two years later, Nolofinwë* was born! )
Some trepidation did I feel, as an only child myself, and at the thought of what Fëanáro's birth had cost his mother. Yet strong did I know myself to be, and no coward! When I voiced my thoughts, he had replied with much determination that we would not have children for several years yet!
"I will not lose thee as my mother was lost!" he had exclaimed, seriousness replacing his bantering tone. "Strong thou art, Nerdanel, but stronger yet wilt thou become in years. We will wait until thou art ready to bear children." (To this promise did he hold, though the early addition of the two children to his father's house almost caused him to recant. What might have come about in the First Age had Maitimo been brought to birth before Indis' first son, I have sometimes wondered! But it is all in the distant past now!)
I had wanted to help with the building, but Fëanáro seemed to have some secret plan and would work only with Narwasar, whose skills he deemed to be adequate! He wanted my advice on certain matters, on sculpting and on the garden, but thought I would be well occupied with Serewen and other of the ladies at that time. "Much may you do in later days, lady, for there will be work to complete before we may leave my father's house."
So I left him to his secrets, though I kept informed upon the main building work. To that end was Narwasar ever my friend!
Deprived of the excuse of house-building and not wishing overmuch for the company of the ladies of the court, I sought refuge in my long- desired visit to Aulë. I had made up my mind to offer the Vala my allegiance before I wed, and still did I have a task for which I desired his assistance.
Now, it is a custom amongst the Noldor for each family to present gifts to the other at a wedding, and perhaps the best known, and most strongly adhered-to custom throughout the ages was the exchange of gifts of jewels! King Finwë would be expected to gift me thus, though deprived of the service of his chief artisan on that occasion, deprived of my father, did he have to find another to craft the gem.
My mother would be expected to gift Fëanáro in a like manner. Taurlotë willingly would have so done, and had expected Urundil to already begin work with her on the item. But I wanted to craft this! My gift to Fëanáro would it be, for there was no custom other than this wherein I might bestow something of value upon my betrothed. I knew what I would make, and saw it clearly in my thoughts, but how to get the stone to shine with the green radiance of the hill and the sea by Tirion, I knew not! Neither was my father certain!
"Why doest thou seek to craft this gift thyself, Nerdanel?" Aulë had asked of me. "'Tis not the custom of thy people!"
"My lord Aulë," I had replied, "it is my will to gift Fëanáro with something of my own skill, and something of my heart. Into this stone would I sing the bright green of the hill of Túna, and the deep green of the sea, that wherever he wanders through the long ages, will he always know where our home is, where I am if I am not with him!"
Aulë suddenly looked grave. "Dost see a time when thou wilt travel not with thy lord?"
I searched my heart, and what limited vision I then had. "It is my wish to journey with him wherever he goes. But there may be times when I will be about pursuing something of my own, or be not able to accompany him because of other commitments. In the long ages to come, I know there will be times when we live apart, though I earnestly hope they are not to be many, or often!"
I watched as Aulë pondered my request further. It was as if the merest shadow had fallen on his thoughts, but he heeded it not at that time, nor did I.
So it was that Aulë himself oversaw the preparation of my gift.
I had brought with me from my father's house that seashell that had been Gaerion's gift to me. Beautiful, indeed, it was, and no small guilt did I feel upon seeing it, and thinking of both the giver, and of he for whom I wished to imitate its beauty. So did I make a crystal of the colour of green, through the lore of Aulë and the waters from the creek that ran up to Tirion, and the grass from the hill of Túna. And at last did Aulë set into it the gleam of pearlised shell, that it would reflect light that shone upon it.
No mean feat had this task been, and one that I knew I could never repeat without Aulë's aid. For although I had watched Urundil fashion many jewels that reflected light most beautifully, this skill was in truth beyond me save for this once. "The Green Stone, `Laicasar'," Aulë spoke as we finished. "And now shall I leave thee, little maid, to pour into it the song of thy heart, for that is a skill that thou alone canst do!"
I wandered also at that time in the glades of Yavanna, hoping to meet again with Aulë's spouse. But Yavanna dwelt not with Aulë then, pursuing her love of her creations in Middle Earth, was she. Often did Yavanna and Oromë still venture forth from Aman to overlook the Hither Lands that they so loved. Still did her glades and her trees bring me great peace and contentment. I thought upon the aid given to me by the Vala who was almost a friend to me. And I gave thanks again, both to Aulë and to Yavanna, for the love and care they had bestowed upon my family and I.
Afterwards did Aulë again seek my company, and speak with me of the work I had undertaken with my betrothed. I told him of our work in metal, to which he smiled with pleasure. "Urundil will need to teach him further! Great use may he make of such skill in ages to come!" Such was the confidence that Aulë then had in Fëanáro!
At last came the time when I was to depart and return again to Tirion, and to those few days left until my marriage. But first did I approach Aulë a final time, and with a low and well-practiced curtsy, did I ask to be accepted by the Vala as one of his servants in my own right. Both parents were with me on that occasion, silently giving their support of me and of my right to be making such an appeal.
"I know thee well, daughter of Urundil. I know from thy father that thou hast the skill and the strength to serve me. But I would ask thee what thy future lord thinks of this."
I remember how surprised I was at his question. Surely that was my own choice, and had nothing to do with Fëanáro! "Inasmuch as we have discussed the matter, my future husband thinks I should do as I will. Fëanáro has no issue with my devotion to you, Lord Aulë!"
Aulë stepped down from the great chair upon which he sat on those occasions of solemnity. He stood before me, so tall and golden was he, and looked upon me most searchingly. "I do not ask this lightly, Nerdanel! You are right in that a nissi may pursue her choice of allegiance without permission. You are no one's property! But to have two allegiances presents a challenge, unless there is understanding between them."
So did I understand that Aulë was asking me to make a final consideration of my choice, both of him and of Fëanáro. Long had I determined to have both! Longer still have I grieved over the result of that ambition, that I was forced to chose between loyalties and loves!
"I would make my vows both to thee and to Prince Fëanáro, my Lord Vala," said I. "My loyalty is to you, as your servant, and to Fëanáro as his wife. Both roles do I hold and honour most highly! And I shall seek ever to walk the path of understanding."
With that did Aulë remind me of the secret nature of much with which he would entrust me, of the service he would sometimes ask of me in crafting or teaching others. Then did he present me with the copper circlet that was the sign of his favour. Only this was fashioned in a lighter manner than was usual, and with design upon it like unto the girdle he had given me as a child, with leaves and flames entwined.
"I welcome thee into my service, Nerdanel, daughter of Urundil, betrothed of Fëanáro."
I wondered then, that Aulë always welcomed the neri as `son of' one of his servants or another, but never before had I heard him also mention an intended spouse!
We walked back down the long hall, my parents and I, and I knew that they were most eager for us to be home. There was to be a celebration in the dwellings of the Aulenduri that day, before I returned to the city, for the first (though not the last!) of the nissi to become one of them, and their joy would not be denied!
As we were about to leave that hall of wonder, a thought was suddenly on the edge of my mind, only half-realised and lacking in clarity it was, but it was there nonetheless.
"Well done, Lady! You confirm the wisdom of my choice!"
Looking to the upper balcony, I saw that Fëanáro had been watching the ceremony. Thoughtful did he appear as he caught my glance, and a slow smile of approval lit his face as he made to bow acknowledgement to me. Then he turned swiftly away.
I told my mother on the ride home that he had been there, that I had heard him in my mind, though faintly. She looked surprised. "That is a rare talent! The ability to communicate one's thoughts to another is given to some, but mostly does it develop between those who are already wed!"
"It was but a weak link, Mother!" said I, uncomfortable that I had even mentioned it.
Weak now, mayhap!" she replied contentedly, pondering that most comfortable connection between herself and my father, no doubt.
Presently was I back in Tirion, and back in the preparations for my wedding. Great detail could I go into over those preparations, and they hold memory of joy for me, but they are not the most relevant details to my writing. The colour of my gown had no influence upon the history of the Noldor! Brief shall be my indulgence in that time, and mostly to show the part that the Lady Indis played!
Now my mother and Mötamë had come up to Tirion with me, and we had plans as to my preparations. Serewen came also to the rooms and with her two ladies-in-waiting who were of a more thoughtful sort. Arnónë and Failë were long-standing friends of hers. I found them easy to speak with from the start. They, and Serewen, possessed a dry humour that I grew to cherish.
"You must have ladies to assist you, Nerdanel! You cannot have stonemasons to see to your needs in court!" Serewen had said with a smile, looking with approval at the gown to which Mötamë was making final adjustments. "The green and teal colours suit you well, and the dress is elegantly cut. With the deeper copper of the girdle and the circlet, aye, you will look as a Princess! Let those who would say otherwise beware the wrath of your husband-to-be!"
At that did we all laugh! I knew there were still murmurings amongst some in the court, amongst some ladies in particular, that I was too plain in appearance to be the wife of the Prince. I also knew there had been a recent incident in which Fëanáro had spoken sharply to them, saying that in continuing to insult me, they insulted his ability to chose! "Have a care, least in your eagerness to find fault with my lady, you call me a fool for so choosing! That I will not tolerate!" had been the words reported to me. At the hearing of such, those ladies had made a hasty retreat.
Now, King Finwë and his advisors had overseen much preparation, for he wished greatly to honour his beloved son, and provide as gracious a ceremony as the King of the Noldor could. Gifts had been made for many, including the Valar, and in that had the Aulenduri played no small part. Sapphires there were for Manwë, and amethysts and diamonds for Aulë, while emeralds were given unto Oromë. These stones were indeed gifted to the Valar on various occasions, but Finwë wished, I believe, to show Fëanáro that he still had chief share of his father's heart, despite the presence of Indis.
Far was this from what my heart desired! I would accept all the lavish preparations as graciously as I could, but I longed to be at liberty again, to be in the hills with Fëanáro.
Three days before the wedding it was that I found myself in near panic. "And it will be for you to prepare the coimas* and the míruvórë* that will be your food and drink for the days immediately after your wedding." Serewen had spoken in earnest, and we were all aware that after a wedding, a couple would withdraw to spend time together. In that time was food and drink often prepared for them, so that they need not leave their chamber until they desired. Limpë, the wine that was the drink of the Valar was often drunk then, though the wedding cup was to be of míruvórë. The food was coimas, (that which you know as lembas.) But the grain that is grown in the Blessed Realm confers life and strength and joy from the land.
For all others was this bread of life bestowed already prepared, but for the highest born, did the new wife prepare such from her own hands! This was a tradition! But the art of making coimas was a secret given from the Valar, and imparted only to those who were Yavannildi, the maidens of Yavanna. And since this gift was from Yavanna, only the highest of the nissi had the keeping of it, for they would be the besain, the bread givers. Give me copper or stone to work with, and my hands knew well what to do, but that was beyond me!
I would have spoken with Yavanna herself when I visited Aulë, and begged of her advice, but she was not in Aman. In dismay did I turn to Serewen "No one has instructed me in this art! Do you not know the secret of the preparation?" For me, this lack of a needed skill emphasised the accusation of my unsuitability to be Fëanáro's wife.
There was silence. "Queen Míriel would have taught you," had Arnónë said softly, "but she is not with us." Her tone of voice told me that her tears would be forthcoming if this conversation continued in that vein.
I looked more desperately towards Serewen, but she shook her head. "That knowledge is not mine, nor is it my mother's, that I may ask of her help."
"Then perhaps I may be of help, if you will permit me, my sister!" We all turned at those gently, and most timely spoken words, as the blue robed Lady Indis stood by the door to my rooms.
Relief at this unexpected solution washed over me. "Aye, my Lady!" I assented eagerly; joy lighting my eyes. "I would most gladly welcome your assistance!"
Indis smiled in her serene manner. "We shall be as sisters in this house, Nerdanel. And after, when you are in your own home, I would that you still addressed me as such."
So it was that Indis came to my rescue. She was of a high and noble Vanyar family, and knew what I needed to do, and of many other things also did she speak with me.
The others left me then, even my mother. They were to be about assisting with preparing those rooms that had been given over to us for the days of our wedding. Indis was in truth as an elder sister to me that day, and in the days that followed. And though Fëanáro would have hated my speaking with her, yet much did she help me with understanding what was expected of me. Ever after have I been grateful to her.
We sat later upon a stone bench on the balcony to my rooms, Indis and I. From that vantage point could we observe the preparations still going on in the gardens, and look to the changing light of the Trees as it passed through the Calacirya to illuminate the sea and western shores of Tol Eressëa.
"I would that I can make him happy again!" I spoke my heart's concern to my new friend and soon-to-be kin. "He has suffered grief and a separation that should not have been, and I would have him healed. To that end do I most earnestly beseech Varda for wisdom!" I halted, somewhat ashamed at my lack of diplomacy with Indis.
Indis only smiled knowingly at me in return, and looking to the heights of the mountains beyond Tirion, she sighed with a deep contentment of her own.
"I also wish there had been no cause for grief, for either my love or for yours! Though would that have meant that I had not the bliss I have come to know. Yet love would demand of me that I put the happiness of Finwë before my own. So do I think it would have been better if Queen Míriel had not departed her lord and her son, or had at least promised to soon return. But Míriel's loss is to be my gain!"
That I felt uncomfortably with such words, though I understood them, was very true. Greatly had I admired Míriel, and much did I have cause to thank her! But Indis was also one I admired. I hoped at that time I was not showing any ingratitude to Míriel's memory by my friendship with Indis.
We listened a few moments more to the birdsong, and watched the slow progress of high white clouds in the sky, in noted contrast to the busyness of those folk in the garden below us.
"You are not responsible for Fëanáro's happiness if he chooses to remain in grief," Indis mused; as if she were recalling events in her own life. "But there is this that I have found about love: it is patient and long does it endure in hope! Love, I think, may endure forever!"
This was to be in some sense the case, though I speak of Finwë's love for Míriel, and another cause for the breach that was to open within the family of the King. I remembered well Indis' words, and often did I think upon them in the dark days that followed all to soon upon the loosing of Morgoth. I remember her words still, but the End, it seems so far away!
coimas = `bread of life', lembas
limpë = wine
míruvórë = a wine drunk on special occasions.