Nerdanel's Story - Part 10 Wedding Gifts #2
(Disclaimer: all the characters are Tolkien's except for Narwasar, who is my beta reader Elemáine's character, and Serewen, Tulcon and Mötamë who are my characters. All references are from The Silmarillion, and HoME 10, 11 and 12.)
"But before dawn a wind came, and roused the elf-men, and they woke and were amazed at the stars; for all the clouds were blown away and the stars were bright from east to west. And for a long time the eighteen new Quendi took no heed of the others, but looked at the lights of Menel. But when at last they turned their eyes back to earth they beheld their spouses and woke them to look at the stars, crying to them elen, elen ! ---and they were tall and dark-haired and strong like fir-trees, and from them most of the Noldor later were sprung."
(`Quendi and Eldar', HoME11 `The War of the Jewels.)
None, nay, not even the Valar can read the mind of another being. For although not all fëa have the same original power, yet do all derive directly from Eru! None can comprehend fully the mind of another! With many a wedded pair does the affinity of fëa lead to great understanding, each of the other, and many, though not all, do come to `hear' those thoughts the other wishes to send. Much can be deduced from observation of course, and in this lay most of the skill I had with all, save with Fëanáro himself. With him, was it also the receiving and interpreting of that power of thought that emanated from him, strengthened by our marriage and by the number of children we brought forth. A temptation it was to him, to master and constrain the will of others, of those of weaker minds, but such an act was always forbidden. He most often did seek to govern others by force of his personality and temper alone. But not always! For in those later days did use whatever means he deemed necessary to maintain his rightful position amongst the Noldor, and that was one cause of grief to me. When he would, he had the sight to penetrate the veils of illusion that those of even great power put about themselves. Did he not, when at last confronted with Morgoth at Formenos, see through his disguise and know him for what he was, aye, even to the dark depths of his mind! Would that he had seen through Morgoth's well-spun web of lies as easily! Would that any of us had!
With our sons did I have that mother's gift of knowing when I was needed, of knowing those few occasions when, as children, they were in any distress. But such a link fades with growth, and once at their fourth year, at the most, all save for Ambarussa, save for Telvo*, had outgrown that need of me. With the youngest of my children did I have a closeness of fëa that lasted for well over fifteen years! I see him now in memory as a child sitting with his friend, Artuiel, in the scriptorium, pouring over books while she plagued him to go and play and again, watching him, as the years passed and the relationship between he and Tulcon's daughter blossomed into a much closer thing. Strange I thought, that it was the younger twin only, but then did he spend more time with me than any other of his brothers. More like me in mood was he, even as he grew, than all save mayhap for Makalaurë. With Carnistir* also was I closer than any writing would betray, but never could I fathom his mind; nay, most often was it a mystery to me! All that Carnistir inherited from me was the tendency to flush with colour at any strong emotion, though with him was it more likely to be annoyance than embarrassment! Like Finwë in appearance was Carnistir!
I sometimes wish that Ambarussa and Artuiel had wed, before all the troubles began. But still young they were, and in no hurry, they said. And Ambarussa was waiting for his brother, Ambarussa, to also find a nís with whom he wished to spend his life. Pityo* was always too busy with hunting and crafting to look for a wife at that time. Then it was too late! At least was Artuiel spared the grief of being sundered from one to whom she was bound in fëa, but she suffered grief enough, and has chosen never to wed. She told me how Ambarussa died, that he would not leave the white ship, but thought in secret to return to Valinor, to me! She told me that he had spoken with her and with his brother, who was more inclined to remain with their father. She ever blamed herself for not staying with him, delighting instead to sleep on the new land at last! Also did she tell me that Fëanáro had killed him, inadvertently, in his eagerness to prevent any from so returning and aiding Nolofinwë! But I recalled that touch of his fëa at the time, and also had I then read the journal of his last thoughts. I knew the truth of things.
I do not wish to dwell overmuch on our wedding. It was a day of joy for me, whatever came to follow! But it does little to support my case that Fëanáro and our sons have been much misunderstood; that though he was ever proud and arrogant, though he did great evil, he would never have so done but for the greater evil of Morgoth! Yet within that day were a few events that mayhap show something of him that few have ever known. Of those events will I now write.
Now, the weddings of the Eldar follow a well-known pattern. There is first a feast, and dancing, and this may go on for many a day. Then there are the vows, and exchange of silver rings for ones of gold. The vows are most solemn, and once made, may never be revoked. So it is that marriage is forever! The vows are made in a manner that involves calling upon Manwë and upon his spouse, Varda, as witnesses. Also is this one of the few occasions upon which we call on Eru!
Gifts are given, and jewels are exchanged in the manner I have earlier spoken of. These jewels may be given at the start of the feast, or immediately before the vows, as was the case in our wedding. The jewels are also signs of the love and esteem each has for the other, though family members present them.
All of this is well recorded in books of lore, and in many a tale that I have read, so I need write no further explanation.
The ceremony and the feast took place in the garden of King Finwë's house, and family and close friends did attend. Also, at one point during a dance did I think to see Yavanna in the crowd, green-clad and in form like unto one of us, but to my eyes shinning with more radiance than any Eldar. On occasion would the Valar or Valier walk among us in such form, though I had known their presence well from childhood, and most often would recognise them in any manner they chose to appear. If it were she, as I so guessed, she only smiled at me encouragingly, but also spoke softly and in passing. "Thou hast honoured my spouse; will I not do aught that I can to avert sorrow from thine!" I had lowered my eyes and given thanks to Kementári, for whether it was she or no, I recalled her words of earlier days.
My parents and many of the Aulenduri were, of course, at that celebration. Also did Serewen and her family stay with me, and that was no small courtesy on her part, as Ecthelion was with Fëanáro for most of the day. She spoke with high praise of the preparations; far grander than Finwë's betrothal was this occasion. She introduced me to those I had not yet met, including Rúmil. Greatly was I impressed with that noble and wise Elf, and better did I get to know him in later years.
Fëanáro had I tried not to look to, save upon my first entrance into the gardens. I knew full well that I would blush with emotion, and wished not to be so embarrassed on this day until necessary. He had but swept me a most elegant bow of acknowledgement, and there was for a moment that mischievous look in his eyes. But he had folk to speak with, and Indis to avoid, and he liked greatly to be the centre of attention at times. And so he was, and I left him to it!
My father had spoken with Finwë, for the two seemed mightily pleased with this event. Also had my father received a new commission from the King, and that to make a sceptre with a great number of sapphires as a gift for Manwë! (This was in part to celebrate Finwë's own forthcoming wedding, and no mention of it had been made to Fëanáro at that time.)
So did time pass, and most pleasantly. But one occurrence I wish to write of, as it had the effect of binding not only my heart further to the son of Finwë, but my parents and the Aulenduri also.
We were sitting together at one of the long tables upon the terraced lawns, my family and I and Tulcon and Mötamë, and Narwasar. Without warning did Fëanáro approach us, and from out of the crowd.
" Urundil, Taurlotë, a gift I have for you." He looked well pleased with himself, aye, arrogant even, but he bowed to my father and mother. "It is one that I have made as a token of my esteem for your daughter" I was taken aback at him speaking so, for ever had his words of affection to me been brief in nature. But it was to get worse! "Though this work of mine cannot replace what I take from your household, yet may you look upon it when your daughter is in my house and know that she is treasured."
My father rose to his feet, and bowed in return to the Prince. "I know that you care for her, Prince Fëanáro. I am content."
Then did Fëanáro turn and signal that his sculpture was to be brought forwards. A little over three feet in height it was, intended to stand upon a plinth or in a niche in a wall. I gasped when I beheld it. A figure poised gracefully in a motion of descent, arms reaching forwards, gown and cloak billowing back as upon a strong breeze. The hair was loose and flowing, with movement as if the sculpture were nigh alive. And she was beautiful, so very beautiful.
"It is not I!" Confused did I feel, and I uttered those words without due thought. Surely Fëanáro had used another nís as a model?
"Aye, it is!" my mother spoke up, and now did she look up at Fëanáro with something akin to wonder. "It is how he sees you!"
He was looking to me now, with some concern at my distress. "Of course it is you! What other treasure would I be taking from the house of your father? Nerdanel, you only ever see yourself as a reflection within a mirror or water, or in whispered words of others, but I behold you as you truly are! You must believe me in this matter!"
My father's hand was upon mine in a confirming gesture. He nodded to me. I was overwhelmed at this new understanding, and felt my face warm with a reddened hue as I had known it would!
With another, shorter bow, Fëanáro turned and headed back to his father, but his eyes held mine upon that turn until the last instant, and he was smiling that he had caused me such embarrassment, and on this day.
We sat silently for a few moments, looking upon this sculpture before us.
"It is excellent workmanship, my lord Urundil!" Tulcon spoke up. His estimation of Fëanáro changed at that moment also. For Tulcon had always held some dislike of my betrothed for driving away Gaerion, whom he liked well. "None of your apprentices could better it!"
At last my father spoke, and with a voice raw with emotion. "Whatever he asks of me, will I give him. Whatever help he would have is his already! I need not the request of Aulë, for nothing will I withhold from one who sees my daughter thus!"
Later did we stand forth, my mother and I, for the exchange of jewels, for the vows, and for the end of the ceremony. Finwë was to present me with a finely crafted necklace, woven in the shape of leaves and bearing a single stone, an orange-red, like unto the rich, full berry of a rowan. A fire opal it was, that's depths drew the eye and held the fëa in admiration. As my eyes alighted upon it, did the power that had been pored into it engulf me as a wave; hold me to it, and hold me to him!
"Nerdanel!" Again did Fëanáro speak into my thoughts, and to bring me back to the occasion. I knew without a doubt whose work this was!
"The stone, Nármirë*, as a gift from my House to you, Nerdanel, daughter of Urundil!" Finwë spoke clearly, and with much pride of his own. I bowed my head for the King to place the chain about my neck, and said my heart-felt thanks with equal pride.
And then did my mother gift Fëanáro in similar manner, though the chain I had set Laicasar in was of a much simpler, interwoven, design. He knew also whose work it was, and who had been her help; his eyes widening, just slightly, as he felt the echo of the Music in that stone, and knew what I had poured into it. Aye, he liked my gift, though I am sure he thought his gift the better!
So did we make our vows, that oath that was now binding upon us; to Manwë and Varda, and to Eru did I call in my love. Rings did we exchange, and receive back and treasure those first rings of silver. Then was the ceremony at an end. Sometimes do folk continue to celebrate, and those wed leave discretely to go to where they will finalise their union. Other times do the guests then leave, equally discreetly, knowing that their presence is no longer suitable.
Finwë left first, and with Indis. She had not sought to speak with me that day, and had kept herself out of much of the celebrations. She was wise enough to know that any intervention on her part could turn the course of the day's events, and wished that not upon me or upon Finwë. Nay, she wished it not for Fëanáro either, though by then she knew there was aught she could do that would be pleasing to him. Soon were Fëanáro and I standing alone in the garden, and strange did it seem to me. But he took my hand and led me away also, not to the house, not to the rooms I had thought were prepared for us, but through the side gate, and down broad steps that were covered in the dust of diamonds.
"Where are we to go?" I wondered for a moment if we were to take horses and ride out from the city to one of those places we had so enjoyed. But it was another place Fëanáro had made ready.
I looked with amazement around the great hall, for it was to our part built house that he led me. Now did his wish for me to be not involved, his secret become apparent. Although much of the building was as yet far from finished, the great hall itself was near complete! The high beams and copper webs were in place, the diamonds reflecting both the diminishing light of Laurelin and the multitude of candles placed upon the floor. And that floor! It was like unto the one in his father's house, and yet different. A blue and green and gold marbled design portraying Valinor, all the places we had visited and those unknowns yet to be explored. In one corner was a compass, showing direction, and the edges were softened in hue, as if suggesting other possibilities in the lands beyond. Now did I know why Narwasar and the others that my father had sent always looked so grim! There was so much work already accomplished and in little time!
Few furnishings were there yet; a long table, laden with fruit and flagons of limpë and one of míruvórë, some of the tableware we had crafted together, a side table with that needful for the making of bread, two chairs, and a bed set over what could only be Valmar!
Fëanáro had stood back as I entered, waiting for my approval that he would have thought forthcoming. But I was silent, so overcome by this work, by this care. Then, as I walked across the room, did I notice upon the white covers of the bed, a single sprig of the wildflower that he had given to me upon our early travels. I cannot say what I felt to behold such a gift; more precious than anything save the jewel, save the sculpture, save himself, was that flower.
"Is it to thy liking, lady? " he asked at length, with a touch of impatience that I gave no response.
"More wonderful than anything I could have imagined, my lord." I whispered in awe, and crossed the room to one of the windows, to the terrace. "Truly is this a gift beyond my expectations, and this our home to be!"
He was satisfied then, and came to stand behind me upon the terrace and look over the garden, the city and the slopes of Túna, into the West, into the blending of the light! I sank back against him, into his arms, and so we stood in silence for a while, both lost in thought and for my part at least, in beauty! The air was heavy and still, and full of the scent of the sweet-smelling fir wood on the nearby hills, and time seemed strange in passing, as if we had stood thus, together, for eternity.
"I will not have any other that is mine taken from me!" His statement was thoughts spoken aloud, breaking the mood, and I felt the slight flicker of his pain. "Yet all that I greatly love do I lose!"
I knew his concerns, but on this day I would not indulge him in such a mood, neither do I think he truly wished me to so do. "You will not lose me!" I affirmed, and turning to face him, I took hold of his hand, leading him back into the room, to the bed.
He made a mock sigh at my boldness, but was not displeased. "Long enough have we waited for this journey of exploration!" said I!
Freed now of those appropriate restraints upon awakening passion, he took me up in his arms, kissing me full and deep. So sure of himself he was, so sure of me! But his hands trembled nonetheless, and for an instant was he almost apprehensive before me. An instant only it was, and never did we speak of it, but I treasured that moment, that fleeting glimpse of uncertainty upon his face, for many a year! Then it was that the fire in both of us was burning hot; soon enough was the glory of the union of love upon us, and that was enough to drive away all other thoughts.
I heard Fëanáro's voice, whispering softly to me, and I stirred in my sleep, pushing aside the covers of the bed. I had been in dream, and one of the beauty of standing upon Ezellohar, and being engulfed in the light of both Trees so that I shone forth with a radiance of my own. To wake from that dream was to come into greater bliss, however. My skin was still tingling with a myriad of pleasant sensations, and in the corner of my mind did I feel his presence, albeit still but a light touch.
"What would you have me behold, beloved?" I wrapped my arms contentedly around his neck to pull him closer to me.
"Do you not know, vessë?*" he questioned, beginning to kiss my cheek and nibble gently at my ear.
Then did I understand. "Ah, you would wake me as was first done by our people in Cuiviénen! " I stated with confidence, learning that tale of the first awakening as I had learnt to first count as a child. For had the neri of the Second Kindred, of the Noldor, not awoken their spouses to life by crying to them `Elen', behold the beauty of the stars! And it is said by our people that it was thus that the first thing a nissi beheld was her spouse, and her love for him was her first love and only later did she have love for the wonders of Arda.
With the slightest of nods did he acknowledge my words.
"But thou knowest already that I love thee beyond all else!" said I, filled again with the desire to respond to his embrace.
"Aye, I know!" and in my thoughts he added `And know thou that I find thee beautiful, and love thee most dearly."
So he said then, and at times thereafter. For indeed did he love me well in all those early years, though ever would he be known for his greater love of his father and his consuming love for the Silmarils. How could I compete as interest, for the writers of later lore, for mortals, to such as the Silmarils or to King Finwë? No Lúthien am I! But we were friends and companions from the start of our relationship, Fëanáro and I, as is recorded in some works of lore. He wed me even though many greatly wondered at his choice, and though ours was not a love to sing songs of, nor write great poetry about, yet were we as one! Our wedding day was but the first in many happy years for me.
What I had then not given mind to was the rest of the teachings of that tale. While the nissi had first beheld their lords and so loved them the greatest, yet had the neri beheld their spouses at second sight, though one most welcome to them. The first thing the neri beheld was the stars, and it was often said that sight had filled them with an eagerness and desire for adventure in strange places. I should have thought on that more deeply at the time!
·Telvo = `Father name' of Amras
·Pityo = `Father name' of Amrod
·Carnistir = Caranthir
·Nármirë = `Fire jewel' ( I think!)
·Elen = behold `the stars'.
·Vessë = wife