Nerdanel's Story - Part 11 Sons. # 6 Carnistir, continued

(Disclaimer; All characters belong to JRR Tolkien. All references are from The Silmarillion, and HoME 10 and 12.)

Carnistir continued-----

When I had first descended the wide crystal stairs that led from the high court of the King to the concourse on the level of the city whereupon our house was built, I found I was descending in all hope as well. What hope was there to be had after that hate-filled Oath, what hope for our people of sanity, when the words of Arafinwë had hardly been heard? What hope for any of my sons, who had so rashly, so thoughtlessly, followed the lead of their father? Not that Fëanáro's speech had left my heart unmoved, for I knew what he felt. I knew the depth of his anguish, and the fierceness of his anger. And as ever, when he so wished, had his voice been richly potent, intoxicating even, so that hearts and minds were swayed beyond reason! He had not spoken falsehood then; nay, not from his perspective! For there was some truth to the accusations he had levelled at the Valar! How could they have let loose that Dark Lord to wreck such havoc upon us? How could they, mighty powers that they were, have failed to keep their own realm secure? Was Moringotho not one of their own kind, that we should trust them still?

Above all, I had wanted to trust Fëanáro! I wanted so much to join with those who would follow him hence, to be part of great and noble deeds rather than one of the `shadow-folk', to find again the lands from which we had come forth, and to exact vengeance for the murder of Finwë! Aye, he had more than swayed my heart! But without the blessing of the Valar upon his quest, there was no hope! For he was setting himself and our sons against any that withheld a Silmaril from them; any, be they Elda, or Maia, or Secondborn, or even bright Vala! He was setting himself against all if need be, and had called upon Manwë, and Varda, and upon Eru Ilúvatar, in his pain and his madness, to bear witness to his words. And our sons, they had sworn likewise. So Moringotho had claimed another victory, it seemed to me, as my husband was, unknown to him, but acting out that Dark Lord's very wishes, by bringing about a mighty sundering of our people from the Valar who loved them! I saw with stark clarity where all this would lead, and I wondered then why my family were so blind to the implications of their words! All these matters were in my thoughts; aye, and more!


So I descended the stairs, and moved with some difficulty against the crowds who were gathering in family groups, and, with few possessions, were heading towards the great gates already! But my hopes were shattered! My earlier dreams of reconciliation with my husband, even as Manwë had wished, were dashed almost beyond repair. This one last chance had I, to turn Fëanáro's thoughts from such a rash, immediate departure, to bring him wisdom, to try most desperately to give him space in which his ravaged mind could cool, and consider more clearly the awful consequences of his actions!

But it was not so easy to reach him! So shut into his grief and anger was he, so deep in brooding darkness, that no call of fëa from me would reach through his defences. And it seemed, as I approached the bridge that spanned the waterfalls, that no word from me would gain entrance to his presence, either. I found I was unable to pass that guard set about the bridge and the forecourt.

Carnistir it was who came to my aid!

"King Fëanáro is most occupied," they had said to the few folk that sought access to the house. "There is much urgency in the situation, and if you are loyal to him, he would have you gather on the lower concourse, under our banners!"

`King!' thought I with dismay! `Fëanáro is our King!' Such a hard thought was that, because although I believed him to be the rightful heir, chosen of the Valar (whom he then despised!), never had I considered Finwë would die! And what of he who had been acting King in Finwë's absence? I thought. What of Nolofinwë?* `Thou shalt lead and I will follow,' he had said to Fëanáro, but still did I wonder at the outworkings of that statement!

One guard, a nér I was unfamiliar with, took me by the arm, and propelled me towards the steps with more force than was needed.

"Take a care, Guard!" I had retorted, in growing anger of my own. I had thrown back the hood of my cloak, to reveal my hair colour in the light of the torch I carried. Still was red-brown hair a rarity, and found only in my father's kin! "Of course I am loyal to him! I am his Lady!"

The guard had hesitated at my disclosure, and looked most keenly into my face. "His Lady? So, King Fëanáro's wife returns now to be Queen, though she would not go into the discomfort of exile with her Lord when he so wished!" he stated accusingly.

"No Queen am I! Neither is it your concern what has transpired between my husband and myself! I have a right to be here, and to speak with him. And that I mean to do!"

Others had begun to gather round, wondering at the disturbance.

"Lady Nerdanel!" Another whom I did recognise, and that from a glimpse during my short time at Formenos, spoke up. (For many from the devastated fortress had made their way, and with urgency, to Tirion, to renew their loyalty to the House of Fëanáro.) "I saw no loyalty on your behalf when your husband was exiled! Why should matters be any different now? Away with you! Enough troubles do we have with loyalty from those who still hold Nolofinwë to be their true King!"

Such an attitude towards me would have been unthinkable amongst any of the Noldor before Morgoth's lies had inflamed cruelty and distain in many hearts. But some understanding of their words did I have! Mightily did I wish that I had made my presence known at Formenos; that Fëanáro had allowed more than Finwë, Maitimo*, and those few others, to know I had been there with him in recent days! But these guards, they were not so enlightened as to my obedience of Manwë's instructions, or to my regrets for allowing the estrangement to ever have happened. Even so, my need was great, and I would not give ground on so urgent a quest. I had to see my husband again!

"Whatever opinion you have of me, Guard, it is but your opinion, and unwise would you be to second guess the King! His wife am I, and mother of those who are his sons, and your captains. I will speak with at least one of them now!"

The flickering light of the torches could have cast a pleasant glow, but in that situation of utmost darkness, of sky and of hearts, did it rather appear to twist and distort features of beauty into cruel parodies of themselves. I could sense the hesitation in some of those around me. Were they really so very certain of Fëanáro's will in this matter? But then a blessedly familiar voice had cut through what could have been for me a most difficult stalemate!

"What is this gathering? Who is it that would speak with the King?" The guards stood swiftly to attention, and then moved aside to let the speaker pass.

"Lady? Mother?"

So pleased was I to behold the tall, broad-shouldered, form of Carnistir then, though I had wished in my heart to come across one of my eldest two sons, or Ambarussa the younger, he who I understood the best! Nothing but loyally devoted to his sire was Carnistir, but ever had he been close to me also, and would not see me barred from the doors of the place we had called `home' for so many years.

With a glower of disapproval at the inappropriateness of their action, my fourth son dismissed the guards to other, and more pressing, duties. He deftly took my arm and crossed over the bridge with me, shouting instructions to another group of armed neri who were assembling on the mist enshrouded circular lawn.

"Lady Mother, what are you doing here? I thought you were with our grandfather!" Although abrupt, and tense, his voice held a note of concern. Then he halted for a brief instant, his eyes lighting slightly as, without waiting upon my reply, he reached his own conclusion. "You heard our Lord's speech! You heard father's call for the people to follow him to freedom from servitude to the Valar, and to vengeance against the Enemy! At last do you understand what he has long been saying, and you turn back to him, Lady?"

All it was that I could remain silent. I urged my son forwards again, and we crossed in the torchlight to the main door of the house. What to say to him? That my heart had already turned back to Fëanáro at Formenos, and that I had, finally, forgiven him all the grief I believed he had caused when I beheld him at Máhanaxar? But the Oath! That was another matter! Ai, Carnistir! The Oath and its blasphemy have sundered your father and I more truly than any distance, than any misunderstanding could have!

"Carnistir!" I had reached up to touch my son's cheek, knowing then that it might be for the last time. If I failed to bring wisdom to Fëanáro, to turn him from his avowed course of action (and knowing him, almost did I expect to so fail!), then it could well have been the last I touched any of my sons. "I have missed you so much, dear one! But my being here is a matter of great urgency, as you can well imagine!" I hoped that, by eluding a direct response, he would consider I was but confirming his thoughts. No time then did I have to debate with him, not while there was the smallest of hope I could make a difference. I thought then that that it was for the best that Carnistir had met with me; never could I have fooled Tyelkormo* or Curvo* so!

He had put an arm protectively around my shoulders, his height and presence making it most easy for us to move through the crowds, and enter the outer hall. As we walked, he spoke almost conspiratorially with me, as he had when very young!

"I will speak straight away with Turindë, for much did she wish to know your actions on this matter! She will come with me, I think! Though Curvo and Nolwen have had words of great unpleasantness, and she will not leave Tirion for any persuasion! Not even to be with Tyelpinquar*!"

These things did I already know, and much pain did Curvo's actions cause me.

Carnistir continued to confide in me as we made our way past the scriptorium, wherein Alcarin held court, giving further instructions to several captains. "It is uncertain if the Lady Anairë will travel. Most loyal to the Valar is she, and her friendship with Lady Eärwen does seem to also constrain her! Arafinwë* himself is but half-hearted, and may yet counsel again for delay! Father deems him useless in this venture, a damp force that will be easily spent!"

As we turned down the long, mural-lined corridor, past the room that had been my own study, did Carnistir inform me of the progress, or lack thereof, that the sons of Indis were making! Surprised would I be if Eärwen went upon this flight, yet she would most likely accompany her lord, and on him did much depend. No damp force had I ever considered Arafinwë to be, but the calmest, the wisest of the sons of Finwë! Where he went, would Eärwen go, and Anairë, her close friend!

"Those sons of Arafinwë make a brave enough noise, save for Angrod*, and Artanis* also, she will go! Though she hates our father most deeply, yet did his words stir her to seek lands of her own! More Noldor blood is in her than the faint blood of the Teleri, I warrant!"

Almost did I halt at those words, for it was as if a knife was driven further into my heart, if that were possible. That Carnistir still had such despite for the Teleri pleased me not. That Artanis was to leave the city pleased me less, and the wound of old, that was the lie Moringotho had fed me, was re-opened.

But now, before the ornate double doors of my husband's study we stood. Again, was I to seek audience with him, and Carnistir's words had, unintentionally, hardened my heart!

That raven-haired son bowed deeply before me. "Lady and Mother, implore our father that you can come with us, for though he had all but given up hope with you, yet will he take you back if you acknowledge you have been deceived by the Valar! But time is short!"

He smiled at me! Carnistir, who was so stern of expression, he smiled at what he believed was an immanent reconciliation between his parents! "I have missed you, too, Mother!" he announced!

I watched him stride back down towards the main doors, armed with sword and knife and bow, his dark cloak sweeping behind him, and I whispered my farewell. Never was I to behold Carnistir again!

With a deep intake of breath, and a silent appeal to Aulë for aid, I knocked, as I had done so many times before, on the door of Fëanáro's study.


****


The year of the Trees 1250 was a significant one for me in many ways! It was a year of festival; the lesser sort that was held at Valmar. Much joy did we have then, for both Maitimo and Makalaurë gained further renown. Makalaurë surpassed all of his previous efforts with the Song of the Secret Fire; a work he had composed while studying with the Maia Lirillo himself. Maitimo earned his acclaim through his exploits in those games held upon our return to Tirion. Always, after a festival, were there competitions; of horsemanship, of racing and wrestling, and of quarter staff. Ecthelion, who was one of our greatest athletes, had chosen not to participate that year, and for the first time had Maitimo won all events. Greatly did our eldest son love to participate in any form of challenge! Had Makalaurë entered, he would have given considerable opposition in horsemanship, as would Tyelkormo, and there was not much to chose between the three brothers, for all were strong riders. The greatest challenge we thought would come from the Lord Poldórion, who was a fast rising talent amongst our people, though he never met Maitimo in contest that year, being bested by that other, and younger, trainee of Ecthelion's, the Lord Glorfindel .So did Maitimo overcome Glorfindel in the final bout of the quarterstaff and wrestling contests, and overcome that close kin, and friend of his, Prince Findekáno*, in the race and the riding. Tyelkormo had taken up Taurnolë*, and though that was an exercise of the mind rather than the hröa, he had endeavoured to overcome all challengers. Lastamo had defeated him, though had Tyelkormo put forth a great effort for one new to the game. Fëanáro had, of course, won overall, much to Lastamo's annoyance. Little love was developing between my husband and that second-ranking loremaster!

The year 1250 also saw a change in Fëanáro's mind-mood, and one I had to alter my step to match. For at that time did he begin to approach maturity, and his skills of hand and of mind began to fully flower! Few could ever compete with Fëanáro, not since I had first known him when but four years of age. Now that he had worked with my father, and even more, worked alongside the Vala, Aulë, my lord's abilities were far beyond all, save the Vala himself! This was a blessing in many ways for our people, for did not my husband set about devising many wonderful things? Those letters he developed, those that we still use, which bear his name, were accounted as the least of his works by many. For he also discovered how to make Arda's gems brighter, and greater, than anything previously seen. And those stones to lighten the darkness that he had never been quite satisfied with, they, too, did he develop to blaze with blue and white fire! So it was that he was satisfied with them, and we rode later in that year (he carrying the young babe, Carnistir, strapped to his back!) to King Olwë, to present them as a gift from King Finwë. And after that? After that did Fëanáro begin work on those seeing stones that became famous, nay, became infamous to some - the Palantiri -- though these he did not complete until after the birth of Ambarussa. Seven seeing stones, and one master stone did he craft! Truly it was said of him then that seldom were his hands or mind at rest!

Aye, a blessing for our people was all that crafting, and a means whereby Fëanáro gained great renown! In high honour was he held, and no longer just as the son of Finwë, but as a mighty prince in his own right. But such might, it comes at a cost! Hard it is, for one so gifted, to bear with fallibility. (Though was Fëanáro himself flawed, but in other ways!) So did my lord become more arrogant towards others, more intolerant of their manner, it seemed. But I who knew him best in those years, I saw him struggle with an increasing sense of isolation, as fewer folk could match him in any way. He came at that time to seek often the company of our sons, and still of Ecthelion, though less of Alcarin, whose skills in linguistics were not as well developed. To Finwë alone did he seem to give great honour and respect, always holding his father in the highest regard, both as King, and for his own skills in language, and his role in leading the Noldor to Valinor! But mostly, and from that time forth, did Fëanáro seek to work alone!

I could no longer keep pace with him, though still did he sometimes ask of my aid, or my counsel in an undertaking. Long had he surpassed my skills, and although I endeavoured to keep informed as to his interests, I was aware that there was a distance of ability developing between us. Yet always courteous was Fëanáro towards me, always considerate of my opinion, though he did not always take my advice! I had thought to spend more time with the Loremasters myself, to seek to gain further knowledge of our history, of Arda, aye, of Eä and of Ilúvatar himself! This I wished for my own interest and gratification, and also as a means of aiding Fëanáro, for wisdom, I early perceived, was sometimes rashly discarded by my husband when in certain frames of mind. Wisdom did I then start to seek in earnest, and to that end did I spend a brief time in the Garden's of Lórien, and sought again the company of the Maia Elemáinie. But such wisdom as I desired was a skill to be deferred, for also in that year did I conceive and bring to birth our fourth son, Carnistir!

Carnistir the Dark! The haughty, proud, and cruellest of our sons, do many writings name him! I find it hard to recognise our fourth son from such words. Dark? Aye, like Finwë in appearance was Carnistir, and dark of hair. Did not Fëanáro name him Morifinwë! Dark of colouring also, sometimes, for to he alone of our sons did I bequeath the joy of blushing most profusely with emotion. With him was it more often anger, for he was short of temper, but not cruel, not when he was in Valinor! That he was dark and deep of mood, it is often assumed! He was certainly of a more solemn mood than his brothers, and strange did I find it that so serious and silent a child was brought forth from the fire of the union of love between Fëanáro and myself! For no reason did either of us have to will this son into being, save as an expression of that companionship we still had, each with the other! Neither new marriage, nor child in the House of Finwë was there to set my lord's mind on the desire for more children of our own. (It had been after Tyelkormo's birth, in the year 1234, that Anairë had given birth to Findekáno, to Nolofinwë's eldest son!) Well pleased indeed was Fëanáro with our three sons, and they had seemed enough for us. Few folk did have four children at that time, but a rarity was that, and most homes had two or three children added to them. But still young were we, Fëanáro being only seventy-one, and still full of strength and the will to procreate. And I was still full of longing for him to whom my heart's love was given.

Yet solemn was Carnistir, and from the start! That manner of mood did I believe he had acquired from his father, for none of my family were so minded! Fëanáro could be serious, indeed. He could be as ice, but always did he have that charisma about him, that ability to have power over hearts when he chose to use it! It was not so with Carnistir! He had his father's bluntness, but little of his subtlety or charm. Proud was Carnistir, though mostly of Fëanáro! Aye, haughty in some manner; I see how he could be viewed as such by others! For Fëanáro and I raised him almost as an only child during the first four years of his life, and that surely had an influence on what he became! Maitimo spent some little time with him, but Makalaurë was away for much of those early years, still working on his music, still learning what he could from Lirillo, and also from other's in Irmo Lórien's service. Tyelkormo was away with Oromë, and travelling to far places in Valinor that even his father had not yet visited. (But visit we would in due course!). None there were who were close in age with Carnistir, and none who were at home and with the will to indulge this younger brother. So did he spend much time with me, and learnt from that a greater understanding and consideration for nissi than many had! Also did I take him to my parent's house, and he sometimes played there with others, though always did he have to win! Urundil did indeed try to speak with Carnistir of his manner; my father tried to show this grandson that he was loved whether winner or no! But little point there was when Fëanáro was always the best, was always first, was always right! Yet from the visits with my father did Carnistir develop a love for gemstones, and later did he work a little in that craft.

The favourite time for this son in his early childhood was that just before he took rest! Always, no matter what he was occupied with, did Fëanáro talk for a while with him, this being a habit he had gained from his own early relationship with Finwë! Sometimes would father and son spend that time in the workroom, or the forge itself, and others would Fëanáro instruct Carnistir in the development of language, or of the history and accomplishments of the Noldor. Carnistir would listen attentively, and watch his father's every move, wide-eyed with wonder at the honour he felt in having such a sire!

There came a time when I noticed that, even at my parent's house, Carnistir played alone. "Why is this, my son?" asked I. "Do none of the other children hold any interests in common with you? Are there no games you would play with them?"

"Nay, Mother! I would rather work alone, even as my father does!" he had replied. Some concern did I have over this comment, for work and play were not always the same thing! Something of a mystery was Carnistir to me then, and always! Mayhap that was part of why I loved him so.


It was told to me how Carnistir met his end, shot down by many arrows, by archers of Doriath, in defence of their Lord and Lady! He died in that second Kinslaying, alongside Curvo and Tyelkormo! But this at least heartens me, that in those latter days in the Hither Lands, he took up as he could the pain of his brother Ambarussa at the loss of his twin. I have been told, and by those who returned, that Carnistir sought hard to raise the heart of his youngest surviving brother. And also, have I been told, did he seek to give aid, and to a Secondborn and her people*. He sought to give aid where the noble Elwë would give none!


****


A particular day there was, at the end of the year 1250, when certain events happened that were to have repercussions on Carnistir!

"What is it that so perplexes you, Mother, that your thoughts are elsewhere upon this day?"

My Maitimo, my beloved eldest son, had walked with Carnistir and I from the house. Together we descended the clear crystal stairs to the area on the second level of Tirion whereupon the arena was built. That day were we to go and watch some of our athletes practicing their skills for the games. Though there was no danger, nor thought thereof in the Blessed Realm at that time, yet was it part of the very nature of neri, aye, and of a few nissi, to be competitive, and to ensure their skills and reactions were swift and strong! Maitimo himself, as I have already mentioned, often competed in races and quarterstaff, and in unarmed competition. Most capable was he, though rarely would I watch him, or any of our sons, in such action. They all took part at times in competition; they all used the arena for practice, as on occasions did Fëanáro; though he preferred greatly to use our gardens, or the room in the south wing of the house set aside for that purpose. Many times had I come across he and Ecthelion or he and Alcarin coming to blows, though with staff or hands and feet. Never were any forged weapons used.

Now that day, were we three to go to watch Ecthelion's two most promising students train; they being the golden haired Noldo, Glorfindel, who was of an age with Tyelkormo, and Prince Findekáno, son of Prince Nolofinwë, who was but a little younger! Fëanáro would, most probably, have come with us, had he not been so totally immersed in bettering the work of Rúmil at that time!

"It is naught to concern yourself with, dear one! " I replied to my copper-brown haired son's question. "Tyelkormo told me earlier that he had overheard discussions amongst some of the Lords that left him ill-pleased. He had made known his feelings on the matter, but I wonder if he has done so with more force than was necessary!"

Maitimo smiled ruefully, and bent his bright head to a level with mine, that we could speak in confidence, for many folk were about their business at that time, and he wished not to be overheard.

"I take it that he was angered over a comparison with the Vanyar, a comparison with the House of our father's half-brother again?"

"Aye! They mean no harm, those who so speak, for is it not accepted that Vanyar are the First Kindred, and the most noble of all Eldar? They do but state what is well known. No harm is intended, but thoughtless are their words, and mayhap will cause great resentment from your father!"

"Noble are the Vanyar, yet are we Noldor not without honour and nobility? The blood that flows in Nolofinwë and Arafinwë is that of greatness, and I understand that the blood of their Vanya mother may give rise to some considering them to be superior, but my father is also great, and greater than them, in my thoughts!"

"And in Manwë's thoughts!" said I, glad that it was Maitimo, and not Tyelkormo who heard that confession from me. I lowered my head, ashamed that I had spoken forth that which had long been on my mind!

Maitimo raised his brows in curiosity at my words, but did not press me for further information, much as he must have wished to know more of Manwë's thoughts on his father. I should not have spoken aloud those words of Elemáinie, from the time of my betrothal.

So there it was, the earliest stirrings of dissent amongst the sons of Finwë! Some folk did say, though not often, nor widely, that Nolofinwë's Vanyar blood made him superior to Fëanáro. Further was that problem of old still with us, for, they said, Nolofinwë had wed with a noble Lady of the Noldor, and so his son, Findekáno, was of higher status than my sons, both through father and through mother! (And this talk was long before the loosing of Morgoth. Fertile ground was it for his lies to eventually take root!)

"I shall attempt to restrain Tyelkormo's responses, if they occur within my hearing, and I shall speak with those who spread such opinions, though with thoughtfulness and wisdom, I hope!" Maitimo offered. But then did we come to a halt, for it was needful for Carnistir to catch us up. Being less that a quarter of a year of age, my fourth son's legs were no match for mine, and certainly no match for the stride of his eldest brother.

"Shall I carry you, dear one, for I would not have you tired before we reach the arena?" I stooped low, and held out my arms to my youngest son, but he frowned, as if I were insulting him. Not as Maitimo or Makalaurë, both of whom had run to me most happily when young, was Carnistir. More like Tyelkormo in mood, nay, more like his father was this son!

"Come now, little brother! You shall ride upon my shoulders, and be higher than everyone this day!" Maitimo moved upon the situation with thoughtfulness, and care for his younger brother as he so often did.

"I can walk, Russandol!" Almost did Carnistir stamp his tiny foot with determination that he would not be humiliated. And his face turned red with temper!

"Aye, and I say not otherwise! Only this, that you will have the best view over the city, and move the swiftest if you but ride upon my shoulders!"

So Carnistir was partially convinced, and in truth did he always regard Maitimo most highly.

We walked through the gardens that bordered the steps to the arena, and Carnistir, from his vantage point, gave voice to many observations in a most factual manner. A large oval area we then crossed, that was encircled in part by marble benches, and in part by areas of lawn. To one end was a raised platform whereupon King Finwë or his sons sat, if attending, and towards that did we head, as Maitimo most certainly had the right to sit thereon. Few others had gathered to watch that days events, for it was but a practice, and Maitimo had merely wanted Carnistir to observe some of the skills of those contestants. (And, I expected, to take part in a practice bout himself!)

Ecthelion, clad in light, loose fitting garb, suitable for much and swift movement, noted our arrival, and bowed a greeting to us, as we took our places on the platform, Maitimo sitting in Finwë's chair! With that friend of old, stood the very tall, and deceptively slender Glorfindel, who also bowed, and then headed for the far corner to begin his preparations. I had witnessed his skills in the games at the beginning of the year, and was much reminded of Ecthelion himself, in the movements and ingenuity of the golden haired lord! Glorfindel would most certainly present Maitimo with a challenge in the coming years, thought I, but that day, was his challenge to be against Prince Findekáno!

Then did Nolofinwë arrive!

That Findekáno's father saw fit to observe this practice bout was nothing untoward. That Nolofinwë was himself a fine and skilful horseman was well known. That he was strong and fearless, as were all the children of Finwë, was also well known. Yet Nolofinwë never had participated in any of the games save the riding, and that in his early youth. Little interest had I assumed on his part, but it was a father's pride and love, rather than interest, that brought him forth that day. With him was the shorter, but most promising Lord Poldórion, son of one of his closer friends, and an athlete in his own right. But all these observations were as naught compared to the realisation that Nolofinwë would also expect to sit in the place of honour!

Maitimo had immediately realised the situation, and was on his feet in acknowledgement and greeting to the approaching pair, but Carnistir was too young to understand the fine tension of propriety involved. Neither had he met with Nolofinwë before that occasion.

"We need not anyone else with us! Tell him to go away, Russandol!" Carnistir's young voice was louder than I would have hoped. Not that anything save the most hushed whisper would escape most folks hearing.

I had not seen Nolofinwë often myself over the last years, save at festivals, or those occasions when Finwë insisted on having all his family present. In some ways did this second son of Finwë, now nearing maturity himself, remind me of my husband. Almost as tall was he, and with the same raven-black hair. Proud of manner and bearing, and with the air of nobility about him, so similar to Fëanáro, and yet not so! There was still such a difference between half-brothers. No Spirit of Fire was this eldest son of Indis, though he, too, had a temper when he wished. A Spirit of another kind, though, and less rash, and mayhap more wise than my lord! (Though was Nolofinwë never as wise as his younger brother became!)

I rose hastily to my own feet, embarrassed by Carnistir's words and knowing the delicacy the present situation posed. Most times when we did meet as family, was there no issue of who sat where; of who took precedence! But Nolofinwë was a son of Finwë, and the eldest there save I. While Maitimo was `Third Finwë, according to his father, and would try to behave as such!

I made a curtsey to the approaching Prince, as he set foot upon the first step of the platform. "Well met, my Lord! We had not expected you to be here this day, but an honour it will be to watch the practice with you!"

Nolofinwë smiled slightly in return. "Well met indeed, Lady Nerdanel." He bowed acknowledgement to me, but his eyes were upon Maitimo, who still stood as if guarding his chair!

Then swiftly did he turn upon Carnistir, who trembled momentarily with suprise that such a tall and stately nér was bearing down upon him.

"Well met, also, little Fëanárion*! Though I shall not `go away' as you have expressed a wish that I do, yet may we not both watch this match, and learn from it? For I am your father's half-brother, and so we are kin!"

I put a hand protectively on the small, silver and grey clad form of my son, and made to draw him closer. But he was turning red faced with perceived slight and embarassment, and answered sullenly. "Well met, my Lord! Though if we watch together is Russandol's decision!"

Then did Nolofinwë laugh. Though I noticed his companion was frowning.

"Most certainly are you my half-brother's son!"

Although Maitimo knew not Nolofinwë well, he had occasion to visit his house since the start of his friendship with Findekáno, and was perhaps on better terms than I had suspected.

"Welcome my Lord!" He bowed with great courtesy. "It is in my mind that there are two here who should have the seat of honour, but you are the elder, and so do I offer it to you!"

That Maitimo chose to make such an offer, was assuming that he had a right to superiority. What else could he do?


But Nolofinwë made to sit to the left of Finwë's chair. "Let us take those places we always do, Maitimo! Let it be as if my father were here, though he is not!"

So was that matter resolved for a time, and most amicably it seemed. For Maitimo took Fëanáro's seat, and Carnistir sat at his side in silence.

Ecthelion, in the centre of the arena, bowed also to Nolofinwë, then announced the beginning of the session, and stated those who would be training that day. Four pairs were there, and each took space in a different area. But our eyes were on the returning Lord Glorfindel. He never looked particularly dangerous to my mind. Always of a most gentle disposition did that Lord seem. But looks can be deceptive, and few could withstand an onslaught from Glorfindel then, even fewer in later days. Findekáno entered also, and from behind the platform. As always was his dark hair in many braids, in a manner that his mother often wore her hair, rather than his father, who almost always wore his hair loose. (Anairë had the longest, thickest hair I had ever beheld, and even when so braided did it reach to nigh her ankles!)

Soon were all in contest, and this with quarterstaff. Bruises were common, and sometimes broken limbs with such sport. Though all did heal most swiftly of such injuries, so strong in us was the fire of life.

Yet was my mind not wholly on the contest. I saw Findekáno and Glorfindel meet with a mighty collision, and then retreat each of them somewhat, to better gauge and assess the others weaknesses that day. Alike in skill they seemed to me, as they circled around each other, neither yielding any further space.

Glorfindel I knew was a strong and cunning opponent, subtler in move than Findekáno, and more flexible in reaction. And so when he caught the prince momentarily off guard, and brought his staff up to smash away Findekáno's own, did he think he had won, and swiftly.

"Glorfindel has not won yet!" Maitimo whispered assuredly. Nolofinwë watched most attentively, but a slight frown was upon his face.

"It is almost as a dance!" my eldest son continued. "For the most skilful do but seek to match their moves to their opponents, and to conserve their strength until the opportunity arises to overcome!"

"How is that like a dance, Maitimo?" I interrupted, and Nolofinwë held up a hand for silence, as his son rolled under the sweep of Glorfindel's staff, and regained his own, resuming the contest with a measured fury that the golden haired Lord could not then match.

Maitimo grinned mischievously at me, and in that moment looked more like his father than usual. "Dancing is about harmony, I know! And so is this! For discord is wasted energy. Yet even in dance, does not one tend to lead in step, and the other sometimes struggle to follow, or mayhap discover new moves of their own, and so present their partner with much surprise!"

I wondered just how closely my son had observed some of my recent moods then, and if he was merely speculating, or making a suggestion for me to consider. But no more time for speculation was there.

Glorfindel had begun a retreat from which he could do little but lose or yield. However hard he struck, Findekáno's staff was there, and braced for the impact, until in a few moments a surprise low swing, knocked him to the ground! So was Findekáno triumphant that day!

Nolofinwë rose with dignity to his feet, and applauded his son's endeavours, and equally those of Glorfindel. And I noticed then the bright-beamed smile that touched the defeated nér's face, at such acknowledgement!

Now did both Findekáno and Glorfindel make to bow, though Glorfindel with some stiffness of movement, then he spoke forth. "Rightly is it said that Nolofinwë is the noblest of the Princes of the Noldor, and most glad am I to earn his approval."

Carnistir looked up at me in horror! But Maitimo, who was applauding but had remained seated, had other things to be concerned about.

Nolofinwë's companion was on his feet and made move into the arena, and took up Findekáno's staff from the prince's hands, with a bow to him, and a gesture of request.

"I, also, seek practice here this day! Are there none valiant enough to take up my challenge, none who would show honour for their family in the arena?" Lord Poldórion make a loud noise indeed, and those whose contests still continued, halted, and turned their heads to watch what was about to befall. "The son of Prince Nolofinwë has made brave show of his skills, will it be said that the son of Prince Fëanáro will not do likewise?" Both Nolofinwë and Maitimo sighed with exasperation. Both knew well that the baiting had been planned all along.

So, reluctantly, and slowly, did my eldest son rise to his full height, and with a nod of acceptance to the stern faced Poldórion, move over to where Ecthelion watched, to take up a staff of his own.

And after that? No need was there to tend any save a minor bruise on Maitimo's arm. Poldórion was another matter, and it was said that he walked with a limp for many a day!


****


"Father is the noblest of the Princes of the Noldor!" Carnistir had said to me later, as I helped him prepare for bed, and for that visit from Fëanáro that was rather delayed. "Greater is he than my half-Uncle! I wish he had been there, at the arena. He would not have given up grandfather's chair as easily as Russandol did! Father would not give up anything at all!"

I sat beside my youngest son on the settle in his room, and wondered at how I was to explain to one so young, the nature of our family.

"Maitimo behaved with wisdom this day, dear one. And he brought honour, rather than conflict, upon us!"

"He defeated Lord Poldórion, Mother! Much quicker was my brother than Prince Findekáno in finishing his battle!" A tone of pride, in both father and brother there was in his voice, and almost did he smile at his memories. He looked up at me then, grey eyes wide with consideration. "When I am older, I will not look kindly upon any who slight my family! I will train hard, and be able to give good account of myself, even as Russandol does! I will make father proud of me, as I am of him!"

Then there was the softest sound of footsteps upon the stairs, and a familar sense of presence, as Fëanáro came up from his work in his study.

Carnistir looked most earnestly at me, and climbed up upon the settle to wrap his arms about my neck. "I love you, Mother!" he said, and allowed me to kiss his cheek; but then he climbed down, and ran as swiftly as his legs would carry him to be with his father!


·All years are Valinorian years.
·Carnistir = Caranthir
·Maitimo = Maedhros
·Tyelkormo = Celegorm
·Curvo = Curufin
·Taurnolë. I tried to find a Quenya word that equated with the concept of `chess', but could not find one. I have taken the game to be called `Wood-wisdom', or something of that ilk!
·Nolofinwë = Fingolfin
·Tyelpinquar = Celebrimbor
·Arafinwë = Finafin
·Angrod = I am taking Angrod to be the son of Finafin who spoke in a manner like unto his father, at the meeting at the high court of the King. In The Silmarillion it says it was Orodreth who did this, but I am using the genealogy of HoME 12, that says Orodreth was Angrod's son.

Secondborn and her people is referring to Haleth.
·Artanis = Galadriel
·Findekáno = Fingon
·Fëanárion = Son of Fëanáro.

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