Nerdanel's Story - Part 11 Sons #8. Ambarussa continued, again.


Ambarussa continued, again.

(With thanks for reading and help to Elemáine, and to Fëanor TFR)


The twins! Ambarussa and his brother; those two who were almost as one in appearance and mood, and often in words, almost did they avert some of that which was to follow. And did they not cause Fëanáro and I to be as one again after his exile? Almost was it as if we had never parted, he and I! Almost...

****

The sky, as I could see it through the ornate, high arched window, was a pale grey. In one direction the stars of Varda twinkled brightly in the perpetual twilight. In the other, the pale grey gave way to luminous silver.

The light of the Trees was of a different quality this far to the north. More rarefied in essence it was, less full than in Tirion and the Calacirya. Yet was it of a higher sort, a clearer sort, thought I, as I made to rise from my bed. Throwing one of my husband's fine, silken robes over the plain white shift I had taken rest in, I walked to where I could better view the citadel, and the land beyond its strong walls. This room in the high tower might not afford me overmuch space in which to spend my time, but it at least afforded me the grandest of views!

Colder? Yes! Now that I was out of the warmth of the covers it was colder too. (Though not as cold as Fëanáro's welcome the previous day!) Not chill like unto Araman was it here, nor dark. How could it be? Though I was nigh the location where it was said Námo Mandos dwelt, still was this place on the edge of the plain of Valinor, with no mountain range to block that radiance which flowed forth from Ezellohar*.

In the northern distance, the silver crowned Green Hills were calling to be explored, for the light of Telperion was waxing, and gracing all details of the southward facing landscape with a sharp promise of mystery beyond. I thought I would like to ride that way, to discover what I had not yet seen. One day soon, I would ride there, mayhap with Ambarussa* and his brother, or with Makalaurë.* But one barrier there was to me enjoying the company of my sons in this place, and that was my husband.

The small, silvered, stream, the Hiri, that ran through the rugged dale before me caught my eye. Was it not part of the reason for the location of this Citadel? The stream for fresh water, and its power, as it plunged underground, to aid in crafting.

Long had it been since I had visited these parts of Aman, and I had not been in this place since before Fëanáro and I had wed. Save for the stream, much had it altered in appearance. Much had Fëanáro altered, though that in mood!

So much had been built in this dale since Mandos had sentenced my lord to exile, five years ago. So many beautiful rock-hewed dwellings, and carefully tended gardens there were within this fortified stronghold. A second city had we once talked of building, he and I, and that for our sons, and with the blessings of the Valar. Did Formenos have the blessings of the Valar, I had sometimes wondered? Though it was primarily a fortress, and supposedly built for the duration of twelve years exile, yet was it a city. Smaller in numbers of folk than Tirion, and by far, but enough of those loyal to my husband were here; children had been born here, our grandson had been born here.

Fëanáro's city, part of his dream was this, and, now that I saw it for myself, did I realise with absolute certainty that he meant not to return from it!

Nestled in a dale that faced to the west, a place that sung of rock and strength and endurance through ages, this `fortress' was built to last, and that it might be defended at need. I wondered much at that; for I could not contemplate that Fëanáro expected an open attack by any in Valinor. I knew well of the visit, that attempt at further deception made by Melkor to gain the friendship, the trust of my husband. (Whom in truth, he had always aimed to destroy!) And no walls, no stones had driven him hence, but the words of Fëanáro! Though guards were posted at the gates, and many more upon the walls, yet was Fëanáro himself the best defence of this or any place.

`Get thee gone from my gate, gangrel! Thou jail-crow of Mandos!'[1] Was it reported he had said.

And he had slammed the door of his house, this house, shut, in the face of that most mighty, and increasingly hate-filled Vala. No surprise was it that Finwë had sent messengers most urgently to Manwë.

A knock there was at my door, and the courteous voice of Lelyar interrupted my musing: "Lady Nerdanel! Are you awake? May I enter? I have brought you .."

But the Steward never finished his sentence, as Fëanáro, almost as if he had sensed my train of though, entered the room unbidden, and took the tray of food from Lelyar's hands. "I will see to the lady's breaking of fast this day!"

"As you wish, my Lord Prince!"

So did Lelyar depart without even seeing me. Though did he, and Finwë, and Maitimo, and Fëanáro alone, know of my presence in that tower room.

I turned to fully face my husband, for much did I wish to speak with him. Though still did I ponder my own considerations, and his demands, and I was not quite ready to give him of my answer.

"I am still prisoner here, my lord?" I enquired somewhat pointedly. A statement of my perception at that moment it was, though I knew it not the case.

"Well met, Nerdanel!" He replied, equally pointedly, pushing the door closed behind him. "No prisoner are you, and well you know it!"

His voice was still tinged with coldness, that I was with him again, though not in the manner he so wished. Laying the tray of various fruits, and honey, and fresh bread upon the high table, he poured a drink for us both from a silver flagon that I recognised from earlier days as the work of Curvo's* hands.

"You may leave this place whenever you wish, lady. Say but the word, and I will have Nelyo* escort you back to your father's house, even as he escorted you into my presence."

Offering a goblet of cordial to me, he continued. "Or say you agree to my terms, and walk again at my side as my wife, of your own volition. The choice is yours!" No increase in warmth of tone between statements would any have noticed; save his father, save I!

If only it were so easy!

Then, sounds from the courtyard below caught my attention, and I moved back to the window. The twins it was, Ambarussa and his brother, and running down the steps at the front of the house. In high spirits, and calling for their horses to be brought, they were. Carnistir's* voice echoed after them. "Good hunting then! But make sure you are returned for the later meal. Our grandfather wishes all of us to be present!"

"Come with us, Carnistir!" The elder twin called back, making to fasten his green cloak. "Enough work is there for us all in bringing in food! Always can we make use of an extra rider, even one with your skills!"

"Some fresh air would do you good, brother! Better than yet another day mulling over the treasury it would be. And some colour it would bring back to your face!" Ambarussa the younger taunted.

Carnistir made a reply that I heard not clearly, though I guessed it would be a response to the poor attempt at insults, (for Carnistir was an accomplished rider), and both twins laughed. Grooms there were leading forward the two golden horses that were the twins oft rode mounts from the days before the exile. I knew that a few stables had been built in Formenos, that horses were close at all times. Both brothers made to mount, and turned their horses' heads towards the main gate and the several other riders that were gathering there.

For an instant, the younger twin looked up to the window at which I stood. Mayhap from the flash of clothing, he thought it was his father watching. Yet ever were that son and I close, and I could still sense in some measure any time he was distressed. I stepped back hurriedly, out of his sight, mindful of Fëanáro's instructions, and of his presence. Of his terms! And Ambarussa the younger looked momentarily perplexed, then turned back to his brother, and their horses, and the day ahead.

My husband had moved to stand beside me. His own warmth radiated forth, and warmed me in turn. Yet still would I not speak as he wished.

"Look as you will, lady! Yet you know my decision. I will not have you wandering at liberty in this place without knowledge of your loyalty. You, who came here in secret, as if ashamed of your actions, must remain in secret for the duration of your visit. Nor do I give welcome to one who says she comes on the instructions of Manwë!"

"Manwë's instructions are wise, Fëanáro! He seeks for all to put aside their grief, and to heal the wounds caused by the lies of the Enemy! He seeks for there to be healing in Aman."

Most stern of expression did my husband become at my words. "So you say! But Manwë is a Vala, as is Melkor! Will Manwë not put his own kind first? Does he not, like Melkor, covert my jewels for his own keeping?"

"In Manwë's love are you, and in his thoughts! How can you speak of he and Melkor in the same breath?" asked I, aghast.

"Love?" He fixed his gaze upon me, holding my eyes to his, as he spoke of that which yet humiliated him. "What sort of love is it that remains silent when I am accused of such wrongdoing, and unjustly? What sort of love speaks not against Mandos' sentence in my defence, nor tells him, neither pleads with him to stay his hand?"

He spoke of Manwë, but we both knew he was speaking also of me!

"He sends you to me against your will, as one would send a thrall." Fëanáro continued. "What manner of love or care is that? You know of old my thoughts on the captivity we endured in Tirion, those thoughts that so offended you. I have not changed my mind!"

"Fëanáro! That is not the way of things!" I broke from the hold of his brilliant eyes, and reached out to touch his arm. So simple a gesture it was; one that I would once have thought nothing of. One I had made so many times as a prelude to an offer of comfort, or counsel.

"Nay!" said he, stepping back. "Do not so touch me! Prince I am, and you but an unwelcome stranger in my house!" His hand was raised in a gesture of forbidding.

"You will not listen to me? I came at Manwë's bidding, aye that is true, but not against my will. I have come with thoughts and words of my own, also! Will you not hear them?" I found I was angry that we could not, since my arrival, get past this obstacle of his perception of the Valar, and his annoyance that I had not, apparently, freely chosen to return to him.

"I will listen!" He replied sharply, as he made for the door. "To my wife will I always listen! But she parted from me five years ago, and has not yet seen fit to return!" The door was slammed shut after him.

I knew this mood of his; that he would not let others see the depth of his feelings, and throughout our marriage had he sometimes behaved so. From experience I knew no point was there in fretting, it would alter him not a jot; so I washed, and changed back into my riding clothes, as no other save his clothes were in that room. I made to comb out and tie back my hair. Almost as if I were about to start upon some work of great import did I feel, as I sat before the mirror to braid my hair into a single plat. A work that, mayhap, would have lasting repercussions whether I succeeded or no!

But a short time passed before Lelyar had returned. Kind was the expression upon the face of one I knew well, and counted as a friend.

"Glad am I to see you at last, Lady Nerdanel." He bowed, and I noticed that he carried in his arms a selection of garments more suitable for a nís to be clothed in. Then with a suppressed smile, he continued. "Prince Fëanáro bids me tell you that you may have use of the whole of this floor, and the next. He has ordered that none may pass the fourth level of the stairs. Also may you have use of the garden terrace from his study, on the floor above."

"Thank you, Lelyar" I smiled in return. "Glad also am I to see you, and you looking happier than at our last encounter!" I made to take the garments from him, and eagerly. Are not fresh clothes better than worn ones?

The Steward hesitated, his battle with his attempt at controlling his expression almost failing.

"And my Lord also says that you should wear the red gown!"

Rarely did Fëanáro apologise to any save Finwë. Always did he find it hard to apologise in person!

****

I knew my choices. I knew his `terms'.

Fëanáro would have me at Formenos, and free to walk and to mix with all, that all would see me and know I had recanted of my estrangement from him. An affirmation of my loyalty to him, that I had pondered matters, and knew I had been in error, was what he required, not that I was obediently following a Valar's instructions. Aye, he would have me there! I had seen the look in his eyes when he first beheld me; when Maitimo* (who, to my good fortune, had been speaking with the guards on the gate when I arrived), had escorted me into the scriptorium on the first level of the house. And I had felt that initial outreach of his fëa, warm of welcome had that been!

"My lady?" He had been working alone, standing by the desk, absorbed in some plans for further building. But that was pushed aside and ignored, and he had stridden across the floor to greet me. Bright indeed were his eyes, and with some surprise and question at seeing me before him after so long a separation. Surprise that I had got as far as Formenos without him in anyway sensing me, aye! But there was hope, also. For an instant were his thoughts unguarded, and reaching out to me. `Nerdanel, what do you here?' A sense of longing enveloped me, not the resentment I had thought, mayhap, to encounter.

I had curtsied formally before him, though difficult was it to so do in riding garb. Difficult also was it, upon seeing him, to stubbornly adhere to my resolve. "On Manwë's instructions I come, my lord. For he sent message to me, and that through the Maia, Calio."

Colder did my husband become of that instant. I thought, I hoped, he would dismiss Maitimo, whose discomfort at the unfolding situation I could sense. But nay! He made as if he knew not our eldest son was standing by the door. When he spoke again, more than a touch of sarcasm laced his words. "You come not because you miss me, lady? Because you realise, at last, that my company is more to your liking than that of Indis and her friends?"

Though I sensed an opportunity slipping through my hands, I could not speak openly before Maitimo, and Fëanáro had immediately blocked all touch of fëa with me. Yet all was not lost, for sarcasm could often be my husbands way of drawing a more pleasing response from me. He wanted to hear what I had to say, though I could not say it. So I had delivered my message instead.

"These words did Calio say unto me: `Though thy separation from thy lord is not unlawful, yet does Manwë consider it an unnatural `hurt', and a choice that would not have been made but for Melkor. Return thou, Nerdanel, to Fëanáro, son of Finwë, and seek that which will bring about reconciliation between he and thee. Go, and do not deny Manwë's bidding, that all taint of lies and deceptions be removed from this land, and there is healing.'

There was a long silence. My words had pleased Fëanáro not at all, and the remnant of his own warmth was swiftly subsumed in ice. Aware was I of Maitimo's shuffling, of him lowering his head with a wish not to witness this encounter between his parents. Yet did he remain, and from he, at least, did I still sense affection.

Fëanáro moved to stand again behind the desk he had been working at. A barrier between us, it was. "Let me be clear about your words. I am to be reconciled with you because it is Manwë's bidding?" His voice, that beautiful voice, was low and menacing. "I am deprived of my mother, on Manwë's bidding, that Mandos pronounced a doom upon her. I am exiled from Tirion by the doom of the Valar, and because I drew sword in the city wherein my father supposedly had rule! Now do the Valar seek to interfere again in my life?"

Did I not want then to speak forth, and that I wished most strongly that he had not been deprived of Míriel's company, that, much as I admired Indis and her family, I wished this division in the House of Finwë had never so happened. And I wished I had seen earlier through my own deception, and had parted not from him. But a memory of what he had done to Lastamo, and to Poldórion, and more than any, what he had almost done to Ecthelion, was still I my mind. The words I had spoken to him upon our parting still rang in my ears. I could not speak forth yet what he wanted. So I guarded well my own thoughts, that he would know not the depth of my longing for him, without effort. Not yet would I gainsay my stand on all his deeds. Not until I was sure I could forgive what had gone before, and give him again fully and freely of my hearts love.

He had noted my travelling garb, and my `disguise' with distaste, and he moved again, to pace a circle around me, casting a most critical eye over my appearance. My loyalty was what he required; was not loyalty his requirement from all in his fortress? I still knew not if I could give him such.

"You give me no answer! Very well! If you return to me openly, as you so left me; if you come to Formenos as my wife will I not welcome you?" he had said in a manner that appeared void of any feeling. "This stranger that you are become, I know not; nor do I give freedom of my Citadel to one who yet may be a cause of dissent. Return you from whence you came, and as you will. Or remain. Though in the quarters I assign you."

Having made that journey to the north, and after struggles of my own with Calio's words, I had been in no hurry to leave. So did I accept my husband's offer to stay. I had hoped to speak with him more, and that alone; but he left me then with our firstborn, and went himself to arrange for my accommodation.

Much also did I have to speak with Maitimo about. But so chill was the atmosphere that neither my son nor I felt like conversation.

There was a deep sigh. Maitimo crossed the floor and lay a hand, reassuringly, upon my shoulder "Though I understand your reasons for travelling in such a manner, yet do I wonder that you are surprised at my father's reaction, Lady and mother?" he stated sadly.

I lay a hand over his, confirming my love for him, as I ever had. "Though I understand your thoughts, yet I wonder that, knowing me as you do, Maitimo, you seem to think I should put aside the past, and rush joyfully to him?"

My copper-brown haired son smiled at me ruefully. He understood the situation more than any of his brothers. "Some things you may find have changed, lady. And if you truly seek to heal the division between yourself and my father, then a little more of your warmth and wisdom would not go amiss."

Of course he was right. My mood was nigh as guarded as my husbands. Then did Fëanáro return, and escort me, still cloaked, and again hooded, up the side staircase to the place he sought to confine me; to his room.

He spoke not to me, nor looked directly at me as we made our way up three, empty, flights of stairs, but he saw my hesitation as I looked upon that spacious and comfortable chamber that yet resonated with his presence.

"Think not that you will have to suffer my company." Dry was his laugh, and without humour. "But this room is the largest in the house, and none save my father disturb me here without my permission. None will disturb you!"

In fëa, that touch we had hardly used these last five years, he added `No game do I play, Nerdanel. If you are truly here only on the instructions of the Valar, then it as well for you to depart now, for no dissent will I allow to take root in this place. No disloyalty may flourish. I do not forbid our sons from visiting with you at your father's house, but here I will so forbid all save Maitimo. Lelyar will see to your needs!"

Then he turned to leave, but spoke, almost as an afterthought, that which I knew was from his heart. "Or stay! But be thou loyal unto me; be thou my wife and counsellor again, and from thy own will, as in our youth." So saying, he left. No more chance to speak had I, and alone I was through the rest of that day. Yet did I hold that touch of his thoughts, those last spoken words of his, to the fore of my mind for some time, and with consideration. I took off cloak and boots, and made to explore the limits of that in place in which I was confined.

Many things therein held fond memories for me, as I noted those artefacts with which I was familiar, and from our house in Tirion. The tapestry that always my husband had with him was upon one wall. That magnificent work of intricate detail, of seven flames surrounding a central flame of complex tones and variations that was the work of his mother held pride of place. And there were other works of his own making, and of Curvo's, and the sculpture that Ambarussa the elder had made, of the strange, red and orange hued, bird Tyelkormo had discovered on one of his explorations to the south.

Nothing of my works was there in that room, I noted with little surprise. Then, as Maitimo brought me a tray with wine, and a small selection of food, I thought again. Were not my creations before my husband every day?

****

Now by the evening of the second day at Formenos, I was beginning to take note of the changes that Maitimo had implied. Although this place was a fortress, and the Noldor here in willing exile with their prince, (And with he who had been their King.), yet did many folk seem light of heart! More laughter I heard from my room, both within and without the house, than I had heard for some time. For in Tirion, and even in the dwellings of the Aulenduri there was a sense of shadow upon all. The taint of Melkor's deceptions yet gave cause to our noble folk to fear. But in Formenos was there little fear to be perceived. Almost a place of fresh hope it was, as if, by driving Melkor away those three years earlier, Fëanáro had inspired confidence in many of his people that none could overcome them.

I watched discreetly from the window, as the twins and their companions returned. Much pleased with their days hunt were they. Also did I see Tyelkormo ride in but a short time later, though in the company of a single nís. One who reminded me somewhat of Ar-Feiniel* was she; yet slighter of build, and not as tall. Neither was she clad in white, but in green and brown; colours far more suited to the hunt! And, as ever, did Huan run by the side of Tyelkormo's horse. As the light to the south and west again changed through mingled light to gold, I was aware that my family were gathering, I presumed for that meal at which Finwë required their presence.

Much did I wish to be with them! Much did I wish to see them all again, and together, as before the troubles. Though the twins had ridden to visit me at my father's house on several occasions, and also Maitimo and Makalaurë, though less regularly, still did I miss the free and easy access to their presence whenever I so wished. (Never did any of them visit me while I remained in Tirion, or dwelt with Indis! Never would any have so done while their father was exiled from that place!)

But I knew I was not to join them. Though I had refreshed myself, complied with my husband's instructions to wear the red gown, (which fitted me rather well, and was a compliment to Lelyar's ingenuity in finding me clothing without giving rise to much speculation!), and arranged my hair in a more becoming manner, yet did I fully expect Lelyar to bring me a tray with a late meal. I expected to eat alone. There was I wrong. It was the tall and stately Silwë, steward of Finwë who arrived, just at the time Laurelin shone forth the brightest. Much surprised was I to see him, but then ever had he been as the ears and eyes of his Lord, why should that be different in Formenos?

He bowed with his usual precision and impeccable manner. "Lady Nerdanel! My Lord Finwë bids you accompany me to his presence." said he.

(One more part of `Ambarussa' to go!)


Ezellohar = The green mound of the Two Trees of Valinor
Ambarussa = Amrod or Amras.
Makalaurë = Maglor
Curvo = Curufin
Nelyo = Nelyafinwë. Father name of Maedhros
Carnistir = Caranthir
Maitimo = Maedhros
Ar-Feiniel = Aredhel

[1] Morgoth's Ring (HoME 10) JRR Tolkien. C Tolkien

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