Nerdanel's Story - Part 4. Wanderings
"The Eldar wedded once only in life, and for love or at the least by free will upon either part. Even when in after days, as the histories reveal, many of the Eldar in Middle-earth became corrupted, and their hearts darkened by the shadow that lies upon Arda, seldom is any tale told of deeds of lust among them."
(HoME 10. Morgoth's Ring. `The Later Quenta Silmarillion.)
The House of Sarmo Urundil. Seventh Age
And I miss him, also, Adaneth! That bright flame whose energy so empowered me, encouraged me, and drew me up with him to dazzling heights of creativity and delight. Though I was apart from him in those last years, though he died thinking I had abandoned him, that my loyalty to Aulë was greater than my loyalty to him, though his deeds grieved me beyond measure, never did I stop loving him. For to be grieved so, one must love so. Why did I wed with him? You, who see this tale from such a vantage point of years, look back upon the misery and pain he caused, but I knew him before that time, before he was corrupted, and bitterness and hate took hold of him. Friends we were, Fëanáro and I, and also as the noontide of Valinor drew nigh, lovers. By that union of love did I become his wife, to be at his side through the Ages, so I had thought!
See the tree? Yes, that one, in the apple orchard! Often I look to it, and in memory I see him standing beneath it, tall and proud and so fair of face, watching, and waiting for me to join him. So clear in my thoughts is that day that I foolishly think I see him still, when the light is at a certain angle. Had I not gone to him then, at the end of that celebration, things would have been so different!
Upon our leaving of the low halls of Oromë, Fëanáro and I rode northeast, further across the plain of Valinor than I had ever been at that time. We came upon a land of tall firs, and many lakes and streams. Mighty rocks there were, and waterfalls cascading down deep gullies in the mountainside that looked like pale silver threads. The colours were rich and deep; greens and purples and blues, all shimmering in the gathered light from the Trees. And the air, though crisper than in the Calacirya, was permeated with radiance. A place of bliss it was, and profound beauty, that challenged one's fëa to explore further. We thought, from the knowledge we had previously, and from what Oromë had told us, that this must be similar to the land in which our parents had awoken. We left the horses to roam as they saw fit, and wandered ourselves in that place for a few days, lost in wonder at what we beheld. Strangely moved I found myself to be, as I witnessed Fëanáro's delight in discovery, and it seemed to me as if his earlier distress had never existed.
That time, that place, it is still in my mind with the clarity of detail that we Eldar possess. We do not forget, however small, one detail. Fëanáro and I wandered in a land on which most probably no child of Eru (at this name do I bow!) had then set foot. These were still the early times, and though the Noldor were ever wanderers and discoverers, not all of Aman had been visited. Two children, re-living the awakening at Cuivíenen we were, though the shadow of the shadow of evil was again drawing close.
Fëanáro had laughed openly at my attempts to keep pace with him as we explored, for he was swift of foot. But I, too, had cause to laugh when his recklessness induced him to stumble on a loose shale incline, and I was left to catch hold of him, least he tumbled into the gully below.
"So strong are you, lady! I must needs beware that I do not meet you in any form of contest!" he had said, dryly.
I must have given him the impression that I was insulted, for he held his peace until we came to the green slopes again, and there he took hold of a wildflower and placed it in my hair. " Strong and tenacious, aye! And with a rare beauty also!"
I had never thought myself to be beautiful, and I wondered at him speaking so. But it was then that my heart first moved in hope and in longing towards him.
As we drew nearer my father's house on our return, he had again assumed that serious manner. Something lay ahead of him in Tirion that pleased him not, I had thought, and so it proved. Without looking to me he stated. " My father grows embittered and has forsaken his vigils by my mother's body. He wanders the hills in loneliness!"
"But she will return! Surely, given time she will return to him!" I could not envisage a permanent sundering of a marriage. Most certainly did I feel that Míriel would at some point be whole again, and wish for life.
"My father says not! And the Valar also say it is not her will! But to my mind, they have not given her time enough! They say she will never return, but 'never' is a long time indeed, and it is in my thoughts that at some point she will recant that doom she has chosen, and seek to be among us again!"
I urged him then to be supportive of Finwë through this trial that affected them both, though I knew not that he, also, had abandoned his vigil at Míriel's side. I well understood his reasoning concerning his mother, but also I grieved for Finwë, and for his loneliness; I wondered how he could bear to be so separated from his love.
Fëanáro listened to my counsel, (though he took it not, on that occasion!) and at last he sighed. " It is a complicated matter, Nerdanel! You understand not what might ensue!"
I didn't understand then, that he was speaking of never being able to visit with his mother again, but soon enough would I be in the midst of that strife that threatened to engulf the House of Finwë.
My mother had returned from her visiting. She was grim faced, indeed, as we rode into the courtyard of my home. but polite. Never could it be said that Taurlotë was impolite to visitors. Fëanáro stayed but a short time, enough to speak with my father about a sculpture he was working on, and with my mother about our travels. So eloquent and persuasive was he that, by the time we watched him depart, my mother was quite captivated by him!
"And what of his arrogance now, mother?" I had said to her.
She smiled warmly "Now do I understand your interest, Nerdanel! He is more like his father in appearance than his mother, I think. And he has such presence! if only--!"
" If only what, mother? Are you still vexed about something?"
She shook her head, but then attempted to explain." From the first that you met with him, have I had dreams. Dreams of a consuming fire over the Sea, and of one hanging from a towering precipice, alone---for all time!"
Her words set a chill in my heart, for my mother was given to foreseeing certain things. But then she smiled again. " Spirit of Fire, indeed! He is clever, and he is noble." She paused, considering. "If fire is to be set, then it will not be without good reason, and he who hung from the precipice, though I could not see him clearly, it was not Fëanáro!"
(Maitimo my son! Why did I do this to you? If only my mother had seen then that the figure she beheld had that rare copper brown hair, as Urundil has, as I have, as you have!)
Fëanáro returned to our dwellings within seven days! My parents exchanged knowing looks that did not escape me, as again did we ride out to the north, but this time headed further west, as if we sought the dwellings of Námo Mandos himself. A wild ride was that, and more solemn than our previous journey, but we rode and walked in the green hills, and spoke more of our hopes and dreams, and I began to find in him echoes of my own desires. Far more powerful and determined than I was he, yet his very `being' resonated through my fëa with a sense that we were of the same kind! Still, I thought, he is the son of the King and I the daughter of a smith, though of a great smith! What future could there be for us other than as friends?
On the return journey this time did Tulcon greet us! " Another gift for you, oh favoured one!" taunted my father's chief apprentice from a distance, but upon seeing Fëanáro's countenance, he made haste to be back at his work.
The gift was a seashell of extraordinary beauty. It had been delivered a short time earlier to my parents, with a note from its sender. I needed no note to tell me who the sender was.
My father had moved over to see that the horses we had ridden were watered before they wandered off again. He said something out of my hearing to Fëanáro, something I thought to the effect that the gift was from an old friend, and nothing more! For as I watched Urundil and the Prince together, did I perceive that Fëanáro was everything my father hoped for in a husband for his daughter. Fëanáro's quick mind and skilled hands far outweighed that reputed hot temper, which he had hardly shown us! Strong-willed he was, but that in itself was no bad thing, and not exceptional amongst the Noldor. I saw as they spoke together that he was listening, appearing to be taking counsel from my father, and at that realisation, my heart was very glad. They would soon be at the forge together I thought, discussing some new ideas, some new tools to improve upon finesse of skill. I would join them later, and contribute my share, for I was not to be ignored, nor outdone in matters of craft, I knowingly deluded myself.
But Fëanáro was in no hurry to move on that time, and the seashell intrigued him.
"And who has gifted you thus, Nerdanel? It looks like something a Teler would send!"
" Indeed it is!" I had replied, opening the seal on the scroll in my hand. "Ai yes!"
I read the note silently. It was from Gaerion, of course! He told me that he was away to Sea with his father, that he was excited about sailing a White Ship and would tell me of his adventures upon his return. Also did he say he would introduce me to the sights of my city, referring to his own explorations of Tirion, which still seemed to cause him much amusement!
" A gift of the Sea for my everfriend, until we meet again!" he had written. I smiled as I read those words, thanking him silently for his consideration and thinking of all that I had to tell him when next we met!
"'Everfriend'?" Fëanáro asked quizzically.
" You are reading my letter!" I protested in mock annoyance.
" Nay! Only your lips!" he replied, but there was the barest glint of fire in his eyes.
And after that visit Fëanáro came no more! A great many days passed, and neither rider nor word came out of Tirion to the dwellings of the Aulendur. Often did I head for the high tower, and look to the east, but there was nothing to be seen. At last did I begin to understand how Gaerion must have felt when I no longer walked to the shores with him. With that understanding came the belated realisation that Gaerion loved me, even as I now knew I loved Fëanáro.
My parents noticed my despondence; of course they did! Now it was they who made excuses, who came to Fëanáros defence. Mayhap he was involved in a work that was all consuming. Mayhap his father needed him, or again, there could be some event at court we knew naught of! When a visit to Tirion was suggested. I spoke against this idea, saying I would go there in my own time. I did not want to appear over eager for the Prince's company, much as I wished for it.
I poured my distress into my works. Distress for Gaerion, that I would injure him, as much as for the absence of Fëanáro. I began then to consider my commitment to Aulë anew, and spoke much with my parents of seeking to serve that Vala with my skill and commitment. "We shall visit the Great Court of Aulë!" my father announced then. "I would speak with him on matters of work concerning gems, and you may speak with him of your wishes, Nerdanel. May the journey bring us all much needed cheer!"