Nerdanel's Story - Part 5. Aulë

( Dislaimer. All characters belong to JRR Tolkien. Gaerion and Tulcon are my own `creations' but only from reading Tolkien. Narwasar is a character of a dear friend and my beta reader, used with her permission. All references are from The Silmarillion, and HoME 1, 10 and 12.)

"Aulë it is who is named the Friend of the Noldor, for of him they learned much in after days, and they are the most skilled of the Elves; and in their own fashion, according to the gifts which Iluvatar gave to them, they added much to his teaching, delighting in tounges and in scripts, and in the figures of broidery, of drawings and of carving. The Noldor also it was who first achieved the making of gems; and the fairest of all gems were the Silmarils, and they are lost."

( The Silmarillion. `Of the beginning of days'.)

The house of Sarmo Urundil. Seventh Age.

You ask about `fading' Adaneth? I did not mean to bring your heart low with my talk of such. And I see your point! If I choose to seek release from bodily form, it is not quite that same fading that my kindred in your world have experienced. There indeed, did all of the Elves grow weary in hröa after much passing of time, and they were consumed eventually by their own fëa, so that the body remained only in love and in memory! Most, if not all, that remained in that which was called Middle Earth, are now so consumed. They are still there, some of the Nandor, and the Moriquendi, but invisible to your eyes will they be!

I speak of something else! In Aman, does the blessing of continuity of hröa and fëa exist. Once we who were born here reach fullness of being, reach our full strength, we remain in that state, aging only with the slow speed with which Arda ages. I may endure here in full strength until the end, as may all of my people, so it is a choice I speak of when I talk of fading! Not a wish to `not be', as was Míriel's first intention, but a wish to be free of the pain and the burden of memory that ever presses upon me. Sundered from my Lord and sons too long have I been. I seek rest and healing, and consider evermore that only in the company of Mandos will I find such!

Not that all my life has been sorrow! Far from it! Much of those first years, the years of the children, were ones of delight. Those years remain in my memory as the most happy, of times, even though there were the occasional touches of dismay. And even after all my sons had left Aman, all my sons were cursed, there were times when joy again touched me, for there was much that my nature still compelled me to fulfil. I did not 'fade' when they departed Valinor, departed my life, nor did I 'fade' when he died, though for long did I wish that I had died with him. In those years after that greatest grief, I was sustained by my parents, and by Aulë, and by a few others whom I would not leave.

Now it had happened that, due to my despondency regarding the absence of Fëanáro, and my realisation of Gaerion's thoughts and hopes concerning me, my father recommended we rode out to the `Great Court' of Aulë, which bordered on the open vale, in Valmar. Urundil wished to consult with Aulë regarding the crafting of a particular gemstone, intended as a gift for Oromë. He also wished for me to speak with that master of all crafts concerning my further training, and my desire to enter his service. With my parents and I, at that time, rode the highly skilled Narwasar, another of my father's apprentices, and our most promising stonemason.

We spoke lightly together upon that journey of plans and works we had in mind, but that had not yet been realised. For all four of us had eager minds and hands for the making of things, and it was our delight so to do, and to seek whatever guidance from Aulë we wished. Aulë was the friend of the Noldor, and would lead us in exploring and developing those gifts given to us by Ilúvatar to the fullest. As we journeyed on, past familiar landmarks, rocks and hills that spoke to me already of many memories of my few years, of my many visits to Aulë, I found to my consternation that my thoughts turned often to him with whom I had last ridden this way. I had intended to befriend Fëanáro, to be a companion who could ease his distress, but foolishly, I then thought, had I allowed my feelings for him to grow. And as it had been long since his last visit to me, I desired to put those feelings and hopes he had inspired aside, and pursue my life as I had before we had met. Why could I not simply put him out of my mind?

Glad was I to arrive in Aulë's Halls again! That wondrous house had been full of beauty for me from my earliest memories. The high vaulted roofs, and many of the walls, were covered with gossamer-fine webs woven with great craft from the glint of the stars, or from threads of gold and silver and iron and copper; all portraying some aspect of the themes of the Great Music, picturing many things that were, and some that shall be. (And some things pictured in Aulë's house are yet to come to fulfilment, even as we speak, Adaneth!) I had always looked upon those webs with fascination, and endeavoured to see if the tales of any I knew were illustrated therein. But I had not at that time fully understood the design, so my mind had not grasped some of that which plainly lay before me.

My father spoke first with he from whom comes all lore and all knowledge of the Earth, and heard much praise for his own recent accomplishments. As to Urundil's request for aid, Aulë said that they would walk together in much discussion in the coming days, and all help and advice would be freely given. Then did the dark haired Narwasar stand forth, and make his request, at which Aulë nodded with approval and spoke encouragement. Narwasar was accepted as an Aulendur from that meeting onwards, and he received from Aulë's own hands the band of copper to be worn about his head as the sign of his loyalty. At last, did the Vala turn to me, though in no manner did he make me feel the least of that group.

"I hear from Urundil that thou also wish to become an Aulendur, Nerdanel?" Aulë, greeted me that day with a foreknowledge of that which I sought. " No small thing is this for thou to ask, for first among the maids of the Noldor art thou to seek such of thine own accord."

I curtsied deeply to Aulë, whom I loved and trusted beyond all. "But never has it been said that the nissi may not do that in which the neri delight! For are we not equal in all things? In inclinations and interests only do we often differ, but even that is not always so, my Lord!" I stated with boldness.

Aulë smiled at me, almost with fatherly affection, and I was well pleased with his attention. (Always did Aulë desire to love and teach others, so they may better understand the wonders of Eä!) "Indeed, both are equal, save in the bringing forth of children!" He replied, and then paused for a moment in consideration. "From birth have I known thee, little maid, and seen thy progress. Thou doest honour me by thy request! Thou would I trust with those secrets that only those most devoted to me know. And other things also do I hope for thee!"

My father stepped forward again, to speak more praise of me and to elaborate upon my growing skills with metal. Aulë allowed Urundil to indulge himself in this boasting, though it made me feel rather uncomfortable, but at last, seeing my discomfort, the Vala raised a hand for my father to pause!
"Peace, Urundil! Of thy love and pride of thy child do I know in detail! But tell me now of that other child of the Noldor who has been paying visit!"

I must have looked startled at this turn in the conversation, and I glanced sideways to my father; surely Aulë meant Fëanáro?

"The son of Finwë has had occasion to visit with us, although he has not done so of late. He rides out or walks in the hills with Nerdanel, rather than visit with me, however."

Aulë smiled, rather too knowingly to my mind. It seemed to me then that the master smith had already heard much of Fëanáro's visits, and most likely from the Prince himself!

"That is good to hear, for he has much in common with her! He also speaks most highly of thy daughter to me!" With those words did Aulë confirm my suspicions, and quicken my heart. "And his works, his skills; how doest thou find them, Urundil?"

Here did my father pause, reflecting upon the honest answer that he would of course give. He had only spoken of crafting with the Prince a few times, and they had spent some time in the forge, but it was little on which to deliver an assessment. At last Urundil raised his head.

"My Lord, he is the most perceptive Elda I have ever spoken with on matters of crafting. The delight of creation is in him, and the desire of mind to make things new and wonderful! Great skill has he already in mind and in hand, and if he will learn to use his knowledge well and to take counsel from others then I deem that few if any will surpass him."

"That is well!" Aulë spoke thoughtfully. "Indeed, it is more than well! Greatly do I love the son of Finwë, for I see in him more skill like unto mine own than in any other that is, or that will ever be! Much may he do for the glory of Arda in the fullness of time. I would have him learn from me, so do thou teach him as he wills with my blessings.If he asks for mine own aid, even that will I give unto him! But a warning I give also, for I tell thee now, great though thou art, Urundil, he will yet surpass thee by far!

My mother touched my arm, and we both looked to my father's expression, for these could be bitter words to one in his position. Proud of his skills my father was, and he took his responsibility seriously, though also with much joy. But this was Urundil, who had watched Aulë take counsel from and praise others, and who would always listen to others himself.

(Indeed, often did Urundil speak of humility as a virtue, something that not all Noldor seemed to consider! I grew up most familiar with the account of how Aulë, in his humility, had been prepared to destroy the work of his hands, the Dwarves, because he had fallen into folly! Such an example from a Vala was one I held dear for many ages! I should have liked to have met with a Dwarf, Adaneth, with one of Aulë's strong and stubborn children. One there was who came to Tol Eressëa in the Fourth Age, a friend of a Sinda Prince, and of she whom you call Galadriel, but I know as Artanis. He died long ago, that Dwarf!)

My father bowed before Aulë. "It will be joy to aid one who so has your favour, my Lord! Though first was I concerned about his mood, now that I have met with him, and spoken freely, do I see him differently. When he surpasses me in skill, which I believe he soon will, then it is all to the good, all to the glory of Eru!" (At that name did I bow my head for a moment. We spoke not often of Eru, understand. To speak aloud the name of Iluvatar, the Father of All, was a solemn matter.)

"And thou will help him also, thou will be at his side if he so asks?" questioned the Vala.

It took a moment before I realised Aulë now spoke to me, and I was reminded of that request from Míriel to give her aid. Prompt was my response. "Aye, Lord, willingly, if I can! My skills exceed his only in metalwork at the moment, however!"

Aule laughed then, deep and rich, a sound of the earth itself. "Thou knows well of what I speak, Nerdanel! It is not of metalwork!"

Colour rushed to my face, as it had not for some time. "Dost thou find Fëanáro pleasing, lady?" Aulë asked, more kindly.

"Aye, my Lord! I find him exceedingly pleasing!" was my soft spoken reply, and no truer words could I have said. But daughter of Urundil though I was, self-consciousness threatened to overcome me, and with a curtsy, I begged to take leave of Aulë for the moment, to walk amongst the trees of the Court.

The Vala looked at me with good humour for a moment more. "With him, thou could create works beyond thy dreams!" he said, "If it is thy will also! But take thy leave now, and reflect upon what has been said. I welcome thy fealty at any point thou choose to give it, Nerdanel, but think well on what it will entail."

As I wandered under the green canopy of the trees, I thought to lose the redness in my face, but the mere recall of Aulë's question and statement caused me to blush anew. Fëanáro liked me well enough to speak of me with Aulë, and the Vala's implications were that, far from being at an end, our relationship had only just begun.

"It may be," I said aloud, believing myself to be alone, "that nothing will come of this," though my heart wished otherwise. "And Aulë will take me into his service and in that will I be content."

"And thou will follow not where love leads? The affinity of fëa is a sacred matter, and not easily set aside," replied a musical voice.

Were the look on Yavanna Kementári's face not so sympathetic, I would have nigh perished of humiliation! The tall, green clad spouse of Aulë motioned for me to come and walk beside her and, with a face as hot as fire, I complied. In spite of my determination to speak not of Fëanáro before I had time to ponder Aulë's words, I soon found myself relating to her all that was in my heart, all my hopes, not only concerning the Prince, but of becoming a chosen servant of her spouse.

Yavanna patiently listened to all, offering me a golden fruit that had fallen from one of her trees as we walked. We paused at the edge of a small clearing, and she looked at me thoughtfully, as if seeing my future unfold. "Think well before thou make any vows, Nerdanel, either to he who would be thy life's companion or to my husband's service, for both vows would be binding upon thee, and may not be broken! And if thou doest promise to serve Aule, sincere though thou art, I see a time when thy loyalty to him will be put sorely to the test! And thy heart will be pierced with sorrow!"

I did not dare ask her, Adaneth, what she saw. Had I known the answer, I would have had to abandon hope of ever being Fëanáro's bride or Aulë's vassal, and I would do neither!

But then Yavanna took on a happier frame of mind. "Thou doest honour my spouse by thy sincerity, Lady. He knows that thou would willingly be viewed as different in order to serve him." She smiled. "This I honour in turn, and say to thee truly: thou shalt bear much fruit, whichever of the two roads ahead thou chooses to take, and thy creations will be renowned in this land, and mayhap in others!" I bowed my head in reply, stubbornly determined to travel both roads. Of the folly of that decision have I long ago repented!

Neri He Elves
Nissi She Elves
Adaneth `Mortal woman' in Sindarin

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