Nerdanel's Story - Part 6 Betrothals #2
( Disclaimer. All characters are JRR Tolkien's, or inspired by them, as with Tulcon, Gaerion and Alcarin. References are from The Silmarillion and HoME 10, 11 and 12.)
"She ( Nerdanel) also was firm of will, but she was slower and more patient than Fëanor, desiring to understand minds rather than to master them."
(Morgoth's Ring. HoME 10. The Later Quenta Silmarillion.)
The House of Sarmo Urundil. Seventh Age.
Nerdanel the Wise, they called me! Alas, I was not so wise then, Adaneth. I wished to be, of course, and I consider that for the most part I achieved a measure of wisdom as I grew to maturity. But that day, that event saw a great range of emotions that, in truth, I was too young to totally comprehend. I learnt from that occasion though! I became far more patient in my desire to understand others before reacting to them or giving my own views. And I promised myself that I would never again believe ill of Fëanáro from mere gossip, so close had I come, so I thought, to loosing him.
You ask now about Ecthelion! Is the Ecthelion I speak of the same as Ecthelion of the Fountain, that captain of Gondolin, loyal to Turukáno*? Aye, it is he! Ecthelion was one of the greatest, the noblest of the Lords of the Noldor. He was tall and dark of hair; grey eyed as so many of our folk. His voice was beautiful, in speech and in song, and it was in part his love of linguistics that made him a close friend to Fëanáro in their youth. For a while did he oversee the school of Lambengolmor, or `Loremasters of Tongues' that Fëanáro founded to carry on the work of linguistic enquiry after he had developed his alphabetic system, and turned to create other things. Also was Ecthelion one of the foremost of our athletes, excelling in those contests of strength and of speed that so delighted Tulkas. He was a good friend to me from that day of misunderstandings forth, and strove hard to correct my first impressions of him. A good friend to Fëanáro also was he, long into the days of whisperings, and lies and false council. Then did Fëanáro's changing mood drive him forth, to pledge his allegiance to Nolofinwë*, and earn my Lord's wrath and condemnation in so doing. Sad days were they! Yet at the end, it was Ecthelion, in desperate defence of the city across the Sea, who brought down that Valarakar, Gothmog, whose fire was Fëanáro's last doom.
Of Alcarin I believe you have already guessed much! I would not have you judge him ill though, as he had judged me. He, also, was keen on the study of linguistics, and the study of the history of the Noldor. Clever and quick of thought, but immature was Alcarin then, and for many a year after! His family were proud of their status, of how they served the King, and he and his Sire often rode out in the hunt. His family vexed me on many occasions over the following years, but this I will say of him; ever loyal to Fëanáro was he, and no coward, for he was one of those few to stand with my Lord in the ring of shadow and flame that encircled them upon the confines of Dor Daedeloth, the land of Morgoth, and there did he meet his end.
I can speak no more at this moment! Adaneth. These memories are old ones, but of late they are more in my thoughts, and with much of their old potency! Ai, please, let me be for a short time!
I am sorry, I will continue with my tale, as this part of my life holds good memories, and I need to think on them before I come to that in which Morgoth features!
The guests at my father's house had long since departed, as had Fëanáro and his companions (Or so I then believed!) My parents, confused over what had transpired for me to so declare that I would not see Fëanáro again, had removed themselves into the house, and I was alone with my thoughts. Now was I unable to take any rest! I sat upon one of the seats put out for those earlier merrymakers and watched as the silver light of Telperion waxed full over the land. As my mind cooled, I began to wonder at what I had said, and at what I had done. I had judged Fëanáro hastily on the words of others. I had listened to rumours!
From the stillness of the courtyard then did a lone figure approach me, walking with soft tread upon the cobble stones, and onto the grass, with even more stealth than is natural to our folk. Sombre of face was the red-cloaked Lord Ecthelion, as one deep in thought, yet at the same time apprehensive!
"A word, if you would still be gracious enough to listen to such as I, Lady Nerdanel?" He spoke quietly and considerately, and made to bow.
" I thought you had left for Tirion, along with the Prince?" I had heard the horses depart, and could not understand why he was still here.
" Two horses left, Lady!" he replied, but offered no further explanation as to where he had been. Gesturing with a hand that he wished to walk in those very gardens that had been the earlier scene of my anguish, he smiled rather kindly." I would speak with you, but I would rather we were not observed, nor overheard by any other!"
My mood had changed much since our earlier encounter, and I was of a mind to hear him out, even perhaps apologise for my own behaviour. Rising to my feet and smoothing out the folds of my russet gown, I followed him to where we could walk in a field of lavender that was shaded from both the house and the further gardens. As we walked, Ecthelion spoke wisdom back into my mind, confirming my fears and giving me hope also!
" Greatly grieved am I at this day's occurrences, and I hope, by your leave, to attempt to put right a little of that which has been damaged." he began in a conciliatory tone. " We did not mean to offend you, Lady. Much was the wine talking, and of that I am ashamed, and Alcarin had partaken freely! The words were from our own shallowness, and no true reflection on Fëanáro, neither on most of the folk of Tirion, I warrant!"
Calmer now, much due to the calm manner and tone of he who walked with me, I found I could listen and could put reasons to some part of my reactions.
" I know I have not the beauty of those highborn ladies, Lord Ecthelion. I have but to look in a mirror to see that! Perhaps the words you spoke stung because I know them to be true!" I ran a hand wistfully over the lavender flowers as we passed through them, enjoying the fragrance. " I know I have not the experience nor the finesse of those ladies, but then I had not thought that Fëanáro had seriously intended to.." I struggled to say the words of my shattered dream aloud. " I did not think he wanted me as his wife!"
Ecthelion sighed, but smiled also. I think he did not believe me! "Let us walk down to the stream and there sit awhile! Though I break a confidence and speak now against explicit instructions, I will tell you of that which may, I hope, give you better understanding."
In my mind I could see still Fëanáro's look of perplexity and annoyance at my earlier manner. I wanted to understand, I wanted him to understand! So we walked to the streams edge, Ecthelion and I. As I was barefoot, I sat upon the grass and plunged my feet into the cool, rippling waters. The small, mutihued fish that swam freely in that stream scuttled to find shelter from my intrusion into their world.
"Do you love him?" Ecthelion asked suddenly, taking me well off guard by his bold presumption. " Aye, I see from your expression that you do!" he continued, without waiting on my answer. " Then listen to me Lady, listen well! Fëanáro intends to ask you to be his bride, and that was the purpose of this visit."
"Nay, Lord!" I interrupted him, withdrawing my feet abruptly from the streams comfort." He told me it was to bring me his mother's gift! That gift she promised me when I was little more than two years of age!"
Ecthelion smiled knowingly." Yes Lady, and that!" He sat down upon the grass beside me and spoke pointedly. " Do you really care for the opinions of others, of Alcarin and I, of those in Tirion, when you have Fëanáro's high opinion...when you have his love?"
I was fast coming to consider that, contrary to my first impression, Ecthelion's good opinion was one I would value. But this reasoned hope that he held out to me I found hard to accept. "He is my friend, perhaps! He does not love me! Mayhap Alcarin is right, and it is Aulë's skill he seeks."
" Then what is this!" Ecthelion snorted dismissive of my comment, and cast a furtive glance around, though we were well away from habitation and no visitors were there who had remained in the grounds.
"He crafts a sculpture of you that in his room even now! He intends it as a gift to your parents, a reminder to them of the daughter he seeks to take from them. Harder than usual has it been for me to tear him away from contemplation of that work of his hands. He speaks of you to me, of your skills and love of knowledge, yes, but also of the pleasure he has in your company, of travelling with you as his companion. And the hair! He speaks of that too, as a thing of beauty to him!" At this last comment, Ecthelion smiled with a touch of embarrassment. "He buries himself in his works and devices, but when the pain of memory of his mother, or disturbance at his father's wanderings and recent thoughts grow too great, he rides out to the dwellings of the Aulenduri....to you!"
"We are friends!" But my whispered response was lacking conviction, for I saw well enough what Ecthelion was portraying. (Though I was also a little annoyed that Fëanáro did not seem to have taken my council concerning his father!)
"Think on my words, Lady Nerdanel. Think well! For I know his mood better than most, and I have not seen him so before! He loves you Lady, though he cannot speak of such matters easily, for love and grief are close fellows to him. Listen to him when he speaks to you later!"
"Later!" I was suddenly dismayed. "But Fëanáro has gone, I dismissed him in anger! I have driven him away! "I rose to my feet, looking around almost as if I expected him to be sitting in some corner of the garden, listening, and thinking, as he had done in the hall that day he brought me the gift of a book.
Ecthelion turned now in the direction of the house, and began to walk back. " I do not think you have driven him away, though you may well have surprised him! He is steadfast in purpose, and his purpose is to have you, Lady. He will find a way!" The pace quickened as my companion seemed in a hurry now to be gone. " Two horses left here earlier, Alcarin's and mine! Fëanáro is still here! Though he took himself off to walk awhile and to consider your behaviour. He was angry, of course, and dismissed Alcarin and I back to Tirion, but I had to turn back, to try and ensure you no longer held those misconceptions we gave you!"
We had walked so swiftly, back up through the gardens that I was at a loss as to how I should respond. " I thank you for your concern, and your honesty, my Lord, and I am truly sorry to have behaved so uncivilly towards you earlier. I will say naught of your visit to Fëanáro if he speaks with me again."
"Do not walk near the house with me, Lady!" Ecthelion halted, and bowed a brief farewell. " He may even have seen us together, though I hope not! He will not be pleased at my `interference' in his concerns. Now will I take my leave as quietly as I may, but think you well on all I have said! Mayhap I will be among those welcoming you to Tirion ere long?" And with those words, the Lord Ecthelion departed, blending back into the shadows at the east side of the house as best he could. And I was alone with my thoughts again, and with much to consider.
Where was Fëanáro, I wondered? It suddenly felt to me as if he were watching, as if any field or tree or even the house, concealed him from me. I moved apprehensively around the gardens again, and looked out over the stream to the golden fields and those green hills beyond, but I saw nothing of anyone's presence. Stillness and silence settled around me as a cloak, as if by his very presence, the Prince had claimed and isolated me. I returned then to the familiarity of the house. No purpose would it serve for me to wander in search of him, he would know where I was when he wished to speak with me, but all the same, I made for the high tower rather than my room.
My parents were seated at the oaken table, talking in hushed voices as I passed the hall, and my mother rose, moving to follow me, concerned greatly did she seem. But my father bade her stay with him. "Let her be, Taurlotë!"
"But he is waiting for her! Should we not tell her?"
My father caught my eye as I hesitated, and shook his head.
"We should not interfere. Let time take its course! They will find each other when both are ready! When both have cooled in temper from this days encounter."
I was unsure whether to persist and ask of them what they knew, but there was wisdom in my father's words. The determination with which I climbed the marble stairs reinforced with each step my determination to find Fëanáro, and soon.
In anticipation did I move to the arched window to look out at the still and silent garden below. Nothing was to be seen, no movement. I waited and kept watch, moving from one viewpoint to another as time passed and the light changed into that softer combination of silver and gold. The gardens were most beautiful at this time, each outline of plant or tree a delicate shimmer of light, the stream a glimmer almost of molten metal against the darker forms of the nearby trees. Still were the gardens empty of movement, save for a few birds picking their way through the lawns, eager for 'leftovers' from the feast, and in the orchard beyond, some squirrels playing in the trees. Their movement caught my eye, and then did I notice someone standing under one of the apple trees. That someone was wearing a blue cloak with silver and gold thread, tall he was and he had raven-black hair. `I hastened to the stairs and ran down them as eagerly as I deemed fitting for the daughter of Urundil! At the bottom of the stairs my mother was waiting also.
"Do not run to him, child! If he wants you, he will wait for you!" She smiled tenderly, as if she knew she would soon loose me in that manner that many parents of the Eldar loose their children once they reach maturity. She reached out to smooth my hair, as she had done when I was small, and she straightened my gown for me. " Not the best attire you have, Nerdanel, but fine enough I think!"
"Mother, I thank you!" I smiled back at her, but I was eager to be away, and she knew it." I must go unto him, as he asked me to do, and I will find out from his own lips what his intentions are!"
She nodded to me, but there was a look about her that reminded me of her earlier concern over Fëanáro." What is it you see, mother? Are you still vexed with him, even now?"
" I still see fire over the Sea!" she replied with a look of saddness. " But I do not know whether it is for good or ill!.Go to him, Nerdanel, for that is your heart's wish, and know that you have the love and support of your parents in your choice!"
So I left the house. That walk, slow and measured, across the lawns to the orchard was one of the longest I made in my early life!
"You have come to your senses, then, Nerdanel!" He was leaning back against the tree trunk, almost casually; his voice low and soft, yet it held a hint of sarcasm.
I halted a few paces from him; my chin tilted upwards in as good a gesture of composure as I could manage. My heart was touched with shame at my earlier treatment of him; of those words I had spoken to Alcarin that he may well have related back to the Prince concerning more suitable neri amongst the apprentices, or the Teleri! "I have come to explain, Prince Fëanáro!!" said I.
"No need!" he replied, but his eyes flashed fire, and I knew I had angered him, or had even, (and this thought filled me with anguish!) wounded him. "Ecthelion has told me of all that befell when you came upon he and Alcarin. I have dismissed them both back to Tirion for their inappropriate behaviour. You should know that you do not dismiss me in such a manner, Lady!"
Moment after moment passed. He explained no further, nor did he look away. What strangeness was this, this feeling between us, almost as if out fëar were already as one! `A sacred union' Yavanna had said to me, and she was right of course! Why did I feel then almost as if the Valar themselves watched us, that in some way the will of Iluvatar was about to be fulfilled? I had no fear of Fëanáro, of his anger, only a wish to make things as they had promised to be, before I had overheard those ill-spoken words and doubt had arisen in me. Then did the flame in his blue-grey eyes subside, and I knew my fate was decided.
"You think I wish to use you to win your father's good will. That I find you unpleasing, but, for the sake of his skill will overlook that for the gain to be made," he stated bluntly.
"That is what I heard them say, Fëanáro. But no longer do I believe it of you!"
He smiled dryly, and nodded curt acknowledgement of my words. "I would have been better to visit alone! Those two were meant to aid me, to help distract your parents and others so that I could be sure of speaking with you without interruption, but they have hindered my cause!"
I waited for him to continue, for him to clarify my misunderstanding that was no longer a misunderstanding. "Much of what you heard is true," he persisted, standing straight again, and moving closer to me, only an arms length away was he. "I do value your father's skills highly, and I do wish to learn what I can from him! And from you also would I learn more of metalwork! You heard Alcarin say he thought I should look to a daughter of a noble house, most probably meaning to his sister, but why would I do that, when I can look to one who is beloved of Aulë, one who not only is a daughter of the Aulenduri, but fast on her way to becoming one of their number by her own skill and volition."
"You spend time with me because of Aulë!" I exclaimed, but I was secretly pleased that he valued me above the Ladies of Tirion. That he would contemplate learning from me!
"Aye, that is part of it, and you do not seem to understand that my words are meant as a complement to you!" Fëanáro stated in all seriousness. "But neither your father nor Aulë are what this visit of mine was meant to be about, Nerdanel! I told you upon my arrival that I had brought you my mother's promised gift, and so I have."
This sudden turn of conversation to the gift perplexed me somewhat. But perhaps he would speak of that first? "There was no need! The Queen had far more important matters to think about in those last days than I!"
"You are wrong! She thought often of you in those days, of the daughter of her friend in whom she saw much promise. That sculpture she asked you to make, she wanted to see your creation, so that she could better know its creator! (Greatly then did I wish to see his sculpture of me!) And she liked well what she saw!" He paused, as if remembering the conversation with her. "And then she gave your work to me to consider; to reflect upon! `So free of thought, so different is this little maid,' she said to me. And she needed say no more, for I knew her thoughts."
My heart was pounding again. I had good memories of Míriel myself, but wondered now where his words were leading. "Míriel was kind to me!" was all I could utter.
"It was even so!" he continued. "And she bade me ensure you were offered a gift from her in return, something she had in mind, something precious to her. This I do now. Behold thy gift, Nerdanel. It is before thee, if thou doest choose to accept it!"
With the utmost effort did I maintain my composure at his proposal. Though I knew since my visit to Aulë that this was what I wanted, and from Ecthelion that this was Fëanáro's intention, I was nigh overcome.
"You mean that you are my gift from your mother?" I asked in wonder.
A smile of certainly lit his features. Did he entertain any doubt that I would accept him? Ai, he had no doubt!
"That is what I said! You asked earlier about the reason for my absence, and I told you that I had been pondering a matter of great importance. I do not choose she whom I wish to wed lightly, nor without due care. No ordinary maid of the Noldor are you, Nerdanel, for in you do I find a companion of my fëa, and one who shares my interests and dreams. And if you doubt my intentions still, there is also this for you to consider before you give me your answer, yea or nay!" He reached out to take both of my hands and enclose them firmly in his own, and the full might of those brilliant eyes was upon me. "I love thee!" he whispered. At the hearing of those words, and knowing what they cost him, I was lost to him, my heart's love fast bound to the son of Finwë.
"And I love thee!" I managed to respond. Then was I in his arms, and my earlier world was unmade forever!
And so it came to pass that Fëanáro had his way, and early in the year 1184 I made my long delayed first visit to Tirion. I rode forth from my father's house, to formally make that commitment which would in time unite the House of Urundil with the House of Finwë. A dappled horse I sat upon, and I was robed in white, with Aulë's gift clasped about my waist, and a copper circlet, made by my father, upon my brow. As we approached the green hill of Tuna, upon which the city of the Noldor shone with reflected radiance, Yavanna Kementári gifted me also. White blossoms (a reminder of her words, perhaps?) fell from the trees at the feet of our entourage, and became entwined in my hair. But the greatest gift, I believed at that time, was the one that Míriel had bequeathed to me, he for whom I had made the silver ring I carried on a chain next to my heart.
· Turukáno = Turgon.
· Nolofinwë= Fingolfin