(Disclaimer: all characters are JRR Tolkien’s. The few that are not are my beta-reader’s, in the case of Ondoriel and Narwasar, and mine in the case of Serewen, Turindë, Mernaseldë, (Líriel) Artuiel and Lord Fionu. All references are from The Silmarillion and HoME 1, 10 and 12)
“Then Caranthir looked kindly upon men and did Haleth great honour; and he offered her recompense for her father and brother. And seeing, over late, what valour there was in the Edain, he said to her: `If you will remove and dwell further north, there shall you have the friendship and protection of the Eldar, and free lands of your own.’
(The Silmarillion. `Of the coming of Men into the West’.)
The house of Curufinwë Fëanáro. Tirion. Seventh Age.
This house, that once saw so much of sweet life, that contained so many of us, so many voices, and laughter and song, aye, and argument as well, stands now so silent! I wander the rooms wherein my sons once lived, the gardens where they played as children, and I am nigh overwhelmed with loss. So little has this house changed in outward appearance over the Ages, but so much has it changed in my heart!
As I stand now upon the gallery overlooking the great hall, many thoughts and memories come to my mind. So many things of import happened here! So it is that I see the hall, with its magnificent portrayal of Valinor on the marbled floor, yet full with folk celebrating Carnistir’s* betrothal. Many of Tirion’s nobles were there that day, and some of the less noble, all clad in fine garments of celebration. I recall most clearly a multitude of colours; of silks and finely embroidered gowns and robes, and jewels reflecting their light in the diamonds and milky white stones embedded in the copper-wrought ceiling. I hear again the sounds of chatter, the first chords of music, as those musicians who played harp and flute and viol prepared to entertain us. And I see Mernaseldë, who was also to sing that day, urgently conferring with Makalaurë. I hear again her voice most clearly of all gathered there, and she speaking with him in whispers of other than music! His `Líriel’, Makalaurë called her, and she in turn took up the name as her epessë! I smell the fresh fragrance of the rose garden, for all the doors to the upper terrace were open, as they are now, and the lightest of breezes was carrying with it the more distant aroma of the woodland firs.
Then the dancing began! Carnistir had led his Lady, she to whom he was then betrothed, into the middle of the room. Turindë, the daughter of Lord Fionu, was exquisitely beautiful, but so small of build and height for a Noldo! The difference in stature between herself and Carnistir, who was the second tallest of our sons, had caused amusement to some. It had not caused amusement to Carnistir, and he had words with them!
I liked Turindë, and was glad of the alliance between our families! Not that it was up to me to make the choice, but she had strength of character, an independent spirit that would not always do or say what was expected. With Carnistir did she seem to blossom into full flower, as a bud held back on display of its wonder until just the right moment! And she adored him! What more could I have asked of her?
Others followed his lead; the neri escorting their ladies onto the dance floor. Maitimo* had acted the part of host most considerately, and he had asked Turindë’s mother for the first dance, in his father’s absence. I was pleased that our eldest son seemed of lighter disposition again. For he had been, according to Fëanáro, `suffering of late from being led astray by a Vanya, much as his grandfather was!’ Further, had his father berated him: “Are there no maids amongst the Noldor, that you must go, and with my half-brother’s sons to the Vanyar for a wife?” For our eldest son, after many, many years of showing no great interest in finding a spouse, had some few years ago made a visit with his close friend and relative, Findekáno* and his brother Turukáno* to Taniquetil. There had Turukáno fallen most ardently in love with a Vanya nís, Elenwë, and Maitimo had become enamoured of her elder sister, Menelwë. No great joy had that news brought my husband! But now that relationship was ended before it had truly begun! And while Turukáno visited still with the golden haired Elenwë, and there was talk of his own betrothal, Maitimo had been rejected as a suitor by Menelwë. I had grieved with him at the loss of one he had such hopes of, and for a time he had been of low spirits. But it was not our firstborn’s nature to be downcast for long, and that day, at his brother’s betrothal, was something to occur that would lift up his heart anew.
Curvo* was to dance with his wife, the graceful and clever Nolwen, daughter of the steward of the house of Arafinwë*. They had wed in 1327, a year of the Great Festival, and Curvo being but sixty-three years of age! (Young was that, compared to his brothers, but old in my way of thought; Fëanáro and I having wed as soon as we could!) Ambarussa* the younger, as ever, was with his childhood friend, the lively, Artuiel. Those two were life partners, and in more than dance, I had long thought! Ambarussa the elder was clad identically to his twin, in embroidered, belted, green robes; though they could for many a year be told apart, as his hair had darkened to my shade, whereas his twin’s hair remained the richer hue of Urundil and Maitimo! He was dancing with that other childhood friend, now recently returned from spending many years with her mother’s family; Ondoriel, the brown-haired daughter of Narwasar! Tyelkormo* had escorted Ar-Feiniel* most gallantly throughout the celebrations, though the love between them was of the nature of brother and sister. Closer to Tyelkormo than to her own brothers at many times, was the daughter of Nolofinwë. Makalaurë* was the last to join the group, as Findekáno and the Lady Ilyalissë swept ahead of him. But he had taken Líriel by the hand, and their eyes were merry, as they shared laughter over their own plans for the occasion.
I watched them then, as I watch in memory now. Always did I pay close attention to the expressions and attitudes of others, the better to understand thought I! That day was one of delight for me, as I saw in that room, potential happiness for five of my sons. Though was Maitimo, at that time, dancing with the wrong partner!
Serewen, looking up from the side of the room where she stood with Ecthelion, caught my gaze, and broke my contemplation of my sons and their partners! She smiled most radiantly, and made a slight curtsey, and was as happy as I that our children had, at last, found joy in each other’s company and music. We believed that Mernaseldë, her longed-for daughter, had found her life’s companion in Makalaurë! (If only it had been so for them! If only they had not been torn apart by the tensions and bitterness between families, by the exile, and the rebellion. For still does she grieve for him, and in this very house!)
I could have stood and watched the dancers for hours, the complicated and elegant interweaving of steps that were as the dance of life itself. For one partner would move, and the other endeavour to always match them and add steps of their own, though were some more agile and adapt at this than others.
“You do not dance, Lady!”
Not for many a year had Fëanáro been able to take me by surprise, as he so often had in our youth! The most familiar, and welcome, presence was he to me, for we knew each other by then, so very well. Easier it was, to match my step with his, to match his restlessness and fire with wisdom and calm, and sometimes, when he chose, would he alter his own step to match me the better.
“Nay, my Lord! I care not to dance! The partner of my choice is not in the great hall!”
I could feel the warmth of his smile of understanding in my fëa, without turning to look. “You should be dancing with the Lord Fionu!” he stated.
“And you with his Lady! But thankfully Maitimo has a sense of propriety, and has taken up your duty!”
He moved forwards on the gallery to stand close by my side, and watch the proceedings for a few moments. Most content was he that day, for his father was also with us, and without the Lady Indis! That she had previously planned to spend some time with her family, and taken Findis and Lalwendë with her, could have been seen as a slight. Fëanáro doubtlessly thought it was, but his joy at having his father to himself for a time, far outweighed his temper.
“Is King Finwë occupied?” I asked the obvious question, after a few moments silence.
“Aye, Nerdanel. He is debating in my study, and with Rúmil and Lastamo. I should be with them, for still does Lastamo assert much that is erroneous, and Rúmil is of no mood to halt him in his arrogance!”
“The same could be said of you, Finwion*!” I raised my eyebrows in surprise at his words. “For once you begin a debate, there is no halting you, nor disagreeing with your point! Always are you right!”
“As you say, my Lady; always am I right!” he added with a hint of amusement! “Much as I enjoy the opportunity to banter with you, wife, we have a duty to perform, and should be seen as hosts here!”
So did my husband escort me down the marbled stairs, and into the great hall. Offering me his hand, we took our place at the top of the room nearest the dais, to lead in the next dance.
The whole of our household turned out by the main doors to farewell King Finwë and his party, as they had also turned out to welcome them much earlier that day. Fëanáro had escorted his beloved father to the edge of the arched bridge that spanned the waterfalls at the front of the forecourt. Again did they speak together, and smile, happy with the day’s events.
The blue-gowned Nolwen, who stood by my side, had looked at me with some disbelief. “I mean no disrespect, Lady Nerdanel, but even after the years I have been wed, I cannot get used to the way Prince Fëanáro behaves with his father!” she spoke softly “Though in Prince Arafinwë’s house was the King always held in high honour, yet does this relationship seem almost obsessive! Most thankful am I that Curvo does not take after his father in all ways!”
I had smiled at her, knowing well how highly Curvo regarded Fëanáro, though was it even as she said, as little compared to the love of Fëanáro for Finwë! I smiled also a farewell to the King, as he paused in his conversation, and hailed us a final time, and I made a deep curtsy to him, my ladies and my son’s wife doing likewise. I had always liked Finwë!
“There is far more behind my Lord’s actions than many, even his children, suppose.” I whispered in return to the dark haired, bright eyes nís at my side. “None may come between him and his father without incurring his displeasure. This does he have reasons for, and had you known him in his youth, better would you understand, dear one!”
Had Nolwen been less noble, less thoughtful, she may well have derided Fëanáro’s behaviour further. But she was wise beyond her years, and most reflective on all matters pertaining to our family. And what, indeed, was wrong with a son giving honour to his father?
I alone remained at the door, for there was still dancing to enjoy, and much food and wine to be had and others were eager to return to the celebrations. Mernaseldë was about to sing again; though she had earlier sung most beautifully a song of Makalaurë’s composition, and of the devotion of Manwë and Varda. That he had Líriel herself in mind when he wrote it, I had little doubt! Ambarussa seemed to be even more active than usual. Both twins were planning some surprise, and were mightily amused by something, and that pertaining to Maitimo! That our eldest son’s eyes had rarely left the form of the wendë* he had indulged many years earlier, and who was now a nís of some presence, had not escaped my notice either! I thought then, that I should inform my husband that Maitimo seemed to, finally, be taking his advice!
And then did Fëanáro return across the circular lawns, talking with our steward, Lelyar, of his wishes for the rest of the occasion. Lelyar had nodded acknowledgment to me, and then continued about his duties with his usual flair for organisation.
“More than one of our sons had promised himself this day!” I announced, and my husband halted also by the door.
“Makalaurë, you mean! He makes a good choice in Ecthelion’s daughter! And about time!” Fëanáro sighed in a rather satisfied manner, though his eyes had lost some of their brilliance at the departure of his father. “You have always told them that there is time enough for everything, Lady, and this have our sons taken to heart! Long have we waited for grandchildren!”
“That they wed not in early youth, even as we did, as many of the first generation to grow to maturity in Aman did, is no bad thing, my Lord! Many are there that wed not until their hundredth year, or maybe more!” I answered him, knowing he found it strange that they had all taken what to him seemed so long to find their companions. I thought then that my insight into Maitimo’s interest could wait awhile! But this I knew from observation, that Ondoriel’s childhood love for Maitimo had but grown into something more mature. Mayhap, at last, Maitimo had recognised that fact!
Yet were Fëanáro’s thoughts in another direction. “Time enough for everything, you always say! Yet do I sometimes wonder if there will be! For it is in my mind that, on the Last Day, I may find it has not been long enough for me!”
I had shivered involuntarily at his words; a touch of foresight of my own, and this he realised, and took up my hand with some concern, gesturing that we should walk to the side of the house, whereon shone more brightly the light of Laurelin. On several occasions, since the birth of Maitimo, had I experienced visions of sorts. Strange thoughts would come into my mind; but that time was it of a tear drop, of a substance like unto shimmering water, yet it contained all that was in Arda! Poised, was that tear, as if to descend upon my husband from some great height! Almost, did it seem to me, that Manwë himself wept for Fëanáro!
“Come, Nerdanel! No unhappiness will I have on this day!” Fëanáro thoughts lightly brushed my own, a reassuring gesture; but I knew he would later want me to tell him of what I had seen. We stood in the light for some time, and spoke of happier things, and looked out over the city that was our home, to the Calacirya and the lands beyond. And the chill of that thought was lifted by all that was dear and familiar to me. We had forever, he and I, did we not!
Another of those occasions, it was, of time that was heavy with promise, and yet was as no time at all. And often am I with them all in that memory! But Carnistir, he was betrothed in the year of the Trees 1399, and the following year was Morgoth to sue for pardon, and be released!
( Again, I am posting this in two parts, as it has got to be rather long!)
* All years are Valinorian years.
Canistir = Caranthir
Maitimo = Maedhros
Findekáno = Fingon
Turukáno = Turgon
Curvo = Curufin
Arafinwë = Finafin
Ambarussa = The twins call each other this name. Ambarussa the elder is Amrod, and the younger is Amras
Tyelkormo = Celegorm
Ar-Fieniel = Aradhel
Makalaurë = Maglor
Finwion = Childhood name of Fëanor, that Nerdanel sometimes uses.
wendë = Maid, or young girl.