(Disclaimer. All the characters are JRR Tolkien’s. All references are from `The Silmarillion, or HoME 10 or 12. Nothing is mine except the interpretation, and the character `Gaerion’.)
“In her youth she (Nerdanel) loved to wander far from the dwellings of the Noldor, either beside the long shores of the Sea or in the hills; and thus she and Fëanor had met and were companions in many journeys.”
(Morgoths Ring. HoME 10 `The Later Quenta Silmarillion’)
The house of Sarmo Urundil. Seventh Age.
I know what some say, that he wed me for my father’s skill, for the knowledge of the lore of crafting with metal that Aulë had passed on to Urundil! It was not so! For Fëanáro would not have bound himself to a wife for all time, would not have chosen she who was to bear his children in order to gain a skill that he could have acquired from my father anyway! All Finwë had to do was ask, and my father would have taught his son the expertise of an Aulendur. Not that those gifts to us from Aulë were to be taught to just anyone, but Prince Fëanáro was hardly anyone! Aulë himself soon came to love the eldest son of Finwë greatly, even though my Lord never entered his service, (never would he have served any of the Valar, you must understand, for the stories are right in the telling that Fëanáro in no way had a servile nature.) In the darkening that followed, long it was before Aulë could bring himself to admit that there was any taint of shadow upon his favourite. What I sometimes wonder is why those who believed, and believe still, that Fëanáro was essentially evil, considered I wed with him! If he had been as arrogant, and malicious at the start as Morgoth corrupted him into becoming at the end, would that not have made me out to be a fool, to be the most easily deceived of the nissi*? Foolish I have been at times, but not, I think, that foolish!
Although Fëanáro felt emotions most deeply, (for he could be both fire and ice!) never could he love anyone easily, not after realising the pain of love lost, for dearly did he love his mother! Not lightly could he give his affection, save to his father. But this is still a long and complex tale, and grows with the telling. Some matters I may yet take a time to explain, for my thoughts are full of memories, and of dreams!!
The legacy of Morgoth, of fell Moringotho, has been in part to overshadow the accounts of the early years, and focus only on what Fëanáro and our sons became. I will not let that foe of Arda have my Lord ranked alongside him, seeming to some to be as his equal in evil. None corrupted Morgoth but himself! As for Fëanáro, he was ever proud and became increasingly so as he grew in power, and renown; but then we are a proud folk, and he surely had good reason to think well of himself. It was said, and by Manwë, that Fëanáro was the mightiest of all the Children of Ilúvatar! The greatest of us all he certainly was in skill, in the art of sub-creation, and amongst the greatest in wisdom at the start, until — ai! — until his wisdom and reason became clouded, became poisoned. But of that I cannot yet speak. Even as I think upon it, my resolve shatters into fragments, and that will not serve my purpose.
I was in the habit of walking often in the hills, or by the long shores of the sea, in my early youth. In part, I was but continuing with that love of wandering the Blessed Realm that my mother had bequeathed to me. In my childhood, I had spent much time with her by the sea, and later, I walked there myself, pondering many of the mysteries of life and enjoying the freedom to go where I wished. In those times there was no real threat, no real danger to a maid wandering alone. None there were who would accost her, nor harm her in any way; such thoughts were not in the minds of the Eldar. (Unlike the situation that mortal folk in the Hither Lands came to know only too soon, alas!) There was no danger from the creatures of that land, and only had I chosen to throw myself off a mountain, or a cliff onto rocks below, would I have suffered great harm.
There were some occasions, and only when I walked by the shores, when I had the company of a Teler youth. He taught me of the life of the coastlands, of the creatures of the seas, and spoke with a musical lilt of his longing of the sea swell, and salt air, and of the white ship he hoped to one-day command. A silver-haired boy was he, of happy countenance, and a free spirit who enjoyed my company it seemed, though he was younger than I. My father was not so happy when I mentioned Gaerion to him.
“A Teler Elf? What do you and he have in common, daughter?” Urundil had spoken with no small concern. We were among the first of that generation to grow to maturity in Aman, Gaerion and I, and though neither of us were then full grown, it was widely known that some had already chosen one another for betrothal and future union of themselves and of their houses. My father had no issue with my choice of friends, but he was becoming aware that I, too, was reaching an age when I would begin to consider my choice of a husband! He did not wish for me give my heart’s love to one who did not offer to share my interests, nor my growing devotion to Aulë.
“The Teleri give of their loyalty to Ulmo, and to Ossë, and in them do they put their trust. It is not so with the Noldor!” my father told me.
I knew, young as I was, that my father had hopes of my choosing to serve Aulë of my own accord. To that point did he direct his teaching of me in skills of metalwork also. He need not have worried, however. Although I loved well the company of Gaerion, I did not have the longing, or affinity of fëa with him, which would have led us to espouse. And soon enough was I to meet with one whom Urundil could not fault! Not at that time!
I had been away from the dwellings of the Aulenduri for several days — not overly long for my usual walks — when upon my journey home, I met with another in the hills. It was the time of that mingling of the light of the Trees when Telperion was on the wane. A slight breeze was blowing, bringing with it the fragrance of sweet-smelling fir wood. It rustled my cloak and my hair as I walked, barefoot upon the grass. (Although I carried boots with me for the longer walks, much did I love to feel the ground under my feet!) He was walking up out of the valley, out of the silvered mists, and never, never in my life had I beheld an Elda I thought so beautiful! Fast and purposeful was his stride, as one who knew exactly where he was going. His long, raven-black hair was blown back upon the breeze, and his cloak of grey and silver swirled down from broad shoulders. Young he was, and yet in some manner, not so! As he looked up, his eyes met mine, and I felt as if he saw through my many thoughts and hopes, into my very heart! Those eyes were piercingly bright, blue-grey, I observed, an unusual shade! And such power and purpose was in them, that it was all I could do not to bow my head in the deference one would not hesitate to show a Vala!
My heart beat fiercely as he spoke. “Well met, my Lady! I had not thought to find another so high in these hills this day!” His voice was compellingly charismatic, rich and full, and likewise one of strength. So easily could I have lost my sense of propriety in that instant, but I was not fool enough to think he would look at me with anything other than the courtesy one expected from a fellow traveller.
“Well met, my Lord,” I responded, though still did I struggle to identify him. Could he be one of the Maiar, choosing to take a recognisable form in order to converse with me more easily? Many of the servants of the Valar had I known in my short life, but he was not one of them!
Most serious of expression was he, but he smiled slightly, pausing to behold me more intently, before continuing his ascent.
I stood still, waiting for him to draw level to me. “Who are you, if I may ask, my Lord? From whence do you come?” Mayhap I should have waited upon him speaking further, but bold was I, and that from being the daughter of Aulë’s favourite craftsman.
He smiled then in earnest for the light of his eyes became merry; amused, it seemed to me, that I knew not who he was!
“I am from Tirion!” he responded in a lighter tone, “A son of one of the noble houses! And you, my Lady?”
Though he had not given me his own name, there was something compelling about his request. “I am Nerdanel, daughter of Urundil, servant of Aulë,” I stated with some pride. Surely he would have heard of my father, thought I!
“I know of Urundil, and of his skill!” he drew most close to me, but still did he seem to be looking at me with more intensity than could be considered appropriate. “And of you also, Lady, have I heard!”
I felt colour rushing to my cheeks, as it was apt to do when I felt strong emotion, and at that he laughed. Not a mocking sound, but one of amusement at the further discovery my feelings could not be easily concealed.
“Will you walk with me for a while, Nerdanel, daughter of Urundil?” he asked, making a slight bow of acknowledgement to me, then gesturing to the foothills of the Pelóri. “I am heading north!”
I could not have refused him, though it took me back upon my earlier travels! So unlike anyone I had previously met, was he, and so taken by his presence was I, that I was even unaware of Laurelin coming into full bloom. Only later did I realise I must have appeared to him as a rare sight indeed, as one with hair of flame upon that hillside.
And so we walked together, and spoke of many things. Of Aulë, and of crafting in stone, and at my mention of this did he look amused again. Such interests were unusual in a nís! We spoke of exploring the land, and of places we had seen, of Valmar, and the city of Tirion, with its halls, and high towers, and terraced gardens.
“Much time do I spend in the halls of Aulë, and I prefer to remain there or in the dwellings of the Aulenduri at this time, my Lord!” I had informed him, as our conversation developed. “I think I should find Tirion too crowded, too full of folk, for my present liking! My heart is most truly in the hills, and in the desire of knowledge and in the service of Aulë. All these things do I already enjoy!”
“You have never been to Tirion then!” he stated, with some surprise that I was so inexperienced of the life he knew. “You, who say that you desire knowledge, have you never wanted to visit the Hall of the Loremasters, nor the Great Library that now stands but a short distance from the house of King Finwë? Many works has Rúmil completed, and there are others who work upon the lore of linguistics, and upon the history of the Noldor and our discoveries and observations of the land, and the skies and the seas, and the creatures that inhabit each!”
I blushed again, to my annoyance, but he was not unkind, and acted as if all were normal to him. “I should like to visit them, indeed! But my part — my future, I think –lies in crafting. I work well with stone and with metal, and also I have some small skill with gems, my father says! Who is to say that I may not serve King Finwë, and the folk of Tirion, further in those matters? I made a sculpture for the Queen herself, a while ago. A likeness of her! She had asked me to make her a gift, before — before she –“
“Before she died.” He finished with rather more solemnity than he had previously shown, and the humour vanished from his expression. Many folk spoke in muted tones of the death of Míriel, for none truly understood it! “I have seen your work for her, and know that Queen Míriel was well pleased with it. So pleased that she gave it to her son, before she lay down in the gardens of Lórien to seek her rest.” His tone was one of someone who had long pondered that mystery, and, most likely, pondered it still. Many moments passed before I felt able to respond and break in upon his thoughts.
“I am pleased it brought her joy, my Lord!” I had lowered my head without further thought, so as to match his bearing. “She was a noble lady indeed, a friend of my mother’s from their youth, and I would have done all that I could to be of assistance to her!”
Now I reflected also, and believed I knew who he was! A friend of the Prince, surely! Perhaps even the Lord Ecthelion, of whose eloquence and prowess I had heard, for how else could he know of such matters of the court? I did not know the ways of the people of Tirion to any extent, nor had I, until then, overly wished to. There was time enough for all things, I had believed, and in due course I had intended to travel to the city. But my companion’s words lit a fire in me, an eagerness to know more of his world.
I told my parents of that meeting upon my eventual return home. They knew, of course, from my tone of voice and manner that I liked well the one I had met.
“He had not the courtesy to give you his name?” Taurlotë, my mother, asked me in amazement, considering this a grave breach of good manners. She put down the design for a goblet she was working on, and gave me her full attention.
“I did not ask him his name, Mother; only who he was, and to that he gave reply of sorts.” (I found I was already defending him. A habit that has long endured!)
My mother made a dismissive sound. “His attitude holds more of arrogance than I find pleasing, no matter what you say!”
When I described him further in manner and appearance, my father looked thoughtful, however! “Blue-grey eyes! I have only ever met two neri amongst the Noldor with blue-grey eyes! Neither of them was the Lord Ecthelion, as you seem to be thinking! Nor does the manner you describe sit well with my knowledge of that nér*.” Urundil commented, as if ascertaining something.
So my mystery companion was not Ecthelion! I had wanted to speak more of my travels to my parents, but at that time decided against it. Already had I given them much to consider. I would not entertain any further contemplation of my companion, for how was I to know when, or even if, he and I would meet again?
“Think nothing of it!” said I, trying, over late, to make light of my encounter as I left the hall of our house to bathe, and find fresh clothing. “For he is certainly from one of our noblest houses, and so unlikely to seek further of my company!”
My mother frowned, her fair face taking on a look of concern. “Be not so certain of that!” she whispered, with not a little foresight!
*All years are Valinorian years.
nér = He-Elf