(Disclaimer. All of the characters are JRR Tolkien’s. Gaerion and Tulcon are my characters, inspired by reading Tolkien’s works. All references are from The Silmarillion and HoME 10 and 12)
“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
Last night did I dream of singing! An impassioned and joyful song of the beauty of Valinor it was, one of those written long before the time of strife between the sons of Finwë. I heard Makalaurë again, and his brothers, one by one raising their voices to join with his. Even did I hear Carnistir, who less often gave expression in song. Ai, I miss them so very much!
You at least are still with me then, reader, whether you are Elda or no! It is in my thoughts that this writing of mine may come more into the hands of the Second People than even my own kind. As most of our stories of old and less old times found their way into the writings of Men, so mayhap will this, though I doubt not without much alteration by scribes! So do I think of you, reader, as Adaneth*, my companion as I tread softly this path of golden memories, and some not so golden! Much do I long to wander Eldamar again, the silvered strands of the coastlands, the wooded valleys and the high hills. I would walk those paths of my youth, with my memories and dreams, and mayhap you will be my companion, for it is pleasing to walk with a friend!
Fëanáro was my companion in those days! Friends we were before we wed, and after.
This is how it came to pass! At times, in those days after I returned from my first meeting with — unknown to me — the son of Finwë, in the hills, did my mother look strangely at me, as if she knew something, and was not best pleased.
“Come now, mother!” said I, at a moment when we were working together in the herb gardens. “What vexes you? What secrets are you keeping from me?” I knew that my mother was gifted with more foresight than many nissi, and I would have her counsel on whatever the matter was!
“No secret, Nerdanel,” my mother answered. “But I would rather you stayed close to the houses of the Aulenduri for the time being.”
I laughed at this; no concept of danger, or fear, or real loss had I. But I was a considerate daughter, and not yet five* years of age, so I followed her request, and did not wander away at all in that time.
I worked in the house and gardens, and at the forge; and I studied much with my father. Somewhere, however, in the recesses of my thoughts, a longing to visit Tirion was smouldering.
One day, I had a visitor! I had seen him coming from a considerable distance, as I had been in the high tower, looking out along the Calacirya towards the sea. A thin figure, dressed in grey and blue, a Teler, for those of the Third Kindred are generally of a shorter and lighter stature than we Noldor, though this particular Teler was not short! I hurried down the winding marble staircase, and called to my father, but Urundil was engrossed in a work he was creating, and answered not, and my mother was visiting kin. So I alone greeted Gaerion.
The Teler looked somewhat drawn and concerned, and as I invited him into the main hall and offered him refreshments, he explained the reason for his presence.
“I did not know why you came no more to the sea, Nerdanel. I thought that perhaps, in some way unknown to me, I had caused you offence?”
We Noldor are not a folk given to touch that easily, though the fire of our spirit does often burn most hot within us. We do not readily embrace strangers, even friends, but so lost and unsure did this friend of mine look that I took his hand and held it fast, reassuringly. His oval, grey eyes widened considerably at my gesture, and he seemed unable to speak clearly for a moment.
“Lady, is all well with you? Is there aught I can do to help you?”
I smiled at him; glad to see him I was! “I am well, Gaerion. And most certainly, you have done nothing at which I could take offence!” A broad smile broke over his thin face in response. “I have been overly busy about the house of late,” I continued, “and have not had the time to visit. But now you are here, and I will not be lacking in my duties if I take a walk this day with you. I would like to smell the sea air again!”
He was beside himself with eagerness, that silver haired Elda. “Then change quickly; fetch your cloak, and let us be away!” said he. “I have provisions for a few days with me, as I had thought to walk back and visit Tirion, if you would not receive me!”
At that mention of Tirion, my heart leapt momentarily. Gaerion’s were not the brilliant blue grey eyes that I `saw’ in dream, but he was kind and considerate, and had always acted as the best of friends in the regard he showed me. And he was a reason for walking, and a safeguard against whatever vexed my mother! I gave call of my intentions to my father, but waited not upon his reply.
So it was that Gaerion and I soon set out on that walk which would take us most directly to the sea, rather than that which went past the green hill of Túna. We had intended to wander through the valley and then turn north along the coast, far enough to catch sight of Alqualondë We never got that far, however.
We had not even drawn nigh to the coast when, from a distance, we heard a horseman approaching. (The Eldar did not keep horses in stable or field in those days! For the most part horses roamed the land, but willing they were to carry us where we wished. Some horses, indeed, had special relationships with individuals, and would graze and run the land nearby the dwellings of those with whom they had such a rapport.) A dark-cloaked rider upon a golden horse was swiftly covering the distance between us, and we halted to greet him, and see what message he bore. As he drew closer, I recognised Tulcon, an apprentice of my father’s whom I sometimes worked alongside. Good friends were we, though he was more serious even than I, and took to heart all of my father’s comments and suggestions for improvement of his skills.
“Lady Nerdanel, you are to return home immediately!” he spoke with some hesitancy, knowing that I would not take orders from another easily.
“Indeed, Tulcon! And what can be so urgent, pray, that you are sent to ride after me?”
“Your father has been put in a position of some embarrassment, he says. A gift has arrived for you, and he knew not where to find you for many moments!” Tulcon continued, knowing I would not ignore a request from Urundil. “He bids you return straight away!”
We are not naturally disobedient to our parents, we Eldar, for particularly in our youth we know them to be wiser, and to have more experience of life. In no way would I ever have sought to dishonour my father, and I was grieved that I had caused him embarrassment.
“Do you know who the gift is from? What it is?” I asked, curiosity beginning to get the better of me, for I was not expecting anything. But such is often the nature of gifting amongst our people. A surprise gift is a gift indeed!
Tulcon looked most uncomfortable, and he fidgeted on the horse in a manner that made me somewhat suspicious that something more than I expected was afoot. “Nay, Lady! I know not what the gift is! But it is from the city!”
My eyes widened at that comment, but still could it be anything! It could be a gift from my father’s sister, Nessimë, who was wed to one of the lesser lords, mayhap? But then, would my father have been embarrassed?
“Is the messenger who brought the gift still at the house, that I may return my thanks to the sender?”
Tulcon squirmed, more uncomfortable than I had ever seen him, “He is there, Lady!”
Then there was nothing for it but to return. I made sincere apologies to Gaerion; only for the sake of my father did I forego the trip to the sea. Gaerion was not overly disappointed; at least he did not appear so.
“I shall turn to Tirion, as I had first thought to do, Nerdanel. I should like to see the city of the Noldor, and to do so before you manage to gives me much amusement!” The Teler bowed to me. “As long as we are still friends, my heart is not sad! “
“We are friends Gaerion!” I replied with feeling. “Always, we are friends!”
I did not know at that time that I was to break his heart. I did not know that already Gaerion loved me. Would it have made any difference in what followed? Though it pains me to realise I caused another grief, I am certain it would not have changed a thing.
“Let me have the horse, Tulcon!” I moved to the side of the golden creature, in an attitude of authority.
My father’s messenger frowned, unwilling to dismount. “We can ride back together, Lady?” he asked, hoping not to have to make the return walk.
“We cannot! For if the matter is truly urgent, I must needs be swift, and the horse will carry one more quickly than two!”
Tulcon could not argue with me — even now he finds it difficult — and so I was galloping back along the valley to my home, and to my `gift’ before Gaerion had even waved farewell.
“Fëanáro!” I could not believe it; the prince was here! He it was who had brought me a gift!
Urundil took one look at me, clad as I often was for travel in boots and hose, and a belted green leather jerkin over a silken russet shirt. “Quickly, daughter!” murmured my father under his breath. “Go freshen yourself, and change into a gown more appropriate for meeting with our noble guest!” He was determined that I, of whom he was proud beyond words, should appear as a true maid of the Noldor, rather than a wandering discoverer of sights unseen.
“But I know him not! Nor have I ever even met him!” I protested against what seemed to me something unreasonable, as my father ushered me towards my room. “Is it not you he is here to see?”
My father took hold of my hands, and looked me in the eyes. “The prince is here to see you, Nerdanel! You are my daughter, beloved of your parents and of Aulë! In this house, here among the Aulenduri, are you as a princess! Remember that!”
Of course I knew I was held in high regard in my father’s house! Though I had never thought of myself in any sense a `princess’, for ours was not one of the noblest families, nor was I of that delicate beauty that characterised most of the highborn ladies. My father was ushering me to the stairs and away from the hall; most certainly was he acting in a strange manner. Then I thought I understood! I remembered what this could be about!
“Queen Míriel’s gift!” I laughed, as realisation dawned on me. “Prince Fëanáro brings the gift his mother promised me! That must surely be it! My companion in the hills that time ago, he said that the Queen had given my sculpture to her son, before she died! Mayhap she also laid it upon him to bring her gift to me?”
From his expression, that was obviously not what my father had concluded. He hugged me; an action that was rare beyond thought, for that was never his way of showing affection. Rather through considerate words and kind deeds does he often show his love.
“Follow your heart, child, and your own wisdom in this matter!”
Then did I know, with the same certainty that the light of Laurelin would follow that of Telperion. “Fëanáro! It was he with whom I walked in the hills?”
My father nodded, willing me to understand the significance of such a visit. “It is good timing, mayhap, that your mother is not here! She has had much disturbed sleep over your meeting with the Prince! But for my part, I think you should see what he wants of you; if the memory of your earlier meeting with him still brings you joy.”
“The strong willed, hot tempered Prince!” I exclaimed! “He whom you hoped not to have as an apprentice! Yet you want me to see what he wants?” I was almost angry by then, or was it some other emotion that drove me?
“I do not think he wants to be your apprentice, Nerdanel! But if you would rather not see him,” (here did my father look grim, considering no doubt how he would attempt to deny the will of our visitor) “I will say you are unavailable!”
“No! No, that will not be necessary, father. I will see what gift he has brought, and find out what he wants.” I spoke with determination, but I was perplexed at this matter. As children, did seldor* and wendi* play together, and befriend each other and be companions in all sorts of games and works and discoveries. But as we drew nearer to our fifth year, as early youth and some maturity of hröa approach, we do not indulge in careless relationships. Not easily do neri* or nissi deceive each other over their intentions, which are always honourable, for it is not the intent of any to wound another’s heart. Friendship is friendship, but from it can grow the affinity of fëa from which develops the desire to be wed. My naïveté concerning Gaerion had arisen in part because we had been friends from very young, but this deliberate seeking of me by Fëanáro was another matter.
Robed in a green silk gown, with my hair brushed out and the copper circlet I had made upon my brow, I entered our hall and looked around. The long, brightly lit room seemed empty. No one was there! But a book there was, lying on top of the carved oaken table to the western end of the room. I crossed the floor with interest, and touched the thick binding, turning through the illuminated pages with much curiosity. A book on the Valar it seemed to be, giving some detail about their city, Valmar, and their halls, and a short history of their deeds in Arda. A book of lore then, it was, written, of course, in Rúmil’s script, and illustrated with glorious detail. I drew up a chair, and bent my head over the pages, instantly engrossed. For some considerable time must I have sat there, for the light of the Trees changed, and we were in that mingling of the golden and silver beams once more. I heard the sound of some of my father’s apprentices leaving the forge to return to their own dwellings, and in the distance they called `farewells’ to each other, but still I read on. None disturbed me, not my father, not Prince Fëanáro! Neither did my mother return.
“If you will not come up to Tirion to seek knowledge, Lady, then I am duty-bound to bring it to you! For so my mother would have wished!”
So sudden and unexpected was the sound of that rich and commanding voice that I jumped involuntarily, and almost dropped the precious book from my hands. The high backed settle in the far corner of the room, that was so placed to overlook the forge, moved. He who had been my companion in the hills pushed it back, stood and turned to face me. He had been there all along!
Hurriedly did I strive to regain composure, and I made a deep curtsy to him.
“Prince Fëanáro! I am at your service!” Lowering my eyes, I was acutely aware that my face was colouring with embarrassment that I had not perceived his presence. “Forgive me; for though I am honoured by your gift, I did not see you there, else I would have spoken sooner!”
As I rose from the gesture of acknowledgement, that piercing gaze that had so mesmerised me, captured me again; though it was of a somewhat cooler nature than before. Not particularly amused by my lack of awareness was he, and a touch impatient now, he seemed. That he was one used to being in control, I knew from that moment forth. But he would not control me, I determined! (Though in truth, I was well pleased with his gift!)
“So you know me now!” he said dryly. “Better did I like it when you did not! When you behaved as my companion, Nerdanel, rather than as my servant!” He appeared to be looking down upon me, but as I met his gaze, I realised it was no contempt; rather, so tall was he that it was difficult for him to appear otherwise, whatever his intentions. Yet still were his words a challenge to me!
“Prince you may be, my Lord; but I am no servant, save unto Aulë!” I replied swiftly, for I would not have him disparage my character, and over one comment!
“No?” He cast an appraising eye over me, over my attire; so different from what I had worn when I first met him. But he, I realised, was clad in similar garments to those he had worn before. His cloak was this time of a dark red, though it had a few finely embroidered star shaped designs upon it; the work of his mother, I thought. Other than the cloak, his garments were plain, suited to long journeys over difficult terrain. As mine had been before my father had told me to change!
“If I tell you to accompany me on another journey, will you not do so? If I tell you to show me of your work, or bring me refreshments, will you not hurry to comply with my wishes?” There seemed to be waves of certainty flowing from him, that I, that none would cross his will. Yet this was the same person I had come to like well enough, when I met him previously. What had changed, I wondered? How had he become so very arrogant?
I pondered my response, for I did not wish to be impolite, nor did I think that it was lightly that he demanded my company. And then the thought came to me. In the hills, had I in my ignorance of who he was, spoken most freely with him, almost as a friend. Now that I knew him, and doubtless, he would think, knew of his reputation, our relationship was immediately altered. He was assuming that I would behave towards him as so many others probably did! But there was yet more to contemplate! Fëanáro was spoilt beyond the norm of any Elda. His father loved him beyond reason, now that Queen Míriel was dead. It had been said by some of those who travelled to and from the city that Finwë could never see any wrong in his son, that he treated him almost as if he were a Maia! It was also said that, though many admired Fëanáro, he had few close friends, partly because he did not want them, and partly because few save Ecthelion could put up with his temperament. No one now was there to restrain his moods or soften his manners; no one since Míriel who by gentle counsel could change the course of his will. That he suffered loss and loneliness I saw clearly, and that touched my heart more than his beauty and power. I wanted to help! I wanted to see what could be done to soften that shield of arrogance he was putting around himself, to lift up his heart, if he would allow it!
“I would do those things out of courtesy, my Lord! As one who is noble shirks not at giving of their aid!” Deliberately I met his eyes, and found that I was filled with a sudden longing for something I could not, then, place. But I would not be deterred from the course I had decided upon. “You do not need to tell me to accompany you, Prince Fëanáro, for I would willingly do so at your request! Your company was not so loathsome to me last time that I would seek to avoid you!”
However, I picked up the book and, subconsciously held it before me as a form of shield of my own from the emotions stirring in me. At my gesture, rather than my words, the slightest of smiles touched his eyes. “Indeed, your gift is most pleasing to me.” I tapped the cover of the book, as if to imply the value of the book was my reason for holding it so. I think not that he was fooled, for the smile then touched his lips also! “It gives me thoughts on many places I should like to visit!” I continued apace, thinking desperately of some sound comment to make. Then it came to me! “Often have I visited the `Great Court’ of Aulë with my kin. But I would like to visit the house of Oromë. Never have I been there.” I threw down a challenge myself, wishing to gage his reaction. “You say you preferred me as a companion! If you seek to travel, would you not accompany me there?”
I was unsure of what thoughts were going on in that reputedly clever mind, but he seemed to consider the suggestion. He relaxed slightly; some of his coolness melting into the look of growing amusement, and took up a goblet, which must have been beside him on the settle, to drain the last of the wine.
“I had thought of a different place!” said he, with a touch of indulgence in his tone. “I should have thought the house of Oromë too boisterous for the likes of a Lady! And his wine too rich and potent!” he added, now with a grin. He knew then I would not deny him my fellowship, and he had more than a little reason to suspect I rather liked him!
“Lady I am, but not one to cower in the corner when that which I seek to know is to be had!” Now did that sound rather a forceful statement, so I demurred slightly. “I will be guided by your knowledge, of course, my Lord!”
Though he was beyond me in status and learning and skill, neither was I of no value, nor unlearned. I would watch him, I then thought, and understand how to handle his pain and his moods, if he wished me to walk with him more frequently. “But I had thought often on a certain question,” I persevered, “One I had considered Oromë could give me insight on. Though it is in my thoughts that you may well answer it in his stead, Prince Fëanáro, as you have so much knowledge to hand!”
His smile now was almost dangerous; as if he knew the game I was attempting to play. In that moment did it appear he decided to play also! No rebuke for my words did he make, but again did he hold my gaze, staring into my eyes as if assessing my fëa itself!
“Though I love well this land of Aman,” I said, attempting a more conversational tone, “I wonder why our people forsook the land of their birth. Why they truly left Cuiviénen.”
“To come into the light! To dwell in the sight of the Trees and the presence of the Valar, as is said at the festivals, and inscribed upon the doors to my father’s halls!” Fëanáro stated, but he nodded at me to continue, and looked more interested than before!
“My mother has oft spoken of the Hither Lands, and others of the Aulenduri also, but there seems to me to be some conflict or imbalance in the accounts. Something is missing! Some say that the lands were dangerous and speak of a dark shadow on the hills, and of sudden disappearances, and some say that the Valar considered the land dangerous. Perhaps that is not the same thing! Many account that our people wandered defenceless in darkness, fearing for their safety, and others that their hearts were light and free of all concern.”
“And where does Oromë fit into your considerations?” asked the Prince, attentively.
“I would ask of Oromë what it was about the lands to the east that held him so, that he came last of all the Valar unto Valinor,” I stated. “I would have the thoughts of that Vala who loved the Hither Lands, and yet led our people into the West! I would truly understand our reason for being here! For if he had so intended, would not Eru, would not Iluvatar himself have placed us here?” I bowed my head slightly in acknowledgement of the one above all; whose name we rarely spoke.
Fëanáro lowered his gaze also, and then stood in thought for a moment, though I believe my ideas were not new to him. But then he nodded. “As you wish, Nerdanel! For I also have wondered about the lands to the east of the sea! Though I know much of my father’s thoughts, and he being the one who led the Noldor hence, I, also, would know the thoughts of Oromë on this matter!”
A victory! At least, it felt so to me (though I came to regret that choice of destination, that line of thought, in the centuries to come!). Not that I wished in any way to control Fëanáro; not that I ever truly thought that I could so do! But I would show him that I was made of strong stuff, that I would not quail beneath his mood, but be a true friend, and speak my mind, though always with that gentleness he surely missed from Míriel.
“All is well, then?” I replied with quiet confidence. “I do not offer to be a servant, but a friend and companion, if that is what you seek.”
He smiled openly at those words; his features lit with that charisma that he rarely chose to show, but which was with him in such abundance. “I have not quite decided what I seek!” he exclaimed. “But I take your present offer at this time, Lady! I ask only that you be yourself! Enough fine ladies there are in Tirion who are interested in their dress, in dance, and in song and chatter and festivals. Be thou to me something different!”
My expression must have betrayed my thoughts at this last form of address, for though certainly not affectionate, it was more intimate than was customary between those who hardly knew each other. Again did I have that sense of something I so desperately wanted.
“Now, get changed back into clothing more suitable for our purpose, like that you wore when you rode in earlier!” he stated as an order! Then, with an elegant, sweeping bow to me, he turned and headed straight to the door and to my father’s forge.
We rode out later that very day, heading further into the Calacirya, and across the plain of Valinor towards Valmar, the city of the Valar, the city of bells, and then to the southern woods, wherein dwelt Oromë the hunter! My father had seen us off with a tone of approval, and I confess that at that time, although I had concerns over this new ‘companion’, I also was glad to be at the side of one who made me feel so alive!
*Adaneth= `Mortal woman’ in Sindarin. Although Nerdanel may well have used Firya in referring to humans, I am using a Sindarin word that I think would have been known.
nissi = She-Elves
seldor = Boys
wendi = Girls
neri = He-Elves
All years are Valinorian years.