Finwë was almost surprised to see his eldest son so quiet and reclusive. Rather even than working on his crafts, which gave him the most pleasure of all things in Eldamar, Fëanor stayed by Leoselde, trying to coax the poison from the weeping gashes on her back. However, although Fëanor tried with a patience and tenderness that was most unlike him, his ministrations came to naught.
Leoselde grew worse. Enwina strutted about as if she owned the entire land of Eldamar, and whenever he was not at Leoselde’s side, Fëanor threatened her. However, both she and he knew the threats were hollow. If Enwina was truly as immortal as she claimed, then nothing he could do would stop her.
One evening, as Leoselde lay feverish in her bed, the door flew open and Fëanor stood there, tall and proud, his long honey-colored hair falling in rivers of mellow gold down his back. He was attired most richly, in silk and velvet, and carried a standard of the House of Finwë in his hand.
Leoselde tried to push herself up, but her muscles had grown so weak from the debilitating poison that even this simple task was beyond her. “Fëanor…. I thought you said that you were riding abroad to find a healing herb.” She gasped and fell back to the bed. The impact of just the soft covers touching the wounds, which had grown red and infected, nearly made her faint.
Although on any other occasion Fëanor would have run to comfort her, he instead gave her an odd look. “Leoselde,” he said, but that familiar name coming from those familiar lips seemed wrong. He crossed the room and sat beside her on the bed, but that seemed wrong as well. “I have found a most miraculous healer that will achieve what the other one could not. Come. I will take you to him.”
Leoselde was too weak to protest as he lifted her up. Was it her imagination, or did his muscles feel like steel cords, and was his skin stiff and unbending? What was the matter with Fëanor? Perhaps he had done something unusual in his quest to find the healer.
Fëanor carried her down and swung her onto the back of a horse that she was felt was not Silmelindo, Fëanor’s graceful starlight-singer. Yes, it was gray, and yes, it was a stallion, but she could not shake the feeling that something was wrong.
With his arms around her waist, Fëanor rode out at a brisk clip from the household of Finwë. Leoselde sagged in his arms, unable to keep herself upright. From what she could see of Fëanor, his face was cold and impassive.
“Fëanor, please, where are we going?”
Fëanor made no answer, shaking the reins across Silmelindo’s neck to make the stallion pick up his pace. The horse broke into a trot, jarring Leoselde dreadfully. She reached out, trying to grasp Fëanor’s arm, but he somehow twisted away from her. “Fëanor, please, please, make it stop!” she gasped, nearly insane with pain and confusion.
Instead of answering, Fëanor smacked the horse’s neck. It did not stop its trot, but still went faster. With Leoselde walking a delicate line between consciousness and unconsciousness, they rode harder, passing by a hooded figure also riding a gray stallion. The person was riding hard back toward the way that they had come from.
Leoselde tried to whip her head around, having a strange feeling about the gray rider, but Fëanor whipped Silmelindo into a gallop, carrying them both into the treacherous north.
Fëanor pulled up his horse in the courtyards of Finwë’s house. It was quiet, cold, and damp, and an oppressive silence hung thick on the air on the wings of the mist. The sun was wrapped securely in its gauzy veils.
Silmelindo stamped and whickered. Fëanor patted his muzzle absentmindedly, then crossed the courtyard and ran up the steps toward Leoselde’s room.
As even speaking had now become an effort for her, Fëanor turned the handle of the door without knocking, stepping inside expecting to see Leoselde give him a weak smile. Already, his heart was starting to beat faster at the thought of holding her hand, of feeling her chill fingers twined with his.
Instead, he found nothing.
The room was empty.
Shocked, Fëanor walked closer. The bed was in disarray, the covers flung about as if Leoselde had run off in a great fluster.
“But she can’t!” Fëanor shouted aloud. “She’s dying of the poison that the ***ed Enwina Saura-Qualme drove into her. Who took her? Where has she gone? Leoselde! Leoselde….!”
Whirling, Fëanor sprinted down the stairs and leapt back onto Silmelindo. “Take me north!” he shouted, snapping the reins across the stallion’s broad neck. “Take me to Leoselde!” Already, Fëanor had a grim and implacable feeling that Leoselde had been taken, taken north, and when he found what he most dreaded, he would find her.
Fëanor dragged Leoselde down from Silmelindo and threw her to the dirt. She was too weak to fight, and could only summon a feeble moan at his brutal treatment of her. The world wavered in blurry swathes before her. She felt like she was going to be sick.
“Fëanor, please -” she whimpered.
A pitiless hand grabbed her, and yanked her head back by its ribbon of silver hair. Strong lips forced against hers in a harsh, painful kiss. Leoselde writhed, flailing her arms, but Fëanor grabbed them and twisted them behind her back. She gasped and whimpered, and Fëanor dealt her a hard smack across the face. To her credit, she took the blow with stony calm.
“Shut up, you stupid wench. You’ll attract too much attention. If you make so much as a peep, I’ll break all the bones in your body, but I won’t let you die. I need you alive.” Fëanor’s smile was ghastly. The normally handsome face of the Noldorin Elf-lord was twisted in vile triumph.
At Leoselde’s shocked glance, he continued, “No. You might have guessed. I’m not your sweet lover. I am another…person. The nightmares have begun, Ardelen. You will not awaken.”
Raising his arms, he dwindled, then rose again, towering over Leoselde, a terrible, black-cloaked ghoul. He rose a few more feet, than laughed as Leoselde drew upon her last strength and gave a long, piercing shriek.
The gray horse had become black, a huge, snorting warhorse with eyes of smoldering red. The cloaked figure swung the limp form on the unconscious Elf-woman onto the iron saddle, then mounted himself. The fact that he was willing to risk exposure like this showed how desperate his master was to get his hands on Ardelen and the strange prophecy that clung to her as barnacles to wood.
He smacked the reins viciously across the horse’s neck, and the stallion broke into a fierce gallop. The sounds of its hooves were like thunder. Leoselde hung limp. The shadows gathered into a cloak, shielding the dark rider and his prisoner from prying eyes. Lightning crackled, crowning the sky in a fiery corona.
The rider vanished from sight.
The pleasing rhythm of her father’s hammer, etching out a pattern of melodic rings, floated out to Nerdanel as she walked in the expansive grounds surrounding her hidden home. Through a tall slit cut for a window, she saw her father bent over his work. Even without seeing it, she could imagine the progress of the silver brooch beneath Mahtan’s skilled fingers.
“Hmm,” Nerdanel murmured to herself, bending down to pluck a sprig of rosemary. Twisting it into a ring beneath her long fingers, she continued, “It is said that Fëanor son of Finwë is a great craftsman. But when it comes to smith-craft, however, I wonder if he can rival Father. Indeed, I wonder.”
At that moment, a sensation that someone was approaching quickly crashed over Nerdanel like a flash flood. She was so attuned to each nuance of her beloved land that she could immediately sense when its balance was disrupted.
Whirling quickly on her heel, she drew a cloak over her head that would blend her with her surroundings. Then, sliding her small dagger into her sleeve, she took off at a run.
It was as she had thought. Fëanor was riding Silmelindo hard across the outskirts of her father’s land. The gray stallion’s flanks were lathered with sweat, but he was still galloping as hard as he could. Fëanor was pressed flat against the faithful horse’s neck, and therefore did not see Nerdanel until she was standing almost beside him.
Fëanor pulled Silmelindo to such a hard stop that the stallion nearly sat down. Fire flashed in his cobalt-blue eyes. “Nerdanel! What are you doing here? I have no time to linger; I must find Leoselde.”
“Where is…Leoselde?” Nerdanel said. Fëanor noted with some discomfort the pause she made before speaking the name.
“Taken. Gone, by some force that I do not know. I cannot linger, I cannot pause. Not until I find Leoselde.”
“Who is Leoselde to you, that you risk everything to find her like this?” Nerdanel asked, feeling that she had to know.
“Someone I love,” Fëanor had to admit at last, a softness in his face that Nerdanel had never associated with the fiery, temperamental Elf-lord. “A woman that I have known for all her life, a woman closer to me than I might say even now. I think of her as a sister, yet my feelings for her are not brotherly.”
Nerdanel smiled faintly. So, the fierce son of Finwë was at last learning what it meant to love a woman. She decided to try a jab at Leoselde, to perhaps make Fëanor see how Finwë might feel when his son constantly tormented his wife.
“Leoselde? Her? She’s skinny and sickly, if the stories I hear are aright. And not to mention homely and less than intelligent.”
Fëanor’s eyes flashed. “How dare you, Nerdanel? How dare you insult Leoselde? She is fair beyond your knowledge, and one of the most intelligent and sensitive women I have ever met. You deserve a sword in the neck for your heartless and untrue words.”
“Ah,” Nerdanel said, looking up at Fëanor, who was still sitting on Silmelindo’s back. “So perhaps your father might feel that you deserve a sword in your neck, for making such comments about his lady wife Indis.”
“You -” Fëanor began, then he actually smiled, bitterly and ruefully, it was true, but at least he smiled. “You are a wise woman, Nerdanel. To teach me a lesson you turn my own mind and tongue against myself. Your father must have taught you well.”
“No, I taught myself,” Nerdanel replied. “My father is absorbed in his smithcraft.”
Fëanor looked down at her for a second, and she looked calmly back. Mahtan’s daughter was far from being ugly, and it seemed that Fëanor noticed this. However, when he spoke, it was not of her. “I want to find Leoselde. Immediately. I must confess that I will need your help. I beg – I beg of you to give it.” The words flowed with difficulty from his proud mouth.
Nerdanel thought for a moment. The picture of Ardelen as she had last seen her – a helpless, crying infant – rose up strong in her mind, and she winced. Her gaze locked with Fëanor’s.
“You do?” she said. “Why?”
Although Fëanor ordinarily would have snapped at her, he controlled himself and answered civilly. “You know this land far better than I. The trail leads well through it, and I could be lost. Please, Nerdanel?” He added this last part hesitantly.
At last, Nerdanel knew what it was that she had to do. She leapt easily onto Silmelindo’s back, behind Fëanor, and settled her skirt. She bent forward. “Ride,” she whispered into Fëanor’s ear. “Ride like the wind.” As she spoke, she traced a strange interlocking symbol on Silmelindo’s back, and the gray stallion sprang forward with a speed unrivaled by the very wind itself.
Sauron, extremely pleased with his work, pulled the heavy black brute of a warhorse to a stop. Leoselde hung limp over the iron saddle, like a sack of dry goods.
The Dark Lord cantered closer to the black fortress that rose out of the mountains. Ah, he loved this sight, this shadowy specter that would strike fear into the hearts of so many – but not him.
Wrestling the brute to a stop, he dismounted, tossed Leoselde carelessly over his shoulder, and strode confidently up to the iron portcullis. Raising a heavy gauntleted fist, he pounded twice on the door, in a carefully arranged pattern.
The gate creaked away. Beneath his helm, Sauron smirked. Then he strode within, and the gate fell behind them with a crash that made it sound as if the world itself was being undone.