3. Chapter Three
Celebrimbor stared in wonder at the magnificent stonework of even the simplest house. Finer even than Eregion. “This is remarkable,” he murmured, stopping to examine a delicate flower relief carved into a wall. “It is a technique I have never seen before.”
“It was done by the stonemason Glaurael. She is of the Eledhil, and a student of Már-in-Curulië: the arts’ school. The finest in all of Aman, barely saving Aulë’s. Stonework, metalwork, woodwork, jewelry, pottery, decorative architecture: the remarkable smith who runs it is a master of many trades.”
Following Celeborn up the winding path that led through the city, his eyes were dazzled by new scenes.
“The artists’ quarter,” Celeborn said suddenly, turning down a tiny side path shaded with a canopy of fragrant green leaves above. “Már-in-Curulië is at the end of this street. The House of the Artisans.”
The house was a sprawling building built of pale sandstone, with diamond-paned glass windows stuck here and there. Over the door was a large circular emblem: a complex series of oval and diamond shapes intertwining to form an elaborate image of flames.
On either side of the door (perhaps a dozen in number) were many square-shaped seals, each adorned with a different badge. A glass vase, an anvil against fire, a crossed hammer and chisel, a stylized gem, a branch and knife…
“A master of many trades, indeed,” Celebrimbor remarked. “This is where the famous smith lives?”
“Yes,” Celeborn replied, “this is Már-in-Curulië.” He knocked on the door, and it was opened within a few minutes by a young lad covered in a leather smock.
“Have you requested a commission, or to purchase a piece?” he asked capably, turning aside to a table with a display of artwork. “The Master’s newest piece, Arien Rising, was finished two weeks ago, and is available for sale. It is pure marble, gilded with gold leaf, and—”
“Would you tell the master that Celeborn of Ardh-in-Eledhil has arrived?”
The boy’s mouth dropped open, and his face reddened. “Oh, your pardon. Of course.” Turning, he vanished into the stone passageway.
Celebrimbor frowned. “He did not use your title.”
“In Már-in-Curulië, your actions speak, not your title. The students are taught that titles do not make a man. It is something of a point of pride here.” He pointed to the wall, where a piece of ragged parchment had been tacked. “‘Hehtana táressi.’ ‘Abandon high names.’”
“Celeborn!” A young woman, wrapped in a similar leather apron, walked out of another doorway, dusting her hands off. The sun glinted off of her dark russet hair, and Celebrimbor saw (with a slight shock) that there was no flame of Treelight visible in her eyes. “Visiting?”
“Yes, for a time. For Valian, and the festival in Alqualondë. Glaurael, I meant to speak to you…”
While Celeborn talked, Celebrimbor walked over to the new statue that the young prentice had pointed out. It was small, perhaps a foot high, but every line was seamless. Arien’s face was uplifted, a graceful arm stretched heavenward, and a golden orb was held in her hand. The artisan had envisioned her in a fluttering garment, each fold sharp and faultless. It was as if the spirit had been frozen in time. “Perfect,” he whispered.
“Beautiful, is she not?”
A woman appeared in the doorframe, her hands smudged with black, long copper hair pulled back into a loose braid. “I spent a week carving just the folds of the dress.”
“You are the master of this school, and the guild?” Celebrimbor exclaimed.
A lively gleam entered the woman’s eyes. “Yes, I am. Not used to such things in Endórë, boy?”
“How did you—”
“We always know when someone has just come back. You cannot hide it, try as you may.” Her expression shifted; all of a sudden, she looked wary. “You remind me of someone.”
“I have never visited here. Celeborn brought me.”
“Ahh. Glaurael!” she barked suddenly, turning toward the young woman.
“Do you not have work to do?”
Glaurael blushed, and nodded. “I was finishing cleaning the storeroom.”
“Go finish, then, child!” Watching her student murmur an apology to Celeborn and retreat into the passageway, she turned, arms crossed. “Vandë omentaina, Celeborn,” she said, inclining her head. “Coanya ná coalya. Now by all Varda’s stars, who have you brought me this time?”
“Celebrimbor. Curufin’s only son.”
If he had not been watching her carefully, he would not have noticed her knuckles whiten as her hand clenched the table.
“Curufin’s son?” Her voice fell like daggers of ice.
“He is in need of a master.”
A brittle knife-edged smile. “Not here.”
“Here. He needs you.”
“Not here,” she repeated. “Not me.” She studied Celebrimbor for a moment. “There is no room for you here,” she said bluntly. “Leave my school.”
Celebrimbor felt his rage rising. To be dismissed so summarily: without question, without reason, without a measure of his skill? “Who are you, hailed as a great teacher, to deny a willing student?” he spat. “What gives you that right?”
“What gives me that right, boy?” She laughed mockingly. “Watching the one I loved rise and fall into darkness. Seeing my husband and sons swear eternal damnation upon themselves. Dreaming of the blood on the shores.” She took a step closer, her grey eyes pinning him where he was. “Hearing the cries of the mothers and wives, daughters and sisters. Watching helplessly as my people splintered because of pride and folly.”
Pausing, she stepped away, arms tightly crossed. “Being Nerdanel: the wife and mother of destruction.”
With that, she turned on her heel and vanished into the corridor with a flash of coppery hair.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.