4. Chapter Four
The wife and mother of destruction…
The stain of his blood drove away even remaining family.
Nerdanel. Mahtan’s daughter. Fëanor’s wife. His grandmother.
Curufin had told him little of her. She and Atar were sundered before your birth. It was a treacherous marriage for both of them, and in the end, Ammë was a coward and a traitor for staying in Aman.
Coward and traitor? The woman who had left seemed to be neither.
Celebrimbor had a vague memory of being held in a gentle pair of arms, overshadowed by locks of coppery hair. He had assumed it to be one of his uncles, in one of their rarer temperate moments.
His own mother had not accompanied his father to Arda; Vandiel had stayed behind, in Aman, with her own family. He did not remember her well. When he returned, the strange new paradise had been a jolt to the senses, filled with brilliant color and sound and even a new sort of air to breathe. His mother met him in Tirion, at Finarfin’s palace, that first day. They were polite strangers, dancing the elaborate dance of evading the years that lay between them. How was it that this equal stranger, his grandmother, was a thousand times more familiar?
Barely pausing to think, he followed Nerdanel into the corridor. The passageway was straight, with doors leading to large, open rooms, and a few other odd corridors as well. At the end, on the left hand side, he saw a closed door blazoned with the same oval-and-diamond emblem he had seen on the front door. Lightly, hesitantly, he pushed it open.
This room was different from the others. Bright, airy, and containing the finest assortment of tools he had ever seen. A large set of shelves stood at the opposite end, containing a vast amount of pieces (completed and half-finished), supplies, tools, and other curios. A faint sense of dismay rippled through him. This was the forge of Aman’s finest smith and craftsman? Beautiful, yes; flawless, indeed; but without soul.
Before the large fire stood Nerdanel, sorting out a pile of wood.
Her voice broke the stillness, heartbreakingly sad and at the same time hard as steel. She turned, and he saw the sorrow of many years etched into her eyes, on an otherwise ageless face.
“Why do you hate me?” he asked, leaning against the doorframe.
“Did you not hear me, boy?” she said fiercely. “I said leave!”
“Give me answers. Why do you hate me?”
Nerdanel laughed again: a sharp, harsh sound, as she selected a knife. “Hate? Hate does not enter the situation. You could never understand. Leave. Leave me now.”
It was an unequivocal command. “Not until I have answers,” he said firmly. “Why?”
She muttered something under her breath, and finally said, “I will ask you one more time, and then I will bodily evict you. Do you really want that?”
Celebrimbor stood back, considering. Despite her delicate frame, his grandmother struck him as anything but weak. The opposite: fire and flame, with a core of battered-but-sound iron. A fëa that had passed through despair and desolation, only to emerge victorious. Weathered, but ultimately stronger. “I will leave, but I will also return tomorrow. Until I get answers.”
He did not see Nerdanel watch him leave, tears glittering in her eyes.
“She would not see me,” he muttered, feeling Glaurael’s eyes boring into the back of his head. “Let us leave.”
“Why did you bring me here, Celeborn?” he exploded as soon as they reached the sunlit street. “To allow my last remaining blood-kin to reject me? For spite?”
Celeborn’s eyes narrowed. “Spite. Something I do not deal in, Celebrimbor. Nerdanel is one of the few Amanyar that I find tolerable, though admittedly severe. Stark honesty is preferable over glossy insults. I thought she would embrace you, as kin and fellow craftsman.”
‘Far from unintelligent’, you told me, Celebrimbor thought. Have you not learned that we neither forget nor forgive injury, even from closest kin?
“Let me see her.”
Glaurael scowled at him, unmoved as she arranged a set of statues. “She is busy.”
“I will not leave without seeing her,” he said doggedly.
“Then you may wait an eternity.” The Eledhel mason continued to place statues here and there, turning them to reveal the best aspects, and in general ignoring him.
A few minutes passed. Celebrimbor stood stubbornly beside the door, and Glaurael assembled the display.
“Glaurael, have you seen the—” Nerdanel halted in the doorway. Her eyes narrowed. “You. Leave.”
Celebrimbor folded his arms, matching her stare for stare. His grandmother was actually quite good at this, he realized. Probably from years of practice with her husband, and all her children. “Not until I speak with you.”
She glowered, grumbling a few words that vaguely sounded like curses. “Why?”
“I spent my life trying to atone for the madness of my sires, never understanding how we had gone so wrong. Is it so wrong to want to know?”
The anger on her face vanished abruptly, replaced by a faint sense of distress. “Know?” she whispered, half to herself. “What could you know of this? How could you possibly understand?”
“Try me,” Celebrimbor said caustically. “I have known more than my share of folly and misplaced trust. Guilt as well, for there is a great deal of ruin on my head.”
Taking a deep breath, Nerdanel paced for a few steps, running her hands through her hair. She whirled around, suddenly severe again. “You really want answers? The full truth?”
There was a certain glint to her eye, something that Celebrimbor recognized from somewhere else. A trap. Everything changes if I say yes, and everything is lost if I say no. Where had he seen that expression before?
Nerdanel sighed deeply, closing her eyes.
It struck Celebrimbor that this was like the sigh he heard from his uncle, Maglor, whenever arguing was futile. Before Doriath, before Sirion, before the attack on Eönwë’s camp. The last feeble defense, the final act of resistance before caving to the inevitable.
“Very well, boy. Follow me.”
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.