My Aragon Stories
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Father's Wish, A: 3. Chapter Three
Year 1435 of the Valian Years of the Trees
"What is this place?" Although they were quite alone, Artanis felt the need to whisper the question to Fëanor.
In the three years that had passed, Fëanor had created the earth gems. These were a delight to all who beheld them, but Fëanor, once he completed the task of making them, went on to higher pursuits. Artanis would often watch him, but she rarely participated. Being a smithy was not an appealing prospect for her, so she would instead spend the time watching Fëanor himself. She found that there was much to be learned in watching his face.
After a particularly exhausting day at the forge – exhausting for Fëanor and his sons, but not for her – Fëanor decided to take Artanis on a journey with him. Artanis, who had never gone traveling with him, expected that perhaps he would take her to the nearby woods. So she was surprised to discover that he was taking her to the seashore had Araman.
Which was where they were currently now. And instead of answering her question, he asked one of his own. "What do you think, Nerwen?" he asked. They were standing on a cliff overlooking the sea. Unlike the peaceful blue waters at Alqualondë, the waters here were dark and stormy. The light from the Two Trees was faint, and for once, Artanis felt completely separated from the rest of the world.
"Why have your brought me here?" she asked. She felt uncomfortable in this place.
He laughed. "You are a lover of the sea. Surely you have no need to ask."
She hesitated. "But this is a different kind of sea."
He reached out with his hand, as if he were trying to grab the horizon in front of him. "This is my kind of sea, Nerwen." And the sea at Alqualondë is my father's kind of sea. The thought came to her mind unbidden, but she saw the truth in them.
Fëanor closed his eyes as the harsh sea breeze caressed his face. "The water here is unsettled, restless. There is no peace here. No civilization. He opened his eyes, and she was caught by the intensity of his bright orbs. "You can feel the raw power of this place."
A bolt of lightening, followed by the sharp crack of thunder. Fëanor smiled at her, and although she could not quite identify why, she suddenly felt cold. "It appears that Ossë and Ulmo are not having any success at taming the wild beast," said he, referring to the sea. He beckoned her forward. "Look down."
She did, and she fought to keep the fear off her face because the cliff they were standing on had a sheer drop of almost two hundred feet. "That is a long way down."
"We shall go down there, you and I. And then we shall go swimming." At her horrified look, he laughed. "Do no fret so. We will not go down that way."
Her throat tightened. "The waters are swift, and there are many undertows. If we get caught in them, not even the powers of Ulmo can save us."
Another cold smile. "You only know the calm, Nerwen, not the storm." At that point, she remembered the worlds of Finwë long ago. They who know the storm sicken at the calm.
And when they returned home, Artanis found that she no longer found any joy in swimming in peaceful waters.
Two weeks later, Maglor was watching in amusement as his father and Artanis sat on a bench outside their house. He could tell that no words were being exchanged, but there was an air of contentment around them. He felt a slight pang of jealousy at that, for none of Fëanor's own sons was as close to Fëanor as Artanis was.
Hearing footsteps behind him, he turned to see his mother regarding him silently. Saying nothing, he turned back to looking outside. Nerdanel slid an arm around his waist and rested her head on his shoulder. "They are a strange pair," she remarked casually.
"Indeed. I often wonder what they think about, when no words are spoken between them." He said this lightly, but his mother heard the underlying pain in his melodious voice.
She looked at the pair with a smile. "They are probably mentally preparing for another one of their debates." She looked up at her second-born. "Maglor, why are you so troubled?"
"In the few years that Artanis has come to live with us, Father spends most of his time with her. He rarely even speaks to us anymore." His eyes were sad. "I do not mean to sound jealous, for we all love Artanis…except maybe Caranthir. But it also hurts us too. Especially Russandol." Maglor sighed. "And Russandol loves Father the most, and he has always worked the hardest to please him."
Nerdanel nodded thoughtfully. "It is true that your father has become absorbed in his new apprentice. But Maglor," she said, placing her hands on his cheeks, "everyday your father tells me how grateful he is to have sons like you. He is so proud of all of you. Many times he will say that you inherited your talent in singing from him, since music is but another art of creation." She gave him a slight smile. "And he is most sad that you are now betrothed to Meril-i-turinqi. He was most reluctant to part with you."
"So Meril told me," said Maglor ruefully.
She embraced him once more. "Out of all my children, you have inherited the most from me. But there is something of your father in you, and that is your loyalty. Just as he is loyal to Finwë, you are loyal to him. And nothing pleases him more than that." She glanced at the pair on the bench once again.
"He has always wanted a daughter."
She nodded again. "Yes, he has. And perhaps he imagines that Artanis is his daughter. It certainly is no secret that she and Finarfin have not been on good terms recently. But regardless, the love he has for his sons has not diminished." Maglor was reassured by the firmness in his mother's voice. Sometimes, it was Nerdanel who was far wiser than even his father.
Later that night, Nerdanel decided to broach the topic with her husband. "Husband, you have been spending much time with your apprentice recently."
Fëanor's eyes twinkled. "Are you worried?"
"I would be if she were older," chuckled Nerdanel. Regardless of anything else, her husband's love for her was something she had never doubted. She could always feel it radiating from his mind. "But your sons are."
He looked surprised. "Why?"
"You don't spend as much time with them as you used to. They miss you." She ran her fingers through his black hair. "They think that you like Artanis more."
He scoffed. "They have no need to be jealous." But then his eyes softened. "But perhaps you are right. Maybe the eight of us will journey around Valinor for a week, like we used to. You two women can stay at home and do women things." He was grinning at her now.
"That would be…flirting and gossiping, neither of which we can do when there are eight nosy men in the house." She gave him a smirk of her own. "Besides, once you and your sons are out of the house, I do believe Glorfindel will be dropping by."
He looked displeased. "Glorfindel is a Vanyarin pacifist," he grumbled.
His wife rolled her eyes. "And Finarfin thinks he is a Noldorin hothead. He certainly cannot be both."
"There are so many Noldor down in Tirion. Can't Nerwen dally with one of them?" Nerdanel was about to laugh when she saw how serious Fëanor was. He continued, "I am afraid that Glorfindel will corrupt her."
Nerdanel shook her head. The Vanyar could hardly be called corrupters. "Artanis is an intelligent girl. She can judge for herself on what to believe." He grumbled something unintelligible to her. Nerdanel narrowed her eyes slightly. Her husband's attachment to Artanis was leaving the bounds of teacher and student. "Fëanor, Artanis is not your daughter. Do not make the mistake of thinking otherwise."
He turned back to her, his eyes flashing. "She should be my daughter. Finarfin does not deserve her!"
"Yet she is Finarfin's daughter, and you cannot change that," she replied mildly.
He began pacing. "Fingolfin had three children, and one of them was female. Finarfin had five children, and one of them was female. I have seven! Why didn't I get one! Why did Finarfin?" He looked bitter. "Nerdanel, Nerwen should have been my daughter. She burns inside, just as I do. Finarfin is not strong enough to be her father."
She placed a hand on his arm. "But you cannot change fate. And regardless of Finarfin's qualifications to be her father, you have no right to aid in their estrangement." Fëanor looked insulted, but Nerdanel would have none of that. "Yes, I know what you are trying to do. But turning Artanis against her father will not endear you to her any better."
Fëanor made no response.
"Honestly, meleth, you should consider mending the relationship with your father." The lazy voice belonged to Glorfindel, who was currently stretched out on the grass, his head comfortably situated in her lap.
Idly running her fingers through his hair, she smiled ruefully. "I would think that my estrangement from my father makes the situation easier for you." It was well known that Finarfin was not as pleased with the relationship between Glorfindel and Artanis. She braided one of his long, golden tresses. "And I would think that Fëanor's absence in Tirion right now has made the situation even more convenient."
He laughed quietly. "I will not deny that the current circumstances are to my advantage."
"I wonder why they frown at this so." The question was spoken idly, but Artanis had been wondering for a long time.
"Fëanor dislikes me because I am half Vanyar, and Finarfin dislikes me because I am half Noldor," he quipped, as he borrowed deeper into her lap.
She chuckled. "Fingolfin likes you very much."
"Thank the Valar for that." He opened his eyes and gazed at her. "But back to the original topic. You and your father cannot remain the way you are now. It isn't as if you have stopped loving each other."
She sighed in frustration. "No, we have not. But he refuses to even speak to me. He thinks that I have betrayed him."
"Didn't you?" It was said quietly, and she almost didn't hear it.
She shoved Glorfindel off her lap. "Is that what you think?" She stood up angrily. "My father is too stubborn even to listen to what Fëanor has to say." She elaborated. "I will admit that some of his ideas are a bit extreme," at which Glorfindel raised his slender, golden eyebrows, "but other ones do have some merit."
"Artanis, he hates the Valar."
"He does not hate them. He simply finds them…stifling." She took a deep breath. "Glorfindel, we are starting to have the same arguments that I have with my father. Please, I do not want to speak of this anymore." The look she cast him was pleading, and although Glorfindel wanted to continue the argument, he relented.
Opening his arms, he beckoned her back into his embrace. "I am sorry, meleth. Instead, we will talk about the different uses of this flower," he murmured, as he gently plucked a pink blossom from a nearby bush. Glorfindel threw her a wicked glance that told her exactly what uses he had in mind. "Perhaps we can even put some to use."
Her only response was...understandable.
When Fëanor returned from his journey with his sons, she found that all of them were in much better moods. Even Caranthir was surprisingly amiable. Perhaps my father and I should do the same, she thought ruefully.
The next morning, on her way to his forges, she stopped by a nearby stream to drink some water. But as she kneeling at the riverbank, she overheard voices raised in argument. One was Fëanor's, while the other was much deeper…and blacker. Carefully crawling along the underbrush of the forest, she went closer to the source of the quarrel. Peaking through a bush, she saw Fëanor, his face contorted in anger, and another person, whose malicious face caused her heart to freeze with dread.
For it was no elf that Fëanor was holding converse with. It was a being to powerful too be an Elf, nay, even a Maia. It was Melkor.
Straining to hear their conversation, she crept closer, although she lost sight of them due to the dense undergrowth.
"Think, Fëanor. You want justice." The cold voice was Melkor's. "Join me, and you will have what your mother sacrificed you for…what your brothers covet. You will have what Finwë denied you and more. What greater justice than to take what you were born for."
Artanis was screaming mentally at Fëanor. Don't listen, don't believe, don't trust!
"I can hand you the keys to the Eldalië empire, everything that Ingwë acquired in his ruthless drive for power."
Another lie! Ingwë is not ruthless. He is gentle, the most gentlest man of all, just as my father is.
"No one will ever scorn you again, or treat you in a contemptible manner."
No one has ever treated you without the utmost respect, Fëanor!.
"As my servant, you will be my prince in every sense. My prince, my apprentice, my son…and homage will be paid to you."
She remembered a common saying among the Vanyar. He that once goes through a tyrant's door, becomes a slave, however free before.
"I want you next to me, Fëanor. Only you can satisfy me. Only you."
"We are two of a kind, Fëanor. You and I."
You are nothing like him! He is evil, and you are not!
"Together we will take back the world that was meant to be ours."
She held her breath. If only she could see his face! What reply would her uncle give?
When Fëanor did speak, she shivered to hear the undercurrents of rage in his normally beautiful voice. "I do want justice, but my loyalty is to my father and the memory of my mother." A pause, and then, "There is nothing you can give me that would even tempt me to consider your offer. I would rather languish as I am now than ever be at your side!"
She heard Melkor sputter. But Fëanor continued on. "I am no one's servant…and I will never be your son."
The Vala cursed. "You will rue this day. Your arrogance has sealed your fate." She heard him stomp away.
After a few moments, she stood and beheld the scene in front of her. Fëanor was sitting on the ground, his face tortured. After a moment's hesitation, Artanis went to sit next to him. "You did the right thing, Uncle." She tenderly stroked his hair.
He sighed and allowed Artanis to have better access to his head. "I hate Melkor." Another sigh. "I wish he would stop offering me what I want the most."
Her hand stilled. "You believe what he said?"
"To an extent," he admitted. "I am my father's first son. It is my right to be his heir. Yet I fear that Fingolfin will take it away." He clenched his fine hands. "He is usurping my place in Finwë's heart."
Her heart beginning to feel heavy, she resumed stroking his hair. "And what he said about Ingwë? About ruling?"
Fëanor caught a hold of her hand and held it between his own. "I both admire and despise the high king. He has too much power over us. He is more of the Valar's people than ours." Now he began to run his fingers through Artanis's own hair. "And I will not deny the fact that I wish to rule. I was born to power, Nerwen. I was born to rule." He paused and looked at her closely. "Just as you were." He fingered a lock of her hair, and then took a lock of his own, and then held them side-by-side. "Dark and light in appearance, yet so similar inside."
"But the only way for you to rule is for Grandfather Finwë to die." Simply saying it caused her to shiver. "And you would still be under the rule of the high king."
He began to weave her hair into a plait. "That is true…if I wanted to rule here." At her look of confusion, he expounded on that thought. "There is land that still belongs to us, the lands of our origin." He stood up. "Valinor is not our home. The Valar have brought us here to be their pets. They like to look at our beauty." He began to pace. "Our rightful place is back on Arda. There we could form our own dominions. We would rule not only people but lands." He paused in front of her, his eyes burning. "We would choose our fates."
"The Valar have brought us here for our safety. Melkor polluted Arda. He made it unsafe." The argument was beginning to well within her.
He waved that comment away. "We of the Eldar have not forgotten the ways of the warrior. We can cleanse the lands ourselves."
She tried one last time. "The Valar love us."
He scoffed. "As Maglor loves his pet birds. Valinor is a cage, Nerwen." Seeing her look of disagreement, he held out his hand to her. "Let us stop this discussion. We have reached an impasse." She nodded and took his hand.
And it was then that she understood what had happened. For the first time, she and her mentor had failed to cross a hurdle in their relationship. Normally, Fëanor would encourage her to take opposing sides from him. He encouraged her to argue, to debate, to prove. But this time, it was no mere lesson. This was something close to their hearts. And they had disagreed.
Their trip to the forge was silent, but once they got there, Fëanor became animated again. "Nerwen, I will teach you something of creation today."
"Jewel-smithing?" she asked, puzzled.
He shook his head, his black tresses swinging from side to side. "In a sense." He smiled, except this time his smile was devoid of the darkness she had seen in it earlier. "I will show you how to capture starlight."
Several more years had passed, and Artanis found that she also hungered for the lands of their ancestors. Her brothers and cousins were also being infected with the very same fever, as well as many of the Noldor. But Finarfin remained apart from all this, since Arda was not even an issue for him.
Many times, she had tried to heal the breach between her father and her. Yet every time, Finarfin would ask her, "Do you believe in him?" To which she would always reply, "Yes."
Their relationship was not improving.
But the hallmark of these years was the creation of the Silmarils. They were Fëanor's greatest accomplishment to date, and even the Valar and Ingwë bowed to Fëanor's mastery. When he had made them, he had showed his father, his sons, Nerdanel, and Artanis. But unlike the rest of them, Artanis found no comfort in their light.
It was a paradox, if at all possible. A contradiction. Fëanor said that the Elves were prisoners of the Valar. But didn't Fëanor make the light of the Two Trees his prisoner?
At first, he allowed the Silmarils to remain on display. But when Melkor began to hover around them, Fëanor panicked and locked the Silmarils in a vault. He had confided to Artanis that he was confident that Melkor would try to steal his Silmarils from him.
But were they really his?
It was during this time that Finarfin came to see the Silmarils. Although Fëanor had been reluctant at first in showing them to his youngest brother, Artanis knew what motivated her mentor in the end to let Finarfin see them. It was Fëanor's victory. And he wanted his little brother to see that while Finarfin was busy philosophizing at Taniquetil, he had used his fire – the same fire that Finarfin had condemned on several occasions – to make the greatest masterpieces of the Eldalië race.
Afterwards, when father and daughter had taken a walk together, he asked her opinion of the Silmarils. "They are beautiful, Father," she replied truthfully. "He truly is a genius, to be able to create such things of light."
He had smiled sadly. "That is where you are wrong, Artanis. Fëanor did not create this light. It existed long before him, before his father, indeed, before the awakening of our entire race. He has stolen the light. He has stolen it and has reshaped it."
Although she privately agreed with his thoughts, she and her father had been too long estranged for her to admit it. "Yet you cannot deny he is a master."
"No, I cannot." Finarfin looked slightly troubled. "But if he becomes too immersed in his craftsmanship, he will cease to become a master and will instead become a slave." Finarfin wrapped his cloak around him, as if to ward off the cold, although it was very warm outside. "I am concerned that he is already a slave."
She made no reply to her father's comment. Instead, she remembered Fëanor's long ago conversation with Melkor. Fëanor had vowed never to become a servant. But wasn't he already one?
Her father stopped to examine a rose growing in a nearby bush. "Ah, that is a wondrous scent," he said as he sniffed it. "And it is lovely to behold as well." He touched the petals softly. "It is said that the seeds of rebellion are planted deep within the petals of roses." He resumed his walking.
Finarfin continued. "And I am also afraid that he has become too prideful." He smiled slightly. "Fëanor always had the most pride, even in the days of our youths. But people in their right minds never take excessive pride in their talents."
"You do not think he is in his right mind?" She had heard rumors, whispers, that Fingolfin considered Fëanor mentally unstable.
Finarfin looked thoughtful. "I would not exactly say that. But I think he needs to restrain his impulses." He shook his head. "But that is not exactly why I have to come here today." He stopped walking and held her hands within his own. "I came here to ask you to come back home." Finarfin looked at her gravely. "I know that I have prattled to you about my brother's stubbornness, but I have also been afflicted by it." He sighed. "Artanis, I will never approve of Fëanor as your mentor. But it was your choice, and I do accept it, even if I do not understand it."
"I wish you would not question my judgment, Father. I am fully capable of listening to his blatant anti-Valar arguments without being swayed by them." She allowed her father to see how grieved she was at his lack of trust in her.
He touched her cheek with his fingers gently. "I know, Artanis. It is just hard for me to see that. But you are my youngest child, and I never wanted to part with you. I did not want to see you hurt."
She allowed her bemusement to show in her eyes. "But he has not hurt me."
"Has he not?" She found that she could give no reply. "Artanis, regardless of all this, your mother has missed you. Your grandfather Olwë has missed you. Your brothers have missed you. And I have missed you." He looked away from her then, but she caught the glisten in his clear eyes. The eyes that were so different from Fëanor's.
But no less beloved.
She went back with her father, and while they had reached a new understanding, the old hurts still remained. She found that both Fëanor and Finarfin could easily hurt her, although neither of them had ever consciously tried. But at least now Finarfin made no objection when she went to visit Fëanor, nor did they ever speak of her time at his forges. It was as if Finarfin wanted to pretend that Fëanor's part in Artanis's life was nonexistent, and Artanis was only too happy to oblige him in that.
Several years after that, Finwë had summoned his sons to him in Tirion. Although Artanis did not go as well, she heard later that Fëanor had drawn a sword to Fingolfin and had consequently been exiled from Tirion. From Indis she learned that Fëanor had founded a city, Formenos, and that his father and sons went with him.
So she went to Formenos. And when she got there, he had greeted her in his normal, grave way. "Good day to you, Nerwen."
"Good day to you, Uncle Fëanor." But once the formalities were over with, they had resumed their previous relationship. Their debates would often last for hours, as they discussed one topic after another. Artanis, who favored mental communication over written, enjoyed arguing with Fëanor, forever a proponent of written and spoken language. As he had told her, "Language is the very essence of thinking. It is both the cradle and the gate of intelligence." Too imprecise, she had replied. Of course, the discussion had no end.
It was easy for her to forget the situation that Fëanor was in. She refused to believe that he created it, since it was Melkor who was responsible. She knew the lies that Melkor had woven around her uncle, and while he had not taken them to heart, he became tangled in them anyway. Instead, she was content to pretend that none of the events of the past several years had not happened. And Fëanor allowed her to believe it was so.
But reality crashed in the day before she was to leave Formenos. She was in his library, waiting for him to appear for their nightly discussions. When he did appear, his eyes held the same feverish light that they held when he was creating something in his forge. "Nerwen, I have just had a brilliant idea."
"What is it, Uncle?" she questioned, curious of his breathless tone.
He came forward and grabbed a lock of her hair. "I was in my vault, with my Silmarils." They are not your Silmarils. "And I remembered the time in Tirion, long before you became my apprentice. We would watch the light of the Two Trees mingle together. The gold and the silver."
She nodded but stayed silent. "And then I realized that your hair is that very same color, the gold and the silver mixed together." She nodded again. She had heard that comment many times from many people, although Fëanor had never even shown the slightest interest until now. Even ten years ago, when Maedhros had told her to be proud of her beauty, Fëanor had rebuked him sharply. She was born with those looks. She has done nothing to earn them. So she has no cause to be proud of her looks. Is that what she should be known for? And she had been amazed then, because Fëanor was a lover of beauty. He enjoyed creating it, duplicating it. Yet he had never sought beauty in people. Nerdanel was considered rather unlovely compared to most Elven women, but Fëanor, the high prince of the Noldor, had married her anyway.
His voice brought her back to the present. "Give me a strand of your hair, Nerwen. I will encase their light."
Make me your prisoner. Never. "I cannot."
He looked puzzled. Apparently he had never been refused before. "Why?"
"Because it is my hair. It belongs on my head, not in a stone."
"Then people can admire it better." He still looked puzzled.
Artanis shook her head. "You would trap the light of my hair. In essence, you would trap me."
His eyes narrowing, he relented, although she could see that this argument was far from over. "Very well…Artanis."
Artanis. He had never called her Artanis before.
Five years passed, and Manwë had called a feast, in order to calm the restless hearts of the Noldor. Because Manwë knew Fëanor well, the Lord of the Winds ordered the son of Finwë to attend. And as much as Fëanor despised the Valar, he could not refuse such a blatant summon.
This was the opportunity that Melkor had been waiting for.
And so, two hours later found Finwë dead, with Fëanor was weeping over his body.
Curse the Valar curse Morgoth curse Ingwë curse Indis for bearing Fingolfin curse them all!
Behind him, his vaults lay open.
He clenched his hands. History would never forget his vengeance, and the world would tremble in his wake.
- meleth – “lover”
- A lot of this comes from the Silmarillion and the Unfinished Tales.
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