1. Grieving for the Marring of Feanor
"Why, Rusco?" Aule murmured. He raised his head at last, and tears stained his face, as they had since Feanor had first kindled the Noldor to flight. "Manwe forgave Melkor, yet my Child is punished at every turn. Did Manwe not learn that Feanor's spirit only becomes stronger when provoked?"
"If he had not sworn the Oath, he might have been forgiven," Mahtan said.
"Why could he not have been confined to dwell in Mandos as was Melkor's punishment? There, his Oath would do no harm."
"He will go to Mandos in time. Then you may sue for his pardon."
"That is not the point!" Aule shouted. Fresh tears flooded his eyes and streamed down his cheeks. He passed a hand over his face. Mahtan waited for long moments before Aule at last spoke again. "He valued my opinion and looked to me for guidance. Could I have done more to turn him from this path?"
Mahtan's eyes softened, and he laid a hand on his Master's shoulder. "No one is born knowing how to care for another. When Nerdanel was young, I took her to my forge and taught her my craft. Perhaps if I had not done so, she would have grown up otherwise and pursued more womanly interests. But I did the best I could, and what more can I do? Parents are not gifted with perfection. Though many wondered, she of all the women of Tirion caught Feanor's eye, for she was strong and free-willed. Though his later deeds grieve me, I confess that I rejoiced at their union. You did what you could, Master. But children grow to make their own mistakes. As the herald of Manwe declared, Feanor will unlearn the lies of Melkor in bitterness. You did what you could for him in the past, and there is nothing more you can do for him now."
Aule shook his head. "It was not enough. I did not do enough. I fanned his fire and did not seek to retrain it. I taught him to shape with his hands, but I did not teach him to shape himself."
"Master..." Mahtan's heart ached to see one so mighty in such agony.
"He thinks I have abandoned him, Rusco," Aule lamented. "All the Valar know that Melkor is in the wrong, yet we do nothing. But those of us who would defend against rebellion must not ourselves rebel. We obey Manwe's judgment. He does not. What can I do? I have begged for his cause, but I am not the King of Arda."
"You can do nothing more, my Lord," Mahtan said. "You told me before yourself that even the Valar are limited in their powers, great though they may be."
"I loved him." Aule choked for a moment and shook his head. "I love him still."
"As do I, Master," Mahtan said quietly. "I love him in spite of all the wrongs he has done, in spite of the grief he has brought to my daughter and you."
Aule's shoulders slumped, and it seemed as if his stature was lessened. He was not a Vala, one of the Aratar, not the Smith of Invention. He seemed almost like a person, just a person who was wracked with grief. His tears subsided, and he sat as one tired beyond endurance.
After many long moments, Aule said quietly, "Will you stay with me the night, Rusco?"
"What of Lady Yavanna, Master?"
Aule closed his eyes and shook his head. "My Lady and I have our differences. She grieves for the death of the Two Trees and the loss of Light; I grieve for the marring of Feanor and Arda's loss at his exile. This is not the first time she and I have differed. She resents the dominion of the Children of Iluvatar over the forests and things of the earth, but nonetheless they have need of wood." At this, Mahtan looked in surprise at his Lord. "Nay, it is not Feanor who drives this wedge between us. But it is in Feanor that I saw myself fulfilled, for he exceeded even me in some skills of the forge. Now that he turns his life's fire to another pursuit, there is an emptiness in my heart."
Mahtan knelt before his Lord and brought Aule's hand to his lips. "I will stay the night with you, Master." Aule nodded, but Mahtan knew his mind to be afar, to be on Feanor.
Notes: Mahtan's nickname is Rusco, meaning Fox and given because of his red hair (XII. 353). Aule refers to his other conflict with Yavanna and the dominion of the Children of Iluvatar over the things of the earth, which is documented in the Silmarillion in Chapter 2, Of Aule and Yavanna.
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