Presently another servant, this one wearing the badge of a steward, emerged and received the messenger by one of the fountains. “I am Ondollo, chief steward of the House,” he said. “I am told you bear a message from the High King.”
“Aye, but my orders are to give it into the hands of the Lord Erunámo Elvanirion himself,” answered the messenger.
“Our household is in mourning for the Lord Nárello and Lord Erunámo has explicitly stated that he does not wish to receive any outside visitors,” said Ondollo. “However, I will place the King’s message in his hand myself and bring back his answer, if it will suffice.”
* * *
Ondollo found his lord standing at the window of a dimly-lit chamber that directly overlooked the courtyard. Though Erunámo’s back was to him, he bowed deeply as he closed the door.
He waited a moment for some acknowledgement that did not come; his lord did not turn to see who had entered. Erunámo was slighter of build than Nárello had been, but the contours of his face were nearly the same, and the same golden hair, braided with dark ribbons for mourning, spilled down his back. Were it not that Nárello never took such a pensive, brooding posture, Ondollo might well have believed it was he, that all news of his death was but some mistake or malicious rumor.
“There is a message for you from the King, herunya,” he said. Erunámo was in a position to have seen his steward greet the messenger, but as Ondollo came closer he saw the far-off look in his lord’s eyes; Erunámo had not been paying attention to the activity outside his window.
Erunámo turned slightly and shook his head in disinterest. Such blankness was not uncommon in these times, and on his errands within the house and to the Great Market the steward saw many who walked about in a daze, numb with grief and shock at the losses of the Nirnaeth Arnoediad.
There were some, Ondollo knew, who faded upon hearing the news of the deaths of their loved ones. Quietly he gave orders to the House physician and certain other trusted servants to watch their new lord closely for such signs, though the physician told him that if Erunámo had not faded by now he was not likely to do so. Though he grieved, he was strong-willed and knew his duty; he would not yield so easily.
“I will leave the message on the table for you, herunya.” Ondollo laid the missive beside the other, unopened correspondence that had come in the last few days. The missive bearing the seal of the House of the Fountain was at least two days old, and there were others, some nearly two weeks old. “Do you intend to open these?”
This time, Erunámo answered. “If they are anything at all like the other messages that have come, then I do not see the need. Much ink and parchment is wasted in the sending of condolences,” he said. “Such niceties and rituals, they are all so…empty.”
“Lord Ecthelion sent his condolences some weeks before, if you will remember,” Ondollo pointed out. He picked the letter up and turned it over in his hands. “I do not think he is so absent-minded as to send you the same message twice. And here, this one is from Lord Egalmoth, and he, too, sent his condolences many weeks ago. Both were great friends of your brother. I would not be surprised if their messages were of a more personal nature.”
Erunámo gestured with a half-hearted nod and sat down in the window seat, folding his hands in his lap. He stared at the floor while Ondollo broke the seal of the House of the Fountain and read the contents.
It was exactly as the steward suspected. Ecthelion desired to call upon Nárello’s brother and asked for the courtesy of a response even if Erunámo deemed it too early in his mourning to receive visitors. The next letter, from the House of the Heavenly Arch, read the same.
“Clearly they desire your friendship, pitya laurëlótënya,” said Ondollo. “Once your grief eases somewhat, you will see this is not an offer to be refused.”
Erunámo arched an eyebrow at him. “Should you be calling me that, steward?”
“I changed your small clothes as a babe more than a few times, and carried you across most of the Helcaraxë,” Ondollo answered. “If anyone has a right to call you by a pet name, it is me.” That his lord had enough energy or interest to engage him in such banter secretly delighted him, for it meant that he was beginning to rouse from his grief.
A moment later, Erunámo’s eyes returned to the window and his voice became distant. “When my father died, I read some of the messages that came to the house. Most bore the same sentiment, how death among the Firstborn is not forever, that those whom we love will be cleansed of their sorrows and live again in the light of Valinor. But—” He drew in a sharp breath and bit down on his lip to stifle what might have been the beginning of tears.
“We will never see them again, those of us on this side of the Sundering Sea. I do not know whether it is by some forgetfulness or some delusion that all is forgiven that we neglect to mention that the road back is forever barred, save for one.”
I should not have mentioned the Helcaraxë, Ondollo realized. “The road through Mandos is not one any of us would willingly take, pityawë.”
“And yet Nárello has taken it, and atar and naneth before them.” He took another deep breath, a pause before speaking again. Erunámo was not one who was given to tears; he would choke them down rather than yield. “Atar bore Finarfin great love and served him in Valinor, yet chose to follow Fingolfin across the Ice. I know not why, for he never answered that question and Nárello has always said he did not know. Why would atar do such a thing and put a stain upon us all for which we shall have to answer in Mandos?”
“I know no more than you, laurëlótë,” answered Ondollo, “for your father never said aught to me of his reasons. I do not even know if he explained them to your mother. But I do not think the Valar are so single-minded that they would judge your brother as they would judge Fëanor or his sons. Nárello was young, too young to have chosen to stay, and you were but a babe. There is no stain upon either of you, pityawë.”
He had neglected to mention their parents, and knew Erunámo would catch the omission. But long ago he had told both brothers that their mother’s heart had lain with her kin in Tirion and she had followed her husband unwillingly. The road across the Helcaraxë had been one of regret, and once she saw her family safely in Nevrast not even love for her children could keep her. She repented by giving herself to Mandos, and after that time she was not mentioned openly in Elvanir’s house.
If Erunámo noticed the steward’s omission, he did not mention it. Instead, he turned his eyes toward the table and the pile of missives yet unopened. “Give me Ecthelion’s letter, and Egalmoth’s,” he said. “Who else writes to me?”
“The King sends you a message, and I can tell you it is not one of condolence, for that he has already sent. As for the others,” replied Ondollo, shuffling through the messages, “there is one from Lord Duilin, and here, one from the King’s nephew—”
“Anything Maeglin sends you may toss in the grate.”
“Is that wise?”
“Never had he a kind word for Nárello, and whatever courtesy comes from his lips is like the honey paper one uses to trap insects. And there is something else, something…ill.” Erunámo frowned, then shook his head as if to clear it. “I cannot explain, herendur. There is something about him I do not like.”
Ondollo rarely had occasion to see the King or any of the members of his household. Maeglin had only come to the house once, some years earlier, but there was nothing overtly offensive in the prince’s manner that would alert him to any deception. “As you will, herunya.”
* * *
Notes: (All words in Quenya unless otherwise noted)
herunya: my lord
pitya laurëlótënya: my little golden flower
laurëlótë: golden flower
pityawë: my little one
herendur: steward (to a lord)
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.