Every pair of eyes rested on him, but two more so than others. On opposite sides of the spacious hall they stood separated by the milling, glittering crowd that always seemed larger on occasions such as this. Light bathed the ceiling and walls highlighting each ornate fresco and tapestry, dancing on the white marble and skimming off the gold and silver that seemed to edge every robe and dress. He stood in the center of the room, aware of the constant scrutiny, but in usual fashion, refusing to acknowledge it.
But slowly, the gazes shifted from his person to others, lingering briefly perhaps to recapture the blaze of violent fire in his eyes, so plainly mirroring the substance of his soul. But two lone pairs, one blue and one grey, would not move.
Laurelin lay trapped in the silky tresses of Artanis’ hair, the light of the Trees recreated in all their glory in the evanescent merging of colours. White she wore, but it did not soften her. She had no delicate beauty, no chastely elegant features that most Elven women possessed. Instead, it was strikingly direct, edged with pride and dignity, as sharp as a glint of sunlight off an unsheathed sword. She was coveted, but refused to be possessed. Artanis’ sapphire eyes missed nothing and saw everything, traits uncommon for one who was still young.
The other was crowned in the colours of sunrise and sunset. A riot of flaming red, tempered with a hint of gold. Her features were not pointed and she had eyes too large for such a frail face. Moon-river eyes they were, the colour of a quiet stream that shimmered in the twilight. It was what had attracted him to her, these mithril-hued orbs so alike to the metal that he had spent more than half his life trying to tame and mold. The others sometimes called her plain, and indeed it was so in comparison to most of the Eldar, but there was something about Nerdanel that overcame the plainness, something strangely alluring about the contrast between copper hair and grey eyes, between slender, unmarked hands and rumours of the hours she put in alongside her husband at the smithy.
One was passion, the other love. One was the rising, golden dawn; the other the glowing, setting dusk.
They were different in every way. And it was this that garnered the most amazement from Aman’s people, who watched and debated Curufinwë’s every movement like a hawk watches over its prey, waiting for a mistake. He had erred, more so than he would ever consent to admit, but not here. For all his pride, he would not demean either. Fëanor knew their place in his life, and very different places they were, and he was loath to move beyond those boundaries.
Yet as he felt himself to be the focus of their searching eyes, piercing and intent, he would not return the gaze to either. Did dusk and dawn reconcile? Would the moon surrender possession of the evening to the sun without battle?
He found his peace in one, and his fervour in the other. But it could also work the other way around. What was calm and gentle could turn as violent as an angry thunderstorm, while what was meant to be fire and flame could surprise him with moments of serenity. But if there was a common trait in them at all, it was wisdom. In the depths of both blue and grey, it lay quietly. One was renowned for it, she who was called Nerdanel the Wise, and the other would master it fully in time.
The question of friendship was left unanswered. Could they be companions, both women indebted to one lord? Artanis was too proud, Nerdanel too wise. But neither did jealousy raise its ugly head, and it left all of Valinor bewildered. Hushed whispers and rumours of scandal did not move these two, did not estrange them from the company of one that mattered so much to them in different ways.
One was the master’s pupil; companion in whatever uncharted journey he undertook each time he embarked on his quest for creation. Whether jewel or script or weapon, it mattered naught. She was his greatest student, she who had chosen him as a mentor after tutelage from the Valar themselves. Her beauty inspired him to soaring heights that he had never known, creating a maelstrom of artistic fervour in his mind, violent, terrible and glorious. Artanis drowned in Fëanaro’s treasure chest of skill willingly, her fierce Noldo pride subdued by one that was undoubtedly greater.
The other was the maestro’s critic, the only one who would ever possess the privilege to offer comment without fear. She was the reason he returned from the fires of the furnace, away from the fumes of the burning mines. It was the smith’s daughter who wiped the blood of endless crafting from his hands, allowing him that momentary respite that he never gave himself. Like the winds were to the churning waves of the sea, Nerdanel was to him, his restraint in periods of turbulence.
They were alike, though neither would admit it.
A common thread, like the silk spun by the butterfly, bonded them. Artanis was the flame that stoked his own fire, the source of inspiration that allowed him to create something to outshine her radiance. Nerdanel was the water than soothed his heat, the calm, serene river that washed away his troubles and exhaustion like the sea washed over the land.
The two women neared. Almost unconsciously, conversation lowered in the large hall, and Fëanor found himself leaning forward slightly.
But the words said would never be more that what they always were. Courteous, but not kind. Gracious, but never warm.
“Greetings, my lady.” Artanis spoke first, her rich, deep voice echoing in the hushed silence.
Nerdanel’s reply was quiet. “Greetings, Artanis.”
Fëanor – eldest son of Finwë. The name means ‘Spirit of Fire’. Also called Fëanàro and Curufinwë. His love for Artanis is not explicitly canon, but in Unfinished Tales it is said that he asked for three strands of hair from her believing the light of the Trees to be in them. I have merely expounded on that.
Nerdanel – Daughter of the great Noldo smith Mahtan. She was Fëanor’s wife, and bore him seven sons. Often called Nerdanel the Wise.
Artanis – Name given to Galadriel by her father, means ‘noble woman’. Her relationship with Fëanor later disintegrated.
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.