2. Mother Knows Best
"How did it go with Artanis? Did she agree?" breathed Fingon into his ear.
"No, she didn't." Maedhros sighed, wishing he could tell his lover that their cousin knew what was between them, knew and did not condemn. "She said that she would not wed where she did not love, especially since I did not love her, either."
"You're too honest, Maedhros," said Fingon, rolling away and looking up at the ceiling. "You should have said all the proper romantic phrases - Eru knows you know them, you've said them to me often enough."
"Oh, come on now, you know that Artanis can see through that sort of thing. I did my best," said Maedhros with mock indignation. "I didn't hear you offering to get married, did I? Not even to help conceal what lies between the two of us? Hah."
"We decided that since you and she are only half-cousins, and she and I are full cousins, it made more sense for you to ask her," Fingon reminded him. "Do you think she would marry me, if I did ask?"
His cousin's face became serious. "No, I don't. I can't tell you why, but I definitely got that impression."
"Too bad for us, then. Especially for you, you're the older, and it looks more and more peculiar for you to remain unmarried. Any ideas? I'd suggest you ask Aredhel, but she'd be impossible to live with, even if she is my sister."
Maedhros rolled his eyes at the thought of marrying his only other female cousin. Aredhel was - uncomfortable. Besides, if she was interested in any of Fëanor's sons, it was his brother Celegorm, not himself.
"Maybe I'll talk to my mother," he said.
That suggestion made Fingon sit up and stare in astonishment. "You're crazy," he said flatly. "How are you going to do that without telling Nerdanel about our - unorthodox - situation?"
Maedhros shrugged. "So perhaps I'll tell her, if it seems that she'll be sympathetic. But all I had in mind was generalities - here I am, haven't fallen in love with any woman yet, how was this whole thing for her when she was young, and so on. All the kind of personal unburdening that women seem to love. Who knows, maybe she'll say something helpful even without knowing what's really going on."
"Well, she does know all about difficult relationships, I suppose," said Fingon, then winced as Maedhros punched his shoulder. "All right, all right, I know they're your parents, and you don't like to hear them talked about, but Fëanor and Nerdanel are practically legends in their own time of how not to behave when you're married. Going to one of them for advice on love just seems peculiar. But better your mother than your father."
With that Maedhros could only agree.
When he went to see his mother, she was as usual in her studio working on her latest sculpture. For long, Nerdanel's chosen media had been metal and stone, especially when she and Fëanor had collaborated, but of late she had turned to wood instead.
He paused in the doorway and watched her intent face as she carved, till she should notice his presence. That was old habit, from childhood; he and his brothers had always been warned not to interrupt either parent unnecessarily, lest the work be marred.
"Come in, Maedhros," she said, not looking up. "How fares it with my eldest son?"
He walked forward to stand beside her. They resembled each other little, save that Nerdanel's hair bore a hint of the copper that marked her son's; and their eyes were very like, grey and watchful, wise and
Bending and kissing her cheek, he said, "I am much as ever. Are you well, Mother?"
She set down her chisel to tilt her head at him.
"Well enough, as matters stand. Are you hungry? I have been too busy with this to wish to stop, but now that you have come, my stomach reminds me that I should eat."
Maedhros followed her into the kitchen, where she quickly laid out a simple meal of bread, cheese, and fruits.
"So," said Nerdanel, sitting down. "What brings you here? For I can see that something troubles you."
He reflected for a moment. He had never been used to confide in his mother - the continual uproar of his six younger brothers precluded much time for private conversation in Fëanor's house - but his cousin Artanis's advice that he should consult with Nerdanel carried much weight with him. If Artanis felt that his mother would support him, even knowing the truth of his relationship with Fingon, then Maedhros was willing to trust her judgment. He had not been able to explain this to his lover, however. Doing so would have meant explaining that Artanis knew their situation, and she had made him promise to not to reveal that.
Taking a sip of wine for courage, he said simply, "I am in love."
Trust my mother not to ask questions, he thought grumpily, and said aloud, "With someone - unsuitable."
Nerdanel leaned back in her chair and began to peel an apple, clearly waiting for him to continue.
Maedhros sighed heavily. Here goes nothing. "With my cousin Fingon. And he loves me, as well."
"And?" Nerdanel raised an eyebrow.
At least my cousin was right that Mother would not throw fits at the very idea! Artanis is awfully sensible. Too bad she didn't agree to my proposal, or I wouldn't have to be sitting here now.
"Don't pretend that's not a problem, Mother. It's hardly going to be wonderful news to Father, or Grandfather for that matter, that the eldest grandson of the House of Finwë is about as likely to produce an heir of his own as he is to sprout wings. Even the Valar and Maiar are likely to look askance, though they do not view things quite as we Elves do."
Nerdanel smiled. "Does it make you happy, to be with Fingon? Do you take delight in one another's company, even when you quarrel? Would you give up everything else to be with him?"
"Yes," said her son earnestly. "He means more to me than anyone else I have ever known."
She folded her hands. "Now. That is how I felt about your father when we wedded. And - I believed - how he felt about me. You have seen how it is between us now. Your situation has far more potential for difficulty; think about it carefully. Are you certain that you are willing to accept the troubles and the risks?"
Maedhros was reluctant to tell her that in fact, he and his cousin were past the point of being able to change their minds. But they had discussed the matter at great length before they had finally consummated their bond, both aware that afterwards neither would be able to marry in true union, though either might go through some form of it if need be. As Maedhros had proposed he do with Artanis. To Nerdanel he answered, "I am certain, and so is Fingon, I know. But our trouble is that we dare not be open about our love, for nearly all would condemn us."
"That I understand, my son. I would not have chosen this path for you myself."
"Nor would I," he admitted. "Which does not alter my feelings for him in the slightest."
She looked intently at him. "No. We accept what happens, you and I, and the consequences of our choices, and then make new choices to live with those consequences. So. I will make you a suggestion, because you are my son and I want you to be as happy as you may. I cannot do anything directly to conceal your secret, except to refrain from speaking of it, but I will offer my house to you as a place where you and your cousin may meet without fear. It is well-known that I desire privacy, but to have my son living with me, and a nephew visiting on occasion, would not be overly remarked-upon."
Maedhros gaped at his mother. By the Trees, I would never have thought to hear my mother make such a suggestion. He gratefully and hastily accepted.
Jumping up and looking at her with shining eyes he said, "I would wish to share this good news with Fingon as soon as may be. May I - may we - return tonight?"
Nerdanel nodded and watched him leave the room, almost running in his delighted haste. She sipped her tea and smiled to herself, thinking of Fëanor's dismay should he ever learn the truth about his eldest son.
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.