3. Father Figure
Yesterday evening had been not untypical of many during the past year, since she had invited Maedhros to live with her. Although they did not usually spend much of each day in each other's company otherwise, whenever his cousin - and lover - Fingon came to stay for the night, her son was careful to have the three of them meet and converse, at least for a short time. Not to flaunt themselves, rather because they both felt it proper to acknowledge her generosity in sharing her home with Maedhros and permitting them to be together there. And she did take pleasure in seeing the two of them talking and laughing, sharing the soft swift touches of early love, the joy of it lighting their faces.
She regretted the necessity. But better this than to lose her eldest son. He had always been more like her, inward-looking, than any other of her children, even than Maglor. She had to accept his choice of lover, that he knew his own heart and desires. Both Maedhros and Fingon were fully aware that few would understand or even tolerate their bond - both men, and moreover half-cousins. Yet they did not perceive what Nerdanel did, that the split within the family of Finwë would only be widened if either of their fathers should discover the truth of the matter.
Had one of them been a woman, society might have accepted them despite the close kinship. Even Fingolfin might have, in time. But never Fëanor. Perhaps, in the end, it was better this way. They were happy enough together, that was certain.
Nerdanel smiled, remembering last evening's table conversation.
Fingon had bounced into the kitchen - Nerdanel never ate elsewhere - with a wide grin on his face.
"You will not believe what I just heard, Maitimo," he had said, pulling out the chair next to Maedhros and flinging himself down in it.
"Well, remember when you - talked - to cousin Artanis?"
Fingon had shot a glance from beneath lowered lids at Nerdanel, who had interrupted to inquire, "Talked of what, my son?"
Maedhros had directed a brief glare at Fingon and answered, "Er. Well, I asked her to marry me, Mother. Last year, before you invited me here. It was a stupid idea, really."
"Anyway," Fingon had continued blithely, "I was speaking with her today, of this and that and who was like to wed soon, when out she comes with, 'You are not trying to propose to me, are you? After being asked by each of Fëanor's sons, one after the other, I do not believe I could keep a straight face, if that is your intention, too.' So I said no, it was the furthest thing from my mind, and she just nodded and smirked a bit, as if she did not quite believe me. Arrogant, our cousin is. But I thought it was hilarious to discover that she had refused each and every one of your brothers, as well as yourself."
Maedhros had stared at his lover, astonished, before laughing heartily. "No wonder," he had choked, "that she acted so oddly when I asked her. She probably thought we all had some sort of terrible wager on."
"I imagine so," Fingon had agreed. "A good thing she refused, is it not? This is a far better arrangement," and he had shot a charming smile at his aunt.
Nerdanel had simply been relieved that her niece had had the good sense to turn down all her cousins. Artanis might be young, but she was wiser than any of her male relatives, it appeared.
Thinking about it again now, the next morning, Nerdanel allowed herself a belated chuckle at the idea of her seven sons lined up, one by one, outside their cousin's door, each with a hopeful expression on his face. Not that she did not want to see them all happily wed - well, except Maedhros, now - but not to Artanis. Or to their other cousin Aredhel, for that matter; luckily Aredhel seemed to have no mind to marriage yet either, despite Celegorm's clear interest. No, better that they should all find spouses outside the Noldor altogether, among the Vanyar or Teleri who recked little of the breach between the son of Míriel and the children of Indis.
"Why so happy? Is it pleasure in having stolen a son from his father?"
Deliberately she turned to face him. Fëanor stood there, whom she loved and hated now in equal measure until she could see no way to win free from him except by leaving. As she had done. Uselessly, it now seemed.
"I have not stolen your son. He is our son, and he chose to live here of his own accord," she said, closing her lips tightly over the reason.
Fëanor merely looked at her coldly, disbelief written in every line of his body. He sauntered around to glance at her work, and his brows lifted. "A fine piece," he said, in reluctant admiration. "Almost I could believe Nienna herself stood here. But why do you work now in wood? Long and long you declared your preference for metal or stone, which endure where softer materials would not."
Nerdanel shook her head mutely. She would not explain that when she left him, she wanted to leave behind everything they had worked on together, save only their children. She would not say that she carved now in wood because it burned, as she burned, in his presence or out of it.
He brushed the topic aside. "Nerdanel, I tell you, Maedhros will live with me. I cannot have my family divided."
Again she shook her head. "It is not my decision, nor yours. It is his."
They stared at each other, silent fury on his side, weary determination on hers. Then the door to the studio opened again.
She saw them as they entered and her heart sank. There was no hope of concealing the truth from Fëanor now. It was only too clear that her son and his cousin were lovers, for both were unclad to the waist, their arms around each other, and Fingon was whispering in Maedhros's ear.
"Mother," the latter began, but halted in dismay and confusion. "Father. What are you doing here?" He moved to step in front of Fingon, a futilely protective gesture that almost broke Nerdanel's heart.
Fëanor's face burned with rage. "I might ask you the same question. But I can see the answer already. I came to bring you back to your home, where you belong. I wished for your help as well as your brothers' to complete my great work. But now" - his glance raked his son scornfully - "I do not know that I want you there, after all. Your presence might taint them."
Maedhros's face blanked for an instant, then shone with opposing anger, and he took a step towards his father. Hastily Nerdanel moved between them, saying quietly but firmly, "Leave, Maedhros, please. Both of you, leavenow."
Fingon nodded and pulled Maedhros back out of the room. Nerdanel could hear him speaking rapidly as they moved out of earshot along the passage, and hoped that he would be able to calm his older cousin. She turned to her husband and said, "That was unwise, Fëanor."
He was nearly choking with venomous anger. "You are abetting him in this - this iniquitous behavior, and you call me unwise?"
"I do. His actions change nothing."
At Fëanor's look of scornful incredulity she said in exasperation, "You fool. You would do anything to keep your sons apart from the children of your half-brothers, because of your jealousy of the children of Indis. You want nothing except to be seen to reject your father's other family. Well, think on it. Maedhros and Fingon are hardly going to shout this from the rooftops, so it will change nothing in anyone's eyes. What would you say if you heard your son was to wed his cousin Artanis? As came near to happening, I might add. That would be known to all, and widely praised as healing the breach in the house of Finwë - except by you. And perhaps not by your brother, though he might have more sense."
"You go too far, wife," said Fëanor through clenched teeth.
"No. I did not go far enough, many years ago. I chose what seemed the easier path - and chose ill," returned Nerdanel. "But now it is too late to go back and start afresh. You need not approve of the situation - I find no great joy in it either - but it is there, and must be accepted. Anything you might do will only make matters public, and thereby worse for all concerned, including yourself."
Very grudgingly, he nodded.
"I would not have chosen to tell you, I think. It could only hurt you," her voice shook slightly, but she ignored that to continue, "as well as your son and Fingon, too. But now that you know, you must behave as ever before, or suffer consequences you will not enjoy. So. I tell you again that Maedhros shall remain here as long as he wishes; and I do not believe he will offer you his help until he believes you will at least tolerate his situation. And that will not be until you make amends to him. I will add my voice to ask him to forgive you, however. I know what it is you are trying to make, Fëanor, and I know that you will need his help. Pray that you do not need mine as well, for I am less like to forgive than he."
That drew Fëanor's attention. "How do you know what I attempt?" he said sharply.
Nerdanel sighed. "You forget that I was with you all those long years, listening to you, seeing your efforts, helping with them. You forget that you learned much from my father Mahtan, and from Aulë. You may have bettered their efforts - that I will not dispute - but are you certain that you learned everything they had to teach? Are you certain that you can learn nothing from any other?"
Fëanor's eyes were hungry, fastened on her own. "What? If you know aught of this that I do not, you must tell me."
She turned to gesture at the statue of Nienna. "Look at that, my husband, and then you tell me if I know the mystery you seek."
He gazed in silence for a few moments, then moved closer to the sculpted wood, walking around it, touching with reverent fingers, leaning in as if listening to something on the very edge of sound. It took many minutes, but finally he returned and stood before her. Instead of the rage, or the possessive hunger, she saw in his eyes the eagerness to learn that had first captivated her, so long ago. Fëanor nodded and said, "Yes. It has its own spirit. That is what I wish to create with my gems. But how?"
And, hoping that this might at last give the fire of Fëanor's own spirit enough that he would need no more, Nerdanel told him.
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.