2. Chapter 2
Nerdanel stood before the double doors of the room in the tower, taking a second to calm her heartbeat. Coming through the night streets, she had found a city in the throes of fear and lamentation, yet in the faces lit by flickering torches, and in the whispering voices everywhere, there had also been an air of tension and expectation, as if before a thunderstorm. In the King's house, that air was even more intense, almost tangible, and she learned that Fëanor had indeed returned, suddenly and only a short while ago. He had immediately given orders to spread word over the city, calling all to assemble on the great square before the house. The young Elf whom she had questioned, like the rest of the household, had been on his way out to follow Fëanor's orders. Looking upon her with reverence, he had startled her by calling her "Queen", but she had needed to press him before he would reveal that Fëanor had gone up to the king's study, not to be disturbed.
Taking her heart in hand, she threw open the door. The king's study had always been Finwë's private retreat, and she had only been in it a few times, even while she lived in this house. It was very high and large, the walls richly panelled, the floors made of white marble. Now the only light in the room issued from a tall many-pronged candelabra standing on a carved table at the far end, and the rest of the room was filled with shadow. Beside the table stood Fëanor, alone and in full armour, examining a long naked sword. The blade glittered coldly in the candlelight, reflecting blue fire upon his face.
At the sound of her entrance he looked up. Their eyes met for the first time in years, holding only for a moment, before Fëanor turned again to the blade in his hand.
"Fëanor?" Her voice came out soft, infinitely gentle, yet carried with it many unspoken questions and a world of anxiety.
He turned the sword about slightly in the light, and flames ran along the engraved steel. "He has fled. The accursed Coward." His voice was taunt and hard. "The Dark Enemy, my enemy."
An icy sea of rage surrounded him, yet his manner toward her was somehow less harsh than she remembered from their last encounter. "He shall not escape," he continued, gazing away from her and at the sword. "my father shall be avenged, and I shall reclaim what is mine, that which he has stolen."
Standing there across the room, as he flung his words at her, Nerdanel felt her whole body freeze with fear. Some foresight fell upon her like a physical pain, and suddenly she heard the clash of weapons, the screams of women and children amid the howling of great fires, and her sons, crying out to her in anguish and torment. In that endless instant, she also saw him, standing there in bright shining armour, and before him certain death, and something more: something worse.
"No!" The cry burst from her ere she was aware of it. "Do you propose to follow him into Middle-earth, Fëanor? To forsake our home here, and the Valar themselves, taking our people with you?" Her words came out in a rush. "No, Fëanor, you cannot do this. You are grieved and anguished, but you must see that this cannot be! No matter how strong and great you are, there is no hope of prevailing against him, and you will only suffer, and so will our people! Please, Fëanor, my husband, listen to me for a moment; I see it in foresight, truly it will be ruin for you and all the Noldor, for the Enemy is too strong!"
"The Enemy is too strong," he repeated slowly, still looking away from her."And is that any reason?"
She returned his gaze, suppressing her first panic. "If it were only his strength, then it would be no reason." She chose her words with care. "But there are other powers, which I do not see clearly. And darkness has crept into the hearts of our people. In your own heart you know this. Do not lead them into a deeper Darkness!"
With a clatter, Fëanor tossed the sword onto the table, and spun around, facing her. "It will not be darkness, but our own destiny, and it will be glorious! How can I not avenge my father and king, and save the Silmarils, into which I poured my heart and my skills, from the dishonour of his hands?"
Nerdanel started inwardly at his vehemence, for in her haste she had almost forgotten the hold that the Silmarils had over him. "Do you suppose that I do not know your anguish?" she asked quietly. "We have all suffered so much in this Nightfall! I know how much of yourself you have poured into the Silmarils, for I was there when you wrought them. Yet their light, their light came from the Trees, and those are now withered, extinguished. And your father--oh Fëanor, he was my father too. I grieve, too, alongside of you, and so do the Valar themselves, and all our people. But if you go like this, you will only bring them greater grief, of the body and of the soul. Will you do that, Fëanor?"
"Is that what you fear? Defeat and grief, and his strength?"
"No, what I fear is something worse." She faced him, fire rising in her spirit as well. "I do see suffering and defeat, and that grieves me greatly. Yet it is not only the anguish of the body that I foresee, for if you lead them forth you will make others suffer, bringing stain and torment upon your soul and ours. Would you do that, Fëanor? He is your enemy, and the enemy of us all, but do you not recall a time when it did not seem so? He has poisoned not only the Trees, but us also, our kindred and our family; he has set brother against brother. If we do not first heal our own hearts within, we would only add to our guilt, and walk more deeply into his snares!"
"Walking into snares?" he flung her words back. "Does the righteousness of my quest mean nothing to you? Does the valour and honour of the Noldor mean nothing to you?"
"The Noldor are valiant, and their honour is great. Yet righteous deeds cannot be achieved by hearts filled with possession and madness!"
"You only speak of guilt, possession, and madness. You think too little of me, and of our people. For I shall tell you about our people, my people." Fëanor's voice rose, gathering a new power. "My people's valour is greater than that of Arda's high Powers, for they do not sit downtrodden and immobile before the Enemy, but arise and fight. My people's honour is beyond the knowing of the Ones called Exalted, for they are made not to be thralls but kings. What they love, they love wholly and truly, with the entirety of their hearts, and so do they also give out their hatred. Yes, they are proud, and it is a righteous pride, born up by their might. Middle-earth is their birthright and their great destiny, and I will lead them there!"
Speaking these words, he seemed so sublimely tall and fair; radiating his own light in the shadows. But renewed fear fell upon Nerdanel. "Do not speak thus of the Valar!" she finally cried out. "Have you forgotten all the love that they showed us, all that they taught us? Can you really believe that they hold us in thrall?"
"The Valar care not about us, our joys and pains. Do you not see, that they brought us here, and hold us, so that we might adore them and serve them? Is this truly meant to be? Should we not walk free, even if it is in the darkness of the Outer Lands? Better to reign in Middle-earth, though it lies in the deepest shadow, than to serve in the Valar's lands, though it be blissful and filled with light!"
She shook her head in sadness and disbelief at his words. "Why do you speak of reigning and serving? Our own kin reign here freely, as our kings. How have the Valar held us in thrall? All that has passed here upon Aman, has passed freely and with joy. And now, in these time of darkness, should we not rather keep faith with the Valar?"
"The Valar are of his own kindred, and Eru has abandoned Arda to its own devices. We have only ourselves. And that is enough."
Nerdanel fought to keep her voice steady. "Fëanor, please, look within your own heart. How far will you go, what will you sacrifice, in this hopeless quest? And have a thought for our sons! Will you sacrifice them also?"
"They are the sons of my body and mind." Each one of Fëanor's words came emphatic and fierce. "They will follow me."
"But they are my sons also!" Suddenly, she felt as if she could bear it no longer. "Yes, they will follow you, and so will all the Noldor, because they are valiant. Will you use this to make them suffer for your pride and anger? Yet when they follow, it will not be due only to their courage, but also the Foe's black words, which have taught you, and them, pride and jealousy, and forgetfulness of the Exalted Ones' love! Can you not see that no feat of arms could have any chance, but would only add to our sin and sorrow, if we do not see him clearly, and uncover and cleanse the wounds he has caused already? It is within ourselves that we must fight him!"
She paused, seeing that he turned away from her, yet went on after a moment, more softly. "Fëanor, my husband, he has wounded and wronged you most of all. And if I could repair any of the wrongs I did to you by my leaving, I would. And if yours is a righteous and true quest, I would not dissuade you, not if it leads to certain death, but go with you even into the Void. But please believe me, this is not it. This is the way to Darkness. Please, look in your heart of hearts, and it will tell you the same. Do not lose faith in the Valar, and do not lose faith in those closest and dearest to you, nor in yourself. My husband, your spirit is so bright, that it blinds you; it is so great, that it deserves better. Do not go...."
As she pleaded, Fëanor remained with his back turned to her. Now her voice faltered, and her breath was anguished and irregular, as if she had run a great distance. For a long moment, they remained where they stood, silent. When he finally turned to face her, she was surprised to see the glint of tears in his eyes.
"Nerdanel," he called her name, coming forward close to her, and his voice was earnest and urgent, with a tenderness that she had not heard in years. "Nerdanel, your words move me more than you can know. They pierce my heart. I know this is not a good time to ask for your forgiveness, but I love you, and I have always loved you, even through all our troubled times. My father's death has made me understand that. But I will go forth to follow the Enemy, because I must. If you believe that my spirit burns too hot into madness, then will you not come with me, to help me and temper me? Will you not come with me, and be my Queen upon Middle-earth, to rule our own realms free and fair, away from here? You will help me lead the Noldor to greatness, and make me better--for you are great and good, you are better than They. I know it seems like madness and not wisdom to you, but will you trust me? For I have thought long and hard in my years of exile, and all that time I thought the most of you, your gentleness and your love, upon which I had set so little a price! And I remember your words from years ago, when I treated you so badly: 'There are times when love must overrule wisdom.' Did you not say so yourself?"
As he spoke, she kept her eyes upon her husband's eager face, and at the word "love" she felt the sting of tears, for she had waited years for this one word. Now once again, a great conflagration suddenly blazed up in her heart, and she wanted to say yes, to go with him to the ends of the world, more than she had ever wanted anything in her life. She held still, listening to the pounding of her own heart. Finally she answered with a great effort, her voice weak and shaky, as if it came from a very far distance away:
"There are times when right must overrule love,"
He took a step back, as if she had slapped him. For a second, he stared at her, hurt and sorrowful. Then, as they stood there facing each other, some change took place before her very eyes, and it seemed that she no longer recognized him. With a snort of contemptuous laughter, he turned away. Picking up and sheathing the sword that lay on the table, he fastened it to his side, and began to walk towards the door.
With a single quick step, Nerdanel placed herself in her husband's path. Once again, desperately, she heard herself pleading, yelling and begging, for him to listen, to not act out his madness. But it was already all over. Fëanor strode forward across the room, with nothing in his eyes now but a light cold and unknown, as inexorable as fate itself. Finally, she stood in the doorway, and held her arms against the door and its frame.
Only then did Fëanor's eyes focus on her again. "Nerdanel," his voice was quiet and emotionless, "step aside."
"Please, Fëanor," she cried in a last hopeless effort, her voice breaking, "please, listen to me, for I love you! Do not go, you know not what you do--"
Nerdanel gripped the door frame tightly. With terrifying force, Fëanor reached out, took hold of her arms, and shoved her aside, hard. Losing her footing, she fell to the marble floor.
Sitting there on the floor, she stared up at him in uncomprehending shock. It seemed as if he had just torn her very being in two, even though she had braced herself only a moment ago. And her husband stood in the doorway, perfectly still. And yet, and yet shock and horror were upon his face, too, for in all their arguments and bitter words throughout their marriage, he had never once dreamt of laying hands upon her. And now, as her eyes brimmed over with tears at last, something of her lover and husband, from better days past, returned to him, and for a brief moment she thought he was about to rush to her side. He almost did, but the moment passed, drowned in renewed madness. Without a word, he turned away and went out the door. She flinched as it slammed shut.
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.