3. Chapter 3
She did not know how long she sat there on the floor of the study in the King's house, alone and in despair. Visions and nightmares washed over her, and she saw her husband and sons covered in bloodstains, and great flames dancing over a roaring sea, and Maedhros, her firstborn child, alone in a high cold place, his face contorted with pain. So she sat thus, motionless, until a great shout in the distance, issuing from many throats, roused her from her stupor. At the same instant, in the candelabra upon the table, the last candle flickered out, plunging the room into darkness. Nerdanel raised a trembling hand to her forehead, and mentally cursed her own weakness. Did she temporarily take leave of her senses?
Yet the room was not completely dark: a faint light now flowed in from the tall windows. Struggling to her feet, she made her way to the nearest window, and saw the weak glitter of stars high up in the sky. But there was another light below, just beyond the courtyards of the palace, the reddish glow of many torches. In the dim light and with numb detachment, she also noticed blood on the palms of her hands; they must have been torn against the door frame and the floor.
Her sons! How could she have been so weak and foolish, wasting so much time in her own despairing thoughts? She must save her sons, even if she could not save her husband--and even for him, there could still be a chance. Nerdanel rushed to the doorway, and yet again was met with cold shock, for the double doors clattered and shuddered before her bloodied hands, but did not open. Her husband had bolted it from the outside. To prevent her from following him.
She pounded and shouted, but heard only the reverberations of her own voice in the house. Dashing back to the window, she saw that the courtyard far beneath was utterly empty. As she gave a cry of desperation and helpless anger, another loud roar went up from the throng in the distance. Above the roar, she heard Fëanor's voice rising, clear and passionate, making a great speech, exhorting the Noldor to leave these shores and seek the lands of Middle-earth,to recover the Silmarils from Morgoth's grasp. Whether his voice was so powerful that it carried over all the way from the square, or whether she was hearing it only inside her mind, Nerdanel knew not. Trapped, she glanced wildly about the room, hoping to find something with which to break her way out. Her eyes fell upon the heavy tall candelabra on the table, now dark with all of its candles extinguished. Lifting it with both hands, she swung it furiously against the doors. They groaned and rattled. She swung it again. And again. In the square beyond, Fëanor's vengeful words rose strong and proud, as if born up by a sea-swell.
It seemed like hours, but at last, the doors gave with a shower of splintering wood, and the sword jammed through the door handles outside clattered to the ground. Stumbling out, she found the house deserted, and so dark that Elven eyes, although already accustomed to the gloom, could barely make out the top of the staircase by the faint glow from the windows. Yet another great roar in the distance. As quickly as she could, Nerdanel went down, and found her father's lamp on a table at the bottom of the curved stairs, where she had left it seemingly an age ago.
By its light, she made her way through the halls of the King's house, and came outside beneath the stars. She ran through the courtyards and gardens, one after another, closer and closer to the clamouring crowd and her husband, until only the heavy front gates of the palace divided them. She pushed against them hard, but they did not budge: she might have been pushing against a wall. For the second time of the night, she had come up against a set of doors barred from the outside. But these doors were wrought of solid metal, almost a foot thick.
Nerdanel slammed her fists against the gates in frustration and impotent rage, then threw her whole body against them, knowing full well the futility of her actions. Defeated, she slipped to her knees. On the other side of the gates, her brother-in-law Fingolfin shouted something, but in her confused desperation the only words she understood were "folly" and "Ilúvatar". Then suddenly, her son Curufin's voice soared high up, full of fury:
"We have sworn to take back what is ours! Let cowards remain!"
Somehow, the horror of those words acted upon her like a splash of cold water, bringing her to her feet once more. She must stop them, her sons! Nerdanel sprang away from the front gates. Again, it seemed like ages, but finally she found an unlocked side door at the back of the house, which led out to a narrow, winding lane, cobbled with white stones. It, too, was completely deserted. Nerdanel slipped out, and began to run.
She made her way up the streets, towards the great square, where powerful passionate voices were still raised in contentious debate, now the voice of one of her sons, now that of one of her brothers-in-law. Most of all, she heard Fëanor, his words no longer loud, but low and deep, carrying some new force, so that they seemed to shake the very earth. "For I am not the only valiant of this valiant people: say farewell to this narrow land! Say farewell to bondage!"
She emerged from a side street into the light of countless torches, coming upon the back of the vast multitude. The sudden brightness stung her eyes, and holding up a hand to ward off the glare, she made out her husband and sons, brothers and nephews, standing upon the wide steps before the King's gate. A palpable energy hung over the square, the faces of the people eager and excited, the very air shimmering with firelight.
"You speak dread words that cannot be broken," her younger brother-in-law Finarfin was crying out, "calling us to deeds that cannot be undone--"
"We shall do great deeds in the lands of Middle-earth! We shall never turn back--"
It was the voice of Amras, her youngest child. A murmur ran through the assembled throng, now seized with some new restless fire. Nerdanel gave a choked cry, helpless and hopeless. Must she lose her sons, too, in this dark Night? Oh, the sons of her own flesh and blood! How can they be so blind and mad, following their father to perdition? Will they not listen?
As she tried desperately to push through the crowd toward the front of the square, another voice was raised high above the clamour, the voice of Maedhros her firstborn, her sweet child, who had been nursed at her breast and sung to sleep in her arms so often, such a long time ago.
"For so have I sworn, as have my brothers, with Manwë and Varda for witnesses, and the white mountain of Taniquetil, by the name of Eru Ilúvatar..."
My son, my darling child, swear not upon that name in vain! With unwonted force she pushed aside the people before her, frantically fighting her way to the front. All around, the sea of torches trembled and shifted with the feverish crowd, turning into a single great flame, surrounding her.
"to pursue with vengeance and hatred whosoever should hold or take or keep a Silmaril from our possession, to the ends of the World,"
Above, on the steps, her son stood tall, his voice fierce with some power beyond himself, his brothers right behind him. Like in a vision or dream, Nerdanel saw Fingolfin facing her husband, his face dark and grim, and young Artanis standing to one side among her brothers, silent and still, yet her eyes were ablaze. Oh my children, do not go! Keep your hearts from the shadow! Why will you not see the Enemy's lies?
"be he Vala, Demon, Elf or Man as yet unborn, or any creature great or small, good or evil,"
Please, let this be a nightmare, let me wake up. Let them wake up. Let me not be too late. Do you not hear your own words, my son? What can I still say to you, to stop this madness!
"that time should bring forth, unto the end of days,"
Oh my husband, what have you done?
"may the Everlasting Darkness descend upon us, if we keep it not!"
The scream burst from her throat, yet she heard it not, for just at that moment another great roar went up in the square, and all at once the torches began to swirl and move all about her, sweeping her aside. "Let us be gone at once!" someone shouted not far from her. Straining against the crowd, she watched helplessly as her husband and sons began to move away. Surveying the multitude from the glaring light, Fëanor's gaze fell upon his wife, lingered for an instant, then passed on, as if he did not recognize her. He turned to the others, giving orders, preparing for the march. Down in the square, Nerdanel's cries were drowned in the excited loudness of the throng, as it carried her along its currents, away from her family. She saw Maglor, her gentlest son, scan the scene below the steps, saw his face turn stricken as his eyes met hers. He started to move forward, but then stopped and stood still, as if he could not bear to reach her. The crowd's currents took her farther from him. Then Fëanor called out some hard and inexorable command, and her son turned away.
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.