Holding Fire: 1. Holding Fire

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1. Holding Fire

I frown, the sweat dripping down my forehead in great beads. The metal smokes with heat, and my hammer sends sparks flying in the air when it strikes against the hot band. My arm grows weary of the constant swing of the hammer, but there is some drive that urges me on, to complete this last task for the day. Only when it is done will I go home, and allow myself to rest. Only then…

It is only here that I feel at peace with myself; strange to find peace among the blazing forge fires. When I came to the forge for the first time, I was as shapeless as the metal I have now: raw material, awaiting a smith. The forge has done that to me; it has been my smith, for I now have spirit and strength that I did not have before. While working among the furnaces, I have forged myself as well, into a truer, stronger version of Nerdanel. One who will last and endure, because she knows who she is.

“Nerdanel?”

My father’s voice is nearly drowned out by the dull roar of the fires, and I look up, annoyed, after thrusting the strip of copper into the flames. Inspiration is always precious, which is why I loathe disruption.

He stands at the wide stone archway, arms folded casually. A flash of annoyance goes through my veins, and I finally say, “What is it, my lord?”

“I would like you to meet someone. My newest student. Fëanor, son of Finwë and Míriel Serindë. He has just arrived.”

“Atar--”

Ah, Tirion’s gifted prince appears to attest his reputation. I would sooner keep company with Námo.

“Lord Finwë’s son is your equal in the forge. I would that you treat him as such.”

I let out a faint laugh. Amusement framed in bitterness. “My equal, Atar? Aye. Tirion’s gem must struggle to equal Nerdanel.”

“I will have you civil, daughter, no matter the disrespect you choose to show to me. Finwë’s son deserves that. Do not disobey me in this.”

“DISOBEY?!?!” I shout. “So I am a beast to be ordered about?!? Aye, for I must be polite even to those who scorn me?!”

“I have given warning, Nerdanel. Do not continue this way, else I become angry.”

I scowl slightly, saying, “Very well, Atar; I am busy now, so if you would leave me in peace--”

A dark-haired young man steps to the archway beside my father, and I stop in the middle of my sentence. The expression in his fierce eyes is one of fire and blaze, and I have the disconcerting feeling that he heard my every word.

“My daughter, Nerdanel,” my father says.

I hesitate, but curtsey anyway, looking (I am sure) absurd bowing in my ash-covered smithy-dress. “Welcome to my father's forge,” I say shortly. “Now, if you will excuse me--”

My father gives me a furious look, as if to say, Nerdanel, why cannot you be as proper as the others? Must you behave such even to Finwë’s heir?

I lift my chin, sending him nothing but pure defiance. I will choose my own way, and Eru help the one who tries to impede me from doing so. Purposefully, I turn my back on him and return to my copper. It is now heated to the correct temperature, and I doggedly continue to beat it into the form I want. The metal is taking shape now, leaves unfolding and blossoming under the hammer, a delicate branch emerging from a once amorphous lump.

The water hisses as I lower my creation into it, then setting the tongs aside and wiping my sweaty forehead. Eyes are focused on me, and they are not the familiar eyes of my father.

I turn, glaring at the newcomer, and notice that my father has gone. “What is it you want, my lord?” I ask. “Is there something I can help you with?”

He laughs.

It is not an overly unpleasant sound, Fëanor’s laugh. There is strong pride, and a hint of his forceful spirit. Unreadable. Almost intoxicating. Ringing with challenge.

“Are all maidens of the Noldor like this?” he asks. “If you are, you all hide it well.”

Mockery!

“I know little of other maidens, my lord,” I say, temper rising, “but I am who I am, and will not alter myself on another’s caprice.”

Nodding, he smiles at me briefly.

“I know, lady,” he says. “And I would that you not lose that.”

I start, barely noticeably, but a slight tremor runs through my veins. ‘Would that I not lose that’? Since when did princes of high stature agree that a daughter could be exactly as she wanted to be? This arrogant Noldor prince, did he understand the heart of Nerdanel, woman of fire and iron and stone?

Fie! Few have tried, and all have failed to comprehend me.

“Mahtan’s daughter is willful and headstrong,” they say. “She has a heart of flames that burns any who come near.” “Beware the smith’s daughter!”

I shake my head, inwardly sneering at this stranger, this unrivaled creature from Tirion. And I must keep company with this highest of princes, whose family scorns me for my ways? I, Nerdanel, the smith’s daughter!

Glancing over at the prince himself, I see him familiarly pick up the hammer and tongs, and select a wide strip of gold from a counter littered with mediums.

Perhaps not so unlearned.

I stare at him a few moments longer, until he looks up and meets my gaze. The fire there is equal to my own, if not stronger, and I am almost shaken by its sheer force.

Here is a spirit that could match hers… Here is one who could meet her will with his own… He could equal her passion with his…

He could hold the heart of the smith’s daughter without being burned…

…but can I hold his?

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.

Story Information

Author: Meril

Status: General

Completion: Complete

Era: Time of the Trees

Genre: Drama

Rating: General

Last Updated: 11/22/04

Original Post: 05/22/04

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