We did not need to run to the white shores with the others. We could see the orange flickering on the far horizon well enough from our house outside of Tirion.
Fire had consumed her husband. Fire had consumed her sons. The same fire that had one day, years past, captured her heart.
I hugged my sobbing daughter close to my chest silently, for there were no words of comfort I had to offer. I thanked the Valar that she herself had not been consumed and then wondered if it would have been better for her if she had.
There is something about the music of the sea that is both peaceful and exciting at the same time. The sea sings its rich ancient music and lulls you into a sense that you are indeed part of a bigger story than your own. When you sit at the edge of the vast ocean, you can almost lose yourself in its grandeur, you can forget your troubles, your worries, and for a moment be at peace with the world. It was for this reason that Nerdanel travelled to the sea whenever she was not needed in her father's forge.
It wasn't as if she had a rough life. On the contrary, she enjoyed her work and was surrounded by elves she loved. But every now and then she would be overcome with the urge to pick up and go, a trait she attributed to the history of her people. When the wanderlust came over her, she usually found her way to the beach. It was a time for her to escape, and in that escape relax; basking in the light of Laurelin during the day as she watched the Telerin fishing ships sail past, the laughter of Telerin children floating past her on the wind as they splashed in the shallow inlets. When evening began to fall and the light of Telperion mingled with its sister she would walk home, the singing of the Teleri gradually fading into the voices of the Vanyar as she neared her father's house, and eventually being drowned out by the clang of hammer against metal when she finally arrived home. For often in the evening, when the light was beautiful and silver, Aulë would come, spending long hours well into the night with her father in the forge, crafting and laughing and Nerdanel would fall asleep to the music of their voices, a bass and a cello joining into a melody to the counterpoint of steel being struck like a drum.
It was a good life.
That was what she was thinking now as she sat on the beach, gazing out over the ocean and shielding her eyes from the treelight to better see the ships sail past. She dug her toes deeper into the sand, wiggling them to feel its coarseness against her skin. Leaning back on her elbows she sighed a deep contented sigh and closed her eyes, letting the warmth of the treelight envelop her.
She heard the hoof beats before she saw the horse or felt its or its rider's presence.
Opening her eyes, she quickly rose to her feet and dusted herself off. It was not often anyone else came to this part of the beach. Secluded by a small grove of trees on three sides and ocean on the other as the beach was, she usually could pass the entire day without seeing another living being, save for the fisherelves out on their boats. Only her father and mother knew where she was, and they would not send for her.
She was brushing the rest of the sand off her as the horse came through the trees. She did not recognize the animal. She squinted up at the rider but could not make out his face; the light behind him was too bright and it cast his features into shadow. He swung off the horse and walked over to her.
She was about to offer her greetings when his face became visible to her. His bright eyes held her gaze and they stood in silence, the words she had been about to say completely forgotten. Compose yourself, Nerdanel, she chided herself. He is only an elf.
He might be only an elf, but he was one of the fairest she had ever laid eyes on. He almost seemed as one of the Valar, when they chose to adorn themselves with elvish raiment. But his features were those of the Noldor, more finely sculpted than hers, yet similar enough for her to recognize. His raven hair blew in the wind coming off the water and his face, while set into a scowl, by no means diminished his good looks - but also did nothing to ease Nerdanel's discomfort.
"I thought to find this beach deserted."
Nerdanel crossed her arms. Attractive or not, he had no right to address her in such a manner. She had as much right to be here as he did.
"You thought wrong."
He raised an eyebrow at her and his mouth curled up slightly. Nerdanel purposefully ignored how that made her insides clench nervously.
Carefully observing his facial expression and body language, Nerdanel waited for him to continue. His smile widened and Nerdanel wondered if it was amusing to him in some way that she was not daunted by his presence. His gaze was certainly intense enough to have turned aside many others.
After several moments of staring at each other, the elf shrugged his shoulders and relaxed his posture.
"I had hoped for a swim, and seeing that you are not much inclined to conversation, I shall indulge myself as I had planned." Without another word he walked past her towards the ocean, discarding his clothing immodestly as he went so he was left wearing naught but what Eru had blessed him with. He ran several paces into the water before diving under and resurfacing at a distance.
Giving up any hope for a peaceful day at the beach, Nerdanel walked down to the water's edge, resisting the urge to pick up his clothes and be off with them, after he had spoken to her so dismissively. When she reached the shoreline, he ceased his cavorting and stood facing her, the water coming only midway up his chest.
"Care to join me?" he asked with a coy smile. "It is rather refreshing."
Nerdanel stared at him, dumbstruck. He was positively a mass of contradictions, dismissing her one moment and inviting her to join him the next. He was walking towards her now and as he neared she carefully kept her eyes on his face, seeing as how the entirety of his clothing was still behind her on the white sand.
He stopped a few paces from her, his eyebrow once again cocked and his lips in a smirk.
"I know you are capable of speech, for you spoke before. Have you lost the ability since then?" His smirk turned into a wicked grin. "Or does my presence unnerve you so that you are struck mute before me."
Stung into action, Nerdanel took a step towards him.
"Your presence unnerves me no more than that of your horse, for his impressiveness far outweighs your own."
To her immense surprise, the elf laughed heartily.
"His impressiveness…. outweighs my own…" he choked out between breaths. "Oh, that is a gem." He sobered suddenly and looked intently at her face, as if he were searching for something. Just as Nerdanel was about to tell him to stop gawking at her, he spoke again, but quietly and almost to himself.
"You have no idea who…" He shook his head quickly as if to clear it and smiled broadly at her. "All the better, if you are to join me for a swim."
Nerdanel raised her hands to her head, for his changes of mood were making her mind spin and she did not know quite how to respond to him. "I am not to join you, for I shan't get my clothes wet. And besides," she added belatedly, "I know not who you are."
The elf sighed impatiently. "As for who I am, know that I am a respectable elf of the Noldor. I hope that will suffice for you if I in turn do not ask your identity. And no, you shan't get your clothes wet if you are to remove them, as I have."
Nerdanel instinctively clutched her hands across her body. For some reason, disrobing in front of him made her inexplicably uncomfortable. The Respectable Elf of the Noldor laughed.
"Very well, I shall return to the depths of the sea alone." His feigned expression of utter dejection made Nerdanel realize this was an elf used to getting his way. "I bid ye farewell, fair maiden." With an overly flourished bow, he trudged off into the water, lying back when it was deep enough and floating motionlessly, swept to and fro with the rhythm of the ocean.
Nerdanel exhaled heavily through her nose. She stood on the shoreline for some time, watching him drift back and forth and trying to figure him out. She supposed she should not give in to him, but it was hot and the water did look refreshing. Besides, she would learn nothing more of him by standing here alone. Although she doubted the wisdom of her decision, she removed her clothing and slowly walked into the water.
As she approached him he did not move, but continued to float with the current. The water was still shallow enough for her to walk, but deep enough to make her feel almost weightless. She submerged slowly, acclimating herself to the cooler temperature on her heated skin, before closing the last of the distance between him.
The water was still shallow enough to allow her to stand next where he lay unmoving on the gentle waves and look down on him, unwatched, since his eyes were closed. His perfectly set features were relaxed into a serene expression and he looked almost peaceful lying there, his hair splayed out in the water around him like the auras of the Valar. He was absolutely stunning. His lips…
She noticed them curling into a smile just a moment too late.
Screaming in protest, she fought against him but it was a losing battle. How he was able to spring on her so quickly, she had no idea. He dunked her under the water and when she came up sputtering to the sound of his laughter, she splashed vigorously in his direction before she was even able to open her eyes.
"What was that for?" She rounded on him, but her laugh betrayed her. She splashed him once more for good measure.
"To teach you, if you wish to sneak up on someone, be sure your shadow does not cast across their face."
"I shall remember that." She grinned as a plan hatched in her mind. "And in return, I have a lesson for you."
He looked wary for a moment, but it passed and he folded his arm across his chest, his expression once again one of cocky arrogance.
"And what lesson might that be?"
Taking a deep breath, she began to splash him even more vigorously and relentlessly. It had the desired result as he shielded his face with his arms and closed his eyes. Over the noise of her efforts, she managed to shout at him, "Ladies of the Noldor are a force to be reckoned with."
Summoning all her strength, she grabbed him in the same way he had just grabbed her and tried to reproduce the manoeuvre he had just used. But by some strange twist of fate, it was she who ended up under the water again.
She surfaced, rubbing her eyes, put her hands on her hips and glared at the elf who was doubled over in laughter.
"A force… to be reckoned with…" He stopped laughing for a moment. "I suppose I have reckoned well with you, then."
He began to laugh again as he held up his hands to deflect more splashes directed his way. Although he had bested her twice, Nerdanel smiled back at him, amazed that after so short a time they were at ease with each other as if they had know each other for far longer than they had; which was odd considering she still did not know who he was.
They carried on in much the same way the rest of the day until the lights began to mingle and the air cooled. Only then did they leave the water and get dressed. Between the two of them they quickly built a small fire on the beach.
As they sat side by side and watched the dance of the flames against the backdrop of the ocean, Nerdanel could not bear to let the matter of this elf's identity alone any longer. She hesitated when she looked at him for he seemed to be at peace, and for some reason she felt in her heart this was a subject that would unsettle him.
He must have sensed her eyes on him because he turned his head towards her to meet her gaze. In his eyes the contradictions were back; torment mingled with peace, hurt coexisted with comfort, anger but also…affection? She did not move as he bent to her; she did not pull away when his lips touched hers.
It was the briefest of touches, gentle and soft, completely at odds with the fire of emotions raging in his eyes. Another contradiction.
As one they looked back to the fire. He pulled her towards him and she rested her head against his shoulder. She felt peaceful, content, but she was not so easily dissuaded.
"Even now will you not tell me your name?"
She felt him tense beside her. "I have managed to forget myself all day here with you. I beg of you not to make me remember now."
Twisting so she could see his face, she frowned up at him. "I do not understand."
His gaze was intense as he looked down at her. "Today I have found more happiness, more peace, than I have in my whole…in a long time." He frowned and turned his head back towards the fire. "I fear that by speaking the reality that is our names, we shall shatter the dream that was today."
She shifted her weight so she was kneeling next to him, facing him. "If today has to remain a dream. But why must it? Why can today not become a reality once more?" A disturbing thought entered her mind. "Unless you wish not to see me again. In which case an exchange of names is not needed, and tomorrow we both return to our lives as if naught has happened here today."
"No!" He swung his legs so he was kneeling across from her and took her hands in his. "Meet me here. Tomorrow."
She laughed at his insistence, at the urgency in his eyes and then remembered what tomorrow would bring to the reality of her own life and grimaced.
"Not tomorrow." The disappointment in his eyes was so acute she could feel it. "I apologize, but I must help my father. Believe me; I would rather be here. But tomorrow he takes on his new apprentice."
He frowned and ever so quickly, so she almost wondered if she imagined it, his eyes flicked to her hair, hanging in damp coppery waves across her shoulders, and then back to her face.
"A new apprentice? That must be exciting for you." His voice was flat, as if he did not wish to betray his thoughts, or as if he was trying to feel her out.
Nerdanel frowned at him, wondering what this new change in demeanour meant. Well, there could be no harm telling him who the new apprentice would be.
"Perhaps you could call it exciting. After all, it is Curufinwë, son of Finwë who is to be his apprentice."
He nodded once and a mirthless smile appeared on his face.
"Then you are Nerdanel, daughter of Mahtan."
Nerdanel's eyes grew wide as shock overcame her. "You…but how do you… but…" she stammered, her mind trying to rapidly figure out how this stranger named her so easily.
"I have heard tell that Fëanáro is to be your father's apprentice." In one fluid motion he stood up, dusted himself off and swung up onto his horse. "I bid you goodnight, Nerdanel, for you ought to get a full night's sleep. Tomorrow you will have your hands full with the son of Finwë."
He turned his horse around and disappeared into the foliage from whence he had come that morning. Nerdanel stared after him with wide eyes and her mind reeling with confused questions before she remembered to tend to the fire. Gazing out over the ocean she shook her head, at a loss for what to think.
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.