"With all due respect, Smithmaster, I feel they are far too young to wed."
"Young or not, I believe it is too late for us to make that decision, sire." Mahtan inclined his head politely before adding, "With all due respect."
Finwë frowned at the smith. "What do you mean?"
Mahtan smiled and shook his head. "By their eyes I perceive it is already done. I think they have asked for our counsel merely as a formality."
"So what are we to do?" Mahtan smiled at the king's reaction, so similar to what his had been.
"Give them our blessing."
"It certainly is quiet without Fëanáro at our table."
Nerdanel did not turn her head to look at her mother, knowing the comment was directed at her with the intention to elicit a response. Instead, she took a sip of her wine and reached out to serve herself another helping of potatoes.
"It is." Her father agreed when he had swallowed the meat he had been chewing. "I have grown accustomed to his presence over the past year. It seems near silent now without him here."
Nerdanel realized both her parents were staring at her. She glanced from one to the other as she picked up her fork.
"It is peaceful, for once," she snapped, and stabbed at her potato a little too vehemently.
Mahtan laughed into his wine.
Istarnië reached across the table to place her right hand on Nerdanel's left, which rested next to her plate. "Love, will you still not speak of what happened between the two of you before he was summoned to Tirion?"
Nerdanel sighed expressively. "There is naught to speak of. Nothing happened." She saw her parents exchange a knowing look.
"The silence in the forge was deeper when you were in there together than when I am in there alone." Mahtan smiled at Nerdanel while she glared at him. "If you do not wish to speak of it, we will respect that, but know that loads are easier to bear when you share them."
An uncomfortable silence followed. Istarnië took her hand back and began to eat again while Nerdanel stared down at her food. After a few moments, Mahtan broke the quiet, his voice strangely formal.
"So, Istarnië, an invitation arrived for us today. You and I are to be guests of honour at the festival five days hence."
Nerdanel looked up when she heard her mother giggle. It was strange enough that she was not included in the invitation as was customary – could her recent fight with Fëanor have aught to do with it? She supposed shoving the High Prince of the Noldor may not have been the best idea, even if he had deserved much more for what he said to her. But stranger still was the fact that her mother was giggling, apparently unaffected by this deviation from the usual custom. Istarnië covered her mouth when she caught her daughter's gaze and her expression turned solemn as she responded to her husband.
"The women at market yesterday could speak of naught but the upcoming festival."
Mahtan nodded expressively. "Is that so?" He picked up his glass and swirled the wine around before taking a sip. "And what did they have to say on the subject?"
Nerdanel's eyes darted from her one parent to the other. There was something strange about the way they were speaking to each other. The two were usually so informal but this conversation seemed almost, for a lack of a better word, rehearsed.
"It was quite interesting." Istarnië replied, ignoring Nerdanel's stare. "You know, I usually pay no heed to the gossip flying around the market."
"Of course, of course," Mahtan assented far too quickly.
"But since more than one elf told me," she glanced quickly at Nerdanel and then back at Mahtan, "Nay, almost everyone told me – as if it was vitally important news – I could not help but listen."
Mahtan's eyes were wide with obviously feigned interest by this point. "What news, Istarnië?"
Nerdanel saw them both grinning foolishly at each other, as if they were in on some joke that Nerdanel was not. She pressed her lips together, trying to figure out where the conversation was heading and coming up with nothing.
"Well," her mother began with contrived breathless excitement, "it seems that Fëanáro is to attend the festival unaccompanied."
Nerdanel dropped her right hand to the table and her fork hit her plate with a loud clink. This was the big news?
"Mother, I thought court intrigue did not interest you."
Nerdanel saw her father try to hide his smile behind his wine glass. Her mother, on the other hand, beamed unabashedly at Nerdanel.
"I believed that piece of information might interest you, Nerdanel."
Nerdanel's mouth fell open in a gasp and she swung her head to glare at her father. Mahtan was pushing his meat around his plate, a sheepish grin on his face.
"At any rate," Istarnië continued, "the elves in the market seemed to read some great meaning into this."
"Perhaps he has been busy and has not yet found the time to invite someone." Nerdanel said dryly, still trying to catch her father's eye so she could give him a proper glare for letting slip her secret.
Without looking up, Mahtan said, "Perhaps the one he wishes to escort is currently not speaking to him." Before Nerdanel could tell her father how much she doubted that to be true, her mother began to speak again.
"The elves at market seemed to think Finwë wishes for his son to have a chance to interact more with the girls of the Noldor instead of always escorting Eärwen from the havens."
Nerdanel whipped her head towards her mother and realized dismally that she surely looked far to interested to feign indifference to the conversation any longer. For all she could think of was how Fëanor had never mentioned his friendship, if friendship only it was, with Eärwen, or anyone else for that matter. Any glimmer of hope she ever had fled her mind and she realized the truth – he did not wish to include her in his life; she was only a means to pass the time when he was away from Tirion.
"It is said Finwë does not favour a match for one of his sons with any of the Teleri." Istarnië said, ignoring Nerdanel's intense looks.
"I know that to be untrue." Mahtan disagreed with his wife, finally glancing up from his plate. "Finwë and Olwë are good friends, and it would probably please him for Fëanáro to wed Olwë's daughter." Nerdanel bit her lip, not even wanting to look at her father.
Istarnië shrugged, indicating her acceptance of what her husband had said. "Still, the quendir are all abuzz about Fëanáro's apparent availability, especially the ones with daughters, even though I reminded them that Fëanor is still by far too young to wed."
Mahtan snorted into his wineglass that he had just picked up.
They were being cruel. There was no other way to describe how they were acting. Nerdanel sat in her chair feeling extraordinarily uncomfortable as she listened to her parents speak over her head about who Fëanor – who they both knew she had unrequited feelings for – was going to wed.
"Of course," Istarnië mused almost to herself, "that didn't seem to much matter to the quendir."
"Can we please talk of something else?" Nerdanel asked quietly, the dinner she had just eaten sitting uncomfortably in her stomach.
Ignoring her, Mahtan replied to his wife. "They probably feel the king's firstborn son to be an excellent match for any of their daughters."
Nerdanel sunk lower in her chair and clasped her arms across her stomach, wondering what ill she committed against her parents to deserve this.
Istarnië nodded in agreement. "According to the quendir, their daughters all feel the same way."
With that, Nerdanel stood up. "Excuse me, please, but I need to leave. I can take no more of this conversation."
Mahtan stood as well and smiled kindly at her. "Sit down, my dear daughter. Perhaps we have gone too far." Nerdanel sat back down and her father walked out of the room, calling over his shoulder, "Wait just a moment."
He re-entered carrying a rolled up piece of parchment which he handed to Nerdanel. She looked at it, then up at her mother. Istarnië was grinning foolishly. Mahtan was no better, for his grin was even wider. Giving up on garnering information from her parents, Nerdanel examined the parchment, turning it over in her hands.
"What is this?" she finally asked.
"Why don't you open it?" Istarnië suggested.
Nerdanel regarded the parchment uneasily for a few more moments before slipping the tie off it. She unrolled it and held it open, reading through it once.
"What does it say?"
Nerdanel looked at her father and could tell from the sparkle in his eyes that he already knew full well what it said.
"It is a formal request for me to attend the festival." Nerdanel swallowed hard before continuing to speak, her eyes back on the parchment, "Escorted by Fëanáro." She shook her head in disbelief before looking up at her father. "You jest."
As one, Istarnië and Mahtan shook their heads 'no.' Even though their faces were solemn; Nerdanel could see excitement in both of their eyes: excitement for her, excitement that she herself was not experiencing.
She swallowed against the lump in her throat and looked once again at the parchment. Sure enough, there was Fëanor's seal: a star pointed with eight rays and eight spikes. She brushed her fingers over the raised wax to reinforce to herself that it was real. Feeling her eyes begin to burn, she stood up, threw the parchment on the table and ran from the room.
Her father must have followed close behind her, for no sooner had she sat down on the bench outside the front door of their home and pulled her legs into her stomach, Mahtan was seated next to her.
"Nerdanel, child, what is wrong?" He draped a comforting arm across her shoulders. "Your mother and I both thought you would be exhilarated, or at least pleased, when you read the invitation."
Leaning into her father's embrace, she tried to let her anxiety pass, but it continued to gnaw at her insides. "I cannot go with him, father."
Mahtan sighed and Nerdanel wondered if his patience with her was growing thin. "Did you ever think, perhaps, that you are wrong about his feelings for you? His intentions? After all, he did invite you to the festival."
Nerdanel shook her head and tried to bury it deeper in her father's shoulder. "Father, you did not hear what he said to me. It was awful." She wiped a tear from her cheek and felt Mahtan kiss the top of her head.
"Do not heed words spoken in anger. Did you mean all you said to him?"
Nerdanel looked up at him in surprise. How much did Mahtan know of those hurtful words exchanged in the forge? Before she could ask, Mahtan spoke again.
"I know not what was said, but I saw Fëanáro leave the forge that day. By his eyes I could tell whatever was said hurt him as well."
"Which is why I can not attend the festival with him."
Mahtan's eyes grew wide. "You intend to refuse his invitation?" Nerdanel bit her lip, folded her arms and looked away from her father. "Nerdanel, that would be discourteous, and… and very unwise."
"So I have no choice, then?"
"Of course you have a choice." Mahtan took her shoulders in his hands. "And your mother and I will support you, no matter your choice. I simply…" he looked away and pressed his lips together before he continued. "It does say something that he invited you. Perhaps it is his way of making amends."
Nerdanel considered that possibility. "Perhaps…"
Mahtan smiled weakly down at her. "Besides, it may be fun."
Nerdanel blinked sceptically at him and he laughed. She could not believe she was about to agree to this. "I doubt it. But I will send my acceptance to Tirion tomorrow."
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.