We spent two days in my parents' house, two days in the shadow of my father's silent discontent. We rode out into the fields surrounding Valmar, tiring our horses as the light slipped by, the warmth of the season a cloak around our shoulders. We dared not abandon the city altogether, although the coldness that I could see in Olorimo's eyes when he gazed at us weighed heavily on me, and turned what had always been my home into a place where I was no more than a guest. My choices had torn me away from there. My future lay in Tirion.
Artanis' words were in my mind the only road that pointed to hope, a way out of the impossible stalemate between my will and my father's. And as I waited I forgot that new shadows lay ahead; I forgot not to remember until it would be too late. But back then Maitimo's eyes were the edges of my world; and the right to belong to him in body as I already did in spirit was the only thing that mattered.
My mother kept her word: quietly her voice argued for my sake, my happiness held high before my father as the prize he could secure showing himself to be wiser and nobler than the hatred that had divided him from his brother-in-law, and from his blood. The name of Fëanáro was never spoken; nor did the thought of him ever fall much behind my concerns. Away in one of his expeditions to explore the limits of Aman, the far shores of Ekkaia uninhabited by Eldar or beast, he still knew nothing of what had come to pass. But a wise warrior shall face his battles one by one, and I sat to eat in front of my father knowing that this field would have to be conquered ere another be fought for.
In silence I endured, never asking, affecting not to suffer when Olorimo left the corridors for a room he locked me out of when we met in the house; pretending not to feel the bitter edge of his disapproval as his eyes grazed me and then swiftly looked away, as if offended by something unworthy of their gaze. Maitimo saw what was happening, and felt its bite even as I did; but I silenced his concern for me with kisses that awakened in us desires till then silent, and space and time were lost as his fingers caressed my skin.
Artanis did not discuss again the matter with my father, nor, indeed, with me. She had acquaintances in Valmar, and disappeared for long hours at their houses, bridling her own mistrust, as if surprised herself at which side she had chosen to stand for. When at night we lay down to sleep in my room, which we shared, she would say nothing of our wait, nor reveal to me what of my father's heart she could guess. She had chosen not to oppose me; but the reasons of her help remained sealed in her heart, behind the blue wall of her eyes.
My friend still; taking my hand when hesitation made it tremble. Often I have asked myself whether she ever regretted those days in Valmar of the bells, those days when still many could think of a different fate for Silmë of the Vanyar, a fate where Nelyafinwë Fëanárion would have been but a remembrance marred by a bitter end.
But on the third evening of our stay Olorimo filled his vessel with clear wine, and when he raised it it was with a tight smile on his lips.
"I drink to my daughter's health. And to the nephew of Finwë, her betrothed and beloved."
Joy inside my heart, like a flower blooming. But sadness in my mother's eyes, like a promise of frosts to come.
We left Valmar for Tirion the next day. There was a King to see, and a father returning to wait for. Arafinwë's offer was accepted, my own carriage readied with new gifts for my cousin. As I locked again my possessions in bags and trunks I looked around, the chamber that had always been the shell of my dreams, and felt that now it did not belong to me anymore. Ahead I had gone; and now my safety did no longer lie within these walls.
My luggage was brought downstairs, I let one last gaze hover about the furniture, like a veil dimming away the hours of glee, locking them in the past. Here I had been happy; now, I was alive. As I descended the stairs I shedded my old self, like a snake shall change its skin when new times come. And on the threshold, I hesitated; for for long ages this had been the only life I had known, and the future ahead was a path leading through darkness to an uncertain light. But then, past the threshold, waiting for me on his horse, I saw Maitimo; and my heart beat as it had not done before.
I had thought happy the years I had spent in Valmar, thinking myself complete, as my blood flowed quietly, a silent song. But now each of his caresses was a new birth, and the world was revealed in different and novel colours; not all of them pleasant, not all of them kind; but all of them real. I had opened my eyes. And if a day should come when a price should be demanded for this knowledge, for this intensity bordering on pain, I would pay it without regret.
It is a promise I have kept. Now I know love can flay you, forcing you to live without skin in a world that is harsh and raw. But when I look back on the evenness, the serene aloofness that was mine before that day in the gardens of Tirion, I repent not. For as long as we know not what it is to live this different life, than we can trick ourselves into thinking that we lack nothing; but once we have seen which heights belong to those who fly together, then any earth is but the aborted promise of a lost sky.
He had not seen me. I lingered one moment more, taking in his strength as he restrained his fiery horse, Laurelin's light setting on fire the red gold around his neck, the embroidery on the saddlecloth. Making his hair one flame in the gilded morning. A flame, yes. But no fell fire.
He turned to me, and as he saw me he smiled. Love that we nourish in secret shall live of its own bliss, and devour our heart with a raging, a desperate need. But love that we share will tell us that we have not lived in vain.
I stepped past the threshold and into the light, towards his offered hand.
My father did not come out to see us depart.
Our return in Tirion was greeted by Arafinwë with joy, and the High King called us to him the very next day. Finwë was beloved among his people, his wisdom trusted to solve all their disputes, his memory, rich with remembrances of a forsaken earth beneath the stars, one they committed their secrets to. Not from him had come the fire that lit the Fëanárions, for his spirit was proud, but tempered by gentleness, and in him was the capability for great love.
That was his undoing, for I would learn that Finwë was not one to live in eternal solitude, but not one to forget either. When he took in marriage Indis of the Vanyar he did so seeking an antidote to his pain, for the living flame that Mìriel his wife had been kept consuming him long after she had departed for those Halls that have no escape. And in her son he saw that flame alive; and his preference for Fëanáro, the love that he bore him he could never hide. Nolofinwë, father of Findekáno, who possessed not Arafinwë's meekness to accept such a state, lived in bitterness he could not conceal, and his love for his brother and his father was streaked with despair.
But Finwë's talent for loving enabled him to recognize such a passion in others; and when we sought his approval we met with his smile. For us he had had a sumptuous lunch prepared in the gardens of his palace in Tirion, and he would hardly lose time with a formal request for approval. He listened to Maitimo's speech, a kind light in his eye, before rising to embrace us both.
"Your happiness comes from the place hence mine was renewed, grandson. And Silmë, my niece in marriage, has long been dear to my heart, for all that are close to my queen are close to my own spirit. No, not a happier union could I have devised, had I set out to unite once again the kins of the Eldar, that too long have been sundered. I wish you great joy; but I see that between you it is already kindled."
There was a brightness in Finwë that exacted one's trust; and for that morning his fierce son, whose return could not now be much far, was forgotten as we ate and drank, and sang in the shade of the trees that made his garden a small wood, a place where to lie down and sleep, seeking wisdom and rest in undisturbed dreams.
When the midday had passed the King and Maitmo turned to long talks of the people of Tirion, of their hopes and their lives in that time where the King himself, I guessed in his eyes, foresaw a shadow that he refused to acknowledge. Indis then rose, and exchanging a glance with me, smiled to her husband.
"Gladness is in my heart at the thought that soon your blood and mine shall mingle again, Finwë, my husband and king; and yet for one last time let me take my own family for a private talk. It has been long since the last time I saw my niece without any other present; and I see that you shall not miss us."
Finwë smiled back.
"It would be impossible not to feel that the light of the day is diminished, when such a fair company leaves us. And yet your wishes become mine as soon as they leave your lips."
He took her hand, and kissed her gallantly on the fingers; and the shade of Indis' pleasure was a deeper shadow on her pale cheeks. I looked elsewhere, feeling the strength of their bond; and then I met Maitimo's eyes. We knew then that such was our only desire: to stand one day witnesses to the newly born love of others, while we celebrated the ages that ours had withstood. In that fair day, it seemed a simple thing to ask for.
We departed, seeking in silence our path beneath the canopy of leaves. Soon we left behind the others; and Indis turned to me, in her eyes an equal measure of pain and pleasure. The similarity she shared with my father stung me, their eyes the same violet riddle, their skin the alabaster that in me had been tempered by my mother's Telerin honey. Severe Indis looked, like a blade sharpened until it becomes scarcely visible; and unconquerable, untouchable. Of her granddaughters Aredhel alone had inherited such a quality, her beauty cold and distant, her glance steel. Now such a glance my aunt let rest on me, and I was pained.
"If reproach I am to find in your words, aunt, speak quickly, so that all the grief may pass through me like one flame. I would not dwell on your disapproval; for Olorimo your brother showed me its bitterest edge."
"As much I expected. You alone were begotten of his blood and his love with Falwing, and it was easy to foresee that the day you would leave him would be one of pain for him, even if he knew that your happiness should be put first."
"And yet had I married one born and raised in the city of the Maiar, he would not have hesitated, even if his heart regretted my departure."
Indis did not reply, but looked at me, her face blank. At long last, she spoke again.
"You have no need of me to confirm that you are right. Indeed, he would not have hesitated, but rejoiced to see his grandchildren grow in the wisdom of the Powers, and in the quiet of Valmar of the bells. But you chose a fiery light over the cold one that had nurtured you; and of such a light Olorimo has no understanding, but suspicion made sharp by fear."
We had come to a secluded spot, a mossy bench beneath the great, dark branches of a cedar. We sat, and my answer was uttered in a voice made heavy by melancholy, and bitter by bridled rage.
"But of such a light he knows nothing. He that found love on the edges of the Sea shall begrudge me a marriage into the kin of the King?"
"Many are unreasonable when it comes to those they love and hate; and there are not a few that would not call your father stubborn had he not given his consent. The Noldor burn of passions that the Vanyar never cared to cultivate; and where we take pride into our obedience, into the favour of the Powers that makes us one undistinguished heart that beats in unison, they find their fulfillment in the brilliance and the talent of the single Elf. And there are those who have called presumption such a pride."
"And yet Noldorin blood flows in my veins through my mother. This light is mine, even if I am of the Vanyar in the face of the world."
Indis smiled; a smile like the pale rising of Telperion when night comes.
"This Olorimo would like to forget; and this he cannot obliviate. He would have wished to keep close to him all those that he loved, and when I departed from Valmar his uncertainty was already born. But these years that have passed have strengthened him with resolve, and now he believes his mistrust to be rooted in truth."
She fell silent, and when I looked at her I saw her lips were pressed in a hard line. Her features had turned to stone; on her fair face a mask in which her grief had been petrified. I waited for her to resume talking, but when she would not I felt a cape of lead falling over our heads, the unspoken darkness made flesh and living threat.
"Aunt, you conceal your bitterness, and seek to pretend that you never had to suffer at the hands of Fëanáro, son of the king. But even if my father would not utter his name, still I knew that it was his shadow that made his face dark."
She brought her eyes to me; eyes calm and unyielding, but cold. Beaten ash in them, the broken hope of a lost harmony.
"You love, and thus you believe your love shall be enough to conquer all. I shall not tell you to mistrust it; but only to seek in yourself the resolve to stand for it. Olorimo restrained himself out of regard and affection for you, and yet you felt the bite of his disapproval; but Fëanáro shall burn, and bear you an hatred I cannot set in words, and that will be begotten of his hatred for me alone. It grieves me that such an ill should fall upon your shoulders to bear."
Anger shook me.
"It grieves me that none shall look at what lies before them, but only at the shadows of the past! For Nelyafinwë is not Fëanáro, nor his is the fell spirit that has scorched you, and sundered the Noldor. And I am not you, but other; our destinies we shall forge with our own hands, and with our own will seek the way to happiness or doom."
There was compassion in her eyes when she looked at me; and she raised a hand to caress my face. I tensed, but did not shirk her touch.
"I wish one could escape the boundaries of one's blood, and mould new and different shapes from those that one's ancestors knew. Some may indeed break such a chain; but none that bears in his spirit the mark of Fëanáro shall ever be free of his majesty, nor of his shadow."
I made no reply. In silence I vowed I would be one of those who break free; in silence I vowed Maitimo and I would live to walk in our own darkness, or our own light.
Of the many vows I have broken it is the one I regret the most.
He held the door open for me as we walked into the kitchen. Behind us the orchard stretched out with its rows of newborn leaves into the indolent light of another warm day, while inside the stone walls let out a cool, almost chilly air. All was silence; a cat raised her head from the unlit fireplace, her eyes emerald gleams in the black of her silky fur. Maitimo stroked her, and she purred in delight, pausing only to sniff suspiciously my dress. Arching her back, she rose, and jumped gracefully on the floor, soon disappearing past the door.
"Is no one here?"
"The twins alone still live with my mother, but this afternoon they are with my grandfather."
I nodded in silence, letting him guide me through a small corridor, and into a luminous room. Everywhere was the chaos of somebody who cared not for order as others might understand it; a chaos not without its own grace. Among open books and discarded robes, partly concealed by unbound papers stood small statues or hurried sketches, that yet betrayed an art that I should never had been able to master.
There were no paintings hanging from the walls, but fantastic shapes and writings had been etched and scratched and painted upon them, clashing colours that solved themselves in an unlikely harmony that still spelt home. Plants had made their house in mismatched vases, some elaborately carved, their sides engraved with countless, minute details; while others in their elegant severity shone. Laurelin's light poured from windows as tall as the wall, their fine glass as subtle as air itself.
Here one could think of being happy; for in the air was the touch of a gentle and yet strong spirit.
Had I been alone, I would have lingered in contemplation of the carvings, I would have browsed the books, and admired the sketches, sitting on the floor and feeling as if time had stopped. Maitimo saw my desire, and smiled; for he understood I took to the mind that had created such things even in its print on them, and foresaw that we should rejoice of our time together.
Taking my hand, he led me past the glass doors and through the garden, to a smaller building draped in the violet sheets of flowering wisteria. As we approached I saw that it had no walls, but columns sustaining its roof; and the columns were joined by glass screens. Through them I saw Nerdanel for the first time, as she toiled in the shaping of a tall sculpture. I hesitated, lest we should interrupt her work; but without doubt Maitimo walked to the one open screen, and knocked lightly on a column. His mother lifted her eyes from the marble, and when she saw us her face lit with the smile I loved in her son.
In Nerdanel's workshop reigned the order she cared not to maintain in her house, and light was a pool on the inlaid floor. Through this pool she walked to us, tying back without art her long hair. In its copper I recognized Maitimo's own flaming locks, and his green eyes, now I saw, were hers. But something more had Nerdanel given him: and that was the gentle fire of her spirit. Without waiting for us to be introduced, she took me by my shoulders: looking at me with a keenness that reminded me of Artanis, but which lacked my friend's cold edge. Her long gaze over, she embraced me.
We sat in curiously carved chairs, and she made us tea that she served in cups that had not been made to match. Her conversation was easy, her mind sharp; she asked of my family and of Valmar, and in her words no shadow could be found. Sometimes she would reach out to Maitimo, touching his shoulder with light fingertips, and they would share a look that told me that their bond was close and tight. And yet I was not excluded from it, for Nerdanel had the rare ability to partake of the joy of others, and make them share in her own; and the light that was kindled in Maitimo's eyes as he talked of our encounter seemed to suffice for her. No one thought of asking or giving permissions; and in that moment, in that place such a thing would have seemed unimportant, obsolete.
Time passed without a sound, light veering imperceptibly to silver, gold clinging to the tesserae of the mosaic beneath our feet, but its surrender now close. The cat came leisurely to join us, sitting in the lap of a carven sitting figure, a black bundle vibrating with regal authority as she surveyed us through half-closed eyelids. Soon we would take our leave; but it was easy to imagine coming back here, spending endless afternoons in chatter, or seeking the advice of one whose quiet wisdom was made only more compelling by her silent strength.
It was in that dusky hour when a day seems complete, its joy and its sorrows already laid out for the night in a tight knot, another fragment to add to one's tale, that footsteps echoed through the garden, and the cat bent her ears, silent and tense. Nerdanel's fingers tightened around her empty cup, and her eyes met Maitimo's in quick understanding. There was no time to ask; for in a moment the footsteps had reached the threshold, and when I turned I had no need to inquire the name of the one who had come.
His arms crossed, on his lips a mocking smile, Fëanaro son of Finwë leant against the column.
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.