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The Steel  by Aldwen

Notes

A story from Valinor, set at the end of the Noontide, shortly before all evil things came to pass.  Through the depicted events, through the contrast of light-heartedness and foreboding, I have attempted to show the slow and inevitable advance of Darkness.

This story is consistent with the others I have published. The person- and place-names are in their Quenya forms. Aldanwë, the POV character, is mine, all others belong to Tolkien.

Ellynn, thank you so much for beta-reading, excellent suggestions and encouragement!! I appreciate that deeply!


Fëanáro - Fëanor

Maitimo – Maedhros (in this story only his mother-name is used)

Makalaurë – Maglor

Tyelkormo – Celegorm

Morifinwë - Caranthir

Curufinwë – Curufin

Pityafinwë - Amrod

Telufinwë - Amras

Tyelperinquar – Celebrimbor

Valinórë – Valinor

Amil – mother

Atar - father

Endórë – Middle-earth

 

 

I come to Formenos at the Mingling of Lights. A soft glow is welling over the hill plain, and edges of each blade of grass seem to shed gold and silver sparkles. The Light is so gentle here, much more so than in Tirion, and when I raise my eyes towards the sky, I see stars glittering faintly through the thin veil of Treelight.

Further north, the stars will be even brighter. North is where I am heading, to the twilit regions of Aman, to see what kind of plants grow there and to learn of their uses. But if my road leads past my friend’s house, should I pass by without entering?

I climb the last hillock, and below, encircled by sparse woodlands and a constellation of small lakes and ponds, is Fëanáro’s house. Somehow, it looks different now than before. At first, I do not understand what makes this difference, but when I suddenly realize, I halt in my step. There is a wall around Formenos now.

It is nothing like the delicate marble lace or curved metal fences that sometimes enclose houses and gardens in Tirion. It is a proper wall, made of solid stone, more than twice my height. Is it built for adornment? I find it strange, even though intricate ornaments run along its upper part. A faint feeling of unease stirs in my heart as I descend the hillock and approach the great gate. It stands open, and I pass through.

Within the walls, I see no change from what I recall: stately buildings of white or pale grey stone, trees and gardens interspersed between them. Voices drift from the gardens, and music and sudden laughter. Everything is as I remember it.

“Aldanwë, my friend! This is a surprise indeed! Unexpected and pleasant surprise!”

It is Fëanáro’s deep voice, and there he is himself, swiftly stepping down the short flight of stone stairs. His garment is careless, his hair – hastily braided; likely he comes from one of his workshops where he may have spent several changes of Treelight. But his gaze is as sharp and piercing as ever, and a swift smile lights up his face.

“Welcome to Formenos!” He draws me in embrace, but then steps back with an embarrassed laugh. “I come from the forge; I may have ruined your clothing!”

“Having a smith for a best friend has taught me something, at least not to wear my finest coat when visiting him,” I reply.

Fëanáro laughs, and his laughter is as compelling as everything he does, and I find myself laughing along with him. But then he falls silent, takes a step back and looks at me closely.

“I am glad to see you, Aldanwë. Truly. But, as I already said, I am surprised also. I would not expect you to travel around now, at least not alone. How fares your betrothed? Is she well?”

I was expecting this question. The dull ache in my chest I had succeeded to silence to some measure, now surfaces again, and I turn away to hide my grief.

“Aldanwë?” My friend’s voice is now concerned.

“She is… well.” The true care on Fëanáro’s face nearly breaks my assumed composure, and my voice slightly falters, despite my attempt to keep it steady. ”The betrothal did not happen. Her heart is elsewhere.”

Fëanáro’s eyes flash. “How dare she toy with your feelings so?”

“She did nothing like that, Fëanáro. These were my own wild hopes. I presumed too much. I mistook affection of a sister for tenderness of a lover. I made my own dream into something that it was not.”

He nods, still frowning. “I regret, Aldanwë. I truly regret.”

“I know.” And that is true; I know his compassion to be sincere. Too well my friend is acquainted with grief and, having suffered loss himself, he keenly feels the suffering of others. “But there is nothing to be done. Such is life. As you see, I now travel around to heal my broken heart,” I add with a wry smile.

Fëanáro looks at me with heartfelt sympathy. “I regret,” he repeats once again, then leads me into the house. “But I am glad to have you in Formenos, either in joy or in sorrow. Stay here awhile. Rest. Mayhap you will soon find peace of mind. And one day, mayhap you will find love too.”

“We shall see.”

I put forth all my power to dispel the sadness in my voice and on my face, but I clearly know there is none other for me. She was my heart’s desire. I shall seek no one else. And there is no deceiving Fëanáro. At the doors to my room he halts and lays his hand on my arm.

“Ai, Aldanwë,” he says quietly and sadly with a shake of his head. “I do not know what to say of this.”

“Then say nothing,” I reply, deeply moved. “Allow me to rest under your roof for a while. Sit with me in the garden. That will be enough, Fëanáro.”

“Yes.” He nods and lightly squeezes my arm. “Rest, my friend. If you wish, I can ask that meal is sent to your room. Or you can join us all in the hall later. Everyone is here, the usual crowd. I hope they will not tire you.”

He leaves. I enter the room, set down my packs and, despite sadness, smile to myself. ‘The usual crowd’ likely refers to all his sons, as well as the families of those two who already have them – Curufinwë and Makalaurë.

I wash off the dust from the road and then decide to join the others downstairs. And I am glad to have done so. Fëanáro’s family greets and welcomes me warmly; there is laughter, there is cheer, and there are conversations where everyone is speaking with everyone around the large table, laden with the finest fare.

“Where is Maitimo?” suddenly asks Nerdanel.

Indeed, he is the only one missing of those whom I would expect to be here.

“This is strange.” Fëanáro frowns, looking at his eldest son’s empty seat. “He was missing at the previous meals also. I do not recall him speaking of his intention to be away for so long.”

“He may have gone on one of his wanderings, father. Perhaps some message came that there were new people around, new stories to be heard, and he departed in haste, too excited to tell us,” suggests Makalaurë.

Maitimo’s passion is stories from the Twilit Years, tales of our people’s journey to Valinórë. He has travelled all over the Blessed Realm to listen to them and to set them in writing; he has an entire shelf stacked full of notebooks where these things are recorded.

Still, Fëanáro is not convinced. “But he usually takes Tyelperinquar with him when he goes to visit the dwellings.”

“Tyelperinquar was busy in the forge. So Maitimo may have decided to go alone this time,” says Curufinwë.

His son shakes his head in surprise. “But I…”

Curufinwë interrupts him. “I thought you might be busy, and I may have said so to Maitimo.”

Tyelperinquar nods, but his expression is confused.

I look around. Fëanáro has already turned his attention to other matters, but there is something going on between his sons. Makalaurë and Curufinwë’s eyes glitter with mirth; their wives speak softly to one another, then giggle. Morifinwë exchanges a meaningful glance with Tyelkormo. The twins whisper together. They know or at least guess where their brother is. And they keep it secret.

Later, as the golden light of Laurelin is dimming but Telperion’s silver glow is growing brighter, I sit on the balcony, overgrown with blossoming vines. The fragrance of flowers fills the air, birds sing in the trees, and faint stars shimmer above through the veil of Treelight. Peace settles in my heart. I am glad I travelled to Formenos.

Suddenly there are steps and voices in the garden below. I can clearly see them from my place, both eldest sons of Fëanáro, as they sit down on a stone bench, enclosed by blooming roses. Curiosity, sparked by the exchange between the brothers during the meal, overcomes my embarrassment at eavesdropping, and I remain quietly sitting on the balcony, hidden, as I hope, by the carpet of creepers.

“Where have you been, Maitimo?” asks Makalaurë.

“There…” his brother replies with an uncertain wave of his hand. His voice is quiet, dreamy. “On the plains beyond the woodland. There the Treelight is faint, and stars glow large and bright in a sky of blue velvet. Their reflections fall in countless clear pools and shimmer on the surface of small rivulets that wind their way towards the lake. Cold and sweet are the waters of those streams, and the reeds on the waterside whisper tales of endless journeys, of searching and of finding.”

Maitimo falls silent, his gaze remote, his mind obviously still in the place from where he has just returned.

“It sounds like a beautiful place,” Makalaurë says after a while of silence, seemingly enchanted by his brother’s words. “Were you alone?” His voice is slightly teasing now.

“I…” Maitimo turns towards him abruptly, then sighs and shakes his head. “No. I was not alone.”

Makalaurë smiles. “I am glad you could share this beauty with someone… you love,” he says gently.

Embarrassment dawns on Maitimo’s face. “Does everyone know then?”

“Everyone, save the children and our parents,” replies Makalaurë. “Fear not, we shall keep your secret until you are yourself ready to reveal it.” He adds reassuringly, seeing the dismayed look in his brother’s eyes. “Even though we do not understand the secrecy from your part.”

“If I only knew she would be welcomed with kindness.” Maitimo lowers his head. “I do not speak of you, Makalaurë, or any of our brothers, or our mother. But… father loves the Vanyar little. He has spoken scornfully of Ingwë, their King. So…”

He falls silent with a sigh. Makalaurë rests his hand on his brother’s shoulder.

“Father may love the Vanyar little, but he loves you,” he says earnestly. “I cannot think of any reason why he would stand in the way of your happiness, Maitimo. Speak with him, and you shall see.”

Maitimo looks up at him and smiles uncertainly.

“I so wish to be with her,” he says after a while of silence. “To walk beside her, to see her beloved face whenever I wake. We wandered the starlit plains, brother, so far that the Treelight was distant and dim, but the stars of Varda shone bright and clear above our heads. The grass was long and soft, and golden flowers swayed on slender stems. Their blossoms I twined in her hair, and then we lay side by side in the grass and watched the sky. Yet I think I looked at her more than I looked at the stars.”

His words are quiet, but they come swiftly; his voice trembles a little, and I see his eyes shining in the growing silver light. He falls silent for a while, then speaks again hesitantly.

“Tell me, Makalaurë… how is it? How is it… to be wed?”

“Ai, Maitimo, how do I tell you that?” Makalaurë laughs, taking his brother’s hands. “For us, it has been like two themes intertwined in the same music, like verse and melody woven in the same song. It is surely something else for Curufinwë and Sílwen. Something different for Amil and Atar. It will be something other for you both.”

“I wish to learn that.” Maitimo’s voice is little more than a whisper.

“Very well.” Makalaurë rises from the bench and resolutely pulls his brother to his feet. “Then go speak with father. He should be in the smithy. I heard him say he would still work after the meal.”

Maitimo makes a few steps after him, but then stops abruptly, as if grasping the full meaning of his brother’s words in that moment.

“Makalaurë, no!” A slight note of terror enters his voice. “I cannot speak with him now!”

“Why not?” Makalaurë calmly asks.

“For… I have not thought of what to say…! Of the right words to convince him!”

“You need no other words than those you spoke to me,” replies Makalaurë. “Were you to tell him just that or even a part of that, the look on your face would be enough. This is as good a chance as any. Come, I shall accompany you to the smithy. Or…” He looks at his elder brother with narrowed eyes. “Is she not worth the effort?”

Maitimo accepts the challenge. He pulls himself straighter, and determination flickers in his gaze.

“Oh, she is,” he says firmly. “She most certainly is.”

With sure steps he leaves the garden, and his brother follows him. But ere disappearing behind the bend of the path, Makalaurë rises his face towards my balcony and sets his finger against his lips in a warning of silence. Then he smiles and waves his hand. Apparently, the cover of vines has not provided enough concealment.

I rise, enter the room and sit down on the bed fighting embarrassment and a faint sense of bitterness. I should feel joy for the happiness of my friend’s child. And yet, Maitimo’s words, the look in his eyes, the tremor in his voice… All that brings to my memory my own feelings but a short while ago. The silver glow welling through the window is dazzling, and I close my eyes. After a while I realize that my cheeks are wet with tears. I lay down and press my face into the pillow.

Laurelin is in full glow again when I awake, rested and refreshed. With the beauty and peace around, it somehow seems unfitting to grieve, and the golden glow seals my determination at least to try to forget my sorrows.

Fëanáro’s presence certainly helps. Even as I have asked him, so he does. He walks with me in the gardens. He speaks with me. And, at whiles, he sits silent and listens to me speaking, and often he even refrains from giving his thoughts unasked. I smile to myself as I notice that. I know the effort it costs my friend.

“Tell me of the news in Tirion,” Fëanáro asks, as we sit upon one of the little hillocks encircling Formenos and watch the small pools as netted jewels glittering below. “How fares my father?”

“King Finwë is well,” I reply. “I saw him shortly before my departure; the new fountain was finished in the main square and filled with water for the first time. There was a feast.”

“I know, I received an invitation.” My friend frowns; his voice is slightly irritated.

“Why did you not attend? It was a lovely event,” I say, annoyed by Fëanáro’s attitude towards his family. “The King was clearly disappointed by your and your family’s absence. We missed Makalaurë’s music, even though lady Indis sang most beautifully. And Nolofinwë and Arafinwë, they also…”

“Speak not of them!” Instead of irritation, true anger now flashes in his eyes as he turns towards me abruptly.

“Fëanáro, lady Indis has ever been kind towards you. And your brothers…”

“Half-brothers!” He glares at me.

“Very well, half-brothers, if you so wish. They are deeply hurt by your resentful bearing.”

He sits silent, eyes bent on the rippling water of the nearest lake, brow furrowed, lips pressed together in a thin line. Sadness fills my heart at the thought how much love and companionship my friend denies himself.

“Will you not let go of this enmity, Fëanáro?” I quietly ask. “You should spend more time with them; then you would see that they love and respect you. You would see that they are worthy of your love also.”

He turns towards me and I see hesitation in his eyes, but only for a while shorter than a heartbeat.

“They are not important,” he then says with a shrug. “And the city wearies me. Let us speak of something else.”

I nod. We speak of other things, until I make up my mind to ask the question that has burned on my lips since I arrived.

“Why the wall, Fëanáro? What is its purpose?”

Startled, he turns towards me. His look becomes guarded.

“Do you not find it beautiful?” he asks at length.

“Oh, beautiful it is, certainly. But it was not built for beauty in the first place, was it?” I do not let go of his gaze.

A shadow passes his face, and he shakes his head.

“Then why?” When he sits silent, I sigh in exasperation. “Fëanáro, you can tell me. I am your friend.”

“You will think me a fool.”

“I will not.”

His sharp, bright eyes consider me closely. Then, hesitantly, he speaks.

“A shadow has been growing on my mind, Aldanwë. I recall how it started, some time ago now. I was in my father’s house in Tirion, standing upon the high tower and watching the gold and silver light mingling in the distance. Suddenly all grew dim around me, and a strange, terrifying feeling arose in my heart, a feeling that the peace and the beauty we now enjoy is but a passing dream from which we are to wake to a world full of darkness and terror. It was so overwhelming that I swayed and seized the railing to steady myself. That foreboding has not returned since, but the memory of it has not faded. It was after that when I started pondering how to preserve the holy Light of the Trees. That is why I made the Silmarils, Aldanwë. The Light is locked within them now… should some disaster happen. And they are safely stored.” He falls silent abruptly, his eyes narrow. “You do think me a fool, do you not?”

“No, Fëanáro.” I lay a reassuring hand on his arm. “Maybe too cautious. But certainly not a fool. Whether your fears are true, only time will tell. But there is no evil in taking precautions.”

“I am glad you see it this way,” he softly says. “I have told of this neither to Nerdanel, nor to the boys. I do not want to alarm them. It was, after all, only a passing thought with little clarity. I do not know what it portends. But whatever it is, I think Valinórë is not unassailable, though I know not who the enemy could be.”

“Let us hope that peace shall persist,” I say quietly.

He nods, but there is a shadow of doubt in his eyes. The feeling of unease I felt when arriving has returned. Fëanáro senses that.

“I regret my words brought fear to your heart,” he says. “But Formenos is indeed a safe place. Come, I will show you!”

We return to the house. Fëanáro leads me many steps down, and then we stand at the entrance to a secret chamber. It is locked.

“What is in there, Fëanáro?” I look at him with surprise. Locked doors are so unusual in Valinórë, and secret locked doors – even more so.

“The treasures of the Noldor.”

Fëanáro lays his hand on the lock, and it clicks open. Then he pulls back the heavy doors, and we enter. Blue crystals of the lamps light up the space in the chamber. Heavy, ornate chests line its walls, containing, as I guess, the jewels made by Fëanáro’s people. On a stand amidst the room there is a casket of dark, polished wood. Fëanáro opens it, and I stand breathless, amazed, as always, by the beauty of the Silmarils. Here, in the dimly lit chamber, the light of the jewels seems even more radiant. They sparkle as if alive, as if rejoicing at their maker’s touch.

Fëanáro smiles. His eyes reflect the brilliance of his creation, his fingers caress the facets of the gems.

“They are my greatest work,” he quietly says. “I shall never make anything surpassing their beauty. The Treelight therein is entwined with the strands of my spirit.”

Despite the smile, his voice is sad. He sighs and closes the casket after the last long look at the gems, and it seems to me that, ere the lid clicks shut, the light of the Silmarils dulls a little, as if the stones, too, were grieving.

“So you see, Aldanwë, that this is a strong place,” says Fëanáro as we leave the vault. “Our greatest treasures are safe here.”

I nod and follow him upstairs. But the sense of disquiet is slow to leave me. Maybe the thought that the most beautiful things in Arda now lie locked in the darkness with none to see and to admire them is the reason. Or maybe it is the glint of steel in Fëanáro’s eyes when he speaks of the treasures of the Noldor.

I remain in Formenos longer than I had intended. In the care of my friend’s family my grief is indeed lessened, and also my unrest slowly fades, as I see nothing but joy around me. As they have always done, Fëanáro’s sons play an occasional prank on one another, but now they also mercilessly tease their eldest brother. Just like their father, they have a way with words, and nothing is said clearly, merely in subtle hints, perceptible only to those in the know. Maitimo mostly listens to their jests in silence, blushing, and only rarely throws some witty reply back at his brothers. But the glow of happiness in his eyes speaks for itself, and from that, as well as from his parents’ ill-concealed amusement, I conclude that his conversation with Fëanáro has gone well.

Fëanáro is busy. Still, he does not disappear in his smithy for days, like he has done other times when I visited. Instead, he has apparently decided that he must keep me company. But mere walks and conversations soon tire him and, when he considers me rested enough, he drags me along from workshop to workshop. There, he tells and explains everything, until I feel dazed by my friend’s lightning-swift thought, until I am drowning in the torrent of his vast knowledge and incomparable gift. I understand but a tiny part of what he says, and sometimes he realizes that, falls silent, laughs and apologizes. But more often he does not, and I do not mind, as this keeps me distracted from gloomy thoughts. Fëanáro’s creations are beyond wonderful, each and every one of them, be it a piece of jewellery or some item for the house, and I consider myself fortunate to discover the secrets of their making.

On those rare occasions when I am alone, I stray in the woodlands beneath the gently swaying boughs or sit on the banks of some lake listening to the sound of wind and the birdsong, losing myself in the tranquillity of Yavanna’s realm. Yet today a strong and sudden shower of rain forces me to flee indoors and seek shelter in one of the rooms on the ground floor. Tall shelves line the walls there, stacked full of things whose meaning and purpose I do not even attempt to guess, and the great wooden table is littered with parchments, covered in Fëanáro’s beautiful writing in the script he himself has devised. He rarely draws sketches for anything he makes, yet he oft describes the making, the materials, as well as the nature and use of the ready thing.

“Behold, Aldanwë, here is something I long wished to make!” I put down a sheet describing proportions of metals needed for different alloys and turn, even as Fëanáro storms into the room. He frees one corner of the table, carelessly pushing aside everything else, and sets there a wooden stand and upon it – a globe, of a size smaller than a head, such as may easily be held in two hands. “This is a palantír!”

“What does it do, Fëanáro?” I ask, looking at it curiously. The globe seems to be made of glass or crystal. It is smooth and dark, but at a closer look I see something flickering faintly in its depths. “You named it the ‘far-seeing’. What does it see?”

“Whatever you want! It shows what you want to see, my friend!” Fëanáro’s eyes shine in excitement. “Look!”

He sits down and sets his hands on the sides of the globe, and at once the glow within it grows brighter. I stand close beside him looking over his shoulder, and gasp in astonishment when suddenly an image appears beyond the crystal surface. It is small, but surprisingly sharp. White walls, reflecting the glow of Laurelin. Intricately carved doors. Cushioned seats beside a small fountain glittering with golden sparks. I recognize the place – one of the terraces of the King’s palace in Tirion. The doors open, and the tall figure of King Finwë appears.

“Now we can see from afar any place we bend our mind to.” Fëanáro looks at me with a wide smile. “We can reach the ones we love, no matter how far they are. For now, there is only an image, but when I will make other seeing stones, those who have them will be able to speak with one another too!”

He turns back to the palantír now, and his smile fades at once. Finwë is alone no longer. His wife has joined him, and the stone shows them both sitting side by side on one of the cushioned seats, her head resting on his shoulder. Swift anger appears on Fëanáro’s face. He draws back his hands, as if the globe had scorched them, and rises abruptly. The seeing stone at once goes dark.

“This palantír is indeed a wonderful thing, Fëanáro!” I say to dispel his anger. “Even more so if there will be many of them!”

“Yes.” He forces himself to smile. “Yes, it is. You are right. Now, do you wish to look?”

“Gladly! What should I do?”

“Sit down, set your hands on the stone and think of a place you want to see.”

I do as he says. At my touch, the crystal starts to glow, and after a while of pondering my mind settles on one of the gardens in Tirion, the one I find fairest. At once, the image in the palantír clears, and I see a tiny reflection of a white garden path, overshadowed by blossoming bushes. Suddenly my heart skips a beat, as she who has been in my waking and sleeping dreams for so long, enters the picture. A wild hope seizes me – if she is still coming to this place whose beauty we once shared… maybe… just maybe… But almost at once I realize the self-deception. Her face radiates joy, not sadness, and then she turns and hastens towards one who emerges from around the corner. The picture blurs before my eyes. As he locks her in embrace, my hands release the stone, and the image fades altogether.

“I believe we both saw something we did not want to see,” says Fëanáro quietly after a while of heavy silence. “I regret my work added to your grief, Aldanwë.”

 “That was not your fault, my friend.” I brush away the uninvited tears.

“Still…”

He stands hesitant, unsure what to do, makes a step towards the door, as if to flee the embarrassment, but then decides otherwise and turns back towards me.

“Forgive me. My irritation, my grief – they seem so… so paltry in comparison to your sorrow.”

I shake my head. “Grief is grief. How shall we weigh yours against mine? Think no more of that. Rather tell me of the making of the seeing stones.”

Fëanáro’s explanations about the palantír have just crossed the borderline where I could still understand them, when suddenly we hear a sound of voices and hurried steps in the hallway. In a moment, the door is thrust open, and Pityafinwë rushes inside. His eyes are wide, full of fear.

“Father, Aldanwë, help! Telvo is injured!” he gasps.

Morifinwë strides after him, holding his youngest brother in his arms. Telufinwë’s eyes are closed, his face – pale. There is a bandage on his right leg above the knee, but the cloth is drenched in blood, and red drops fall to the floor.

“Lay him down!” Swiftly I gather my wits.

With a single quick motion Fëanáro sweeps to the floor everything that litters the table. The palantír falls down with a loud crack shattering several tiles and rolls into the corner. Morifinwë lays his brother on the table. Cautiously I untie the bandage, and blood spurts at once from the wound. I press the injury close, desperately looking around for anything I could use to staunch it. The blood-soaked cloth is not enough.

“That tablecloth! Fold it and give it to me! And those cushions!”

More things fall to the floor as Pityafinwë at once does as I say. I remove the old bandage and press the folded cloth to Telufinwë’s wound. Then I motion his twin to hold it firmly in place and set the cushions under the leg, raising the wounded limb up. The sight of the injury has brought cold to my heart. I have never seen anything like this. This is no bruise or shallow cut. Something terribly sharp has sliced through the flesh and blood vessels nearly to the bone. And, despite the bleeding has grown less, the new bandage becomes red too swiftly. Telvo’s face takes on a greyish hue. He has already lost much blood and is still losing it.

“Bring water! And the brown leather bag from my room; it stands in the corner! At once!”

“Yes!”

They do not need a reminder that haste is needed. Morifinwë rushes away. Pityafinwë is still holding the bandage to the wound, and his face is nearly as pale as that of his twin.

“Forgive me, Telvo, forgive me!” he repeats, tears streaming over his cheeks. “It was my fault. I was careless. It was not my intent to endanger you!”

At his words, Fëanáro turns and meets his son’s eyes. Pityafinwë lowers his head at the unspoken question.

“Forgive me, father,” he whispers. “I know we were not allowed to take them.”

A cloud of swift anger crosses Fëanáro’s face.

“I am at fault as much as my brother.”

Telvo has opened his eyes, full of pain and fear, his voice is quiet and laboured. His father’s face softens, and worry instead of anger appears in his eyes.

“At least you understand that now,” Fëanáro says quietly. “A cruel way to learn the cost of carelessness and disobedience.” He squeezes Pityafinwë’s shoulder reassuringly, then takes his youngest son’s hand. “All will be well. Your brother will be back with the remedies, and Aldanwë will treat your wound. All will be well.”

His voice trembles slightly. Despite the attempt, it lacks its usual certainty. Fëanáro is trying to comfort not only his children but also himself.

After what seems the hours but is probably only moments, Morifinwë returns, and after him his mother storms into the room. They have my bag with remedies, water and clean bandages.

Already at the door Nerdanel’s gaze falls on Fëanáro, and her eyes glint. “You and your wild fancies!”

Then she says no more, hastens to her son and takes his other hand, deliberately avoiding her husband’s eyes.

“I am sorry, Amil.” Telvo’ voice is weak and failing. “We did not want to…”

“Do not speak now, darling.” She interrupts him softly. “Save your strength. All will be well.” But there is no more conviction in her voice than in that of her husband.

During this exchange I have made a poultice that should stop the bleeding. Should. Whether it will, I do not know; I have never before treated a wound as deep as this one. Yet suddenly I recall something else I have learned in Lórien, a long time ago.

“Lady Nerdanel, have you a needle and a fine thread?”

Confusion appears on her face at first, but then she nods and hurries from the room, to return almost at once with a threaded needle.

“Telvo, I will stitch together the edges of the injury,” I say. “This will hurt, but I must do it at once, to stop the bleeding.” There is no time to make anything for the pain.

He blanches a little more but nods resolutely, and I remove the bandage and swiftly clean the wound. Then, willing my hands to remain steady, I take up the needle.

Telufinwë gasps as it first pierces his skin, but no other sound passes his lips. His hand clasps tightly his father’s fingers, but when I put the last stitches, his eyes close, and he goes limp. His parents and brothers raise terrified faces towards me.

“He is merely senseless. Because of pain.” I keep my voice as calm as I can. I put the poultice I have made over the stitches and bandage the leg. “He needs peace and rest now. And something to help renew the blood he has lost. I will make an infusion. He should drink it as soon as he wakes.”

“Thank you, Aldanwë!” There are tears in Nerdanel’s eyes. Her husband and sons echo her words.

“He will recover,” I say firmly. “Let us take him to his room.”

When Morifinwë lays his brother in bed, I note with immense relief that the bleeding has ceased and Telufinwë is breathing calmly and deeply.

“All will be well.” Now I can say that with conviction.

When the infusion is ready and set on the bedside table, I look around the room for a place to sit and wait for Telufinwë to wake. But Nerdanel restrains me.

“I will stay with my son, Aldanwë,” she says resolutely. “I will give him the draught and do whatever else is needed, you only have to tell me. You have done enough. We would be poor hosts to draw a guest into our misfortunes. Doubtlessly you did not imagine that during your stay here you will have to practice needlework.”

“That I did not, lady,” I reply with a smile. “Yet I think it was a fortunate thought and a good way to treat a wound so deep. Very well, if you would remain, I can leave, for a time. There is only the draught for now when he wakes; I will look to the injury later.”

Nerdanel nods, pulls a chair and sits down beside the bed. Then she starts to sing softly, a lullaby that I remember her singing to all her children. Morifinwë briefly lays a reassuring hand on her shoulder, then quietly leaves, but Pityafinwë settles in another chair in the corner; he will not be parted from his twin brother now.

As I turn to leave, I see Fëanáro hesitating, as if he were torn between a desire to remain with his son and a desire to flee his wife’s anger. At length he decides on going and follows me closely, as I step outside into the hallway. We walk in silence at first, but when we have passed around the corner I halt and look closely at my friend.

“What injured your son?”

“What injured your son?”

I am certain he knows. And all others know too. Moreover, Nerdanel blames her husband, not Pityafinwë. I am determined to solve this mystery, so I hold Fëanáro’s gaze now, awaiting his reply. He frowns and turns away, clearly unwilling to speak.

“Fëanáro!”

I allow a note of warning into my voice. I know well how skilful he is at eluding questions he does not want to answer. But today his mind is too fraught with worry for his child, so he looks back at me with a nod.

“You have a right to know. Come with me.”

Then he turns and goes forth swiftly, and I follow, my heart full of heavy foreboding.

Fëanáro leads me out of the house and further on, towards a long, low building that stands apart, close to the new wall. It is a strange building for it has no windows, merely strong, iron-clad doors with a heavy lock upon them. I greatly wonder at its design as we approach it. Is it a storage house of some kind? But why the locked door again?

We come close, and Fëanáro hesitates, as if unsure. I do not relent. Arms folded on my chest, I meet his gaze steadily. He surrenders. With a sigh he opens the lock, and we enter.

It is indeed a storage house, even as I have guessed. A dim light of crystal lamps illuminates the space, and tall shelves line the walls. I step closer, confused. The shelves seem to be stacked full of hunting gear. There are bows, arrows and short spears, as well as daggers of diverse sizes.

“Are you telling me that Telvo injured himself with a hunting dagger?” I ask incredulously. “Surely, Fëanáro, your son is too skilled for that! Besides, how was that his brother’s fault then?”

“No.” He sighs again. “I am not telling you that. It was not a hunting dagger.”

His tone makes me increasingly uneasy as I go further in the room. In the next shelf I see something very strange. Long, double-edged blades that end with a needle-sharp tip, with leather-bound hilts and wide crossbars that would protect hands of the one holding them. I take one from the shelf and study it closely, yet I cannot fathom its use. If it is for hunting, then – of what animal? The thin, sharp blade may well have left the deep wound on Pityo’s leg, but I still cannot imagine how that may have happened and how his brother is at fault. I turn the thing in my hands in confusion. And when the truth finally dawns on me, it is so terrible that my fingers go numb, and the blade falls to the floor with a loud clang.

“Did Pityafinwë injure his brother with this on purpose?” My voice is trembling.

“What?” Fëanáro looks at me, perhaps no less terrified than I am, then shakes his head fervently. “Not on purpose, Aldanwë, no! It was an unfortunate accident! They were not allowed to take the steel blades ere they have acquired sufficient skill with the wooden ones.”

Some time passes ere I grasp the full meaning of his words, and when I do, my anger flares up, sudden and bright.

“Sufficient skill? Sufficient skill for what, Fëanáro? For killing one another?” For I realize now - this is the sole possible purpose of these blades. This is the only way of using them. They are not for hunting. “Are you saying that your children are learning to wield these… these things against one another?” When Fëanáro stands silent, I seize him by the shoulders and shake violently. “Answer me! Are you teaching your sons to kill?”

Despite being taller and stronger, Fëanáro does nothing to stop me, to free himself from my hold; he merely stands there with downcast eyes. At length I shove him away from me, and he leans against the wall.

“They are not learning to kill, Aldanwë,” he replies wearily. “They are learning to defend themselves.”

“To defend themselves? Against what? Against that unseen threat you fear? How do you even know that these things…” I kick the hilt of the blade on the floor with disgust. “…that these things will be of any avail against that?”

“Swords,” he says quietly. “They are called swords.”

“Whatever they are called! And, wait…” I narrow my eyes. “You said you had told the boys nothing of your foreboding. Did you lie about that? Did you lie to me, Fëanáro?”

“No!” His eyes glint. “I did not lie! The swords have nothing to do with my foreboding. It is because of Endórë!”

“Endórë?”

Bewildered, I take a step back. Endórë is a place of legend, only seldom spoken of, save in those old stories Maitimo has gathered and recorded. None of us has seen it, for we both have been born in the Blessed Realm, and my parents and Fëanáro’s father have never told us of their abiding in the Great Lands and of their long journey to Valinórë. But now the name of the place alone brings an excited sparkle to Fëanáro’s eyes.

“Yes, Aldanwë, Endórë! I wish to journey thither, to explore it!”

“And for that you need all this?” I point towards the shelves. “For that one desire you would put the steel of death in the hands of your children? I do not understand you, Fëanáro. I do not recognize you anymore.” With these words I turn my back on him and leave the storage house.

I walk away from the cluster of houses, pass the gates and wander aimlessly through the sparse woodland beyond the newly built wall. I wander for a long time. Telperion’s silver gleam lessens and both lights mingle; only then I finally stop walking and sit down on the grass by one of the small lakes. Laurelin’s golden glow takes over and shimmers on the water, but to me it seems that the light has a reddish tinge to it. I close my eyes, but I cannot banish the pictures of my imagination. Cold glint of steel blades. Deep, bleeding wounds. Terrified faces. The feeling that a great evil is unleashed grows on me.

I do not know how much time has passed when I am at last pulled from my dark thoughts.

“Aldanwë,” speaks a quiet voice beside me. “Aldanwë, will you not at least listen to what I have to say?”

The pleading tone in Fëanáro’s voice is so unusual that I raise my eyes at last and nod slowly. “I will listen.”

“Thank you.”

He sits down beside me, but then there is a long silence. When he speaks at last, his voice is soft, hesitant.

“Maybe the cause was in Maitimo’s stories. But no, even before that, before I first heard them, I felt the restlessness, the lack of new challenges, of new sights, new places to explore. Valinórë smothers me, Aldanwë! It is a gilded cage – fair, yet loathsome! There is nothing I can do about that! I am cursed with this discontent, and the more I fight it, the more unbearable it becomes!” He covers his face with his hands and whispers, “Why am I like this? Why?”

A note of despair enters his voice, and I feel my anger somewhat fading. This land is too narrow for my friend’s restless spirit. Still, a long time passes ere I find any words, and even then, there is little sympathy in them.

“Like what, Fëanáro? Bound to a single goal and blind to everything else? Your desire to leave I can understand. But the rest? The weapons? I can neither understand, nor accept that. They are wicked. Evil. These things have been made to take lives. Why would you invent something like that? For what purpose?”

“Do not think it was an easy decision.” A shadow passes his face. “But the purpose is justified. The Great Lands are dangerous. There are wild beasts there and…”

“And who else? From what I have heard, there are Elves dwelling there too. Would you set the blades you have made against our kinsfolk?”

“Aldanwë, do not say such things!” Fëanáro’s face has blanched, his voice trembles. “How could we turn against our own people? But there are tales of other creatures in Endórë, creatures that are hostile and wield weapons. And there are rumours of another race coming. We do not know their intent.”

I rise, cross arms on my chest and look at him with narrowed eyes.

“This knowledge does not come from Maitimo’s stories, I presume.” He has the grace to nod, acknowledging the truth in my words. “Thus, I conclude that you have been listening to Melkor. What you now say sounds exactly like his tales.”

“I do not need Melkor to understand the perils that may inhabit a strange land, long abandoned by the Valar!” Fëanáro bristles, springing to his feet. “Yet I listen to all and scorn not any knowledge I may glean. He has dwelt there long. He should know.”

I merely shake my head. Melkor’s presence always fills me with a vague, uncertain sense of dread, despite his kind and humble bearing. I do not trust him one bit. Neither his words, nor intentions.

“I do not care from whom I learn of the peril,” Fëanáro repeats. “But the truth is that many of us are willing to leave, and I would not endanger them through carelessness.”

“You have already done that, Fëanáro,” I reply quietly. “The very existence of such weapons puts us all in danger. How can it be that you do not see that?”

I turn away and stare at the water, not seeing it. Endless terrifying possibilities unfold before my eyes one by one. Fëanáro may be the first to think of the weapon-making, but he will not be the last.

“I have considered it, Aldanwë,” Fëanáro is likely aware of my concerns. “Do not think I have not. We have forged in secret, and secret has been our learning also. I promise you that…”

“Do not give me promises you cannot keep, Fëanáro!” I cut him short.

He recoils at my words, and heavy silence lands between us again. I do not know how much time has passed ere Fëanáro speaks again, quietly and hesitantly.

“Have I lost a friend?”

“What?” I raise my eyes and see him standing very still a mere step away; only his hands are fiddling with the hem of his coat, rolling, then straightening it, then rolling again. His eyes are bent on my face, and his look is the look of one awaiting judgement. His apparent distress sweeps away the last of my anger. “Certainly not!”

Fëanáro‘s shoulders relax, his lips curve in a hint of a smile. “I am glad. So glad. I could not bear that. And… you are likely right. I admit, I may have acted rashly. Nerdanel said the same.”

“Allow me to guess – you told her nothing either.”

A faint blush covers his face. “Not at first. When she learned, she… she was furious.”

I smile wryly. I am aware of Nerdanel’s fiery temper and can well imagine her anger.

Encouraged, Fëanáro smiles too. “I dared not come home from the smithy for some time. She left me meals on a tray by the door. But then I convinced her.”

Now I laugh, for I can well imagine also the convincing and reconciliation, and he laughs too, glad and relieved. Then he speaks again of his desire to return to the land where our fathers awoke under stars, and his words call forth visions of vast plains under unveiled starlight, of seemingly sky-high mountains, of soft grass under the roof of forests. His words move me deeply, and I picture myself walking under those trees, treading soft and fragrant grass, listening to the voices of growing things. Fëanáro falls silent and watches me closely for a while with bright silver-grey eyes that resemble the light of Telperion, or maybe the light of the stars in the Outer Lands, and his question does not come as a surprise at all.

“Will you come with me to Endórë, Aldanwë?”

And I speak my consent ere I take time to think about it. A faint sense of irritation arises, but it fades as swiftly as it has appeared. Fëanáro has not done this on purpose. He is so happy now, so elated, he laughs and sets his arm around my shoulders.

“It will be wonderful, Aldanwë, you will see! A most wonderful adventure! And maybe these weapons will not be needed at all. But at least we shall be prepared.”

I smile and nod in consent, knowing that I would follow Fëanáro even if my own heart were not drawn towards Endórë. He is my best friend, and his family is my family too. And when I at last leave his house and travel to the northern mountains, I seek for plants that would counter all those things I deemed so improbable once – poison, blood loss, deep injuries. There may be many dangers awaiting us in Hither Lands. But we shall be prepared.

 

~ The End ~





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