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The Steel  by Aldwen

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.”





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