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The Steel  by Aldwen

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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