5. Chapter Five
On his second visit, he realized, the room made him uncomfortable. It was too bright, too perfect.
“What are you thinking?” She faced the wall, studying a rough chunk of granite.
He flinched at the sound of her voice, and swallowed. “The workshop is a fine place. I have never—”
“Stop.” His grandmother held up an abrupt hand, brooking no defiance. “I will warn you once, and only once. My youngest student could tell you this.” Her moon-grey eyes were steadfast. “Never lie to me, and never try to deceive me. If you do, you will leave. No exceptions.”
Lies have saved me many times. The thought emerged unbidden. It was true. Glancing lies to Annatar, unwitting lies to his people, guilt-ridden lies to even Galadriel herself. If they saved another from pain, lies were worth the telling. But he was tired of lies: tired of covering up, of hiding from the truth, of always making himself appear better than he really was. There was too much deceit, too many half-truths and vital things left concealed than he could reckon.
“Would you like my oath on it?” Celebrimbor asked.
Nerdanel snorted, dragging a hand along the table. “I believe our family has done badly with oaths. I will settle for the truth. What do you really think about my shop?”
The words tumbled out of his mouth before he could stop them. “You work here, in this room? How? This room does not have the soul of a true craftsman. It is a blank canvas awaiting a master.
“You act like a great artist. If you truly work here, I can tell you that you are not! Nothing more than a talented hypocrite! This—”
Celebrimbor was thoroughly thrown off balance. Where was the indomitable woman of half a minute before? The master artist? His iron-willed grandmother? They all had no position in this pensive face.
“You are like him, you know. More than you think.”
“No—” She waved an impatient hand. “Fëanáro. Your grandfather.”
The blood froze in his veins.
You are more like him than you think.
More like the Kinslayer. More like the fool. More like he who led his people to downfall.
Celebrimbor had ruined Eregion. He had failed Galadriel, betrayed his people, and died in torment. His grandmother hated him, saw her exiled husband when she looked at him, and would never trust him.
Beleriand ruined. Nerdanel abandoned, a people deceived, and a death in agony.
“I see him in you.”
He turned to his grandmother, thoughts whirling and flashing through his head like fire. How much, how much did she see in him? Did she see Celebrimbor the traitor? The fool, the proud, the mighty?
“Not completely like him, of course: I believe you are more tempered than he was.” A shadowy half-smile flitted across her face. “You have a capacity to change, to forgive. Fëanáro had that, yet no one ever saw it but me.”
“You…” His voice came out as a whisper. He coughed. “You still love him.”
“Love him…?” Nerdanel frowned, tilting her head thoughtfully.
Can she still love him? Celebrimbor wondered. Is it even possible? He betrayed her, scorned her: and beyond even his utter death, she loves him.
“I do.” Her voice was soft, and sad. “Though in a different way.”
“How?” he wondered, almost to himself. “He almost ruined you… How can you bear to love someone who did that?”
Nerdanel turned away, facing the wall again. Absently, she pulled the braid of coppery hair over her shoulder, and began to loosen the heavy strands.
A husband, seven sons, and countless betrayals. Does she wake to nightmares of guilt, even now? For he knew, from the long years spent in Mandos, that time does not dull guilt: it only teaches one how to bear it more easily.
After a few minutes of pensive silence, she gave a brittle smile. “Love is not meant to be explained. Merely accepted for what it is. It cannot be perfect, nor can it always make you happy.”
Like Galadriel, he thought. I cannot even explain why I love her. “In the dark hours—” He paused, searching for words. Of course, there are few things one can say to a grandmother one has only just met. “How did you reach this acceptance?”
Nerdanel looked surprised. “Time heals all,” she responded. “It made me whole again.”
“No, no.” Celebrimbor was frustrated. How to express such a question? “In your worst hours, when all your flaws and burdens come back to haunt you, what brings you back from the edge of the void?”
“Ahhh.” She raised an eyebrow. “The secret to my seeming peacefulness?”
She leaned back against the table, studying him intently. “You ask far too many questions for one so young. Where were you trained, and by whom?” The look of mingled dismay and disbelief on his face must have been obvious, for Nerdanel burst into wild laughter. “Humor me.”
Celebrimbor managed a tentative smile. “My father. And Telchar of Nogrod.”
His grandmother sniffed. “Of all my sons, Curufin was ever the most accomplished craftsman. Who was Telchar?”
“One of the Naugrim.”
The focused, scrutinizing expression on Nerdanel’s face made Celebrimbor shift uneasily.
“Fëanáro would have voluntarily surrendered the Silmarils before accepting the help of one of the Naucalië.” She walked briskly over to the door, giving him a pointed look. “Leave.”
“I expect you here early tomorrow morning. You will be my newest apprentice. The usual term of stay is one year.”
“Apprentice?” Celebrimbor spluttered. “I have been a master craftsman—”
“Everyone starts as an apprentice here. No arguments.” Nerdanel was over by the forge then, stoking the fires with wood, and giving the bellows a few pushes. “If you want to find another school, you are free to do so.”
“Do you promise to tell me of my family, and why you disliked me so?”
“I make no promises. Come back tomorrow, and perhaps I shall tell you then.”
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.