Fëanor and Nerdanel
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Another Man's Cage: 4. Chapter Four--Carnistir
When I see the Shape enter our gate, my brother Turko and I are swatting at each other with wooden swords that Atar made, playing at Beasts. As always, I am the vicious boar and Turko is the noble huntsman, and I suppose that Turko is winning too, but he hasn't called an end to the game yet, and so I keep charging and swatting at him and getting pushed to the ground. Until the Shape comes through our gate, that is. The Shape looks like an Elf. It has dark hair and is tall, broader in the shoulders than most of our people, and it wears a nice, clean set of white robes. That, right there, tells me that the Shape does not belong to our house. I let my wooden sword fall to my side and ignore Turko when he pushes his roughly to my throat, claiming victory, to stare at the shape as it walks up the path towards us. It leads a horse, which it ties loosely to a tree near the gate to graze. It looks like grandfather Finwë, but before I launch myself down the path and into the arms of a potential stranger, I want to be certain.
Turko, is that grandfather Finwë?
I look at him, but he is only staring at me with mixed triumph and annoyance, his wooden sword still poking in my throat. I smack at it and scowl at him, until I realize that I haven't spoken aloud. I tend to forget that thoughts have to slip from your mind and into your mouth, and then they have to be regurgitated into great lumps of words before others can understand you.
"Turko!" I shout. He hates when I call him that, but the name Tyelkormo is like a wriggling snake in my mouth. "Is that grandfather Finwë?"
"Where?" Turko's voice is smooth and rich, like honey, even at the callow age of fourteen.
"By the gate!" I screech at him in frustration, and he turns.
I feel his thought slam into me like a warm gust of wind. It is! We look at each other and set off running.
Grandfather Finwë hears our racing footsteps and turns as we slam into his legs, each of us wrapping our arms around a thigh like a tree trunk. Our dual impact doesn't even make him tremor but with laughter, and his hands ruffle our hair into mayhem. Grandfather Finwë is the biggest Elf I know. Atar is tall, but he is a twist of steel where Grandfather Finwë is a boulder.
Turko is shouting greetings at him, and I bite into his leg. I am kissed all the time, a hundred times a day, by Amil and Atar and Nelyo and sometimes Macalaurë—more rarely by Turko—but I think it more sincere to move past just the lips and add a good gnash of the teeth when you really want to show that you love someone.
And I really, really love grandfather Finwë, so I stretch my mouth as wide as it will go, imagining that I am like the snake that Turko caught one time, the snake that Nelyo had said could unhinge it's jaw to eat, and let the powdery taste of grandfather Finwë's robes fill my mouth.
"My, you bite hard for such a little one." I feel my feet leave the ground, and I am perched on his hip, over Turko, who is still standing on the ground, twisting a strand of his gold-colored hair and staring at me with a hard jaw and blue eyes brimming with contempt.
A lint ball is rolling around on my tongue, and I grimace until grandfather Finwë reaches past my lips, plucks it off, and flicks it away.
"That's what you get for biting," he chides and reaches down for Turko's hand. Turko is too big to carry around anymore, unless you are Macalaurë, who still falls for his feigned helplessness and lifts him up, even as he is bent backwards by Turko's weight.
Together, we walk up to the house.
"How fare you, my little fair and dark ones?" grandfather Finwë asks.
"I killed a vicious boar a minute ago," Turko boasts, telling of his triumph in our game of Beasts.
"Did you now?"
"Yep. Ran him right through with my sword. Cut his throat. There was blood everywhere."
"Is that so?"
"Well I suppose that your Atar will expect you to clean that up."
Turko shrugs. "Maybe. Probably he'll get Carnistir to do it. He was the boar who was dumb enough to die."
Grandfather Finwë is Atar's Atar. They look a lot alike but not entirely. They both have dark hair, though Atar's is darker, like the sky between the stars. They are both tall, but Atar is slender and lithe where grandfather Finwë is stoic and powerful. They both have gray eyes, but Atar's are brighter, like the center of a flame. Grandfather Finwë lives in Tirion, inside the walls, and we live outside. Grandfather Finwë is the king of the Noldor and Atar is the high prince (though Amil always says that he rarely acts like it).
Grandfather Finwë comes to our house every month or so—although riders appear more often, and sometimes Atar is summoned to counsel in Tirion—and his arrival is never announced. Atar deserts whatever is in his hands when grandfather Finwë arrives. I saw him leave a sword he was making for Manwë once, a beautiful gold thing with rubies in the hilt, with the last inch of the blade unfinished, twisted and ugly and ruined. The feeling that rolls off Atar when his Atar arrives is different than anything I have ever felt before. Once, I had gotten angry with Macalaurë and stormed off into the woods when he had his back turned; Laurelin waned and I got turned to where I didn't know my way home, and I sat trembling with my head between my knees; the raw, cold joy, on the edge of tears that I felt when Nelyo crunched through the bushes and rescued me is like that which pours off Atar whenever grandfather Finwë comes to visit.
Grandfather Finwë asks us now: "Is your Atar in his forge?"
Turko nods. "He is working with Macalaurë today."
I hate the forge when Macalaurë is working there. The hot, dry air, already uncomfortable, is saturated with his discontentment. Nelyo tolerates his day there—he likes to experiment with materials almost as much as Atar does—but poor Macalaurë suffers. He is not good at the work, and Atar is hard on him. He makes silly mistakes and hurts himself. I squirm to be free of grandfather Finwë before he makes me go in there, but he clutches me tighter, and I am like one of the flies that Turko pins between his thumbnail and the tabletop, wriggling and desperate and trapped.
The heat makes the air shimmer like water, but it is dry and makes my skin feel like paper. Breathing in, my lungs feel like they fill with hot dust. I put both hands over my face and cover my eyes, fearing that my tears will be sucked right out of them if I don't, and grandfather Finwë jiggles me and says, "Don't be afraid, little one."
Grandfather Finwë does not work in the forge. He is competent enough, Atar says, but his responsibility is to be king. But what does he do? I asked once. Atar is a smith and Amil is a sculptor and Nelyo is a loremaster, and I know what they do, but what does a king do? I didn't know any other kings, whereas I knew lots of smiths and sculptors and loremasters. Atar had told me that a king makes the world work so that the smiths and sculptors and loremasters can do what they do. I still hadn't understood. Atar had said that was fine. It is boring being king, he'd said.
Atar has his back to the door. Macalaurë faces him; his face is rumpled with displeasure, but he is intent and nodding, and Atar's voice cuts through the heavy air like a stream of molten steel. "You can see, Macalaurë, where you didn't hammer it thin enough, and that made it—" and Macalaurë's eyebrows wrinkle in until they almost seem to be touching in the middle. Nelyo had taken me hunting once, and he'd slain a deer, and as the animal had died, it had worn a look on its face identical to that which Macalaurë wears now: wounded resignation, a prayer for escape, even if to death. Macalaurë's misery wraps around me, and I cover my face again and try to hide, but it weasels into my throat and burns there, and I choke and sob.
That is what makes Atar turn and see grandfather Finwë standing there, and he drops his criticism of Macalaurë in mid-sentence and comes to us. I am dumped into Macalaurë's arms so that they can embrace, and at first, it makes me cry harder, for I fear that I may be smothered by his suffering, but my tears are cooled by the obvious relief. If he holds his baby brother in his arms, I realize—as does he—then he will not be expected to wield hammers and tongs and stand in dangerous places. And so he holds me close. He smells of ash and sweat and unease.
Turko is looking around eagerly, for it is his heart's desire to work beside Atar in this very forge, and Macalaurë rests his chin atop my head and we slip outside, under the pretense of quieting my tears. The hot summer day is cold now, after the dry heat of the forge, and Macalaurë sits on the cool, green grass and rests me in his lap. He does not fold me into his being like Atar and Nelyo do; I do not lose track of where my body ends and where his begins, but it is comfortable enough. "Hush, baby," he says, and he wipes away the tears that pool beneath my eyes with his thumbs. "I know. I hate it too."
There is a whoosh of hot air, and Atar and grandfather Finwë emerge from the forge with Turko squirming to dart between them. Atar has rolled his tunic to his shoulders, and his arms are bare and swept with soot. The same streaks his face where he has wiped at the sweat on his brow with dirty hands. He has restrained his hair off his face and neck with a long swatch of dark blue cloth, and his hair pokes out of the cloth at strange angles, like a porcupine. He still wears his leather smith's apron, though it has long been blackened by ash and dirt. Standing next to grandfather Finwë, regal and impeccable in his long white robes, it is hard to believe that Atar is his son.
Grandfather Finwë is presenting a sheaf of letters wrapped in a leather package. Atar looks at them with uneasy disdain, scratching his neck where a fly has landed. "This would all be so much easier if you would live in Tirion, with your people, Fëanáro," grandfather Finwë told him. "You could deal with these things one day at a time."
"I have not time to deal with letters and messages every day." Atar waves his hand as if contemptuous of such foolish wastes of time. "And they are your people, not mine."
"You command much admiration, Fëanáro, and loyalty quickly follows such. Your skills, your wisdom, your beautiful family…such are the gifts bestowed upon a high prince, and people know that."
Atar grabs the leather package from him, opens it, and begins to riffle through the letters. I see many-colored seals flicker through his fingers, seals that I have seen before in Tirion. My uncles, Atar's half-brothers.
"Some of the messages bear only good tidings. Your brothers' wives each conceived, only a few weeks apart. Nolofinwë's second son should be here before the winter. Arafinwë's should arrive with the Winter Festival, but that seems fitting for your brother's first child, don't you think?"
Atar makes a humming sound through his lips and ponders the letters that bear my uncles' seals but does not open them. "They are sons, then?" he says after a long moment.
"My half-sisters-in-law shall bear sons?"
"Yes, they both carry sons."
"Then your house shall be twice blessed."
I wiggle in Macalaurë's arms, for I suddenly have the urge to run to Atar and have him lift me so that no one can see his face twist the way it does, and he could press into my chest as I do his when I have fallen and hurt myself, and I would soak up his tears like a pillow.~oOo~
They retreat to the garden.
Turko and I are left in Macalaurë's care, and he is halfway jovial today, since grandfather Finwë saved him from the forge. I tug at his hand, looking back at the garden, but he ignores it and drags me along, singing some inane song that amuses Turko. We stop on the path, so that Turko can name the butterflies that dance in the meadow. Monarch. Swallowtail. Viceroy.
"How do you know these things?" Macalaurë asks, and I tug his hand, straining in the direction of the garden, but he jerks me back to his side without even a glance.
Turko reaches out his hand, and a yellow and black butterfly, skips along his fingertips. He laughs and races into the meadow. Macalaurë sighs—though not as audibly as usual—and we follow.
I wait for Turko to dive into a mud puddle (I know he's going to do it the moment I see his eyes alight on it; I wonder why Macalaurë doesn't likewise feel the warm slap of his joy—a wind in the face—and stop him) and for Macalaurë to become distracted by fishing him out. Then I escape, slipping into the tall grass and, letting its movement across my body match the whisper of the wind, and let it carry me back to the garden as it might a puff of dandelion seeds.
There, I become the shadows. I am the shadow; I am the darkness. My mind breathes these words. I do not know from where they had come—they come to me at night sometimes, from the darkness beyond the stars, slipping into my brain unbidden—but they are a powerful incantation, and I creep unseen into the garden.
A few years ago, Nelyo had become obsessed with growing rosebushes that would grow everycolor roses. He would hunker over books in the library, at the table at mealtimes, even in bed at night, and if asked to look away from his books for a moment, he would mutter, "I almost have it. I'm almost there," in a frantic, throaty voice. His early trials had been very unsuccessful, but Atar wouldn't let him destroy the infant aberrations, claiming that death is a decision best left to Ilúvatar, so Nelyo had planted them in the garden farthest from the house, where no one ever goes. But Atar and grandfather Finwë sit there now, on a stone bench across from one of Nelyo's splotchy orange gaffes, and I crouch beneath the bush, in the shadows, able to see them but knowing that they cannot see me.
I am the shadow.
I am the darkness.
Atar has removed the blue strip of cloth, and his hair pools unrestrained on his shoulders, except for a few uneven, tattered braids that keep the sides off his face. Amil's work, I know; her fingers pick over all of us constantly. The cloth is twisted in his hands. His hands are rarely still; if he is not making some craft or another, then he is scribbling in a ledger or riffling pages in one of Nelyo's books. He must have stopped at a fountain because most of the soot is gone from his face and hands, and his smith's apron is discarded over a rosebush with soupy green blossoms. The letters lay on the bench beside him. He has opened two, tearing through the colorful seals that belong to my uncles.
"So you shall be leaving for Formenos soon?" grandfather Finwë asks.
"In a week's time."
I feel my insides give a delighted squeeze. Formenos!
"So soon? Summer has not even arrived yet."
"Nerdanel and I have four apprentices this year that we must settle."
The delighted squeeze loosens into disappointment: the apprentices, who insist on coming to supper and make Nelyo act frantic and scrub Turko's and my hands and faces until they hurt. I had forgotten them.
"Shall you aid your brother in his request?"
The cloth is jerked tight between Atar's hands. "I know not." The silence between them is louder than shouting. Grandfather Finwë gazes at Atar, and I sense that he wants to say something more, but he does not. Atar studies the cloth in his hand and twists it around his fingers.
"It would aid him greatly," grandfather Finwë adds at last, his words tiptoeing across the space between them.
But the words, however delicate, must have bumped something inside Atar because his voice becomes loud and righteous. "I do not think well on those who cannot care for their own children. Nerdanel and I have four of our own—Nolofinwë has only one, for I do not count the son unborn—and never have they been in want of love or need."
"Fëanáro," says grandfather Finwë in a voice soaked with patience (he sounds so like Nelyo that I nearly fall from the bush in surprise), "his request has nothing to do with his inability to care for his son but rather his recognition that he cannot give to him the kind of instruction that you can easily provide. Findekáno is nearly the same age as Tyelkormo; would you wish any less an education for Tyelkormo? Nolofinwë is expert in matters of court, little more, and he desires that Findekáno become learned in all matters of art and lore. Your knowledge and skill exceeds that of the best tutors in Tirion. He comes to you, not to unload his burdens upon your hands, but in praise of that which he does not possess."
Like an elixir, grandfather Finwë's words soothe the poisonous contempt that oozes from Atar. "I have two apprentices and four sons, whom I teach," he protests still, but his voice is softer now. "Even that is too much. Were Nerdanel and I to conceive again, already we have decided that one of the apprentices would have to go to her father. I will not deny my sons for another. Any other."
"Then give Findekáno to Maitimo. Maitimo is exceptional in matters of science and lore and gracious enough to be a lord of my court. Indeed, I wish he would desire that pursuit, for the Noldor would thrive from his contributions. Though I have a feeling he will be too busy teaching his children and those of his brothers to pay much attention to politics."
A wan smile flits across Atar's lips, but still he worries the cloth in his hands.
"So he might as well learn now, wouldn't you say?" grandfather Finwë continues.
Atar hesitates. "I shall speak to Nerdanel," he says at last.
"With haste, I hope, for Nolofinwë will need time to prepare, should you decide to take Findekáno into your charge, and time to arrange another tutor, should you not."
Atar stiffens. "I shall send a messenger to Nolofinwë tomorrow."
Atar is angry. I can feel it. Only a few weeks old, I'd first learned to feel love, then anger. Love had drawn me in; it bathed me in gold; it soothed all ills. But anger grew spikes like untempered steel, and it repelled me or, if I got too close, it shot through me like cold stilettos. It hurts. The spikes that come from Atar now are small, and there is an aura of something else beneath them. Something I'd never sensed on anyone before. I lean forward without a sound to study him closer. He sits primly; the only clue to his tension is the strip of cloth that he winds around his hand as though bandaging an injury. But I can feel it, a throbbing emotion beneath the protective bristles of anger.
I lean back into the bushes and close my eyes. Inside my head is another set of eyes, and I open them, only instead of opening from the top, like my outside eyelids, these I slide open from the bottom. I draw them from my inside eyes like pulling a sheet off a body and feel my mind go to black. There is a bird twittering somewhere and a thorn nipping the back of my leg, but I ignore them and drink deeply of Atar with my inside eyes like one might smell a rose. I encounter the stipples of his anger—black and silver—and they sting me, but I push between them and delve for that which lies beneath, and I am filled with red light like fresh blood. Nauseous red. Red like the flesh that is revealed when trauma scrapes away the skin.
Grandfather Finwë's yellow light tickles the edge of Atar's, and I turn my attention to it next. Hopeful yellow, the color of the butterfly that danced in Turko's hand; it is trying to soothe Atar, to dilute the wounded red color, to turn it the color of Nelyo's rejected roses at least. Images flicker across the red: a white-clad woman in a garden, a gold marriage ring being slipped onto a pale and slender hand, a brown-haired little boy who leans on someone's knee, angry footsteps on the stairs. I turn to grandfather Finwë—
You should not be here, Carnistir! You do not belong in the private corners of one's mind!
The admonishment comes from the center of grandfather Finwë's yellow light, and it tears the sheet over my inside eyes and knocks my outside eyes open so that the rich colors disappear and there is only Atar and grandfather Finwë, sitting on the bench among Nelyo's roses. The breath is gone from my chest; I feel like I've imploded. Never has another's voice come into me with such purpose, such perception! I peer through the leaves, terrified, and see grandfather Finwë's glance skip across the rosebushes. His mouth has hardened. Atar tightens his arms against his body as if cold.
Did he see me? Had I been knocked from the shadow I'd woven around myself?
I am the shadow; I am the—I can't finish the incantation, for grandfather Finwë's eyes are resting on the orange rosebush, and I know he sees me, but his face has softened, and I feel hopeful doubt that it wasn't his voice from the light at all.
Carnistir, come forward.
Did he speak to me? The words are as clear as if spoken, but Atar does not move, does not look in my direction, so the words must have been in my head. Or were they in grandfather Finwë's head? Or in the space between the confines of our minds, the space that is filled with buzzing bees and leaves and splotchy orange roses? I hear myself mew like an animal wounded, and Atar's head swivels in my direction.
"Carnistir?" Inquisitive but edged with worry. I ease from the bushes. "Carnistir!"
Hands gather me, strong hands, warm hands, Atar's hands. I squeeze my eyes shut and weep. I feel his thumbs press against the bare skin of my ankles and my arms, and when I look at them through squinted eyes, they are spotted with blood.
"Where is Macalaurë?" Atar asks me. He sits me on his lap, on the bench; he is dabbing at my wounds with a white handkerchief that grandfather Finwë had handed him, red roses on white. I open my eyes a sliver and see grandfather Finwë watching me and know that he is not fooled into believing that my tears are caused by nips from the rosebush in which I'd been hiding. His face is grave, stern, and I can see why non-family finds him a bit fearful. "Atar, I swear," my Atar is saying to him (it always sounds a bit weird to hear Atar call grandfather Finwë "Atar," like he is talking to himself), "for all the responsibility that our eldest has, Macalaurë would lose his body if his spirit was not bound to it."
"Now Fëanáro," grandfather Finwë says, turning to Atar and sparing me from his reproachful gaze, "Macalaurë is still more than a decade shy of his majority, where Maitimo is only three years away. Looking after two young children is quite a responsibility for an Elf so young."
As though he knows we are speaking of him, Macalaurë hammers onto the garden path, his hair streaming behind him, his gate lurching a bit because Turko is perched triumphantly on his hip. Turko is slathered with mud, though Macalaurë has wiped most from his face and hands—even his hair is brown with it—and Macalaurë's clothes are streaked with brown. "There you are!" he shouts to me, and I don't need to open my inner eye to feel his hysteria writhing around me like a snake. He dumps Turko onto the ground—Turko immediately darts off to explore a trail of ants marching underneath the rosebushes—and kneels before me. "Atar, I'm sorry. You know how he is. He disappears like he was never even there. I turned for three seconds—three seconds!—and he was gone." He sees the bloody cloth in Atar's hand. "Oh, no. Did he hurt himself?" I can feel that he wants to touch me, to prod my wounds as Atar had done, but he cannot because of his muddy hands. I settle smugly against Atar's chest and smile at him.
"Why do you do this to me, Carnistir?" he asks me.
I can't tell you why Turko and I delight in tormenting Macalaurë so, but we do. Oh, do we. He is docile and kind—malleable—with the least flammable temper of anyone in our house—Amil included—and he probably would never be in a bit of trouble if not for Turko's and my antics. His color is gray, flat and even. I suppose that I like the splatters of brilliance when we distress him; I like the way his boyish features wrinkle comically, the way he gives us the satisfaction of hearing his voice hitch when he is upset.
"He is barely scratched," grandfather Finwë reassures Macalaurë before Atar has a chance to speak.
"I am so sorry, Atar. Grandfather Finwë. So sorry. I'll take him back now and leave you to your counsel." He wipes his hands on his trousers, smearing more mud on himself and reaches for me.
I yowl. I don't want to leave the warm security of Atar's arms—where I can listen to his private counsels with grandfather Finwë—for Macalaurë's muddy uneasiness.
"No, no," Atar says quickly, "he can stay with us."
Macalaurë settles back on his heels in nervous relief.
"Take Tyelkormo," Atar instructs, in a voice that sounds measured, gentle, but really crackles with irritation just below the surface. Macalaurë though, even with his trained musician's ears, does not hear it, and I watch his shoulders sag with relief. "Take him and put him in the bath. He's filthy."
"Yes. He dove into a mud puddle," Macalaurë explains, and his forehead pinches and wrinkles.
"And clean yourself up too," Atar goes on. "Your grandfather and I will keep Carnistir if you think you can handle Tyelkormo."
"Well, Nelyo—" Macalaurë begins hopefully, but Atar cuts him off: "Nelyo is busy today. He cannot have his work interrupted every day to watch his brothers. Your brothers. You have been given unexpected leave; I do not think it unreasonable to ask you to watch Tyelkormo."
"Yes, Atar." Macalaurë's voice is meek; his nod contrite. "I apologize again and bid you farewell." He nods again, and his eyes will not meet Atar's.
"That is well, Macalaurë," grandfather Finwë says quickly. "Farewell."
Macalaurë stands and gathers Turko into his arms and shuffles from the garden.
"You are hard on him," grandfather Finwë says once Macalaurë had left.
"I am hard on all of my sons," says Atar, "as you were hard on me. Yet my love for them exceeds what can be expressed in words. I would leap from Taniquetil for any one of them. As you would for me."
Grandfather Finwë ponders that and nods slowly. "Yes. I suppose I was hard on you, Fëanáro. It just looks harsher when you stand on the outside." A wry grin twists his lips. "And Macalaurë does not fight the way that you did."
"Nor does Nelyo, usually. Tyelkormo has a temper that dies as quickly as it rises. But this one—" he squeezes me into a smothering embrace and plants a loud kiss on my forehead— "this one is going to be my fighter."
I laugh and bite his thumb to prove his point. I taste my own blood and lick it in recoiling fascination.
Atar's voice softens as he cradles me, and I feel a sting as he dabs again at the scratches on my legs with the white cloth. "Do you think we should take him to the house? Tend his wounds?"
"Fëanáro, really," grandfather Finwë teases, "have you four sons? And you still worry over scratches? They shall be healed before you leave for Formenos, and he shall have acquired twenty more by then."
"I will have a dozen sons before I cease to worry over scratches," Atar says into my hair. "Maybe not even then."
Grandfather Finwë laughs. I close my eyes and it runs over me like water. I can hear Macalaurë in his voice. Nelyo too. "A dozen sons, Fëanáro? Does Nerdanel have any idea that you are so ambitious?"
"Nerdanel does not protest trying for a fifth. In fact, there are times when she instigates the attempt."
Grandfather Finwë laughs again, and Atar joins him this time. I twine a strand of Atar's hair, bored. I don't understand what is so extraordinary about my parents having four sons before reaching their hundredth birthdays. "So soon, Fëanáro?" grandfather Finwë asks. "If you were to beget a child tonight, little Carnistir would only be five years old when he—or she—was born."
"And Tyelkormo would be but fifteen without even Nelyo at his majority—five underage children, I know—but Nerdanel and I go not for those austere traditions: separate bedrooms and the like. We do not expect to conceive again until Carnistir is around ten—that seems to be the pattern—but would I beget another child tonight, we would call for celebration."
I pop the strand of Atar's hair into my mouth to taste it. It tastes like hair, a bit acrid from the forge, but I imagine that it tastes like the black licorice that we get when we visit Tirion, and I chew happily upon it.
"You sound like your mother, Fëanáro," grandfather Finwë says, and his tone is light, but I sense a careful hesitation in his words, like he is stepping onto a frozen pond. From Atar, I feel red emitting again, a sore reopened, and he tightens his arms around me until my shoulder explodes into a dull ache and I whimper.
Atar often does not know his own strength.
He loosens his hold on me and kisses my face—my forehead, my nose, my cheeks—as though to quiet my fussing, but I know that it is so he does not have to look at grandfather Finwë.
"Well, of course," Atar says. Hairline, temple, ear—my tears are stemmed, but his kisses do not cease. His voice is loud in my ear, like he is standing inside my head instead of holding me in his lap. "She loves you."
I am only four; I have only had a few lore lessons so far with Atar, but even I do not miss his deliberate misspeak, for one does not accidentally speak of the foreverdead in present tense.
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