Fëanor and Nerdanel
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Spirit of Fire: 8. Seven
As they approached the garden, he saw the listless body. Beautiful, she was, with a sad expression on her face. Never before had he set eyes on his paternal grandmother.
It was not going to be easy. Nerdanel knew that from the time she told her father she wished to accompany him. This was the first time Mahtan had travelled to Aulë's forge since the festival in Tirion. Several seasons had passed since that night – the longest she had not seen or spoken to Fëanor since they met – and she had much time to replay the events, plenty of opportunity to rethink and regret her words. What would have happened had she stayed and let the evening unfold? She would never know. Yet one more encounter with him still lay before her.
The ride was amiable, but quiet. She was deep in thought the entire journey, considering the words she would use, trying to anticipate his every possible reaction. Her father remained silent as well, either he was also lost in his thoughts or he could read her mood and chose to let her be.
Mahtan dismounted and she did the same. Only now that they walked their horses to the large stable on the edge of the ring of buildings did he speak to her.
"You are sure of what you want to do?"
"Yes, father." Nerdanel was sure; she just had to steel herself to do it. "I have to make amends with Fëanáro, to apologize."
Her father pressed his lips into a thin line. Although he had been fond of Fëanor as his pupil, something had changed in the interim. He never spoke ill of Fëanor, and was always a good listener when Nerdanel came to him, but she could not shake the feeling that he was satisfied that she appeared no longer to wish to pursue anything other than a cordial working relationship with the young smith. When she had asked to come with him, he was hesitant at first, but when she assured him she no longer felt aught towards Fëanor, he assented to let her join him.
Mahtan clasped her shoulder. "If you change your mind, you know where to find me – with Aulë in the main forge."
Nerdanel smiled grimly. "I cannot change my mind. Our paths are sure to cross again." A hint of worry crossed her father's face but as quickly as it appeared, it was gone. "We are, after all, both smiths. I need to ensure there will not be any animosity in any future dealings we may have."
Mahtan held her gaze a long moment before squeezing and releasing her shoulder. "If that is your wish, I bid you the best of luck." He pressed his lips together again, turned, and walked towards the largest of the buildings. Nerdanel took a deep breath, hoped for the best, and made for the building she knew to be the forge Aulë provided for his pupils.
The scene that greeted her when she crossed the threshold was not one she had expected. She stood gaping, unnoticed. He had eyes for naught but his work. He moved with a fluid grace, the muscles across his back rippled with every swing of the hammer. Nerdanel's reaction to seeing him again, and shirtless at that, caught her off guard; she thought the long seasons away from him had served to cool her feelings. She felt her cheeks flush and her pulse race as she continued to watch him move from the anvil to the fire and back with an ease that spoke of natural talent as well as much practice.
She broke away from the scene in front of her, spinning around. Once outside, she leaned back against the wall next to the doorway. She wiped a hand against her inexplicably damp forehead. From the heat of the forge, she told herself. For I no longer feel aught for him. Taking deep calming breaths, she turned once more and tentatively stepped into the doorway again.
This was not good! Her heart pounded wildly in her chest as she remembered how those muscles felt beneath her hands one Tree-lit night not all that long ago. What was it about him that unravelled every shred of control she had fought so hard to gain over her emotions? She took several breaths to calm herself for – racing heart or not – she needed to make amends before she left. And she could not allow herself to continue to react this strongly to him. With one final deep breath she stepped fully into the forge.
"Greetings…" He whirled around and her breath caught in her throat. So much for self control. He pressed his lips together quickly, but his features betrayed that she had startled him. He walked toward her, discarding his gloves and grabbing a towel off a table on the way to wipe the sweat off his brow.
She found she was unable to move or speak and silently berated herself for her lack of poise. Thankfully he did not appear to notice, so she resigned herself to stand mutely where she was.
"Nerdanel. I did not expect to see you here." She struggled not to let the coolness of his voice affect her and to ignore how he brushed the towel across his bare chest. "What brings you to this place?"
He stood in front of her now. Leaning towards her, he reached around her. Nerdanel felt the heat of his body despite the temperature of the forge and she let out a gasp. She saw his brows furrow as he looked at her and regretted that little slip.
His arm came back into view, grasping his shirt which had apparently been on the table behind her. As he slipped it over his head, she had a brief respite from his stony gaze. She looked at the ground and tried desperately to compose herself.
After a moment she raised her head, figuring it must be safe now that he was fully clothed. Unfortunately, his shirt was damp, clinging to his chest, the outline of his muscles still clearly visible. She dragged her gaze further up to his face. To her dismay, his eyes were narrowed with realization. His expression turned into an amused smirk.
She waited for him to say something but he just stood there with that smug look on his face, making an apology very difficult.
"I came to apologize, but I ought not to have. I do not know why I thought it a good idea to see you again," she spat before turning on her heel and storming out. She only made it a few steps out the door before she felt a hand on her arm, spinning her around. Captured in his steely glare, she did not struggle as he pushed her back against the cool stone wall of the building.
"Why do you always feign to despise me so?" Although his gaze was intense, it was only curious, not angry, which surprised Nerdanel, considering the temper she knew he possessed. He did not release her arm, but he did not hold it in a way that would hurt her.
"How do you know those are not my true feelings?"
Fëanor favoured her with a haughty half smile. "I can feel your pulse race beneath my hand. Not to mention how you …"
"I must return," Nerdanel interrupted, not wanting to hear him list the ways he saw through her carefully constructed mask of irritation. "My father will wonder what happened to me." She hoped mention of her father would deter him.
"Your father …" he mused, taking a step closer to her. "Is it for his benefit you attempt to mask your desire?" He leaned down to speak into her ear. "What would he say then, should he see us here?"
Nerdanel looked at the ground next to her. With his free hand Fëanor turned her chin so she had to look at him.
"What would he say were I to kiss you again?"
Angry at his bold advances and how his behaviour so completely unnerved her, she pulled out of his grasp and backed closer against the wall, and as far away from him as she could. "He would demand you release me," she replied hoarsely.
Undeterred, he pulled back just a little and cocked his head to one side. "Would you have me release you?" Nerdanel, feeling incapable of answering, remained silent. Fëanor let go of her arm but did not step away from her. In fact, he leaned closer. "There. You are free," he spoke quietly, his breath hot on her neck. "Go." He tilted his head so he could look in her eyes. "If you wish it, go."
Nerdanel stared at him, unable to move. Part of her screamed at herself to deny her feelings and leave, but she remained rooted to the spot. After a moment when she did not respond, he placed his hands against the wall on either side of her.
"Your father thinks I am a good student, and a talented smith." He raised his eyebrows. "Perhaps that is enough persuade him to allow me a union with his daughter."
Nerdanel’s mouth opened in shock at his words. "But I thought …"
"How could you not know I desire you?" he interrupted, shaking his head as he studied her face. "I can barely contain myself when I look upon you."
Nerdanel could not believe what he said. Terrified, thrilled and bewildered, she shook her head. "You merely want what you have not had."
"I have not had any. It is only you I desire."
Her stomach jumped and her breath caught at his words, but she continued to fight, though her voice was weaker. "What you cannot have, then."
"Can I not?" He stepped closer to her, their bodies now almost touching. "Deny me again and I might believe you."
Nerdanel knew she was trembling and hoped beyond hope that he could not see it.
"You should have gone," he continued, a warning note to his voice.
"Should I have?" she asked, her voice breathy to her ears. She swallowed to try and ease her parched mouth.
"If you do not desire me as much as I ache for you; if you truly are not disguising hidden longing with anger and frustration, then yes, you should have gone."
Neither of them moved nor spoke, their eyes locked with each other’s. Finally, Nerdanel summoned all her courage.
"I am still here." Even though Fëanor had laid his feelings bare before her, this was still the nearest she could bring herself to admitting how she felt for him, having fought and denied it for so long.
He moved even closer so his lips were next to her ear when he whispered, "Never claim you were not warned." Before she could respond, she felt his mouth on her neck. Tingling warmth flooded her. She tilted her head back to allow him more access. As he trailed hot lingering kisses from behind her ear down to her collarbone, her stomach clenched and her heart pounded. Convinced her legs would give out at any moment, she grabbed onto his shoulders for support.
He pulled away and caught her gaze. Nerdanel realized what she must look like; her breath coming in gasps and her head thrown back against the wall. He must be able to see the desire in her eyes, but it was beyond her to do anything about it at the moment.
"I need you, Nerdanel."
He bent down to her and she hungrily met his mouth with hers. As they kissed, he reached behind her, and, grabbing the back of her thighs just below her buttocks, lifted her up. She wrapped her legs around his waist and he carried her back into the forge, their mouths never separating. He sat her on the table, only breaking apart so he could remove his shirt once more. As she placed her hands on his chest, he found her mouth again. One hand pulled her hair from the loose knot, while the other wrapped around her waist, pulling her against him.
The sound of someone clearing their throat in the doorway startled Nerdanel and if her legs hadn’t been wrapped around Fëanor, she would have fallen off the table. Fëanor did not seem taken by surprise, but merely annoyed as he narrowed his eyes and slowly turned to the door. Nerdanel felt her cheeks flush when her eyes met those of the elf standing there.
"Atar!" she gasped. Unhurriedly, Fëanor backed away from her and she slid off the table. "I didn't expect you to be finished with Aulë so soon."
"Obviously." Mahtan's voice was not cold or disapproving, but Nerdanel wondered whether or not he condoned what he found here. As he walked towards her he inclined his head to acknowledge Fëanor.
"Fëanáro," he said coolly.
"Master Mahtan," Fëanor responded in the same manner. Mahtan gave him an inscrutable look before turning back to his daughter.
"Aulë wishes to speak with you as well."
Nerdanel glanced at Fëanor. His face did not reveal anything. "Of course." And then, slightly quieter so that only her father might hear, "Please give me a moment."
Mahtan eyed her warily, but consented with a nod. He gave Fëanor one more hard look before turning and walking out of the forge.
They both stood rooted to the ground. Finally, Fëanor walked over to the table where his shirt lay and retrieved it. As he went to put it back where it had been when Nerdanel entered, his eyes met hers.
"You are staying the night as a guest of Aulë?"
Nerdanel's stomach flipped, anticipating the intent behind the question.
"I am," she answered, hearing the waver in her voice.
"Good." She saw a flicker of a smile cross Fëanor's face. "If you can …" He paused as he tossed the shirt on the table. "If you wish, meet me back here once everyone has retired for the evening." He walked over, leaned in and awkwardly kissed her cheek. Without further word, he returned to his work.
What a long day, Nerdanel thought as she lay in her bed that evening, listening to the sounds coming in her window from the surrounding halls, heralding the end of the work-day. Much had been accomplished, but it had been difficult for Nerdanel to focus on any task asked of her, as her mind had continually drifted to this moment, when all the other elves retired for the evening, when she was to go back and see Fëanor again.
She was surprised not to run into him the rest of the day, but apparently he stayed mostly in his forge and none of her tasks had brought her close to that building. Even at dinner, when she hoped to see him in Aulë's halls for the evening meal, she was disappointed by his absence. When she asked Aulë if he was expected, Aulë had laughed his thunder bellow of a belly laugh.
"Fëanáro does not often take meals with us, unless it is required of him."
Her father had chuckled. "Too much time away from the forge? Food too much of a distraction from his work?"
When Nerdanel pointed out that Fëanor had always taken meals when he was a student of her father, Aulë and Mahtan exchanged the barest of glances before Mahtan had raised a knowing eyebrow at her. She knew what he was implying – that she was the reason – but was still not sure whether or not she agreed.
The sounds outside her window had died down and Nerdanel slipped quietly from her bed. She had debated whether to tell her father of her plans for the evening – she had never been one for sneaking around – but in the end decided against it. She didn't want her father to worry about her, and if he knew that she was with Fëanor, he most likely would.
She walked through the halls and out across the courtyard to the only forge that still flickered with firelight. She wondered if his was always the last lit, or if it was only because he was waiting for her. She chuckled to herself as she closed the last of the distance to the stone building. His was probably always the last lit.
He must have heard her coming for suddenly he appeared in the doorway. He wore a simple tunic and pants, and his hair was still pulled back into the tight plait he always wore in the forge. Yet standing in the doorway, framed by the firelight from within, Nerdanel was struck again with just how beautiful he was. She stopped walking and he came out to meet her, a warm smile on his face.
"Nerdanel, I am glad you came."
Taking her hands, he bent down and gently kissed her mouth. It was meant to be a greeting, but when he pulled away from her, she saw in his eyes what that simple kiss had done to him. For a long moment they stood, faces almost touching, before Fëanor took a step back. Nerdanel inhaled deeply to try and calm herself. She noticed that Fëanor did the same.
He smiled at her again, once more composed. "Come, let us walk. There are things I wish you to see."
Nerdanel glanced at the forge, where the fire flickered brightly inside. "But the fire…"
His response confirmed her earlier thoughts. "If I put it out, others might get suspicious as to why I am not working. No, it is safely contained. It will be all right."
Holding fast onto one of her hands, he guided her with the other to the path that led behind the forge and into the woods that surrounded the halls of Aulë. They walked in silence, which gave Nerdanel plenty of opportunity to turn frantic with the thoughts racing through her mind. Where was he taking her? What were his intentions? For that matter, what were her intentions, having come here tonight?
She received an answer soon enough. After they had walked up the path into the woods a ways, Fëanor stopped and drew her close to him.
"This is the first I wish for you to see." Fëanor pulled from a pocket in his tunic a silver necklace with a simple white pendant attached. "This I made for Indis."
Nerdanel was shocked. "Indis?"
Fëanor chuckled. "Yes, Indis." He sighed deeply. "I have had much time here, alone ..." He broke off and shook his head. "I love my father, and she is his wife. Despite my feelings for her, I am aware she makes him happy." He shrugged. "After long thought I decided to make an effort not to detest her completely."
Nerdanel was not sure how to respond. They stood in silence for a moment before he grabbed her hand and pulled her after him.
"Come, I must show you the gem in the starlight."
She ran after him – in his obvious excitement, he had lengthened his strides to a near-race – to a clearing in the woods. He turned around and held the necklace up for her to see once more. Nerdanel gasped. In the bright starlight the necklace was completely transformed. The pendant, which had been a colourless white, now blazed with blue and silver fire. It was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen.
"Oh…" She reached for the stone. Fëanor handed it to her and watched intently as she turned it over, making the jewel sparkle in different hues of silver and blue. "Oh, it's beautiful!" Regretfully, she handed the necklace back to him. "I have never seen the like."
Fëanor beamed. "No, you wouldn't have. There is only one other like it and as I have only recently crafted them both, you are the first to see either of them."
Nerdanel was still enraptured by gem, so it took a moment for his words to sink in.
"You crafted it?" Fëanor nodded, a broad smile still on his face. "Do you mean to tell me that this gem … you made it?"
Fëanor reached into his pocket. "I made this as well." He pressed his lips into a thin line and pulled his hand, clenched in a fist, out of his pocket. He extended his hand towards Nerdanel and opened it. In his palm was a silver ring with another of the fire stones set in it.
"This one is for you," he whispered.
Nerdanel stared at him. Words failed her. Fëanor took a step towards her.
"Do you know," he asked quietly, "how difficult it was to craft this without Aulë knowing?"
He took her hand and slipped the ring on her finger. He held her hand in his and the ring burned in silver fire, but Nerdanel could not look at anything but Fëanor. Finally, she responded to the only thing her mind was capable of processing at that point.
"Why did you not wish Aulë to know?" Her voice sounded raspy and she swallowed to try and ease the dryness in her mouth.
He let go of her hand and placed his hands on either side of her face. "I wanted you to be the first to know of my intentions."
She put her hands over his for a moment, but then she took a step back and shook her head. His hands dropped to his sides and she held hers out in front of her, towards him.
"Fëanáro, we are so young."
He closed the distance between them and took her hands in his. "I do not wish to wait any longer." He pulled her to him so their bodies were almost touching. "If it were my choice, I would wed you right now." He chuckled. "However, it is not my choice, since were I to do so, I am sure both of our fathers would tear me limb from limb."
She laughed, for despite the rapid beating of her heart and the surreal nature of the scene, she knew he was right. He let go of her hands and slipped his arms around her waist, pressing her against him.
"I cannot wait to have you as my wife."
He bent to kiss her, but before he could, she put her hands against his chest and managed to push him away.
"No!" he cried, his voice urgent, pleading. "I do not wish to wait." He grabbed her hands again. "Do you not understand? I..." He shook his head and looked up at the sky. He let go off her hands and began to pace back and forth, holding his head with his left hand. When he spun around to face her, he held both hands out towards her imploringly. "I have never met … There is nobody else who can … Oh…" He groaned in frustration and came back to her.
Nerdanel was amazed, for she had never seen him have such difficulty putting his thoughts into words. Usually he was beyond eloquent, even when he was furious. In fact, the times he was angry often led to his most poetic moments, though she would never be able to share his profound vulgarity in polite company.
Of course, Nerdanel was struggling for words herself. So much that she was perfectly content to wait and hear what Fëanor would eventually be able to say. She held on to her amusement at his discomfiture; it eased her nerves and calmed her own anxiety.
He reached for her hands again, speaking quietly.
"You are amazing, and smart, and talented, and in you I have found a kindred spirit." He took a deep breath. "Before I met you, my life's joy was creating. And I still find joy in it," he continued quickly, "but it is empty if I cannot share my creations with you." He took another breath. "If I cannot share everything with you."
He squeezed her hands and pulled her closer.
"I love you, Nerdanel." He gazed at her silently then, searching her face. She felt her hands trembling inside his, but could not find words. She stood mutely for several moments before Fëanor spoke again. "Please say something."
Nerdanel inhaled deeply and hoped her voice would not betray how nervous she felt. "I know not what to say."
Fëanor’s brows furrowed and he let go of her hands. A look of such worry seemed foreign on his face, a face that bore so often an expression best described as arrogant, or at least, intense, especially when he was working.
"No, wait." She wrapped her hands around his upper arms to emphasize her words. The ring sparkled in blue fire but did not distract Nerdanel from the thoughts she wanted to voice. "That first day you came to my father's forge I was upset that you had been untruthful, but even more than that I was hit with disappointment that there was no chance for anything between us." The worried expression on his face began to melt away. Nervous at finally admitting to her feelings, she continued. "I spent a whole year working side by side with you, fighting how I felt and denying to myself that I was falling in love with you." She felt a tear wet her cheek. "I never thought for a moment I would be here."
She stopped. Another tear slid unbidden down her face. Fëanor reached again into his pocket and when he pulled his hand out, she saw it held another ring, this one plain silver. He held it to her and, swallowing against the lump in her throat, she took it. He reached up to hold her face in his hands, wiping her tears away with his thumbs.
With a trembling hand, she reached up and removed Fëanor's left hand from her face. Her hands were shaking so hard she was not sure she'd be able to get the silver band on his finger, but somehow she managed. When she looked up at him, she saw that he, too, had tears in his eyes.
"I love you, Fëanáro." She smiled through her tears. "And I do not wish to wait either."
From The Silmarillion – Chapter 6: Of Fëanor and the Unchaining of Melkor: "The first gems that Fëanor made were white and colourless, but being set under starlight they would blaze with blue and silver fires brighter than Helluin"
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