The darkening of hearts

An unexpected arrival

Chapter six: An unexpected arrival.

Celariel did return with some tea made from the herb and they did manage to make Lerina drink a little. Celariel did look as if she had her doubts but Maedhros refused to let go of hope. After a while she fell asleep and slept for most of the rest of the day. When she woke up she was very quiet and her eyes were strangely dull, as if her light somehow had been extinguished. She would live but the joy was gone from her, she had become lethargic and she barely spoke. It was rather clear that the memories still were there, and that she was haunted by them. At night she would toss and turn and cry in her sleep and Maedhros had a hard time making her eat anything. He was in despair.

Then a carriage arrived at the mansion, it was Lerina’s niece Saeriel and suddenly the house became transformed. Saeriel was a very lovely nis, tall with long blond hair and clear green eyes and she had a contagious laughter and an outgoing attitude that was just endearing. She pulled the entire household out of the sort of gloomy state it had been in within a few hours. The curtains were removed and she was aghast when she saw Lerina. Maedhros had tried to catch her interest, to make her wake up from her apathy but he had failed. Fingon had tried too but he didn’t have any more luck and they were afraid she would fade after all.

Saeriel dragged Lerina out of the house and into the gardens, constantly talking about everything from the latest gossip to the best way to dye one’s hair. She would brush Lerina’s hair, make her try different dresses and even put make up onto her pale face. Slowly Lerina started reacting and Maedhros was so relieved. Saeriel was a miracle and she didn’t allow Lerina to wallow in self pity even for a moment. She made her aunt help the farm workers, she prepared equipment for weaving and she was high and low and everywhere.

Lerina had many very nice chats with Saeriel, the young nis was surprisingly mature, way more than Lerina and she knew just how to pull Lerina out of the darkness that had descended upon her soul. It wasn’t done in a day, it took weeks before Lerina managed to show up at the meals or participate in the running of the estate but she was returning to her old self.

Saeriel was soon adored by everybody there and she brought life and light into their lives. She had a wicked sense of humor and Lerina sort of broke out of her shell and dared to joke or use a more profane language too. Maedhros praised her the first time she did swear and he was truly proud of the progress she was making. Saeriel was truly a gem.

Finwë sent a messenger two months after the ball, carrying a letter. The two ner who had attacked Lerina had been taken to the ring of doom and they hadn’t returned, the valar had probably sentenced them to eternity in the halls of Namo. It was of course a tragedy for their families but Finwë was convinced that it was a symptom of something very bad. He had launched an investigation and the image he got wasn’t a good one at all. Someone had indeed spread gossip and evil rumors, and that person had also spread a lot of less than good attitudes. The descriptions varied so it couldn’t be just one ellon, or perhaps it was as Fëanor claimed, that the fallen vala wasn’t as repentant as he claimed to be.

Fëanor presented the silmarils a month later, and everybody was in awe of them but Maedhros had a feeling of impending doom when he looked at the wonderful gems. They were too perfect and he just felt it, that his father had become a bit obsessed with them. Fingon was worried too, the valar were in awe of the work and the gems were made sacred, he didn’t think Fëanor should have made them in the first place.

At home Lerina got better by the day, she had sort of learned to overcome the memories and learned to ignore them and Saeriel was busy restoring her spirit. She was blooming but she refused to return to Tirion, even for a short visit. Saeriel had told her family she would stay with Lerina for some years and Lerina was very grateful. With Saeriel she had a friend she could confide in, another female who could understand and support her and they friendship grew very strong.

Then one day a letter arrived from one of Saeriel’s friends, a nis who was busy trying to catch the attention of Saeriel’s brother. She had some very disturbing news, Lerina’s parents hadn’t given up. The blow to their pride had obviously been too great to be ignored and now they were trying to cause problems again. The rumors in Tirion said that Lerina had suffered a miscarriage and that was the reason why she hadn’t been seen for a while and now her father was using that as an excuse, claiming that the union between his daughter and Maedhros wasn’t accepted by the valar. He also claimed that Maedhros hadn’t paid a bridal price, an old custom nobody followed anymore. So in short, he was planning on going to the valar and ask for the marriage to be annulled.

Lerina almost went hysterical when she heard it, the friend of Saeriel wrote that Lerina’s father had a friend who would like to marry Lerina even if she was as it was written “Used goods”. Lerina knew of that ner, an old grouch who was even more pious than her mother, she would rather die than go through this. Maedhros had to take action right away, he wrote a long letter to Finwë and explained the situation and the high king went straight to the valar and explained the situation. He told them that her parents were trying to ruin the marriage because they felt as though they had been wronged and that they were narrow minded and mean. Varda was a bit shocked by what he said and Manwë got angry. They promised that if Lerina’s father showed up they would tell him exactly what they felt about that kind of behavior and that he could forget about having the marriage annulled.

Maedhros laughed when he received the letter describing the reactions Finwë’s tale had created among the valar and Lerina was so relieved she wept. Her parents couldn’t cause her any more problems, or so she thought. Not long afterwards there were rumors claiming that Lerina was infertile since she hadn’t given Maedhros an heir yet and it even reached the court. Fingon wasn’t there at that time, he couldn’t visit too often and Maedhros felt a bit depressed by the constant onslaught of bad news. The political situation in Tirion was extremely tense and even if his uncles tried to stay out of it many were demanding that Fëanor was replaced by Fingolfin. And others were almost fuming when anyone mentioned this and the court was like a hornets nest.

Saeriel was able to calm Maedhros down and made him see the ridiculous side of it all, and she was always on Lerina’s side and took her thoughts away from the vicious gossip. She knew that Maedhros and Lerina was married only on paper and that Fingon and Maedhros was bonded, but she didn’t judge anyone. She just found it tragic that they couldn’t express their love the way they wanted to.

Some of the servants claimed to have seen someone sneaking around the property, someone tall and cloaked and as Maedhros was out riding one evening he was approached by a stranger that seemed nice and friendly enough but Maedhros didn’t like the questions he made about his father and his inventions. He told the stranger to look somewhere else for gossip and he got a sensation of danger when the ellon disappeared. This was not good at all.

Fêanor didn’t visit them anymore, he was busy with his work but he had sort of shut everybody out, he was constantly becoming more angry and resentful and they say that Melkor had showed up at his door asking for the silmarils and Fëanor had slammed his gate shut right in the vala’s face and called him a jail crow of Namo. Maedhros laughed when he heard it for it was so typical for his father but it also made him a bit frightened. Who knew what Melkor was capable of?

The evenings were spent in the great living room with reading and games and Lerina enjoyed that a lot. Saeriel had managed to loosen her up and she would laugh and be just silly, and everybody saw how much more happy she was now. She didn’t care about the outside world any more, all that mattered was there, in the mansion. Fingon returned for a visit and they would sit and chat and drink and just enjoy life. Saeriel wasn’t a stranger to flirting and she did flirt with both the ner, rather shamelessly too. She didn’t mean anything with it in the beginning, it was just for fun and they would flirt back and just have fun but as the weeks passed the flirting somehow took a new turn. When it happened nobody knew but Saeriel was aware of the fact that even though both ner preferred other males they weren’t blind to the charms of a female, and she started to flirt for real. Why she didn’t know for she didn’t want to hurt Lerina, but both were so gorgeous and attractive and she was no maiden, she had felt the touch of a male before and being in this household made her ache for male company. Lerina was oblivious, she had long accepted that Maedhros would spend his nights with Fingon when he was there to visit and she was too innocent to realize what Saeriel was doing. It started as a few touches that were a bit more loaded with hidden feelings and when Lerina went to bed they would sit there and chat and the talk could become rather filled with sexual innuendo.

But nothing happened for a long time. Fingon left and returned a few times and some thought that he came back because of Saeriel. And they didn’t do anything to stop those rumors, for they were in fact rather useful. Saeriel made sure that they were seen together in seemingly romantic situations and the servants did their best to spread the information too. Then one evening they had been playing cards and reading bad poetry and they had laughed and made jokes the whole evening. Maedhros had gotten a crate of wine bottles from his grandfather and the wine was very good and also very strong. They were a bit drunk and Lerina bid them a good night and went to bed. She wasn’t able to stay up for all that long and her head was aching already so she took some herbs to make her sleep and then she was sleeping like a log.

Saeriel had been drinking way too much, she was feeling that her head spun but she felt good, very good. She flirted with Fingon and Maedhros without shame and before long she was sitting on Fingon’s lap, kissing him. Fingon was participating eagerly and he knew that Maedhros didn’t care, in fact his lover found the sight rather arousing. Kisses became so much more and since they all were drunk they had no breaks left, before long she sat there with her gown down around her waist and Fingon was kissing her with hunger while Maedhros stood there behind her, fondling her breasts. Some small part of her brain managed to send a few confused signals about this being wrong but they didn’t reach their destination. She was too overcome with sheer desire to listen to what her brain at the moment defined as bullshit.

They made a sort of very messy exodus towards the bedroom and Saeriel was a bit shocked by the fact that they all suddenly were naked but why care? She had never seen so beautiful ner as these two and she put her experience into use. Saeriel had tasted the joys of life before, she had never been one of those people who tried to deny her own natural desires and she was not ashamed of being a warm blooded nis with needs. She had bedded ner before but never two at the same time. Caresses and kisses were exchanged and nobody cared about who did what, it was all a haze of lust and pleasure and Saeriel was sure that this was heaven. She had Fingon first and Maedhros laid next to them watching, eyes dark with desire and the knowledge of him being there was very exciting. She did most certainly have her pleasure and Fingon did too, roaring as he came hard and Saeriel lost all ability to think. All she could do was feel and she did feel a lot.

She had no idea of for how long they were at it, but it had to be hours, she watched the two ner take each other and it turned her on again and when they all were sated the sheets were a sticky mess and they were sweaty and covered with hickeys, fluids and spilled wine. Saeriel was feeling really sore by now, she had never had anyone as large as Maedhros before and even if she was experienced he was almost too much even for her. Fingon was the one who still had some thinking ability left. He got the other two out of the bed and threw the sheets into the hearth and burned them. Then he replaced them and made sure that they all took a quick bath in the adjacent bathroom before he helped Saeriel get back to her room. She was limping but her grin was broader than her face and Fingon felt silly and very sated too, he was still drunk and fell asleep the moment he got into the freshly made bed.

Saeriel woke up rather late, the servants knew that there had been drinking and merry making so nobody had wanted to wake them up. She felt confused at first, then it dawned upon her and she felt a horrible mix of feelings. Oh Eru, she had slept with both Fingon and Maedhros? Her body did not lie, she felt as though she had been run over by a herd of horses and she was aching in places she didn’t even know she had. But it had been wonderful, it had been the experience of a lifetime, the only sad thing was that she had betrayed her aunt. She knew that Maedhros and Lerina wasn’t really married but she felt guilty nonetheless and she whimpered and pulled the sheets around herself. The memories of what she had done made her shudder in a mix of pleasure and shame and she got up and went to the bath. She soaked for a long time, thinking about what to do but there was really only one solution, She had to tell Lerina, there was no way around it.

Saeriel got dressed and went downstairs for breakfast and was met by two extremely sheepish looking ner who did appear as if they had come fresh from some sort of very naughty battle which had included scratching and biting. Fingon blushed violently when he saw her and Maedhros bit his lower lip and looked worried. “Saeriel, uh, are you okay?”

Saeriel wasn’t so shaken she didn’t know how to answer, there were no servants present and Lerina hadn’t come down yet so she just made a small but obscene gesture. “ Oh yes, I am fine, better than fine, I just feel as if I have been mounted by a couple of stallions”

Fingon went beet red and Maedhros did in fact grin, a small and wry grin. “ If I do recall last night’s spectacular events I did warn you, you were told that there was a danger of you not being able to walk this morning”

Saeriel snorted. “ But I am walking, see?”

She took a few steps and groaned a bit. “ Not well mind you but I am mobile, not crippled”

Fingon laughed. “ Oh yes, you were more than mobile last night, damn it, you are agile. When you were sucking me and Maedhros was…”

There was footsteps heard and Saeriel cringed, she didn’t really remember that situation or wait a minute, now she did, no wonder her jaw muscles were aching. Lerina entered, she did look great as always and Maedhros straightened his collar to hide some very tell tale signs of last night’s escapades. Fingon did the same and Lerina didn’t notice, she had regained her appetite and she was chatting away in her usual sweet way about the prospect of a hunting trip. She didn’t notice that the others were rather quiet and Saeriel managed to eat at least some, darn it, she was hung over like heck and she could see that the two ner was in no better shape. She gathered her courage and took Lerina’s hand. “ Lerina dear, there is…there is something I would like to tell you, could you meet me in the garden in a few minutes?”

Lerina nodded, a little puzzled and Saeriel finished a cup of very strong tea. Maedhros stared at her, his eyes were a bit sad and he did look ashamed. “Do…do break it to her gently? I have no idea of how she will react. Oh Eru, we shouldn’t have…”

Saeriel took a deep breath to braze herself. “You are right, we shouldn’t, but we have, and now we have to face the consequences.”

She walked out into the small garden and Lerina was already waiting, she was admiring some very nice roses and Saeriel bit her lower lip, now how was she to say this? I am sorry but I slept with your husband who by the way isn’t really your husband? Lerina smiled “ You look as if you drank a lot last night, I cannot recall any of you looking this worn out.”

Saeriel made a grimace. Worn out, yes indeed. “ Ah, well, that is what I am here to tell you about, it is a bit awkward…”

Lerina raised an eyebrow. “Did you break something?”

Saeriel winced. “ No, Eru no. Ah, well, the thing is…”

She discovered that she was in fact stuttering and she pinched her own arm to calm down. “We were very drunk last night as I am sure you already know and to make a rather shameful story short, I slept with both of them”

Lerina just gaped, her expression one of disbelief. “ What? With both Fingon and Maedhros?! No wonder you look the way you do, oh Eru!”

Saeriel felt like crawling into a small hole. “ You are not mad at us?”

Lerina sighed, she seemed to be working with her feelings. “No, I am not mad, it isn’t as if I am married for real now is it? And if it was alright with Maedhros and Fingon I don’t see anything wrong with it. Just don’t let anyone know”

Saeriel let out a huge sigh of relief. “Praise the valar, I was afraid you would explode on me”

Lerina shook her head. “No way, I am so grateful I have you Saeriel, you are my best friend and I do think you deserve some fun.”

Saeriel had to giggle. “ Fun, that is a way to describe it for sure.”

Lerina did feel a surge of some unidentifiable feeling, a sort of jealousy. She would never be that bold, or that unrestrained. Her past would always throw a dark shadow onto her life and she managed to make a wry smirk. “So, how was it? “

Saeriel giggled. “ I cannot describe it, it was…a bit too much at times but I am still alive”

Lerina dragged her niece over to a bench and Saeriel had to tell about the night in details, she felt embarrassed but she sort of understood that Lerina in fact needed to hear it. If she ever was to find true love she couldn’t be afraid of it, and Saeriel was hell bent upon breaking down the walls of fear Lerina’s mother had created around the nis soul.

Maedhros and Fingon went for a ride in the woods and discussed this turn of events and they came to the conclusion that they didn’t mind adding Saeriel to their relationship if she wanted to. They were confident enough and trusted each other and Saeriel had become a dear friend to them both. Every harvest there used to be a huge party celebrated in honor of the crops and for many days everybody was busy with the preparations and Lerina was trying to learn how to bake some new cakes and the atmosphere was good. The celebration went well and Maedhros sent some fruit to his father and his brothers and knew that the gifts would be much appreciated. His brother Curufin came visiting with his son Celebrimbor and Lerina was very taken by the somewhat shy boy with the obvious talent. She had started to feel a bit sorry she hadn’t dared to really marry Maedhros, her body was fully grown now and that of a shapely nis. In fact she had more shapes than most nis and she was a bit proud of it. If her mother had seen her now she would have fainted, convinced that her daughter had grown fat!

Saeriel didn’t want to return to her home yet and she wrote and claimed that Lerina still was a bit “frail” and needed “female company”. She didn’t mention why and she just snickered knowing that this would trigger a whole landslide of speculations. The relationship between her and the two ner continued from now on, she often spent the night with them and it was always amazing but it did make her feel a bit sad in Lerina’s behalf. She didn’t appear to wish for such pleasures at all even when Saeriel tried to convince her of the joy one could have in bed. Saeriel even went to the library of Tirion and came back with a bunch of books of a very adult nature. There were illustrations and explanations and Lerina almost swooned when she saw them. She did giggle though, and proclaimed that her mother would have thought that those books were the work of the dark one. Saeriel knew that Lerina’s parents had a very cold relationship, they had probably only been in bed together to produce their children and Saeriel was sure that it had to have been the worst sex ever. Lerina’s dad did constantly look as if he was trying to suck the last juice out of a really sour lemon and Lerina’s mother walked as if her knees were glued together.

The year went by slowly, the days were filled with peace and joy and there in their little world they didn’t care about the situation elsewhere. Fingon did return to his father and stayed there for months at a time and Lerina was suddenly twice as glad Saeriel was there as before. She had noticed that Maedhros often grew restless and frustrated when Fingon was away and now Saeriel did sate his need for physical contact. Lerina had been thinking hard and she knew she wasn’t jealous, she did think that he was handsome and beautiful but she couldn’t think of him as her husband, not in the true meaning of the word. He was like a brother to her and the idea of him doing the same things to her as he was to Saeriel was just wrong.

Lerina had gotten more and more confidence, she was acting like a true lady and when they had visitors she was the perfect hostess and was able to relax. Nerdanel came by a few times and she was impressed by the way her law daughter had changed. She had been so afraid that Lerina would fade from the attack but she had managed to rise above it and Nerdanel suspected that Lerina in fact was one incredibly tough nis. She tried to find out if Lerina had any talents and found out that she in fact was very good at painting. Soon she had persuaded Maedhros into making one of the spare rooms into a small studio and Lerina was overjoyed by the opportunity to create on her own.

Her paintings soon became sought after and Maedhros praised her and told her that he was very proud. Things did seem to calm down in Tirion as well, the vicious spreading of rumors had stopped and the maiar were busy removing the dark influence they had spread. They had sort of understood that the piousness the vanyar were so fond of in fact had a very nasty side effect, prejudice and an elitist way of thinking and they went to work trying to reverse that effect. The vanyar were of course less than happy because it removed their right to gloat and Finwë sent some letters describing some rather bizarre situations.

At the mansion thing suddenly changed and it was very unexpected and caused some serious shocks. Lerina was busy painting a huge picture of Oromë and Nahar when Saeriel came walking, she was a bit grey and her eyes were dark. Lerina put the brush down and stared at her niece, something was clearly wrong. Fingon had returned to them and had stayed for a few weeks and everybody had seemed so very happy so she didn’t understand what it was that could have made Saeriel so upset. “What is it?”

Saeriel sat down, she had a peculiar expression on her face. “ Oh Lerina, I am in trouble, I am in such trouble!”

Lerina frowned. “What are you talking about?”

Saeriel made a weird sound, between a sob and laughter. “ I…I have a bun in the oven Lerina”

Lerina frowned. “ Uh?”

Saeriel sighed and rolled her eyes. “Oh for Manwë’s sake nis, I am pregnant!”

Lerina gasped and now she had to sit down. “ But…you are not bonded? How can a fêa be conceived without the parents being bonded?”

Saeriel moaned. “It shouldn’t be possible, I know! But there is a lot of bullshit being told right? We all know that you don’t automatically bond if you sleep with someone, that only happens if there is real love between them.”

Lerina was shocked. “ Yes, but still…”

Saeriel groaned. “Listen, do you think all those vanyar marriages are based on love? And yet some of them breed like rabbits, heck, they aren’t even allowed to enjoy making babies!”

Lerina swallowed, she leaned back. “Uh, you are right. So, what…”

Saeriel sobbed. “ I have no idea! Oh Eru, I don’t even know who the father is, that is a first among the eldar right? They have both filled my womb with their essence many times, it could be both really”

Lerina took a deep breath. “ Alright, now, you are blond, and your entire family are blond too. Maedhros is a redhead, and it runs in his family. Fingon is dark, and his entire family is dark also, so you will probably know when the baby is born”

Saeriel wrung her hands. “ I will know if the baby is a redhead yes, but if it is dark? Maedhros has a dark father and his brothers are dark too, except Celegorm!”

Lerina bit her lower lip and she started to realize that this indeed was quite a dilemma. “Have you told them?”

Saeriel shook her head. “No, I wasn’t sure until this morning, I have puked for a few days, and my breasts are aching too.”

Lerina reached out and stroked her niece’s hair, she felt a strange sort of strength starting to build up within. Now it was her turn to help, to be the supportive one. “I will get them here, we will figure this out for sure.”

She got up and asked a servant to bring the two and Saeriel sobbed and gasped. “ I am not married! And my parents will die from shame if they find out.”

Lerina could only continue petting the soft golden hair until Maedhros and Fingon arrived. Both got a frightened expression on their faces when they saw that Saeriel was crying, they sat down and Maedhros was a bit pale. “ Is something wrong? Has someone told you to return home or something?”

Saeriel keened. “ No!”

She was sniffing and sobbing and Lerina took a deep breath. “She is pregnant, one of you is the father.”

There was a deep silence, you could have heard a flea fart. Fingon looked absolutely shocked and Maedhros was just staring. “So, what do you suggest we do?”

Lerina was a bit hard on them now but she knew she had to be, if they were to avoid a terrible scandal they had to think fast. Saeriel would be an outcast if anyone found out about this. Not only was she unmarried but one of the potential fathers was already married. That was what could only be described as a recipe for a scandal of epic proportions and a shitload of gossip. Maedhros swallowed hard and he blinked and Fingon made a sort of low wailing sound. “Oh Saeriel, we are so sorry, we have ruined everything”

Lerina stared at them. “There is only one way to solve this and I hope you do agree”

They all stared at her, shocked by the mature strength of her voice. “If the baby is a redhead there can be no doubt about the parentage but also a dark baby could be fathered by Maedhros. I know the two of you have given up on the idea of having an heir since you both are male, but this could be the one opportunity you get. I suggest that we pretend that the baby is mine, I can pretend to be with child and then the child will be regarded as mine and Maedhros”

Maedhros just blinked and Fingon looked heartbroken. “And if it is mine? Do I have to let my son or daughter be raised by someone else?!”

His voice was very sore and Maedhros embraced him. “ No, the child will be ours, do you hear me, ours! But we have to keep up a normal façade, understand?”

Fingon nodded, swallowing hard. “ I understand, you are the one with a wife, the one who can become a father without anyone becoming suspicious.”

Saeriel gasped. “ Oh Eru, I am so sorry. But I agree, I cannot return home as an unwed mother, it is impossible.”

Lerina embraced her. “Do you think you are able to give up the child when the day comes? To let me become it’s mother?”

Saeriel nodded. “ You will become a wonderful mother Lerina, better than me”

Maedhros got an odd expression on his face. “ We are to become fathers, do you hear Fin? If this isn’t wonderful news I do not know what fits into the description”

Fingon nodded slowly. “Yes, it will be ours”

Lerina clapped her hands. “ Wonderful, but we have work to do. I have to get my dresses changed so I look pregnant and we need a silvery wig so Saeriel can be seen from a distance, acting as me. And the family has to be informed too.”

Maedhros looked a bit as if he was in doubt. “ I think we will hold a low profile for a while, if we say you are afraid of a miscarriage they will understand that you stay here all the time and I can claim that you are quite unwell and too weak for visitors”

Lerina nodded. “ I can play ill if anyone shows up. So, we keep our mouths shut for a few months, then we drop the big news”

Saeriel was trembling a bit. “ What about the servants? “

Maedhros bit his lower lip. “ We will tell them a white lie, they are very loyal to my family and I will simply tell them that this was something we have planned. That Lerina indeed is infertile and that Saeriel has agreed upon carrying a child for her and me”

Lerina cringed. “ Oh, that is controversial, but they will believe it. Your family are after all well known for being a bit untraditional”

Maedhros stared at Saeriel, she was still in tears. “ Worry not dear, I will make sure that we get a very good midwife for you and a healer too. We will take good care of you”

Saeriel nodded. “ I do not doubt that Nelyo, but I am scared”

Maedhros and Fingon both hugged her. “ That is just natural, but it will be alright.”

Lerina sighed. “ Let us hope that you are right, we have to start preparing right away. If our little game is to be played well we have to do everything right. “

And so the servants were being told the little lie and they swore to keep their mouths shut. Most had already figured out the nature of the relationship between Fingon and the master of the house but they were born in Ennor and didn’t regard it as wrong at all. Saeriel was being fed the best possible food and they got her clothes that would fit and a wig that made her look like Lerina from a distance. The two nissi were the same height and build so the illusion was probably a good idea.

Saeriel soon discovered that this was no easy thing, she was constantly sick and she felt depressed and scared and now Lerina had the job of cheering someone up. She kept them both busy with making baby clothing and reading about the care of infants and she started to look forward to the birth. Saeriel on the other hand did not, in fact she was mortified and Lerina didn’t even mention the fact that the baby had to come out. After five months Maedhros sent a letter to his father and grandfather and Nerdanel, telling of the happy news and explaining that Lerina was too fragile to be visited. It took two days before Nerdanel arrived, and she was immediately told the truth. At first she was in utter shock but then she realized that this probably was the only way the two ner could become father’s and accepted it. In fact she swore to help them hide the truth. This could be her grandchild and she understood the situation perfectly well. So she prepared to spread the news and make sure that nobody discovered their little deceit. She was there for a few weeks and Lerina was very grateful for the support, Nerdanel would visit when the due date got closer and she knew that both Saeriel and herself would need the help of an experienced mother to deal with it all. There was a room prepared, clothes and equipment and the atmosphere of tense anticipation was soon to be felt by everyone.

Lerina was envious of Saeriel to begin with, then she changed her mind, Saeriel did not have an easy pregnancy at all and she was terrified she would end up as Miriel. The midwife had come to live there until the birth and she tried to calm her down but it didn’t really work. Lerina was the one keeping her spirits up now, taking her for walks, massaging her feet, even helping her wash and stay clean. As Saeriel got larger that became almost impossible for her, she couldn’t bend down, couldn’t sleep on her side and felt like a stranded whale. Maedhros and Fingon were terribly nervous and tried to be as supportive as possible but Saeriel didn’t always appreciate their efforts. Like most pregnant women she was prone to sudden changes in her mood and she could explode and claim that they were patronizing and then the next moment she accused them of being insensitive and uncaring.

Lerina on the other hand managed to keep it all together, she took care of the household, of Saeriel and the two ner and she really grew with the task. It was rather obvious to everybody that she finally was coming into her own and she soon started to adopt Saeriels rather salty language too. She wasn’t demure or shy anymore, instead she had become willful and determined and Maedhros found that he had married a nis who was more than capable of taking care of things. She really had come a long way since their wedding day. They made sure that some travelling merchants and others saw Saeriel wearing Lerina’s clothes and the wig and Nerdanel too did her best, soon everybody knew that Maedhros wife was expecting their first child and some of the rumors started to die down.

People had more enough of other things to gossip about, they said that Melkor had been seen lurking around Fëanor’s home several times and that Manwë had spoken to him and told him to behave. Fingolfin and Finarfin had visited the coast for a while, they said it was to enjoy the fresh sea air but everybody knew the real reason. They wanted to get away from their half brother and his constant and terrible accusations. Finwë stood there in the middle, trying to negotiate between them but to no prevail and the queen drowned herself in charity work and prayer so that she didn’t have to confront anyone.

Saeriel got huge, she sent letters to her parents telling of how Lerina was faring when it in reality was she who went through a minor hell and they all bought her explanations. After all, the high king had ordered her to look after her aunt and even though she had been there for years by now a few years is nothing for an elf. And the letters she got back were nice and her parents were so proud of her for being such a caring person and so dedicated to her poor aunt. The last month Saeriel didn’t even leave the bed except from trips to the privy, she was so heavy she had problems moving and she was in constant pain. Her back was aching, her feet too and her pelvis had started causing her great discomfort. She could not walk and had to be carried and she was in tears since she felt as though she had become a terrible burden to everybody. Nerdanel returned and she recognized the aches and pains from her own births, Maedhros had been a huge baby and she was feeling relatively sure that the baby was his,

The midwife had managed to find a due date, and Saeriel went past it, not with a few days but with two whole weeks. She had almost stopped eating and she was getting weaker so the midwife was considering giving her herbs that would make her go into labor. Fortunately that wasn’t needed, Lerina was awakened in the very early hours of the morning by a frantic Nerdanel who was wearing a nightdress and a robe and nothing more. Saeriel had gone into labor, and it soon became very apparent that this wouldn’t be a quick birth. In fact it moved forth at a snail’s pace and the water didn’t break until early in the afternoon. By then Saeriel was hysterical with fear and Lerina tried to calm her down but to no prevail. Saeriel wasn’t the kind of person who handled pain very well, some do endure and do it silently too but Saeriel was the kind of person who can take a lot of verbal abuse and stand up for herself but she wasn’t able to control herself now. She was convinced she was going to die and as the contractions started for real she reached a level of hysteria that was frightening.

The two ner had to stay downstairs, males were not allowed in a birthing chamber but they heard Saeriel screaming and both were close to passing out. The midwife was a very stern nis, she had delivered hundreds of babies and she knew everything about how people respond to agony so she didn’t really treat Saeriel with softness. Instead she demanded that she stopped yelling and concentrated upon doing her job and it worked for a while. Being scolded always made Saeriel angry and that made her suck it up but it didn’t really last.

The midwife did confirm Nerdanel’s suspicions, it was a very large baby and Saeriel was slender with narrow hips. She would have a hard job pushing it out and her state of mind didn’t exactly help her. The midwife gave Saeriel some herbal tea with soothing effect and also some pills that made people feel a bit indifferent about their situation. It did help, things were speeding up and they got her into a birthing chair. Lerina was aghast, she hadn’t really believed that anyone could survive so much pain and Saeriel was swearing and cursing worse than a sailor. “ Oh Eru’s balls! That something so fucking good can result in something so….aaaaaghhh…terrible!”

The midwife just grinned, she had been told the truth and she didn’t judge anyone, she had seen too much to really care. “If you are in the game you must be able to handle the consequences sweetie, push now, and keep pushing”

Saeriel was yelling from the top of her lungs, and she did have strong lungs so the entire mansion heard her. She was making progress, the chair was made so that the nis was sitting up straight leaning slightly forward grasping onto the chair and gravity did help a lot. The midwife was pleased but Saeriel complained about everything and Nerdanel was rolling her eyes. Some of the young nissi were way too protected and uneducated.

It was dawn again before it was over and by then Saeriel was so tired she didn’t even scream, she just grunted and the midwife had to push onto her stomach to help her get the baby out. Lerina was holding her breath as the midwife grasped the infant and pulled it free from it’s mother’s body, she was grinning. “ Look, it is a girl! A big healthy girl, and look at that hair!”

The baby had a huge mane of red hair and Nerdanel let out a shout of joy. Saeriel was panting and sweating and still in pain. The midwife washed the baby and wrapped it and Nerdanel held her while the midwife helped Saeriel deliver the afterbirth and sewed her up since she had gotten torn pretty bad. Then they told the ner they could enter and both did, very nervously and rather in awe. They had both believed that Saeriel had to be dead by now since she had screamed that bad.

Nerdanel held the baby, she was beaming with pride and Maedhros saw that bloated red little face and the tuft of red hair and started weeping right away. Fingon just held him quite in awe of the miracle. “ Oh Eru, is it…”

Nerdanel smiled and handed the baby over to her father, very gently. “It is a girl, a very healthy girl”

Lerina saw that love in Maedhros eyes, the absolutely stunned expression on his face and Fingon was sheading some tears too. Maedhros already loved his daughter and Lerina felt a bit humble. Nerdanel turned towards Saeriel, she looked a bit sad. “You are still ready to give her up?”

Saeriel nodded. She was weeping but her eyes were stern. “ Yes, I have to, there is no other way. She will be presented as the daughter of Maedhros and Lerina.”

Nerdanel sighed. “You are brave Saeriel, not many could have done this. Bless you. But at least you ought to pick a name, she ought to have something of yours.”

Saeriel sighed and closed her eyes, she was completely exhausted and needed to rest but she had to do this first. She stared at the baby and smiled. “She is Ariniel, daughter of the morning, since she was born at dawn”

Nerdanel smiled. “ A good name, a wise choice”

Maedhros kissed the forehead of his grunting daughter and wiped away some tears. “Welcome Ariniel, and know that you are most precious, and very loved”

Lerina got to hold Ariniel next and she immediately fell in love with the infant, for all that it was worth, she would be her mother and protector and she would protect this child with all of her might, for all time. She had a strange feeling that it would be needed.

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