The darkening of hearts

Darkness fell and sorrow sang

Chapter seven: Darkness fell and sorrow sang….

Ariniel was a quiet child, and one that was easy to care for. Saeriel tried to handle her daughter as little as possible and Lerina was the one to bathe and carry her and speak to her. Her real mother was only there when the babe needed food and as soon as she no longer relied upon her mother’s milk for sustenance Saeriel stayed away from the baby. It hurt her terribly but there was no other way. Maedhros was beside himself with pride and joy and proved to be a terrific father and Fingon also loved the little nis with all of his heart.

Saeriel slowly returned to her old self physically, she got her figure back and her laugher too but there was a sadness in her now. Lerina did understand, and she wished so badly that things were different but nothing could change the way it all had turned out. Ariniel grew fast, she was a large baby and everybody who came to visit was shocked by the idea of her being born by Lerina. Lerina had to pretend to be frail still, to be exhausted and injured by a hard birth and Nerdanel was there all the time and made sure that she never gave herself away. The two nissi became even better friends now and the child brought them together and they formed almost a sort of mother daughter bond that gave Lerina a lot more self-confidence. Elf children grow extremely fast their first year and Ariniel was no exception, by one year of age she was crawling around and on the verge of walking and she could talk and sing too. Lerina was spending all her spare time with the girl, teaching her all sorts of things and to the little one Lerina was mother. Saeriel was an aunt and Nerdanel was grandma. It was good this way. Then Saeriel received a letter from home, they wanted her to return for there was a possible suitor and Saeriel did almost get hysterical. She knew that her body showed what she had been through, she had stretch marks and her breasts were heavier than before and her hips too had changed.

She could of course hide these things for her family, after all, the fashion demanded rather tight dresses that didn’t show much skin and she could wear a corset and just claim that she had put on weight but to a ner who expected to see her naked the changes would be obvious. And so there was just one thing to do. Saeriel wrote a polite letter to her parents explaining that she already had a suitor and that she had agreed upon a betrothal being announced soon. Fingon didn’t need much time to think of it, in this way he too could have a child of his own one day and nobody would suspect anything if the two couples stayed together much of the time, after all, their wives were related and very good friends. Saeriels parents were beside themselves with joy, a son of a noldorin prince, it was a huge leap upwards when it came to social status. The betrothal was celebrated with a lot of pomp and circumstance and Lerina was there, holding little Ariniel and acting like a very proud mother indeed. She did see herself as Ariniel’s mother, as her caretaker and protector and everybody were impressed by her skills and dedication.

Saeriel and Fingon got married early the year after and it was a beautiful wedding too. Fëanor didn’t attend to it, he was so hostile against everybody of his brother’s family they barely dared to invite him. Finwë was terribly sad but there was little anybody could do about it, Fëanor had become very paranoid and hostile and Nerdanel feared for his sanity. Saeriel and Fingon got their own home and Maedhros and Lerina often visited them there, and Ariniel loved it there. The girl became a very boisterous little rascal who reminded Maedhros of his youngest brothers and she did keep Lerina busy much of the time. They hired the best teachers and made sure that she never had to worry about anything and Lerina knew that Maedhros only regretted that she would be an only child. Maglor got married too, to another musician and Lerina did notice that things were changing in Tirion. There were less gossip being heard and things seemed to have cooled down a lot.

Lerina knew it was thanks to a combined effort made by both Finwë and Ingwë, the vanyar seemed to become more moderate by the day and the harsh piousness wasn’t seen in public anymore. Lerina was even at court a few times, she no longer feared it and everybody was in awe of little Ariniel and forgot about her. Ariniel was a very beautiful child, her hair darker than her father’s and more like that of Nerdanel and she was going to be tall and slender no doubt. Things seemed to be going well, to be peaceful and good and for years Lerina relaxed more and more and forgot about her fears and doubts. Fingon and Saeriel didn’t have any kids yet, Saeriel wanted to wait a little longer for she still remembered the very tough birth she had been through and she was afraid of facing yet another situation like that.

Then Fëanor appeared at court, threatening his half brother with a sword and the valar demanded that he went into exile and stayed in Formenos. Lerina knew it was to the north, far from Tirion and not at all as nice but he didn’t protest and Maedhros somehow managed to convince Lerina that they too had to go there, to show their support. Lerina thought that Fêanor had gone insane but he was Maedhros father and it would look odd if she didn’t follow her husband and so they went. Ariniel was excited to see a new place, she was sitting in the saddle in front of her father and laughing and pointing at everything and Lerina tried to stay calm but she had a nasty lump in her throat. She had a sense of foreboding, of something being very wrong indeed. Finwë left the throne to Fingolfin and followed his son to Formenos and Lerina didn’t really know why. Could he really love that one son more than the other two? Or was it just because he thought the valar overreacted?

Formenos wasn’t bad, it was a smaller city than Tirion, colder and darker and more primitive but not unpleasant and she and Ariniel would explore the palace and its surroundings and play hide and seek on the fields while the ner discussed the situation and what they thought ought to be done. To Lerina it was obvious that Fëanor was suffering, that his genius was tipping over towards madness and that his grasp on reality was slipping away. She sensed that he was right when he claimed that the dark vala wanted to ruin everything and she suspected that he had tried to hide his tracks by first and foremost attacking the one elf capable of stopping him. And doing it in such a manner that nobody would think he was behind it.

They grew accustomed to Formenos and Lerina in fact learned to love it, it had a sort of rustic charm Tirion missed and here there was no court and no unneeded splendor. The servants and the high born treated each other with an informality that was refreshing and Ariniel found new friends among the elflings there and thrived. She was a little too mature for her age though, less prone to laughter and mischief than the others and more fond of books and lore. She did take after her grandsire and Lerina was a bit nervous that she would be seen as a misfit. But she encouraged Ariniel’s thirst for knowledge and Maedhros tried to support her too. Then a message came, the valar wanted Fëanor to return to Tirion, to talk things over with his half brother. They wanted the conflict to end, to bring peace among the noldor and stop the constant arguing of whether or not Fëanor ought to be first in line to the throne. At first Fëanor hesitated but then he left and his sons stayed behind, he wanted them out of harm’s way if this was some sort of trap. Lerina felt a terrible sinking feeling in her gut as she watched him leave, why she did not know. The other women present also felt it and she was comforted by Maglor’s wife and Curufin’s too.

Lerina and Maedhros had rooms high in a tower and it was far from the main part of the palace, it was peaceful and cozy and they had gone to bed late after some wine and a game of cards. Maedhros had matured a lot since he became a father and he was very considerate towards Lerina and showed a lot of affection. She was very fond of him and regarded their little family as a very happy one although unconventional. The curtains were thin here in Formenos, the light from the trees very weak and so they didn’t need thick heavy drapes as they did in Tirion to keep the rooms dark. When Lerina woke up it was to complete darkness, and at first she didn’t understand. She thought someone had pulled the curtains over the window and used some really thick ones too for there wasn’t even a hint of light. Then she remembered that the curtains had been open when they went to bed and she felt how cold dread started seeping into her bones. She heard distant sounds, terrible sounds and the darkness made it hard to breathe, to think. Maedhros was still asleep next to her and she grasped onto him, shook him almost violently. “ Wake up, please, wake up”

He grunted and turned around, then he gasped and she felt him grasp onto her. “Lerina, why is it dark?”

She just shivered and reached out of the bed, found her coat and a lamp. The lamps Fëanor had made would give light all the time and she ignited it swiftly, Maedhros got out of bed and he looked horrified. There were screams heard from the courtyard and suddenly they heard Ariniel screaming too. Maedhros gasped. “Lerina, look after Ariniel, I will go to check what this is”

Lerina ran to Ariniel’s room, it was adjacent to their own and the little nis was hiding under the covers, screaming like mad. Lerina realized that her daughter never had experienced real darkness, no wonder she was scared. She held the lamp high and Ariniel dared to peek out from under the covers. “Little one, it is alright, look, I am here”

Ariniel was at the stage of life where she had started to grow a little faster now, there would still be a few decades before she hit puberty but she wasn’t really a child anymore, more of a very young youth. Still she needed her parents and she blinked and wiped tears from her eyes. “Nana, I had a terrible dream”

Lerina grasped her and held her tight. “I am so sorry to hear that dear, but it is over now, I am here”

Ariniel gasped and sobbed. “Why is it dark? Is it cloudy outside?”

Lerina tried to smile. “No sweetheart, your atya is going to find out why it is dark, worry not, I am sure everything is fine”

Maedhros had thrown a cloak over his sleeping pants, and he ran downstairs to find absolute chaos. Elves were running everywhere, trying to find their loved ones or trying to understand what had happened and it was clear that the light from the trees was gone. Only the stars provided light now and lamps and candles were in high demand. Maedhros felt a cold sensation of dread, and he just knew that evil was near, or had been near. He stood there confused and not knowing what to do when Maglor and Curufin came running, both were pale and visibly shaken and Maglor panted for air. “Nelyo, grandfather is dead!”

Maedhros couldn’t believe it. “What?!”

Curufin had tears running down his face. “ Melkor, Melkor was here, and he took the Silmarills. They say there was a shadow following him, in the form of a giant spider, it was ghastly”

Maedhros ran, he ran towards the main rooms of the palace even if Maglor and Curufin tried to stop him and he didn’t slow down until he reached the chambers that the king had lived in. Finwë laid on the floor, in a pool of his own blood and his dark blue eyes were fixed on the ceiling, and they were empty. Maedhros let out a sob, then a wail. It looked as if his grandfather’s chest had been crushed and he felt the taste of bile in his mouth, He had never seen a dead elf before, nobody born in Aman had. He backed away, nausea and dread overwhelming him and he felt as if the ground had gone from underneath his feet. Melkor, the dark vala had been behind it all.

Maglor came, helped him get out. “ I have sent a hawk to atya, and to the valar. They need to know what Melkor have done.”

Maedhros was still too much in a state of shock to really think, he just sobbed and he couldn’t imagine how Fëanor would react to this news. He would be devastated. Maglor smacked him across his cheeks. “Nelyo, get a grip. Lerina needs you, I bet she is terrified.”

Maedhros nodded slowly. “Yes, yes, I…will go now”

Lerina had waited with Ariniel and she immediately knew that Maedhros had bad news. He sat down on the bed as if he couldn’t carry his own weight and his eyes were hazy and he had cried. “Lerina….Finwë is dead. Melkor has killed him, and taken the Silmarils”

Lerina felt cold to the marrow, held Ariniel tight and the girl let out a wail of grief and Maedhros sobbed and grasped onto them both, pulled them close. Lerina had been fond of Finwê, he had been a friend and given her a support she had greatly appreciated. This was terrible news but what terrified her most was that the beast which killed her husband’s grandfather had been in this palace while her family slept. That almost made her throw up. Melkor could have slain them all, even her daughter and she shivered and held onto Ariniel tightly. She was not going to let her daughter suffer because of this, she had to protect the innocent by all means. “What will happen now?”

Maedhros groaned. “Maglor has sent a hawk, they will probably get here soon.”

Lerina swallowed. “It is dark, can they really ride hard now?”

He nodded. “The horses sees well enough.”

Lerina felt dizzy and Ariniel sobbed. Maedhros caressed her thick red hair lovingly and Lerina knew that he would have challenged Melkor himself if he had tried to harm that child. And so would she. They just sat there, in shock and disbelief until some servants came with food and some wine. Everybody was shaken and Maglor came next, his voice broken and hoarse. They had moved Finwë’s body, but the blood didn’t come out of the carpet, it would have to be burned. Maedhros just listened without saying a word and Lerina knew he was scared and angry and terribly shocked. Nobody had been murdered there before, it was simply too much.

After a while Maedhros managed to pull himself together, he gathered his brothers and they organized everything so that people had light and warmth. The temperature had started to drop and the darkness made everybody confused. Without the cycle of golden and silver light and the mingling to tell the time nobody really knew what time it was. There was no golden morning or silvery dusk, just darkness. The stars was something Ariniel found extremely fascinating and she stood on the balustrade for a long time, admiring them. Lerina too thought they were spectacular but it made her very worried. The darkness couldn’t last now could it?

Maedhros found them after the meeting with his brothers, he looked grim and determined and he sat down and took her hand firmly. “Lerina, we have to prepare for the worst. I have no idea what the Valar will do now but this darkness will affect everything, I have ordered that the food will be rationed and that people make lists of their livestock and prepare to cull off the animals they don’t need for breeding”

Lerina gasped. “ Why?”

Maedhros smiled, a sad little smile. “Without light the crops will fail, and the trees will die, and the wild animals will starve.”

Lerina was silent for a while, starvation? No! She would rather starve to death than letting Ariniel suffer thus. She knew what starvation was, she could endure it. “I refuse to let Ariniel suffer, there has to be anything the valar can do!”

Maedhros sighed. “I bet they will try, but when? Even they cannot snap a miracle out of thin air. We have no idea yet of what have happened to the trees. If they are gone or ruined, then what?”

Lerina wanted to break down and cry, but she couldn’t. She had to stay strong. “We will manage, somehow we will manage”

Maedhros kissed her cheek. “ I pray you are right.”

They ate and tried to rest but it was so terribly hard, neither of them managed to relax and they just kept staring at the lamps, as if they offered some sort of salvation. Ariniel was spending time with the other elflings, some nissi had arranged for the young ones to be gathered in some very safe and well light rooms where some story tellers tried to keep their minds occupied. Lerina was grateful and the elves who did the storytelling had been born in the old world and knew about the stars and so they weren’t afraid. It helped the children a lot. Maedhros had explained to her that many had freaked out completely, had lost their minds and injured themselves. The healers were working double time and many were not able to calm down even after having been given strong sedatives. It was the shock of witnessing darkness that caused it, those born in the blessed realm were unable to fathom what darkness really was, and their minds just couldn’t cope.

Some had set fire to things, desperate for light, others had gotten burned from trying to light too many lamps and not being able to control all the flames. It was chaos on a grand scale and it didn’t just affect the elves. The animals too acted in a weird way and Celegorm had to bring Huan indoors in order to stop the dog from howling the whole time.

Then Fëanor and many others from Tirion arrived upon sweaty horses, riding like they had the devil at their heels. Fëanor rushed inside, face pale and eyes too black, too wide. “My sons!”

Maedhros stopped him. “We are fine atya, all of us are fine, the nissi and the children too. He…he only…harmed your father”

Fëanor let out a weird sound, Lerina had never heard an elf making such a noise before, it was horrible and he pushed Maedhros aside and ran into the room where Finwës body was kept. Lerina heard Fëanor scream, a horrible wail of grief and anger and then she heard the sound of things being smashed and roars that sounded like those of a wounded animal. Maedhros and the rest rushed in but their father ran past them, and Lerina would never forget the look upon his face, one of sheer madness. He ran into the darkness and the others who had arrived tried to understand what they just had seen. Fingolfin and Finarfin entered the room, both were crying and Lerina felt terribly sorry for them both. Their sisters were not there and neither was the queen, they probably had to stay behind for their own safety.

Fingolfin sobbed and Maedhros saw that Fingon was among those who had come, he was pale and held his panting horse by the reins. He walked over and Fingon sent him a very shivering smile. “Cousin, I wish we could have met again under different circumstances”

Maedhros nodded, he wanted to pull Fingon into a hug, to hold him tight but he couldn’t, not publicly. “So do I, what happened, why is it dark?”

Fingon sighed, he looked tired. “Melkor, he brought a terrible ancient power with him, one of utter darkness in the shape of a spider. And it bit the trees Nelyo, it drained them of sap and poisoned them and Yavanna is unable to do anything. They are dead!”

Maedhros felt a sinking feeling in his gut, oh Eru no! “Then what are we to do?!”

Fingon swallowed hard. “ I do not know, nobody knows. The valar have all gone to Taniquetil and stay there and it is chaos everywhere. It is awful!”

Maedhros closed his eyes. “Saeriel?”

Fingon tried to smile. “She is strong, but scared. Very scared.”

Maedhros sighed. “As are we all”

The newly arrived stabled their horses and got rooms and food and the mood was very somber indeed. Fingolfin and Finarfin stayed by Finwës body for hours, praying and mourning and some nissi came and washed it and tried to make him look less dead. There had to be a funeral. It was decided that it was to be held in Tirion, that Finwë’s body was to be brought home one final time and everybody agreed. But Fëanor was nowhere to be found and so the next days were spent searching for him. Lerina was busy running the household, trying to keep everybody fed and warm and safe. Outside the flowers were dying, the grass withered and the forest looked like a terrible place without the light of the trees.

They kept searching for a long time before they found Fëanor, he was almost completely out of his mind, unable to form a coherent sentence and only slowly did he recover. Everybody left Formenos for Tirion now and the huge group of elves did sing laments as they rode. Lerina found it utterly beautiful but also horribly sad. Fêanor was regaining his senses, and with it his anger. It was as if a veil had been lifted from his mind and his sharp intellect released anew but there was a flame of anger in him, of pure hatred and it burned so hot you could see it in his eyes. It made Lerina terribly afraid.

When they arrived in Tirion the funeral arrangements were already made and the body of Finwê was burned and the laments rose to heaven and should have brought even Eru to tears. Lerina stood at the back of the crowd with Ariniel, feeling that the air was dense for some reason. Fëanor climbed up onto a dais, the flames making him more beautiful and more fell than ever before and he spoke. He told everybody how the valar had failed, how they couldn’t protect them against the enemy even within their own realm. He told them how Melkor had murdered their king, and stolen the sacred Silmarils. He named Melkor Morgoth, enemy and swore that he would avenge his father and bring the gems back.

Lerina felt tears flowing down her cheeks, she just knew it, something horrible was about to happen, something not even fate itself may stop. Fëanor raised his sword, he would return to Endor and reclaim the gems, leave behind this realm of false gods and hidden fences and live as their ancestors had. The crowd was cheering and he called his sons to him, and they came and Lerina felt her stomach drop. The oath, she heard them all swear, even Maedhros and she knew at that very instant that they all would be sundered, that this was the end of the peace. They would leave, they would all leave.

Afterwards there was silence, Fingolfin and Finarfin had sworn to follow Fëanor, to avenge their father and there was an exodus of elves preparing for what was to come. Maedhros came to Lerina and hugged her and Ariniel, the girl didn’t really understand but Lerina did. She felt cold. “You are leaving”

Her voice was hollow, had no ring to it and he nodded. “ I have to, my place is by my father’s side. We have to do it Lerina”

She raised her chin. “Then I will follow too”

Maedhros shook his head. “No, you do not! I have no idea of what we may meet on the other side of the sea, and I cannot go knowing you may be in danger. You have to stay, with Ariniel and keeping her safe. I will return to you both, I promise!”

Lerina sobbed. “ Do not swear oaths or make promises you cannot hold, oh Nelyo, if only nothing of this had happened!”

He kissed her forehead, held her close. “I wish the same, but there is no way back. As soon as things are organized we will leave”

Lerina was dizzy, feeling as if the world was falling apart around her. “But how, how will you get back?”

He smiled, a swift and somewhat uncertain smile. “The teleri have ships, we will borrow them, I am sure they will understand”

Lerina groaned, it all felt more and more like some nightmare. He patted her on her shoulder. “You and Ariniel must return to our home, and make sure that everything that can be harvested is taken care of. I trust you to keep our daughter safe Lerina, and out there she won’t be.”

Lerina whimpered. “But”

He held her close. “No buts, I will make sure you arrive safely.”

She knew she couldn’t argue with him, not on this. Ariniel knew something was wrong and cried and Maedhros knelt down and hugged her. “Ariniel, I need you to be strong and take care of your nana for me, can you do that?”

Ariniel nodded, her lovely eyes filled with tears. “That is good, atya has to go on a long journey but I will come back to you, and then everything will be fine”

Lerina saw it in his eyes, he didn’t think he would return and she swallowed a wail and just stood there, frozen. She and Maglor’s and Curufin’s wives stayed together, all of them too worried to speak and they just stayed indoors while the ner forged weapons and gathered provisions. Ariniel kept asking where atya and the other ner were going and Lerina tried to explain everything but the girl didn’t really understand. She had never seen the sea and she didn’t have a concept for how far it really was.

Maedhros stayed a few nights with Fingon and Saeriel and Lerina didn’t mind, he deserved it and needed it and then she and the other nissi returned to the mansion. Maedhros kissed her when they left and promised to come back but Lerina already knew it in her heart. This was goodbye, one that would last through the ages. There were few noldor left when the great groups of the three brothers had left, nissi, some youths and some who didn’t have the courage to leave. The valar were against it, and warned them but they didn’t care.

Lerina took care of the mansion, some livestock was slaughtered and the meat preserved and she made sure that they picked berries and nuts and edible roots and mushrooms to last them for years to come. It was hard work and very time consuming and the darkness did make everything very hard. Nerdanel came to the mansion, she was pale and distraught and Lerina did pity her a lot. She was obviously not herself and Lerina poured her a huge cup of wine in the kitchen, but she refused to drink it. “What is wrong?”

Nerdanel sobbed. “ I went to him before he left, and I begged him to let me keep my sons, to leave at least one of them, or the twins, but he refused. He took them all with him Lerina, all of my sons!”

Lerina couldn’t even imagine how that must have felt, how that must have broken Nerdanel’s heart. “ I am so sorry, I wish there was something I could do!”

Nerdanel gasped and covered her face with her hands. “ Oh Eru, I tried to do everything I could to change his mind, and…even though there is no love between us anymore there is still passion, I bedded him Lerina, and even that wasn’t enough!”

Lerina blinked, she felt stunned. Nerdanel had to have been absolutely desperate to do that, she knew that Fëanors wife almost loathed her husband. “That…he is mad, that is the truth”

Nerdanel made a mewling sound. “ Oh, that isn’t the problem, I…”

She sobbed and her eyes were puffy and red. “I wanted to keep one of my babies and now I have found out that he did leave me with one after all”

Lerina felt her jaw drop, she stared at Nerdanel with huge eyes. “Nerdanel, are you saying that….”

Nerdanel nodded. “ Yes, we didn’t try to conceive, we didn’t even think of that possibility but I am with child again, my eight child!”

Lerina had to sit down. “Nerdanel, that is…wow, ah, what are you to do?”

Her mother in law tried to wipe the tears of her face. “When I carried the twins I swore it was the last time, I had no more to give. But apparently I wasn’t finished after all, cursed be the fecundity of those Finwëions.”

Lerina swallowed. “But then you will have a child left after all, aren’t you even a bit glad?”

Nerdanel sighed. “ Oh Lerina, I am both overjoyed and terrified. This baby will never know it’s father, I just know it. He is lost to us all”

Lerina sighed. “I fear that they all may be lost, it was a most terrible oath to take and I am sure it will bring misery and grief.”

Nerdanel bit her lower lip. “ May I stay here, with you and my other law daughters?”

Lerina smiled. “ Of course, you are most welcome.”

She had bid Saeriel goodbye in Tirion, she had sworn to follow Fingon and Lerina missed her niece a lot already but knew that Saeriel was stubborn and strong. She probably wanted to explore and see a new and different world from the one she was raised in. She almost wished she had been equally bold. Now she needed people around her she knew she could trust and nobody she trusted more than Nerdanel. The red head smiled and hugged her and Nerdanel managed to make a smile. “At least I will be able to raise this one the way I want to without meddling ner around me all the time”

Lerina giggled and Nerdanel petted her belly. “But this better not be another giant like Maedhros, I do not have the strength for that.”

They told Maglor’s wife Alimiel and Curufin’s wife Canien of the news and both were shocked but also joyful. Finally some good news in all the doom and gloom. Ariniel was happy too when they told her she would get a new aunt or uncle and things were fine for a few days. Rumors spread that the valar were working on creating some new sources of light and Lerina hoped it was true. What good were these demi gods if they couldn’t make themselves useful? Lerina and Canien was going through the inventory of the mansion when a messenger arrived from Tirion, the ner was one who had been a servant to Finwë and he had stayed behind because his wife was expecting their first child. Now he rode a trembling horse to their door and jumped off, pale and visibly shaken. Nerdanel recognized him and she immediately knew that something was off. “Farion, what is wrong?”

Farion was ushered inside and he closed his eyes for a moment, then he stared straight at the gathered nissi who all stared back, pale and prepared for the worst but nothing could have prepared them for what they now was told. “My ladies, the host of Fëanor reached the harbor of Alqualonde and demanded ships but Olwe would not give them ships since the valar have forbidden them to leave. Fëanor….”

Nerdanel was ashen grey. “ Yes?”

Farion swallowed hard. “He and his followers took the ships by force my lady, and countless Teleri were slain as they tried to protect the ships. Many Noldor too fell, and the blood is said to have turned the waters red”

Nerdanel let out a shriek and she almost collapsed. Lerina and Alimiel had to hold her up straight. “The host of Fingolfin followed, they too fought and killed and then they sailed north. Finarfin did turn around, he and his followers will return to Tirion soon.”

They were silent, all of them were silent, It was too horrible to imagine. Elves killing other elves? Unthinkable. Farion took a deep breath. “Nàmo cursed them, those who have left may never return, and all they do will end in blood and tears and grief.”

Lerina felt her legs give out under her and Canien passed out. The servants rushed to help them and Nerdanel was screaming, loud keening wails that cut their ears. Farion wetted his lips. “ My ladies, the teleri are in an uproar now, many thousand are dead! There will be few noldor left on this side of the sea, and I fear that you will be faced with anger and hatred from the survivors. The vanyar too are in an uproar and I do not think they will think kindly of you neither”

Nerdanel sobbed. “ My sons, my beautiful sons!”

The sound of crying spread throughout the house and Ariniel came running, she looked terrified. “ Isn’t atya coming back?”

Lerina held her close, reveled in the scent of the young body. “No dear heart, he isn’t. None of them are!”

Farion bit his lower lip. “You are the wives of kinslayers now, many will despise you. Is there somewhere you can go to be safe? This mansion is too close to Tirion and too isolated. Some may seek vengeance”

Nerdanel got a grip of herself. “ No, I do not want to believe that anyone would turn to violence. We are their wives but we have done nothing wrong, neither did we know what our husbands would do. We will not move!”

Farion bowed his head. “Very well my lady, but keep it in mind. There may come a time when a sanctuary will be needed”

Nerdanel sighed. “There is a cottage in the woods of Oröme, it belongs to my father. If need be we can go there. Nobody else than his kin and me knows of it”

Farion nodded. “Wise words my lady. I have to return home, but remember my warning. The people will not forget this.”

Nerdanel sighed, sat down and held her belly with trembling hands. “ So my last child will be the offspring of a kinslayer, how fate loves to play with our lives”

Lerina stared at Ariniel, she too was the child of a murderer now, and she felt herself go cold all over. What would happen to them now? Canien let out a wail of grief. “My son, I will never see him again, oh Eru curse that oath!”

Lerina felt a need to retch, to hide in some dark closet and never leave it. It was more horrible than she could ever have imagined but she had to stray strong. She turned around, faced the servants. “ You all heard what he said, those of you who wishes to leave may do so, I will hold no grudges against you. It may be wise of you to not be associated with us anymore”

The nis who was the head of the household when Lerina wasn’t at home stepped forth. “I think I am speaking for us all when I say that none of us will leave, we have been loyal to the house of Finwë for all of our long years and we will stay that way. Come what may!”

Lerina could only bow her head in respect. “ Thank you, I thank you all. This will change little, we will go on as before and try to survive, but I want the ner to patrol the area and bring weapons”

There was a low sound of mumbling spreading, everybody left to return to their work and Lerina sat down by the table. Ariniel was chewing on her lower lip. “Nana, I am scared”

Lerina nodded, tried to smile, smoothed her daughter’s shiny locks. “So am I dear heart, but we are strong together. We will make it”

Nerdanel stared at her from across the table, her huge grey eyes were hazy but Lerina saw the fear in them, blood had been spilled and they all knew deep in their hearts that the world never would be the same.

As the days and weeks passed by the servants managed to catch up with the news, Finarfin returned to Tirion with his followers and it was not that many. Very few noldor were left in Aman now and he was made their high king by the valar and they forgave him for trying to leave. Finarfin had always been the most mellow of the brothers, almost a bit demure and he had never shown much aggression of any sort. His children had left though, and it caused him immense grief. They learned that Fëanor had left for Endor and left Fingolfin and his group behind and that they were forced to get to Endor on foot, across the grinding ice. Lerina thought of Fingon and Saeriel and she just knew that this was going to cost even more lives. It was awful!

The valar were trying to salvage whatever they could and Yavanna was making attempts at making new trees but she couldn’t. Rumors said that the valar had a plan, that they would solve the problem soon but Lerina had lost all faith in them. The small group of nissi soon felt the effects of the kinslayings, when their servants went to Tirion or the villages to try to buy stuff they were denied everything, and often chased away with harsh words. Ariniel’s teachers refused to come and Lerina had to realize that they all in fact had been branded as outcasts. It was an invisible brand but one that was there nonetheless.

Some elves with family lost at Alqualonde came to the mansion, demanding that the noldor paid a huge replacement to them, to compensate for their loss. Nerdanel really showed her grit then, standing there alone in front of a huge group of angry teleri and vanyar and she didn’t back down even when the discussion turned very harsh. She and the other wives didn’t owe these elves anything, and they were no longer rich. Their husbands had turned all their money and wealth into provisions and weapons and they were left with the bare essentials and hardly that.

Nerdanel was pale and visibly shaken when she returned inside but she had stood there like a queen and been such a formidable sight they all had backed down. Lerina was extremely proud of her. Lerina made sure that all the nissi of the mansion learned to sew and knit and make yarn, they needed warm clothes now and Nerdanel and the other two wives taught Ariniel what she needed to know. Luckily the girl was still fond of reading and so she didn’t really need any teachers at all. Finarfin sent a message some months after the incident with the mourning elves, he wanted them all to visit Tirion for he wanted to know that they all were alright and Nerdanel decided that they had to go. They couldn’t just stay there forever, and they needed things they couldn’t get otherwise.

They left for Tirion and Lerina was feeling very nervous. She didn’t like it at all. There were so few noldor elves left and the teleri and vanyar were openly hostile most of the time. Even those who hadn’t lost kin were angry and projected that anger onto those who had stayed behind. They were safe in the city but Lerina just couldn’t let her guard down. Finarfin was friendly enough, terribly sad and very unaccustomed to rule but he did a pretty good job considering that he wasn’t raised to be a ruler. They got what they needed of things, blankets, some wine, some herbs and cloth and Nerdanel was grateful. She was showing now and Lerina could see how the others there were staring at her, some with open contempt even if they were noldor themselves.

They stayed at the palace for some days, Ariniel got some new books and she was cheerful as ever, that nis never let anything break her. She was growing into a very tall female, but she wouldn’t be freakishly tall the way her father was. Lerina wondered where he was now, if he even was alive, and if they could manage to do what they had sworn to do. Somehow she doubted it. Oh she dreamed that they would return, triumphantly with the silmarils and Melkor in chains but she knew it was a futile dream. They could never win against the dark vala.

Ariniel and Canien and Alimiel left early, they were following the wagons and Nerdanel and Lerina still had business to take care of. Nerdanel wanted to make sure that her unborn child would be regarded as a heir to the throne and had long discussions with the counsellors and Lerina tried to find books about herbs and medicine. She had discovered that she had a fondness for such topics and wanted to learn more. When they left Tirion she had her saddlebags stuffed with books and scrolls and she was in a good mood. Nerdanel rode her usual grey gelding while Lerina was on the small mare Maedhros had given her, they had sold most of the horses and kept only those they needed. They left the city gates and rode across darkened fields, their eyes had grown accustomed to the lack of light and they saw pretty well by now but the landscape was without colors and it was a pitiful sight. The trees were bare, the grass gone and there was no song of birds to be heard. The land was dying and Lerina feared that the end would come soon if the valar didn’t come up with a source of light.

The horses kept a steady pace and Lerina was deep within her own thoughts when she heard voices, some elves stood by the road and they stared at the two riders with dark expressions. Lerina sensed trouble and Nerdanel went pale, they were alone without guards and these were ner, about ten of them and all very angry. “Look, it is the kinslayer’s whores”

Nerdanel stared at Lerina, her eyes wide. “Ride, we have to get away”

Lerina hesitated and the ner charged forwards, tried to grasp the reins. “Pull them off those horses, don’t let them get away!”

Nerdanel had a riding whip since her horse was a bit of a handful and she managed to hit two of the ner across their arms as they reached for her. They staggered back and Nerdanel put her spurs to the gelding who whinnied and took off like a racehorse. One of the ner shouted, “Stop her, she is carrying that monster’s offspring, it must not be allowed to be born”

One of the ner had a bow and was aiming for Nerdanel and Lerina reacted on pure instinct, she tossed her mare around and knocked the ner over, hands were trying to reach her skirts and she felt so terribly cold. Nerdanel was far away now, at least she was safe and Lerina let the horse spin around, trying to find a way out of the circle of angry male elves. “It is the redhead’s slut, the one who’s been a whore. Get her, she’ll get to feel what her husband has done”

Lerina was cold all over, terrified. One managed to get a hold of her braid and she was pulled down from the mare, hit the ground hard. The ner threw themselves at her but the mare was protecting her mistress, kicking and leaping and biting and the ner backed off. “That horse is possessed, shoot it”

Lerina screamed and got up, threw herself at the ner with the bow again and knocked him over, there were hands grasping her, pulling at her clothes, trying to force her down. She remembered the attack, remembered what had nearly happened to her and now it seemed that destiny was catching up with her. One of them backhanded her across her face. “Just scream you slut, let us show you what happens to whores who spreads her legs for noldorin scum”

The ner grasped a riding whip and struck her across her back, the dress was torn there and she gasped from the pain. “When we are finished nobody will want to touch you again you little piece of filth.”

The ner tried to push her down onto the ground and she screamed, tried to kick and bite and they chuckled. “Feisty ha? I bet that husband of yours have made you scream for more rather often, now it is our turn.”

She head butted one ner and managed to kick another in the groin and as a result one hit her in the gut, hard! She doubled over and gasped for breath and just knew it, this was a fight she couldn’t win but at least Nerdanel was safe and Ariniel too. She prepared to die fighting when there was a booming voice and a flash of intense light and the ner let go of her, frozen in shock. A very tall figure came striding towards them, glowing like a lamp and it was a maia, and he was angry no doubt. “What do you think you are doing? Are you insane? She may be the wife of one of those who spilled blood but she is not the one to blame.”

The ner stared at the maia and some were angry still. “They have to pay for what they have done”

The maia nodded. “And they will, in due time, but do not punish those who are innocent. You are all to appear before Manwë at the ring of doom, he will not be pleased to hear about this”

The ner looked nervous all of a sudden and Lerina felt herself tremble violently, the maia walked over to her and put his hand on her shoulder, warmth immediately flooded through her body. “You are safe now dear, my name is Olorin, it was Eru’s luck I was heading this way”

Lerina nodded, still shaking. “ I am very grateful”

Olorin nodded slowly. “Here, get back on your brave little mare, I will make sure you get back home safely.”

Lerina managed to get back in the saddle, the group of ner looked like dogs someone has scolded. She bit her lower lip. “Tell me, is it true that the valar are going to bring the light back?”

Olorin nodded. “ Yes dear, soon you will see.”

She tried to smile. “ I am glad, I thank you for your help”

Olorin smiled and threw a dark glance at the ner. “They are angry because of the kinslayings, yet they are themselves ready to commit just the same crime. Manwë will judge them hard”

Lerina just made a faint grimace, she didn’t doubt it at all. Olorin put a hand on hers. “ When the light returns and the world turns green yet again then do go to the woods, let them heal you all.”

Lerina bowed her head and made the mare trot off and Olorin stared at her with narrow eyes. The maia had a strong sense of having met someone who had more strength then she was aware off.

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