Chapter 1 Of Aredhel
Aredhel Ar-Fenial slipped away from the crowded hall and stood alone in her bower, far from the revelry of the court. She stopped and breathed deeply to catch her breath as well as to listen for anyone that might have been following her. If so, they would likely drag her back to the feast with a kind word or a reproaching one. When she was certain she was alone at last, she pulled out several scrolls and began documenting the thoughts racing through her head. Putting them to paper rested some of those thoughts and gave her a little peace of mind. If she had remained in that stuffy hall a moment longer, she feared that she might have utterly forgotten herself and her station and screamed aloud or shattered the nearest bit of crockery. How would the Golodrim react to her then? Though everyone assured her that the people loved her, she knew that they all secretly thought she was too strange to be a proper lady.
She had been having that feeling again; the sense that the great stone walls of the citadel of Gondolin were closing fast upon her and she was helpless to stop it. The music and the droning of a myriad of voices threw her into confusion. The brightness of the countless candles hurt her eyes, and the heat of the fires and torches was nigh unbearable. The intoxicating and sometimes suffocating scents of a variety of food, from roasted meats to garden vegetables, from fruit to tempting desserts, became overwhelming and made her stomach roil. The taste of sweat and wine was upon the tip of her tongue. Her head was spinning with the assault upon her senses.
She was still unused to the great city of Gondolin, and her ears were easily wearied with the usual talk amongst the Golodrim. The simple-minded folk, great and small alike prattled on merely about the next festivity, the latest Council, the dreary happenings of the day, and if there was naught else to talk about, they gossiped about their fellows. Gondolin was one of the few places left in Beleriand that knew peace, and so every day was a holiday, and there was more leisure time than the Golodrim knew what to do with. Aredhel found the constant celebrations dull and trite and avoided them if she could. But oftentimes, her brother invited her as a guest of honor, and there was no escaping her duties to her king. She was not so much a voluntary guest, and everyone was considered an honored guest at these gatherings. She did not feel honored, she was merely expected.
His little daughter Idril always came along as well, and she was Aredhel's charge with her mother gone. So Aredhel took the time to gather together a wardrobe for that night and stood alongside her brother and pretended to be enjoying herself as she watched her niece with affection. With everyone constantly talking to everyone but herself, she began to feel lonely and awkward. But when she attempted to take charge of a conversation, she lost her audiences' interest quickly when she mentioned that the hunting season was almost upon them and explained the best way to skin a fresh kill or the importance of animal scat in identifying prey. When she realized that they had merely been staring the whole time with their mouths hanging open, she gave up trying to make friends.
The Golodrim held a very high opinion of themselves. Most of their lords were High-Elves, but many more had been born there in the city of white-washed stone and splendor. They knew nothing of the sorrows of the world or of Valinor, always sheltered and ignorant. They found hunting distasteful and often thought of their kin in Nargothrond and the Sindar as barbarians. Gondolin was the fairest place in Arda, even though Aredhel had heard the minstrels sing that King Thingol was the tallest of the Eldar, his city of Menegroth and the realm of Doriath was the fairest, his queen the wisest, and his daughter the most beautiful that was or ever shall be. King Finrod and his folk could have their damp caves, it would not save them. Besides, they had gotten the idea from the Sindar, and King Thingol could have his Girdle of Melian. Sorcery and bows would not protect them either.
It was prophesied by Mandos that Gondolin would be the last to fall to Morgoth, and that meant it would never fall in the Golodrim's simple minds. The White Lady knew better. Mandos had prophesied that it certainly would fall. They had more time to prepare for Morgoth's inevitable attack, but nothing more. High walls and gleaming swords would not save them.
Aredhel was the youngest of her siblings. Her father Finwë had had two sons, which were Fingon and Turgon. Turgon ruled the Noldor in the North, Fingon ruled the rest. Aredhel's duty was to aid Turgon in Gondolin as a sort of co-regent. But though she was the youngest of the Royal Children and a female, she was just as fierce as her brothers. Before she had come with her brother to Gondolin, she had dwelt with her cousins Celegorm and Curufin in the lands of Himlad. They were strictly her half-cousins, and since they were two of the Seven Sons of Fëanor, there was some bad blood between them and their kin.
Fëanor had divided the Noldor into two branches. The original king had had two wives, an unusual thing among the Eldar. His first wife, Miriel, died bearing his heir, Fëanor. His second wife, Indis, bore to him two other sons. Turgon was the descendant of one of these. When the true king was murdered by Morgoth the fallen Vala, Fëanor proposed that the Noldor leave Valinor and seek vengeance. All agreed, but Fëanor proposed other things as well, such as usurping the Sindar's lands and amassing armies to destroy their foe Morgoth and to reclaim his stolen Silmarils at any cost. Indis' children spoke out against him, and so he left them to cross the terrible Grinding Ice on foot and took those that were loyal to him to the Havens of the Teleri. There, he murdered the ship-wrights and stole their ships. That was why the Noldor were cursed, and their fathers had become sworn enemies when the Noldor went into exile.
Bitter was the crossing of the Helceraxë, the Grinding Ice that brought the children of Indis from the blessed lands of Valinor and into the unknown that they intended to make their new home. The great mass of people feared avalanches would sweep them away. Rocks encrusted with ice would now and then fall upon them and injure or kill with only the slightest disturbance. This turned out to be the least of their worries. They had only to tread lightly and quietly. The real killer was simply the cold itself. It pierced through layers and layers of cloth and fur and gnawed its way through bones. It killed slowly but surely. Most froze to death, falling asleep and dreaming of being warm. The first that died did so in their sleep, victims to the cold. After that they fought off sleep. Those that gave in to their exhaustion risked death, even torch bearers that had fire froze to death. The ground upon which they trod was treacherous, for often it was ice disguised with snow.
Some fell through and drowned in the icy cold waters, trapped as the ice reformed to imprison them forever. Turgon's wife and the Queen of the Golodrim met her fate in this way. She handed her newborn baby, the Princess Idril, into Aredhel's arms and strayed away to lead several stragglers back to the main group. Without warning, the ground gave way beneath her and her party, and though they were rescued from the waters, she had stood in the middle of the fray, and thus she was unreachable. The Golodrim had tried in vain to save her. Turgon dove into the waters, but this too was vanity. Elenwë was trapped under fresh ice, and her people could only watch in horror as she struggled to shatter it, struggled with her last ounce of strength for a single breath. And while she struggled, her face blanched from the lack of air and the bitter cold. Then she became peacefully still, and it was over.
Aredhel was just as distressed as everyone else with Elenwë's death, and she was angered when she learned that Fëanor had left them all there to die. But, she told herself, that was Fëanor's sin, not his sons. Not Celegorm and Curufin, whom she loved. Growing up in Valinor, she had been Celegorm's favorite play-mate, despite her gender. Even when she was young, she had climbed trees, fearless of injury or grime. She could throw stones more accurately than the brothers, but her father did not allow her to carry a sword or train with one. That was above her status and ladyship. But she rode horses and became a fine huntress under Prince Celegorm's training. He bragged that he had made her the finest huntress of all time, and perhaps he was right. Rather than wearing pretty dresses that were dreadfully uncomfortable, inconvenient, and easily worn out after their first wear, she wore a boy's plain, loose tunic and tough riding breeches. She was always upon a horse if she was not sleeping. She founded a grand kennel and had many hounds. She missed them sorely when they left Valinor.
Aredhel had dealt with much turmoil for her behavior even then. Her father and her brothers did not like it that she returned from the Pastures of Yavanna with grass and leaves in her hair, dirt and blood stains upon her clothes, boy's clothes for that matter, and spoke with a fiery tongue, fearless of rebuke. She felt she was the equal of anyone, male or female, and she was told by them that she was so. But, she was also a Lady, daughter of kings, and had a reputation to protect and a duty to her people. She was told that she must stop tramping about with these upstart Sons of Fëanor. She refused, and Celegorm, always eager to stir up mischief, increased his time with her in spite. Finwë had a stern talking with him, claiming that he had unsexed Aredhel, but in the end, she agreed to compromise. She began to wear dresses more often and acted more ladylike around her father and brothers. But her heart was wild and untamable, and she was able to continue hunting with Celegorm beside her.
Now that she was no longer a child and her father and elder brother was leagues away, she had more freedom. Turgon was not so strict as the other males in her family. She could wear a sword if she pleased, but she could not wield it in the public eye. Blades could not be drawn unless it was for training or battle, and there was little of that. She could not hunt in the wild lands. The animals near Gondolin were tame, the gardens planted there by her people. She could not wear whatever she desired either. She wore elegant dresses so that she would not be disgraced and attended one festival after another, and even worse, her once constant companion Prince Celegorm was not there to make japes or cause trouble.
Idril was her only joy, and was practically her own babe. Her niece was the prettiest, sweetest child, though sometimes she could be a handful. Idril always turned to her Auntie if she had questions, concerns, or had gotten into trouble. Unfortunately, the poor girl had no one else to turn to. In return for her kindness, if Aredhel could not tolerate another social gathering, Idril would do her best to convince her father that the White Lady could not possibly attend. Oftentimes she came up with clever excuses, but Turgon insisted more and more these days. Perhaps he had ceased to believe any excuses or Idril had run out of ideas.
Aredhel also wished to avoid her suitors. She was the sister of King Turgon and therefore the most desirable female bachelor in the North Kingdom, and seemingly the most available. She was a fierce and independent maiden, beautiful, intelligent, but stark cold. She felt no remorse for those that fell for her charms. After all, she sought no husband and did not desire one at all. She used and discarded most of her suitors, leading on a poor lad to stay the eager tongues of the court for a little while, testing her seductive powers and enjoying herself. She gave the more overbearing ones impossible tasks in order to prove their love and devotion until they finally realized that their efforts were in vain and sought another, less tempered jewel to pursue.
But the pressure from her own people was fast mounting. She could not dally in the matter of courtship much longer. They wanted assurance that the throne would not be vacant if something catastrophic were to fall upon Idril their heiress or if she were otherwise incapable of carrying out her duty. If not, the bloodline would call upon one of the Sons of Fëanor to reign, and the Golodrim did not want that at all. She grew tired of the rendezvous, the game of 'cat and mouse' in her opinion. She made it known to everyone that she was now a disciple of the Valier Nessa, a Virgin Huntress, and inaccessible. This did not stop suitors coming to call upon her to try and convince her to change her mind and renounce her hasty vow. She had once found it amusing. Now it was a constant aggravation.
At long last, Aredhel went to her brother and poured her heart to him and all that she desired. She longed for the ancient days and was plagued by the ceaselessly guarded city and the people's unguarded talk. She was also lonely for the faces of the Sons of Fëanor. She could always connect with Turgon, for they had understood one another remarkably well, even when they were children and Aredhel was a tomboy. He had disapproved of her habits and despised Celegorm, but he did not try to ostracize her as their father and elder brother Fingon had once done. Turgon listened intently to her words, as she knew he would, and he tried his best to support her, but the conversation became hostile.
"What can I do to ease your restlessness?" he asked.
"It is not you, brother. It is this place!"
"But there is nothing I can do about our surroundings. No one else has ever come to me with misgivings about Gondolin or asked to depart her before. Do you not love the city? Have we not toiled for centuries in the city's making?"
Aredhel decided to be more tactful and said, "Do not mistake me," for her brother loved the work of his own hands, perhaps overmuch. "Gondolin is certainly one of the fairest dwellings outside of Valinor itself. But it is for that very place that I long, and the way back to the Blessed Lands is barred to the Noldor. You cannot hope to surpass the dwelling places of the Valar!"
"You long for the past, dear sister," Turgon said with pity. "And that I cannot give to you."
"I know that, but there is yet another cure for my malady."
"The only cure that I can think of is a husband," Turgon suggested. "You need a companion, Aredhel. How can you bear the loneliness? You have refused every one of your suitors. Do you think I have no knowledge of your doings at court? I have heard the rabble talk of you and the hopeless pursuits you have sent Elves upon in order to win your heart or hand, for your heart you will never give! They fall about your feet and worship you, and you twist their love and deal with them cruelly! Your deeds are becoming scandalous, Aredhel! You refused even Ecthelion Lord of the Fountains and Warden of the Great Gate, and he is the finest of the Eldar that you could ever hope to find in Gondolin!"
"Yes. He is a fine and noble lord, like all of the Elves in this city," Aredhel was agitated by his words. "None of the Noldoli are paupers, but they are all the same. They are all remote, full of pompous pride, and seek to dominate and belittle their wives. They may love them, and some may even treat them as equals, but the bride is no longer her own self. I would no longer be the White Lady in my own right with my own status, but the Lady of Ecthelion Lord of the Fountains! I would become merely a subservient extension of him."
"Aredhel, you are the daughter of a king and my sister. You shall always have your own status, if your status is all that you seek to protect."
"I wish to protect my own chastity and dignity, not my status! How could you think that I would be so shallow?"
"Aredhel, I wish to make a good match for you. I would never dream of wedding you to one unworthy of you."
Aredhel searched his face and answered, "You seem determined to marry me off, brother. Could it be that you are trying to get rid of me? Well then, I ask this of you: If I were to wed Ecthelion or another, who then would rear your daughter? Idril has no mother, and you have no wife to fill that void in her life. Perhaps it is you that is in need of a spouse!"
"I did have a spouse, and her name was Elenwë! I seek no other, for she was dear to me. You will never know how much I loved her... She was not only my bride, or slave, as you seem to think the word means, but my most trusted and wisest of counselors. Elenwë was my Queen, my dearest friend, and my love. She was also the mother of my child. Besides, I would rather not have a second wife that would complicate matters further as it did for Fëanor and Indis' children. At least if you were wed to Ecthelion, you two could foster Idril in your home. Then she might finally have a taste of what it would be like to have a complete family and to be happy, for she is a moody child I fear."
"And I do not blame her!" Aredhel retorted. "The girl lost her mother when she was a babe. Nothing can fill that abyss in her life, and now you seek to cast her from your side and into the hands of strangers! I am not so much a stranger, for I have all but reared her as my own these years, but who is Ecthelion to her but a name with titles and estates? Do you think she would truly be happy? And when she is grown, you will likely try to marry her off as well. According to ancient law, the King should be no more than the consort of the Queen. It was she that was born to the throne and did not marry into it. You would likely ignore that law and hand over the reign to Idril's husband, and a husband of your choosing!"
"What do you care about Idril's happiness? You are asking me to let you leave and abandon her! What shall she do without you, the closest thing she will ever have to a true mother?"
"And what of you, her father, for she is your child and not mine! Though I love her well, she did not spring forth from my loins! Do not use her as an excuse to wed me against my will and unburden yourself from raising your own heir! Idril must learn to live without me and rule one day if anything were to happen to you!"
Turgon said, "It is true. She is not your child. It seems to me as though you do not care for having children of your own either. Children are precious and far too few these days. Do you not wish to carry on your bloodline?"
"I do not plan upon having children. If it is offspring you desire, encourage the Golodrim to have more children, but do not command it of them. Especially do not command it of me."
"I care only for your happiness. I do not know if you can find that alone in permanent solitude!"
"I will not find happiness in marriage!" Aredhel snapped. "The very word is ominous to me! Now can we move on to a more relevant and practical subject?"
"Very well," Turgon sighed. "But how else do you plan to cure your restlessness?"
"I am very glad you asked. I plan to depart for Himlad and dwell with the Sons of Fëanor for a time," she answered. "I shall become the Huntress again. I felt such joy there in the forests and pastures of Valinor, calling to my hounds and running the great race. Here in this city with the thickest, tallest walls and the large numbers of soldiers and weaponry, and the endless festivals, I feel caged."
"Perhaps I should give you some lands to make your own? What of the field of Tumladin? That would give you enough land to plant gardens or even a new forest. And there are already gardens here behind our walls of surpassing beauty! Why not spend time there and walk about them?"
"They were not originally there, were they? You planted them recently, and they are always crowded. Not with the birds and bees, but with hundreds of our people. They too seek solace from a prisoner's life. I have walked the garden paths countless times, longing for the gardens unspoilt by greedy hands and the unexplored forests. Everything in this city had been fabricated to imitate what nature first created!"
Turgon was astonished and hurt that Aredhel was not satisfied with his own creation, and he was having difficulty understanding her desire. Did she seek only Celegorm and his misguided ways, or did she seek to claim the world for her own? Even so, her ambitions were high, and he was reluctant to yield to her desire.
"There is a law in this land that none that knows the ways hither shall depart," he said.
"I am well aware of that law, but I am not sure yet how far I shall wander or how long I shall leave the sacred walls of Gondolin."
"Do you think that you are above the law?"
"I am not your prisoner!" Aredhel burst in anger. "I am the White Lady, your sister, not your servant. I have said that many times before! You cannot keep me here, Turgon, and if you do, I swear-"
"Swear not!" Turgon interrupted. "Do not tempt fate, for it has a way of playing upon our words, sister!"
"Then I shall swear something that I know I can keep. I swear that I shall speak to no one of Gondolin, save for those that are of it."
"The law," Turgon said doubtfully, "if broken but once ceases to be a law."
"Do you mean to say that you do not trust me to hold my tongue?" Aredhel sounded injured. "That I am no more than a prattling girl of the court and would depart from the gates and wander upon the road, telling all that I see of this most sacred city that is thought to be unassailable? How is it unassailable if but one whisper upon the wind can destroy it?"
"If I trust you, Aredhel, there are others that I trust less. But go, if you must, and seek only Fingon our brother, and those that I send with you shall return as swiftly as need be."
"I am the White Lady. I shall go where I please and see whom I wish to see! Do not command aught else! Why are you trying your hardest to pent me here!"
"You are not afraid that Morgoth our enemy could have broken through our defenses and may be lingering with his armies on our borders? Do you realize that if a single spy, if only a bird, were to see or hear rumor of Gondolin and be true, our city would be destroyed and raptured by his black power?"
"That cannot be, for Morgoth is hemmed away in the North! I shall go South! I ask only for a small escort to guide me to Himlad."
They argued back and forth about the matter, but Aredhel was more stubborn than he was, and he yielded at last.
"I would never deprive you of anything, sister. Promise me that you shall seek Fingon, and remember that there are many perils in the world besides Morgoth, though of these perils you may know nothing."
He let those words linger, hoping that they might have some affect upon her, but Aredhel was not daunted by them and was no less eager to leave.
She replied only with, "I am glad that we agree, dearest brother."
Turgon kissed her and gathered together his best guides and rangers. He carefully chose one to oversee the others. The boy's name was Engner the Tracker. He was a bit of a young pup for an elf, born and bred behind the city walls, but he was vigorous and eager to be of service to his lord and king and his lady. His youthful energy was much needed for traveling the long hard roads of Beleriand, and though he was born to a less than noble family, he was raised as the apprentice of the finest trackers of the land. He had mastered the skills needed and was known for his expertise in the making and reading of maps. He could find his way through Hell, if it was necessary, and it was such a tracker that Turgon needed, for he knew his sister all too well.
Turgon took the youth aside and spoke to him eye to eye.
"My sister is very dear to me," he stated plainly. "You must understand this. There is only one that I love more than her, and I dare not utter her name."
"Ar-Fenial is very dear to us all, your highness" the youth answered. "It shall be as though the moon were vacant from the sky when she departs. She does not plan to leave for all time, does she?"
Turgon narrowed his eyes, "I did not know that you were a creature of the court. Have you even lain eyes upon the White Lady?"
"No, your majesty," Engner paled, fearing retribution, but he quickly recovered, "I have heard of her beauty and her countless suitors. I cannot imagine what the Elves shall have to do when she is at last beyond their reach and out of their sight. With peace in the land, there is not much else to take up their time."
"Then they are ungrateful for the peace that the Valar grants to them and the walls of Gondolin that protect them! No doubt, they shall have their chance for glorious battle. We can never know the activities of the Enemy. But I was speaking of my sister. Another thing that you must understand is that she is very headstrong. You are younger than she and likely more stubborn. I am counting upon that, Engner."
"Thank you for that compliment, my lord," Engner was puzzled.
"I am sending Lord Ecthelion upon the road with you, as well as the young lord Glorfindel. Aredhel shall try to bend you to her will and stretch out the rules set before her. Do not allow her to dominate you or dissuade you from following my commands. She shall insist upon taking the swiftest paths, heedless of peril."
Turgon handed several scrolls to Engner.
"What are these?"
"They are maps, of course," he answered. "I have marked all the paths that you may take. You shall seek Fingon in Hithlum. That is the only path that you may take, mind you!"
"I understand, my lord, though I had heard that the Lady desired to seek out the Sons of Fëanor."
"That is not my will. She should seek Fingon first, and she agreed to that before. Trust me and do not question your king."
"You understand my command?"
"Yes, my lord."
"Then go! And may the stars shine upon you!"
Engner assembled all of the paraphernalia that was necessary for their journey and joined the White Lady's escort. Ecthelion and Glorfindel were already there with their supplies, and there were several others, no more than servants with swords and half a dozen in number. However, all were older than he, and they laughed when they realized how young he was.
"You are no more than a boy!"
"Age is only a number, my friends," he grumbled.
"We were expecting someone with more experience."
"I am the best tracker in Gondolin!" Engner defended. "I can track a wild deer for weeks after the trail has already grown cold, and I have been sent out upon the roads alone many times bearing messages throughout all of Beleriand! I am no public hermit like the rest of the Golodrim!"
"Very well, Master Tracker," Ecthelion laughed with the others in amusement. "We accept your proof. Now explain why you have held us all up waiting for you? Would it not have been better to leave early in the morning?"
"I was speaking with the King."
"And what did my brother say to you?" said a feminine voice in his ear.
He turned towards the voice and saw the White Lady, though he thought she was no more than an attendant to the King's sister at first. She was garbed in the drab of a servant or peasant. She wore a maiden's tunic and riding breeches, stitched for hard work and travel and not for elegance. However she was dressed, she was especially beautiful. Her hair was dark and loose and fell in ripples several inches above her waist. Her skin was luminous, her eyes piercing blue. She was slender and tall, not birdlike and dainty. And yet there was a frown upon her face. Though she was in the garb of a knave, any fool could sense the strength in her. She was a daughter of kings. He felt unsettled in her presence, but he stood up proud and erect and guarded his thoughts.
"We were discussing the conditions of the road and of the impending season," Engner answered. "It shall be especially difficult now that winter is coming. I personally think that you should have waited for spring before you decided to set out on this venture. We should be expecting heavy snows-"
He would have continued his prattling with pleasure, but Aredhel held up her hand for silence. He frowned and shut his mouth, for a child came sprinting towards the company. She was a pretty thing with hair of gold parted into seven braids. She wore a holiday gown of crimson of the finest stuff. Though she was a child, she was a tall girl for her age. Aredhel stretched out her arms and embraced her. Engner saw that the others bowed in the child's presence. Her eyes were gray, the same as the King's, and he realized that this must be the Princess Idril.
"Hello, little darling!" Aredhel cried indulgently, lifting the child into her arms as though she were made of nothing. "What are you doing here?"
"I have come to beg you not to leave, Auntie," the child answered with all seriousness, "and if I cannot succeed where my father has failed, then I have come to say my mournful farewells."
Aredhel was astonished and did not answer at once. Even the two lords were confused and watched from the corners of their eyes. They did not wish to intrude upon the conversation more than they must.
"Why are you leaving, Auntie?" the girl asked, sounding a little more like a child. "Why?"
"Because I cannot remain here. I am stifled by the city. It is as simple as that. Do you not understand, darling?"
"No. That is far too simple an answer."
Engner almost laughed aloud, but he knew it would be most disrespectful and did not dare to even crack a smile. Usually, adults were counseled to give simple answers to their children, and only then could they understand. But, it appeared that Idril was no ordinary child. Perhaps children were not credited with the intelligence that they were deserved.
"Do not worry for me, Idril. I will not be gone forever."
"Then when will you return? And for this, I shall need a direct answer!"
"As soon as I have grown weary of the hunt and my restlessness is cured."
The expression on the child's face made it obvious that she was disappointed with that response, "Then I shall not see you again for a terrible long count of years, long after your 'restlessness' has passed, as you call it. You shall yearn for home more sorely than you yearn to leave it now, and the years shall be hateful to you. You must stay, for your own sake."
"Is this a premonition, Idril?" Aredhel teased. "You are much too young for foresight. You are a child, and a child should laugh and play with other children, not trouble about their elders."
Engner and the others laughed softly to break some of the tension, for Aredhel now looked uneasy, and Idril frowned. They did not know that even as a little girl, Idril could read many hearts and could see more accurately into the future than the Eldar were usually allowed.
"You do not believe me," she said in a low voice, and it trembled a little, betraying her.
"It is natural to be frightened for me," Aredhel said tenderly. "But you should not be. I want you to stay here with your father. You must take care of the king for me. He was fretting over me too."
Idril nodded, but she muttered under her breath with bitterness, "My father would not listen to the counsel of a child any more than you have. Neither was he fully convinced by you when last you saw him. You said that you would only seek Fingon and the Sons of Fëanor after, but we both know that is not the case."
This is an uncanny child indeed, Engner thought to himself, and Aredhel frowned. There were moments when she wondered about her little niece. Was the girl simply rude and learned her information through spying, or did she really have an ability to know things that no one else did? When she took on that odd tone when correcting an adult, was she being arrogant, or was she truly wise beyond her years?
"Auntie," Idril pleaded, sounding like the helpless girl-child she should have been. "Please do not leave. If not for your own sake, do not leave for mine. What will I do without you? Auntie... I have no mother, no one. I love you. Do you not care for me at all? Or was I ever just a burden thrust upon you because you are the King's sister, a bouncing brat that you despise?"
"No!" Aredhel bound her in a tight squeeze. "No, Idril! Do not ever think that! I think of you as my own daughter, and indeed the only daughter I shall ever have. I will never bear a daughter...," Aredhel did not know what had possessed her to say the last of that, but it was proven to be a moment of foresight. "I love you more than I have ever loved anyone, and I will return. I promise you that, darling."
And now Idril was weeping. She clung to Aredhel, and the White Lady was forced to ask for assistance. She too was in tears. At last, Idril was torn away from her by a nanny.
Suddenly she cried out, "Oh, Auntie! I will see you again, but when you return to Gondolin, you shall not rest but one night behind these walls! Goodbye, Auntie! I love you and shall miss you terribly!"
And Aredhel answered, "Farewell, Idril, my little darling. I love you more than you will ever know."
Then she let out a command and bolted away, forcing Engner and the others to follow whether they were prepared or not. He sighed. Already she had become a problem! But with every problem, there was a solution, and he was determined to find it. The truth was that some problems have no solution.
Idril watched the travelers leave from the tower window and gazed on in sorrowful thought long after they had gone. When her nanny attempted to distract her, she drove her out of the room with her screaming. She slammed her door shut and locked it and would not take her meals or sleep. When her tutors came for her lessons, she would not let them in.
"I want Auntie!" she would cry.
At last, her father Turgon, the King himself, came to her.
"So you have come, father," she said, making a point of the near resentment in her words. "You have come because I have misbehaved, and you must amend my conduct. Why else would you be here? Certainly not for an amiable consultation!"
"Perhaps it is better that Aredhel is leaving. I fear that you have come to adopt her double-edged sword, her tongue," he answered with a frown. "I know you chased your nanny off because you wanted to be alone, and the tutors repeated the words you have been shouting. Perhaps I have come to comfort you. Did you think of that, my clever little girl?"
Idril stared longingly out the window and kept her back to him with deliberate iciness, "I am not so little, nor clever. If I were truly clever, I would have convinced Auntie to stay."
"Ah, child, do not worry," he tried to reassure her. "I have sent her off with two of my greatest lords and a fine young tracker. She shall be all right."
"Do you really believe that, my father?"
"Aredhel is a fine maiden. Nothing can harm her save the Enemy himself, and Gondolin is unassailable, even if her location could be found."
"It is not for Gondolin I fear," Idril said. "But for my Auntie. She shall not fall into the hands of the Enemy, but shall suffer a fate worse than that."
Turgon said, "Idril, you worry overmuch. Now come and finish your sewing. You must learn to obey your nanny and learn your manners. Now that Aredhel is gone you cannot hide behind her skirts and talk moonshine. You are the Lady of Gondolin now and my heir."
But the stubborn and distressed child tossed the needlework out of the tower window and replied, "King-craft does not include sewing exercises!"
"Idril, if you insist that you are not a little girl than you must act like an adult. Then I shall treat you like one!" Turgon was quickly running out of patience. "I think it was not just Aredhel's influence that has affected you, but you are of the same blood. That is unfortunate, for that cannot be helped. You shall now walk down the stairs, go outside, and fetch that needlework and complete it! There are many things besides king-craft that you need learn! Your succession is not written in stone! You would do well to remember that!"
"Why, because I do not care for sewing? And why must I prove that I am like an adult? Why should you not prove to me that you are an adult! I have seen adults throw peevish tantrums more severe than babies and commit acts that make no sense at all, but they are not children simply because they are bigger! I have never seen you sew!" Idril accused. "Sew me a fine cloak and tell me how it aids you in matters of state and then I shall consider taking up the menial task!"
Turgon was absolutely stunned at such belligerence and amazed at the advanced words tumbling smoothly from the child's mouth. He wondered where she had learned the vocabulary. If he were not so angry and shocked, he would have been bristling with pride. He was so enraged that he left the room and Idril looked down at her feet and controlled her breathing to calm herself, a trick she had learned. Then she called for a servant to bring her food and invite her language tutor in. She had now proved her point and vented her frustration. It was no longer practical to withhold food and ignore the humdrum that awaited her.
"Auntie taught me better than this," she said to herself.