Every day as soon as lessons finished, Fëanáro would climb down the ivy that grew across the palace wall. Pulling his cloak over his head, he looked around to make sure he was not being followed. If only he had looked hard enough, he would have seen three figures lingering just above him, carefully perched among the trees.
Satisfied that he was not being followed, he continued on his merry way. The week was almost up. Today he would add to the rings the finishing touches of engraving and set the stones among the delicate inlays. With renewed vigor he broke into a run. Passing venders ducking under people’s arms he dashed through the crowd giving his followers quite a hard go.
Turning right, he saw the sign of Mahtan’s shop; looking once more to make sure the coast was clear, he turned the handle of the door and was home. “Mahtan, I’m home!” he chirpily announced his normal line. It had become a kind of game.
“What took you so long today, laddie?” Mahtan asked.
“I was procuring this.” With a flourish, he pulled out of his bag a collection of berry tarts. “It is my thanks for taking me as your apprentice.”
“Perhaps you should be late more often,” he said as he took the treats from the young elfling. “Though I do thank you. It has been a pleasure teaching you, my prince.”
Fëanáro smiled, not taking notice of his title. Making his way to the counter, he pulled the rings down from their hiding space. Opening the box, he was struck by a blending of golds and shimmering jewels.
“They are almost finished!” he announced proudly, showing the rings to his master. “Look at how flowers appear to have sprung from the rings themselves, as if they were supposed to be there.” He marveled at his work.
“They are a gift from Ilúvatar himself.” Turning, Mahtan walked towards the door. “Alyan, we have some guests visiting us today. I would very much like it if you would make the introductions.”
Heart racing, Fëanáro turned towards the door. His heart sunk when three cloaked elves entered the room. He stood still, clenching the rings, as the elves revealed themselves to be Niquessë, his guard Imrathon, and Rúmil.
Thinking of an explanation quickly, Fëanáro blurted out, “Mahtan, meet my Amme and Atto,” he said, pointing to his guard and nursemaid. He understood that it was folly to pair Rúmil with Niquessë. Everyone knew Rúmil.
Ignoring the astonished looks from the elder elves he gave them each a pointed look to continue with the charade.
“Imrathon, I was not aware that Alyan was your son,” Mahtan said, looking the nér in the eye. “And I understood you were married to my eldest daughter, Melda. She will be very disappointed to learn you have been married these many years with a son,” he said, turning to Fëanáro, who fidgeted under his watchful gaze.
“Well, I can explain-”
Raising his hand, Mahtan interrupted the young elfling. “I know who you are.” He narrowed his eyes. “More importantly, I would like to know why you believe that I am not trustworthy, Curufinwë Fëanáro.”
Looking at each of the elves before him, Fëanáro observed the emotions hiding behind their eyes. Disbelief and embarrassment were evident in the eyes of Imrathron. Jealousy, exasperation, and curiosity seemed to leap forth from Rúmil; that in itself was surprising.
The elfling looked down at his feet. All he had wished for was time to himself. He had only wanted to learn. Will I apologize, or will I make up another excuse?These thoughts seemed at war with one another inside his mind. Perhaps a different path would be wisest.
“I will not apologize,” he announced, looking at the adults before him. “All I wished was to learn, to study, and master a new craft.” Tapping his fingers in a three-four rhythm, he waited for their response.
Looking at Niquessë, he saw that her frown had turned upside down. She was smiling softly. “Never apologize for learning.” She held her hand up to stop Rúmil, who looked about ready to burst. “However, you should not lie. We have talked about this many times.” Looking the boy in the eye, she continued, “Why did you lie? ”
Stiffening, Fëanáro looked at Niquessë. “I apologize for lying, but not for coming to Master Mahtan’s shop.”
Gripping onto the ring, he clenched his fists and readied himself for a stern lecture; he had known that his lies would only last so long. Looking at Niquessë, he almost dared her to correct him.
“Show me,” Niquessë said, holding her hand out towards the young prince. Looking down at the wooden box containing his rings, he tentatively handed it to his nursemaid, who turned to Rúmil and his guard. He watched with bated breath as they looked at the rings. Of course, he knew it was good, but he craved their approval.
“Mahtan, are you certain that you did not have a hand in this project?” Imrathon spoke, turning to his father-in-law.
“It is exquisite,” Niquessë breathed as she turned the box in her hand, carefully examining the rings inside. “The flowers appear to have been just cut, though it is metal.”
Taking the box out her hand, Rúmil walked over to the young prince. “Well done,” he said, placing the box in the prince’s hand. “Very well, we will allow you to finish the rings – after which, you will return to us and focus on your studies.” Raising his hand, he stopped the boy from protesting. “I will not tell our king; that is something that you must do on your own.”
Holding onto the rings, Fëanáro looked at the four adults who were softly conversing with one another. “Give me two hours. I will finish the rings before the waning of Laurelin.”
Walking over to his workspace, Fëanáro grabbed his apron and tying it around him reached for his tools. Sitting down on a stool, he began adding the finishing touches to his first solo masterpieces.
The elves watched as the prince seemed to ignore all around him. Watching him work his craft was beautiful. Unable to contain his curiosity any longer, Rumil stood up, attempting to make his way to watch the young child at work. Feeling a hand grab his own, Rúmil looked to see Niquessë watching the prince with fascination. Standing back down, Rúmil felt her gently squeeze his hand, signifying that she was pleased that he would allow the prince to work in peace.
Oblivious to the scene being played out around him, Fëanáro grabbed a file and began adding the silver inlay. That had been a last minute decision that had been made to make the rings reflect the light; under the two Trees, they would shine with a fervent glow. Narrowing his eyes in focus, he carefully set the silver shavings in the ring. Taking it over to the fire, he carefully held it in the tongs so as not to melt it, but to allow it to heat just enough to melt the metals together. Pulling the first ring away, he carefully walked to the workspace and set it on a pedestal and worked to polish the metal.
True to his word, it was not two hours before the rings were complete. Carefully placing them in the box with a cloth so as not to leave any fingerprints he closed the lid. Taking his apron off from around his neck, he placed it back on the hook and put each tool back in its original holding area. Holding the box, he walked over and handed it to Mahtan.
Stepping back he watched as his master and the respective elves looked at the now complete rings. Taking a deep breath the boy grounded himself back into reality as they stood around the rings. He watched as Mahtan walked over to the window and yanked the curtains open. He held back a smile as audible gasps filled the room as the rings gave off a reflection of Laurelin.
“Do not give up smith-work,” Mahtan spoke, clapping the elfling on the shoulder. “For the time being, you will be addressed as Alyan.”
Understanding that to be a confirmation of his continuing apprenticeship, the prince straightened his shoulders.