Chapter Seven - 191st Cycle of the Trees, 1273


I don't know where to start.

I really don't know where to start.

I feel like I could run to Makalaurë and ask him to write me a song, and then I would run to the top of Tirion and sing it out to all the city!

But I also feel like I would rather sit down and sing it softly into one ear only ...

I went to the market as planned this morning. My attendant took me to the stall where he had seen those statuettes last week. There were still statuettes, and he said that these were new, not the same ones as last week. I only had time to see that some of them didn't seem to be of the Valar at all, before the saleswoman noticed us and came over to help.

And my fëa recognised hers.

I don't rightly know what I said at first. It wasn't very coherent. I blurted out with something like 'Weren't you the one I didn't see at the Ball?' - which, to anyone other than my healer wouldn't make much sense. Even my attendant, ever the discreet one, silently raised one eyebrow, before stepping back a little, giving me some privacy.

She just stared at me.

I tried to remedy what I'd just said.

"You were at my father's Ball, were you not?" I said. "Even though I didn't meet you ..."

Which wasn't much of an improvement. I've never felt as flustered in the presence of a maiden before. And she continued staring at me, trying to stutter something. Finally she seemed to compose herself, looked down, curtseyed to me and answered, "Yes, I was at the Ball for a short time ..."

Now she quite determinedly didn't look at me. She stared instead at the statuette I had been about to lift up to look at. And to my relief, she turned businesslike.

"You wish to buy something, my lord?" she asked.

"Yes - I suppose I do ..." I mumbled, looking down at the statuette again. Perhaps, I thought, it would be easier to get back later to what I really wanted to say.

Her statuettes were amazing. This one - and the two next to it - really wasn't of a Vala. They were of Eldar - one of each of the Three Kindreds.

"This is really good," I told her. "Princess Eärwen over at Alqualondë - daughter of my father's friend Olwë, King of the Teleri - has a ship very much like this one. And here -" I pointed to the next one - "this could be, say, King Ingwë, my grandfather, when he listens to the wisdom of the Valar? But oh - this one is my favorite, naturally."

I picked up her Noldo statuette. Whatever I think about my half-brother and the way he is treating us, I've always admired him as a great craftsman. And this was his very posture at work.

But not his features.

"I would like to buy this one," I said. "I don't know whether this is intentional on your part - but he looks so very much like my father. How much is it?"

She named the price, I paid for it and gave it to my attendant for safe-keeping.

"But I nearly forgot," I said. "I need something for a birthday present as well. For Findis, my sister - you may have seen her at the Ball. I thought perhaps a vase - or is there anything else you would recommend?"

She offered to make something special for Findis. I told her how much I appreciated the offer. We discussed patterns for a little while, and then, checking first that my attendant seemed more concerned with keeping people off than with listening in on everything I said, I mustered all my courage.

"And please," I asked, "could you come to our house and deliver it yourself? At the Ball - I could feel that you were there, that my fëa met yours. You made me feel comfortable. And - I would like to see you again."

She looked at me, suddenly shaking so much that she had to clutch the table to steady herself.

"You felt it too?" she stammered.

I looked into her eyes. Finally she had dared meeting my gaze.

"Oh yes, I felt it," I told her. "As soon as I walked into that room, I could feel that there was someone in there with whom I could relax. It was refreshing. But very soon - before I had the chance to turn around and look for you - I could feel that you fled."

Looking away again, she admitted that she had fled - and attributed it to some silly notion that it wouldn't be proper for me as a prince to have the daughter of a simple scribe as my friend. As if all of my friends were only sons and daughters of nobles! Well, perhaps most of them are, but even so ...

I told her how much I disagreed with her notion. I asked her to try to forget for a while that I am a prince.

"Your fëa met mine," I reminded her, "without looking at rank. There's some kind of kinship between our fëar, I think. Especially if you felt it too. And rank doesn't come into it."

She looked up at me again, and for some time we were just staring into each other's eyes. After a while I felt as if I was staring into her fëa itself.

And our fëar were opening up to each other.

On some occasions Arafinwë and I have shared thoughts, one fëa to another, without needing words or being near each other. His mind has reached out to mine, conveying his need for help, and I have wordlessly promised my help, and later made good on my promise. I have felt that we have got closer to each other through such incidents.

I have also, a couple of times, tried it out with my attendant, just to know that we would be able to communicate, if secrecy were necessary - purely on a technical note, with no emotional closeness being involved at all.

But even my closeness to my brother had been nothing like this. She opened up her mind to me completely. My fëa reacted by doing the same to her - if indeed there is kinship between them, what other thing was there to do? Wouldn't this be part of what it was for?

We shared. We shared our names - oh, she already knows my father name, that's no secret - but we even shared our mother names, which none of us use and very few know.

We shared secrets. And I realised - just like father had done about mother, many years ago - that she loves me and has loved me for a good while already. Ever since that moment at the Ball.

And I also - finally - realised the truth about myself and about what my feelings for her have become. It's no longer her friendship that I want.

She was the first to speak.

"Arakáno ..." she said softly.

I answered as softly.

"Vórimatári. My Queen. I love you."

Her answer to this was to come around the table, blushing, smiling, and to put her hands into mine. Her soft, delicate hands ... She smiled up at me, her eyes twinkling. I'm a good head taller than her, and I smiled back down at her. She's such a lovely little thing - I want to protect her ...

"You love me?" she asked, squeezing my hands. "Can this be true? I feel as if I am dreaming!"

"If you are dreaming, then so am I, and we are dreaming the same dream," I answered.

I can understand, though, why she thinks about dreaming. I do so myself. It came so suddenly - I never expected love to happen this way. But I know now, to the depth of my being, that Anairá is the match of my fëa, the woman I'll love until the end of the world.

"I thought that I only wanted your friendship," I told her. "But now I've realised that I want so much more than that. And you love me as well, don't you? Please, tell me that you do. I want to hear you saying it."

She told me. She told me how she didn't think I would ever return her love. And she held on to my hands, as if they were necessary for her to know that this really was no dream.

Oh my love, I wish I would never have to let go of your hands!

She promised to make me a gift for Findis. She said it would be the most beautiful gift I had ever seen. She promised to have it ready in four days, and she refused to take any payment for it.

"Then it will be a gift from both of us," I said. "And perhaps I should ask her to invite you to the small family birthday party - but you should meet father and mother before that, I think. When you come to deliver the present, we can try to arrange something."

I smiled down at her again, and had only one thing to add.

"Of course, that day I'll have something to ask you as well."

Her reaction to that - stepping even closer to me, gazing up at me, looking even happier than before - gives me no fear for what her answer is going to be when I ask her. If we had been in a less public place, I would have asked her there and then - but despite my attendant's efforts to keep people at a distance, still a crowd had begun to gather behind us, and it was time for me to leave her in peace. We will meet again in four days' time, when she delivers the present.

And now I'm sitting in my chamber, with her statuette next to me on my desk. My mind reaches out to her, wishing her a good night's sleep, and she answers, returning the wish. I recognise it - so she really has been trying to reach out to me a few times now! If I had realised what was going on, perhaps I would have responded even earlier.

I know so little about love. If I had lived in a different family, I might have asked my father more about it - but as it is, I feel cautious about asking.

I really see some of father's features in the face of that statuette. It's amazing that with only the few times she can have seen him, she has grasped his looks enough to render some of them this faithfully. She has formed this clay - her soft fingers have kneaded and rubbed it - I can still feel the touch of her hands.

I love her!

Eru Ilúvatar, I thank and praise you for bestowing the gift of love upon your Children!

Oh, and there was a meeting this morning as well. Something about more correspondence, I think. Unless I'm confusing it with yesterday.


Eru a laita!

I raise my voice to the heavens and cry my praise to Ilúvatar! Nay, not cry - sing! My heart is near to bursting with song, and still I cannot keep the tears from my eyes. Is it not odd how we weep not only in those times of greatest grief, but also of greatest joy?

And joy like this I have never felt before.

This morning, mere hours ago, my life was as normal, and now - now everything has been changed, everything has been altered, and my heart has been given wings.

I went to the market today as usual to sell my goods. I had set up my table, and placed my statues and pottery around it, taking time to ensure that it looked its most presentable. Then I sat down behind it, and began painting one of my pieces, waiting for someone to show interest.

And then someone did.

I knew before I even looked up that it was Lord Nolofinwë, and my heart leapt in my chest as once again I felt the touch of his fëa - the same connection I had felt at the ball. Swallowing my love, I went to him, but he spoke before I did, and his words robbed me of my voice.

'Were you the one I didn't see at the Ball?' he said. I stared. I was afraid to move, to speak, to somehow cause this moment to be other than it was. I was even afraid to hope. I felt my hands begin to tremble, and clenched them tightly, the timbre of his voice echoing throughout my soul.

That was what his voice sounded like. Strong. Proud. Strangely comforting.

Although I had never before heard it, it was like I had heard it every day for all of my life.

I couldn't answer. I couldn't bring myself to think in words.

"You were at my father's Ball, were you not?" he said. "Even though I didn't meet you."

A question. Questions needed answering. He wanted me to answer. I searched for words, but they seemed so ... so small. So insignificant. So entirely incapable of expressing what I was feeling. We are Noldor, the most talented of our kind at the use of language, and yet at this moment, words failed me completely. Struggling, I choked out a simple answer to a simple question, and told him that I had, indeed, been at the ball for a few moments, while remembering my manners and dropping a deep curtsey.

Then I noticed the statue he held, and my heart began to pound. It was the Noldor statue that I had made - the statue of him. Would he recognize himself? What would he think? Would he think ill of me? Would he think me silly? My throat went dry with fear, and I forced myself to adopt a business-like demeanor to cover my terror.

"You wish to buy something, my lord?" I said in a voice that was far calmer than I felt.

He seemed to relax a bit as well, and I took the cue from him, letting out a bit of the breath that I had been holding. He spoke of something, my statues, I believe, but I did not hear the words. He was here, before me, and he had noticed me at the ball! He had felt something too, then?

He pulled me out of my reverie with another question - he wished to buy the statue. He said it reminded him of his father. Another sigh - I had been saved from humiliation for today, anyway. He had not recognized that it was a statue of him.

I told him the price, and he paid it, handing a statue to a man who stood back a few paces, seeming to be attempting to keep people away from us.

He will leave now, I thought, And I shall never speak with him again. But at least I shall always have this moment...

But he didn't leave.

"But I nearly forgot," he said. "I need something for a birthday present as well. For Findis, my sister - you may have seen her at the Ball. I thought perhaps a vase - or is there anything else you would recommend?"

I blinked. He wanted a birthday present for his sister. From me? He wanted me to make it? I forced myself to think, ideas spinning through my head of the lovely things I could make.

"I shall make your sister a special vase, my lord, a lovely vase for flowers? Every lady should have flowers in her room, and the right vase can bring out their colours and textures..." I was rambling, and I knew it, but this was safe territory. Talk about my craft, about colours and design - this I was comfortable with. This I could do.

Then he stole my words away again.

"And please," he said, "could you come to our house and deliver it yourself? At the Ball - I could feel that you were there, that my fëa met yours. You made me feel comfortable. And - I would like to see you again."

I staggered. I know I did. My knees felt as they would go weak beneath me, and I looked up at him and clutched the table to keep from falling. My hands were trembling. My whole body was trembling.

"You felt it too?" I whispered, afraid that at any moment I would awaken and discover that this had only been a dream. I was afraid to move, as if somehow even the touch of the breeze could break this spell.

He said he had felt it, and that I had fled before he could speak to me. I swallowed, and attempted to speak, but my voice did not even sound like my own.

"Yes, I fled, my lord. I did not think it was proper that I stay. I..."

I wondered suddenly how much I should tell him. It was likely that he felt only friendship for me, was it not? I did not want to burden him, if that were so.

"I do not think that I am a proper...friend...for you, you see. I am but the daughter of a simple scribe, and you are a prince of my people."

He frowned.

"I know that I'm a prince, but couldn't you try to forget it for a while?" he said, telling me that rank had not come in to the feelings he had felt at the ball.

I looked up at him, and suddenly I was lost in his eyes. But it was more than that. I had heard from others that sometimes, like in the joining of hearts, there could be a joining of minds as well, but until this very moment I had not understood. It was as if for that moment, all walls between us fell, all barriers opened, and we faced each other fëa to fëa - and there was love. But there was also trust. My fear evaporated, and a smile touched my lips. He would not hurt me. He would not reject me. We were one, and yet two. Two, and yet one - as a flower has both petal and stem seperately, but both are needed to make the whole. And now I - we - were whole.

"Arakáno..." I said, breaking the silence in a soft voice that carressed his mother-name as if it were the most precious thing I had ever known.

"Vórimatári. My Queen. I love you."

It was more than I could bear. I had to touch him. I had to know that this was real. I closed the distance between us and took his hands in mine, feeling at once his strength. I looked up at him, into the piercing blue eyes so prevalent in the House of Finwë, and smiled. I had come home at last.

"You love me?" I asked, squeezing his hands. "Can this be true? I feel as if I am dreaming!"

"If you are dreaming, then so am I, and we are dreaming the same dream," he said, and I shuddered at the sound of his voice. Then, dropping it a bit, he told me that he had thought that it was my friendship that he had sought, but he knew now that it was so much more. Then he begged for me to tell him the words.

I smiled, allowing this dream to take flight.

"Arakáno, my beloved," I said softly, understanding his need to hear it, although our fëar already knew. "I love you...I..."

But what else needed to be said?

"I love you."

Then, my nerves coming back, I spoke quickly.

"I shall make your sister the most beautiful gift you have ever seen. I shall make it for you in the time you require, and I will most certainly not accept payment for it!"

He smiled, and thanked me. Then he asked me to bring the gift when it was done, personally. So that I could meet his parents. Then he added the coup de grâce.

"Of course, that day I'll have something to ask you as well."

I did not need to ask what that question was. I shuddered from the intensity of feeling. Of course, this was understood between us, now. Eldar did not make a declaration of love and then not follow through with marriage. Marriage! Marriage to Nolofinwë' Finwion - the King's son! Fear coursed through me until I remembered that he was also my Arákano, my beloved, the other half of my fëa. Still, there would be much for me to adjust to. To think of a home like King Finwë's as being home to me as well! It was too much to process right now, too much to understand. I gazed up at him, at a loss for words, smiling from my very being.

But there was a crowd gathering - Prince Nolofinwë taking such interest in an ordinary girl like me was sure to raise eyebrows. It was time that he go. There would be more time for us to talk later. I stepped back, and bowing to me, he joined his attendant and left. I was left staring after them, my hands still feeling the press of his. I could still feel the warmth of his presence, the sound of his voice still echoed in my ears.

And now Telperion waxes, and the golden day - golden in so many ways - has faded into memory. But it will not be the last golden day. Oh no, not now that I love, and am loved in return! It is more than I ever dreamed, even in my most quixotic moments. There is no way to explain this to someone who has never felt it. It is as if each moment, each beat of my heart, each second knowing that he loves me, is as precious - nay, more precious - than the light of the trees. For it is a light of its own, but a light that never waxes or wanes, but is steadfast and enduring.

I do not know how I shall tell my parents. They shall be pleased, of course, although I do not know if they will believe me. They have never believed that I would marry well, and, indeed, I never believed it of myself. Perhaps I should wait...wait, and bring him back here to meet my family, and explain it to them then.

Yes, that is what I shall do. They must believe me when he is standing in front of them. Standing behind me, as I shall always stand behind him. Supporting me, as I shall always support him.

The candle flickers. I close my eyes and feel him reaching out to me. A smile curls my lips and I return his love, and wishes for a peaceful sleep.

A laita, Eru a laita!

Praise be to Eru for the glory of love.

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