Somehow, she always pictured it happening. Even before they were married--when becoming the “wife of a high prince” was a fantastic notion that she confined to her private dreams, while waiting for sleep to visit her at night--she thought of it and how it might transpire: their parting. It was not something that she consciously imagined, yet the possibility alone of it had tantalized her, worming like a tendril of fetid smoke into her dreams to stain that which was clean and pure with such an absolute possibility.
She knew it would be dramatic; it would be loud; it would involve thrown glassware and perhaps even furniture; it would involve tears and shouting and--most of all--pain; it would quite possibly drive her mad. Later, she’d banished the thought for they were wed and parting was impossible, but there it was, the thought, the possibility, lodged stubbornly in her thoughts.
Nor do I want it. Do I?
The twins were crying; Fëanáro was invading her sleep to persuade her into passion but she wouldn’t have it; her knees were clasped together and she was making feeble protests. She fought her way from slumber like one might fight drowning: kicking and gasping until her head was above the black waters of sleep. She was going to the nursery and taking the twins into her arms, swaying with exhaustion, unable to perceive her feet (although they must be there, rooting her to the floor), while the twins’ hungry mouths gaped at her, silently screaming, and she brought them back to bed, where Fëanáro--having mostly undressed himself--watched her with angry, jealous eyes.
It would be … violent.
But she didn’t want it.
She is mending Tyelkormo’s tunic when the messenger comes. The boy finds more creative ways to ruin tunics, she thinks, although Tyelkormo is far from a boy. He should be doing his own mending by now, but she is weak and unable to resist his handsome face and blue eyes. Please, Amil? This is not the first time that she has been persuaded by a handsome face and a smile.
She hears the sound of hoofbeats on the path and her shoulders stiffen almost imperceptibly. She takes a deep, gulping breath, trying to lull her pattering heart into sedated submission, but it will not obey; it betrays her, as it always does.
All seven of her sons are home, but the house is heavy with silence. She is reminded of when young Carnistir used to steal bladders from the bucks his father and brothers had slain and fill them with water until they were stretched and quivering, waiting to burst. Such an innocuous thing, held wobbling in his hands, beside the window beneath which his brothers would emerge on their way to one or another social outing for which he was too young to attend. Then it was thrust into merciless space; gravity seized it--and the innocuous exploded into noise, anger, and chaos. That was the silence of the house. She waited for the inevitable gravity to seize it. Then: explosion.
The hoofbeats grow closer, rising in crescendo, until they are all that she can hear. She tries to poke the needle through Tyelkormo’s tunic, but her shaking hands stab the needle into her fingertip instead, and a bright bead of blood forms against her pale skin.
Maitimo answers the door; she hears his quick, friendly voice inviting the messenger in for a cup of tea. She does not recognize the voice that answers and--though she does not want to know, not before she must know, anyway--she leans over to peer at the messenger’s horse, to see the colors in which it is clad.
Tyelkormo’s tunic--abandoned by hands that fly to her lips--tumbles to the floor. A quick prayer flits through her mind--Dear Manwë, to thee I beseech--but how can she pray to the one who has already decided her husband’s fate? What will she ask? That he bend time upon itself and change the decision that he has already made? This was a prayer that should have been made hours ago, when it still had the power to change things, but until now, she wasn’t sure that she wanted to make it.
Macalaurë brings her the message. Unlike his brothers, he is not given to filling the house with incidental noise--running up and down the stairs and shouting into the next room instead of walking into it and speaking civilly--but is deliberate in his ways, spinning songs into the still air that lies beneath the chaotic clamor, calming it in the way that a tossing ship is steadied when the sea beneath it grows smooth. The hands that place the parchment in hers do not tremble; he does not speak but smiles, falsely reassuring. That is Macalaurë: a skilled performer, gifted with the ability to convince an audience that it feels something that it does not. She is convinced; she believes that the parchment contains good news. She closes her eyes. If I hold it forever and do not open it, do not read it, this can forever be the truth. I can believe Macalaurë--and it will not be a lie.
But she opens her eyes and Macalaurë is gone to give her the privacy to open the parchment away from his scrutiny. Tremulous fingers undo the ribbon holding it shut and stroke the satin-smooth parchment, begging the news to be good. She smells the pungent aroma of fresh ink. Let the news be good. She unfurls the parchment and reads:
Nerdanel, daughter of Mahtan, long has your family been loyal to my house, and I saw it fit to send immediate word, informing you of our decision on the fate of your husband, Curufinwë Fëanáro--