She sits upon the bed, the bed where she has slept with her husband for the majority of their lives. She can hear him speaking with Maitimo, discussing the best way to move the books they both wish to bring. “Father, we have to ford three rivers,” Maitimo says, but Fëanáro continues to insist that there’s a way.
There is much in Nerdanel’s armoires and closets that she will need to pack: work clothes, gowns, shoes, jewelry. There are tokens given to her by her children when they were small that she will wish to bring. She will need to see that enough food and provisions are packed to last the journey, even in the event of an emergency. She will need to bring her sculpting tools, for although she has a set in Formenos, the ones she keeps in Tirion are better, given to her by Fëanáro on the hundredth anniversary of their marriage, and she will not be able to work without them. Not for twelve years.
Twelve years. Now, at the threshold of exile, it seems such a long time stretched before her. A time when she will not see her parents or her sisters, when she will not know how her sister-sons and -daughters grow but through letters. A time when she will not see the fullness of the Light of the Trees, for it is darker and colder in the north. Twelve years of no royal festivals … such trivial matters, but she makes them suddenly important, as reasons why she lingers, sitting on the bed when she should be packing her trunks.
She and Fëanáro, in their youth--when both possessed equal energy for spirited debate--used to argue about matters of vague philosophy simply to hear their words overtaking the silence. She used to love to watch the fire in the eyes of her husband at such questions. Which is more evil? An act of commission or omission? Fëanáro had insisted that omission was worse. “If I were to commit an act that robbed the Trees of Light, that would be evil,” he’d said, “but equally evil would be to permit the Trees to be robbed and do nothing. The difference is that the act of commission, at least, takes courage.”
Omission, he said, was the route of a coward.
She is a coward, she supposes, because he appeared behind her in their bedroom earlier that day, trapping her to press upon her the question that she did not want to answer. “Nerdanel, I know that there has been stress between us,” he said, and she was unable to look into his eyes. How like the eyes of the boy she’d married!--and yet also not. “But I love you; I will love you always. And to be sundered, bonded as we are in spirit, is an agony that we need not endure. I ask you for twelve years … and I give to you the rest of the life of the world.”
And so she nodded, unable to tell him of her doubts, not possessing the courage.
To become estranged from him would break his heart. She knows this. She is no fool and sees love in his eyes, buried though it often is between the white-hot flames of jealousy and pride that have consumed him of late. At times, she can even convince herself that he is still the same as when they married, when he caught her around the waist, coming out of the pantry, and tickled her neck with kisses; when they stayed awake for the entire night, laughing about memories of their sons as young children; when--rarely these days--they both wished to make love, and so he did so as gently and tenderly as he had on the day they’d married, treating her as he would the most fragile of his treasures, with soft reverent hands. For all of their troubles in the last years, they were not a couple that has ever lost love for each other. She will gladly abide beside him until the moment that the world ends, for this was the vow that she made when she married him.
Yet, she sits and does nothing, knowing that her clothes and tools and trinkets will not pack themselves, knowing that her feet will have to carry her to Formenos, that she will not blink and awaken there based on a promise alone.
She can break his heart with a single phrase. She can make that which she long ago portended come true. She can take the heavy expectation with which the house is laden and, in a single moment, cast it to the mercy of gravity, wait for it to explode in a spray of angry, violent words and regrettable acts. In an hour or two, it will be over. They will be estranged; she will go to her parents’; he will be broken but he will recover. It does not take long for tears to dry in eyes that burn with insatiable fire, if he can muster tears anymore at all.
But she hasn’t the courage.
And so she will break him by degrees, shredding the heart she’s loved for centuries now, bit by bit, day by day, as she sits in inaction, unmoving, until at last, he has no choice but to leave, and she needs never know the consequences of her slow cruelty.
He comes into their bedroom then, in a whirlwind of activity, carrying a pile of tunics from the laundry and tossing them onto the bed, grinning at her, “It will not pack itself, Nerdanel!” speaking in a false-bright voice with a false-bright smile, looking quickly away, not wanting to see her sitting there, unmoving.
For their estrangement, the breaking of their marriage: it has begun.