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The Last Work Of Her Hands
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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[Index]

1
The Last Work Of Her Hands

Disclaimer: The characters belong to Tolkien. The fa, hra and the concept of foresight do, too.

The Last Work Of Her Hands

Finw saw the boy pause in his work, and he observed how a frown of displeasure creased his brow, so similar to hers. The sheet of paper made a shrill noise as it was squashed into a ball by an angry and crispated hand.
He opened his mouth, about to speak, but then closed it again, and bit his lower lip. Fanro immediately grabbed a new sheet of paper, and continued writing with a deep concentration gaining his features once more.
Finw fought hard against his own frustration. He wanted to tell him that it was fine. That it was more than fine, it was wonderful, prodigious how such a young child could already write with elegant and graceful strokes like a learned adult. He had tried to tell him before, feeling the unfairness of the greatest of the sons of the Noldor thinking that he was nothing but a sloppy, clumsy child.
Fanaro had stared at him in disbelieving bewilderment, as if anything that didnt agree with her words couldnt be a part of his world. Theres a stain in the corner of the paper, she added from her corner. How could you be so careless.
Mriel, queen of the Noldor, sat behind them, her eyes intent in the dancing flames of the hearth.

* * * * *

At days, she sat on a chair next to the fireplace, drawing so closer that Finw feared a stray spark would fall on her dress. He imagined her sitting still and shivering slightly until she died, consumed by the flames.
At nights, she would curl herself into a ball, at the edge of the bed, and refuse to be touched.

* * * * *

Father...
Finw took his glance away from Ingws last letter, and smiled at Fanro. The boy had the habitude of entering his workplace easily, as if he belonged there, but this time his pace looked oddly hesitant, and he stopped at the threshold for a second. There were creases of worry in his forehead.
The king of the Noldor frowned, as he encouraged him to come forth. None of the Eldar of the Blessed Realm, least of all the children, should feel any worry.
To what do I owe your visit? he asked, in an attempt to lend some lightheartedness to the situation. Fanro lifted his face, which had become purple red after braving the unbearable heat to sit on his mothers lap next to the fire, and swallowed.
Does everybody have a fa?
Doing his best to hide his surprise at the question, Finw nodded.
All the Children of Ilvatar have a fa, yes.
Fanros eyes became lost on the words of the letters in his desk, as if he was deciphering them backwards.
Everybody? he insisted.
Everybody.
The boy was still not satisfied.
And what if someone... maybe... didnt have it, and people didnt know?
Finws lips curved into a smile at his sons idea, in spite of its strangeness.
We are the union of the hra and the fa. And then, before he could become aware of his next words, he added. Without a fa, we would be dead.
Fanros face blanched. Before his father could ask anything, or give a different wording to his explanation, he turned his back to him and left, as abruptly as he had come.
That night, Finw touched Mriels back as she slept. She felt cold, and he shivered, without knowing very well why.

* * * * *

Her features were colourless, tight like the strings in her loom back when she used to delight in her favourite arts. The clay bird figurine turned and turned in her fingers, as she silently seemed to search it for imperfections that a normal eye could not see. At her side, Fanro waited in expectation.
Finw saw her hands begin to tremble.
You stole it. she hissed, in a mere whisper that augmented gradually as she repeated it, over and over, until it became almost a yell. You stole it, you stole it.
Finw stared at her incredulously, horrified and fascinated at the same time by the first signs of anger, of fire, of passion in her cold and faded face.
You stole it from me. You stole everything from me!
Forcing himself to react, the king of the Noldor darted forwards, to protect his child, to prevent him from hearing the words, but Fanro had already turned back in silence. Sending Mriel a last appalled glance which she met with a look of pure and defiant hatred- he followed his son past the door, and through the corridor.
Fanro! he called him, frantically, painfully, as if the boy was dangling from a precipice instead of walking ahead of him. Fanro!
The boy stopped, and turned back a face which was proudly scrunched not to show his tears.
Is she dead because of... me? he asked in a voice that faltered, in spite of his efforts.
Finw did not answer. Instead of it, he knelt on the floor, and embraced him fiercely.

* * * * *

Later, as his steps brought him back to Mriels rooms, he saw her kneeling on the floor, holding the broken pieces of clay in her hands and trying to sing them together with a hoarse voice that soon became shrill with desperation. After a while, she finally let them go, covered her face with her hands, and started to cry.

* * * * *

Mriel disappeared from their sight after that day. Every morning, she woke up early and hid herself behind closed doors, and each time that Finw tried to push them open they refused to give way under his impulse. Fanros misery could be easily felt, brimming and simmering from his fa at his mothers desertion.
Now and then, she came and shared the table with him after their son was asleep. But even then she did not speak, did not answer his questions, and looked so pale and exhausted that Finw had to repress the urge to feed her himself.
Once, he looked at her thin fingers, which were trying to hold her cup in a grip that was strong enough to venture lifting it to her lips. They were bleeding.
Mriel. he said, with the more intent of his frowns and his most serious voice. You must seek healing from the Valar.
Her vague glance became a look of intense hurt, which reminded him powerfully of their son Fanro. She set the cup back on the table, and bolted away as quickly as her weakly feet allowed her.

* * * * *

That night, he entered his bedroom to see her lying on the bed, awake and staring at some point of the coloured ceiling. At her side lay a sleeping Fanro, curled against her lap while her hand kept distractedly caressing his hair. Surprised, he stared at her, but she just smiled.
I will take him... he began to whisper. She shook her head, and gestured towards the empty space at her other side.
With exaggerated care, as if he was stepping into a box full of delicate crystal figures, Finw got inside the bed, spreading the covers over his legs. His right arm, tentative after a long sucession of refusals, sought her shoulder.
Bolting at his contact, Mriel took the hand with hers and drew him closer, pressing against him with a raw need that shocked him to the core. Her embrace was frozen like a corpse, but then their eyes met, and hers sparkled with a promise of warmth.
Smiling like he used to do often, long ago, he rocked her to sleep, giving her his heat.

* * * * *

When he woke up, the golden light of Laurelin was dancing on the forehead of his son, who at some point of the night had pressed a magnificent piece of embroidery into his mouth like it was a stuffed toy. Mriel was nowhere to be seen.
Blinking several times, to force the ominous first tingles of awareness to reach his brain, Finw let his gaze wander around. The bed looked very different from last night, as if someone had dropped a box of ceremonial clothing over them and then forgot to put order into the mess.
The king of the Noldor sat up, extending both arms to grab the heaps of clothes which lay closer to him. They were boys tunics, boys shirts, boys cloaks. He sought farther, and his eyes fell on bigger things, with the same colours and blindingly beautiful patterns but made for an adolescent, for a young man, for an adult.
At the feet of the bed, there was a glittering ceremonial cape, similar to the one she had made for their wedding but with different embroiderings. Next to it, almost entwined, there was a bridal dress, decorated in red and coppery hues, and the delicatedly crafted, little robes for the essecarm ceremonies of seven children, each in a different colour.
Feeling his heart constrain under the gripping pressure of a frozen hand, he stood up from the bed, seized by the irrational fear of waking his son up to that colourful and unsettling spectacle. Pieces of embroidered cloth lay scattered on the floor in her wake, as she had left them in the land under the stars before she entered the forests to brave the lure of the Shadow. They were all covered with images, as powefully real, as alive as the best of sculptures, as the vividest of paintings, as reality itself.
There, Finw and Mriel were embracing under the roof of a small cottage. They walked hand in hand across a dark forest, and he left for the end of the world while she watched his departure from the cover of the shadows, a look of unquenchable trust and pride in her eyes. Another shone with the bright colours of their joyful reunion, and he asked for her hand under the mingled light of the Trees.
The last, lying at the threshold, had her in bed, holding her small son in her arms. She was desperately struggling to show her love, to keep the quenched light of her eyes and the craft in her dead hands for a little longer, only just enough for him to see and remember with pride that his mother had been Mriel the Broideress, first in skill and fire of all the Noldor.
The next step brought him outside, and the corridor was still shrouded in darkness.

(the end)

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